Discussion Post: Week 14
Well, there are just a few weeks left this semester. Hopefully you were able to get some rest (or catch up on some work) over the break. What last steps are you and your groups taking to set up your final presentation? How about your web portfolio? What do you anticipate having to do over our final two weeks in order to close out the class on a high note?
Let’s start with some international news this week. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Russia are currently in conflict about NATO’s plans to develop a missile defense shield. NATO has been preparing to install missile defense sites in Europe for quite some time; the bases would include missile detection and interception systems in order to deter and prevent long-range attacks on the U.S. Russian officials, however, have expressed concern over whether such missile defense sites would serve as a threat to their own nuclear forces, and sought to partner with NATO in planning and managing the system. Because NATO has resisted this request, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday that he would “deploy new missiles aimed at U.S. missile defense sites in Europe if Washington goes ahead with the planned shield despite Russia’s concerns.” In response, Tommy Vietor of the National Security Council said that the U.S. would not alter its plans despite Russia’s threat, adding that the shield was not directed toward Russia, but at perceived “rogue” states like Iran.
In Egypt, a great deal of turmoil has persisted despite the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak earlier this year. As of Friday, 41 people have been killed in connection with the political strife this week alone, as tensions continue to flare about the army’s rule over the country. A new president is set to be named in mid-2012 — an earlier timetable than originally planned, but one which has proven unsatisfactory to protesters demanding an immediate end of the current regime. The economy has consistently declined since the February ouster, and the newest temporary figurehead to be appointed over the country, Kamal Ganzouri, formerly served under Mubarak, fueling public outrage over the lack of change that they demanded. In the meantime, three U.S. college students are being held in Egypt, awaiting the processing of a court-ordered release from police custody. The three young men were accused of standing on a rooftop and throwing firebombs at security forces fighting with protesters, but were ordered to be released by the Abdeen Court in Cairo, according to Egyptian officials.
Several public figures are quickly learning the importance of being sensitive to the messages you submit to your audiences. Wodka vodka brand is in hot water after a controversial billboard in New York City spurred near-instantaneous public backlash. While the billboard has since been taken down, you can view it through a Yahoo! news story, if you like; essentially, its message has been seen as anti-Semitic, not witty, by a number of individuals as well as the Anti-Defamation League. A bit of additional research revealed similar, racially insensitive oddities on the company’s Twitter account. On the other side of the world, a Russian news anchor has been taken off the air following an obscene gesture after mentioning U.S. President Barack Obama on a live newscast. The award-winning journalist, Tatiana Limanova, waved her middle finger while presenting on the APEC summit in the U.S., just moments after speaking Obama’s name. She claims that she thought the camera feed was not displaying her image to the public at that moment (thinking instead that a video clip was playing on television), and that the gesture was instead directed only toward members of the editing crew. Many, however, have taken it as an insult to Obama, who met with Medvedev during the summit. (See the second paragraph of this post for the significance of that encounter and of the U.S.-Russia tensions.)
Once again, we return to the controversial subject of global warming. According to the United Nations’ weather agency, greenhouse gases not only reached record levels last year, but they are actually climbing at an increasing rate. Some scientists now believe that the levels of greenhouse gases can no longer be held to the levels that world leaders have deemed safe, despite efforts to the contrary. In the wake of these findings, a second “climategate” incident is developing wherein private E-mail messages between researchers have been leaked to the public and are being used to discredit their research. Some are concerned that, after the first such leak, this second incident will foster a great deal of “climate change denial” that will stymie policymakers’ efforts to protect the planet. Others say that scrutinizing the human nature of scientists detracts from the overall scientific endeavor itself. Still more say that naysayers’ efforts to create a “myth of disagreement” among scientists has worked to some degree, as the general public is confused about the extent to which researchers as a whole support the theory of climate change. On the other hand, some analysts argue that climate change research is ultimately the greatest scientific scandal in history, claiming that nonsense science has promoted a paranoia-filled delusion which has resulted in outright suicidal global policies. Their claims seem to be supported by a recent study that says the impact of global warming has been vastly overestimated, as doubling the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would only result in a few degrees’ worth of temperature change. Their research, published in Science, suggests that while we should still expect to see drastic climate changes, any effects on the environment from greenhouse gases will be less dire than we previously believed.
Let’s momentarily move to a technology item. If you wanted to see how presentations can make all the difference in your company’s success, look no further than Microsoft’s TellMe. You haven’t heard of it? Well, perhaps you’re aware of the much more popular Siri, a staple of Apple’s iPhone 4S. According to Microsoft executive Craig Mundie, his company beat Apple to the voice-command market by a year, as TellMe offered similar capabilities as Siri. Consider this excerpt from a review review that PCMag reporter Michael J. Miller wrote in August 2010:
Indeed, Shirk gave me a great demonstration of using speech on a Windows Phone 7 device. You just press and hold the center button on the bottom of the phone, and you can say things like “Start Outlook.” You can go into Bing and say things like “Find Italian Restaurants near me.” Or just say the name of an airline and flight, and get the status.
If you’ve used or even seen Apple’s Siri in action — or, heck, if you’ve even read Apple’s own description — you realize how closely that description aligned with the iPhone 4S’ “cutting-edge” innovation. As Mundie put it, “we probably could learn something on the marketing side.” Clearly, it’s not enough to just develop the best product first. You also have to know how to show consumers that it’s the best and get them excited about it. Otherwise, the second-fastest developer will win the product war in the end.
I’m sure many of you are itching to discuss the tentative NBA labor deal that was struck on Friday. Players and owners still have to approve the deal, but it looks like both sides expect it to pass without a hitch, particularly given that so many games have been lost already and that a number of the involved parties immediately took to Twitter to express their jubilation (or relief) at the apparent accord. Many journalists are still piecing together exactly how everything will work, particularly given that some basketball players already accepted conflicting contracts elsewhere as labor talks stagnated and the players still seem to have gotten the worse side of this deal, but we do know that the shortened 66-game season is set to begin on Christmas Day, and that executives will still have to throw together much of the “incredibly tight schedule,” as league deputy commissioner Adam Silver described it. We also know that nothing is really resolved until everything is approved and all the logistics are in order. In any case, whether you blame the owners or the players, or whether you’re just happy to see professional basketball return for another season, if the NBA is your pastime then take heart in this announcement.
Basketball aside, though, outside of Thanksgiving itself, the big story this week surely has to be Black Friday. (If you’re unfamiliar with the term, “Black Friday” refers to the day after Thanksgiving, on which retailers across the country generally offer significant discounts that mark the beginning of the Christmas shopping season — it’s also the most profitable shopping day for many companies, allowing them to get “in the black,” or into positive earnings figures, on their balance sheets.) This year, some of the biggest discounts were for video games, hardware and accessories, with retailers selling them at a loss in order to get customers into the store to also purchase other, less-discounted items. All in all, shoppers spent about as much this Black Friday as they did during the 2010 affair, which is perhaps remarkable given the dwindling economy. These figures, of course, were boosted by the deep game discounts — a rarity for the industry, but one deemed necessary for shoppers without the money to buy recent top titles — as well as the increased duration that some stores offered for their respective sales. If you missed the Friday rush, though, don’t feel bad. Many analysts advise shoppers to skip Black Friday. Besides, crazed Black Friday shoppers have been known to pepper spray, stab, or shoot other customers in their pursuit of the best deals. Why deal with the mobs and the violence when you can take advantage of Cyber Monday instead?
There you go. What do you think?
Other articles of interest:
New find sheds light on ancient site in Jerusalem
Is this an alien skull? Mystery of giant-headed mummy found in Peru
Mexico acknowledges 2nd Mayan reference to 2012
Israel breaks chemistry lesson record
Higgs Boson hunt ‘80% complete’
Scientists probe Earth’s core, make mystifying discovery
NASA Mars Rover Set for Launch This Weekend
Most liveable alien worlds ranked
CDC confirms cases of new swine flu virus
Soaring BPA Levels Found in People Who Eat Canned Foods
BPA levels soar after eating canned soup: Study
Four common meds send thousands of seniors to hospital
ISPs Can’t Be Forced to Filter Web Content, EU Court Finds
Google’s new ad space: Chrome
Frustrated wife puts gamer husband up for sale on Craigslist
MS eyes dual SKU strategy for Xbox 720
Worst-ranked American Samoa win first ever FIFA-sanctioned match
Minnesota Wild sign 51-year-old backup; don’t play him, unfortunately
Tags: Abdeen Court, Adam Silver, Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitism, APEC summit, Apple, Barack Obama, Black Friday, Cairo, Christmas, climate change, climategate, Craig Mundie, Cyber Monday, Dmitry Medvedev, Egypt, Europe, global warming, greenhouse gases, Hosni Mubarak, iPhone 4S, Iran, Kamal Ganzouri, Michael J. Miller, Microsoft, National Security Council, NATO, NBA, NBA labor deal, New York City, Presentation IV, Russia, Siri, Tatiana Limanova, TellMe, Thanksgiving, Tommy Vietor, Twitter, U.S., United Nations, web portfolio, Wodka