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Random Shots by Sunil K. Sharma
Dissident Voice Editor
June 29, 2004


What's Up With Google News? Is a Left Critique of "Fahrenheit 9/11" Not Okay for Mass Consumption?
(posted June 29, 1:45pm, pst)

Google News ( is one of the most visited websites on the planet. Each day, the main page of Google News features links to hundreds of stories from a variety of news outlets on major issues of the day. For any internet publication, having Google News link to an article on your website means large numbers of people worldwide will visit your website for the duration that a link is up. It's an important way for a publication to build its audience over time. A featured news or commentary link will appear on the main page of Google News on average between 1-5 hours, sometimes longer. As more articles about a featured news story are posted on the internet and picked up by Google, a particular link will move further down the main page, until eventually it moves to the inside pages with older material. These inside pages aren't seen by anywhere near as many readers as the main page. Here's how Google News explains its selection process:

"Google News presents information culled from approximately 4,500 news sources worldwide and automatically arranged to present the most relevant news first. Topics are updated continuously throughout the day, so you will see new stories each time you check the page. Google has developed an automated grouping process for Google News that pulls together related headlines and photos from thousands of sources worldwide -- enabling you to see how different news organizations are reporting the same story. You pick the item that interests you, then go directly to the site which published the account you wish to read.

Google News is highly unusual in that it offers a news service compiled solely by computer algorithms without human intervention. While the sources of the news vary in perspective and editorial approach, their selection for inclusion is done without regard to political viewpoint or ideology. While this may lead to some occasionally unusual and contradictory groupings, it is exactly this variety that makes Google News a valuable source of information on the important issues of the day."

For almost a year, links to a number of Dissident Voice articles have been featured on Google News, which has contributed to a large increase in our reader audience. The average daily number of page views on DV has almost tripled since last August. And we are certainly grateful for that. This has basically meant that the kinds of alternative views you find in each edition of Dissident Voice get a wider hearing internationally, reaching larger audiences beyond "the choir," and that makes us happy and hopeful that we, along with other alternative news publications, may be having an impact on the national discourse.

However, today something rather strange happened with a DV article posted today that was briefly featured on Google News. Today's edition includes a critical review of Michael Moore's new film "Fahrenheit 9/11" by Chuck Richardson, "Fahrenheit 9/11: An Authoritarian View of American Fascism."

Google News posted a link to the article under their section of links to today's articles on Moore's film. The picture file in Richardson's article was also posted by Google News. The link to Richardson's article appeared for about an hour, then inexplicably disappeared from the Google News page, even though links to related articles by other news sources posted chronologically earlier are still there. And even more inexplicable is the fact that Richardson's article link cannot even be found in the INSIDE pages of "related stories", a listing of earlier articles on Moore's film stretching back over a week.

What's up with that? Is Google pulling down the link because of the provocative title of Richardson's article? Or the content of the article?

Of all the DV articles posted by Google News in the past, I've never seen this kind of thing happen.

I emailed the Google News feedback department a letter asking them about this but have yet to receive a response. I then alerted readers on the DV email list and encouraged them to politely contact Google News and inquire as to why the link disappeared altogether from Google News:

A few minutes later, the link reappeared on the Google News main page, in the chronological order that it was originally posted on the net (relative to articles from other outlets). Great, I thought, we got through. Then a minute a later, the link disappeared and has since been nowhere to be found. Not on the main page, and not on the inside pages with earlier related articles. As I write this, articles posted before Richardson's are still up on the Google News main page. These are stories mostly having to do with the record box office sales Fahrenheit 9/11 pulled off over the weekend, and reviews critical of Moore from a conservative viewpoint.

My suspicion is that Google News was getting emails from readers who don't want others to read the kinds of views expressed by Richardson, and Dissident Voice generally, and the link was removed in response. Read Richardson's article and you might see why.

While there are a number of things I didn't agree with in his review (I thought the film was powerful and encourage everyone to see it), Richardson's article raised thoughtful criticisms of Moore's film that I strongly agree with including:

"If Moore was really subversive, he might set out to reveal the absurdity of war itself, rather than the corruption that always leads to it. Rather than focusing on the connections between the Bush and bin Laden families, it might have been more interesting to analyze why masses of people cooperate with them even when it’s against their interests to do so.”


"If you really want people to doubt something, get them to start doubting what they’ve believed in. Moore, it seems to me, reinforces much of white America’s mythical vision of manifest destiny.

In suggesting that a real war needs to be fought against real enemies, that the war we’re fighting is a mere distraction from the real war, Moore misses the point: It was America’s unjust foreign policy before Bush was selected President by the Supreme Court that got us into this mess. Bush is a temporary blip on the screen that has sought to personally benefit from human tragedy. The previous and next president will likely do the same. Moore doesn’t come close to making this point, but then again he knows his audience."

Other progressive news sites have mentioned this sort of thing happening with their material and Google News. Readers are encouraged to contact Google News and ask them for an explanation. If you decide to do that, please do so politely:

The New Zealand Herald Eats Crow
(posted May 31, 1:20pm, pst)

Readers will recall that New Zealand Herald columnist Barbara Sumner Burstyn, whose great commentaries were also featured in DV, was sacked last April with little explanation from her editor other than the claim her work "suffered from a disconnect to issues of the day.” Though it's difficult to prove, I maintain that The Herald terminated Barbara's column for political reasons (see my April 13 entry below for more details).

Well, the NZ Herald is now eating crow big time. The winners of the annual Qantas media award in Australia were announced on May 28, and who do you suppose won an award for best writing on Social Issues and was a finalist for best overall column? . . . . You guessed it -- Barbara Sumner Burstyn!

The story gives me even more of an ear-to-ear grin because the editor who fired Barbara had to pick up the award on her behalf, as she is currently in Vancouver. Barbara tells me that it was a funny and embarrassing situation for him. Barbara is currently working on an feature piece for New Zealand's leading news magazine, and continues to plug away on a forthcoming novel.

Congratulations Barbara, I'll be toasting you tonight at the pub!

Joke of the Day
(posted April 22, 1:35pm, pst)

One afternoon a wealthy Republican was riding in his limousine when he saw two men along the roadside eating grass. Disturbed, he ordered his driver to stop and he got out to investigate.

He asked one man, "Why are you eating grass?

"We don't have any money for food," the poor man replied. "We have to eat grass."

"Well, then, you can come with me to my house and I'll feed you" the Republican said.

"But sir. I have a wife and two children with me. They are over there, under that tree"

"Bring them along," the Republican replied. Turning to the other poor man he stated, "You come with us also."

The second man, in a pitiful voice then said, "But sir, I also have a wife and SIX children with me!"

"Bring them all, as well," the Republican answered.

They all entered the car, which was no easy task, even for a car as large as the limousine was. Once underway, one of the poor fellows turned to the Republican and said, "Sir, you are too kind. Thank you for taking all of us with you."

The Republican replied, "Glad to do it. You'll really love my place; the grass is almost a foot high!"

Dinosaurs and Blue Balls

Here's an interesting article from New Zealand.,2106,2881926a4560,00.html

Lack of females may have done in dinosaurs - study
21 April 2004

WASHINGTON: An asteroid may have wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago not simply by changing the world's climate and causing years of dark skies, but also by causing too many of them to be born male, US and British researchers said today.

If dinosaurs were like modern-day reptiles such as crocodiles, they change sex based on temperature, David Miller of the University of Leeds in Britain and colleagues noted. And even a small skewing of populations toward males would have led to eventual extinction.

Most experts agree that one or more asteroid impacts probably triggered a series of global changes that killed off the dinosaurs and many other species of life on Earth.

The impacts would have kicked up dust that cooled the air and also triggered volcanic activity that would have created even more dust and ash.

No one really knows if dinosaurs were more like reptiles, or something closer to mammals. Reptiles have very different metabolisms than mammals and also have various ways of determining the sex of offspring.

In mammals, if a baby gets an X and a Y chromosome, it will be male and if it gets two X chromosomes it will be female, with a few very rare exceptions. Similar mechanisms work for birds, snakes and some reptiles such as lizards.

In crocodiles, turtles and some fish, the temperature at which eggs are incubated can affect the sex of the developing babies.

Miller's team ran an analysis that showed a temperature shift could theoretically have led to a preponderance of males. Other studies have shown that when there are too few females, eventually the population dies out.

"The earth did not become so toxic that life died out 65 million years ago; the temperature just changed, and these great beasts had not evolved a genetic mechanism (like our Y chromosome) to cope with that," said Dr Sherman Silber, an infertility expert in St. Louis who worked on the study.

However, crocodiles and turtles had already evolved at the time of the great extinction 65 million years ago. How did they survive?

"These animals live at the intersection of aquatic and terrestrial environments, in estuarine waters and river beds, which might have afforded some protection against the more extreme effects of environmental change, hence giving them more time to adapt," the researchers wrote.


Progressive Voice Silenced: NZ Herald Terminates Barbara Sumner Burstyn's Weekly Column
(posted April 13, 3:30pm pst)

Dissident Voice has been pleased to publish Barbara Sumner Burstyn's stellar weekly New Zealand Herald columns since she first sent them our way last summer. They're among the most widely read articles by DV readers. Her latest column in today's edition of DV, "Euthanasia in the Context of Sick Societies," is her last with the Herald. Burstyn's column was terminated by the Herald editors with little explanation other than her work “suffered from a disconnect to issues of the day.”

Say what?

Take a gander at her latest piece, then read all her previous work (the links are at  the bottom of the article). Her columns suffer from a "disconnect to issues of the day"?


Apparently, the phenomenon of progressive writers purged from prominent mainstream media posts in "democratic" societies is an affliction not confined to North America. It's difficult to manufacture consent when you have independent voices going outside the bounds of tolerable opposition by penning material that cuts to the heart of the system.

Burstyn's columns regularly challenged the powers that be not only in her native New Zealand, but in the United States, which she wrote about frequently because: "America matters. Politically, economically and culturally, the United States is the paramount world influence. Every day we, out here in the colonies (of New Zealand), are affected by America. From the television we watch, to the runaway films our creative community must make to stay alive, to the rules that influence our food, medical and education systems and standards, to the shoes we choose to wear and the coffee many of us drink."

Burstyn tells me her termination is "being portrayed as a simple winnowing out of doubled up opinion. They say other columnists are going, but won't say who. Is it because of corporate toes being stood on? I don't know. They are certainly happy to make it about my content in terms of not enough reference to 'issues of the day.' And certainly other 'left' leaning columnists are much more muted than I am. I always knew my days were numbered there. After all it is a mainstream publication and why would NZ be immune to the same bleaching of content as other publications in the Western world. But they'll never say. It will always be about my work not being up to standard etc."

Burstyn's sacking has elicited much shock and surprise among NZ readers. Burstyn tells me there has also been "a kind of resignation that the media is so inept and docile and spineless that it goes to such pains to remove any one who shouts too loud. Better that those of us with an opinion express it quietly, calmly and with as little fuss as possible, certainly not in a way that sets peoples toes on fires and as far away from mainstream media as possible. After all you don’t want the general public thinking for themselves, now do you."

I hope NZ and American readers don't simply accept the further narrowing of opinion in national and international media, especially in these desperately turbulent times. For American readers, some of the best commentaries about US domestic and foreign policies can be found in the international press. Commentators abroad often go far beyond expressing what their mainstream American counterparts can because they don't face the same pressures and constraints writers here do. And that's why it's imperative that readers stand in solidarity with dissenting voices everywhere. Let the Herald know what you think by visiting here.

Barbara, you always have a home here at Dissident Voice.

The story of Jesus?
(posted April 11, 11:15am pst)


The late Bill Hicks is one of my favorite comedians. He was a comic-philosophic genius who died in 1994 from pancreatic cancer at the young age of 32. Rykodisk has put out a few CDs of some of Bill's recorded stand-up performances. Here's one of Bill's takes on Easter from the CD "Philosophy":


"I was over in Australia during Easter, which was interesting. Interesting to note they celebrate Easter the same way we do: commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus.. by telling our children a giant bunny rabbit left chocolate eggs in the night. Now, I wonder why we're fucked up as a race. Anybody got any clues out there? Where do you get this shit from? Why those two things? Why not goldfish left Lincoln logs in your sock drawer? As long as we're makin' shit up, go hogwild, you know? At least a goldfish with a Lincoln log on its back going across your floor to your sock drawer has a miraculous connotation to it. "Mummy, I woke up today and there was a Lincoln log in me sock drawer!"... "That's the story of Jesus!" Who comes up with this shit? I've read the Bible, I can't find the word 'bunny' or 'chocolate' anywhere in that fuckin' book. Do y'all have different books of the Bible than I do? Are y'all Gideons?"


Here's another take by Hicks from his censored appearance on the Dave Letterman Show in 1993:

Bill: I've been traveling a lot lately. I was over in Australia during Easter. It was interesting to note that they celebrate Easter the same way as we do - commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus by telling our children a giant bunny rabbit left chocolate eggs in the night.

Audience laughs.

Bill: I wonder why we're so messed up as a race? You know, I've read the Bible - can't find the words "bunny" or "chocolate" in the whole book.

Audience laughs.

Bill: Where do we get this stuff from? And why those two things? Why not "goldfish left Lincoln logs in our sock drawers"? I mean, as long as we are making things up, why not go hog wild?

Audience laughs and applauds.

Bill: I think it's interesting how people act on their beliefs. A lot of Christians, for instance, wear crosses around their necks. Nice sentiment, but do you think that when Jesus comes back, he's really going to want to look at a cross?

Audience laughs. Bill makes a face of pain and horror.

Bill: Ow. Maybe that's why he hasn't shown up yet ...

Audience laughs.

Bill: (as Jesus looking down from heaven) I'm not going, Dad, no, they're still wearing crosses - they totally missed the point. When they start wearing fishes, I might go back again ... no, I'm not going ... OK, I'll tell you what - I'll go back as a bunny ...

Audience bursts into applause and laughter. The band kicks into "Revolution" by The Beatles.

Bill: Thank you very much! Good night!

(Bill crosses over to the seat next to Letterman's desk. )

Letterman: Good set, Bill! Always nice to have you drop by with an uplifting message!

Audience and Bill laugh. Cut to commercial.


Give Yourself a Hand
(posted April 11, 2am pst)

"A stroke a day keeps the doctor away" isn't an evening news headline or "up next" teaser you're likely to find here in rightward drifting America. After all, this is a country where a Surgeon General was forced to resign after only 15 months in office by a Democratic president because of conservative outrage over her mild statement, in response to the question of whether masturbation should be taught in schools as a way to prevent AIDS, that "Masturbation is something that is part of human sexuality, and is part of something that perhaps should be taught." A country where the staged and silly baring of Janet Jackson's breast during the Super Bowl half time show "unleashed a torrent of moral effluvia" and another retrogressive wave of moral puritanism. And that's a crying shame in a nation where prostate cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer among men, an affliction that kills almost 30,000 annually. And the numbers are expected to swell in the coming years.


According to the National Prostate Cancer Coalition, "One in six American men is at lifetime risk of prostate cancer. If a close relative has prostate cancer, a man's risk of the disease more than doubles. With two relatives, his risk increases fivefold. With three close relatives, his risk is about 97%. In the next 24 hours, prostate cancer will claim the lives of over 80 American men." 


A big story amidst last week's health news are the findings of a new study published in the April 7 edition of The Journal of the American Medical Association, which indicates the more frequently men have ejaculations, the less likely they'll be afflicted by prostate cancer.


This, umm, seminal study conducted by researchers from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland is the largest of its kind to date. The sexual habits of 30,000 men, age 46-81, were surveyed from 1992-2000. NCI's Michael F. Leitzmann, the study's lead researcher, said in a prepared statement: "Our results suggest that high ejaculation frequency possibly may be associated with a lower risk of total and organ-confined prostate cancer."  "These associations were not explained by potential risk factors for prostate cancer, such as age, family history of prostate cancer, history of syphilis or gonorrhea, smoking, and diet."


The men began the study in 1992 by filling out a questionnaire in which they provided the history of their ejaculation frequency. They then responded to follow-up questionnaires every two years. Given the differences between age groups in monthly ejaculation frequency, researchers used a lifetime average to make comparisons.


Leitzmann reports that compared to a reference group who ejaculated four to seven times per month, "each increase of three ejaculations per week was associated with a 15 per cent decrease in the risk of prostate cancer." "More than 12 ejaculations per month would start conferring the benefit - on average every second day or so.”


The group with the highest lifetime average -- 21 ejaculations a month - were 33% less likely to develop the cancer than the reference group.


The results buttress a smaller 2003 Australian study by Cancer Council Victoria in Melbourne. In that study, 1079 men with prostate cancer answered a questionnaire about their sexual habits. Their responses were compared to those of 1,259 healthy men of the same age group. The study team concluded that the more men between the ages of 20 and 50 ejaculate, the less their chances of developing prostate cancer.


As an article in New Scientist points out: "The results contradict those of previous studies, which have suggested that having had many sexual partners, or a high frequency of sexual activity, increases the risk of prostate cancer by up to 40 per cent. The key difference is that these earlier studies defined sexual activity as sexual intercourse, whereas the latest study focused on the number of ejaculations, whether or not intercourse was involved."


The latest and earlier Australian studies involved mostly white men. It's unclear whether the same results would hold for black men, who have the highest prostate cancer rates. However, according to Leitzmann, the "biological mechanisms that might explain the results probably do not differ by race."


The exact explanation for the finding is still a matter of speculation, but a plausible one is what Australian researcher Graham Giles calls the "prostatic stagnation hypothesis." "Increased ejaculation may allow the prostate gland to clear itself of carcinogens or of materials that form a substrate for the development of carcinogens." Another possibility is that frequent ejaculations stop crystalloid micro-calcifications, which are associated with prostate cancer, from forming in the prostate duct. It's suspected that stress driven central nervous system activity may contribute to prostate cell division and cancer growth. Ejaculation may release the psychological tension that exacerbates this activity.


The new study's researchers are quick to explain that the findings shouldn't be seen as encouragement for intensified sexual activity, defined as ejaculation from intercourse, masturbation, or during sleep. "I don't believe at this point our research would warrant suggesting men should alter their sexual behaviour in order to modify their risk," says Leitzmann.


Not everybody is convinced by the studies. Dr. Michael Naslund at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, noting that the questionnaires in the latest study asks men older than 40 to recall their ejaculation frequencies when they were in their 20s, asks, "Can they really remember how often they ejaculated so many years ago?"


I don't know about other guys, but I can give a pretty good estimate. The reasons why are none of your business, but it doesn't seem to me at all far-fetched that most men are capable of giving a relatively accurate weekly or monthly ejaculation estimate.


Dr. Michael O'Leary, a urologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, says, "The study is certainly amusing, but no one's going to tell their patients to ejaculate more frequently," added Dr. O'Leary. "This study is provocative more than anything else."


Graham Giles points out that neither study examines ejaculation during the teen years, possibly a crucial factor. Nevertheless, "Although much more research remains to be done, the take home message is that ejaculation is not harmful, and very probably protective of prostatic health - and it feels good!"


Damn straight mate.


Clearly more research needs to be done. You teen and 20-something males can help advance this crucial research by keeping track of your Os, perhaps a sort of flow chart. And don't exaggerate how many times you came, hard as that may be. 


Whatever the final results on the particular topic of prostate cancer, there can be no denying that orgasms are good for men and women in general.


Dr. Theresa Crenshaw, author of The Alchemy of Love and Lust, says DHEA, a sex hormone that increases libido, is released during orgasm. “DHEA may be the most powerful chemical in our personal world. It helps balance the immune system, improves cognition, promotes bone growth, and maintains and repairs tissues, keeping your skin healthy and supple. It can mean less frequent colds and flu.” Indeed, a study by Wilkes University in Pennsylvania reports individuals who have sex once or twice a week show 30% higher levels of the immunoglobulin A antibody, known to boost the immune system. Regular sex reduces depression (lousy sex notwithstanding), helps improve better bladder control (the PC muscle, which controls urine flow, gets worked during sex), reduces risk of heart disease, provides pain relief (migraines, arthritis, etc), and is the one cardiovascular exercise most people can get excited about. (Alan Farnham, "Is Sex Necessary?",, October 8, 2003)


I can't resist quoting in full one benefit of regular sex from the article:


Better teeth: Seminal plasma contains zinc, calcium and other minerals shown to retard tooth decay. Since this is a family Web site, we will omit discussion of the mineral delivery system. Suffice it to say that it could be a far richer, more complex and more satisfying experience than squeezing a tube of Crest--even Tartar Control Crest. Researchers have noted, parenthetically, that sexual etiquette usually demands the brushing of one's teeth before and/or after intimacy, which, by itself, would help promote better oral hygiene.


So down with "Shock and Awe," and up with "Stroke and Ahh." "Make Love Not War" has more positive and deep implications than the coiners of that wonderful slogan may have imagined. It's a pity the Prude Police in this sexually backward country may continue to get away with scaring the media and politicians into "avoiding controversy" by not making the importance of regular sex and/or masturbation part of the national discussion.


Here's shaking a stick at them!


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