a curious Yankee in Europe's court

blog about living in Europe, and Italy

What sector of their society do Americans have the most confidence in?

Posted on the November 30th, 2007

The U.S. military, according to a recent Harvard University study. The national survey gave those in uniform a ranking of 3.15 out of a maximum possible rating of 4. Who scores the lowest among the twelve sectors listed? The press, with 2.26, ranking just below the White House which got a 2.43. (Note: graph values: 2 = not much; 3 = moderate amount; 4 = great deal)

The September 2007 study was based on interviews with 1,207 adults in the U.S., according to the report (“A National Study of Confidence in Leadership,” by the Center for Public Leadership, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 2007). The annual study (begun in 2005) primarily seeks to measure Americans’ confidence in leadership, and is conducted in collaboration with the weekly news magazine U.S. News & World Report.

For a brief summary of the findings, go here (“Study: More Than 60% Don’t Trust Campaign Coverage,” by Joe Strupp, Editor & Publisher, Nov 28, 2007) where I first read about this survey.

In its introduction, the Harvard report states that more than 75 percent of those surveyed believe there is a leadership crisis in the country, with 50 percent describing their confidence in their leaders as “not much” or “none at all.” A related question asked whether the U.S. has worse leaders today than twenty years ago. In response, 63 percent said they believed today’s leaders are worse, 12 percent said the quality of leadership is the same, and 7 percent said they weren’t sure.

In an exhibition of that famed Yankee optimism, however, almost eight in ten of those surveyed said they were confident that the next president — whether Democrat or Republican — will be good for the country, according to the study.

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We can help, Lingro.com says, and it’s true

Posted on the November 28th, 2007

That is if the language you’re learning is Italian, German, French, Spanish, English or Polish. Lingro’s translation website is free. Essentially, it’s as easy to use as one click on the unknown word on any web page — newspaper, magazine, whatever — that you’re reading. Lingro also allows users to add new words, and to create personal word lists for a flash card learning game. I read about this website here (Nov 21, 2007, Languagehat.com).

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Is Negroponte’s $100 laptop idea too great for its own good?

Posted on the November 25th, 2007

Nicholas Negroponte’s much praised plan to provide very low-cost laptops to poor children around the world “has been derailed, in part, by the power of his idea,” according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (“A Little Laptop With Big Ambitions – How a Computer for the Poor Got Stomped by Tech Giants,” by Steve Stecklow and James Bandler, Nov 24, 2007).

The major derailers? Microsoft and Intel. Last year, Intel introduced its own cheap laptop, price tag less than $300, for developing countries, according to the article, and earlier this year in China, Microsoft’s Bill Gates announced a $3 software package that includes Windows.

Why are the technology giants doing this? Reportedly, to drive back a threat to their future profits that Negroponte’s idea represents. The $100 laptop uses Linux and other open source software rather than Windows, and it doesn’t use Intel chips, the article states. It’s an idea that the big tech companies apparently do not want to become popular.

All’s well that ends well, however, may be the final verdict. According to the WSJ article, developing countries now have several cut-price laptop models available to them, in addition to Negroponte’s star creation. Perhaps Negroponte’s thinking out of the (proprietorial) box has started something rather interesting.

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Do elections drive the polls, or do the polls drive the elections?

Posted on the November 20th, 2007

The polling industry is renown for being secretive about its methods, typically publishing only selected results from its surveys. For years, many people have voiced suspicions about the credibility of political polling – are those who do the polls truly non-partisan, are the questionnaires administered in a competent manner, who exactly is being polled, for example.

Now the skeptics have a champion, and it’s coming from the blogosphere. A group of political news organizations are turning the tables and launching an online project to scrutinize the polls themselves. Led by HuffingtonPost.com, the news groups are asking their respective website visitors to participate in a survey forum about their experiences with being polled.

Some of the survey questions include: who called them, when, did they agree to participate, were the questions worded fairly or slanted toward a desired response? You can see the complete online poll form with all the questions here.

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“Do we still need feminist media?” is the question

Posted on the November 19th, 2007

Will there be more room for women’s voices with the digital revolution of news media that is underway online? Yes, and the increase already exists, according to a recent study that found that women make up half of all bloggers.

Perhaps this means good things for improving the status of women as a result of the ongoing weakening of the MSM “gatekeeper” that often still continues to bar women from serious opinion pages, and frequently ignores them in favor of the male when an expert comment is needed. Read about this and more here.
(“Do We Still Need Feminist Media?” by L.S. Kim, Ms. Magazine, Posted November 9, 2007 – Alternet.org)

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MIT project blogs on best uses of “civic media”

Posted on the November 19th, 2007

What is civic media exactly? “Any form of communication that strengthens the social bonds within a community or creates a strong sense of civic engagement among its residents,” according to MIT.

The project’s name is MIT Center for Future Civic Media. Recent blog posts include an analysis of local media during the state of emergency imposed by Musharraf in Pakistan (Nov. 9, 2007) and a report (Nov. 5, 2007) on Step It Up, a new online organization calling for global environmental change.

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Should online media charge visitors to view content? Apparently not.

Posted on the November 19th, 2007

Nielsen numbers for online traffic at newspapers released last week show a big jump in unique visitors to the New York Times website for October. This info from Beet.TV —
In reaching 17.5 million uniques, the paper had its best month ever, a Times spokeswoman told me. The numbers are up from 14.6 million in September.. (read more here)
Reason for the jump in traffic, according to a New York Times spokesperson quoted in the piece — the end in September of the feature Times Select that allowed access to some content only via paid subscription.

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