Thursday - June 29, 2006
Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)
Trying to get all of our distance education classes for Summer Session B up and running. Will get back to normal posting next week.
Tuesday - June 27, 2006
50,000 Watch - What Have Journalists Found 50,000 of Lately?
50,000 - It's journalists' favorite number all around the world!
- 50,000 Fans of Country Radio
Almost 50,000 tickets sold for Kenny Chesney concert.
- 50,000 Fans of British Soccer
Stutttgart police expected 50,000 British fans for the world cup game against Ecuador. No estimate of the number of Ecuadorian fans.
- 50,000 Show For Festival Near Cleveland
Loarain International Festival claims 50K over a three-day period, though we don't know how many were repeat offenders.
- 50,000 Unlicensed Wells in Mysore, India
Apparently people drilling borewells for water without permits is a bit of an issue there.
- 50,000 Prisoners Eligible For Release in New Delhi
Perhaps there were in trouble for digging illegal wells? Actually, we have no idea what there crime was, only that they had served at least half their potential sentence time before coming to trial.
- 50,000 Oxfordshire Residents Oppose Health Cuts
Three different petitions came up with a total of 50,000 signature opposing cuts to the Oxfordshire healthcare system.
- And On A Serious Note...
The Los Angeles Times reported this week that at least 50,000 Iraqis have died violent deaths since the U.S. invasion started in 2003. The paper reports this is 20,000 higher than the total given by the Bush administration. Unlike many users of the number 50,000, the paper acknowledges where the estimates come from. Reading through the story, it does seem that the magic number is in play here, but it may be as a low number rather than a high one.
The LA Times did have one hard-core 50,000 story this week, however. 20 years after the U.S. surgeon general said second-hand smoke was bad for people, a new report gives "indisputable" evidence that second-hand smoke has killed.... 50,000 people.
Thursday - June 22, 2006
Wednesday - June 21, 2006
Tuesday - June 20, 2006
Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)
- How Much Is A Naked Breast Worth?
According to a new law signed Friday by President Bush, a naked breast on broadcast television can get you a fine of up to $325,000. This is ten times the amount it was when Janet Jackson had her infamous "wardrobe malfunction." (Washington Post)
- Why Is Dan Rather Leaving CBS After 44 Years?
Some little fuss over a memo.... His contract does expire in November and will not be renewed. (USA Today)
- What's Up With The Magic Number Around The World?
There may be 525,600 minutes in a year, but there is very often 50,000 of something in a news story. And it's not just in the US. It's a magic number all around the world!
Thursday - June 15, 2006
- On A Personal Note - Roethlisberger, Motorcycles and Life
I am 46 years old. Over the years I have eaten lot of Mexican and Italian food, worked summers in the
Iowa corn fields, worked hard to control my cholesterol,
and ridden motorcycles.
Guess which one of these events causes strangers to come up to me to say I’m an irresponsible danger junkie.
You don’t need more than one guess.
You’re already armed with a story about how your uncle/cousin/friend had a motorcycle accident. If you’re less tactful, you’ll refer to my bike as a “murdercycle” or use the incredibly witty line, “In the emergency room, we call them donorcycles.”
All of this has come to a head recently with the accident that injured Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Critics of Roethlisberger point to the fact he rides a motorcycle capable of going more than 180 miles per hour and doing the quarter mile in under 11 seconds.
It is inconvenient that the performance level of his motorcycle wasn’t a factor in his accident. According to press reports, a 62-year-old driver made a left turn in front of Roethlisberger while he was riding at about 40 miles per hour. According to the landmark Hurt Report, the left-turn-in-front-of-the-motorcycle is the most common two-vehicle motorcycle accident, and one where the motorcyclist is generally not at fault.
But most of the talk is of Roethlisberger’s irresponsibility, not of the driver who hit him.
It is true that Roethlisberger rode without a helmet or other safety gear. He has also been outspoken about his refusal to wear a helmet. In an article from the NFL web site, he said he was protected by being a safe rider and by riding in groups. He also justified not wearing a helmet by noting correctly that Pennsylvania law does not require it. “Obviously, Pennsylvania doesn’t think people need to (wear a helmet),” he told a reporter. “There’s a law you’ve got to wear it in football.” But does the fact that he is a fool about not wearing a helmet mean that we ought blame him, and by extension all motorcyclists, for his accident?
Let’s get back to the list in the first paragraph. Which of those items have actually caused me serious harm?
Five years ago I was diagnosed with diabetes, a disease that affects me and my behavior every hour of every day. If I don’t take scrupulous care of my blood sugar levels, I could suffer amputation, blindness, heart disease and kidney failure. One of the likely causes? Too much Mexican and Italian food (along with every other kind of food).
Four years ago I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer that could have killed me if it hadn’t been caught in time. Given the location of the cancer on the back of my arm, it seems likely that the cause was too much sun while working in the Iowa cornfields.
Two years ago I suffered from drug-induced hepatitis. The likely cause? The medication I was taking to lower my cholesterol.
As for my motorcycle -- so far I have been careful and fortunate; no injuries to report. That doesn’t make motorcycling safe. I know it’s dangerous. That’s why I’m an ATGATM kind of guy. ATGATM? That’s All The Gear, All The Time -- helmet, jacket, gloves and boots. And I could be badly injured riding my motorcycle tomorrow.
But motorcycling is not the only dangerous thing I do. I live a life, and life is dangerous in so many ways. I think Roethlisberger is a fool for not wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle. But even if he gave up motorcycling entirely, his life would still not be safe.
Tuesday - June 13, 2006
- Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)
- So What's With All The Movie Sequels Out There?
Stephen Hunter, movie critic for the Washington Post, takes a look at why there are so many sequels being made (answer - $$$!) and why some sequels are better than the originals. (Pretty good article, even if he completely misses the boat on Empire Strikes Back.)
- What's Up With 50,000 This Week?
Forget about 4 8 15 16 23 42, 50,000 is the real mystery number, baby. 50,000 troops in Iraq, 50,000 insurance customers, 50,000 workers laid off in Iran, 50,000 saplings planted in India, and Vietnam needs 50,000 more hotel rooms.
- Is File Sharing Really Contained?
Or has the RIAA just declared victory and withdrawn?
Thursday - June 8, 2006
- 50,000 Watch - Look Who's Counting!
I recently wrote on entry on the reliance of journalists and the people they talk to on the magic number 50,000.
For those of you asleep in the back of the room, 50,000 is the number people use to describe something that is big enough to be serious, but not too big. As the FBI's Ken Lanning told NPR's On The Media recently:
[T]he appeal of the number was that it wasn't a real small number it wasn't like 100, 200 and it wasn't a ridiculously large number, like 10 million. It was like a Goldilocks number - not too hot, not too cold. "
Despite the fact that we had more than a dozen examples of 50,000 on Tuesday, there's still plenty more 50Ks to see today:
- China To Train 50,000 Blind Massagists
Massage is the most suitable job for people with visual disabilities, according to the People's Daily Online. This story also proves that communists and capitalists agree on the magic of 50,000.
- New Offices In Salisbury, Britain, Cost £50,000 More Each Month
They had better hurry up and get them built!
- 50,000 Teachers To Retire in Kenya
They're going to reach the mandatory retirement age within five years.
- Scottish Football Painting Might Sell for £50,000
Let's see, £50,000 will buy you a kilo of cocaine, a painting, or a month's inflation on a set of offices in the UK.
Tuesday - June 6, 2006
- What's 50,000? It's Probably Not The Number of Sexual Predators Online Right Now
Today is June 6, 2006, or in popular terms 6/6/06. And if you throw out that inconvenient zero, we've got a perfectly beastly day ahead of us. Despite the fact that journalists have a well-known phobia of stories dealing with hard-core numbers, there are certain numbers journalists love. Three, seven, 10 and 666 are all popular choices. But today we're going to look at that unsung hero of journalistic numbers - 50,000.
A recent story from NPR's On The Media raised the troubling issue of 50,000. Reporter Brooke Gladstone notes that NBC's Dateline claims that there are 50,000 sexual predators online at any given time, and that kiddie porn is a $20 billion a year business.
So, where do these figures come from? According to the FBI's Ken Lanning, 50,000 is a common number used in reporting about crime for something that is an important problem but not enormous.
For example, he tells Gladstone, "In the early 1980s, this was the number that was most often used to estimate how many children were kidnapped or abducted by strangers every year. But the research that was done in the early 1990s found that somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 to 300 children every year were abducted in this manner. "
BTW, since this is my 6/6/06 entry, it is also worth noting that in the 1980s there were claims that satanic cults were sacrificing 50,000 people a year. Never mind the fact that Lanning points out that's twice as many people as were murdered in the United States in a year.
So this made me curious - how often do we see the number 50,000 showing up in news stories? Here's a sampling.
- Data on "up to 50,000" active duty troops was on the computer stolen from the Veterans Affairs employee last month. (This is a subset of the 26.5 million records on the computer.)
- 50,000 acres of land in Montana will be added to a Conservation Reserve Program.
- A Malayan bank wants to issue 50,000 Platinum MasterCards.
- Shell has cut oil output in Nigeria by 50,000 barrels per day following an oil spill.
- South Africa has lost 50,000 guns since 2003.
- A virus has killed 50,000 trout in the UK.
- An earthquake in Java destroyed nearly 50,000 homes.
- More than 50,000 people have signed a petition opposing discrimination against Muslims in France.
- A man in Scotland was sentenced to 44 months in jail for transporting £50,000 worth of cocaine. (In more precise terms, he had approximately 1 kilo of coke.)
- And those don't include 50,000 refuges from East Timor, 50,000 displaced people from the Central African Republic, 50,000 people attending the Mid-Atlantic Fly-In, or 50,000 people protesting racism in Belgium, and 50,000 professors who hate America and love terrorists.
So, the next time you see that number, I want you to ask yourself where that 50,000 figure came from?
Thursday - June 1, 2006
- Support Our Reporters Dept. - CBS Reporter Drozier "Awake and Alert"
CBS reporter Kimberly Drozier is reportedly "awake and alert" at a U.S. military hospital in Germany. She was badly wounded by a car bombing in Iraq on Monday that killed cameraman Paul Douglas, sound man James Brolan, an American soldier, and an Iraqi translator. The attack on the CBS crew underscores the risks journalists in Iraq are facing along with the troops and contractors working there.
- How Big of a Problem Is Online Kiddie Porn?
Someone out there may be looking for kiddie porn on the web. Someone else may be using the web to communicate about terrorism. Therefore, the attorney general of the United States and the director of the FBI are asking Internet providers to keep records for two years of people's searches and other online activities. Currently companies typically keep such histories for 30-to-90 days. The government wants companies to keep these records so they will exist in case the government wants to subpoena them. (Or perhaps just get the companies to voluntarily turn them over?)
Now I'm a firm believer in prosecuting people involved in child pornography to fullest extent of the law. But to require internet companies to keep track of all online searches for two years just in case the government might want them someday seems like a bit much.