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By Richard Land
The decision by Apple to remove surreptitiously an iPhone application related to the Manhattan Declaration is nonsense at best and censorship at worst.
Apple caved to the whims of 7,727 individuals who apparently signed an online petition urging the company to drop the app that provided an overview of the Manhattan Declaration, a 4,700-word document released last November that speaks from a biblical perspective in defense of the sanctity of human life, traditional marriage and religious liberty. The application, which could be downloaded to the company’s iPhones and iPads, also allowed the user to sign on to the declaration.
The text of the Manhattan Declaration is civil, non-inflammatory and respectful, despite what its detractors claim. Those decrying the declaration app claim the declaration “espouses hateful and divisive language.”
Yet it is not the declaration that offends these people - whose number is far less than the approximately 500,000 people who have signed on to the declaration since its release last year. These individuals disagree with the teachings of God’s Word and have been driven to the radical answer of having this app purged from the iTunes Store, the 21st-century equivalent of a book burning.
The positions espoused in the Manhattan Declaration are based on biblical Christianity and affirmed by nearly half a million Christians representing dozens of denominations. The declaration does not promote hate or homophobia. Instead, the declaration proclaims that all human beings are loved by God and are worthy of respect.
As one of the original editors and signers, I am more aware than most of the extraordinary efforts that were expended to make the Manhattan Declaration as positive, winsome and engaging as possible, without sacrificing conviction.
In response to the furor generated over their decision, Apple released a short but noteworthy statement to the press: “We removed the Manhattan Declaration app from the App Store because it violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people.”
Apple, which is admittedly within its rights, has the right to sell whatever it desires in its iTunes Store. Yet if Apple is concerned the beliefs detailed in the Manhattan Declaration are troublesome, they are not paying attention to many other applications and the explicit music available in their online store. It is well-documented that the store offers content that most consumers would find blatantly offensive.
And where will this stop? Will Apple next bow to pressure generated by some secularists who find the Bible to be a “dangerous book of mythology,” lacking in authority and value? Will they pull apps featuring the Bible from their store?
It is sadly ironic that a document written out of a growing unease about very real efforts in the culture “to marginalize the Christian voice in the public square, to redefine marriage, and to move away from the biblical view of the sanctity of life” has itself been marginalized by Apple.
I am hopeful that Steve Jobs and the Apple management team will reconsider the decision they made last week, a decision prompted by a misguided plea from a minuscule and intolerant minority.
I encourage those who, like me, value fair and civil discourse to respectfully ask Apple to arrange for the Manhattan Declaration app to be made available again in their iTunes Store. In a land where free speech and open dialogue are cherished, it is simply the right thing to do.
By R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
The fact that children and teenagers now spend a good deal of their lives connected to electronic devices is hardly news. We are now accustomed to the knowledge that teenagers are seldom seen without wires in their ears and a cell phone in their hand as they multitask their way through adolescence. Now, however, there is good reason to believe that these young people are far more connected than we have even imagined.
The Kaiser Family Foundation has just released a new study on the online lives of children and teenagers, and the statistics are simply astounding. America’s children and teenagers are now spending an average of more than 7 1/2 hours a day involved in electronic media.
As the report states:
As anyone who knows a teen or tween can attest, media are among the most powerful forces in young people’s lives today. Eight-to-eighteen-year-olds spend more time with media than in any other activity besides (maybe) sleeping - an average of more than 7 1/2 hours a day, seven days a week. The TV shows they watch, video games they play, songs they listen to, books they read and websites they visit are an enormous part of their lives, offering a constant stream of messages about families, peers, relationships, gender roles, sex, violence, food, values, clothes, an abundance of other topics too long to list.
Online, All the Time
The report is the third conducted and released by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Just five years ago, the foundation released a second study that indicated young Americans were spending an average of nearly 6 1/2 hours a day with media. Now, young people have found a way to devote another hour to media use, catching the researchers by surprise. As Donald F. Roberts, a professor emeritus of communications at Stanford University, remarked: “This is a stunner.” He told The New York Times, “In the second report, I remember writing a paragraph saying we’ve hit a ceiling on media use, since there just aren’t enough hours in the day to increase the time children spend on media. But now it’s up an hour.”
And it’s not just that these kids are devoting 7 1/2 hours of their daily lives to media immersion - their multitasking means that they somehow consume nearly 11 hours of media content in that 7 1/2 hours of time. Over the last ten years, young people have increased their consumption and use of every type of media with one exception - reading. As the researchers make clear, the vast increase in the amount of time teenagers are able to access the media is due almost entirely to the fact that their mobile phones allow an online life that can be carried in the pocket (and in far too many cases, taken to bed). “The mobile and online media revolutions have arrived in the lives - and the pockets - of American youth,” notes the report. “Try waking a teenager in the morning, and the odds are good you’ll find a cell phone tucked under their pillow - the last thing they touch before falling asleep and the first thing they reach for upon waking.”
The report indicates that 66% of kids now own their own cell phone, while 76% own an iPod or other MP3 player. Interestingly, these kids are using cell phones as mobile media devices, rather than as telephones. Young people spend an average of only a half hour each day talking on their cell phones, but their use of these devices for the consumption of media consumes far more time.
The report also offers a portrait of the media-saturated character of the average American home. That home now contains an average of 3.8 televisions, 2.8 DVD or VCR players, at least one digital video recorder, two computers, 2.3 console video game players, and assorted other media devices ranging from CD players to radios. In an amazing percentage of these homes, the television is on virtually every waking hour.
Media in the Bedroom
Even as the family home is populated with various media devices, the bedrooms of America’s children and teenagers are virtually saturated with media. “More and more media are migrating to young people’s bedrooms, enabling them to spend even more time watching, listening or playing,” the researchers report. An amazing 71% of all children from age 8-18 have their own television in their bedroom, and half have a video game player and/or access to cable. These kids have computers, too. Almost a third own their own laptops and the majority have easy access to a computer, usually with broadband Internet connections.
In most homes, parents are setting few rules for media use - or no rules at all. The majority of teens and tweens reported that their parents have set no rules about the type of media content they can use or the amount of time they can devote to media consumption. When parents do set rules, they are far more likely to set rules about the type of content that can be accessed, rather than the amount of time that is devoted to media use. A good percentage of parents who do set rules, often leave them unenforced.
Parents should note this statement from the report: “Children who live in homes that limit media opportunities spend less time with media. For example, kids whose parents don’t put a TV in their bedroom, don’t leave the TV on during meals or in the background when no one is watching, or do impose some type of media-related rules spend substantially less time with media than do children with more media-lenient parents.”
Media Use, Grades, and Personal Contentment
Another important section of the report indicates that the young people who spend the greatest amount of time with media report lower grades and lower levels of personal happiness and contentment. The researchers stated that their study “cannot establish whether there is a cause and effect relationship between media use and grades, or between media use and personal contentment.” They added: “And if there are such relationships, they could well run in both directions simultaneously.”
All this should serve to awaken America’s parents - and all who care for America’s young people - to the level of media saturation that now characterizes the lives of American youth. As The New York Times declared in its headline, “If Your Kids are Awake, They’re Probably Online.”
There is no turning back from the digital revolution. It is not realistic for most families to declare a principled disconnection from electronic media and the digital world. Nevertheless, this important report serves as an undeniable warning that America’s young people are literally drowning in an ocean of media consumption. There is every reason for parents to be concerned about dangers ranging from the content of this media, to the way digital saturation changes the wiring of the brain, to the loss of literacy and the reading of books, to the fact that many teenagers are far more connected to their friends through social media than to their own families in their own homes. Teenagers are forfeiting sleep and other important investments of time because they experience panic when they are digitally disengaged for even a few moments.
What is the impact of all this media saturation on the soul? Of course, that is a question that must be posed to America’s adults, as well as to our children and adolescents. At the same time, parents bear a responsibility many are clearly forfeiting.
The Courage to Disconnect
Dr. Michael Rich, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Boston and director of the Center on Media and Child Health, told The New York Times that the media use of America’s young people is so pervasive, it is time to stop arguing over whether this is positive or negative. Instead, he suggested that we should simply accept media as a constant part of children’s environment, “like the air they breathe, the water they drink and the food they eat.”
This is advice Christian parents cannot follow. We cannot simply accept that constant media saturation is now a fact of nature and a matter of constant need. These technologies and devices have their places, but the role of parents is to establish rules that protect children and teenagers from being dominated by technology and an army of digital devices. At the end of the day, parents must find the courage and wisdom to know when to disconnect.
The rise of the blogosphere continues to change the face of American culture. According to observers, the internet is now home to millions of web-logs (more commonly known as “blogs”), and something like eleven million Americans claim to have started blogs themselves. All this adds up to a major shift in our national culture and a massive threat to the dominance of what is now nostalgically called “mainstream media” (or “MSM”). Blogger, radio host, and attorney Hugh Hewitt documented the rise and influence of blogs in Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That’s Changing the World. Hewitt’s point was quite simple—those who would lead and influence Americans had better take advantage of the blogging phenomenon and learn how to communicate in this new medium. “Change isn’t coming. It is here,” he advised. “Information is being absorbed in new and startlingly different ways from new, and until recently, unknown sources.”
Now, art critic Terry Teachout offers an analysis of the blogging phenomenon that mixes personal testimony with deep cultural observations. In, “Culture in the Age of Blogging,” Teachout devotes his considerable skills as a writer and his deep expertise as a critic of culture and takes a hard look at the blogosphere.
Published in the June 2005 issue of Commentary, Teachout’s article is primarily directed at those who follow developments in America’s “high culture.” In other words, Teachout’s regular readers are those who follow developments in the art scene, regularly attend art museums and exhibitions, are serious students of classical music, and are likely to be devotees of the theater. After all, in Teachout’s other life he is the music critic for Commentary as well as the drama critic of the Wall Street Journal. A member of the National Council on the Arts, Teachout is a formidable conservative critic.
Now, he is also a blogger. Teachout has joined with literary critic Laura Demanski to produce “About Last Night,” a blog hosted at ArtsJournal.com. Clearly, this was not something Teachout had expected to do. For one thing, the blogosphere has been dominated by political commentary and cultural analysis has been more commonly found in the established journals, review pages, and other dimensions of elite media. Teachout’s decision to join the blogging revolution represents something of a revolution in itself.
In this article, Teachout explains why he made this decision and what this means for the larger culture. In a nutshell, Teachout believes that America’s common culture no longer exists.
Describing the change that produced the blogging phenomenon, Teachout offers this observation: “The simplest description of this change is also the starkest one: the common culture of widely shared values and knowledge that once helped to unite Americans of all creeds, colors, and classes no longer exists. In its place we now have a “balkanized” group of subcultures whose members pursue their separate, unshared interests in an unprecedented variety of ways.”
This represents an enormous shift in American self-consciousness, Teachout admits. “The idea of a common American culture is so central to the American idea itself that it was long taken for granted. Just as young people pledged allegiance to the American flag in school each day, so they studied the same historical events, read many of the same books, heard the same popular songs on radio, and watched the same movies and TV programs. No one, whether in or out of school, seriously attempted to deny that our country’s cultural heritage would rather be Judeo-Christian West, and more specifically of what Winston Churchill called ‘the English-speaking peoples.’”
America demonstrated an amazing capacity to “absorb immigrant folkways,” but the nation was shaped by a common culture and worldview. That world has simply disappeared.
America’s common culture was soon replaced by a Culture War, a basic conflict over issues of worldview and ultimate meaning. To those on the cultural left, Western culture was seen as the enemy of progress and the engine of oppression. Teachout recalls a “watershed moment” in 1988 when a group of students and faculty members at Stanford University protested that institution’s famed introductory course in Western civilization. Led by Reverend Jesse Jackson, “then at the height of his influence as an advocate-without-portfolio for progressive causes,” the protesters shouted: “Hey hey, ho ho, Western culture’s got to go!” In Teachout’s words, this slogan “offered a simplified but nonetheless telling clue to the ultimate purpose of those academics who repudiated the universal significance of Western civilization.”
Teachout suggests that these cultured despisers of culture were and are so committed to the idea that all truth and meaning is socially constructed that they could only judge “quality” in art and literature in political terms.
Clearly, America’s common culture was under sustained assault from the cultural left—and especially from forces safely ensconced in tenured positions in American universities. The academic left was aided and abetted in its mission of undermining the very idea of a common culture by the media elite and allied forces of cultural condescension.
By now, the Culture War is simply a fact of American political and cultural life. Teachout argues that demographics now play a significant role in this picture. “The presidential election of 2000 disclosed to the American public at large, including the mainstream news media, a phenomenon that had already been noticed by alert analysts like Michael Barone,” he advises. “Not only had the party affiliation of American voters become closely linked to their cultural views, but people of differing views were choosing to live in different geographical places.”
The migration of many Americans to the so-called “Sun Belt” and the heartland of the country is now understood to have been driven by more than economic considerations and climate. America is now separated between “Blue America” and “Red America,” with Democrats concentrated in large cities and college towns while Republicans are more likely to be distributed across the nation’s heartland, in smaller towns, and in the fast-growing suburbs of metropolitan areas.
“The existence of so thorough-going a split would seem to offer ideal conditions for a Kulturkampf [German for “Culture War”], especially since Blue America is the home of the national news media and the educational establishment, two cultural institutions dominated by liberals (another once-controversial claim that has been substantiated by extensive polling).”
Nevertheless, this Culture War has not taken the form of an all-out contest for dominance of the mainstream media. Instead, conservatives have gravitated toward the creation of an alternative media culture. The blogosphere is now a major part of this culture and one of the most significant factors behind conservative political and cultural influence.
As Teachout tells the story, “Instead of trying to take over those aging institutions, or transform them from within, [conservatives] launched parallel institutions of their own. Talk radio, the Fox News Channel, the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, private secondary schools, religious colleges, the burgeoning home-schooling network: all these are aspects of a collective end-run around a liberal establishment whose favor conservatives no longer seek to curry.”
This represents a seismic shift in America’s cultural landscape. Teachout is clearly on to something of importance here. As one who has devoted his life to the study of elite culture, Teachout understands what it means for a significant portion of Americans to decide that elite opinion really doesn’t matter. “Only those who insist on living and working in the islands of Blue America are affected by the stigma of liberal disapproval,” he understands. “In Red America, by contrast, a Harvard degree or a favorable mention in the New Yorker does not enhance one’s social status (a fact of which George W. Bush is famously aware).”
Rupert Murdoch, the founder and chairman of News Corporation (and thus of Fox News), tried to explain this to the American Society of Newspaper Editors. “What is happening right before us is, in short, a revolution in the way young people are accessing news. They don’t want to rely on the morning paper for their up-to-date information. They don’t want to rely on a godlike figure from above to tell them what’s important. And to carry the religion analogy a bit further, they certainly don’t want news presented as gospel,” Murdoch argued. “Instead, they want their news on demand, when it works for them. They want control over their media, instead of being controlled by it. They want to question, to probe, to offer a different angle.”
Teachout clearly agrees with Murdoch’s analysis. “Instead of staying to fight, Americans withdrew from the battleground, went home to cultivate their own cultural gardens—and started blogging,” he explains.
Teachout also cites Richard Brookheiser as another cultural observer who “gets it.” Responding to Murdoch’s speech, Brookheiser explained, “Murdoch was being polite. What he was telling his colleagues was: newspapers are dead.”
As Brookheiser continued: “Newspapers were more than the particular paper you read. They were part of the dawn, with toothpaste, coffee, and trying to find the right sock.” That world exists no more. In its place, we are now confronted by a daunting array of media and news sources—most made available by the information revolution.
For Teachout, the point is clear: “One thing of which I am sure is that the common culture of my youth is gone for good. It was hollowed out by the rise of ethnic ‘identity politics,’ then splintered beyond hope of repair by the emergence of the web-based technologies that so maximized and facilitated cultural choice as to make the broad-based offerings of the old mass media look bland and unchallenging by comparison.”
Terry Teachout’s analysis, published in the respected pages of Commentary, signals a growing awareness of the blogging revolution and what it means for America. In a strange twist of irony, the culture of Western civilization may survive through the efforts of a core of dedicated bloggers who are unwilling to see it die. The media elite will simply have to watch from a distance, scratching their heads as they watch their audience disappear and their influence dissipate. The long-term impact of the blogging revolution is yet to be seen. Nevertheless, the toppling of the mainstream media’s monopoly is a cultural achievement in itself. May the revolution continue.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
By Brent Bozell III
Today’s Internet age is putting an end to the hardcover encyclopedia business. Why spend fortunes on a massive (albeit attractive) World Book set when what you need is a mouse click away on the Internet? Any student preparing a research paper and searching Google will probably be handed over quickly to the “Wikipedia” online encyclopedia system. What’s more — and here’s an offer that presumably can’t be beat — it’s free!
At Wikipedia, you won’t find a distinguished body of tweedy old professors poring over every paragraph on the Hanseatic League. It’s actually on the other end of the credibility spectrum. Wikipedia is an “open-source” encyclopedia, a reference source anyone can create. The danger in this system becomes very obvious, very quickly.
Recently, the comedian and movie star Sinbad had to announce that he was not, in fact, dead of a heart attack at age 50, as his Wikipedia entry claimed. “Somebody vandalized the page,” claimed Wikipedia spokeswoman Sandra Ordonez.
Not only can Wikipedia articles be written by anyone with Internet access, others can then edit that material by adding off-setting and consequently off-putting material whose purpose is to create intellectual mischief.
The other day, Bernie Goldberg emailed me, upset. He pointed me to his Wikipedia entry. To read what was written was to conclude that apparently I must hate his guts. But we are friends. He is a man for whom I have profound respect, professional and personal. He knew there was foul play.
Right there on the screen, under the heading “Criticism,” it stated that I had attacked him, “claiming that Goldberg merely lifted material he had been producing for years, and only published the book because he had an ax to grind with his former employers and was attempting to make a ‘quick buck,’ noting that Goldberg never mentioned the alleged liberal bias of the media until it was ‘convenient’ and ‘profitable’ for him to do so.”
Where did this come from? An accompanying footnote linked to a column I wrote when Goldberg’s “100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (And Al Franken is No. 37)” was released in 2005. Among other things, I called it “a wonderful read for anyone not on that list.” I’d opened my column by joking that “I hate him” — because he’d written a set of New York Times best-sellers I wish I’d thought to write first. There you have it.
But the author wasn’t guilty of misunderstanding me. Remember how the Wikipedia entry said I charged Goldberg with opportunism, for never mentioning liberal bias until it was “convenient” and “profitable” for him? Neither those sentiments nor those words appeared anywhere in my column footnoted by Wikipedia.
In fact, those words have never been uttered by me. The accusation would be false. Back in 1996, Goldberg used the op-ed pages of The Wall Street Journal publicly to castigate his own network for its one-sided oafish bashing of Steve Forbes. It was anything but “convenient” or “profitable” for him. It ruined his friendship with Dan Rather and put him on a path to the outer fringes of CBS News. Ultimately, it ruined his newscaster career.
My attorney contacted Wikipedia by email demanding the removal of this false entry. No response. So we edited out the offensive material ourselves, after which in writing counsel alerted Wikipedia to the legal action that might befall them should this be repeated. Here’s full disclosure, Wikipedia-style: You can see how each article is altered, sometimes hour by hour, in its “History” section. But there is no mention of the attorney’s complaints. In the Goldberg article’s history, an editor simply now scolds: “Bozell’s article is a mock-jealous swipe at Goldberg’s opportunism. PLEASE REREAD IT.” (Capitals theirs.)
Goldberg and I are not alone. The website Conservapedia.com has a long list of 41 allegations of bias and factual errors at Wikipedia. You can add to that the problem with the credentials of its staff. One of its editors, named only “Essjay” online and described on his user profile “as a tenured professor of religion at a private university with expertise in canon law,” was recently exposed as a 24-year-old college kid in Kentucky. He resigned in disgrace — even though Wikipedia tried to retain him, claiming he’d edited thousands of articles with flair.
The Florida-based Wikimedia Foundation is aware of its Website’s reputation. Board member Erik Moller was very frank in a recent essay. One of their 10 things they wanted you to know about Wikipedia is: “We don’t want you to trust us. It’s in the nature of an ever-changing work like Wikipedia that, while some articles are of the highest quality of scholarship, others are admittedly complete rubbish. We are fully aware of this.”
It’s enough to make used-car salesmen cringe.
A computer game retailer revealed that it legally owns the souls of thousands of online shoppers, thanks to a clause in the terms and conditions agreed to by online shoppers.
The retailer, British firm GameStation, added the “immortal soul clause” to the contract signed before making any online purchases earlier this month. It states that customers grant the company the right to claim their soul.
“By placing an order via this Web site on the first day of the fourth month of the year 2010 Anno Domini, you agree to grant Us a non transferable option to claim, for now and for ever more, your immortal soul. Should We wish to exercise this option, you agree to surrender your immortal soul, and any claim you may have on it, within 5 (five) working days of receiving written notification from gamesation.co.uk or one of its duly authorised minions.”
GameStation’s form also points out that “we reserve the right to serve such notice in 6 (six) foot high letters of fire, however we can accept no liability for any loss or damage caused by such an act. If you a) do not believe you have an immortal soul, b) have already given it to another party, or c) do not wish to grant Us such a license, please click the link below to nullify this sub-clause and proceed with your transaction.”
The terms of service were updated on April Fool’s Day as a gag, but the retailer did so to make a very real point: No one reads the online terms and conditions of shopping, and companies are free to insert whatever language they want into the documents.
While all shoppers during the test were given a simple tick box option to opt out, very few did this, which would have also rewarded them with a £5 voucher, according to news:lite. Due to the number of people who ticked the box, GameStation claims believes as many as 88% of people do not read the terms and conditions of a Web site before they make a purchase.
The company noted that it would not be enforcing the ownership rights, and planned to e-mail customers nullifying any claim on their soul.
A campaign to name the number 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 “hella” is gaining support through an online petition.
A campaign to name the number 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 “hella” is gaining support on an online petition, it emerged Tuesday.
More than 20,000 users of Facebook, including scientists and students, signed the petition calling for “hella” to be officially recognized by the International System of Units (SI).
Founder of the campaign Austin Sendek, a physics student at the University of California, said recent breakthroughs in science meant SI needed to go further with its classification of long numbers.
“As you know, the largest number with a designated SI prefix is 10^24, which carries the name ‘yotta-,’” Sendek wrote. “However, in our world of increasing physical awareness and experimental precision, this number is no longer a satisfactory ‘upper bound’ in scientific nomenclature.”
Sendek and his petition signatories believe naming numbers in the 10^27 category is of “critical importance for scientists in all fields.” He said these numbers are vital to representing “the wattage of the sun, distances between galaxies, or the number of atoms in a large sample.”
For example, the energy released by the sun would be better described as 0.3 hellawatts according to Sendek, rather than 300 yottawatts. Sendek proposed the prefix hella as a tribute to Northern California, which is home to several notable scientific institutions.
“However, science isn’t all that sets Northern California apart from the rest of the world,” Sendek wrote. “The area is also notorious for the creation and widespread usage of the English slang ‘hella,’ which typically means ‘very,’ or can refer to a large quantity (e.g. ‘there are hella stars out tonight’).”
Official SI prefixes:
10 = deca
100 = hecto
1,000 = kilo
1,000,000 = mega
1,000,000,000 = giga
1,000,000,000,000 = tera
1,000,000,000,000,000 = peta
1,000,000,000,000,000,000 = exa
1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 = zetta
1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 = yotta
1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 = unnamed
There’s no way to prevent future cyber attacks similar to the one that has been targeting dozens of Web sites in the U.S. and South Korea since the July 4 holiday weekend, experts say.
Called directed denial-of-service attacks, or DDoS, they are easy to carry out, and the method is simple: Bombard the servers hosting a particular Web site with so many requests for information that the servers become overwhelmed and the site goes offline.
“There is no way currently known that can prevent these kinds of things from occurring,” Eugene H. Spafford, director of Purdue University’s Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security, told FOXNews.com. “These attacks rely on the poor protection and compromises of computer systems around the world.”
In this instance, malicious computer programmers, possibly working for North Korea or groups sympathetic to it, would have started by infecting thousands of computers running Microsoft Windows with a computer virus.
A rogue programmer would then have been able to “herd” the PCs into a virtual networked computer, or “botnet,” that he could command to do whatever he wanted.
“There are tens of millions of computers that are potentially vulnerable,” Spafford said. “If those systems are implanted with bot controllers, there’s little you can to do prevent it.”
When the attack began, the “bot herder” would have directed his botnet to begin requesting information from the Web servers, much as you do when you go to a Web site.
But there are subtle twists that make this sort of Internet interaction different from just requesting a Web page.
First of all, the attacking computers would “spoof” their own Internet Protocol addresses so that when the host servers replied with the requested data, the information would go nowhere, and the host servers would be told the requesting PC was busy or unavailable.
The host servers would then keep trying to send the data, tying up their own processing power and bandwidth — how much data they can output through their Internet connection — until they gave up.
Second, the host servers would be getting tens of thousands of such bad requests per second. The botnet-controlled PCs would be running scripts constantly generating new spoofed IP addresses, and constantly sending them to the targeted Web sites, which would be trying in turn to fulfill each and every request.
Between the volume of the requests and their frustrating nature, a Web site with few servers or limited bandwidth can quickly be taken down. Others with greater physical and financial resources can take the punishment.
That may explain why high-volume Web sites such as those belonging to the White House, the Pentagon and the New York Stock Exchange were able to withstand such attacks with barely a hiccup, while the Federal Trade Commission’s and the Transportation Department’s were knocked offline.
“Most of these high-profile sites are undergoing several attacks of this nature on a continuous basis,” said Spafford. “If any sites went down, it indicates that those sites haven’t been targeted in the past.”
But they’d better get used to it, he said.
“This is not an uncommon kind of event,” said Spafford. “It’s unusual because of the time and the target. It’s likely something we’re going to see more of as time goes on.”
The latest alternative to Wikipedia is putting a conservative Christian spin on the idea of web-based, user-controlled encyclopedias.
Conservapedia, the new online encyclopedia launched last November, has branded itself as “a much-needed alternative to Wikipedia, which is increasingly anti-Christian and anti-American.”
“Conservapedia is an online resource and meeting place where we favor Christianity and America,” the front page of its website reads.
Conservapedia’s project leader, Andy Schafly, describes the site as “a new way of learning about history and science,” according to a reporter from the New Scientist. The website claims to provide “concise answers free of ‘political correctness.’”
Schafly originally created Conservapedia together with 58 high-school-level students and home-schooled children, and he suggests it could ultimately be used by teachers as a reference point.
According to Wired News, Schlafly says “the site is intended as a resource for the general audience, but without the defects of Wikipedia.” Schlafly, the son of famous conservative politician and activist Phyllis Schlafly, is a conservative writer and attorney.
Schlafly argues that Wikipedia’s content displays a liberal bias, and that the site runs an excess of gossip, vulgarity and long-winded writing which has become unusable as an education resource.
“We have clear principles that we display, whereas Wikipedia pretends to be neutral and ends up biased,” says Schlafly, according to Wired News.
One of the most viewed entries currently is “Example of bias in Wikipedia,” which includes how “Renaissance in Wikipedia refuses to give enough credit to Christianity” and how “Wikipedia often uses foreign spelling of words, even though most English speaking users are American,” according to CBS.
The anti-Christian bias also includes the frequent use of the dating term CE (Common Era) rather than AD (Annon Domini) to refer to the first year of the Christian calendar, according to Information World Review.
Despite criticisms by Schafly and conservatives like him, creator of the original Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, was supportive of the new site.
“Free culture knows no bounds,” said Wales according to a reporter from the New Scientist. “We welcome the reuse of our work to build variants. That’s directly in line with our mission.”
Conservapedia is not the first faith-based version of Wikipedia that has emerged on the world wide web. CreationWiki, an encyclopedia of creation science, is currently being assembled by an international editorial staff of creationists and contains over 2,500 articles from a creationist point of view. Theopedia, an encyclopedia of Biblical Christianity, features over 1,413 articles and includes a statement of faith that all its editors are required to personally affirm to. Theopedia labels itself as “decidedly Reformed, and encourages evangelicals who are not.”
As social networking Internet sites like MySpace.com continue to grow in popularity, parents need to take steps to ensure their children’s safety, experts said Thursday at a media briefing sponsored by the National Parent and Teachers Association (PTA).
While these sites do have some positive attributes, they can also be easily accessed by predators.
That’s why parenting in the MySpace generation has its own set of unique challenges, says Douglas Levin, senior director of education policy for Cable in the Classroom, a Washington-based program designed to help schools take advantage of educational cable programming and technology.
“Social networking should not cause you to panic,” he tells WebMD. “Make sure your kids know not to post personally identifying information — including pictures and videos of themselves — and not to meet anyone in person that they have only met online. And to let you know whenever they see something that makes them uncomfortable.”
The good news is that 94% of parents or legal guardians polled have taken actions to ensure their kids’ safe use of the Internet, according to results of a new survey presented here. These actions include monitoring their children’s online activity, setting time limits, talking to their children about safe usage, and installing software to block certain online activities.
The telephone survey included 374 adults aged 18 and over who are the parents or legal guardians of children aged 8 to 18; 90% of parents said they think they should have the responsibility of ensuring Internet safety.
But in today’s day and age, kids may be more tech-savvy than their parents. Only one-third of parents polled think they are “very knowledgeable” when it comes to educating their children about how to use the Internet safely and responsibly.
The poll was commissioned by Cable in the Classroom and was conducted at the end of July.
Setting Ground Rules
“For teens and tweens, it’s just important to set ground rules and it’s also important that if kids do have a MySpace page or a page on one of the other social networking sites that parents go and look at it and monitor what their kids are doing online and who they are talking to,” Levin tells WebMD. “Parents need make the Internet a safer place for kids by disabling things like instant messenger [IM] and chat [functions].”
Age matters, he says. “I think it is much easier to protect children who are preteen [but] really the kids who are engaging in the riskiest behaviors are those who are in their teens.”
For the younger set, parental controls such as keeping computers in common areas of the home and installing software or filters to block inappropriate sites can make a big difference, he tells WebMD.
But these measures may not work for tech-savvy teens who can bypass filters and access the Internet from outside the home. “In this case, the best defense as a parent is to have frequent and open conversations with kids about the challenges of being online,” he says.
“Schools really should be a resource for parents. And educators now know kids are connected a lot,” he says. In the new survey, 71% of parents polled said they thought that schools should bear the responsibility for ensuring the safety of children online.
“The most important thing is to make sure that they understand what their child is putting on the net and that they monitor them as much as possible,” adds Marc Harris, an Internet consultant in Santa Rosa, Calif., and the author of MySpace4parents.
“If your children don’t know how to make their web page private, you can see what it is they have posted,” he explains. “If it is private, there is nothing a parent can do,” he adds. But “if your child is savvy enough to make their page private, predators can’t have access either without requesting that they become a ‘friend,’ so children have to understand that they should not make just anyone a ‘friend.’”
These sites do have some benefits, he says. “The positive is it is great for kids to interface with peers and chat with people that have the same interests,” he says. Harris did not attend the media briefing.
Several high-profile cases involving people who met playing online games have led experts to caution that such Web sites have a unique environment that could be a breeding ground for criminal minds.
— A 2-year-old girl nicknamed “Baby Grace” by detectives was found dead in October in a locked box in Texas — allegedly the victim of a beating murder at the hands of her stepfather and teenaged mother, who met playing the online fantasy game “World of Warcraft.”
— A 31-year-old Australian woman named Tamara Broome was nabbed in June when she traveled to North Carolina to lure a 16-year-old boy she encountered playing the same popular Internet game.
— Twenty-six-year-old Florida resident Daniel Lenz is also under investigation for allegedly coaxing a 15-year-old girl he played “World of Warcraft” with to run away with him.
— In China, a “Legend of Mir III” player is spending the rest of his life behind bars for fatally stabbing another for the “theft” of a virtual sword.
Massively multiplayer online games — or MMOGs, as they’re called — can foster more vulnerability than there might be on other virtual meeting spaces such as dating and social networking sites, where participants are inclined to be on the lookout for suspicious behavior from the start.
“When you’re in a social situation like that — playing a game, having fun — you’re comfortable with the people you’re playing with,” said cyber-stalking victim Jayne Hitchcock, president of Working to Halt Online Abuse (WHOA). “People are just not very careful. They lose all sense of reality and themselves.”
Such conditions can lead participants to be more trusting of each other and less cautious. Players tend to be focused not on meeting each other, finding a love connection or promoting themselves, but on getting through the game, working as a team and concocting strategies to win. The pressure to make a good impression and project a certain persona is off.
Since teammates typically don’t compete using their own identities but instead take on characters called avatars, they frequently feel safer and less exposed than they might if they were putting up personal profiles on sites like MySpace, Facebook and Match.com.
“You’re hiding behind a cloak of anonymity and false pretenses,” said University of Baltimore criminologist Jeffrey Ian Ross. “They force you to pick an alter ego.”
Ross said that because defenses are down, people can be more susceptible to the advances of predators or those who are mentally unstable.
But it isn’t just the social-lubricant aspect of the hobby that is cause for concern.
The common goal of annihilating the foe can bring out a belligerence that sometimes spills over into real-world interactions, especially within those who become addicted to what they’re playing, said Robert McCrie, a professor in the law and police science department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
“You observe people playing these games — it draws out a kind of aggressiveness and competitiveness in their behavior,” he said. “There is a concern for people who become obsessively involved with cyber gaming.”
While there are some who believe that real-life dangers lurk in the virtual gaming world, others say that just the opposite is true because the games are complex, requiring smarts and quick, sharp thinking.
“The majority of people who play these games don’t fall victim to this sort of thing,” said Ross. “They’re either savvy, or they’re very rule-bound.”
Furthermore, most of those who participate are primarily interested in devising ways to advance, defeat the enemy and win, not prey on unsuspecting fellow gamers.
“The goal is not specifically to meet friends but to play a game,” said Michael Goodman, a director at digital entertainment research firm Yankee Group. “I would argue that it is a little more difficult to mislead. You know coming in that the person is not who that character is. You know the person on the other side is not an elf.”
Researchers are taking a closer look at a variety of relationships formed on multiplayer game sites, and with good reason.
About 25 to 30 million people worldwide now play MMO games, according to Yankee Group. As many as 7 to 9 million of them are in the United States. And as with other types of popular cyber-meeting spots, the incidents of friendship, dating and even marriages that result are on the rise.
Research gathered by Stanford University Ph.D. Nick Yee, an online gaming expert, found that 77% of female players ages 12 and up and 27% of males in the same age range reported dating someone they met in the virtual world of multiplayer Internet games.
Yee used survey data collected from “EverQuest,” “Dark Age of Camelot” and “Ultima Online.” The findings are particularly significant because only one-third of players are single to begin with.
Sony Online Entertainment said last year that at least 20 couples have married after meeting as players of its “EverQuest” fantasy game series.
At least 20 weddings have happened between pairs who met playing another favorite called “Anarchy Online,” according to its Norway-based creator, Funcom NV.
But some hook-ups have had deadly consequences.
In the case of toddler “Baby Grace,” whose real name was Riley Ann Sawyers, her mother Kimberly Dawn Trenor met second husband Royce Clyde Zeigler II playing “World of Warcraft.”
Trenor, 19, had had a volatile relationship with Riley’s birth father and wound up moving from Ohio to Texas to be with Zeigler, 24.
Zeigler and Trenor abused the toddler, according to court documents, and Trenor told police that one July day, they beat, tortured and threw the child across the room, killing her. They allegedly concealed her body in a box in a shed and then tossed it into Galveston Bay.
In the Lenz and Broome cases earlier this year, both adults allegedly struck up relationships with teenagers playing “Warcraft” and then convinced them to meet in person before authorities caught on.
Representatives for Blizzard Entertainment, which produces “World of Warcraft,” did not respond to requests from FOXNews.com for comment.
The 2005 Chinese murder of “Legend of Mir III” player Zhu Caoyuan by teammate Qui Chengwei happened after Zhu’s game character sold a virtual sword loaned to him by Qui to another player.
Qui went to police about the “theft,” but his reports were ignored because no real weapon was stolen. An enraged Qui broke into Zhu’s home and fatally stabbed him in the chest with an actual knife.
There have been other cases involving online gaming that captured media attention.
In 2005, the baby of a South Korean couple suffocated when they left the child alone to play “Warcraft” at an Internet cafe. A Wisconsin boy named Shawn Woolley died in 2002 of an apparent suicide in front of his computer because he was rejected by a fellow “EverQuest” player.
“People have electronic hookups that sometimes lead to disappointing ends,” said McCrie. “While I believe that it doesn’t happen a lot, the likelihood for there to be a disconnect between two parties is greater if their connection comes over cyberspace rather than over a table. When we meet in a public, we’re able to assess that individual’s signals more accurately.”
Still, the majority of close encounters of the gaming kind don’t end badly, according to criminologists.
“The issue of suicide and murder is an anomaly,” Ross said. “Yes, there are people on these games who have evil intent. ... But it’s highly unusual. That’s what makes it so fascinating.”
For law enforcement, prosecuting cyber-based crimes of any sort is seen as an ever-growing challenge.
Authorities in Missouri announced last week that there was not enough evidence to charge those involved in the suicide of 13-year-old Megan Meier, who hanged herself after being jilted on MySpace by an adult she thought was a teenage boy.
At the time of the incident, there was no Missouri cyber-bullying law, though Meier’s hometown has subsequently passed a measure making the crime a misdemeanor.
Despite some experts’ theories that the gaming community is subject to its own set of circumstances, law enforcement doesn’t see it that way.
Even when virtual player relationships do result in crimes or violence, the FBI says investigators wouldn’t necessarily take a special approach to such cases.
“If something like that came into us, I don’t know that we would treat it any differently than any other kind of Internet crime,” said New York FBI Special Agent Barbara Daly.
Yankee Group’s Goodman agrees, saying that cyber game-related tragedies are no different from or more common than those that originate from any other online meeting.
“Games and gamers are a microcosm of society. There’s good people and bad people who are playing them,” he said. “The same things we see manifesting themselves on MySpace and Facebook we see manifesting themselves in online games as well.”
It remains to be seen whether online game-related violence will flourish as the number of players continues to grow — and the popularity of digital entertainment rises.
And while it might be a stretch to liken the Web to a modern-day Pandora’s box, the analogy does hold some water.
“You’re going to see a lot more of these stories, unfortunately,” predicted WHOA’s Hitchcock. “Nothing surprises me anymore in terms of the ways the Internet can be used to harm people.”
A marriage and family therapist intern is trying to convince Google to drop a website from its popular, free blog host that promotes “boy love,” sexual relationships between men and adolescents.
Stacy L. Harp of Orange, Calif., told WorldNetDaily one of the readers of her weblog pointed out the site, called “Paiderastia: The Boy Love Revival.”
At the top of its homepage, the site explains it’s all about “erotic/mentor/spiritual love between adolescents and adults.”
Harp said, however, that not long after she exposed it yesterday morning, the “Paiderastia” site removed its most recent posts, including one dated April 9.
Also removed, according to Harp, was a podcast – a file with a radio-style report – that mocked the FBI. It was created through the podcast provider Liberated Syndication.
The site now begins with a Feb. 15 post that outlines the “Boylove Code of Ethics,” which includes this rule: “Intimacy with a boy should never develop into a sexual relationship without the boy fully consenting and understanding the social, legal, and health implications of the relationship.”
Harp, who also has a company called Active Christian Media, said that as “somebody who has recovered from child sexual abuse and has been working for four years as a therapist” she got “ticked off” when she saw the “boy love” website.
Harp spoke with a secretary at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., but was told she must go to the company’s help-desk page online and fill out a complaint.
Harp had done that before with another complaint – when homosexual activists slandered her online – and got no response.
Google’s Mountain View, Calif., office has not responded to WND’s request for comment.
U.S. officials hunting child predators have considered websites like “Paiderastia” low priority because they are not explicit. But Harp fears such sites could lure children.
“It plays into the normalization of it,” she said. “The more you have it out there the more it’s available for children to see. Children are easily influenced.”
As WND reported in 2003, Amazon.com sold subscriptions to the North American Man/Boy Love Association’s official magazine, a periodical entered as evidence in a lawsuit involving the murder of a 10-year-old boy. The online book-seller later dropped the magazine.
The publication figured prominently in a $200-million federal lawsuit alleging NAMBLA incites members to “rape male children” and “serves as a conduit for an underground network of pedophiles in the U.S.” The group was defended by the American Civil Liberties Union.
In 1999, in response to an organized protest, the company dropped a book published by NAMBLA called “Varieties of Man/Boy Love.” However, it continues to sell a similar title, “Understanding Loved Boys and Boylovers,” by David L. Riegel, a retiree who operates a chat forum for pedophiles.
Amazon has stated it does not endorse “Understanding Boys and Boylovers,” but insists “people have the right to choose their own reading material.”
The bookseller says, “Our goal is to support freedom of expression and to provide customers with the broadest selection possible so they can find, discover, and buy any title they might be seeking.”
Nevertheless, Amazon decided to drop a book called “Varieties of Man/Boy Love,” pointing out it had an image on the cover that bordered on “kiddie porn.” The bookseller argued further that Riegel’s book, in contrast, is not a “how to.”
The previous month, a WorldNetDaily inquiry into Wal-Mart’s sale of NAMBLA’s “Varieties of Man/Boy Love,” on its website prompted the retail giant to drop the title and others of a similar nature. WalMart.com spokeswoman Cynthia Lin said the book slipped through the company’s screening process, noting it sells more than 500,000 books.
As WorldNetDaily reported in 2002, Riegel’s book says men who become involved in sexual relationships with boys “are sincere, concerned, loving human beings who simply have – and were probably born with – a sexual orientation that is neither understood nor accepted by most others.”
The Christian Institute has welcomed the decision by Google to allow religious groups to place ads on the issue of abortion after legal proceedings against the world’s biggest search engine were settled “on amicable terms.”
The group took legal action against Google after it rejected an ad in March with its search related advertising system, AdWords. The advertisment read: “UK abortion law: Key views and news on abortion law from The Christian Institute. www.christian.org.uk.”
Google rejected the ad on the grounds that it constituted “inappropriate content.” Although Google allowed non-religious websites to place ads on the issue of abortion, it had at the time of the court proceedings a policy of not advertising sites which combined “abortion and religion-related content.”
The Christian Institute, which is committed to upholding the sanctity of life from conception, took Google to court in April, arguing that its decision violated the Equality Act 2006 which prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion in the provision of a good or service.
The court action led Google to reconsider its AdWords policy to enable The Christian Institute and other religious bodies to advertise on the issue of abortion in a “factual and campaigning way.”
The new policy will apply worldwide with immediate effect.
The Christian Institute welcomed the change in a statement on Wednesday.
“The Christian Institute is delighted to confirm that our legal proceedings against Google for blocking our abortion ad have been settled on amicable terms,” the group said.
“This is an important issue of free speech and religious liberty and we are pleased with Google’s constructive response to this matter.”
The Christian Institute is a nondenominational Christian charity and exists for “the furtherance and promotion of the Christian religion in the United Kingdom” and “the advancement of education.”
As director of the Rapid Response Team at VeriSign-owned iDefense, of Dulles, Va., Dunham and his team of malware hunters infiltrate black hat hacker forums, chat rooms and newsgroups, posing as online criminals to gather intelligence on the dramatic rise in rootkits, Trojans and botnets.
Based on all the evidence gathered over the last two years, Dunham is convinced that groups of well-organized mobsters have taken control of a global billion-dollar crime network powered by skillful hackers and money mules targeting known software security weaknesses.
“There’s a well-developed criminal underground market that’s connected to the mafia in Russia and Web gangs and loosely affiliated mob groups around the world. They’re all involved in this explosion of phishing and online crime activity,” Dunham said in an interview with eWEEK.
Just two years after the Secret Service claimed a major success with “Operation Firewall,” an undercover investigation that led to the arrest of 28 suspects accused of identity theft, computer fraud, credit card fraud and money laundering, security researchers say the mobsters are back, with a level of sophistication and brazenness that is “frightening and surreal.”
“They never really went away,” Dunham said. “They scurried away for a few months and tightened their security controls. It became harder to get on their lists and into their chat rooms.”
Not these days. A law enforcement official familiar with several ongoing investigations showed eWEEK screenshots of active Web sites hawking credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, PayPal and eBay credentials and bank login data by the bulk.
“They’re very public about all this, especially on the Russian sites. It’s almost comical how open and barefaced they are,” said the official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the ongoing probe.
Black hat hackers have set up e-commerce sites offering private exploits capable of evading anti-virus scanners. An e-mail advertisement intercepted by researchers contained an offer to infect computers for use in botnets at $25 per 10,000 hijacked PCs.
Skilled hackers in Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America are selling zero-day exploits on Internet forums where moderators even test the validity of the code against anti-virus software.
“I saw one case where an undetectable Trojan was offered for sale and the buyers were debating whether it was worth the price. They were doing competitive testing to ensure it actually worked as advertised,” said Jim Melnick, a member of Dunham’s team.
“We even have proof of actual job listings on Russian-language sites offering lucrative pay for coders who can create exploits and launch denial-of-service attacks. We’ve seen evidence of skilled hackers stealing corporate data on behalf of competitors. This isn’t just about credit card and bank information. It has all the elements of traditional mafia-type crime,” Melnick said.
Roger Thompson, a computer security pioneer who created the first Australian anti-virus company in the late 1980s, is convinced the secretive Russian mafia is masterminding the use of sophisticated rootkits in botnet-seeding Trojans.
“They are paying to recruit bright young hackers and using teenage kids around the world to move money around. They’re into everything: spyware installations, denial-of-service shakedowns, you name it. It’s the traditional mafia finding it easy to make money on the Internet,” said Thompson, who now runs Exploit Prevention Labs in Atlanta.
Yury Mashevsky, a virus analyst at Kaspersky Lab, said there is even evidence of turf wars in the criminal underworld.
“They use malicious programs that destroy the software developed by rival groups and include threats directed at each other, anti-virus vendors, police and law enforcement agencies in their creations,” Mashevsky said, in Woburn, Mass.
He has also seen fierce online confrontation in the battle to control the resources of infected computers. In November 2005, Mashevsky discovered an attempt to hijack a botnet.
“[The] network of infected computers changed hands three times in one day. Criminals have realized that it is much simpler to obtain already-infected resources than to maintain their own botnets, or to spend money on buying parts of botnets which are already in use,” he said.
On message boards and newsgroups where malicious code is put up for sale, Mashevsky said flame wars and attacks against each other to steal virtual property amounts to normal everyday activity.
Dunham, who frequently briefs upper levels of federal cyber-security authorities on emerging threats, said there have been cases in Russia where mafia-style physical torture has been used to recruit hackers.
“If you become a known hacker and you start to cut into their profits, they’ll come to your house, take you away and beat you to a pulp until you back off or join them. There have been documented cases of this,” Dunham said.
One key aspect of Web mob activity that flies under the radar is use of “money mules,” or individuals who help to launder and transfer money from hijacked online bank accounts.
On career Web sites such as Monster.com, a job listing for a “private financial receiver,” “shipping manager,” or “country representative” invariably is an active attempt to recruit people around the world to withdraw funds and deliver it to crime bosses, according to a detailed research report by iDefense on the so-called money mules.
Money is transferred into the mule’s account, withdrawn as cash and then wired to an offshore account.
“We’ve only scratched the surface of what’s going on in the underworld. It’s like the iceberg that took down the Titanic. No one knew how big and dangerous it was,” Dunham said.
He cited the recent discovery of MetaFisher, also known as SpyAgent, a Trojan connected to a Web-based command and control interface that highlighted just how advanced the attackers have become.
“In just a few weeks, MetaFisher spread to thousands of computers. We found conclusively that these attacks were going on undetected for more than a year. Can you imagine the amount of data that has already been stolen? It’s unimaginable,” Dunham said.
Eric Sites, vice president of R&D Sunbelt Software, in Clearwater, Fla., showed eWEEK screenshots of the Web interface that showed specific targeted phishing attacks against European banks and keeps detailed statistics on actual bot infections around the world.
The interface also can be used to add exploits, keep track of anti-virus signature definitions and keep track of callback from injected machines.
“This isn’t the work of the guy in the basement. This is organized and simplified to make it super easy to control all those bot drones,” Sites said.
Search engine cites ‘sensitive content’ despite OK for homosexual firms
Despite accepting advertisements for such groups as homosexual singles sites, Google is coming under scrutiny again for allegedly banning commercials for a Christian organization.
ChristianExodus.org, the group looking to have like-minded people move to one state to help restore godly values to government, says it’s been rejected from placing ads on Google AdSense.
An e-mail from the Mountain View, Calif.-based company cited “sensitive content” as the reason for the rejection, though it was not specific in what specifically was considered sensitive.
“After reviewing your application, our program specialists have found that it does not comply with our policies,” the Google AdSense Team wrote. “We have reviewed your site and found that many of the ads that would appear on your site would not be relevant to your site’s content. As the ads would not provide a valuable experience for your site’s users or our advertisers, we feel that your site isn’t a good fit for the AdSense program at this time.”
The news disappointed Keith Humphrey, who was looking for ways to generate revenue for the site.
“The traffic alone could have been worth hundreds of dollars per month, with links to Christian bookstores and other things, but it did not meet their ‘criteria,’” Humphrey wrote in a letter to Cory Burnell, president of ChristianExodus. “No doubt they accept sites promoting ‘gay marriage’ and things like that, but we are the ones who are rejected due to ‘sensitive content.’”
Google provided two Web pages outlining policies, but neither mention the word “sensitive.”
Under the content section, some preclusions listed include:
# Excessive profanity;
# Violence, racial intolerance, or advocate against any individual, group, or organization;
# Hacking/cracking content;
# Illicit drugs and drug paraphernalia;
# Pornography, adult, or mature content;
# Gambling or casino-related content, etc.
WND asked Google a series of questions, including: “What sensitive content precludes this group?” and “Is there some kind of anti-Christian bias involved?”
Google spokesman Barry Schnitt would not provide any specifics about sensitive content, stating only, “Any suggestion that Google discriminates in our policies is absolutely false. Our AdSense policies prohibit websites that advocate against any individual, group or organization.”
This is not the first time Google has been criticized for nixing ads based on content.
As WND previously reported, Google banned the Christian organization Stand to Reason’s advertisements promoting its stance against homosexuality, saying the group promotes “hate.”
A conservative book publisher also said the search engine rejected his ad for a book critical of Bill and Hillary Clinton while continuing to accept anti-Bush themes.
In addition, Google has been criticized for allowing ads critical of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, allegedly censoring conservative ads, and giving priority to large media companies in searches performed on Google News.
The Internet could soon be made obsolete. The scientists who pioneered it have now built a lightning-fast replacement capable of downloading entire feature films within seconds.
At speeds about 10,000 times faster than a typical broadband connection, “the grid” will be able to send the entire Rolling Stones back catalogue from Britain to Japan in less than two seconds.
The latest spin-off from Cern, the particle physics centre that created the web, the grid could also provide the kind of power needed to transmit holographic images; allow instant online gaming with hundreds of thousands of players; and offer high-definition video telephony for the price of a local call.
David Britton, professor of physics at Glasgow University and a leading figure in the grid project, believes grid technologies could “revolutionise” society. “With this kind of computing power, future generations will have the ability to collaborate and communicate in ways older people like me cannot even imagine,” he said.
The power of the grid will become apparent this summer after what scientists at Cern have termed their “red button” day—the switching-on of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the new particle accelerator built to probe the origin of the universe. The grid will be activated at the same time to capture the data it generates.
Cern, based near Geneva, started the grid computing project seven years ago when researchers realised the LHC would generate annual data equivalent to 56m CDs—enough to make a stack 40 miles high.
This meant that scientists at Cern—where Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the web in 1989—would no longer be able to use his creation for fear of causing a global collapse.
This is because the Internet has evolved by linking together a hotchpotch of cables and routing equipment, much of which was originally designed for telephone calls and therefore lacks the capacity for high-speed data transmission.
By contrast, the grid has been built with dedicated fibre optic cables and modern routing centres, meaning there are no outdated components to slow the deluge of data. The 55,000 servers already installed are expected to rise to 200,000 within the next two years.
Professor Tony Doyle, technical director of the grid project, said: “We need so much processing power, there would even be an issue about getting enough electricity to run the computers if they were all at Cern. The only answer was a new network powerful enough to send the data instantly to research centres in other countries.”
That network, in effect a parallel Internet, is now built, using fibre optic cables that run from Cern to 11 centres in the United States, Canada, the Far East, Europe and around the world.
One terminates at the Rutherford Appleton laboratory at Harwell in Oxfordshire.
From each centre, further connections radiate out to a host of other research institutions using existing high-speed academic networks.
It means Britain alone has 8,000 servers on the grid system – so that any student or academic will theoretically be able to hook up to the grid rather than the internet from this autumn.
Ian Bird, project leader for Cern’s high-speed computing project, said grid technology could make the internet so fast that people would stop using desktop computers to store information and entrust it all to the internet.
“It will lead to what’s known as cloud computing, where people keep all their information online and access it from anywhere,” he said.
Computers on the grid can also transmit data at lightning speed. This will allow researchers facing heavy processing tasks to call on the assistance of thousands of other computers around the world. The aim is to eliminate the dreaded “frozen screen” experienced by internet users who ask their machine to handle too much information.
The real goal of the grid is, however, to work with the LHC in tracking down nature’s most elusive particle, the Higgs boson. Predicted in theory but never yet found, the Higgs is supposed to be what gives matter mass.
The LHC has been designed to hunt out this particle—but even at optimum performance it will generate only a few thousand of the particles a year. Analysing the mountain of data will be such a large task that it will keep even the grid’s huge capacity busy for years to come.
Although the grid itself is unlikely to be directly available to domestic internet users, many telecoms providers and businesses are already introducing its pioneering technologies. One of the most potent is so-called dynamic switching, which creates a dedicated channel for internet users trying to download large volumes of data such as films. In theory this would give a standard desktop computer the ability to download a movie in five seconds rather than the current three hours or so.
Additionally, the grid is being made available to dozens of other academic researchers including astronomers and molecular biologists.
It has already been used to help design new drugs against malaria, the mosquito-borne disease that kills 1m people worldwide each year. Researchers used the grid to analyse 140m compounds—a task that would have taken a standard internet-linked PC 420 years.
“Projects like the grid will bring huge changes in business and society as well as science,” Doyle said.
“Holographic video conferencing is not that far away. Online gaming could evolve to include many thousands of people, and social networking could become the main way we communicate.
“The history of the internet shows you cannot predict its real impacts but we know they will be huge.”
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