Tales from the Trail

URL mischief crops up on the campaign front

It’s early in the 2012 presidential election campaign, but dirty tricks are alive and well, at least on the Internet.

In the days after President Barack Obama announced the killing of Osama bin Laden, someone bought a new Internet URL, “GutsyCall.com,” and set it to redirect to Obama’s BarackObama.com campaign re-election website. The reference was to reports that John Brennan, a White House counterterrorism adviser, had characterized Obama’s order to send troops after bin Laden as “one of the most gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory.”

The connection was seized upon by conservative-leaning media, which portrayed it as an attempt by campaign officials to politicize bin Laden’s death despite their assertions that they did not intend to do so. The problem with that assertion? The campaign and the Democratic National Committee insisted they had nothing to do with the URL and knew nothing about it.

Aides at the DNC were angry that writers ran stories on the link without looking into who was behind it. One worker in new media at the party headquarters struck back with some URL redirection of his own. He bought another URL — www.weeklyNOstandards.com — that redirected readers to the homepage of The Weekly Standard, which had written about the URL. The point of buying the URL was to show how easy it is for anyone to buy one and redirect it to another site, and to keep the story from spreading, the DNC said.

The Weekly Standard in turn said it spent yet another $8.93 to buy a new URL — www.DNCcrybabies.com – which on Friday afternoon at least was still redirecting readers to democrats.org, the DNC’s homepage.

Tweet like an Egyptian — Hillary Clinton tries it out

AFGHANISTAN-USA/

Young Egyptians, who famously used Internet services like Facebook and Twitter to launch their recent revolution, turned their focus to Hillary Clinton on Wednesday. They peppered the top U.S. diplomat with skeptical questions about longtime U.S. support for former  President Hosni Mubarak and what many felt was its slow embrace of the movement to topple him.

Clinton, taking a personal spin at what she has called “21st Century Statecraft”, fielded a selection of some 6,500 questions that young Egyptians posed through Twitter,  Facebook and the Arabic-language website www.masrawy.com — and many reflected deep suspicions about the U.S. role in Egypt.

“My question is: Does America really support democracy? If yes indeed, why the U.S. was late in its support of the Egyptian revolution?” one questioner asked Clinton.

Schumer vs. Facebook

schumerCharles Schumer, the senior senator from New York, is concerned about the protection of  private information people give to Facebook and other social networking websites. And the Democrat wants new federal guidelines to help members of  these online communities keep control over how their personal details “can be shared or disseminated to third parties.”

Schumer (or someone posting on his behalf) says so on his Facebook page. He also posted a press release on his page and echoed concerns about privacy on social networking sites on Sunday at a news conference in his Manhattan office.

Schumer told reporters he wants to make sure private information isn’t given away without the user’s permission.

Bill Clinton big fan of most things tech

Former President Bill Clinton, who jokes that a cell phone weighed five pounds when he took office in 1993, told a VeriSign event to mark the 25th anniversary of dot com that he’s a big fan of the Web, cell phones and email, but hasn’t yet sprung for an electronic reader.

CLINTONClinton marveled at how the Web has revolutionized fundraising for his foundation, which tackles a range of global issues from health problems facing the poor to climate change.

“An enormous amount of what we do is either made possible or leveraged because of the Internet,” he said. “I don’t know what I would do without it.”

Smart power meets smart phones

The State Department is accelerating its push into the Internet, hoping to use web sites, blogs and mobile phones to deliver the U.S. message around the world.

The State Department itself unveiled a new-look web site on Thursday, including a video clip greeting from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and one-click “share” options to deliver the message over Facebook, Twitter, and other sites.

CANADA/“No one person or country has a monopoly on good ideas. So I hope this website will be a forum for learning, discussion and collaboration,” Clinton said in the clip.

Obama encourages unbridled Internet in China

Internet-savvy President Barack Obama told Chinese students that he is a big fan of the Web, though he doesn’t Twitter.
    
OBAMA-ASIA/At a town hall forum in Shanghai, a student who sent in a question by email pointed out that China has a huge online community with 350 million Internet users and 60 million bloggers.

He asked what Obama thought of the Chinese government’s “firewall” that blocks objectionable Internet sites and if he thought the Chinese should be able to “Twitter freely.”
    
“First of all, let me say that I have never used Twitter,” Obama replied. “I noticed that young people — they’re very busy with all these electronics. My thumbs are too clumsy to type in things on the phone.”
  
But he added, “I’ve always been a strong supporter of open Internet use. I’m a big supporter of non-censorship. This is part of the tradition of the United States.” Obama said a free Internet allows people around the world to think freely and hold their governments accountable.
    
Obama’s election campaign was credited with using the Internet in innovative ways — Facebook and texting — to raise money and rally a huge network of volunteers.
    
Traveling in China as part of a nine-day Asia tour, Obama made a point of highlighting the Internet at the town hall. He took questions from the students in attendance at the event as well as questions submitted over the Internet.
 
The question about the Chinese firewall was one of more than 1,000 submitted by email through the U.S. embassy. At the request of the White House, which did not want to be in the awkward position of pre-selecting a question, Bloomberg reporter Ed Chen, the president of the White House Correspondents Association, chose the question randomly by picking a number and relaying it to White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.

Reuters photo by Jason Reed (a student poses a question to Obama at the town hall-style meeting at Shanghai’s Museum of Science and Technology, Nov. 16, 2009)

White House website gets new look, blog

OBAMA/WASHINGTON – Moments after Barack Obama took the oath of office as the 44th U.S. president, the Web site for the White House, www.whitehouse.gov, underwent a dramatic metamorphosis, offering a new blog for online readers.

It will serve as a place for the most technology-savvy president in U.S. history and his new administration “to connect with the rest of the nation and the world,” Macon Phillips, director of new media for the White House, said on the site.

The site features a web-log or blog, an online “briefing room” and allows visitors to sign up for e-mail updates on major announcements and decisions, and to send in their own ideas.

Take a snapshot of history during Obama inauguration

WASHINGTON – Where were you when Barack Obama made history being sworn in as the 44th president of the United States? BRITAIN/

That’s what the Presidential Inaugural Committee wants to know.  It is asking people to take a photo of what they are doing at noon on January 20, 2009, when Obama takes the oath of office and becomes the first African American to serve in the nation’s highest office.

“People all across the country will be gathered together to watch history. We want to see how you will be joining in the celebration of change,” the inaugural committee said in an e-mail.  “Share your picture of history.”

The First Draft: Friday, Nov 28

If Thanksgiving is over, it must be time for “Black Friday”. The big question this year is — will the traditional start to the holiday shopping season be a good one given the bleak economic picture? 
 
Retailers sure hope so, and they have slashed prices and offered incentives to lure shoppers to their store.
 
Terry Lundgren, chief executive of Macy’s said about 5,000 people had lined up outside the flagship Herald Square store which he called “encouraging” though he admitted in an interview on “Good Morning America” it’s been a “challenging period” for retailers like Macy’s.
 
“For retailers, this is the playoffs,” he said. “Starting now through the week after Christmas … We have much more aggressive pricing than we have in previous years.”
 
The state of the U.S. economy is on the minds of many — even al Qaeda.
 
Al Qaeda’s second-in-command published an Internet video saying the U.S. financial crisis was caused by Washington’s military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
In India, commandos took control of Mumbai’s Trident-Oberoi hotel but battles raged on with militants who were still holed up in another luxury hote, the Taj Mahal, and a Jewish center with about half a dozen foreign hostages.
 

After two days, the siege at two hotels and a Jewish center neared its end amid gunfire and more deaths. Police said so far at least 121 people have been killed.

McCain to attend debate, Web ad claims victory already

WASHINGTON – Ah the Internet world, a place where things move very quickly — maybe too quickly in the political world.

Before Republican presidential hopeful John McCain announced he would attend the presidentialmccain1.jpg debate on Friday night in Mississippi, apparently an Internet advertisement slipped out onto the Wall Street Journal’s opinion page with it declaring he won the contest.

Here’s a screenshot of the Web advertisement as posted by the Washington Post in which it claims “McCain Wins Debate,” with him in the foreground and an American flag in the background.