The History of the Internet:
An amusing, and surprisingly accurate, 1969 view of what the Internet would be like:
The History of the Internet:
An amusing, and surprisingly accurate, 1969 view of what the Internet would be like:
Patenting a diagnostic test I understand. Patenting the gene that is being tested for, seems contrary to patent law (where's the "invention"?). Now, at least one District Court judge agrees with me. From the NY Times:
Myriad analyzes those genes in an expensive test that predicts whether a woman is at a high risk of getting breast or ovarian cancer. The plaintiffs in the case, which included various medical groups and the American Civil Liberties Union, said the patents on DNA were illegal and impeded access to the testing.
The decision invalidating the gene patents stunned many lawyers who follow such issues.
“It’s really quite a dramatic holding that would have the effect of invalidating many, many patents on which the biotechnology industry has invested considerable money,” said Rebecca S. Eisenberg, a law professor at the University of Michigan who has written widely on gene patents.
The Genomics Law Report, an Internet journal, called the decision “radical and astonishing in its sweep.” It headlined its article, “Pigs Fly.”
Although patents are not granted on things found in nature, the DNA being patented had long been considered a chemical that was isolated from, and different from, what was found in nature. But Judge Sweet ruled that the distinguishing feature of DNA is its information content, its conveyance of the genetic code. And in that regard, he wrote, the isolated DNA “is not markedly different from native DNA as it exists in nature.”
The immediate impact will be limited in part because the decision, made in a district court, does not apply to gene patents other than the ones it considered, and its value as precedent for other courts is limited.
Moreover, Myriad said Tuesday that it would appeal, and several lawyers said they expected the ruling to be overturned. Professor Eisenberg said “there isn’t a whole lot of doctrinal support” for considering DNA as information rather than as a chemical.
Even before an appeal is decided, the landscape could change in a way that would render the Myriad case moot. A ruling is expected soon from the Supreme Court in the so-called Bilski case. That case does not directly concern gene patents — it is about a fight over a method of hedging risk in commodities trading — but it gives the Supreme Court a chance to set new standards on what is patentable.
“We are still waiting, holding our breath for the Bilski case,” said Kari Stefansson, head of research at DeCode Genetics, which sells disease risk tests similar to those sold by Myriad.
If Judge Sweet’s decision were upheld on appeal, the impact could be more far-reaching. The biggest impact would be on companies like Myriad and Athena Diagnostics that offer diagnostic tests based on genes.
Some biotechnology investors and executives say that lack of patent protection for DNA could diminish investment and remove incentives to develop tests. That could slow the move toward so-called personalized medicine, in which genetic tests are used to determine which drugs are best for which patients.
James P. Evans, a professor of genetics at the University of North Carolina, said that would not necessarily be the case. There is thriving competition in areas like testing for mutations that cause cystic fibrosis or Huntington’s disease, even though no company has exclusivity.
“It’s quite demonstrable that in the diagnostic area, one does not need gene patents in order to see robust development of these tests,” he said.
Google announced Monday that it would stop censoring search results on its site in China, forcing authorities in Beijing to decide whether they are willing to forsake one of the most important tools of modern technology so that they can maintain their iron grip over the flow of information.
In negotiations with Chinese authorities over the past two months, Google had tried to determine whether it could operate an unfiltered search engine in China under the country's laws. But Chinese officials, the company said Monday, made it "crystal clear . . . that self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement."
As a result, Google has made what analysts described as a shrewd but risky business decision -- to redirect users in mainland China to its search engine based in Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China that operates its own economic and political systems. The company described the move as a "sensible solution."
"This move is entirely legal by Chinese law and Hong Kong law, and that is important to know: that we are abiding by the law," a source at Google said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Still, the decision puts the Internet search giant, which has a huge financial stake in China, on a collision course with Beijing. Despite Google's intention to keep some of its business operations in China, the government there could shut it down, block all of its sites or even take action against some of its 700 employees there.
That concern was evident in Google's announcement Monday, which stressed that "all these decisions have been driven and implemented by our executives in the United States, and that none of our employees in China can, or should, be held responsible for them."
The move drew a quick and angry response in Beijing, where an unnamed government official said that the Chinese had been patient with Google but that the company had nonetheless "violated its written promise" to censor search results, according to the state-run New China News Service ...
Internet users in China can, with some effort, get around what is known as the Great Firewall. But government barriers have prevented tens of millions of mainland Chinese from seeing vast segments of cyberspace. Chinese in Hong Kong -- beneficiaries of Beijing's "one country, two systems" policy -- have had access to unfiltered results.
Google's decision Monday, some experts said, threatens to reveal to mainland Chinese that the government has effectively operated a parallel set of unequal Internet universes ...
Human rights groups hailed Google's decision to stop self-censoring, casting it as an important challenge to the Chinese government's censorship system.
"As a practical matter, it means that they may have to leave, but they're going to force the government to choose between an uncensored search engine and kicking Google out," said Arvind Ganesan, business and human rights director at Human Rights Watch.
President Obama Tuesday commended the FCC and its staff for its work on the national broadband plan, saying expanding broadband high-speed Internet access will help "build a foundation of sustained economic growth and the widely shared prosperity we all seek."
In a statement issued on the same day the FCC formally sent its broadband plan to Congress, Obama said his administration "will build upon our efforts over the past year to make America's nationwide broadband infrastructure the world's most powerful platform for economic growth and prosperity, including improving access to mobile broadband, maximizing technology innovation, and supporting a nationwide, interoperable public safety wireless broadband network."
Obama's economic stimulus package enacted last year included $7.2 billion to provide grants aimed at improving broadband access and adoption and also mandated that the FCC draft the national broadband plan it unveiled Tuesday.
"Just as past generations of Americans met the great infrastructure challenges of the day, such as building the transcontinental railroad and the interstate highways, so too must we harness the potential of the Internet," the president said.
The Federal Communications Commission announced on Monday its long-awaited plan to bring broadband Internet connections to every home and business in the United States, part of an ambitious, multibillion-dollar attempt to create a new digital infrastructure for the nation's economy.
The national broadband plan outlines dozens of policy recommendations aimed at raising the portion of people with high-speed Internet connections to 90 percent, from the current 65 percent, over the next decade and significantly increasing the connection speeds of homes with such service.
Mandated by last year's stimulus legislation, the plan will be presented to Congress on Tuesday and is widely expected to set the FCC's agenda for years to come. It would move the commission squarely into the age of the Internet, creating a federal mandate for installing thousands of miles of new fiber-optic cable and erecting many cellphone towers.
Many of the FCC's proposals are short on details, and lawmakers and the agency can accept or reject any number of the ideas.
"The real test begins now, and the final grade will depend on the commission's execution of future proceedings that will be required to transform the national broadband plan into reality," said Andrew Schwartzman, president of Media Access Project, a public interest group.
The proposal drew praise from some industry leaders and public interest groups, who said the plan could introduce more competition into the market for broadband services and help bridge a digital divide that has excluded low-income and rural residents from the Web. But analysts and telecommunications scholars said carrying out the dozens of recommendations will be difficult, particularly if companies argue that new regulations will hurt investments and jobs.
Mid-size broadband providers, such as TW Telecom and Cbeyond, are shaping up to be the plan's biggest beneficiaries, gaining access to more subscribers and the rights to federal funds to expand their networks. Makers of network equipment, such as Cisco, and creators of Web-based content, such as Google, could also experience significant boosts in their business. And cellphone carriers could reap big gains from a proposal to allocate a large chunk of airwaves for the next generation of smartphones and portable devices.
Major providers, such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon Communications, would gain broader subscriber bases, but they could be forced to share their wireless and fixed-wire networks with smaller rivals, exposing them potentially to stiffer competition ...
The FCC said it would fund its proposals by tapping an existing $8 billion annual fund for providing phone service to rural areas. In the past, rural carriers that rely on the fund successfully opposed attempts by lawmakers and the agency to redirect its resources.
The agency would also seek up to $16 billion from lawmakers to build and operate a dedicated network for public safety responders. The agency said it could raise more money from auctioning the spectrum intended for wireless use.
The United States has fallen behind other developed nations in the deployment of high-speed Internet. Some global rankings put the United States at 16th in terms of access, speed and affordability behind nations such as Japan and Australia. South Korea offers 100-megabit-per-second connections to nearly all of its population; most U.S. broadband subscribers have connections that average 3 to 4 megabits per second. The FCC's plan envisions bringing 100-megabit-per-second access to 100 million homes by 2020, as well as 1 gigabit-per-second connections to libraries and schools.
This is smart. From the NY Times:
Seeking to exploit the Internet’s potential for prying open closed societies, the Obama administration will permit technology companies to export online services like instant messaging, chat and photo sharing to Iran, Cuba and Sudan, a senior administration official said Sunday.
On Monday, he said, the Treasury Department will issue a general license for the export of free personal Internet services and software geared toward the populations in all three countries, allowing Microsoft, Yahoo and other providers to get around strict export restrictions.
The companies had resisted offering such services for fear of violating existing sanctions. But there have been growing calls in Congress and elsewhere to lift the restrictions, particularly after the postelection protests in Iran illustrated the power of Internet-based services like Facebook and Twitter.
“The more people have access to a range of Internet technology and services, the harder it’s going to be for the Iranian government to clamp down on their speech and free expression,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement had not been made yet.
The decision, which had been expected, underscores the complexity of dealing with politically repressive governments in the digital age: even as the Obama administration is opening up trade in Internet services to Iran, it is shaping harsh new sanctions that would crack down on Iranian access to financing and technology that could help Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.
Critics have said these sanctions are leaky and ineffective, and some say it makes more sense to spread digital technology, which makes it harder for governments to restrict the flow of information within societies, and to prevent their people from contact with the outside world.
The Treasury Department’s action follows a recommendation by the State Department in mid-December that the Office of Foreign Assets Control, which is run by the Treasury, authorize the downloading of “free mass-market software” in Iran by Microsoft, Google and other companies.
In a speech in January, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared that Internet freedom had become a fundamental principle of American foreign policy. “Viral videos and blog posts are becoming the samizdat of our day,” she said, referring to censored publications that were passed around in Soviet-era Russia and helped fuel the dissident movement.
While Iran is the prime target of the Treasury’s action, it has implications for Sudan and Cuba, where the administration is also seeking to open more channels of communication to the outside world. Two other blacklisted countries, North Korea and Syria, are not affected by the decision because their sanctions do not currently rule out the export of Internet services.
President George W. Bush ... After the shuttle Columbia’s disaster in 2003, he introduced a “new vision” to revive the floundering space program. It included post-shuttle propulsion systems and crew-carrying vehicles. The goal was a return of astronauts to the Moon by 2020. Sometime after, to Mars.
But the costs of fighting wars while cutting taxes left little money to support the undertaking. Although several billion dollars have already been invested in advanced hardware, the goals seem illusory, and public support seems thin.
Once again, experience brought reminders, so often overlooked, that Apollo was not a realistic model for future endeavors in space exploration. Going to the Moon had been, above all, a campaign in the cold war. The Soviet Union was the feared adversary, even more so after the Sputnik surprise and after Yuri Gagarin’s flight made him the first man in space, in spring 1961.
Early on, the political scientist John M. Logsdon at George Washington University made a study of the decision-making process leading to Apollo. Dr. Logsdon concluded that Apollo was “a product of a specific time in history” and a singular crash program responding to a perceived threat to the country. It did not represent a firm commitment by society to open-ended space exploration.
Norman R. Augustine, an aerospace industry executive, acknowledged as much when he led a task force that contributed to the first President Bush’s proposals. “The heavy driver for the space program used to be competition with the Soviets,” Mr. Augustine said at the time. “Today, there is not that clear competition but the fundamental values of exploration that drive us. They are less tangible, but no less important.”
If one thing is clear and encouraging in President Obama’s proposals, it is the recognition of Apollo’s exceptionality. Mr. Augustine also served on the committee that advised Mr. Obama, and his point about the changing political matrix has apparently sunk in.
“We’ve been trying to relive Apollo for 40 years, unsuccessfully,” NASA’s deputy administrator, Lori B. Garver, said in an interview with editors and reporters of The New York Times. “For too long NASA overpromised and underdelivered, and now we will be doing things differently.”
That remains to be seen. Congressional committees have not begun to examine the proposals and the modest budget increases for NASA. The administration’s plan may be “bold and game-changing,” in Ms. Garver’s words, but several aspects are likely to stir controversy or at least call for closer study.
In contrast to the past, the new plan sets no definite timetables, cost estimates or destinations. Nor is there extravagant rhetoric about knowledge and adventure. The Kennedy eloquence about sailing “this new ocean” was effective primarily because the nation felt the need to demonstrate its technological superiority in war and peace.
John Anderson and Sharon Rapoport estimate they spend $400 a month, or close to $5,000 a year, keeping their family of four entertained at home. There are the $30-a-month data plans on their BlackBerry Tour cellphones. The Roanoke, Va., couple’s teenage sons, Seth and Isaac, each have $50 subscriptions for Xbox Live and send thousands of texts each month on their cellphones, requiring their own data plans. DirecTV satellite service, high-speed Internet access and Netflix for movie nights add more.
It used to be that a basic $25-a-month phone bill was your main telecommunications expense. But by 2004, the average American spent $770.95 annually on services like cable television, Internet connectivity and video games, according to data from the Census Bureau. By 2008, that number rose to $903, outstripping inflation. By the end of this year, it is expected to have grown to $997.07. Add another $1,000 or more for cellphone service and the average family is spending as much on entertainment over devices as they are on dining out or buying gasoline.
And those government figures do not take into account movies, music and television shows bought through iTunes, or the data plans that are increasingly mandatory for more sophisticated smartphones.
For many people, the subscriptions and services for entertainment and communications, which are more often now one and the same, have become indispensable necessities of life, on par with electricity, water and groceries. And for every new device, there seems to be yet another fee. Buyers of the more advanced Apple iPad, to cite the latest example, can buy unlimited data access for $30 a month from AT&T even if they already have a data plan from the carrier.
“You don’t really lump these expenses into a discretionary category,” said Robert H. Frank, an economics professor at the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University. “As the expectation of connectedness increases, it’s what is expected for people to be functional in society.”
Americans are transforming their homes into entertainment hubs, which is driving up the amount of money they spend, said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
“More people are creating experiences in their homes that are very similar to the kinds of public experiences they enjoy in movie theaters and concert halls,” he said. “Our homes are bristling with technology.”
Most people think home entertainment is cheaper. “Every time I want to go to Fenway Park or see the Killers in concert, I’m paying $50 to $100 each time. But once you build and install that home system, its basically pennies per minute of enjoyment,” said James McQuivey, an analyst with Forrester Research.
But they do not take into consideration the long-term economic effect — both in the maintenance and operational costs — of the devices they purchase. “A subscription model is the perfect drug,” Mr. McQuivey said. “People see $15 per month as a very low amount of money but it quickly adds up.” ...
Ms. Goodall says she dreads the day when her sons, 1 and 4, get bitten by the texting craze, as her 12-year-old nephew has.
“We’ll probably have to sign our sons up for cellphones even sooner than we’d like because we don’t have a home phone,” she said. “I’m not looking forward to dealing with that set of issues.”
Last month, when Google engineers at their sprawling campus in Silicon Valley began to suspect that Chinese intruders were breaking into private Gmail accounts, the company began a secret counteroffensive.
It managed to gain access to a computer in Taiwan that it suspected of being the source of the attacks. Peering inside that machine, company engineers actually saw evidence of the aftermath of the attacks, not only at Google, but also at at least 33 other companies, including Adobe Systems, Northrop Grumman and Juniper Networks, according to a government consultant who has spoken with the investigators.
Seeing the breadth of the problem, they alerted American intelligence and law enforcement officials and worked with them to assemble powerful evidence that the masterminds of the attacks were not in Taiwan, but on the Chinese mainland.
But while much of the evidence, including the sophistication of the attacks, strongly suggested an operation run by Chinese government agencies, or at least approved by them, company engineers could not definitively prove their case. Today that uncertainty, along with concerns about confronting the Chinese without strong evidence, has frozen the Obama administration’s response to the intrusion, one of the biggest cyberattacks of its kind, and to some extent the response of other targets, including some of the most prominent American companies.
President Obama, who has repeatedly warned of the country’s vulnerability to devastating cyberattacks, has said nothing in public about one of the biggest examples since he took office. And the White House, while repeating Mr. Obama’s calls for Internet freedom, has not publicly demanded a Chinese government investigation. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who had been the most senior U.S. official to talk of the seriousness of the breach, discussed it on Thursday with a Chinese diplomat in Washington, however, and a senior administration official said there would be a “démarche in coming days” — a diplomatic move.
On Thursday, China’s Foreign Ministry deflected questions about Google’s charges and dismissed its declaration that it would no longer “self-censor” searches conducted on google.cn, its Chinese search engine. A ministry spokeswoman said simply that online services in China must be conducted “in accordance with the law.”
In interviews in which they disclosed new details of their efforts to solve the mystery, Google engineers said they doubted that a nongovernmental actor could pull off something this broad and well organized, but they conceded that even their counterintelligence operation, taking over the Taiwan server, could not provide the kind of airtight evidence needed to prove the case.
The murkiness of the attacks is no surprise. For years the National Security Agency and other arms of the United States government have struggled with the question of “attribution” of an attack; what makes cyberwar so unlike conventional war is that it is often impossible, even in retrospect, to find where the attack began, or who was responsible ...
Even as the United States and companies doing business in China assess the impact, the attacks signal the arrival of a new kind of conflict between the world’s No. 1 economic superpower and the country that, by year’s end, will overtake Japan to become No. 2.
I'm sorry, I just don't get the clamoring for full body scanners; they just seem way too ineffectual for the money:
Stephen Phipson, the president of Smiths Detection, a British company that makes scanning machines, sought to reassure readers of Time that his company’s machines could be set up to avoid picturing genitals, since “our software can blur out parts of the body.”
Then again if the man who went through security in Amsterdam on Christmas day with explosives concealed in his underwear had encountered a full-body scanner that blurred out that part of his body, it seems fair to ask if he would have been caught or simply waved through to board his flight for Detroit.
So they're fantastically expensive machines that give the appearance of high-tech security but would still allow the Christmas bomber to board that Detroit flight and motivate terrorists to recruit children and fat people. They certainly seem iron clad to me.
And while we're pouring all this money into these ineffectual machines, half of all the cargo on commercial flights are not inspected at all. That's right, we're considering spending all this money on these problematic, ineffectual machines while not inspecting half of all the cargo sitting in the bellies of the same planes we've been full body scanned to sit in.
This is so stupid it can get us killed!
Here's the The Lede:
While a lot of attention has been paid in recent days to the need to find better ways to screen passengers and their luggage, as aviation security officials try to keep terrorists — or Slovak security officials — from smuggling explosives onto passenger jets, it remains an uncomfortable fact that entirely unscreened packages are still routinely loaded into the cargo holds of those same airplanes.
According to the Transportation Security Administration, it currently screens “at least 50 percent” of the packages loaded into the cargo holds of passenger jets alongside travelers’ suitcases. Last February, the security administration announced that it had “issued security directives to all air carriers requiring that they screen 50 per cent of cargo placed on passenger aircraft,” and was working to meet an August, 2010 deadline set by Congress in 2007 to ensure the screening of every package that flies on these planes.
The following month a report by the Government Accountability Office explained that “TSA’s approach relies on the voluntary participation of shippers and freight forwarders,” in a program where most of the screening is to be done by private companies at the locations where goods are loaded into boxes.
Last month, though, a follow-up report by the GAO noted that “TSA and the industry face a number of challenges including the voluntary nature of the program, and ensuring that approved technologies are effective with air cargo.” The GAO also noted that “TSA also does not expect to meet the mandated 100 percent screening deadline as it applies to air cargo transported into the U.S., in part due to existing screening exemptions for this type of cargo and challenges in harmonizing security standards with other nations.”
On Tuesday, Lauren Gaches, a press officer for the Department of Homeland Security, confirmed to The Lede that passenger jets continue to fly with unscreened packages on board.
In the past few weeks Google has made three major moves that, taken separately, seem like distinct creative expansions to its search platform. They are just the kind of aggressive new ideas we have come to expect from Google. Taken together, however, they have the potential to be something bigger: a game-changer that gives Google a hammer lock on not only mobile search or telephony, but also on the whole integrated process of consumer mobility.
Consider the moves Google has made in quick succession:
- It dropped Tele Atlas, the company powering Google Maps' "turn-by-turn" navigation in favor of Google's own system, which it is offering free on the Android phone.
- It introduced Google Favorite Places, an application based on quick-response (QR) codes that lets people photograph window stickers in local shops or restaurants to get instant reviews and discount coupons.
- It is launching its own mobile handset, the Nexus One, today.
Independently, each of these moves has huge potential impact. Free turn-by-turn directions on your phone makes it silly, for example, to buy a separate GPS system for your car -- no wonder Google's free navigation announcement drove down the stock prices of Garmin and Tom Tom 16% and 21%, respectively. Google is driving the profit out of the map market because it sees maps as part of something much bigger.
If it remains exclusive and expands consistently, the Google Favorite Places application, which currently lists 100,000 local businesses, could deal a crushing blow to a nascent competitor such as Bing. It could usher in the kind of competitive superiority we saw in the days when Visa outflanked American Express by emphasizing that you had better bring your Visa card because "They don't take American Express." If scanning a code to Google can save you $10 on your dinner while searching on Bing cannot, it's a pretty easy choice regarding your default search engine.
Google's new mobile phone would give Google more control of its users' handset experience. Further, it is a potential end-run around control of handset sales by big mobile carriers. According to a recent article on this site, it could help Google realize an open mobile ecosystem that would be a "viable alternative to how consumers buy their handsets in the U.S."
Looked at together, these three developments are part of a single, comprehensive, integrated vision. This is not just a play by Google to position itself to take advantage of mobile. It is an audacious plan to define the benefits of mobility for consumers, in general, and to completely dominate the space that they help consumers create.
Google is creating a network of integrated mobile functions that will be centrally controlled and integrated to a degree that will make the revolutionary, symbiotic iPhone/iTunes product seem quaint in comparison. The beauty of iPod/iTunes is that they depend on each other and they support the other's benefits. Once a consumer commits to them, the iPod and iTunes are impossible to unbundle. They can be replaced by other products, but not efficiently.
Now imagine this (it's not hard): Google is your go-to source for almost all of your interdependent needs when you are out and about, not just mobile phone needs, but "mobility" needs. It's the device you use, the search engine that helps you find things, the map that tells you how to get there and the coupon you use to get a discount at a preferred restaurant or local shop, all in one seamless experience.
Amazon's Kindle e-book reader hit a watershed moment on Christmas Day, when, for the first time ever, customers purchased more Kindle books than physical books. The company also claims the Kindle is the most gifted item in Amazon's history. These two facts were part of the online retailer's recently announced holiday sales activity.
But in typical Amazon style, the company did not provide any sales figures to back up its claims ... While it may sound impressive to say more e-books than paper books were sold on Christmas Day, I have to wonder about this claim. To me that sounds like claiming you're the most popular restaurant in town, when you have no competition for 20 miles. I'm sure lots of people found a Kindle under the tree this year, and many of them probably took their new toy for a spin online to see how it worked and ended up buying a book. But how many people out there were looking to buy a traditional book versus the volume of Kindle shoppers on Friday? I'm guessing not that many.
But Amazon's announcement about Christmas Day Kindle sales could be a sign of things to come. With other competitors like Barnes & Noble's Nook, Sony's e-reader line up and Plastic Logic's Que reader reportedly set to debut next month, we may see the e-book may take a bigger chunk out of traditional book sales by this time next year.
Which is more intrusive, some TSA official you can't see looking at images like this or a TSA official right in front of you putting their hands all over your body? It's not clear to me which is the bigger invasion of privacy. Is it to you?
Learn how these full-body scanners work.
New York Times U.S. Traffic Data — Mobile and Web
New York Times World Traffic Data — Mobile and Web
The two videos [above] show the traffic to NYTimes.com on June 25, 2009, the day Michael Jackson died. The 24-hour period is compressed into a little over a minute and a half.
The top video represents readers coming to the Web site from the United States. The second video shows a map of our global readers. The circles indicate two things. First, the yellow circles represent readers coming to the main Web site from desktop or laptop computers, and the orange circles indicate readers using mobile phones to access our mobile site. Second, the size of the circles represents the number of readers at that moment in time. You can see the corresponding time stamp in the upper left corner of the videos.
Just watching these maps glow can be a mesmerizing experience, but there’s another fascinating piece of data within this particular day. At about 1 minute and 10 seconds into the video, at 5:20 p.m., you can see a huge pulse of readers coming to the Web site, both from mobile devices and personal computers. This huge traffic bump happened after TMZ.com broke the news of Mr. Jackson’s death. As the news started to filter across the Internet, traffic continued to ebb and flow throughout the evening.
It’s also intriguing to see the heartbeat of reader visits throughout any particular day. You can see more mobile traffic in the mornings and afternoons, as readers commute to and from work, and a large pulse of readers coming to the site around lunchtime.
People always say Rupert Murdoch really only cares about getting audiences and making money: the same movie that he's counting on to break box office records is one that will give his "News" division apoplexy:
Consumer Reports has just released its annual survey of cellphone service, and its respondents collectively agree with me about the rankings: AT&T occupies the bottom and Verizon, the top.
My sense of Verizon’s superiority is confirmed every time I see a “there’s a map for that” Verizon commercial, graphically showing how far more extensive Verizon’s 3G network coverage is in less populated areas. And it is reinforced when AT&T executives publicly confess — as Ralph de la Vega, the chief executive and president of AT&T mobility and consumer markets, did last week at an industry conference — that the company’s wireless service in New York and San Francisco was “below our standards.”
When I set about looking for independent data, however, to confirm the superior performance of Verizon’s network, I was astonished to discover that I had managed to get things exactly wrong. Despite the well-publicized problems in New York and San Francisco, AT&T seems to have the superior network nationwide.
And the iPhone itself may not be so great after all. Its design is contributing to performance problems.
Roger Entner, senior vice president for telecommunications research at Nielsen, said the iPhone’s “air interface,” the electronics in the phone that connect it to the cell towers, had shortcomings that “affect both voice and data.” He said that in the eyes of the consumer, “the iPhone has the nimbus of infallibility, ergo, it’s AT&T’s fault.” AT&T does not publicly defend itself because it will not criticize Apple under any circumstances, he said. AT&T and Apple both declined to comment on Mr. Entner’s assessments.
Neither AT&T nor Verizon was willing to reveal its internal data on performance. But Global Wireless Solutions, one of the third-party services that run network tests for the major carriers, shared some of its current findings. The service dispatches drivers across the country with phones and laptops equipped with data cards. They have covered more than three million miles of roads this year, while running almost two million wireless data sessions and placing more than three million voice calls, said Paul Carter, the president.
The results place AT&T’s data network not just on top, but well ahead of everyone else.
What do you think of this? Wash Post:
Gay, Catholic and fed up with his church's efforts to quash the same-sex marriage movement, Phil Attey has come up with a controversial strategy: outing gay priests who speak out against homosexuality.
Attey's new Web site, http:/
/ churchouting.com, has drawn criticism from groups that advocate for gay Catholics. They worry that his threats to gather and disclose information on gay priests will hurt their cause.
Attey, a D.C. resident, describes himself as an Internet political strategist. On his Web site, he urges people to report encounters with gay priests in the Archdiocese of Washington, which has strongly opposed legalization of same-sex marriage in the District.
He said he will out only gay priests and bishops who speak out against homosexuality. In the case of priests not publicly opposed to gay marriage but still in the closet, he said his goal is not to threaten them but to encourage them to "come out for the next generation and stand up against the anti-gay stance of the church."
Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry, which advocates on behalf of gay male and lesbian Catholics, said he understands Attey's anger but condemns his approach. "Equal rights should be argued on the merits of the issue, not with vengeful personal attacks," he said. "Outing priests could cause more harm to a group of people who are already in a difficult situation."
The archdiocese called the Web site potentially harmful. "If anyone has a concern about whether a priest is violating their ministry in any way, we would encourage them to let the archdiocese know rather than some Web site . . .," spokeswoman Susan Gibbs said. "We will follow through and investigate. It's too easy on the Internet to gossip and violate someone's good name on rumors."
From the Third Way, a group that "develops and advances the next generation of moderate policy ideas":
The Stupak-Pitts Amendment, which was included in the final version of the House bill, is not abortion neutral, and it would disrupt the delicate federal balance already in place. We believe that by upsetting this balance, health care reform is now in jeopardy. Below, we explain the three ways in which the Stupak-Pitts Amendment is not abortion neutral and why the pro-life Ellsworth Amendment represents a far better approach that adheres to common ground.
The Stupak-Pitts Amendment Violates Abortion Neutrality in Three Ways
1. The Stupak-Pitts Amendment changes a decades-long balance of existing federal law on abortion coverage.
The Hyde Amendment, which has been on the books for over 30 years, prevents federal funds from being used to pay for abortion in the Medicaid program, except for cases of life endangerment, rape or incest. The Stupak-Pitts Amendment goes much further, by preventing even private premiums from being used to pay for abortion in the Exchange. The Stupak-Pitts Amendment prohibits health insurance plans in the Exchange that receive any federal funding from covering abortion, even with segregated private funds. Because all Exchange plans will likely receive federal tax dollars through subsidies to individuals, individuals will not be able to purchase health insurance that covers abortion, even with their own premiums. The fact that the millions of Americans participating in the Exchange will not have abortion coverage is also a dramatic change from the status quo, since the majority of Americans with health insurance have plans that include abortion coverage.
The logic of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment also rejects the current noncontroversial scheme whereby year after year, hundreds of billions of dollars are consistently used to subsidize health insurance policies that cover abortion. Until the Stupak-Pitts Amendment emerged, none of this funding was deemed controversial in any way by pro-life stalwarts from President Ronald Reagan to President George W. Bush.
The employer deductibility of health coverage has yielded trillions of dollars in federal tax subsidies for insurance plans, whether or not they covered abortion. Flexible Savings Accounts (which started in 1978 and grew in popularity under President Reagan) allow for individuals to deduct the direct cost of abortions from their taxable income. Health Savings Accounts (which started under President Bush) allow for tax-favored savings to be used to pay for abortions.
Each of these tax subsidies has, at one time or another, received the support of nearly all members of Congress—whether ardently and unequivocally pro-life or pro-choice. Yet as far as we can tell there has never even been a debate about whether these subsidies could cover plans that offer abortion coverage, even though most do.
2. The Stupak-Pitts Amendment changes longstanding policies regarding the segregation of funds.
Supporters of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment dismiss efforts at finding a compromise on abortion in health care reform through the segregation of funds as an “accounting trick.” Whether or not one believes this argument, supporters of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment must now reconcile this view with longstanding policies that allow the segregation of funds in order to let religious organizations accept federal money.
The reasoning of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment would call into question countless activities by religious organizations that rely on federal funds, including Head Start, homelessness relief, food banks, substance abuse counseling, prison fellowship, afterschool programs for troubled youths, adoption services, ESL programs for immigrants, and veterans’ services.2 Of course, in the context of abortion, the segregation of funds is also accepted in Medicaid, where 17 states supplement the federal program with abortion coverage.
3. The Stupak-Pitts Amendment means no plans in the Exchange would offer abortion coverage.
Even though there is a provision in the Stupak-Pitts Amendment that would allow the purchase of separate supplemental coverage of abortion, it is implausible that insurance companies would offer this coverage. Unintended pregnancies are unplanned by definition, so demand would likely be low. And unlike other medical
procedures, abortions are relatively inexpensive. That is why in the five states where abortion coverage is prohibited except through such “riders,” there are only isolated examples of insurers actually offering such coverage, , and even then only as part of a small group package, rather than to individuals.
Remember the oft derided Lcross mission last month ("Obama shot the moon!")? Well the NY Times reports it succeeded:
There is water on the Moon, scientists stated unequivocally on Friday.
“Indeed yes, we found water,” Anthony Colaprete, the principal investigator for NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, said in a news conference. “And we didn’t find just a little bit. We found a significant amount.”
The confirmation of scientists’ suspicions is welcome news to explorers who might set up home on the lunar surface and to scientists who hope that the water, in the form of ice accumulated over billions of years, holds a record of the solar system’s history.
The satellite, known as Lcross (pronounced L-cross), crashed into a crater near the Moon’s south pole a month ago. The 5,600-miles-per-hour impact carved out a hole 60 to 100 feet wide and kicked up at least 26 gallons of water ...
For more than a decade, planetary scientists have seen tantalizing hints of water ice at the bottom of these cold craters where the sun never shines. The Lcross mission, intended to look for water, was made up of two pieces — an empty rocket stage to slam into the floor of Cabeus, a crater 60 miles wide and 2 miles deep, and a small spacecraft to measure what was kicked up.
For space enthusiasts who stayed up, or woke up early, to watch the impact on Oct. 9, the event was anticlimactic, even disappointing, as they failed to see the anticipated debris plume. Even some high-powered telescopes on Earth like the Palomar Observatory in California did not see anything.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration later said that Lcross did indeed photograph a plume but that the live video stream was not properly attuned to pick out the details.
The water findings came through an analysis of the slight shifts in color after the impact, showing telltale signs of water molecules that had absorbed specific wavelengths of light. “We got good fits,” Dr. Colaprete said. “It was a unique fit.”
The scientists also saw colors of ultraviolet light associated with molecules of hydroxyl, consisting of one hydrogen and one oxygen, presumably water molecules that had been broken apart by the impact and then glowed like neon signs.
In addition, there were squiggles in the data that indicated other molecules, possibly carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, methane or more complex carbon-based molecules. “All of those are possibilities,” Dr. Colaprete said, “but we really need to do the work to see which ones work best.”
This NY Times story is interesting for 3 reasons: (1) the underlying issue of privacy vs. free speech, (2) the complexity of international relations when German privacy laws class with the American First Amendment, and (3) the way the NY Times effectively says to the murderers at the end of the story, 'go ahead, I dare you':
Wolfgang Werlé and Manfred Lauber became infamous for killing a German actor in 1990. Now they are suing to force Wikipedia to forget them.
The legal fight pits German privacy law against the American First Amendment. German courts allow the suppression of a criminal’s name in news accounts once he has paid his debt to society, noted Alexander H. Stopp, the lawyer for the two men, who are now out of prison.
“They should be able to go on and be resocialized, and lead a life without being publicly stigmatized” for their crime, Mr. Stopp said. “A criminal has a right to privacy, too, and a right to be left alone.”
Mr. Stopp has already successfully pressured German publications to remove the killers’ names from their online coverage. German editors of Wikipedia have scrubbed the names from the German-language version of the article about the victim, Walter Sedlmayr.
Now Mr. Stopp, in suits in German courts, is demanding that the Wikimedia Foundation, the American organization that runs Wikipedia, do the same with the English-language version of the article. That has free-speech advocates quoting George Orwell.
“He who controls the past, controls the future,” said a bulletin on the case issued Thursday by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an online civil liberties group. Jennifer Granick, a lawyer for the group, said the case “really is about editing history.”
Floyd Abrams, a prominent First Amendment lawyer who has represented The New York Times, said every justice on the United States Supreme Court would agree that the Wikipedia article “is easily, comfortably protected by the First Amendment.”
But Germany’s courts have come up with a different balance between the right to privacy and the public’s right to know, Mr. Abrams said, and “once you’re in the business of suppressing speech, the quest for more speech to suppress is endless.”...
The court’s goals in the 1973 [privacy] decision were laudable, he said, but the logic might not be workable in the Internet age, when archival material that was legally published at the time can be called up with a simple Google search. The question of excising names from archives has not yet been resolved by the German courts, he said ...
I love the fact that the first message was not something profound like the ones Samuel Morse and Alexandar Graham Bell transmitted, but something far more prosaic: "login." From NPR (listen to story):
The Internet began with a whimper, not a bang. And not everyone agrees on when that whimper occurred. But 40 years ago Thursday, something called the ARPANET came into existence, and since then, communication hasn't been the same.
Charley Kline's moment in history unfolded inside a large, empty computer lab at the University of California, Los Angeles, at 10:30 p.m. on Oct. 29, 1969.
"I was 21 and a programmer who liked to program all hours of the day and night," Kline says.
Those hours were spent with the SDS Sigma 7 — a computer the size of a one-bedroom apartment.
On the night of Oct. 29, Kline sent an electronic message from the Sigma 7 to another computer at the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park.
That transmission would literally transform the way we communicate today. To tell the story of how it happened, you have to start with the context in which it happened.
A communication revolution was taking place — but it was happening over the telephone. Telephones were for communicating, while computers were built to process information — to do things like payroll and number-crunching.
The IBM 1401, a computer system about the size of a two-car garage, could process about as much information as your cell phone — your ratty old cell phone from the 1980s, that is.
On a recent afternoon at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., a few old-timers got the IBM 1401 up and running. That computer is one of many in the museum's main exhibit hall — a space the size of four football fields.
But, says Bill Duvall, "It's fair to say that your BlackBerry has more computing power than all of the computers in this room combined."
Duvall was on the receiving end of Kline's first message.
Nearly four years before Duvall and Kline did the Internet equivalent of the moon landing, Bob Taylor was sitting in his office at the Pentagon, where he worked for the Advanced Research Projects Agency, or ARPA.
And he was frustrated.
Taylor had three computer terminals in his office. Each one connected to a different computer in a different part of the country.
"To get in touch with someone in Santa Monica through the computer, I'd sit in front of one terminal, but to do the same thing with someone in Massachusetts, I would have to get up and move over to another terminal," Taylor recalls. "You don't have to look at this very long to realize this is silly. This is stupid. So I decided, OK, I want to build a network that connects all of these."
So Taylor started to collect really smart people — people who could build that network, like Duvall, Len Kleinrock at UCLA and the young Kline.
Taylor also sent word to the biggest technology companies that they could bid on a contract to help build that network.
"IBM refused to bid, as did AT&T," Kline remembers. "They both said, 'Can't be done; it's useless.' They saw the future of computing as bigger and bigger mainframes."
So a smaller company, Bolt, Beranek and Newman, got the contract. It built a device called the IMP, the interface message processor. It was as big as two full-size gym lockers.
Kline explains how it worked: "I would type a character. It would go into my computer. My software would take it, wrap around it all the necessary software to send it to the IMP. The IMP would take it and say, 'Oh, this is supposed to go up to SRI.' "
Think about it like your home Internet router, only 100 times bigger.
A Message For The History Books
It took about a year for Bolt, Beranek and Newman to build several of these IMPs and get them into place at different locations in the country, including at UCLA and SRI.
"At some point, we were ready to test it," Kline says. "It wasn't like we had planned it."
So, late on that October night in 1969, Kline, sitting at the UCLA computer lab, placed a phone call to Duvall at Stanford.
"We didn't walk into a darkened room, turn on the lights, flip the switch and have it work," Duvall says. "This was something that we tried some number of times. ... We were hooked up with a telephone headset, and we were talking to each other."
Kline started to type the historic message — an online communication roughly equivalent to what the Neanderthal is to modern humans.
"We should have prepared a wonderful message," says Kleinrock, who headed UCLA's computer lab then. "Certainly Samuel Morse did, when he prepared 'What hath God wrought,' a beautiful Biblical quotation. Or Alexander Graham Bell: 'Come here, Watson. I need you.' Or Armstrong up in the moon — 'a giant leap for mankind.' These guys were smart. They understood public relations. They had quotes ready for history."
On Oct. 29, Kleinrock says, "All we wanted to do ... was to send a simple login capability from UCLA to SRI. We just wanted to log into the SRI machine from UCLA."
And so the first computer network communication was — well, it was supposed to be the word "login."
"The first thing I typed was an L," Kline says. Over the phone, Duvall told Kline he had gotten it. "I typed the O, and he got the O."
Then Kline typed the G. "And he had a bug and it crashed."
And that was it. The first-ever communication over a computer network was "lo." The ARPANET was born.
About an hour later, at 10:30, they got it to work — and successfully transmitted L-O-G-I-N. Kline scribbled some notes into a logbook and went home to bed.
The federal Energy Department will make good on a pledge for a bolder technology strategy on Monday, awarding research grants for ideas like bacteria that will make gasoline, enzymes that will capture carbon dioxide to counter global warming and batteries so cheap that they will allow the use of solar power all night long.
A new agency within the department will nurture these and other radical proposals, most of which will probably fail but a few of which could have “a transformative impact,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in an interview on Friday. The money will go for projects at all stages of development, including some that exist simply as a smart idea, Dr. Chu said.
The department will announce 37 grants totaling $151 million, mostly going to small businesses and educational institutions but also to a few corporations. Some of the ideas may be supported until they are picked up by venture capitalists or major companies, he said.
The new effort, directed by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or Arpa-e, is modeled on a Defense Department program known as Darpa that helped commercialize microchips and the Internet and helped develop body armor and other high-tech products. Darpa is known for quick decisions and long-shot bets, an approach seldom associated with the Energy Department.
President George W. Bush signed the agency into law in 2007 but did not propose any money for it. It got its first appropriation in the stimulus act, $400 million to be spent over two years. On Wednesday, the Senate confirmed Arun Majumdar, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California to lead the agency.
Dr. Majumdar said in a telephone interview that his new agency would identify challenges in the energy industry and would finance “five or ten different approaches.”
“We don’t know which ones are going to work, but we’ll try them,” he said, “and if many of them fail but one works, that’s great, we’ve solved the problem.”
Dr. Chu, a Nobel laureate in physics, was a co-author of a 2006 paper for the National Academy of Sciences that called for the creation of the Arpa-e program.
First the Too-Big-To-Fail Banks Are Losing Power In Washington and now the giant telco's are losing their influence too. Is it Obama's promised change? Would it have happened regardless ? What do you think?
From the Wash Post:
Lobbying Blitz May Fall Short. FCC expected to approve plan to develop Web access rules
Facing a major regulatory issue that could be worth a fortune in future business, AT&T has unleashed the kind of lobbying blitz that makes it one of the grand corporate players of the great Washington game.
And yet, for all the money AT&T and other old-line telecom and cable companies have spent pushing their cause, they are poised to lose a key vote to a bunch of younger technology companies that never had anything to do with Washington until recently.
If the Federal Communications Commission votes Thursday in favor of crafting rules to let the government oversee access to the Internet, it could be a sign of a fundamental shift of power under the Obama administration that may make K Street rethink its ways.
"This is totally new in Washington, that opposed to only the old Goliaths like AT&T, or traditional public utilities commissions or large insurance companies at the table, they are now joined by others like tech growth companies," said Mark Heesen, president of the National Venture Capital Association, a trade group that represents the investors of Web giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon.
The vote is on a proposal that would begin a months-long process to formulate rules on how Internet service providers manage traffic on their networks while not blocking or unfairly slowing some content. The proposal, favored by Chairman Julius Genachowski, is expected to pass with three votes out of five.
AT&T and other wireless and cable providers say the proposal amounts to giving the government control over the Internet, and that companies will lose the ability to reduce congestion on their networks. Web service providers such as Google and Skype counter that they need unfettered access to all Internet users because the carriers could decide to block services that compete with their own.
In recent weeks, large telecommunications and cable firms have been flooding the offices of Congress, blasting e-mails and calling aides to try to get them to sign onto letters sent to Genachowski in protest of his push for new "net neutrality" rules.
Staffers on Capitol Hill and at the FCC say the most active lobbyists have been from AT&T -- a company that is historically the largest donor to the political campaigns of members of Congress It has spent more than $8 million in lobbying this year on a wide range of issues, including net neutrality, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Last week, 72 Democratic members of Congress wrote the FCC in opposition to the net-neutrality proposals. Many of them, staffers said, had been encouraged to write by AT&T. And 52 of them received a total of $180,000 in campaign contributions from AT&T this year, according to the Center.
Over the weekend, AT&T's chief lobbyist, Jim Cicconi, reached inside the company for lobbying support, asking its 300,000 employees to write the FCC that net neutrality would severely hurt their business ...
Google, by contrast, hired its first Washington staffer in 2005 and opened its first permanent office here last year, with a staff of 20. It has spent $1.8 million in lobbying this year, compared with $6.8 million by Verizon and $6 million by Comcast. Dozens of venture capitalists and high-tech giants, including Amazon, eBay and Facebook, jumped into the debate this week, throwing their support behind Genachowski's proposal, which would benefit their firms ...
Marvin Ammori, general counsel at public interest group Free Press, said that if the FCC compromises on its proposal, that would be an indication that AT&T's tactics are effective. "This would send a clear signal that if you run as hard as you can and pay a bunch of lobbyists and sow confusion in the press, Julius Genachowski will buckle," Ammori said.
Genachowski, a former FCC counsel, has roots in the Internet start-up world. He was an executive at IAC/Interactive, which owns a variety of Internet companies, such as Evite and Urbanspoon.
Some staffers at the FCC and on the Hill say the voice of AT&T and other telecom companies is diminishing, and that Thursday's vote is likely to be a sign to those companies that the rules are changing. "They are playing the same game but they may not get the same outcomes that they are used to," said a staffer on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees telecommunications policy, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly. "The issues and people have changed, from the Obama administration to new members down to new staff, who see things differently."
Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a key member of the Energy Committee, said AT&T "wants to frame it as big companies against each other, but in fact millions of people online see net neutrality as the ability for great ideas by the next Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Sergey Brin to get out without having to ask permission from companies like AT&T."
In the long fight over open-Internet or net-neutrality rules, we’re still essentially in pre-game. But you’d never know it from the flurry of lobbying about the issue this week.
On Friday, it was the House Democrats turn, when 72 members sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, asking him to soften a proposal the agency is expected to approve next Thursday.
The lawmakers urged the FCC to “carefully consider the full range of potential consequences that government action may have on network investment,” while crafting the proposed rules. Phone and cable companies have been making similar points to the FCC, arguing the agency should avoid rules that will hobble their ability to manage their networks and stifle investment.
The House Democrats added that “we would urge you to avoid tentative conclusions which favor government regulation” and that “we remain suspicious of conclusions based on slogans rather than substance and of policies that restrict and inhibit the very innovation and growth that we all seek to achieve.”
There are plenty of things rumored to be in the proposed rules that have Internet providers fuming even before the plan is released.
But none appears to have phone and cable companies as apoplectic as one proposal circulated by Genachowski. It says that net neutrality rules would apply to all parts of an Internet pipe, not just the chunk that’s set aside for Internet traffic.
Phone and cable companies divvy up space on their fiber lines for different things, including phone service, pay-TV channels and other premium services, like private corporate data networks. They’re concerned that the FCC will have veto-power over whether they can offer these sorts “managed services” on their networks.
The FCC mailroom has been working overtime this week keeping up with the deluge of letters that have been arriving from lawmakers, governors and state legislators, all of whom have been getting visits from cable or phone lobbyists engaged in an all-hands-on-deck effort to change the proposed rules before they are released.
At last count, there have been 11 letters from governors (a mix of Republicans and Democrats), 18 Republican senators, House minority leadership and now, the 72 House Democrats, which includes 18 members of the Congressional Black Caucus, 31 Blue Dog Democrats and 10 members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the FCC.
On Thursday, the Communications Workers of America weighed in on the side of phone companies, which employ thousands of CWA members. The union asked the agency to have a “reasoned discussion” about the rules and focus on rules that don’t prompt phone companies to stop investing in their networks.
Net neutrality advocates weren’t happy about the letter from the congressional Democrats, dubbing them “Blue Bell” Democrats – a nod to the fact that lobbyists for the former Bell phone companies have been pounding the halls of Capitol Hill this week trying to get support for the letter.
“In parroting the misinformation put forward by the big telecom companies, the Blue Bell Caucus only condemns their constitutes to inferior service and limited opportunities to succeed in an Internet-based economy,” said Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, a digital rights interest group that’s lobbied for net neutrality rules.
The Wall St Journal does not like the direction FCC Chairman Genachowski is going on Net Neutrality. I very much do. The Internet is the modern public square and it's critically important we do not allow big corporations the ability to choose who, or how loud, one can speak there.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski is proposing that the agency apply tougher open-Internet rules broadly, raising concerns of cable and phone companies and some lawmakers that the government could try to control efforts to offer products such as digital cable or premium business services.
Mr. Genachowski's proposal suggests everything in the Internet pipe is covered by rules prohibiting discrimination against any legal Internet traffic, known as net neutrality, unless the agency says otherwise, according to FCC officials familiar with a draft circulating in the agency.
Internet providers could seek exemptions for so-called premium managed services, like private corporate data networks or pay-TV services, which require guaranteed levels of data speed.
Phone and cable companies worry Mr. Genachowski is trying to turn their broadband lines into "dumb pipes" of Internet data, instead of highly segmented and managed lines that allow them to offer different sorts of services -- at different prices -- to customers ...
It is unclear if the two Republican FCC commissioners will support the proposal. The three Democrats, including Mr. Genachowski, are in favor.
An FCC spokeswoman said the agency would have no comment on the proposed rules before their release.
Net-neutrality supporters argue that if the FCC doesn't apply rules broadly, companies will use that as a loophole, labeling more of their offerings as private services and devoting more space to them. "If there aren't some limits on managed services, it's the monster that eats the whole pipe," said Gigi Sohn, co-founder of Public Knowledge, a public-interest group that has lobbied for net neutrality.
In a Sept. 21 speech announcing his proposal, Mr. Genachowski said that managed services may offer benefits "in limited circumstances."
"I believe such services can supplement -- but must not supplant -- free and open-Internet access, and that we must ensure that ample bandwidth exists for all Internet users and innovators," he said.
Under Mr. Genachowski's proposal, the FCC would change its current net-neutrality guidance, which details consumers' online rights, and focus instead on what Internet service providers are not allowed to do.
Mr. Genachowski's proposal is a working draft that could still change significantly. The FCC is scheduled to vote Oct. 22 on unveiling the proposals to the public. It could be late spring or summer before the final net-neutrality rules are released.
From the Wash Post:
Go through the nation's history, and the noise and heat in public political discourse have always been there, rising with the cycles of economic distress, immigration and cultural upheaval -- illustrated in recent decades by the contentious judicial confirmation fights ... The spread of the Internet in the mid-1990s, along with the rise of conservative talk radio and 24-hour cable news programming, added a new dimension, however.
"The thing that is really important now is the way the Internet has changed the relationship between the elite and the non-elite. Everybody has the opportunity to be a great communicator for 15 minutes," said Danielle Allen, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study who studies modern political theory.
Now everybody wants to grab the bullhorn and holler through it. That level of participation is a good thing for a healthy democracy, Allen and other scholars agree.
Red-faced and blue-faced insistence online and on television "brings us to this very wobbly sense of where we are right now: Is this a sign we are falling apart, or that people are just participating again? Or both?" said Thomas Benson, a professor of rhetoric at Pennsylvania State University.
"So we get this puzzling image of Senator Specter in my home town, and some big guy bulging out of his shirt says, 'I've read this [health-care] bill!' And he is so angry it's a declaration of his impotence as an ordinary citizen, but at the same time he's asserting his participation as a citizen, and both things are right."
If the Internet and cable TV amplify and spread vile personal assaults, they may also, paradoxically, minimize the physical danger. Duels as an acceptable way to settle a score went downhill after Burr and Hamilton ...
Another paradox: The rancor is simultaneously lucrative -- ideologues are the millionaire kings and queens of cable and radio ratings and book sales -- and unsettling to those in the center of the American electorate, who dislike the political sniping and often tune it out. Obama's approval rating is 53 percent, the same as the percentage of the vote he won last year.
From the Wash Post:
The [Federal Register, the] de facto daily newspaper of the executive branch publishes approximately 80,000 pages of documents each year, including presidential disaster declarations, Medicare reimbursement rates, and thousands of agency rulings on policies ranging from banking to fishing to food. It's a must-read for anyone with business before the federal government or concerned about inside-the-Beltway decisions, including academics, good-government advocates and Register junkies (yes, they do exist).
Starting Monday, issues dating back to 2000 will be available at Data.gov in a form known in the Web world as XML, which allows users to transport data from a Web site and store it, reorganize it or customize it elsewhere. Officials suggested that the move puts readers, rather than the government, in charge of deciding how to access the Register's reams of information.
"In much the same way that newspapers have looked at making content more accessible by changing the print and typeface, we can now do the same thing by making the Federal Register available such that people can manipulate it and customize it and reuse the content to make the information even more accessible," said Beth Noveck, director of the White House Open Government Initiative.
Monday's launch is the outgrowth of President Obama's first executive order, which mandated greater transparency in federal government.
The Office of the Federal Register publishes the Register each business day. The first issue, in 1936, had 11 pages; Friday's had 157. According to the White House, the Register totaled 79,435 pages in fiscal 2008, with 31,879 documents, its largest year ever. Online readers downloaded more than 200 million Register documents in fiscal 2009, the White House said ...
Monday's release should make it easier for users to find their specific topic without having to wade through volumes of unrelated material. Government officials expect information-hungry users -- be they good-government groups, news organizations or the college student pulling an all-nighter -- to make the most of the new access. The technology will allow users, including Web site designers, to quickly gather data and manipulate the information with tools such as mapping software, word clouds, spreadsheets and e-mail alert systems, White House officials and government observers said.
Lawyers and activists tracking Environmental Protection Agency policies might subscribe to an e-mail alert system built by a good-government group that will notify them of updates published in the Register. A Maryland resident monitoring the impact of federal regulations on his neighborhood might visit a Web site that allows him to search the Register's items by state, county and Zip code.
"It makes it much easier to follow a specific topic area or look at specific regulations from a specific agency or search within a geographic area," said John Wonderlich, policy director of the Sunlight Foundation, an open-government advocacy group.
"It's not going to be useful for everyone, but if you're looking at making government processes more efficient, this view across the government will be very useful," Wonderlich said ...
Mary Alice Baish, director of government relations for the American Association of Law Libraries, said members are "delighted" about the move. "This is a win-win situation for business, the regulatory community and consumers," she said.
From the NY Times:
In what it bills as an industry-defining moment — though rivals are sure to be skeptical about that — Disney Publishing plans to introduce a new subscription-based Web site. For $79.95 a year, families can access electronic replicas of hundreds of Disney books, from “Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too” to “Hannah Montana: Crush-tastic!”
DisneyDigitalBooks.com, which is aimed at children ages 3 to 12, is organized by reading level. In the “look and listen” section for beginning readers, the books will be read aloud by voice actors to accompanying music (with each word highlighted on the screen as it is spoken). Another area is dedicated to children who read on their own. Find an unfamiliar word? Click on it and a voice says it aloud. Chapter books for teenagers and trivia features round out the service.
“For parents, this isn’t going to replace snuggle time with a storybook,” said Yves Saada, vice president of digital media. “We think you can have different reading formats co-existing together.”
Publishers, of course, have been experimenting with e-books for the children’s market for years. About 1,000 children’s titles are now available digitally from HarperCollins. Scholastic has BookFlix, a subscription service for schools and libraries that pairs a video storybook with a nonfiction e-book on a related topic. “Curious George” is available on the iPhone ...“There isn’t anything like Disney’s product on the market,” said Sarah Rotman Epps, a media analyst at Forrester Research who got a sneak peek at the Web site. “They are the first to say, we’re putting our whole catalog online in this one place, and we’re selling it straight to parents.”
By pursuing a subscription online model — as opposed to focusing on downloads and sales for devices like the Kindle — Disney is placing a specific bet about where the children’s market is going, at least in the next three to five years. The move could send ripples through this corner of publishing, if only because of the size of Disney, which annually sells 250 million children’s books.
“The company feels that devices don’t offer a Disney-level experience for kids and families, and I agree with them,” Ms. Epps said ...
But make no mistake, this is about business. Children are reading less, and Disney, like other publishers, is scrambling to reverse the trend. Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive, has also put the entire company on notice that digital media must now be a money maker in and of itself; marketing extensions are no longer enough.
Mr. Hampton said the Disney Digital Books site was designed so other businesses — language learning, for instance — could be added. Disney sees education services as a fruitful area of growth, particularly overseas.
A huge marketing effort will set about drilling the site into the public consciousness. Three million promotional postcards will be distributed at screenings of Disney films, and a social media and advertising component is intended to reach 14 million mothers. In the works are demonstrations at Apple’s retail stores.
Until now, Disney Publishing has only dabbled in the digital arena, offering some young adult titles for the Kindle and licensing a handful of storybook titles to LeapFrog, the educational toy maker. About 500 books will be available on the site Tuesday, with more added twice a month. (Disney owns thousands of titles.) Exclusive content will follow by the end of the year. Disney Digital Books will begin introducing titles in foreign countries in 2011.
An important victory for democracy and innovation is reported on by Wired (and this will come as no surprise: GOP Senators Move to Stop Obama Net Neutrality Rules):
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski delivered Monday on President Obama’s promise to back “net neutrality.” But he went much further than merely seeking to expand rules that prohibit ISPs from filtering or blocking net traffic — he proposed that they cover all broadband connections, including data connections for smartphones.
Genachowski, Obama’s law school classmate, announced in a speech Monday at the Brookings Institution his intent to codify and expand the four current broadband principles known as the Four Freedoms and extend them to all broadband connections. He said that an open internet is necessary for economic growth and democratic participation. The rules were originally applied only to wireline broadband services, and the FCC kept postponing any ruling on whether they also applied to wireless services.
“The Internet’s creators didn’t want the network architecture — or any single entity — to pick winners and losers,” Genachowski said, embracing what is known as the end-to-end principle. “The principles that will protect the open Internet are an essential step to maximize investment and innovation in the network and on the edge of it — by establishing rules of the road that incentivize competition, empower entrepreneurs, and grow the economic pie to the benefit of all.”
So-called “Net neutrality” is shorthand for the idea that the government should mandate that ISPs should largely act as dumb pipes that transmit data across the net without regards to what is in the data packets. Today’s announcement marks a huge win for advocates say the rules are necessary to keep ISPs from stifling innovation by erecting tollbooths and created tiered access plans.
But others argue that consumer pressure will keep the net open and the rules will stifle attempts at innovation, such as finding ways to prioritize video calls over less urgent traffic such as photo uploads. ISPs balk at the rules, since they have grown envious of the profits of companies like Yahoo and Google, who they see as free riders on their infrastructure.
The current rules, which never went through an official rule-making process and are being contested in court by Comcast, give broadband consumers the right use whatever services, applications and devices they like, so long as they don’t harm the network.
Genachowski proposes adding two more principles:
- broadband providers cannot discriminate against services or applications by slowing them down
- broadband providers must tell customers how its engineers manage the network when it gets congested
The first new rule seeks to prevent cable ISPs from slowing down online video services and 3G providers from messing with internet calling services like Skype.
Those rules are necessary because there is little competition in the broadband market, Genachowski added. ”The net result is that broadband providers’ rational bottom-line interests may diverge from the broad interests of consumers in competition and choice,” Genachowski said.
The second new rule is intended to prevent a repeat of Comcast’s blocking of peer-to-peer traffic, which was discovered by an engineer having trouble sharing public-domain barbershop-quartet songs on the net. Comcast denied for months that it was blocking the traffic, and only after a year of substantial pressure from the FCC did the company explain what it was doing.
All six principles will become part of an official rule-making process starting in November, Genachowski said. That will means a few rounds of public comment and much backroom negotiating among the FCC five commissioners, currently comprised of three Democrats and two Republicans.
But both longtime commissioner Michael Copps and the newly appointed Mignon Clyburn quickly issued statements supporting Genachowski, signaling that only the details are up for discussion.
The nation’s largest broadband providers and the wireless industry will surely strenuously objected to the proposal.
From the NY Times:
The new Wide Field Camera 3 aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, took this image of hot gas fleeing a dying star 3,800 light-years away in the Scorpius constellation. A so-called planetary nebula, it is also known as the Bug Nebula or the Butterfly Nebula. What resemble dainty butterfly wings are actually roiling cauldrons of gas heated to more than 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The star itself, once about five times as massive as the Sun, is some 400,000 degrees Fahrenheit, making it one of the hottest known in the galaxy. In what amounts to a kind of galactic recycling, the lost gas, enriched by elements like oxygen, nitrogen and carbon produced by the formerly massive star, will form the stuff for future stars.
A clash among members of a famous galaxy quintet reveals an assortment of stars across a wide color range, from young, blue stars to aging, red stars. This photo of Stephan's Quintet, also known as Hickson Compact Group 92, was taken by the new Wide Field Camera 3. Stephan's Quintet, as the name implies, is a group of five galaxies. The name, however, is a bit of a misnomer. Studies have shown that group member NGC 7320, at upper left, is actually a foreground galaxy about seven times closer to Earth than the rest of the group. The image, taken in visible and infrared light, showcases the camera's broad wavelength range.
The Hubble's new Wide Field Camera 3 peered into one of the more crowded places in the universe in this view of a small region inside the globular cluster Omega Centauri, which has nearly 10 million stars. Globular clusters are ancient swarms of stars united by gravity. The stars in Omega Centauri are 10 billion to 12 billion years old. The cluster is about 16,000 light-years from Earth. The photograph showcases the new camera's color versatility by revealing a variety of stars in key stages of their life cycles.
See more photos.
The evolution of special effects
From the Boston Globe:
Massachusetts biomedical researchers are seeing a windfall from federal stimulus money, with the state receiving more in grants from the National Institutes of Health than all others but California.
With $178 million in extra federal funds already directed toward Massachusetts, research projects that had been dormant are being revived and others are accelerating.
By midweek, 660 new grants had been sprinkled across the state’s hospitals and university laboratories as part of the Obama administration’s campaign to kick-start a sputtering economy. More money is coming in daily, and researchers say they have begun hiring junior scientists and technicians and buying new equipment.
Massachusetts lags behind more populated states in overall stimulus funding, but scientists here are receiving a disproportionate share of the $10 billion the NIH plans to distribute. California has received 927 grants totaling $244 million, according to the Globe’s analysis of NIH data on funds awarded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The volume of NIH stimulus funding reflects the region’s high concentration of research centers and its longstanding dominance in winning federal grants. The agency included geography as one of its criteria in distributing money, but said states with large research centers would get a higher share. The numbers are preliminary, and more grants are expected to be awarded between now and the end of the month.
The interesting list of things NASA has left on the moon, including these boots from Buzz Aldrin, can be found here.
This graphic of email's impact on the U.S.P.S.probably explains why the USPS joins GAO high-risk list.