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Bloggers Rock Out To Eurovision

With millions of sites floating through the blogosphere, who really has time to peek at even a fraction of them? Blogophile reads them for you and presents a weekly roundup of the buzz on must-read blogs. Blogophile appears new each Wednesday, and is written by CBSNews.com's Melissa P. McNamara.

Bloggers sing the praises of the "Eurovision Song Contest" winner. Read what they say about Finland's new hero. And, an article about doctors treating women as "forever pregnant" has riled up feminist bloggers. Plus, what happens when you fight back against spammers? Find out below.

Bloggers Take On Eurovision

I confess that when "Eurovision Song Contest" popped up as a most searched topic on the blogs for almost a week straight, I was puzzled, having never heard of it. Apparently I'm not alone, at least among fellow Americans.

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"The annual Eurovision Song Contest—now in its 51st year—is one of the world's most watched regular music event," Mike Atkinson writes on Slate.com.
"Despite this, the show remains entirely unknown to all but a handful of Americans."

But the annual contest has taken over the blogosphere. For those not in the know, Eurovision seeks to discover "the best song in Europe," with Europeans voting by telephone. But it basically turns into a kitschy, campy television show. Since most people hear the competing songs just once before casting their votes, each performance must create an instant (good) impression to ensure that it stands out.

The Guardian's CultureVulture blog describes it simply as "a combination of Star Trek convention, Atlantic City floor show and Lourdes."

The basic requirements are that no song can exceed three minutes and the winning country must host the next year's contest. This year, Athens hosted the wacky contest. Previous well-known winners include ABBA in 1974 with "Waterloo," and Celine Dion, who won for Switzerland in 1988.

This Saturday's showdown was broadcast live in 38 countries to a TV audience estimated at 100 million. And about 13,000 fans packed the indoor arena used during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, to see the spectacle live.

And in what many bloggers viewed as a stunning upset, Lordi, a Finnish metal band with monster masks and apocalyptic lyrics, won the contest with their "Hard Rock Hallelujah."

Among some of the early acts was Spain's Las Ketchup, performing "Un Bloody Mary Por Favor." And Germany's entry also drew particular attention from Americans because of its Texas-named artists, Texas Lightning, who performed, "No No Never."

But for many bloggers, the contest was not simply about geography. As a Swedish blogger writes on Andreasviklund.com, "I love listening to the entries from the other countries. And it is always fun to guess which ones that will score high."

And bloggers had lots to say about Lordi's triumph. As Attu Sees All describes it, "The band members wear scary masks, which they refuse to take off, and the lead singer wields a chain-saw. Their song Hard Rock Hallelujah is a radical departure from the folk songs usually associated with Eurovision."

Toni, a Finnish blogger, describes reaction out of Finland. "Our country went absolutely BANANAS after our monster-of-an-artist LORDI did the unthinkable and ranked #1! People went out in the streets, celebrating together, singing the winning song and a bunch of other national party anthems... I can't even imagine the sheer amount of press coverage next week! Whoah," he writes.

John, blogging from the UK, writes, "My hat goes off to any band who can get great lyrics such as 'the day of rockening' into their songs somehow. Never have lyrics been so rockin' great since examples from Twisted Sister ('I pledge alligence/ to the United States of rock...')."

But some Russians sensed a scandal was afoot, claiming the vote was skewed against their country's group, Bilan. Bilan's performance of "Never Let You Go" featured an white-clad actor climbing out of a white piano and received one of the highest finishes for a Russian performer in the history of the 51-year-old contest.

Kittan-Man explains the voting is largely political. "The problem with this scheme is that the voting then becomes political, so the East Block all vote for Mother Russia, the Nordic Countries support each other and countries such as Greece and the other Mediterranean countries share votes too. Resulting in some rather strange results," he writes.

Americans may soon learn what the contest is all about. NBC announced it will be developing a U.S. version of Eurovision, in which the 40-odd competing European nations will be replaced by the 50 states of the union.

Forever Pregnant

One of the most trafficked stories in the blogosphere this week is a Washington Post article, "Forever Pregnant," that has enraged feminist bloggers.

The Post reports that new federal guidelines ask all females capable of conceiving a baby to treat themselves -- and to be treated by the health care system -- as pre-pregnant, regardless of whether they plan to get pregnant anytime soon.

Or as Pandagon summarizes it, "The general gist of the article is that America's high infant mortality rate is best addressed by scolding women for not acting like they are pregnant all the time or about to be."

According to the article, women "between first menstrual period and menopause" are supposed to take supplements of folic acid, refrain from smoking, maintain a healthy weight and watch chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes. Women are also advised to stay away from cat feces and "discuss the danger alcohol poses to a developing fetus."

"Pause. Breathe. OK. What?," Rebecca Traister writes on Salon.com. "So even when we're not pregnant, or have no intention of becoming pregnant, or have already been pregnant and are done having babies, we should make our theoretically possible but wholly imaginary fetuses our priorities."

But is this what the CDC really recommended, some bloggers like Amanda at Pandagon ask? She say the CDC is only asking doctors to get women to plan their pregnancies and be aware of how to manage their health when those pregnancies are planned to occur.

Amanda says the Washington Post ignored this detail fearing a political backlash. "I think it's because it's a political hot potato to openly admit that the two most important steps towards reducing the infant mortality rate and improving the health of newborns in general is to get health care to every woman and to empower women with the knowledge and tools they need to get pregnant only when they want to," Amanda says.

Majikthise agrees there's politics at play. "The political climate in Bush's America is such that we can't even discuss public health, let alone women's healthcare, except under the pretext of making women better baby factories," she writes.


Some other bloggers questioned if the issue isn't really about providing those women who need it – but can't afford it - with access to health care. As the article notes, women who can't afford to see a doctor aren't likely to be able to get their "pre-pregnancy care" either, since obstacles to this "include getting insurance companies to pay for visits."

As Ezra Klein blogs, "There was something more to be seen in the report."

"It offered a loud call to increase health care coverage among poor women, a full-throated defense of Medicaid, and a recommendation to increase the use of family planning waivers," Ezra says.

And others just don't like the idea of grouping all women together. "It's basically assuming that all women capable of reproducing should be doing so, or at the very least be prepared to do so," a blogger writes at Not My Spot. "It defines women by their function as reproductive units and incubators rather than as individuals."

Jamie Ward agrees. "I'm sorry, but this whole thing comes off as yet another overbearing paternalistic attempt to control women," she writes.

But not everyone shares the bloggers' criticism. Schroedinger sums up the opinion of many bloggers who say the report is a wake-up call to men and women. "Somehow I can't see anything wrong with encouraging women to not smoke, control their asthma and diabetes, and stay generally healthy," Schroedinger writes. "It's going to help you whether you ever have a baby or not."

Waging War Against Spam

Is the fight against spam a war that can't be won? When a Silicon Valley company, Blue Security, asked spammers to stop sending junk e-mail to its clients, the company decided to crib from spammers' play sheet: Blue Security bombarded the spammers with requests from all of its customers at the same time.

The controversial strategy worked, clogging spammers' in-boxes and disrupting the spammers' ability to send e-mails...but only to a point. Not long after, a spammer counterattacked, flooding Bluesecurity.com with so much traffic that it could not operate. And, the counterattack was also waged on other sites too, including Craigslist and Six Apart. As a result, Blue Security was forced to close its site, the Washington Post reports, the victim of a Denial-of-Service attack.

Disheartening? Many bloggers think so. "I find the entire episode, including Blue Security's surrender, fascinating and disturbing. Basically there is an unspoken understanding out there that the bad guys rule and nothing can be done to stop them," Warner Crooker writes on Life on the Wicked Stage. "WWW stands more for Wild Wild West than Word-Wide Web."

Sandeep Singh Rawat is equally disturbed. "The fact that a spammer can hold millions of Web sites hostage just because he is upset that someone is meddling in his business is disturbing," he blogs.

Still, it's not surprising, Sandeep adds. He says it's a reminder that "the underlying framework that the commercial Web rests upon was never designed with mutual trust and security in mind. As such, it will take a lot more than clever gimmickry to give businesses and consumers the upper hand over Internet hucksters, spammers and criminals."

Some bloggers, like Kevin Dee, are worried about what this means for their own company. "It is a very scary thing to know that someone, with the knowledge and power to seriously hurt your company, has launched an attack," he writes on The Eagle Blog. "...I think I will sleep a little less soundly knowing that my company, like most companies, is this vulnerable."

Other more tech-savvy bloggers wrote in with their own recommendations for how Blue Security could improve its server issues. When CmdrTaco posted an entry about the Post story on SlashDot, bloggers offered their own technical solutions, ranging from an Orion/Router style network to a SETI project, "a nice graphical screensaver that uses spare processor cycles to send email spam to known spammers."

Miller Time

Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who notoriously spent 85 days in jail in connection with the CIA leak investigation, has resurfaced. She recently wrote an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal, and is rumored to be at work on a piece for The Atlantic Monthly.

But this week, she played a starring role in the blogosphere, with her vocal critics latching on to her revelation that prior to 9/11, she had a tip about a domestic terror attack.

Posted on Alternet.com Monday, Miller says in the interview that the report was sparked by the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole, which increased her reporting on al Qaeda. She says that ultimately led, in July 2001, "to a still-anonymous top-level White House source who shared top-secret NSA signals intelligence (SIGINT) concerning an even bigger impending al-Qaida attack, perhaps to be visited on the continental United States."

But she didn't write the story. Yet, two months later — on 9/11 — Miller and her editor at the Times, Stephen Engelberg, both remembered and regretted the story they "didn't do."

"You know, sometimes in journalism you regret the stories you do, but most of the time you regret the ones that you didn't do," Miller says.

But some bloggers think Miller's claim doesn't add up. "Once again, it makes little sense," Sploid.com writes. "Miller offers very little to back up her claims and seems -- as usual -- coldly disinterested in the horrible fate of the actual people who were murdered on that day."

And others, like Digby, still see a connection between this revelation and her reporting on Iraq. "But then she not only had the story of an impending major terrorist attack and didn't get it in the paper but she then reported a bunch of manufactured drivel on Iraq's fantasy WMD and managed to help the administration start an unnecessary war. She's a one-woman wrecking crew, that one," Digby writes.

Will Bunch at Attytood also faults Miller for not further investigating the story and blames editors for "electing not to publish it." He points out that Miller acknowledges in the interview that she was in the midst of writing a book.

"There's got to be a better system here," Attytood blogs. "In theory, we think that newspaper reporters writing books is a good thing, certainly for the career of the reporter and usually for the reading public. But must the public's right-to-know be a casualty, time and time again?"

But, wait, is this news anyway? Emptywheel at The Next Hurrah says Richard Clarke said the same exact thing. "Given Judy's and her then editor's description of her source as impeccable, and given that she got this news when hanging around Counter-Terrorism at a time when we know they were on heightened alert, I'm betting that Clarke is Judy's source," he blogs. "So she's telling us what Clarke told us in 2004."

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By Melissa McNamara

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