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12
F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / M A Y 2 0 1 2
C
Y B E R N O T E S
with the goal of recognizing individuals
or institutions conducting “scientific
research in the life sciences leading to
improving the quality of human life.”
Opponents took little consolation from
a concurrent decision to change the
program’s name to the “International
UNESCO-Equatorial Guinea Prize.”
The Committee to Protect Journal-
ists
(
www.cpj.org
), a c
onsistent critic
of the donation, quickly denounced
the decision. “The purpose of this
prize is to whitewash the image of one
of Africa’s most repressive leaders, and
no one is fooled by the name change,”
CPJ Africa Advocacy Director Mo-
hamed Keita said. He added, “The 33
states who voted in favor have chosen
to promote the image of President
Obiang rather than uphold basic stan-
dards of human rights. They should be
ashamed.”
Lisa Misol of Human Rights Watch
(
www.hrw.org
) wa
s equally scathing.
“This vote is an insult to the people of
Equatorial Guinea and damages the
reputation of UNESCO,” she told
AFP.
There is still some cause for hope,
for a legal opinion requested by the
UNESCO board suggests that a change
in the source of financing may have in-
validated the program. On that basis,
UNESCO Director-General Irina
Bokova, who is opposed to the prize,
plans to request reconsideration of the
decision.
— Steven Alan Honley, Editor
Some Unexpectedly
Tasty Spam
Writing in the March 12
Wall Street
Journal
(
www.wsj.com
), La
ura Meck-
ler reports on a serendipitous global e-
mail chain. She begins her story,
headlined “Changing the Subject:
Spam Makes Friends Across Conti-
nents,” as follows:
“It had the makings of an e-mail dis-
aster. An otherwise deletable piece of
spam arrived, and one person after an-
other hit ‘Reply All.’ Like a mutant
virus, the message multiplied. Recipi-
ents from around the globe — Sydney,
Dubai, Rio, London, Toronto—began
replying with variations of ‘Take me off
this list.’
“Then a strange thing happened.
Camaraderie broke out amid the spam.
There was a drink at the Oxford and
Cambridge Club in London. A woman
in Idaho became interested in a char-
ity backed by a stranger in Toronto.
Dozens of people traded contact infor-
mation. And just like that, what started
as a petty annoyance, a blight common
to our interconnected lives, became
something quite different.”
Meckler reports that the chain
began on Feb. 29 with a message writ-
ten mostly in Malayalam, a language
spoken in parts of India, sent from a
web portal, Gulfmalayaly.com. Due to
a glitch, every recipient of that message
then received an autoreply from Busi-
ness Wire Inc., a company that distrib-
utes news releases, signing them up to
its listserv. Because the full address list
was not visible, recipients who sent
replies demanding to be unsubscribed
were unaware that those follow-up
messages also went to every recipient,
compounding the problem.
Within a day of the original e-mail,
hundreds of increasingly angry mes-
sages were flying through the ether.
But then Pádraig Belton, a London
writer, made a suggestion: “Personally,
I feel that after this many e-mails from
you lot, we should all knock off together
to the pub.”
Robert Peacock, a business execu-
tive in London, followed up with a pro-
posal of his own: “Rather than getting
steamed up about all this, maybe it is
worth considering setting up a
LinkedIn group in which we can ex-
change crazy banter—or possibly even
business opportunities if we can estab-
lish our common link.”
The next day, Andrew Wong, a
travel manager at TripAdvisor in Lon-
don, set up such a group and called it,
“Unified by Spam— the Social Exper-
iment.” ByMarch 7, more than 75 peo-
ple from all over the world had joined,
and the group continues to expand.
There is even talk of a social-network-
ing site centered on the spam group,
where people could find connections
when they travel to other cities.
As Belton says, “Whoever sent that
spam may have done us an actual sort
of favor.”
— Steven Alan Honley, Editor
50 Years Ago...
Been wondering how much of the Agency for Interna-
tional Development has finally been settled into New
State? Our reporter made a check and discovered that AID is currently
housed in six locations – in addition to New State. There are no more
rooms available for it at State, but AID’s widespread technical assis-
tance goes on without interruption.
— From “Washington Letter,” by Gwen Barrows, FSJ, May 1962.