May 13th, 2011
By: Michael Arrington
Facebook secretly hired a PR firm to plant negative stories about Google, says Dan Lyons in a jaw dropping story at the Daily Beast.
For the past few days, a mystery has been unfolding in Silicon Valley. Somebody, it seems, hired Burson-Marsteller, a top public-relations firm, to pitch anti-Google stories to newspapers, urging them to investigate claims that Google was invading people’s privacy. Burson even offered to help an influential blogger write a Google-bashing op-ed, which it promised it could place in outlets like The Washington Post, Politico, and The Huffington Post.
The plot backfired when the blogger turned down Burson’s offer and posted the emails that Burson had sent him. It got worse when USA Today broke a story accusing Burson of spreading a “whisper campaign” about Google “on behalf of an unnamed client.”
The source emails are here.
I’ve been patient with Facebook over the years as they’ve had their privacy stumbles. They’re forging new ground, and it’s not an exaggeration to say they’re changing the world’s notions on what privacy is. Give them time. They’ll figure it out eventually.
But secretly paying a PR firm to pitch bloggers on stories going after Google, even offering to help write those stories and then get them published elsewhere, is not just offensive, dishonest and cowardly. It’s also really, really dumb. I have no idea how the Facebook PR team thought that they’d avoid being caught doing this.
First, it lets the tech world know that Facebook is scared enough of what Google’s up to to pull a stunt like this. Facebook isn’t supposed to be scared, ever, about anything. Supreme confidence in their destiny is the the way they should be acting.
Second, it shows a willingness by Facebook to engage in cowardly behavior in battle. It’s hard to trust them on other things when we know they’ll engage in these types of campaigns.
And third, some of these criticisms of Google are probably valid, but it doesn’t matter any more. The story from now on will only be about how Facebook went about trying to secretly smear Google, and got caught.
The truth is Google is probably engaging in some somewhat borderline behavior by scraping Facebook content, and are almost certainly violating Facebook’s terms and conditions. But many people argue, me included, that the key data, the social graph, really should belong to the users, not Facebook. And regardless, users probably don’t mind that this is happening at all. It’s just Facebook trying to protect something that it considers to be its property.
Next time Facebook should take a page from Google’s playbook when they want to trash a competitor. Catch them in the act and then go toe to toe with them, slugging it out in person. Right or wrong, no one called Google a coward when they duped Bing earlier this year.
You’ve lost much face today, Facebook.
July 19, 2010
My Way News
Since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, top-secret intelligence gathering by the government has grown so unwieldy and expensive that no one really knows what it cost and how many people are involved, The Washington Post reported Monday.
A two-year investigation by the newspaper uncovered what it termed a “Top Secret America” that’s mostly hidden from public view and largely lacking in oversight.
In its first installment of a series of reports, the Post said there are now more than 1,200 government organizations and more than 1,900 private companies working on counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in some 10,000 locations across the U.S.
Some 854,000 people – or nearly 1 1/2 times the number of people who live in Washington – have top-secret security clearance, the paper said.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Post that he doesn’t believe the massive bureaucracy of government and private intelligence has grown too large to manage, but it is sometimes hard to get precise information.
“Nine years after 9/11, it makes sense to sort of take a look at this and say, ‘OK, we’ve built tremendous capability, but do we have more than we need?” he said.
The head of the CIA, Leon Panetta, said he knows that with the growing budget deficits the level of spending on intelligence will likely be reduced and he’s at work on a five-year plan for the agency.
The White House had been anticipating the Post report and said before it was published that the Obama administration came into office aware of the problems and is trying to fix them.
The administration also released a memo from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence listing what it called eight “myths” and intended as a point-by-point answer to the charges the Post series was expected to raise.
Among them was that contractors represent the bulk of the intelligence workforce. The memo put the number at 28 percent, or less than a third.
The memo said that 70 percent of the intelligence budget is spent on “contracts, not contractors.”
“Those contracts cover major acquisitions such as satellites and computer systems, as well as commercial activities such as rent, food service, and facilities maintenance and security,” the memo said.
The Post said its investigation also found that:
_In the area around Washington, 33 building complexes – totaling some 17 million square feet of space – for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since 9/11.
_Many intelligence agencies are doing the same work, wasting money and resources on redundancy.
_So many intelligence reports are published each year that many are routinely ignored.
“There has been so much growth since 9/11 that getting your arms around that – not just for the DNI, but for any individual, for the director of the CIA, for the secretary of defense – is a challenge,” Gates told the Post.
By Evelyn Pringle
Back on May 9, 2009, Robin Robinson, a director at the Department of Health and Human Services who oversees pandemic responses, told the Washington Post that even as officials take steps to develop a swine flu vaccine with sufficient doses for every “man, woman and child,” those plans would be dialed back if the pandemic “fizzles out.”
The pandemic has fizzled out but the gravy train toward vaccine profits is still rolling. On September 16, 2009, Reuters reported that the death rate from the pandemic H1N1 swine flu was likely lower than earlier estimates.
“Barring any changes in the virus, I think we can say we are in a category 1 pandemic. This has not become clear until fairly recently,” said Dr Marc Lipsitch of Harvard, an expert in infectious diseases, told a meeting of flu experts convened by the US Institute of Medicine.
“The news is certainly better than it was in May and even better than it was at the beginning of August,” he noted.
The US government’s Pandemic Severity Index has five categories, with a category 1 comparable to a seasonal flu epidemic. Seasonal flu has a death rate of less than 0.1 percent, Reuters reports. A category 5 would compare to the 1918 flu pandemic, which had an estimated death rate of 2% or more.
Lipsitch gathered information on how many people had reported influenza-like illness around the world, which may or may not actually be influenza; government reports of actual hospitalizations and confirmed deaths, and “came up with a range of mortality from swine flu from 0.007 percent to 0.045 percent,” Reuters advises.
Having new information about how many people were infected and did not become severely ill or die makes the pandemic look very mild, Lipsitch said.
Minimal Swine Flu Deaths
The CIA World Factbook estimates the world population to be close to 6. 8 billion and the US population a little over 307 million. At the beginning of the swine flu propaganda campaign, it was predicted that the strength of the pandemic could be measured by watching statistics from the Southern Hemisphere, where flu season runs from May to September, the southern autumn and winter months.
The Southern Hemisphere holds between 10 and 12% of the world’s population, meaning the Southern Hemisphere population would be roughly 760 million people, at 11% of the world’s total.
According to population numbers for 2008 from Nation Master.com, and statistics from the FluCount.org website, the total number of swine flu deaths, as of September 30, 2009, was only 2,386, for thirteen countries in the Southern Hemisphere, and three countries that are mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a total population of 628.3 million people who would have received no vaccine against the swine flu.
India’s population of approximately 1.17 billion people amounts to about one-sixth of the world’s population, according to the World Factbook. As of October 11, 2009, India’s swine flu death toll was a mere 385, according to the Times of India.
On October 6, 2009, the Associated Press reported that the “CDC doesn’t have an exact count of swine flu deaths and hospitalizations, but existing reports suggest the infection has caused more than 600 deaths and more than 9,000 hospitalizations since the virus was first identified in April.”
But yet the article further notes that “U.S. health authorities hope to give swine flu vaccinations to more than half the 300 million-plus population in just a few months.”
The first swine death in the army, the largest military branch with 552,425 soldiers, did not occur until September 10, 2009, according to the Associated Press on October 1, 2009. It was reported to be the only death among the 1.4 million men and women in uniform at that time.