Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Saturday, November 29, 2003
John Updike, Anti-Semite? - Don't be ridiculous. By Timothy Noah is an excellent use of Amazon's search inside, points out my sister.
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
This makes me feel like going back to physics.

The fourth one is the best; save it for last.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
We can all get along: BBC NEWS | South Asia | Hindu helps faithful Muslims fast
Sunday, November 23, 2003
A note from Gaiman's Blog: Comic Relief asks for your support
If anyone feels like buying me some issues of kitchen sink magazine, or Global Frequency or Optic Nerve or Too Much Coffee Man or Sandmans or 1602, go for it.
Saturday, November 22, 2003
I spoke with Professor Isaacs about the Reuters wire. He pointed out that news services won't run a wire report if they don't believe it. If, say, the New York Times, wanted to pick up this Reuters wire, they might have tried to check it out themselves first. Newspapers don't usually run articles debunking a wire report they couldn't check out. I can see why this would make sense from the newspaper's point of view--what's the point? A report debunking such a report would look kind of weird in a newspaper that never ran the article in the first place.

But in the age of the web and google, and on the birthday of the most compelling family of conspiracy theories, we might want to reflect on that convention. How is a wire report reading public supposed to discern the difference between what's news that can't be checked out and what's news that major news companies don't want us to read?
Thursday, November 20, 2003
I updated my original post about the Reuter's piece on American soldiers taping an Iraqi's mouth for critiquing them.

When I was talking to Hertzberg on Tuesday night, he mentioned the lack of pickup stories in connection with some important pieces of news. The pickup is something I'm fascinated with, since it's what turns a simple piece into "the news." Project Censored, for example, is not about stories that were actually censored by the state but about important stories that weren't picked up by major news organizations--effectively censored.
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Prague Revisited - The evidence of an Iraq/al-Qaida connection hasn't gone away. By Edward Jay Epstein is a great piece, because it doesn't try to over state the case, and explains both sourcing and procedure very clearly.

Clearly we need to know why the FBI isn't cooperating with the BIS. Wouldn't the administration be ecstatic if it could be proven Atta did indeed meet with Al-Ani? It would really help to know where Atta was when.

Besides the April 8 2001 date, the crucial item seems to be Atta's weird visit to the transit lounge on May 30, 2001. (The Fray remarks regarding this one* are particularly bad, and emblematic of the kind of thinking Jack Schafer's "accompanying" piece excoriates.) But the opening paragraphs of Epstein's piece seem to imply that BIS surveillance of al-Ani was so good that the meeting on April 8 was enough of an anomaly to upset the foreign minister into deporting al-Ani. So, unless explicitly told otherwise, can we assume that al-Ani did not meet with Atta on May 30? Let's say we do.

If I was a foreign reporter in Prague right now I'd like to know what other Iraqi agents could have been meeting with Atta. Or what other Arab/Egyptian/Yemeni/Pakistani/Sudanese/Afghani/AQ types etc., agents might have been meeting with Atta. Maybe he was just getting his orders from OBL? Regardless, it seems like there's a story in that airport lounge.

*Frayster ejk_ :"Furthermore since the Czech airport cameras were not comprehensive in the their coverage of the airport, and he did not show up on any of the cameras, then he must have been avoiding the cameras when he was there. Since he was avoiding the cameras at that time, then he must have been in the airport, since he could not have been avoiding the cameras if he wasn't in the airport."
I realize that I mostly post links to other people's journalism, and my thoughts thereof. I thought I'd do a little update on where I am in the semester, since this thing was also meant to keep my friends and family informed about me without deluging them in email.

We're essentially in a protracted period of finals now, where finals in Journalism school is not so much about exams as about spending time on longer, more enterprising pieces. This is good because it's the really interesting stuff, but it's bad because it means juggling a lot of deadlines and nebulous projects in a suddenly unstructured schedule.

Because of some snafoos, I've switched my master's project from national security and science, and am now working on Hepatitis C, with a focus on the New York area. If you know anyone who knows anything about this topic--liver specialists, public health people, transplant workers, charity workers, activists, etc.--or anyone who has this disease or has lost someone to this disease, who would also be willing to talk to a journalist, please put them in touch with me.

I'm working on and finishing up some stories that have to do with City government--institutions and people, how they work, what they do, where they came from, and starting an investigative piece. For perhaps obvious reasons, I'm not going to trumpet here what the investigative piece is about.

I've been having a really great time meeting some fascinating people; half the benefits of going to a school like Columbia. A few weeks ago I met Christiane Amanpour at the Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism, and got to talk to one of the recipients, Dr. Asha Krishnakumar, a journalist with India's Frontline Magazine. Two weeks ago I was at the New York Times main office in Times Square, and last week I got a tour of 6 blocks south, which was a lot of fun.

The highlight of the semester so far, however, was last monday's visit to the Times Square offices of The New Yorker. It was just as cool as I expected it to be, if a little corporate. (Their owner, Conde Nast, made them move to the Conde Nast building a few years ago.) We got to spend two hours talking to Hendrik Hertzberg, and he was every bit as interesting, insightful, intelligent, clever, articulate, [insert favorite writerly adjective here], etc., as I had hoped--while also managing to be totally nice. I hounded him some more yesterday after a forum we had on Shattered Glass. I think working at the New Yorker would rock, if for no other reason one might get to have have great conversations with people like him. We also got to meet David Remnick and Judith Thurman, and talk to David Denby for a bit, who's a J-school alumnus. They have a gigantic pile of free books in their editorial lounge, and it was all I could not to go rooting through it.

Today I met S. Mitra Kalita, who's just come out with a book, Suburban Sahibs, following around three Indian families and telling the story of their settling down in America. She's also the president of the South Asian Journalism Association. She struck me as a lovely, charismatic woman with an endearing combination of self-asssertive flare and self-deprecation.

Alright, back to work.

Monday, November 17, 2003
This Reuters piece caught my eye in a broken MSNBC link on Patrick Nielsen Hayden's Electrolite blog; Googling for the exact quote,

"American soldiers handcuffed and firmly wrapped masking tape around an Iraqi man's mouth as they arrested him on Tuesday for speaking out against occupation troops"

gets you four pages of links in alternative, activist, blogosphere, and Middle Eastern media--but the only instance of "the mainstream press" buying the article I see is some kind of newservice called RocketNews that I haven't seen before.

Update: My sister correctly pointed out that by mainstream, I really meant mainstream Ango-American, because The New Zealand Herald seems to have run the wire story. There's also the fact that Reuters itself is mainstream.

Googling it again today (11/20/03) still yields about four pages of links, and on the first page there's a link on Yahoo! UK. The second page seems to be this journal's first real google appearance. :-). I've also fixed some of the links in this post. See today's post.
Brad DeLong posts one of my favorite Berkeley stories: Professor Paul Licht's account of saving the hyena colony during the Oakland fire. It helps if you remember that hyenas can bite through bone and sprint very quickly.
You can donate to the March of Dimes fund for studying preterm births by buying a Prematurity Band.

I was born three months premature, and while I was fine, most early babies aren't so lucky.
Sunday, November 16, 2003
"This happy breed of men, this little world/
This precious stone set in the silver sea/
. . .
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England."
Take a moment to read this: BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | China's forgotten Aids victims.

"The village of Shuang Miao in the far northeast corner of Henan is an unremarkable place.

Many local children have become orphans

Its tightly packed brick courtyard houses just like thousands of others across this vast plain. But Shuang Miao is stalked by death.

The "strange disease" is what the villagers call it.

No-one's bothered to tell them what it really is that's killing them - Aids. "
Saturday, November 15, 2003
Amy Tan has had a crazy life. Spare me a life of interesting events . . .I certainly hope my fiction ends up being more exciting than my nonfiction.
Thursday, November 13, 2003
I'm finishing up my take-home law exam, and I have to say, it's a class that gives one very mixed, very strong feelings about being a journalist. I mean, on one hand we have Justice Louis Brandeis:

"But [those who won our independence] knew that order cannot be secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction; that it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination; that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies; and that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones."

and Justice Black on the Pentagon Papers:

"And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell."

and on the other hand we have the case of Sidis vs. F-R Pub. Corp. Legal considerations aside, we read how
"But the article is merciless in its dissection of intimate details of its subject's personal life, and this in company with elaborate accounts of Sidis' passion for privacy and the pitiable lengths to which he has gone in order to avoid public scrutiny."

Journalists can be really horrible. I guess the thing to do is a) not to be evil and b) take full advantage of the freedoms we have and do something worthwhile with them.

I guess it's also the responsibility of the readers to spend more of their reading time and money on things having to do with foreign shot and shell and less with dissection the private lives of sad and unimportant people.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
This Slate article on puppets possibly being banned in Miami protests is interesting because on one hand it seems ridiculous to be afraid of puppets, and on the other hand one realizes that puppets are actually incredibly powerful tools of free speech.
Sunday, November 09, 2003
Ah ha! I found a piece of my fiction, and plugged into the gender-genie algorithm.

Words: 1426
Female Score: 1667
Male Score: 1309
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: female!

Combined with my scores for nonfiction, I'm not quite sure what this says about the fact that I'm in journalism school now.
This piece of news, "Moscow reportedly considers kissing ban", is pretty frightening. So much for freedom in Russia. I'm not exactly a huge proponent of public displays of affection, but Orwellian does seem like the appropriate term.

I like this bit:
"It's not uncommon for couples to kiss on the long, slow escalators leading down to Moscow's subway platforms -- the steps allow people of different heights to gaze directly into each other's faces, and it beats looking at advertisements during the ride. But the embraces are mostly reserved and few people seem to object -- at least until now. "

Almost a bit of poetry coming down the AP Wire. . .you can just see a pretty Russian girl, rosy cheeked and all bundled up with a jaunty woolen hat. She happily leans down instead of up to plant a kiss on her lover's cold nose. It's certainly the most romantic image I've had of Moscow in a long time.

Then again, subversion is itself rather romantic: "According to Stolichnaya Vechernyaya Gazeta, fines for breaking the rules, if they are adopted, would range from 300 to 500 rubles ($10 to $17). And if the kissing couples didn't have the money, the paper reported, police could hold them at the precinct house until somebody paid." Does the young couple get held together? A dreamy afternoon spent in jail. You can envision a musical comedy where the hero and heroine smooch madly while the hero tosses rubles at the angry police.

Saturday, November 08, 2003
Wow. I guess all of Britain has gone mad. Prince Charles Denies a Rumor, but Won't Say What It's About
whoah. - Palace: Charles claims 'ludicrous' - Nov. 7, 2003
Has CNN gone out of it's mind?
Thursday, November 06, 2003
Last night I saw Matrix: Revolutions, and was thoroughly disappointed. I actually rather liked Reloaded, and would have happily eaten up some more of the same. Not this. I wasn't as disappointed as I could have been, though, because I had been warned.

The Meatrix, on the other hand, is just fabulous.
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
I can't decide if this Washington Post story about a Canadian citizen who was detained at JFK and secretly "returned" to Syria, the land of his birth, to be tortured is more or less disturbing because he's Canadian. The principle--that naturalization counts for nothing--would be pretty horrible if applied to naturalized American citizens by America. But that America feels it has the right to manhandle a Canadian citizen--remember, folks, this is the country that so graciously took all our planes during the Sept. 11 attacks--speaks volumes about our new sense of isolationism. We did something similar with Berna Cruz at Chicago's airport. If we can't deal honorably with Canada, who can we deal with?
Tuesday, November 04, 2003
I find it rather amusing that this celeb photo from the Matrix Revolutions Premiere of Lambert Wilson, who plays the Merovingian in the Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions, doesn't even name him in the caption but names Sharon Stone standing in front of him. Yeah, Sharon Stone is more famous, but this is perhaps only becaue of shenanigans like this one. Sharon Stone's last big appearance was in a tacky commercial for AOL of all things, while Wilson was in THE MATRIX. Hello.

She's filming Catwoman, and I have to say that I think it's terrible that it's Michelle Pfeiffer's blondeness and not her brilliance which has appropriated the role. Obviously, I'm a little biased here, but catwoman should have dark hair unless overridden by extreme talent. Why has everyone forgotten Eartha Kitt?
Monday, November 03, 2003
I redid the About Saheli part of my homepage, including a version of my biography written by Mr. Andrew Franck.
Picked up this link to polydactyl cats from Neil Gaiman's blog, and now my whole vision of what makes us human has been shifted upside down. I really thought opposable thumbs was a big bit of it. Man.
Strada strangely makes it into the top AP photos on Yahoo! Ah, for a Mocha Bianca. . .
Sunday, November 02, 2003
Wow, I'm not usually confused about my gender, but apparently my writing is. Or maybe society is confused about my writing. Well, this algorithm is certainly confused about my writing.

On a 630 Word Blog Entry
Female Score: 814
Male Score: 1486

On a 2710 Word Nonfiction Entry
Female Score: 2346
Male Score: 3189

And I don't have any of my fiction in cut and pastable form right now, so we'll have to wait on that one. Wiggy.
Use the Political Compass to figure out your political cartesian coordinates. Lots of fun.
Saturday, November 01, 2003
Kids Play: An Electronic Gaming Monthly article where they took some old school games and tried them out on tweens. Really, really funny.
A New York Times article, "Microsoft and Google: Partners or Rivals?" that I found disturbing. Google would be so less wonderful if it was part of Microsoft. It's not just a knee jerk "I think Microsoft makes bad software so I hate them so I think they'd ruin Google" argument. I'm actually not a Microsoft hater at all; one of my best friends works there and is happy there, and I'm more comfortable with Windows than with any other system. But a big part of Google's appeal is about branding and trust. We trust them not to be evil, and we feel a comfort and aesthetic pleasure in using their very well branded and designed tools. That pleasure is not incidental. When you spend hours searching for things and people online, as I do both professionally and as a means of wasting time, that mild pleasure helps keep anxiety and ocular stress down. We are charmed by their antics because we know they are a real company of actually interesting people started by two guys. That joy will dissipate significantly if we think they've plugged into Microsofts PR machine and are utilizing the efforts of people who studied advertising in school.

That kind of sentimentality may seem functionally unimportant, but I think in the search engine world loyalty is key. If someone shows up and builds a better search engine tomorrow, I may not use it for a while because of loyalty to Google. Not very long, but a little while. But that little while might be enough time for Google to bring theirs up to par. Merge with Microsoft and they lose that buffer zone.

The other thing which is depressing about that story is the realization that when it goes public it's immediately going to become corporate. I think it would be really cool if private individuals had the savvy and resources to buy Google stock. There's a company that I'd want to invest in for good old fashioned reasons--not because I think it'll make me rich really quickly (and unfortunately, it would, which is why corporations are going to lunge after all the shares) but because I want it to succeed.

Nick points out that Microsoft is forming a search engine division, so Google might be thinking they better join up or be run out of business. With any other company I'd agree that this is the case completely. But I know really smart people who I am certain would, if given the choice between a very high paying job with Microsoft in Palo Alto and only a high paying job with Google in Palo Alto, would immediately and absolutely choose Google.
Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com


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Blogs I Read (Or Try To)
113th Street
american footprints(Nadezhda & Praktike)
ANNA's Diary
Apartment Therapy
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Dave Barry
The Bellman
Mine's On The 45 (Brimful)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
Combing the Sphere
Crooked Timber
Daily Dose of Imagery
The Daily Rhino (Bong Breaker)
Dark Days Ahead
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Atanu Dey on India's Development (Deeshaa)
Daniel Drezner
Cyrus Farivar
Finding My Voice
Neil Gaiman
Ganesh Blog
Geeky Chic 2.0 (Echan)
Green Ink!
Alexandra Huddleston
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
India Uncut
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter et al
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Jesus Politics
John and Belle Have a Blog
Mark A. R. Kleiman
KnowProse (Taran Rampersad)
Maenad (Nori Heikkinen)
Scott McCloud
Mind Without Borders
Electrolite: Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Corey Pein
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Kevin G. Powell
QuakeHelp (South Asian Quake)
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
Scott Rosenberg(
Rox Populi
Nick Schager
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Sepia Mutiny
Amardeep Singh
Snarkmarket (Robin Sloan & Matt Thompson)
South-East Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Blog
SreeTips: New To Sree
Steprous (Bear)
Robert Stribley
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
Tech Policy
A Tiny Revolution
To The Teeth
Manish Vij
Vinod's Blog
War and Piece
Nollind Whachell
Matthew Yglesias:Old
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham
Ethan Zuckerman

Some Categories

Blogs focusing on policy, politics, and national security:
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Daniel Drezner
Green Ink!
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Informed Comment: Juan Cole
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Irregular Analyses
Jesus Politics
Mark A. R. Kleiman
Liberals Against Terrorism(Nadezhda & Praktike)
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
War and Piece

Photo Blogs
Daily Dose of Imagery
Alexandra Huddleston
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)

Columbia Journalism Folks
Apartment Therapy
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
Ranajit Dam
Cyrus Farivar
Alexandra Huddleston
Corey Pein
Nick Schager
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham

Literature, Fiction and Entertainment
Dave Barry
Neil Gaiman
Electrolite: Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Scott McCloud

A Note on Comments
Haloscan is not very good at counting comments. If a comment thread is more than three months old, and you think there might be comments, please click the comments link even if it indicates zero comments. It won't display the true count properly. Thanks!

A note on permalinks
I find that a lot of people don't know about permalinks. When you want to have someone read a specific blog entry, then you should find that blog entry's permalink, click on that, and send them the resulting browser address. Otherwise they will just be sent to the blog in general, and between your reading the blog entry and your correspondent's or audience's getting to it, a whole slew of material may have pushed the entry off the front page. In this blog, the permalinks are the timestamp at the end of the entry. (Feel free to frequently send your friends and family permalinks from my blog!)

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