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Context of 'April 29, 2011: Software Expert Says Obama Certificate Genuine, ‘Layers’ Come from Software Process'

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Through a unanimous all-party vote at its National Assembly, Quebec becomes the first government worldwide to approve the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. The approval comes just three weeks after the landslide vote for the international convention at the UNESCO 33rd General Conference in Paris, France. The day’s favorable vote on the convention is marked as well by statements by leading officials of Quebec noting Quebec’s prime role in the formation of the UNESCO instrument, as well as how the convention boosts Quebec’s efforts to protect and promote its cultural industries. Deputy Premier and Minister of International Relations Monique Gagnon-Tremblay emphasizes Quebec’s important contribution to the “emergence of an international instrument of fundamental importance for the cultural sector, and over and beyond this, for the socio-economic development of all our peoples at the beginning of the 21st century.” Culture and Communications Minister Line Beauchamp ends her own statements by calling the adoption of the convention “a great day for Quebec culture,” adding: ”(T)he fundamental issue is the commitment of states to support their cultures through cultural policies that take the form of subsidies, tax credits, of regulatory policies.… We should be aware to what degree everyday life is shaped and affected by culture and artistic creations.… It is important to realize that the cultural policies I just described are behind the songs you hear on the radio, the television programs you watch, the books you read, your encounters with culture.” For his part, Claude Béchard, minister of economic development, innovation, and exports, stresses the convention “will serve as a tool of reference for states facing pressure to liberalize their cultural sectors by helping to legitimize at the international level their cultural policies.” Premier Jean Charest, meantime, highlights the close cooperation between Quebec and the federal government of Canada in building international support for the convention. Charest indicates again his government is determined to continue championing the convention internationally, and to continue supporting Canada’s Coalition for Cultural Diversity and Quebec’s leading cultural organizations in their work to mobilize cultural professionals around the world to support ratification. [Coalition Update, 11/2005]

Entity Tags: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Claude Béchard, Jean Charest, UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, Line Beauchamp, Monique Gagnon-Tremblay

Timeline Tags: Neoliberalism and Globalization

Less than two hours after President Obama releases his “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) and posts a PDF (Portable Data File) copy on the Internet, Bryan Michael Nixon, an art director with an Atlanta advertising firm, makes a blog post about his initial examination of the PDF copy. Nixon says that after opening the file in the Adobe graphics program Illustrator, it is clear that the document is composed of “multiple elements.” He writes, “This in no way proves that anything on it is fake… [h]ow to interpret that is up to the viewer.” He opens his blog post with a capitalized declaration, “I AM NOT A BIRTHER!” [Bryan Keith Nixon, 4/27/2011] By the afternoon, Nixon’s post is a front-page headline on the conservative news and gossip Web site Drudge Report, sparks a storm of claims and counterclaims about the document’s authenticity, and is quickly picked up by radio host Alex Jones and a plethora of Web sites. The claims that the certificate is “fake” are based in part on Nixon’s observation that the PDF file contains “multiple elements,” or “layers,” particularly two separate “layers” of background image and foreground text. Within minutes of the Nixon post, a forum participant at the Free Republic, a conservative blog and message board, writes: “No, I am analyzing an eloctronice [sic] document and saying that there is no way that this was a scanned image [sic] It was made of LAYERS in software [sic]” Another poster writes: “I opened it in Photoshop Elements and saw those white areas behind the text. YES! That image was built up, not scanned from a document.” The claim that the “layers” “prove” the certificate is fake is based on what experts call a fundamental lack of understanding of how PDF files work. Many PDFs, including the Obama certificate image, use optical character recognition (OCR) to recognize and reproduce lettering, and place those letters into a separate image. Reporter Benjy Sarlin will write, “This explains why you’re able to highlight and copy raw text from some PDF files even though it’s actually not a word processing document.” Shortly after Drudge headlines Nixon’s blog post, the National Review, inundated with emails about the “layer” theory, issues a comprehensive debunking of the “fraud” claim. “We looked into it and dismissed it,” reporter Nathan Goulding writes. Goulding uses a scanned copy of his magazine’s cover to make a PDF file, and, opening the file in Adobe Illustrator, shows that the PDF scan contains multiple layers. He writes of the layers: “Quite simply, they look like they were created programmatically, not by a human. What’s plausible is that somewhere along the way—from the scanning device to the PDF-creation software, both of which can perform OCR (optical character recognition)—these partial/pseudo-text images were created and saved. What’s not plausible is that the government spent all this time manufacturing Obama’s birth certificate only to commit the laughably rookie mistake of exporting the layers from Photoshop, or whatever photo editing software they are meant to have used. It’s likely that whoever scanned the birth certificate in Hawaii forgot to turn off the OCR setting on the scanner. Let’s leave it at that.” Sarlin writes: “The fringe theory’s rapid spread within hours of the certificate’s release presents almost a perfect example of one of the White House’s justifications for taking on the birther issue—namely, that thanks to the Internet, conspiracy theories can migrate quickly from the fringe and into the mainstream if left unchecked. In this case, it took only hours.” He concludes, “[B]irthers have wasted no time in promoting alternate theories undermining the president’s legitimacy since the release of the long form birth certificate.” [Free Republic (.com), 4/27/2011; National Review, 4/27/2011; TPM Muckraker, 4/29/2011] Two days later, an Adobe Illustrator expert proclaims the certificate genuine (see April 29, 2011).

Entity Tags: Drudge Report, Alex Jones, Barack Obama, Bryan Michael Nixon, Nathan Goulding, Benjy Sarlin, National Review, Free Republic

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Software expert Jean-Claude Tremblay says there is no doubt President Obama’s “long form” birth certificate (see April 27, 2011) is genuine. Tremblay is responding to recent claims that the “layers” found in the electronic version of the certificate “prove” it is fake (see April 27, 2011 and April 27, 2011). Many of the claimants have used a graphics program, Adobe Illustrator, to reveal the layers. Tremblay is a certified Adobe expert who teaches Illustrator. He tells Fox News, “You should not be so suspicious about this.” The layers are evidence of the use of ordinary scanning software, not evidence of forgery: “I have seen a lot of Illustrator documents that come from photos and contain those kind of clippings—and it looks exactly like this.” Whoever scanned the birth certificate into a PDF file did so using commonly used OCR (optical character recognition) software, which translates characters or words into text, and creates “layers” of text in the process. “When you open it in Illustrator it looks like layers, but it doesn’t look like someone built it from scratch,” Tremblay says. “If someone made a fake it wouldn’t look like this. Some scanning software is trying to separate the background and the text and splitting element into layers and parts of layers.… I know that you can scan a document from a scanner most of the time it will appear as one piece, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no software that’s doing this kind of stuff.… I’d be more afraid it’d be fake if it was one in piece. It would be harder to check if it’s a good one if it’s a fake.” [Fox News, 4/29/2011]

Entity Tags: Barack Obama, Jean-Claude Tremblay, Fox News

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

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