Conrad Black headed a "kleptocracy", critics charge

Newspaper barons Lord Conrad Black and his long-time associate David Radler led a “kleptocracy” at Hollinger International Inc., says a 400-page report prepared by an independent committee of directors of that company. The report was filed yesterday with a court in Illinois and made public today through the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Black and his colleagues are accused of pilfering more than $400-million (U.S.) or more than 95 per cent of all profits earned at Hollinger International over a period of several years.
Black, through his holding company Ravelston (see below) says the claims are “exaggerated” and further:
“”The report is full of so many factual and tainting misrepresentations and inaccuracies that it is not practical to address them in their entirety here.  These issues will ultimately be resolved in courts of justice where the facts and the evidence will exonerate the men and women who are being attacked in this report.” (I can find no link yet to the full release but this graf is essentially the nut of it).
My colleagues at The Globe and Mail have started the coverage online and there is more from my CTV colleagues.
The things you need to know for this story:
Conrad Black has the controlling interest in Ravelston, a privately-held Canadian firm.
Ravelston is the controlling shareholder of Hollinger Inc., a Toronto-based holding company.
Hollinger Inc. is the controlling shareholder of Hollinger International Inc., the Chicago-based company which once owned the Daily Telegraph and now owns the Jerusalem Post, the Chicago Sun-Times and other papers.
CTV, incidentally, has commissioned a movie about Black..

Well, that's pretty cool: A new iMac from Apple

Apple took the wraps off its latest, greatest innovation this morning, a new iMac that compresses the all-in-one form factor of the first-generation iMacs into a machine that is basically a thick flat-screen display. More cool product design. The design team, incidentally, behind the new iMac are the same folks who came up with the iPod.
Apple Canada is selling these things right away (we're still waiting in Canada to be able to use the iTunes music store). Apple Canada says a 17-inch display with a 1.6 gigahertz G5 processor will start at $1,799 while the 20-inch 1.8 GHz machine will be $2,499. More from Reuters here:

PARIS — Apple Computer unveiled, after a
two-month delay, its new iMac desktop computer on Tuesday which
integrates disk drives and processors into a flat display less
than two inches thick. [Read the rest of the story]

Computers in Canada get cheaper

Statistics Canada tracks just about anything that can be counted so I shouldn't be surprised to learn this morning that it maintains the Computer and Peripherals Price Index or CPPI in Statscan-speak.
The federal agency just released the latest index for June and, it turns out, computers continue to get cheaper in Canada, particularly in the consumer market.
“[Prices of] Consumer computers, representing computer brands and models normally purchased by consumers and small businesses, were down 5.3%. Desktops fell by 6.1% and portables by 4.6%,” Statscan said.
Prices for monitors and printers remained largely unchanged from May, Statscan said.

The FujiBlimp is over NYC — peeking at protestors

Police in New York City have commandeered the Fuji Blimp to keep an eye on the Republican National Convention. But that's not all. The police will have some very high-resolution cameras able to read the phone numbers in your little black book, should you hold it skyward.
Is this right? Jock Gill doesn't think so, and, in a post to a listserv I'm on, he asks all the right questions about this kind of activity:

If this is domestic spying, who is authorized to do it and who is prohibited?If this is domestic spying, who is authorized to do it and who is prohibited?
What does such a surveillance blimp say about [U.S.] constitutional rights to freely assemble without restraint or intimidation and [U.S.] rights to free speech?
Who gets to see the pictures taken? Will they be subject to FOIA? Will they be archived in secret? What is their fate and should we be concerned?
What recourse do we have?

Jock's post on that mailing list prompted this reply from Reuben Helper, who says in his post he works in sports broadcasting and has some knowledge of what's on board the FujiBlimp:

During a broadcast the During a broadcast the blimp uses an image stabilizing Canon 100x lens mounted on a gyroscopic stabilization platform. The magnification and resolution are quite superb. I'm sure the NYPD and Co. have other goodies on board, though the blimp cabin doesn't have a whole lot of extra space for gear.

[What they said] Copyright is worth saving from governnment legislators

Leah Theriault, an S.J.D. candidate at the University of Toronto, writing in the inaugural issue of Innovate magazine (the in-house mag at the U of T's Centre for Innovation Law and Policy):

The Canadian Government’s slow pace in implementing the WIPO treaties could actually work to its advantage, allowing it to learn from the mistakes of other jurisdictions, particularly the U.S. Instead, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage has stated that it wants the government to have draft legislation ready by February 2004. We can only hope that the government has the good sense to realize what the copyright industries have not: if you treat your customers badly enough, they will eventually turn against you. And that is not in the copyright owners’ long-term interest.

An immigrant's commitment to America – depends on where s/he's from

Reviewing several books on the state of the American body politic, Andrew Hacker says that only 40 per cent of Canadians who emigrate to the U.S. seek to take out American citizenship. Just 33 per cent of Mexicans who end up living and working in American ask for the rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship.
Koreans and Filipinos who emigrate to the U.S. are keen to become citizens, with 71 per cent and 76 per cent respectively, becoming citizens of the republic.
I'm not sure what that means but I'll bet if I had some more data I could start figuring it out.
How many Americans who emigrate to Canada become citizens here? How many Americans overall take out citizenship in the country they land in?
How many Canadians take out citizenship in another country if they are there long enough? Is it greater or less than the rate of citizenship takeup for Canadians in the U.S.?

Does anyone anywhere actually use Bluetooth?

There's always been a lot of yakking about Bluetooth, the short-range wireless networking technology built into the very laptop computer I'm using; into millions of cell phones, PDAs and other info-gadgets but you know what? I've never known anyone — myself included — to actually transfer any data over a Bluetooth network! So I wasn't much surprised to read that Swedish phone giant, Ericsson — which helped invent Bluetooth — is shutting down the unit that was developing Bluetooth.
I'm sure someone somewhere was using Bluetooth and, lord knows, every Macintosh tip, and trick book I pick up talks about endless hacks you can do with your Bluetooth-enabled Mac. I'd always thought I was missing something but maybe I'm not. Do you use Bluetooth? Why? What for? Could you get by without it?

Toronto Star has a new editor

The Toronto Star has a new editor: Giles Gherson, formerly of the National Post and the Edmonton Journal, and currently the editor of Report On Business at the Globe and Mail, is the new Star editor, we've just learned over here on our side of Front Street.
Giles will have had a relatively short stay at the Globe, having been appointed to run the R.O.B. in December.
The Star has a press release on the appointment.

Journalism ethics: Toronto police shoot a hostage taker. What do you show on TV?

If you live in Toronto, the big news event of the day yesterday (and I'm sure this made several national newscasts), was the police shooting of an armed hostage taker.
My colleague Peter Murphy reported on this event for CTV National News. At that link, you can also find lots of video broadcast by our Toronto affiliate, CFTO. (If that link doesn't work, head here and look at the right hand side of the screen for all the video links)
Our cameras and cameras from other outlets in Toronto were on the scene at Toronto's Union Station well before a police sniper fired the shot that blew apart the hostage taker's head. A TV news crew from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, in town for another feature, was looking down on the drama from their rooms in the Royal York Hotel across the street from Union. So this event was filmed from several angles by several crews many of which caught, in a very graphic medium close-up, the sniper's bullet entering and exiting the man's head.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of commuters and those in the surrounding office towers saw the event and the killing.
And yet, no broadcaster or print outlet I know of broadcast or published a photo which showed the actual moment of the man's death. If you watch the video of our piece (there's a link to the video above), you see the man and his hostage and then, just as you hear the sound of the rifle, the frame is frozen. The next image you see is a long-shot of the man lying on the pavement with police officers converging on his now lifeless body.
Having seen the unedited footage collected by our crews at the scene, I think this was the right way to treat this.
But some bloggers at a recent Toronto conference on Participatory Journalism, who believe Big Media has too much power, say things like this should be shown on TV, that we are censoring by omission. At this conference, we were talking about the video from Iraq that showed the beheading of the American hostage. That video ended up, in all its gory detail, on the Internet.
So far as I know, the gory details from yesterday's incident in Toronto have not been shown anywhere. (Please correct me if I'm wrong)
Is that the right call? I think it is.

[What they said] So Weirdly Wrong

[Hilarious report from AKMA — who is a priest and, I'm told, a pleasant soul — while vacationing in Maine]

A few minutes ago, a police officer passed the bench where I was sitting outside the [edit: Nantucket] Athenaeum, enjoying the mild temperature and the wifi signal, and he said, “Sir, you can’t use the Internet outside the library.”
I said, “What?” (I’m pretty clever under pressure.)
The officer in question (whose conduct was entirely professional, firm, and calm behind those mirrored shades) solemnly assured me that in order to use the library’s open wireless signal, I had to be seated within the library. The officer then wandered on back to the nearby police station.
I dutifully, if reluctantly, turned off the power to my Airport card and, since I had only been on the bench a few minutes, began working — offline — on what turns out to be this post. I had noticed two other weak but open signals in the area, and I figured that I could post this perplexing moment via one of the other open signals, then scuttle back to the studio. As I was writing, the officer returned and — as the officer walked straight for me — I held up my TiBook, pointing to the zero lines in the Airport icon, and showed the officer that my card was off.
“Why don’t you just close that up, sir, or use your computer elsewhere?’
I closed the computer in order not to constitute a threat to established order, but engaged this peace officer in a discussion of the complexities of the topic. “I did notice several other open signals in the area — am I allowed to connect to them?”“Maybe if you had permission it would be all right, but it’s a new law, sir; ‘theft of signal.’ It would be like if you stole someone’s cable TV connection.”
I responded, “But this is a radio signal thing — it’s not like a cable connection, it’s like someone has a porch light on and I’m sitting on the bench, reading a book by their light. I’m not stealing their light.”“It’s a law, sir; if someone comes along and downloads child photography (that wasn’t the exact word the officer used) and it goes through their [sc., the access point owner’s] connection, that’s a violation and we’ve had cases of that. That’s a felony.”(I skip the question of whether it’s less a problem if someone downloads such photos while sitting in the library.
Since I’ve already been categorized, however politely, with felons, I thought discretion should prevail at this point.) “Is this a state law?” I asked.“It’s a federal law, sir; a Secret Service agent came and explained it to us.”“Look, I don’t want to give you a hard time, and I’m very thankful that you alerted me to this, and I’ve done what you asked, but I’d be very surprised if there turned out to be a federal law forbidding my using an open wireless signal in a public place.”“Well, you can look it up, sir, and explain it to the chief. . . .”
At this point, it became clear that my uniformed interlocutor had to head in a different direction from me, so we shook hands and parted. And I walked back to the studio, dumbfounded that someone just rousted me for picking an open wireless signal in public — indeed (as it turns out) for using a laptop within a wireless signal’s range of the library. Weird.
posted from a secure hiding place near an open access point. . . .
[Rest of story: here, here, here, and if you haven’t seen Gary Turner’s coverage go here too.]

[AKMA’s Random Thoughts]