John Naughton has a lovely piece on the irrepressible Roger Needham, the British researcher who runs Microsoft's Cambridge lab -- with a permanently impish take on things. I've interviewed him a couple of times, both in Cambridge and in Dublin, and enjoyed every conversation. Hope he had a blast yesterday with all those alpha geek old pals. John writes:
He is an unlikely looking hero, with bottle-lensed spectacles straight from the 'boffin' drawer in central casting and the ruddy complexion of a moderately unsuccessful pig-farmer. For 40 years he lived in a wooden house that he and his wife constructed with their own hands.
He possesses only three jackets and two ties - one yellow, the other red. He was for 15 years a Labour district councillor and the scourge of rich Cambridge colleges wishing to evict poor tenants in order to realise the capital value of their rural properties. His only known means of transport was a battered bicycle.
And yet every year, when the Easter Term had finished and the last student had gone, this untidy figure would decamp to Silicon Valley for six weeks and serve as the resident sage for the engineers and scientists who were building the machines and the networks we use today.
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NYTimes: Behind the Media Divide: the best single piece I have seen explaining a key reason for the disconnect in the way Americans and Europeans are viewing each other and the situation with Iraq. Having spent 10 days out in the US looking at the news at my folks' house -- whoa, to a huge extent, it's the media:
What would someone watching cable news have seen? On Saturday, news anchors on Fox described the demonstrators in New York as "the usual protesters" or "serial protesters." CNN wasn't quite so dismissive, but on Sunday morning the headline on the network's Web site read "Antiwar rallies delight Iraq," and the accompanying picture showed marchers in Baghdad, not London or New York.
This wasn't at all the way the rest of the world's media reported Saturday's events, but it wasn't out of character. For months both major U.S. cable news networks have acted as if the decision to invade Iraq has already been made, and have in effect seen it as their job to prepare the American public for the coming war.
So it's not surprising that the target audience is a bit blurry about the distinction between the Iraqi regime and Al Qaeda. Surveys show that a majority of Americans think that some or all of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Iraqi, while many believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in Sept. 11, a claim even the Bush administration has never made. And since many Americans think that the need for a war against Saddam is obvious, they think that Europeans who won't go along are cowards.
Europeans, who don't see the same things on TV, are far more inclined to wonder why Iraq — rather than North Korea, or for that matter Al Qaeda — has become the focus of U.S. policy. That's why so many of them question American motives, suspecting that it's all about oil or that the administration is simply picking on a convenient enemy it knows it can defeat. They don't see opposition to an Iraq war as cowardice; they see it as courage, a matter of standing up to the bullying Bush administration.
There are two possible explanations for the great trans-Atlantic media divide. One is that European media have a pervasive anti-American bias that leads them to distort the news, even in countries like the U.K. where the leaders of both major parties are pro-Bush and support an attack on Iraq. The other is that some U.S. media outlets — operating in an environment in which anyone who questions the administration's foreign policy is accused of being unpatriotic — have taken it as their assignment to sell the war, not to present a mix of information that might call the justification for war into question.
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Some 60% of voters support the proposed total ban on smoking in Irish pubs -- amazing, something I'd thought I'd never see. Women and older people are stronger supporters than men and younger people. But this is the bit I liked best:
There are also substantial differences in the incidence of smoking among supporters of different parties. Some 67 per cent of Sinn Féin voters smoke while just 20 per cent of PD voters smoke, the poll shows.
Figures for smoking among supporters of other parties are Labour (40 per cent), Fianna Fáil (34 per cent), Fine Gael (33 per cent) and Green Party (26 per cent).
Sinn Fein members smoke heavily, eh? The ballot box in one hand and a ciggie in the other, I guess...
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The rift between Tony Blair and the British public over war against Iraq is today confirmed by an opinion poll which shows for the first time that a clear majority of British voters now oppose a military attack.
The survey, taken over the weekend, reveals that Mr Blair has sustained significant political damage from the debate over Iraq. His personal rating has dropped through the floor to minus 20 points, the lowest level since the petrol crisis two and a half years ago.
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