The Times seems to have thought better of it and re-arranged the headlines in a more traditional way. It's nice to have my prayers answered overnight, but I'd watch that space in the future and see how they toy with it.

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The Gray Lady Aims for Cyberchic

As I write this, the top headlines on the New York Times website concern Serena Williams and Reality TV; you can wait to read about Iraq and a Democrat sponsored tax cut just a little further down the page.

The NYTimes on the Web's homepage design has changed in some subtle, but important ways. The section of the page that is first seen in your browser (the on-line equivalent of 'above-the-fold') used to be filled with significant national and international headlines, with an unintrusive column placed alongside, but much lower down, previewing lighter fare. No longer. The headlines section has been squeezed horizontally, to make way for a heavy, prominent column, running down the center of the page, offering a buffet of light pop-news headlines featuring Serena, Reality TV and Jerry Rice, mixed with more important stories (tax cut, small pox vaccinations) in the same size and weight font. In the paper version of the front page, which you can view here, stories about Serena and Jerry are relegated to below the fold, while, two national and one international story dominate the space above.

The Gray Lady is not turning into a tabloid version of it's trusty, paper self just yet... but obviously someone has been poring over those visitor logs, demographics charts and click-through statistics and concluded that stories about Britney Spears' love life get more clicks than accounts of Kim Jong Il's nuclear temper tantrums. This new arrangement -- a little more Spears, a little less Jong Il, in style -- increases ad revenue, while shifting the tone and focus of the front-page.

Is the Times website, in search of clicks, pageviews and dollars, going toe-to-toe with juicier news providers such as MSNBC and CNN, by putting fluff ahead of the real news? To me, it looks as though it's threatening to, but I sincerely hope that it isn't.

In the off-line world of un-refoldable, over-sized paper and smudgy ink, it has managed to stake out a staid, higher ground far above its local pandering, sensationalistic competitors. It remains oversized, pricey and without a gossip column!

The on-line versions of the Washington Post and the Washingon Times, both continue to provide 'boring' stuff above the fold, and light stuff below. May the big guy in the sky give the the editors of the the courage to do the same.

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Darwin Awards Department

Dog angers man, man vows vengeance, dog shoots man dead. Or something like that.

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Super Crunch

“If you don’t wake up hurting on Monday, you didn’t play hard enough Sunday.” That’s the motto of professional football players, in a sport which demands the vicious blocks and tackles that make for highlight reels and video games. It also makes for 300-pound behemoths that get old before their time. Yet even players who know they’ll be crippled for life acknowledge that it’s just the nature of the game.

So begins a great NPR story broadcast today, reminding us of the hard reality of the game most of the nation (including myself) will be enjoying this Sunday.

You're Okay, It's Just a Bruise, a book whose author is interviewed on the program, delves into the culture of the sport, as well as the ethics of the physicians who keep oiling the increasingly creaky human machinery.

There. Now you can watch the game with some nuanced, intellectual guilt. You're welcome.

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Are we there yet?

A frightening story from the BBC regarding Iraq's preparations for a war they apparently expect to be fought with chemical weapons. Iraqi troops are being issued chemical weapons protection suits, as well as the drug atropine, which counters the effects of nerve gas. Scary stuff.

Certainly, there will be a string of stories in the weeks to come concerning the horrors that await our troops, about the crimes of the man whom we intend to remove from power, about the dangers of the task ahead. By many signs, the war does seem to be only weeks away.

Amidst the war noises, the lingering questions about the justification for the timing of this war will get drowned out. But, should the North Korean crisis deepen or the casualties of the war be numerous (as the scary stories suggest they might), I am afraid those questions may come back to haunt us.

[Check out Slate's eerily cynical, yet amusingly pragmatic "saddameter", now up to 70%... They plot the chance of war day by day, on charts, like a fluctuating stock.]

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Saddam, we hardly knew ye!

Mr. Hussein's last will and testament has been found(!) in The New Yorker. Heh.

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Smell you later...

Thacker's gone.

The question of what on earth the administration was thinking remains, however.

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Cover Cover-up

The full story's in. During a speech on the economy in St. Luis yesterday, Bush actually had a screen behind him, painted to depict stacks of "Made in the USA" boxes, instead of "Made in China" boxes, which actually were sitting behind him.

This is so crass, as to boggle the mind. Having a background, of a seal or a logo, for a photo-op is old hat -- but this fake backdrop was meant to deceive (to suggest it's own non-existence), not to illustrate. It presumes the naivite of the TV viewing public, the irrelevance of non-television media; it betrays a smug confidence that reality (old fashioned, yes) will not interfere with spin.

Of course, the symbolism is priceless -- the indication of a modus operandi. Tax cuts? Social Security? Ever feel like you're having the screen pulled over your eyes?

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Read It (Closely) and Weep

The Bush administration's stellar nominee for the Presidential Advisory Commission on HIV and AIDS is a homophobe and Bob Jones University graduate and ex-employee: Jerry Thacker. I think we'll be hearing more about him in the next few days.

The Post article, linked above, mentions that Mr. Thacker, founder of the "Scepter Institute," refers to AIDS as a 'gay plague' in his bio on the institute's web site. Or, did refer to it as such, until recently, when the text was changed to 'plague.'

Isn't it handy of Google to let us wallow in the past?

  • Old version of Thacker's bio, from the Scepter Institute, CACHED: 'gay plague'
  • New and improved, post-nomination, current version: 'plague'

This late switch is ironically similar to a gaffe that Drudge has caught the administration in, just today: changing the background of a presidential photo from boxes marked "Made in China" to "Made in USA."

Phew, I am glad to have an administration and president who is restoring moral clarity to the White House, finally!!! Aren't you?

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Live, Talking Breasts from Atlanta

Read this CNN transcript for a tidy summation of what's wrong with American television news today.

The transcript concerns a woman who underwent a double mastectomy by mistake. Shocking? Unfortunate? Certainly.
Newsworthy? Well, perhaps.

There's two important issues at play here. One, is the epidemic of medical mistakes that take over 40,000 lives each year. The other is the skyrocketing cost of malpractice related jury awards and malpractice insurance.

The interview (Costello is the anchor) with the attorney (Messerly) and her patient (Linda), avoids both these topics, except for a single question.

COSTELLO: Before I talk to hospital officials -- do you plan to sue?
MESSERLY: Absolutely. However, President Bush intends to add additional harm to Linda and other victims. I mean, 98,000 people per year die of malpractice, not to mention the hundreds of thousands that are injured, and the president wants to tell them, I don't care what you've been through, we're going to put a cap on your damages of $250,000.
COSTELLO: And of course, the reason he's doing that is because there are many frivolous lawsuits filed, and doctor's bills are getting ever more expensive.
MESSERLY: But putting a cap on that will do nothing at all to reduce that, and California has proved that. They put a cap on years ago, and malpractice premiums have gone up and up and up until insurance reform came through.

After this exchange (lost in the midst of the 5300 word interview), the anchor quickly changed topics.

Does CNN delve more into the California example the attorney cites? Question the attorney's decision to sue in the face of contrite hospital officials willing to compensate the patient? No, of course not. Instead of using this patient's story to examine important healthcare issues, CNN just mines the salacious details while the larger issues of malpractice claims and jury awards serve merely as an excuse to pry into some titilatting details.

Why did CNN do a story on this mistake, out of the hundreds that occur each day?

Because sex sells, but news doesn't. I understand CNN is in the money making business, as is every other channel on TV.
I just find the facade they hide behind deceptive, harmful and repulsive.

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