Unbelievably clueless over-reaction
Who owns National Weather Service data?
A prior question should perhaps be, "Who pays for National Weather Service data?" The answer is, not surprisingly, "U.S. taxpayers." A lot of NWS data is available on their Internet site. These are popular desinations for Internet users.
During the three months last fall when four hurricanes struck the South, weather service sites received nine billion hits — breaking a government record of six billion hits on NASA sites in the three months after the Mars rover landing last spring.
Last fall the government invited public comment on the NWS policy of making such information freely available. Support was "overwhelming." Shortly after the election, the NWS announced "it would officially embrace an open-information policy."
But some are not happy.
[T]he Commercial Weather Services Association, the industry's trade group, has complained that such sites violate an agreement from the pre-Internet era. By their argument, the taxpayers should continue to pay for all the weather balloons and monitoring stations — but should not be allowed to get the results directly from government sites.
This would be outrageous. I'm sorry to read that Senator Rick Santorum, who represents me — as well as others &mdash in Washington agrees with the trade group's position and will introduce legislation to allow commericial for-profit organizations to "continue providing meteorological infrastructure, forecasts and warnings, rather than providing services already effectively provided by the private sector. In other words, taking down those Web sites...."
This isolated item is discussed in the broader context of the Bush administration's impact on technology (taking a basically positive view, I might add) in an article from the New York Times entitled "Bush Didn't Invent the Internet, but Is He Good for Tech?" [via Dave Farber's IP list]
Taking advertisers at their word
Making Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004 look really good
Picture this: it's a week and a half till the election. Almost all the candidates are anonymous, there have been no debates and there is virtual no information about candidates' positions. Furthermore, you won't know where to go to vote until the last minute and you can't see a sample ballot. You can't drive to the polling place, assuming you find out where it is, because most vehicles are banned from the streets.
What a farce this is going to be!
Because 2005 is 21 years too late
That's the motto of the Students for an Orwellian Society. Their home page links to news stories under three categories
It would be très amusant if it weren't so frighteningly reality-based [via Dave Farber's IP list].
On a related note, Michael Geist has a column (email@example.com, password=thestar) in today's Toronto Star arguing that the World Trade Organization's intellectual property provisions are unfair to developing countries [via Geist's Internet Law News]. It contains the very interesting—at least to me—assertion that developed nations resisted legalizing pharmaceutical patents until their pharmaceutical industries were mature.
The one-sided nature of global intellectual property law is best illustrated by the legal protections granted to pharmaceutical products. Developed countries that are now home to pharmaceutical giants persistently resisted providing patents for pharmaceutical products until their industries were well developed ? France introduced pharmaceutical patents in 1960, Germany in 1968, Japan in 1976, Switzerland in 1977, and Italy and Sweden in 1978.
Hooray for Barbara Boxer!
I have to say I admire what Barbara Boxer did yesterday. I also admire what Stephanie Tubbs Jones did. But it was Ms. Boxer who made history. So what if it wasn't going to change anyone's mind? We have to start talking about such things before we'll ever do something about them.
You don't need a weatherman...
Today's Philadelphia Inquirer has an editorial titled "Bush and the New Congress An ill wind is blowing." I could hardly be in more wholehearted agreement:
Curious as to what a conservative point of view might be on these issues, I looked at what the Washington Times and Fox News had to say about this matter. Granted, these are two news stories while the Inquirer piece is an editorial. Still, I was interested that I didn't see anything in either story that seemed to blunt the Inquirer editorial.
Tsunami redraws maps
This is amazing. Especially the part about the Straits of Malacca, although I suspect the earthquake might be more responsible than the tsunami.
Water depths in parts of the Straits of Malacca, one of the world's busiest shipping channels off the coast of Sumatra, reached about 4,000 feet before last month's tsunami. Now, reports are coming in of just 100 feet - too dangerous for shipping, if proved true.
I read somewhere — it might have been on the USGS web site — that the 9.0 earthquake on 26 December involved the ocean floor lifting something like 15 meters along 100 km of the subducting plate. But 3,900 feet is more like 1,200 meters! Maybe a lot of it was the tsunami rather than the earthquake. The same source said the aftershocks resulted in — or were a result of, I'm not sure which is the more accurate terminology — movement along a total length of 1,200 km of the subduction zone.
The first thing I noticed about this earthquake is that it was not so far from Krakatoa, which I had thought was the biggest such event in recorded history (in 1883). Maybe not, it turns out. Tambora (1915) was probably bigger. Santorini (or Thira, c. 1650 BC) likely was also, though no written accounts survive. Prior to recorded history there was Toba (73,000 ± 4000 years ago) and Yellowstone (600,000 and 2,000,000 years ago), which has covered half of North America in up to two meters of debris. These last two are examples of supervolcanoes, a vague and non-technical term, eruptions of about a dozen of which have been deduced.
I have been citing some interesting facts about Krakatoa to my friends (sometime erroneously mixing them up). The tsunami it generated was nearly 40 meters high. This wave was measured around the world. It did not, as I recently asserted in meat-space, travel around the world several times. That was the barometric pressure blast [sound wave]; the sound of the explosion was heard over one third of the globe. It was measured in numerous places all over the world for the following five days and was determined to have traveled around the world seven times! I also asserted that it was responsible for the Year Without a Summer, but that was Tambora. Temperatures did drop measurably after Krakatoa, but only 1.2° C.
To think that one these or any other really BIG disasters could happen anytime. Anywhere.
Bush's anti-missile defense unapt?
Scott Ritter, former US intelligence officer and weapons inspector in the Soviet Union and in Iraq and Time magazine's person of the week for 13 Sep 2002, wrote an article for the Christian Science Monitor alleging that the Bush version of 'Star Wars' would have to be completely redesigned to be effective and that this was likely proven by the recent test of a Russian missle [via Dave Farber's IP list].
Sunshine Week — 13-19 March
Also from Steven Aftergood's Secrecy News:
It's hard enough to believe that there's any good reason for the President's Daily Briefs from the Lyndon Johnson presidency more than 35 years ago to be kept classified. The CIA believes these PDBs — and all others — should never be reviewed for possible declassification. This despite the well-known fact that a couple of them were published in the 9/11 Commission's publically available report.
Apparently though the CIA was willing to declassify at least one Johnson era PDB, merely because it took the form of a cable and did not carry the letterhead announcing "President's Daily Brief." Sheesh [ via Steven Aftergood's Secrecy News]!
The rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket
Isn't it nice the way advertising enriches our lives [via Dave Farber's IP list]?
[I]t's standard now for programs to select ads for a given page (e.g., on Google pages) to match the content of that page, supposedly to attract the attention of people interested in the content. If at this hour (7:52 p.m. EDT) you were to read the story on the International Herald Tribune front page about Swedish reaction to loss of probably over 1000 Swedish tourists in the tsunami, the four ads on the page you get are these: