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Noted

A couple of read-worthy articles this morning in the New York Times:

From the Magazine, The Cult of the Cyads, a story of smuggling, monster plants, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife stings. The cycad is a neat plant, if you’re into dinosaurs:

Aesthetically challenged, cycads have other issues, too. The cones produced by one species that grows in Indonesia smell so bad that locals are compelled to chop them down and bury them. The leaves, stems and seeds of many cycads contain neurotoxins potent enough to paralyze grazing cattle and produce Alzheimer’s-like symptoms in humans. The plants themselves can grow with the alacrity of a glacier, taking decades, and sometimes centuries, to reach maturity.

Another article, King Kong vs. the Pirates of the Multiplex, explores film piracy. Although sources in the article suggest that online piracy isn’t a measurable part of the decline in industry profits (leave that to physical-media piracy), most of the article focuses on precisely that activity. This bit is interesting:

Law enforcement officials say two groups are involved in online film piracy: a nonprofit arm that is in it just for the kicks and a much smaller arm that is in it for the money. Those in the first group are happy to accept free downloads of other films in exchange for successfully uploading a copy of their pirated film, investigators said. Mr. Smith, the software developer, said that someone in the pay-for-play crowd can put in about a week of hard work and then usually earn enough cash to pay for a year of private college tuition.

Seriously? I’m pretty skeptical of that. But the internets are big and broad enough that maybe that works in some hive of scum and villiany that I haven’t found yet. Post URLs in comments?

Finally, Eszter recently wrote a bit about Google, and this story adds a little bit to the conversation about privacy and intellectual property concerns. In response to a reporter’s using some personal information about Google CEO Eric Schmidt to illustrate privacy concerns, Google dropped the hammer on CNET:

When Ms. Mills’s article appeared, however, the company reacted in a way better suited to a 16th-century monarchy than a 21st-century democracy with an independent press. David Krane, Google’s director of public relations, called CNET.com’s editor in chief to complain about the disclosure of Mr. Schmidt’s private information, and then Mr. Krane called back to announce that the company would not speak to any reporter from CNET for a year.

This isn’t an uncommon practice, apparently, but the Times piece seems unusually blunt for calling Schmidt out over it.