- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 13, 2005

Ringing up

“In 1997, your cell phone could make two kinds of sounds. It could “ring’ … or it could play a single-line melody, like “Fur Elise.’ If you’ve ever heard a cell phone bleep out Beethoven without the harmony, you’ll understand that this wasn’t much of a choice.

“At about this time, Nokia, the Finnish cell-phone company, introduced “smart messaging’ … and Vesa-Matti Paananen, a Finnish computer programmer, realized that it would work equally well for transmitting bits of songs. Paananen developed software called Harmonium that enabled people to program their cell phones to make musically complex sequences … that they could forward to friends using smart messaging. …

“Ringtones … cost about two dollars and are typically no more than 25 seconds long. Nevertheless … ringtones generated $4 billion in sales around the world in 2004.”

Sasha Frere-Jones, writing on “Ring My Bell,” in the March 7 issue of the New Yorker

Diversity in faith

“At the core of the faith-based initiative is the recognition that a diverse nation is best served by a diverse array of organizations. And a diverse array of organizations is best preserved by permitting them to make mission-driven hiring decisions. If diversity is good, then religious discrimination in hiring is good. …

“In short, all that faith-based organizations really want, for the most part, is the ability that every secular group has, which is the ability to hire only those who support their mission. No one demands, for example, that the National Abortion Rights Action League hire otherwise qualified pro-life receptionists, nor that the National Rifle Association hire otherwise qualified pro-gun-control public relations staffers.

“Why may a faith-based drug-rehabilitation group not similarly be able to hire only those social workers who support all aspects of its mission?

“To those who take the easy line of opposing government-funded discrimination, we have to reply that what the government is funding here is religious freedom, diversity and individual empowerment.”

Joseph M. Knippenberg, writing on “In Defense of “Discrimination,’” for the Ashbrook Center at www.ashbrook.org

Gossip vs. fact

“Gossip is gradually replacing news; sometimes, it is blatantly used for political ends. …

“The idea that the media should “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable’ is a solid tenet of social and political justice.

“Without facts, however, there is no story. And justice is not served by sensationalism, especially when the publicity is used for monetary or political advantage.

“The non-sensationalized truth of the [Bill] Cosby “case’: a former associate of Cosby named Andrea Constand leveled a highly publicized charge of sexual assault that allegedly occurred in January 2004. The police have now closed their investigation due to “insufficient credible and admissible evidence.’

“A civil suit for monetary damages was filed [last week].

“If society’s love of a second act holds true, then the civil case will be surrounded by a glut of innuendo and gossip-mongering. A stream of political commentators and legal consultants will frame the gossip in legalese and raise issues that lend social importance to their fishwifery.”

Wendy McElroy, writing on “Cosby Case Shows Media’s Muckraking Mania,” Wednesday at www.ifeminists.com

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