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The Wikileaks Saga Continues

Further developments in the ongoing tale of Wikileaks cable leaks and Assange's subsequent imprisonment are occurring around the world with comments and criticisms on the incident coming from all over.

Julian Assange has been released on bail after being imprisoned for nine days in a London Jail, CNN reports. Under heavy police scrutiny with an electronic location tag and a mandatory daily check-in, Assange has relocated to a mansion outside London owned by a supporter.

Assange told reporters upon arriving at the mansion that his first priority is to get back to work in the ongoing Wikileaks cable release program, stating that his legal team is working on the charges against him. ""Obviously, clearing my name is also important, and I will continue to do that, my legal team will continue to do that," he said. "We will press the Swedish government to provide us with evidence of the allegations, something that has been denied to date. I have yet to receive a single page of anything ever from this investigation."

In America, members of the House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee revealed an intent to treat Wikileaks as a non-news organization, Wired reports. By making this distinction they open the door for prosecution of Wikileaks (and Assange) under 1917's Espionage Acts without appearing to crack down on media outlets.

The arguments for the differentiation focus on the means of acquiring the data they release and the lack of a filter for the information released. Instead of investigative reporting or acquiring the documents personally, Wikileaks utilizes international dropboxes to gain access to classified content. Beyond that, a news outlet reports classified material if it pertains to a particular story and is deemed better released for the public good, whereas Wikileaks publishes a broad variety of sources on all matter of subjects.

The Gawker Controversy

Brett Favre can't seem to catch a break. Whether people are complaining about his play and saying he should be benched or whining that his injuries are keeping him off the field too much, he can't seem to do anything right - and that's just on the field. The ongoing saga of his alleged lewd behavior with a Jets sideline reporter Jenn Sterger is certainly notable for potential repercussions within the league, but much more so for the interesting question of ethics in journalism it raised.

Deadspin (a subsidiary of the Gawker group) was the news outlet to break the big story in the first place, coming forth with descriptions of the pictures and messages between Sterger and Favre. City Pages reports that in an interview, Gawker founder Nick Denton stated that they paid 12,000 dollars for the records of the texts and pictures in question. This raised ethics concerns on its own but was overshadowed by Gawker's "next big scoop."

Gawker then tried to create controversy and scandal when they published a story about former Republican Senate hopeful Christine O'Donnell sharing a bed (not copulating) with a younger man.

Gawker is not necessarily perceived by the public to be entirely reputable. Their stories have been called "skeezy and scuzzy" by The New York Times David Carr and other equivalent criticisms from a number of sources. What they didn't expect was Gawker returning criticism for their alleged ethical breaches by burning their anonymous source in the matter.

From a Gawker post in response: "A good deal of the reaction to the piece was governed by revulsion at the voice of Anonymous, who certainly comes off as a dick. So yes, we will grant you that the 25-year-old guy Christine O'Donnell drunkenly pursued, and bedded, on Halloween night three years ago is not a gentleman. We wish she had better taste in guys. But our publication of his account wasn't intended as a celebration of his character."

The other stories aside, this seems the bigger picture here. Any news organization has a basic responsibility to uphold the integrity of the craft, regardless of how trivial of stories they choose to publish. Burning the source shows Gawker's true colors more clearly than their story choice ever could.

Facebook Creator Opens Up to New Yorker

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's creator, avidly uses the service he has turned into a multi-million dollar venture. But for someone who shares so much on a superficial level, he has never been very receptive towards journalists. The New Yorker recently secured a series of interviews with him to create a much fuller picture of who Zuckerberg is and what exactly motivates him.

His timing on the interviews is hardly coincidental. 'The Social Network', a highly-acclaimed movie on Facebook's origins and its enigmatic creator, was just recently released. This story, released shortly before the release of the movie, seems to be Zuckerberg's attempt to fight the negative perception that the movie could create about him. "A lot people will look at that stuff, you know, when I was nineteen, and say, 'Oh, well, he was like that. . . . He must still be like that, right?'" Zuckerberg said.

He has legitimate reason for alarm at the exposure of his past. The story, laid black and white, points towards serious ethical misconduct on Zuckerberg's part. IM conversations unearthed from around the era of Facebook's creations only seem to strengthen the case against him. I won't belabor the story of its inception any further when it can be accessed in many different forms of media with ease, but suffice to say that, had Zuckerberg known the kind of prestige he would reach he might have chosen his words a little more carefully.

Most importantly to him, it seems, Zuckerberg says he is determined to keep the company under his control. Terry Semel, former C.E.O. of Yahoo!, told the New Yorker that when he offered Zuckerberg one billion dollars for Facebook in 2006, Zuckerberg said, "It's not about the price. This is my baby, and I want to keep running it, I want to keep growing it."

The past aside, Facebook's future is almost impossible to divine at this point. The privacy policy in place on the website has drawn fire as being deceptive and deviating from the site's original goals, the ACLU and Electronic Privacy Information Center told the New Yorker.

Even still, Zuckerberg imagines a world with even deeper integration, taking Facebook from the platform it is at current to an almost constant presence in daily life. "Zuckerberg imagines Facebook as, eventually, a layer underneath almost every electronic device," the New Yorker said.

What remains to be seen at this point is how Zuckerberg comes out from this latest assault on his character and business. If he is successful in his dream, Facebook will be inescapable as a daily presence. From buying groceries to watching television to media consumption, the privacy we enjoy now will be a thing of the past.

Man Forced To Eat His Own Beard

A Kentucky man may finally find closure after sentencing next Tuesday over an incident last May when his beard was cut from his face and shoved in his mouth during an argument over the sale of a lawnmower.

The Lexington branch of NBC reported that Harvey Westmoreland went to his brother's place of business to meet with two acquaintances. When they began to negotiate the price for purchase of a riding lawn mower from Westmoreland, the men apparently felt cheated and pulled out knives and guns.

It was during this conflict that one of the men cut a chunk of Westmoreland's beard from his face and forced him to eat it. After being humiliated, the brothers were allowed to leave with their lives and a threat to not call the police.

This story is odd, certainly, but it seems to me that the relevancy and importance of it has been greatly inflated by the news outlets reporting it. The Star Tribune even ran a news release on it in the 'Out There' section. While the news certainly fits the bill, it doesn't deserve the amount of discussion it has received.

What this appears to be is a case not unlike the 'Epic Mountain Man v. Sasquatch' story that ran on CNN over the summer - a reporter gets hooked on a story and the people involved turn out to be so odd that the story is talked about way more than it should be. Aside from providing a few key sound bites for future reference and a smile, this story has very little actual news value.

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