Few things warm the heart quite like a goofy publicity stunt. P.T. Barnum once had an elephant plow a field. German phone manufacturer Gigaset is right on Barnum's wavelength. Animals get attention. In this particular case, the animal is a chatty British Gold Macaw on Facebook.

OK, let's review. We have a parrot. We have Facebook. Put the two together in a live-chat format and you get people from around the world jawing with a bird over the Internet's most popular social-networking site.

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The parrots will be on duty until the 9th of May between 3 a.m. and 1 p.m. PT. There are a few simple rules. Be patient. Don't swear. He won't answer questions about his personal life, but topics such as biscuits and chickens are OK.

Japan has been asking foreign media to objectively report on the evolving crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday, as reports deemed sensationalist or based on incorrect information have fanned concern and led to import restrictions on Japanese products.

State Foreign Secretary Chiaki Takahashi told a press conference that Tokyo believes some reports by foreign media on the Fukushima crisis were ''excessive'' and has urged the organizations responsible for the stories through Japanese diplomatic missions abroad to correctly and objectively disseminate information.

Ministry officials said some foreign media, including tabloids, emphasized the danger of radioactive materials leaking from the Fukushima nuclear plant by focusing on extreme projections, while erroneously reporting that the plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. has hired homeless people to tackle the ongoing crisis.

Worst of all, the reporting has put the focus entirely on the Fukushima nuclear plant. As worrisome as the issue is, it has been completely blown out of proportion, with talk of meltdown and massive destruction. The tragedy is that the victims of the earthquake and tsunami are all but forgotten at times. While the world turns away to ponder its own nuclear policies — which, for better or for worse, are far from urgent — people are starving and dying after having survived the disaster itself.

The nuclear plant story is exciting and dramatic and is easy to exaggerate, but it will quickly wear thin as the plant cools and the international public realizes that the fears were deliberately whipped up. By then, it could be far too late for many survivors.

As Japan's nuclear crisis deepens, a gulf has developed in the way in which the foreign and Japanese media are covering the unfolding drama. The disparity has led to a stark difference in public perceptions of the gravity of the situation: Many Japanese are going about their daily lives and routines as normal. In sharp contrast, many foreigners have left after being deluged with phone calls from relatives pleading them to leave Japan after watching and reading media reports in their home country.

Today, as social media continues radically to transform how we communicate and interact, I can't help thinking with a heavy heart about The Woman in Blue. You see, in the networking age of Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare, the social invisibility that Vermeer so memorably captured is, to excuse the pun, disappearing. That's because, as every Silicon Valley notable, from Eric Schmidt to Mark Zuckerberg, has publicly acknowledged, privacy is dead: a casualty of the cult of the social. Everything and everyone on the internet is becoming collaborative. The future is, in a word, social.

The object of the game, for any one of these ultimately temporary social networks, is to create the illusion that it is different, permanent, invincible and too big to fail. And to be sure, Facebook has gone about as far as any of them has at creating that illusion.

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Yet social media is itself as temporary as any social gathering, nightclub or party. It's the people that matter, not the venue. So when the trend leaders of one social niche or another decide the place everyone is socializing has lost its luster or, more important, its exclusivity, they move on to the next one, taking their followers with them. (Facebook's successor will no doubt provide an easy "migration utility" through which you can bring all your so-called friends with you, if you even want to.)

Organize and filter all the streams that matter to you or your team. Search across all your social networks to drill to information you want. Create streams that have search filters. Group streams within a community and invite members to contribute.

Yet another study has been released proving that watching Fox News is detrimental to your intelligence. World Public Opinion, a project managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, conducted a survey of American voters that shows that Fox News viewers are significantly more misinformed than consumers of news from other sources. What’s more, the study shows that greater exposure to Fox News increases misinformation.

The United States has announced plans to host World Press Freedom Day in 2011 as part of its efforts "to support and expand press freedom and the free flow of information in this digital age."

Well, the free flow of information not embarrassing to the US, anyway.

"The sites assemble these bits of data into brilliant databases and reuse the information to provide value-added service—but only within their sites. Once you enter your data into one of these services, you cannot easily use them on another site. Each site is a silo, walled off from the others. Yes, your site’s pages are on the Web, but your data are not. You can access a Web page about a list of people you have created in one site, but you cannot send that list, or items from it, to another site."

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He also bemoans the proliferation of net-connected apps on the Apple iPhone and other smartphones. "The tendency for magazines, for example, to produce smartphone 'apps' rather than Web apps is disturbing, because that material is off the Web. You can’t bookmark it or e-mail a link to a page within it. You can’t tweet it. It is better to build a Web app that will also run on smartphone browsers, and the techniques for doing so are getting better all the time."

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