U.S. troop deployment — now and then

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C., says it has put a database online that lets users examine where and how many U.S. troops were deployed around the world since 1950.
The Foundation found the following:

  • On average, more than a fifth of all U.S. military personnel were stationed on foreign soil between 1950 and 2003.
  • More than 380,000 U.S. military personnel were based on foreign soil in 2003, about four percent higher than the average for 1950-2002.
  • Since 1950, 54 foreign countries have hosted at least 1,000 U.S. military personnel.

The foundation says the data is derived from the Statistical Information Analysis Division (SIAD) of the Directorate for Information Operations and Reports in the Pentagon.
And, “there are some significant caveats. For example, SIAD makes the information publicly available on its web site , but only on an annual basis and not as a time series. The data on the CDA web site for the 1950-1977 period is in Excel, while the data for the following years is in Adobe Acrobat. Even with the caveats, however, this data should be useful in reporting on topics related to defense transformation and U.S. troop redeployment, among others.”

A Gun Tale: Intel sabotage plot foiled

Now, this is kind of bizarre: The Arizona Republic reports that the FBI foiled a plot to do some serious damage to the Intel plant in Chandler, Ariz. Apparently, an ex-employee who was arguing with Intel over disability payments planned to seek into Intel's plant there, turn on the gas, and shoot the place up.
The ex-employee, a guy named David Dugan, was, according to the paper diagnosed with a bi-polar disorder and had tried to commit suicide. His medical condition notwithstanding, this being America, he was able to buy an AK-47 semi-automatic rifle. Let's pick it up at this point from the Republic's report:

The [criminal] complaint [filed in court] then says … police and a friend of Dugan “removed a large amount of ammunition from Dugan's home” …., but Dugan refused to turn over numerous firearms and other weapons in his home, which he also monitored with cameras and a surveillance system.
On Oct. 20, Dugan obtained the weapon, 1,000 rounds of ammunition and five magazines for the AK-47 from the firearms store, the complaint says, and then told an Intel employee via telephone about the purchase.

Are there no cooling-off periods or even the slightest background checks for those in the U.S. who want to buy semi-automatic weapons?

Yahoo Image search and me

Tara Calishain notes in her ResearchBuzz newsletter this week that Yahoo's Image Search is now indexing more than 1 billion images, compared to just under 900 million images over at Google. I love Google's image search and, am embarrassed to say, had no idea Yahoo was matching up so well in this regard. Tara has a good line about the search interface for both databases:
“Yahoo's Image Search interface is very basic, almost Googlesque — and does it strike anyone else as funny that the more people get broadband, the starker search interfaces get? Anyway, there's an advanced search that allows you to filter by size, type, color, and domain. And yes, there's a filter.?
So, anyhow, I go over to Yahoo and, to test any search engine, I always search on my own name. I figure I know just about everything there is to know about me so if a search engine does a good job pointing at me and my online artifacts, I'm likely to trust it to find search on terms or phrases I know nothing about. (I've no idea how computer science students test search engines but this, to me, seems like a relatively common-sense approach to separating search wheat from the chaff.)
The Yahoo search engine returns many images I figured would show up if I searched on my own name but it found a few I'd never seen before. First, apparently — and this is spooky — there is a David Akin Ministry, full of wholesome good-looking Akins, two of whom are named David — none of whom I know or who are likely related to me.
Second, Yahoo dredged up an article by a Humber College student about convergence in which I was featured. I'd forgotten about this. I do remember being interviewed and photographed for the piece about two years ago but I never saw the final result. Now, I've been the subject of several student journalism pieces but I've got to say Joel Hoidas, the author of the Humber College magazine piece, did one of the best jobs I've seen. He tackled a tough issue — convergence (convergence in the sense of two different media converging) — but I think he did a good job skectching out the work-a-day realities of convergence, mostly through me and Damien Cox, as well as touching on some of the bigger industry and journalism issues around convergence. He also took one of the best pictures (left) of me I'ver ever seen. Way to go, Joel.

Canadian cell phone companies sued over access charges

Just about any company that's offered cell phone service in Canada — including Bell Mobility, Rogers Wireless, Telus Mobility, and Fido — are named as defendants in a lawsuit filed in August but which is just coming to light now. My friend Tyler Hamilton at the Toronto Star reports on the suit today and I've got the TV version on tonight's CTV National News.
Essentially, the suit claims that the cell phone companies misled customers in describing and collecting what are variously known as system admin fees, system access fees, system license fees or network access fees. Just about every one of the 12 million or so Canadian cellphone users pays the equivalent of about $7 a month on top of their regular cell phone plans for these charges.
You can download the Statement of Claim in the case. (A fast connection is helpful as this is a 4 MB PDF file.)
The case is at a very early stage. A judge has not yet certified the class-action status of the claim and none of the defendants have responded.

NOW hears this

Hey, look at that, Toronto's NOW Magazine — free newsweekly/entertainment guide widely read by the college set and other young-at-hearts in the Greater Toronto and Southern Ontario Area — says my blog is OK. Go figger. Mind you, I would have thought Joey might have rated a mention. He's way more Toronto-centric than I am, plus he plays the accordion. But what do I know?
Seriously, though: Very nice to be noticed so thank you, NOW.
The NOW critics settled on Neil Lee's Beatnik Pad as Hogtown's top blog. I'd never dropped by until the NOW notice but on first blush, the NOW critics' comments seem dead on — it looks great. Content wise: Well, readers of this blog will no doubt want to check out Neil's solution for extending the range of an Airport base station with non-Apple equipment. (I say that because the most popular thing I've ever posted here was an article about getting a LinkSys B Wi-Fi router to work with Airport Extreme card. Clearly, you, my dear reader, are interested in wireless broadband connectivity issues.) Excellent walk-through. Speaking of which: I want to extend my little LinkSys wireless B router. How do I do that?
Joining me in the also-ran category is Carl Wilson — who I just mentioned on this site – and who I can do no more greater tribute to than ripping off his subject line for my own post. But, hey, this is the Internet, right? Just grab it if you like it and make it your own. (But if anyone asks, Carl, who writes fetching phrases like that for a living, came up with that one first. Thank you, Carl. Your cheque's in the mail.)
The other honourable mention went to Sean K. Robb, another one that was new to me. Sean was born in Newmarket, it says on his blog, and he and I have at least one hero in common (and it's not his parents.)

So long CNNfn, here in Canada, we never knew you …

CNN announced today it will shutter its all-business cable news channel, CNNfn, even though the channel made a profit for the first time last year in its nine-year history. The story, broken by the Associated Press, suggests part of the reason was the loss of some distribution in the U.S. market. Meanwhile, News Corp., owner of the Fox brand, is apparently mulling over the idea of starting up its own all-business news channel. Fox News, of course, also has the story about CNNfn's demise.
The memo from a senior CNN boss to employees is online.
The AP story suggests that CNN also has some changes in mind for Headline News (perhaps that's why I saw HN's prime-time anchor Rudi Bakhtiar reporting from Washington on CNN the other day. hmm.), a cable channel which is licensed for distribution in Canada.
Neither CNNfn nor Fox News are, so far, licensed for distribution on Canadian cable or satellite distribution systems.

ICANN will go to Argentina and Luxembourg

Those ICANN folks sure do get to travel
to the neatest spots. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and
Numbers just announced today the locations of their first two meetings in
2005. From April 4-8, ICANN's directors and members of its various
subcommittees will meet in Mar del Plata, Argentina. Then, from July 11-15,
the same gang will take the road show to Luxembourg.

Canadian iTunes Music store to open in November?

Apple said yesterday it would finally open its iTunes music store here in November although one report suggests that music industry types here have yet to ink any deals with Apple.
Right now, there is no iTunes music store in Canada, a frustration for many iPod and Canadian music fans.
Apple yesterday announced new iPods and new music stores in Europe.
As part of that release, there was a single line, noting that Apple would open the ITunes music store in Canada in November.

Citizen journalism, participatory journalism — what's it all about?

The Online Journalism Review's Mark Glaser takes a look at the way some publications in the United States are going about collecting, editing, and publishing the news.

The New Voices: Hyperlocal Citizen Media Sites Want You (to Write)!
From Bakersfield, Calif. to Columbia, Mo. to Skokie, Ill. and to small-town New Jersey, community news sites are springing up with a bottom-up “open source” approach, written and photographed by citizens and overseen by journalists. But is it sustainable?

John Peel, dead of heart attack

For those of use who grew up while Brit punk, new wave and alternative music was growing up, BBC DJ John Peel (pictured left) was a central figure. The BBC is reporting today that Peel, just 65 years old, died of a heart attack.
Just as Alan Freed might be the DJ most closely associated with promoting American rock'n'roll of the 1950s, Peel did the same for the underground sound that developed in Britain in the late 1970s. He sought out new bands, promoted them, and had a great ear for a new sound.
“Right from the outset, Peel changed the rules. He played every track without interruption, to the delight of those wishing to tape his show, while providing a witty and knowledgeable running commentary, seemingly a million miles away from the transatlantic platitudes of many of his colleagues,” the BBC obituary says. “In the early days Peel championed acts like Marc Bolan, David Bowie and Captain Beefheart, as he did throughout his career, by giving them studio-time to record legendary “Peel sessions”.
I was a club DJ through most of the 1980s and always looked for The Peel Sessions series, albums of music by key bands of the day — Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes, UK Subs, Buzzcocks, and so on. They were sessions recorded specifically for his show and were often terrific.