Friday, March 21, 2008

Avoid trap of misinformation

This first published March 20, 2008 in the Henderson Home News, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

Like many of you, I have access to the Internet and an e-mail address — OK I have close to a dozen e-mail addresses. It’s a little much, I agree, but keep in mind I have developed them over many years. As a matter of organization, they all end up at one address.

So you could imagine just how much spam, the Internet version of junk mail, that I receive? Thank heaven for spam filters that block many of them by sending them to a “junk” folder.

Being an avid e-mailer lends itself to being put on multiple family and friends’ lists of favorites, which is a little tougher to regulate.

What bothers me more than anything is misinformation that is passed along as gospel on the information highway. There is no other space that has the amount of information the Internet does. However, there is no place or space that has more misinformation than the Internet, either, suggesting it could also be named the misinformation highway. May I suggest calling it the gauntlet, where you can try to figure good from bad.

Once in a while I will get an outrageous sack of bull that doesn’t seem to be logical, so much that I need to know the truth.

When this happens, I turn to a Web site called, the mother of all urban legend busters on the Web.

When I find something isn’t true, I send an e-mail back to the sender and everyone they sent to with the truth according to Sometimes it’s a gentle message and other times it’s a full shame-on-you for passing bad information.

What I’ve discovered is that I’m receiving fewer e-mails that contain bad information from my friends and family. Occasionally, I will receive a message that is directed just to me asking if such and such is true or not.

You should be aware that most of that outrageous spam is designed to incite an emotional reaction by the reader to join in the mob mentality of hang ’em first and ask questions later. It is the hope of spammers that you will send it to all your friends.

What you may not know is the spammer has included hidden text that sends all those addresses back to them.

This week I received an e-mail that was titled “Allegedly” and it read:
“This is a new ship Wal-Mart had built to make 10-day cycles between China and the USA. It can load and refuel in less than one day. A ship’s beam is its width, if you are a landlubber.
“All I can say is if it ever sinks, Wal-Mart and a lot of U.S. consumers will be in trouble.
“This is how Wal-Mart gets all its stuff from China. Get a load of this ship! 15,000 containers and a 207-foot beam! And look at the crew size for a ship longer than a U.S. aircraft carrier, which has a complement of 5,000 men and officers.
“Think it’s big enough? Notice that 207-foot beam means it was NOT designed for the Panama or Suez Canal. It is strictly trans-Pacific. Check out the cruise speed: 31 knots means the goods arrive four days before the typical container ship (18-20 knots) on a China-to-California run. So this behemoth is hugely competitive carrying perishable goods.
“This ship was built in three or perhaps as many as five sections. The sections were floated together and then were welded. The ship is named Emma Maersk. The command bridge is higher than a 10-story building and has 11 crane rigs that can operate simultaneously.”

Sounds impressive, but not everything you read is factual, and there lies the problem.

The Emma Maersk is a real ship, but it wasn’t built by or specifically for Wal-Mart. It was built by Maersk Line, one of the largest shipping companies in the world. Wal-Mart does use Maersk Line.

After checking the Maersk Line Web site, I found the Emma Maersk sails an Asia-Europe trade lane of ports. There are no “10-day cycles between China and California.”

The actual width is 183 feet, allowing it to go through the Suez Canal to ports in Rotterdam, Holland. It can carry 11,000 (ETU) equivalent 20-foot units, not 15,000. The Emma does have 1,000 plugs for refrigerated containers, and therefore it could carry perishables, but not to U.S. consumers today.

I checked, but nothing came up. Maybe I should submit this item.

Last week I received a spam proclaiming the motto “In GOD We Trust” had been left off the new Presidential gold dollar coins in some kind of conspiracy. The photo was convincing, yet logic was telling me something was wrong with the claim.

After checking it out, I can assure you there is no conspiracy. The “In God We Trust” is located on the rim, or outside edge, of the new coins. Again, this is a good example of how spammers mess with our psyche to get us to respond.

If you are person of faith, you need to be just as cautious, because those sweet little prayer passages and stories that tingle your soul are designed to do just that. The sad thing is, there’s a little devil playing in the background trying get as many souls as possible to spam.

The next time you get one of those e-mails, check it out before you send it off to your friends and family. You might save yourself the aggravation of receiving spam and keeping the spread of misinformation to a minimum.

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Democratic dream team melts down

This first published March 6, 2008 in the Henderson Home News, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

When it comes to presidential primaries and caucuses, few Americans begin to think about a key element of presidential campaigning this early in the game: the running mate or vice president.

I've been thinking about it from Day One. Before anyone announced, I was pondering the “Democratic Dream Team.” As the announcements were made, I speculated with my friends on whether Hillary Clinton could win or possibly Barack Obama. In one of these little banters, Chris Venable, a friend and co-worker, suggested a Clinton-Obama ticket. The only question left was who would be president, and that one quickly clouded the thought process.

Unable to part with the idea, I've closely monitored the campaigns and the attitudes of Sens. Clinton and Obama. For a while, I was sure a deal could be struck between the two, especially because they were being so cordial, handling each other with kid gloves.

Well, as you know things have heated up between the two, Obama coming from behind, not quite tasting blood but certainly smelling it. While Clinton is certainly feeling his hot breath on her neck, she has turned up the rhetorical thermostat to outrun him. This is sure to end in a Democratic meltdown.

The verbal assaults have begun to ratchet up the tension between them, making any amends appear out of reach. The entire fiasco continues to strengthen what I would consider a nonthreatening Sen. John McCain. A month ago, I would have bet either Clinton or Obama could have beat him hands down. However, today I'm not so sure and, if he picks the right running mate to balance his moderate ideology, it could be a slam dunk.

Don't discount the damage to be inflicted by the Johnny Come Lately and spoiler Ralph Nader. At this point, however, if a real independent surfaced, it could make things very interesting.

— — —

While on the topic of presidential politics, I was scanning the AM band one morning last week for the Heidi Harris tease on KDWN 720-AM, and I happened across KXNT 840-AM morning host Alan Stock hitting rock bottom, which is lower than the gutter. He was posing the question of whether or not Barack Obama should have to use his middle name, Hussein, to be identified. Stock suggested that 90 percent of presidents have been identified by their full names.

In certain terms he was correct by saying presidents. In my lifetime I don't recall candidates using their middle name until after being elected and presented to the country as president. Stock's example of Ronald Wilson Reagan was a farce, because, if my memory serves me correctly, his middle name wasn't widely used until he left office.

So what has my shirt collar in a tangle? The idea that Stock would use whatever credibility he might have to inflame public opinion over Obama's middle name, which Obama did not choose, because it happens to be the last name of America's former top enemy.

I found it even more disturbing when Stock tried to take cover under the guise of "The Messenger" — as in don't shoot the messenger. I guess that might work if he were actually a messenger and not a Talk Radio Host trying to push listeners buttons and sell Toyotas, beds and dog food.

Not to take away props from Alan Stock — I know how tough it is to put together a radio program that has any substance — but there is a fine line between messenger and entertainer. It’s probably tough being the opening gig for the best-known talk radio entertainer, “Crush Limp Jaw,” every morning. By the way, Rush Limbaugh is the master of creating derogatory nicknames for politicians and celebrities.

You can always find some relief from all the name-calling by listening to Mark and Mercedes on the FM dial.

— — —

A few parting thoughts about the marital woes of Gov. Jim Gibbons and first lady Dawn Gibbons. It should be no surprise to anyone in the state of Nevada. The first clue was while he was running for the governor's mansion in Carson City, she was running for the House of Representatives, which would have sent her 3,000 miles away. No matter what happens, it shouldn't change how he's been running the state.

Whether or not it could affect his re-electability is another thing if his lackluster performance hasn't done it already. No matter, whatever happens in their married life should remain in their married life unless it inhibits his ability to govern.

Tim O'Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or