It’s taken far too long, but at least finally something might be done to correct the situation.
Worsening friction between Congress and the head of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission escalated on Tuesday into a formal investigation of agency rule-making procedures and management practices.
The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee said it launched the probe to determine if the agency had been fair, open, efficient and transparent when crafting regulations.
The panel did not cite a specific case in a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin (pdf) but the investigation comes just three weeks after Martin defied lawmakers by holding a vote to ease media ownership restrictions.
Committee Chairman John Dingell a Democrat of Michigan and the ranking Republican, Joe Barton of Texas, asked Martin to save all electronic records and personal e-mails related to FCC work. The investigation would also “address a growing number of allegations received by the committee” that relate to management practices, their letter said.
Last month, Dingell expressed concern that under Martin, the FCC did not give enough notice of proposed new FCC rules and that Martin was slow to give the other four commissioners details of draft agenda items.
An FCC spokesman declined to comment on the letter, but said Martin had previously responded to a December inquiry from Dingell that asked about agency procedures.
“Commission processes and decision-making time frames remain essentially the same as the general decision-making procedures established nearly 10 years ago under Chairman William Kennard,” Martin wrote to Dingell.
By Julie Vorman WASHINGTON (Reuters) Read the full article…
Here’s a suggestion I hope someone follows up on.
If you own or work for a virtual reality lab and would like to contribute to the happiness of a terminally ill adult:
Get together with the Make-A-Wish Foundation (or do this on your own) and create a way for terminally ill parents to enjoy a virtual adulthood vision of their children. The technology exists to age a person from an image of them. This would allow a dying parent to enjoy a vision of their children grown and happy. The adult/child could be shown in a scenario that the parent selects, like college or business.
I know Make-A-Wish deals with children. This would allow them to increase their outreach in to parents as well. If they don’t appreciate the opportunity this presents, it would be worthwhile to pursue on your own.
I can’t think of too much else that would put a dying parent’s mind at rest than to be able to “see” their children going on to become successful in life.
In 1969, ARPANET went live. A creation of ARPA, this fist computer network was meant to provide redundancy for government communications. The Defense Department realized that existing communications methods were vulnerable to attack These were still the days of the Cold War, and it was the intention of the DoD to counter any measure the Russians might take against us.
The internet was a brilliant idea. It was not a point-to-point communication method, like telephones and telegraphs were. It broke messages into packets, and those packets were routed through a variety of servers, assembled once they arrived at their destination. If one line, or twenty lines, of the network were compromised, the message would still get through by finding intact routes to follow. The DoD understood that redundancy was the only viable solution to the vulnerability of point-to-point communications.
Leonard Kleinrock with first IMP
These days we depend on both wired communications and wireless. Cell phones are so ubiquitous that in the case of a national emergency, nearly every person witnessing the event in person or on TV will want to call their family and friends (or upload a picture of it to YouTube). According to the following article from Wired News, our wireless infrastructure may not yet be up to the task, leaving us once again vulnerable to a major communications break-down.
…so many people tried to send text messages on New Year’s Eve that networks got jam-packed and many of the missives arrived hours later – or not at all.
“Think of any traffic artery during rush hour: You have a large number of people who are trying to access it at the same time,” said Joe Farren, assistant vice president of public affairs for CTIA-The Wireless Association, a wireless industry group. “It’s really no different with regard to wireless networks.”
Millions and millions of messages did get through New Year’s Eve, and a minor delay in a holiday wish is hardly the end of the world. But there have been multiple occasions in recent years when getting in touch with loved ones was more vital – the Sept. 11 attacks, the 2003 blackout, Hurricane Katrina.
“What happens where there is an emergency?” asked Scott Midkiff, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Virginia Tech. “This has been a big problem with the voice cellular system. It will probably become more of a problem with text messaging.”
The cell phone carriers say they are working to expand their systems’ capacity. Jeffrey Nelson, spokesman for Verizon Wireless, said the company invests almost $6 billion annually in the wireless network.
But the number of cell phone subscribers in the U.S. nearly doubled between the end of 2001 and the end of 2006, growing from 128 million to 233 million users, Farren said.
In an emergency, it could be a concern, Cameron said.
“I didn’t have a connection using cell phones for several days, and that was really frightening,” he said of living in New York after the Sept. 11 attacks. “I didn’t talk to my parents for a week and a half.”
“It’s definitely a really big question mark,” said Rajan Shah, who sent his New Year’s text messages before the clock struck midnight to beat the rush. “It really makes you rethink technology and whether we are able to be connected through a global catastrophe.”
Text messages already use a different transmission system from cell phone calls. There may be a way to differentiate among types of information or to create a separate system for people to use in emergencies.
Farren said emergency networks in place and now being expanded allow emergency service personnel to maintain voice cell phone service in times of need.
But that doesn’t help average Joe trying to find Mrs. Joe.
The next step may be some consumer education, Farren said.
“In an emergency situation, you really should stay off your phone” if possible, he said.
(For a good read on the history of the internet, visit The Living Internet)
For crying out loud. Will companies please either: hire professional network engineers who can build a secure network and understand vulnerabilities and encryption or, stay out of networking until you can afford to/care to.
Despite what should have been an unavoidable lesson in pathetic networking by TJMaxx, companies continue to roll out networks apparently without a clue as to how to set them up or secure them.
Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner passenger jet may have a serious security vulnerability in its onboard computer networks that could allow passengers to access the plane’s control systems, according to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.
The computer network in the Dreamliner’s passenger compartment, designed to give passengers in-flight internet access, is connected to the plane’s control, navigation and communication systems, an FAA report reveals.
The revelation is causing concern in security circles because the physical connection of the networks makes the plane’s control systems vulnerable to hackers. A more secure design would physically separate the two computer networks. Boeing said it’s aware of the issue and has designed a solution it will test shortly.
“This is serious,” said Mark Loveless, a network security analyst with Autonomic Networks, a company in stealth mode, who presented a conference talk last year on Hacking the Friendly Skies (PowerPoint). “This isn’t a desktop computer. It’s controlling the systems that are keeping people from plunging to their deaths. So I hope they are really thinking about how to get this right.” (Wired News)
Bruce Walker at American Thinker presents Christian Republican concerns with the agenda of Mike Huckabee.
As a Christian Republican myself, I will express support for protecting God’s Creation, fighting sickness, and ending hunger. All are profoundly Christian ideals. But Mike Huckabee, as a Christian, is not really talking about protecting Creation, fighting sickness or ending hunger. Mike is talking about using the coercive power of government to force other people to pay taxes and to comply with onerous and arbitrary laws to do what Mike thinks, as a Christian, he should be doing.
That is the salient fact: as a Christian, Huckabee can be a witness to Christian behavior; he can exhort others to themselves become a witness to Christian behavior; but he cannot demand the enslavement of others to do those things which, as a Christian, he feels that he should do. The term “enslavement,” of course, is relative. Americans are comparatively free. But everything that Huckabee feels government should do requires a loss of freedom for every American. Moreover, Huckabee is not just asking for the greater enslavement of Christian Americans, but he is asking for the greater enslavement of all Americans. This is most un-Christian. Does my verdict sound extreme? Substitute “Rome” for “America” and substitute “publican” for “tax dollars.”
Mike Huckabee is quite right to enjoin all Christians and Jews to help the poor, comfort the sick, preserve the beauty of our Blessed Creation, to give jobs to the unemployed and all the other moral commands of the Judeo-Christian religious and moral tradition. Mike Huckabee is quite wrong in perceiving this duty as a function of an impersonal, ineffective and unaccountable government. What Mike says we should do, we should all do individually, as our conscience commands us to do. We cannot replace our hands and our wallets with the hands of slaves or the federal treasury.
It appears I have a couple more months to finish the books I’m currently reading and get my desk cleared, so I can grab a copy of Secular Conscience: Why Belief Belongs in Public Life by Austin Dacey. From the advance reviews on Amazon, it is going to be a fantastic read.
Sam Harris, author of the New York Times best sellers, The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation
“Dacey seeks nothing less than to interrupt a suicide, and he has written a beautiful primer on how our secular tradition can be rescued from self-defeat. The Secular Conscience reveals how simplistic notions of privacy, tolerance, and freedom keep dangerous ideas sheltered from public debate. This is an extraordinarily useful and lucid book.”
Susan Jacoby, author, Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism
“Austin Dacey’s The Secular Conscience is sorely needed at a time when both the religious right and the religious left claim that there can be no public or private morality without religion. With wit and a philosopher’s insight, Dacey explains exactly why secular morality, grounded in an ethical approach that relies on reason rather than supernatural faith, is sorely needed in the public square.”
Ibn Warraq, author of Defending the West
“Whenever I watch a riot over cartoons or meet another Muslim dissident forced to write under a pseudonym, I wonder, where are the Western secular liberals? Why do they shrink from defending freedom of conscience for all? Thanks to Austin Dacey, I now have an answer. As his piercing analysis shows, liberals have lost their grip on the real meaning of freedom. Only with a restored commitment to conscience as an objective moral ideal can they face down fundamentalists while constructively engaging with reformers of the faith. The Secular Conscience should be read by every friend of the open society.”
The open, secular society is in retreat. From Washington to Rome to Tehran, religion is a public matter as never before, and secular values–personal autonomy, toleration, separation of religion and state, and freedom of conscience–are attacked on all sides and defended by few. The godly claim a monopoly on the language of morality in public debate, while secular liberals stand accused of standing for nothing.Secular liberals have undone themselves. For generations, too many have insisted that questions of conscience–religion, ethics, and values–are “private matters” that have no place in public debate. Ironically, this ideology prevents them from subjecting religion to due scrutiny when it encroaches on individual rights and from unabashedly defending their own moral vision in politics for fear of “imposing” their beliefs on others.
In this incisive book, philosopher Austin Dacey calls for a bold rethinking of the nature of conscience and its role in public life. Inspired by an earlier liberal tradition he traces to Spinoza and John Stuart Mill, Dacey urges liberals to lift their self-imposed gag order and argues for a secularism based on the objective moral value of questions of conscience.
He likens conscience to the press in an open society: it should be protected from coercion and control, not because it is private, but because of its vital role in the public sphere. Conscience is free, but not free from shared standards of truth and right.
Marshalling the latest research on belief, the mind, and ethics, The Secular Conscience delivers a compelling ideal for the future of the open, secular society.
About the Author
Austin Dacey, Ph.D. (New York, NY), is a philosopher with the Center for Inquiry think tank in New York City, where he serves as the United Nations representative and a contributing editor to Skeptical Inquirer and Free Inquiry magazines. He teaches philosophy, ethics and science education at Polytechnic University and State University of New York at Buffalo. He is the author of The Case for Humanism (with Lewis Vaughn) and articles in numerous publications including the New York Times.
Creationists like to latch on to minor points to try and make major claims. One of the more popular latch points for them is the transition from single cell, or simple, lifeforms to the more complex, multicellular forms. Since up until now science has not had a ready explanation for that jump, creationists and the ID crowd want to assume that god must have been responsible. It does no good to tell these people that just because we don’t have an answer to the “how” in many of nature’s processes this does not lead logically to a conclusion that “god did it”.
Well, now we are a bit closer to understanding that change from simple to complex life, and there’s still no sign of a god’s involvement.
The crystal structure of a molecule from a primitive fungus has served as a time machine to show researchers more about the evolution of life from the simple to the complex.
By studying the three-dimensional version of the fungus protein bound to an RNA molecule, scientists from Purdue University and the University of Texas at Austin have been able to visualize how life progressed from an early self-replicating molecule that also performed chemical reactions to one in which proteins assumed some of the work.
“Now we can see how RNA progressed to share functions with proteins,” said Alan Lambowitz, director of the University of Texas Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology. “This was a critical missing step.”
Results of the study were published in Thursday’s (Jan. 3) issue of the journal Nature.
“It’s thought that RNA, or a molecule like it, may have been among the first molecules of life, both carrying genetic code that can be transmitted from generation to generation and folding into structures so these molecules could work inside cells,” said Purdue structural biologist Barbara Golden. “At some point, RNA evolved and became capable of making proteins. At that point, proteins started taking over roles that RNA played previously – acting as catalysts and building structures in cells.”
In order to show this and learn more about the evolution from RNA to more complex life forms, Lambowitz and Paul Paukstelis, lead author and a research scientist at the Texas institute, needed to be able to see how the fungus’ protein worked. That’s where Golden’s team joined the effort and crystallized the molecule at Purdue’s macromolecular crystallization facility.
“Obviously, we can’t see the process of moving from RNA to RNA and proteins and then to DNA, without a time machine,” Golden said. “But by using this fungus protein, we can see this process occurring in modern life.”
Looking at the crystal, the scientists saw two things, Golden said. One was that this protein uses two completely different molecular surfaces to perform its two roles. The second is that the protein seems to perform the same job that RNA performed in other simple organisms.
“The crystal structure provides a snapshot of how, during evolution, protein molecules came to assist RNA molecules in their biological functions and ultimately assumed roles previously played by RNA,” Golden said.
The rest of the article, and a cool animation of the crystal, at: http://news.uns.purdue.edu/x/2008a/080102GoldenEnzyme.html
Writing on the ScienceBlogs, pharyngula is someone I read daily. A while ago he posted this video, which he describes better than I ever could, and attempts to correct a few of the glaring misconceptions spouted by O’Reilly and Stein.
Evolution (or as he called it, “Darwinism”) is a weak theory with many gaps that was fit for the 19th century, but not the 21st. This is a ludicrous statement; Darwin would scarcely recognize what we were talking about if he attended an evolutionary biology conference today. We’ve added genetics, population genetics, molecular biology, and developmental biology to the heart of the theory.
ID is an effort to fill in the gaps, and is a sincere effort to add new knowledge to the theory. That’s false. Look at the books written by IDists: from Darwin’s Black Box to Icons of Evolution to The Edge of Evolution, they are all about complaining about evolution while providing no new useful suggestions for research.
This is a free speech issue, we just want to be able to express our side of the story. I don’t see anyone rushing to censor Fox News, or shutting down the printing presses that dare to publish Behe’s or Gonzalez’s books. This is not about free speech, and no one’s speech is being restricted. It is about quality education: will we have our kids taught baseless nonsense because some people want to smuggle their idiosyncratic religious beliefs into the classroom? It’s about quality research: shall we fund and support unproductive and scientifically indefensible ideas because a third-rate character actor likes them? It’s about defending what science is: science is not about wishing something were true and inventing excuse for it; it’s about serious self-criticism and substantial work going into testing ideas. ID simply isn’t science.
I think we get a good glimpse of the dogmatic and dishonest tack Expelled is going to take. It’s going to be one solid wall of lies, insisting that we must privilege the hypothesis that “a deity created life” with the same seriousness that we do population genetics or the biochemistry of abiogenesis.
Has anyone who doesn’t buy into the whole Intelligent Design nonsense seen this movie yet? I’d love to read an objective review.
Lifehacker is featuring some tools to help you keep those New Year’s resolutions.
Before we dive into goal trackers and resolution reminder systems, first make sure you’ve nailed down exactly what you want to achieve. Management expert Peter Drucker recommended that teams use the S.M.A.R.T. acronym as a guideline for setting objectives, and it works for personal goals, too. Your SMART New Year’s resolutions should be:
- Specific. Don’t just say “Lose weight.” Decide to “Lose 12 pounds.”
- Measurable. Instead of “Be better about corresponding with old friends,” decide to “Send out birthday and holiday cards to my high school friends.”
- Achievable. “Be the perfect employee/mom/sister/spouse” is an admirable goal, but nobody’s perfect, no matter how resolved they are. Make your resolution something that’s possible—like, “Improve next year’s performance review by at least one grade.”
- Realistic. You’ve only got so many hours in the day, so make your goals realistic based on what resources and tools you’ve got on hand. Learning how to milk a cow, for example, is less realistic for someone who lives in the middle of Manhattan.
- Timely. Since these are New Year’s resolutions, set goals you can reach at most within the next 12 months. Giving yourself a “deadline” of sorts will help you figure out where you should be when while tracking your progress.
Lifehacker is one of my favorite blogs. Check it out for yourself.