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As I reported last week, newspapers are in trouble. Online news outlets are eating their lunch, in some cases cutting their print audience in half since the advent of the Internet. Even USA Today, once considered the most avant-garde with colorful graphics and bite-sized news stories that didn’t “jump” to another page, is faltering and looking for ways to survive. Circulation stands at 1.8 million.

In an effort to stanch the ebbing tide of readers and advertisers, USA Today’s front page was redesigned and more colorful graphics were added to what had already made the paper stand out when it was launched in 1982. The new improved USA Today now includes bar codes that can be scanned by mobile devices to view videos and other digital content related to certain stories.

In the past five years, the decline in newspaper print ads has been steep – 50 percent – as advertisers realize they can target their online audience for a fraction of the print edition cost.

USA Today executive editors say investigative journalism will also be emphasized in the new and improved paper.

Now, there’s a novel approach to newsgathering!

Another print behemoth gasps for breath

In an effort to boost revenue, the New York Times implements its pay wall on Monday, March 28, in a mishmash jumble of pricing plans for online readers. Not sure this will work any better for them than their previous ill-fated attempt. Perhaps the Grey Lady also should try “emphasizing investigative journalism”?

In addition, the Times confirmed a report that it had dropped its case against @freeNYTimes, a Twitter feed designed to help readers circumvent the forthcoming pay wall. The newspaper had created a pretty big loophole in its pay wall.

The publisher also asked Twitter earlier this week to disable the account because it was in violation of the Times trademark. The logo has since been removed.

Before:

After:

And the traditional media wonder why their circulation numbers are down and their ratings are in the commode?

Jon Evans at Tech Crunch doesn’t have a very high regard for the media’s coverage of the Japan earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear plant crisis.

Twenty thousand people are dead,” Evans writes, “and the drooling dimwits of the media can’t stop babbling about Fukushima, where exactly one person died – a crane operator who had the misfortune to be up in the cab of his vehicle when the fifth largest earthquake in recorded history hit – and fewer than 30 were injured, only a handful of whom required treatment for radiation exposure.”

Nuke concerns? App supplies info within 50-mile radius of your location

And speaking of radiation, heightened interest in nuclear power as a result of the earthquake in Japan and damages to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant there has spawned a new Android app, Nuclear WatchDawg.

The app reveals where nuclear power plants and associated safety and environmental concerns are within a 50-mile radius of your location anywhere in the U.S. The app aggregates data from some 30 sources, mostly government and academic research labs whose research is in the public domain.

Social networks impacting political revolutions

I’ve written extensively here of the predominant role played by Twitter and Facebook in recent Middle East uprisings. The social media sites are being used by revolutionaries in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain and Iran as well as other nations to organize rallies and disseminate info in real-time. In fact, Google’s Wael Ghonim is to receive the JFK “Profile in Courage” award for his work in organizing the Egyptian revolution.

Predicting political unrest is uppermost in the echelons of intelligence communities who were caught flat-footed by information flow in open sources such as newspapers, local radio shows and, of course, Facebook and Twitter.

“Wiretaps and secret intercepts didn’t help U.S. officials predict the Arab Spring that has brought revolution across the Middle East and North Africa,” writes Dina Temple-Raston of NPR.

So now what? Tracking what citizens are searching for online by using the search engine Google Trends, a way of looking at what people are focusing on by mapping out their Google searches. Marketing firms have been using Google Trends for some time. The government has, too.

And did you know that Foursquare and Google Latitude can inform your friends (or enemies) when you are nearby? Your cell phone tracks your every move too. Read what one man found out when he court-ordered his records from his cell phone service provider. It will shock you.

Twitter founder Biz Stone says tweeting does not equal activism and Twitter did not cause the revolutions in the Middle East. So why has China banned Twitter and other social media sites from its population of one billion plus? Stone said recently that Twitter has been looking at ways to operate in China while not compromising its core dedication to free discourse and communication. Several homegrown microblogs patterned after Twitter have already become popular in China.

By the way, on Twitter’s 5th anniversary, Conan O’Brien interviewed Twitter’s Biz Stone. Watch the interview here.

The man in the middle

Security experts say that China is most likely using invisible intermediary servers, or “transparent proxies,” to quietly intercept and relay network messages while modifying the contents of their citizens’ online communications. This makes it possible to block email messages while making it appear as if Gmail is malfunctioning. It’s reportedly becoming increasingly common for governments to use transparent proxies to censor and track dissidents and protestors.

Here’s how it’s done: traffic from a certain network is forced through the proxy, allowing communications to be monitored and modified on the fly. Intercepting and relaying traffic is known as a “man in the middle” attack.

Last week Google said its Gmail users in China had been unable to use their accounts to access or send email messages or view contact lists but that the source of the problems were not on Google’s end.

China denied the problem was on their side. “This is an unacceptable accusation,” said Jiang Yu, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman and declined to comment further on Google’s Gmail problems.

Adding to Google’s headaches, many Chinese are increasingly relying on smart phones for both telephone and computer services, including surfing and searching the web. Google currently is gaining on the Android market share against China’s Baidu Inc.

But Google’s ambitions to plant itself as a leader in China’s mobile-search sector are in jeopardy after raising Beijing’s ire by redirecting Internet users in China to an uncensored search engine in Hong Kong. The Chinese government could pressure partners to sever ties with the company, and Google knows that its products could be blocked any day by censors.

AT&T’s broadband metering runs into trouble with inaccurate readings

AT&T wants to put caps on your bandwidth, but according to this report, they can’t be trusted to measure it correctly. Not a situation consumers should take without protest. Billing was off by a whopping 4,700 percent!

Help Wanted: California in high-tech hiring binge

Imagine working at a job that paid you a ten-percent raise just because. And imagine that you have three job offers pending because the service you provide is in such hot demand, they’ll throw in free food, lots of perks and loads of cash. Can’t happen in this economy you say? Au contraire. Silicon Valley is in a hiring binge and the competition is fierce for your talents if you are a software developer, engineer or other high-tech worker. In these times of diminishing job markets, the unemployed and college students would be wise to head for the hills … or in this case, the Valley.

Employment figures in and around California’s Bay area are improving.

Obama’s economic policies are working for at least one sector – the social network LinkedIn and its one million business professionals.

Crowds wait in line as iPad 2 begins international sales

Imagine spending 33 hours waiting in line to purchase an iPad 2. That’s exactly what people are doing as CNN reported long lines in Berlin, London, Sydney and other cities as the newest version of Apple’s touch-screen tablet went on sale last Friday in 25 countries. Apple, which has sold more than 15 million iPads in the past year, said more than 65 percent of Fortune 100 companies are testing or deploying the iPad, including Procter & Gamble Co. and Hyatt Hotels Corp.

Why is the iPad so popular? Think microwave oven. In the meantime, iPad 3 is in the pipeline. And the difference between iPad 2 and the newer version? Here’s what you can expect.

“OMG” “LOL” “FYI” accepted into OED

OMG! WWSS? (What would Shakespeare say?) He might not be LOL, IYKWIMAIKYD (if you know what I mean and I know you do). Welcome to the New Age of Language (NAOL), the heightened use of abbreviations in our culture made popular through the use of texting and emailing. It’s the language of electronic communication, the new speak of the 21st century, officially affirmed by its inclusion in the Oxford English Dictionary. FYI.

Bits and bytes

Twitter headed to U.K. Parliament floor. MPs to use electronic devices “with decorum” during parliamentary debates.

Twimal-ly adorableTwitter’s newest toy gadget reads Tweets aloud for you.

Does Facebook need to fix these five things?

How did MySpace lose 10 million users in a month?

Yahoo Search is attempting to recapture market share. But “search” is Google’s “economic castle,” and it will be defended.

Comparing Chrome, IE and Firefox.

Real savings at the pump with this smart phone app.

The time capsule

1867 – U.S. purchases Alaska from Russia – “Seward’s Folly”

1951 – Julius and Ethel Rosenberg guilty of espionage

1971 – Charles Manson sentenced to death

1979 – Nuclear accident at Three Mile Island

1981 – President Reagan wounded in assassination attempt

1996 – “Unabomber” suspect arrested in Montana

2005 – Pope John Paul II dies

Now playing at the Princess Theater, Urbana, Ill.

Congratulations to WorldNetDaily readers Bruce Andrzejewski of Milwaukee, Wis., and Adrienne Bowman of Paducah, Ky., who were among the first to correctly guess actor Tom Cruise as Col. Claus von Stauffenberg in “Valkyrie,” the 2008 American historical thriller film set in Nazi Germany during World War II.

The film depicts the July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler by German army officers and to use the Operation Valkyrie national emergency plan to take control of the country.

The quote: “I’m a soldier, I serve my country. But this is not my country. I was lying out there bleeding to death, thinking, if I die now, I leave nothing to my children but shame.”

This week’s quote: “Some of the things he said were true. But he is real good at taking the truth and making a lie out of it.”

Name the movie, the actor and the character. Send your answer to me at the email address below. Good luck!

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