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Is this Mao story a hoax? [19 Dec 2005|02:02pm]

Update #5: Confirmed hoax.

Update #4: There's a follow-up article from the same reporter that's just been published. He was thoughtful enough to let me know about it. It doesn't really clear anything up. It raises some additional questions, like who exactly might have visited the student, since it turns out that DHS doesn't have its own agents. There are some statements from the FBI and other officials in this report that sound totally disingenuous, though. They act like part of the Patriot Act didn't specifically authorize them to monitor records like library borrowing patterns. So, obviously statements like, "However, the scenario sounds unlikely because investigations are based on violation of law, not on the books and individual might check out from the library" (sic) are just false. See Section 215. Anyway, investigations are ongoing, so we'll see what comes out of it.

Update #3: A statement from the UMass Dartmouth library.

Update #2: Lawgeek has a quote from the reporter vouching for the story after being told of some of the doubts, and promising further verification.

Update: Boing Boing is tracking the story, so I'll just let them do the work and see what comes out of it. There is mention there of an identical story being reported out of California, but I can't find it anywhere, and they don't give a link. I did just notice that the UMass incident supposedly happened back in October. So, nothing was said about it until these professors were asked for comment on the Bush spying stuff, then all the sudden they were out with it. I sure hope that the Little Red Incident is shown to be a hoax.

Some people seem to think that the story about Homeland Security visiting a student because he requested a copy of Mao Zedong's Little Red Book is not true.

I am troubled by not being able to find any mention of this other than in the one southcoasttoday.com link, and of course in 20,000 blogs (mine included) linking to it.

One objection is that there is no "Peking" version of the book, or "unabridged" version, as it is described in the original story.

First of all, I can't find any version of the book at all in the UMass Dartmouth library database. Can you? So, it looks like needing to ILL it is plausible.

Second of all, here is a listing for a version of the book, with the publisher listed as "Peking, China: Foreign Languages Press, 1966".

This site has what looks to be a thorough history of the book, and notably says, " The first American version printed in the United States appeared in March 1967 in bright red wrappers as a Bantam paperback, edited by Stuart R. Schram with an introduction by A. Doak Barnett." So, the professor could have been suggesting the Peking version, as noted above, as opposed to this first US printed version, which includes some different material. The history also suggests that some editions have photos that others do not.

So, it does seem like there are different versions and editions of the book out there. The story may or may not be true, but I don't see any problem with the idea that he was using ILL to get a particular version of the book. There are definitely Peking versions of the book. I do think there is still a question about whether these are rightly described as "official". Any ideas here?

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Thinking It Through: Smarter RSS Scheduling [19 Dec 2005|07:39pm]

I read RSS through email, using a Python program called Newspipe. I have a cron script set up that automatically runs Newspipe every hour to hit my feed list.

(This script also checks to see if I'm online, and if not, tries to connect via bluetooth over my phone to do the RSS and mail fetch.)

Anyone who uses RSS a lot knows the woes. Particularly annoying are duplicate stories. I've tried several different readers, including things like Bloglines, and none of them solve this problem completely. The problem generally seems to be on the server's end. Maybe it's because they make small corrections to the stories, but a lot of times I don't see any difference in the text.

One of the worst offenders is the Washington Post. What the hell are you guys doing over there? There is one and only one column I want to read there, which is "Poet's Choice" by Robert Pinsky. I have to keep tabs on what the School of Quietude (see Silliman) is up to. But I get literally the entire history of the column and the rest of the book review section every time I hit the feed.

Reading the RSS mail in Gnus makes all this much more bearable, because stories with the same subject lines are threaded, like any mailing list discussion would be. This is a big step up from what happens with Bloglines or any other dedicated RSS reader I've used.

But with my number of feeds exceeding 160 (Justin wasn't lying), duplication is finally getting to me, because I tend to enter and read these mail groups multiple times per day. So despite the threading I see a lot of these articles multiple times. And a lot of the early drafts of these articles, multiple times.

The thing is, I only need to read a lot of these feeds once a day. Many of them I only need to read once per week. Some only once per month! If I know that a publication only publishes once a week, why am I checking it every hour?

Also, there is one particular set of feeds that can be troubling sometimes, which is the Boston Globe. I have a paper subscription to the Sunday Globe. So, I don't want to see the RSS version on Sunday.

I started out with the plan to write separate cron scripts for hourly, daily, weekly, and monthly checking, each with its own OPML file. When I subscribe to a new feed (yes, sadly, I am still adding new feeds to the list), I would then add it to the appropriate place.

Then I went back and read over the many cool options that Newspipe has, and discovered that delay is an option that can be applied to groups of feeds within the main OPML file. So, instead of writing different scripts, I need only divide my feeds into groups, and set the appropriate value for that attribute for each group. I don't remember seeing this kind of individualized setting in any other reader that I've tried so far.

I have created the following groups in my OPML file.

    <outline text="Hourly" delay="60">
    <outline text="Daily" delay="1440">
    <outline text="Weekly" delay="10080">
    <outline text="Monthly" delay="40320">
    <outline text="Not Sunday">

I haven't figured out the Not Sunday group yet, but there are a couple options that together should be able to do this.

I have high hopes that this will result in a leaner, meaner me.

LJ Tags: rss python opml newspipe thinking it through

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