David Kirkpatrick

April 23, 2009

Nanotech improves transistor chips

Nanotechnology offers fairly regular breakthroughs in chip tech. Here’s the latest.

The release:

Self-assembled nanowires could make chips smaller and faster

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Researchers at the University of Illinois have found a new way to make transistors smaller and faster. The technique uses self-assembled, self-aligned, and defect-free nanowire channels made of gallium arsenide.

In a paper to appear in the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) journal Electron Device Letters, U. of I. electrical and computer engineering professor Xiuling Li and graduate research assistant Seth Fortuna describe the first metal-semiconductor field-effect transistor fabricated with a self-assembled, planar gallium-arsenide nanowire channel.

Nanowires are attractive building blocks for both electronics and photonics applications. Compound semiconductor nanowires, such as gallium arsenide, are especially desirable because of their better transport properties and versatile heterojunctions. However, a number of challenges – including integration with existing microelectronics – must first be overcome.

“Our new planar growth process creates self-aligned, defect-free gallium-arsenide nanowires that could readily be scaled up for manufacturing purposes,” said Li, who also is affiliated with the university’s Micro and Nanoelectronics Laboratory and the Beckman Institute. “It’s a non-lithographic process that can precisely control the nanowire dimension and orientation, yet is compatible with existing circuit design and fabrication technology.”

The gallium-arsenide nanowire channel used in the researchers’ demonstration transistor was grown by metal organic chemical vapor deposition using gold as a catalyst. The rest of the transistor was made with conventional microfabrication techniques.

While the diameter of the transistor’s nanowire channel was approximately 200 nanometers, nanowires with diameters as small as 5 nanometers can be made with the gold-catalyzed growth technique, the researchers report. The self-aligned orientation of the nanowires is determined by the crystal structure of the substrate and certain growth parameters.

In earlier work, Li and Fortuna demonstrated they could grow the nanowires and then transfer-print them on other substrates, including silicon, for heterogeneous integration. “Transferring the self-aligned planar nanowires while maintaining both their position and alignment could enable flexible electronics and photonics at a true nanometer scale,” the researchers wrote in the December 2008 issue of the journal Nano Letters.

In work presented in the current paper, the researchers grew the gallium-arsenide nanowire channel in place, instead of transferring it. In contrast to the common types of non-planar gallium arsenide nanowires, the researchers’ planar nanowire was free from twin defects, which are rotational defects in the crystal structure that decrease the mobility of the charge carriers.

“By replacing the standard channel in a metal-semiconductor field-effect transistor with one of our planar nanowires, we demonstrated that the defect-free nanowire’s electron mobility was indeed as high as the corresponding bulk value,” Fortuna said. “The high electron mobility nanowire channel could lead to smaller, better and faster devices.”

Considering their planar, self-aligned and transferable nature, the nanowire channels could help create higher performance transistors for next-generation integrated circuit applications, Li said.

The high quality planar nanowires can also be used in nano-injection lasers for use in optical communications.

The researchers are also developing new device concepts driven by further engineering of the planar one-dimensional nanostructure.

 

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The work was supported by the National Science Foundation.

Nanotech heading toward artificial noses

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:04 pm

First, a word of caution — get ready for a nanocentric release dump. I haven’t done one in a while so more will follow this post.

Now to the news — the idea of an artificial nose is a good thing because they can be utilized to detect various substances. A nanotech-driven artificial nose might even “sniff out” a single molecule of the target.

The release from today:

Scientists moving closer to ‘artificial noses’

More than one nanostring to their bow

These days, chemical analysts are expected to track down even single molecules. To do this highly sensitive detective work, nano researchers have developed minute strings that resonate in characteristic fashion. If a molecule docks onto one of the strings, then it becomes heavier, and its oscillations become measurably slower. Until recently, however, such “nano-electromechanical systems”, or NEMS, have been short of practical applications. Physicists at LMU Munich have now made a breakthrough in this field: They have constructed a system of nanostrings made of non-conducting material, where each string can be electrically excited separately. Thousands of these strings can be produced on a small chip. One of the devices that could be created with this system is a highly sensitive “artificial nose” that detects various molecules – pollutants for example – individually. These new NEMS could also be used in a multitude of other applications – acting as tiny pulse generators in mobile phone clocks, for example.

Quick, certain and cheap detection of single molecules is a task that chemical analysts are now expected to perform. Luckily, there is a method they can employ for this, which uses nanotechnology: Specifically, they use “nano-electromechanical systems”, or NEMS. These systems involve strings with diameters of the order of 100 nanometers – a ten-thousandth of a millimeter or a 1/500 of a human hair – which can be excited to resonate in a characteristic fashion. If these strings are coated with the right kind of chemicals, then molecules will dock onto them. More specifically: only one kind of molecule can dock onto each string. When a molecule docks onto a string, the string becomes heavier and its oscillation slows down a tiny bit. “By measuring the period of oscillation, we could therefore detect chemical substances with molecular precision,” explains Quirin Unterreithmeier, first author of the study. “Ideally, you would have several thousand strings sitting on a chip the size of a fingernail, each one for highly specifically recognizing a single molecule – so you could build an extremely sensitive ‘artificial nose’, for example.”

Until recently, however, getting such systems to work has proven technically difficult; one problem being to produce and measure the oscillations. While the nanostrings can be made to oscillate by magnetomechanical, piezoelectric or electrothermal excitement, this only works if the nanostrings are made of metal, or are at least metal-coated, which in turn greatly dampens the oscillations, preventing sensitive measurement. That hardly allows the detection of a single molecule. It also makes it harder to distinguish the different signals from differently oscillating strings.

The newly developed method now avoids these difficulties. Quirin Unterreithmeier, Dr. Eva Weig and Professor Jörg Kotthaus of the Center for NanoScience (CeNS), the Faculty of Physics of LMU Munich and the cluster of excellence “Nanosystems Initiative Munich (NIM)” have constructed an NEMS in which the nanostrings are excited individually by dielectric interaction – the same phenomenon that makes hair stand on end in winter. Following this physical principle, the nanostrings, which are made of electrically non-conducting silicon nitride, are excited to resonate when exposed to an oscillating inhomogeneous electric field, and their vibration then measured.

The alternating electric field required for this stimulation was produced between two gold electrodes right up close to the string. The oscillations were measured by two other electrodes. “We created this setup using etching techniques,” reports Weig. “But this was easily done – even repeated ten thousand times on a chip. The only thing to do now is to make sure the strings can be individually addressed by a suitable circuit.” All in all, this ought to be a technically easy exercise – but one that will allow a breakthrough in chemical analysis. Yet there are even more applications that can be seen beyond this “artificial nose”. Among other things, the nanostrings could be employed as the pulse generators in mobile phone clocks, for example. These novel resonators could even be used as ultra-sharp electrical signal filters in metrological systems.

 

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The study is a project of the cluster of excellence “Nanosystems Initiative Munich” (NIM), which has its sights set on developing, researching and bringing into operation functional nanosystems for application in information processing and life sciences. (NIM/suwe)

Print material is available at: www.nano-initiative-munich.de/press/press-material

Publication:
“Universal transduction scheme for nanomechanical systems based on dielectric forces”,
Quirin P. Unterreithmeier, Eva M. Weig, Jörg P. Kotthaus
Nature, 23 April 2009
doi:10.1038/nature07932

The RNC crazy continues

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:04 pm

I’m really speechless at this point. This is so unbelievably stupid there’s no where to even start. Combined with the “budget plan” tossed out there a few weeks ago, you’d have to think the RNC is full of less-than-clever fourth graders.

From the first link:

A conservative faction of the Republican National Committee is urging the GOP to take a harder line against both Democrats and wayward Republicans, drafting a resolution to rename the opposition the “Democrat Socialist Party” and moving to rebuke the three Republican senators who supported the stimulus package.

(Hat tip: the Daily Dish)

GM edges closer to bankruptcy

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:03 pm

The announcement to close 15 of 21 plants for over two months has to represent the beginning of the end. What do you bet some, if not all, of those 15 never reopen as General Motors manufacturing facilities?

from the link:

In what appears to be a record voluntary shutdown, General Motors (GM) plans to essentially quit making cars and trucks in the U.S. for nine weeks from mid-May through July.

Pentagon creating new cybercommand

Filed under: Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:58 pm

Probably a good move given the technology out there. I’m a little surprised we didn’t already have a separate cybercommand in the DoD.

Via KurzweilAI.net

Sources: Pentagon planning new cybercommand
AP, April 22, 2009

The Pentagon is planning to create a new military command to focus on cyberspace and protect its computer networks from cyberattacks, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

 

Keywords:cyberattacks
Read Original Article>>

Slow blogging and torture …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:41 pm

… this week. The continued bad to neutral economic news (don’t let the media pollyanna’s fool you) and the ongoing torture revelations have spent those subjects for me. At least for the remainder of this week. 

I’m tapped out on the torture story for the time being. I’ve been charting it longer than most of the media and blogosphere. The grim reality is it is as bad as could be imagined.

It was ongoing and systemic, poorly-drawn legal documents were created in attempt to provide legal cover after the fact, and it’s becoming fairly clear Cheney used torture to create false leads in the connection (none we now know) between Iraq and al-Qaeda. We went into a drastically costly on many fronts war based purely on the lies of the sitting vice president and his cronies.

And according to those in the know who aren’t in CYA mode right now, the torture produced no real, usable intelligence. The shame that will forever blot the Bush 43 regime is it knowingly overturned a non-torture policy of the United States of America that pre-existed the very existence of the USA. General George Washington instituted the policy during the Revolutionary War.

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney overturned a directive from our first president, repeatedly lied about the program’s existence, attempted to cover up the war crimes and now administration offcials and GOP party hacks desperately attempt to defend these shameful and criminal actions.

History will not be kind to the Bush 43 regime.

April 22, 2009

Las Vegas “wins” foreclosure crown

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:23 pm

A dubious honor to be sure, but Las Vegas has the highest foreclosure rate in the nation. There are some truly devastated areas of real estate out there.

From the link:

Metro areas in California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona topped the foreclosure filing list for the first quarter of 2009 in a report from RealtyTrac, an online marketer of foreclosed properties. A foreclosure filing includes default papers, auction sale notices and repossessions.

Las Vegas had the highest rate of foreclosures of any city, with one in every 22 homes subject to a foreclosure filing in the first three months of the year. The rate of foreclosure filings was 4.5%, seven times the national average.

Merced, Calif., had the second highest rate, with Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla., Stockton, Calif., and Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif., rounding out the top five.

“The metro areas with the highest levels of foreclosure activity in the first quarter of 2009 paint a picture of concentrated problems in a relatively small number of hard-hit areas,” said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac, in a written statement.

Sanity on torture from the right

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:44 pm

This blockquote is taken from a much longer round-up on the torture reports, and is a very important point to consider when discussing the “merits” of torture.

I personally think anything gained by torture is far outweighed by the reprehensibleness of the practice, but since we’ve moved past debating if the Bush 43 regime tortured or not, and are now discussing whether a civilized nation ought to be torturing anyone, Manzi’s point is a breath of fresh air from some of the more strident voices on the right.

From the link:

At National Review, Jim Manzi waded into the “very serious ongoing [torture] debate here at The Corner” and writes that “my only contribution is that I don’t think this debate has defined ‘works’ properly.”

It seems to me that the real question is whether torture works strategically; that is, is the U.S. better able to achieve [its] objectives by conducting systematic torture as a matter of policy, or by refusing to do this?

When you ask the question this way, one obvious point stands out: we keep beating the torturing nations. The regimes in the modern world that have used systematic torture and directly threatened the survival of the United States — Nazi Germany, WWII-era Japan, and the Soviet Union — have been annihilated, while we are the world’s leading nation.

Bank of New York Mellon goes solar in Mass

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:23 pm

News release from this morning:

New 76 Kilowatt Solar Panel Array Goes On-line at BNY Mellon Complex in Everett

Will reduce CO2 emissions by 50 tons a year; generate electricity to power 3,300 homes for a day

BOSTON, April 22 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — A newly installed 76 kilowatt photovoltaic (solar powered) system has come on-line and begun supplying electric power to The Bank of New York Mellon’s (NYSE:BK) office complex in Everett, Mass. The system is one of the largest of its kind in greater Boston and among the top 25 solar-electric generating projects in the Commonwealth.

Building on BNY Mellon’s commitment to environmental sustainability, the 5,762 sq ft array is a “direct tie” system that will offset the company’s daily power consumption. Electricity generated by the system’s 364 solar modules flows directly into the building’s power lines, effectively reducing power needs from the utility in direct proportion to system output. BNY Mellon estimates annual output to be around 103,000 kilowatt-hours, which is expected to generate cost savings of up to $15,000 a year.

103,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity is equivalent to the energy used to power 3,300 local homes for one day. That much electricity derived from non-polluting sources such as solar also prevents the release of key pollutants, specifically:

  —  50 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) — equivalent to the CO2 absorbed each
      year by 42 acres of forest. Carbon dioxide is the main gas responsible
      for climate change.

  —  425 pounds of sulphur dioxide (SO2) — enough to fill more than 14,000
      basketballs. Sulphur dioxide is the main cause of acid rain and
      visibility problems.

The project received funding from the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust and is part of National Grid’s Everett Congestion Relief Pilot program, which includes solar power as one of several methods to limit peak demand for electricity. Installation of the system was coordinated by BNY Mellon’s property manager in Everett, Jones Lang LaSalle.

“The Bank of New York Mellon has a long tradition of operating in ways that make sense both for the environment and our business,” said Chip Logan, general services and corporate real estate division manager at BNY Mellon. “Together with our partners at Jones Lang LaSalle, Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust and National Grid, this solar installation supports our corporate-wide commitment to sustainability while easing energy demand on the local grid.”

“Projects like this are crucial stepping stones as the Commonwealth forges ahead toward the Patrick-Murray Administration’s goal of 250 megawatts of installed solar power in Massachusetts by 2020,” said Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Philip Giudice. “Through the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust, the Commonwealth is proud to partner with The Bank of New York Mellon and we congratulate the company on its clean energy leadership.”

“We applaud The Bank of New York Mellon for its vision and leadership as a ‘green’ corporate citizen. Three years ago it made a bold commitment to this project and to the value of renewable energy, helping to mitigate the effects of climate change,” said Tim Roughan, director, distributed resources for National Grid. “BNY Mellon’s highly visible photovoltaic system is the largest renewable energy installation completed to date under our congestion relief pilot. We hope it will create excitement while serving as an example of what we at National Grid call the ‘power of action’ — many individuals making changes that collectively have a positive impact on our environment.”

“Bank of New York Mellon recognizes that a sustainable, resource-efficient building meets the dual goals of being both economically and environmentally responsible,” said Mike Cook, vice president and general manager for Jones Lang LaSalle in Everett. “Adding a solar powered electricity system is an innovative and financially sound investment to make a building more sustainable.”

BNY Mellon received various tax incentives for its solar electric project, including state and federal tax credits. Combined, the incentives cover about two-thirds of the cost of the system, which will pay for itself in less than five years.

A direct-tie solar array is a popular and efficient choice, because there are no batteries to replace and it costs less than its battery-equipment counterpart. BNY Mellon’s system essentially wakes up in the morning and shuts down at night.

Opened in 1999 after extensive renovations to a former Textron manufacturing plant, BNY Mellon’s 385,000 sq ft office complex in Everett is home to more than 1,000 employees and an operations center for the company’s securities servicing and payments processing businesses. The facility also has earned the EPA “Energy Star” award seven years running.

The Bank of New York Mellon has about 3,000 employees in greater Boston, most of them working in its locally headquartered securities servicing, asset management, and wealth management businesses.

About National Grid

National Grid is one of the largest investor-owned energy companies in the world. Our talented, diverse workforce is committed to tackling climate change and safeguarding our global environment for future generations, and we believe this can best be accomplished by engaging our customers, communities, governments, employees and others to join us in using the power of action to achieve significant results together. In the U.S., National Grid delivers electricity to approximately 3.3 million customers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island, and manages the electricity network on Long Island under an agreement with the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA). It is the largest distributor of natural gas in the northeastern U.S., serving approximately 3.4 million customers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island.

About Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust

The Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust supports renewable energy projects throughout Massachusetts. Working in partnership with the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the Trust is maximizing the environmental and economic benefits of renewable energy for the citizens, businesses, and communities of the Commonwealth. The Trust has supported more than 1,400 projects in more than 275 communities. Visit www.masstech.org/renewableenergy to learn more.

About Jones Lang LaSalle

Jones Lang LaSalle (NYSE:JLL) is a financial and professional services firm specializing in real estate. The firm offers integrated services delivered by expert teams worldwide to clients seeking increased value by owning, occupying or investing in real estate. With 2008 global revenue of $2.7 billion, Jones Lang LaSalle serves clients in 60 countries from 750 locations worldwide, including 180 corporate offices. The firm is an industry leader in property and corporate facility management services, with a portfolio of approximately 1.4 billion square feet worldwide. For further information, please visit our Web site, www.joneslanglasalle.com.

About The Bank of New York Mellon

The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation is a global financial services company focused on helping clients manage and service their financial assets, operating in 34 countries and serving more than 100 markets. The company is a leading provider of financial services for institutions, corporations and high-net-worth individuals, providing superior asset management and wealth management, asset servicing, issuer services, clearing services and treasury services through a worldwide client-focused team. It has $19.5 trillion in assets under custody and administration, $881 billion in assets under management, services more than $11 trillion in outstanding debt, and processes global payments averaging $1.8 trillion per day. Additional information is available at www.bnymellon.com.

Source: The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation
   

Web Site:  http://www.bnymellon.com/

April 18, 2009

Schmidt warns GOP theocrats

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:35 pm

Making a point obvious to everyone outside of far right theocrats, McCain’s top campaign manager, Steve Schmidt, warns the Republican Party of the dangers of becoming a “religious party.” Above and beyond every other metric, the GOP is losing the 18-25 vote by historic proportions. This does not bode well for near term elections, and possibly ongoing if the GOP doesn’t make a few concessions to modern secular culture.

From the link:

John McCain’s top adviser from the presidential campaign urged fellow Republicans on Friday to warm up to gay rights and warned that the GOP risks becoming the “religious party” with its opposition to same-sex marriage. 

Steve Schmidt, in his first political appearance since the election, spoke at the Washington, D.C., convention for the Log Cabin Republicans — a grassroots group for gay and lesbian Republicans. 

He urged Republicans, in the near-term, to endorse civil unions and stop using the Bible as rationale for gay-marriage opposition. 

“If you put public policy issues to a religious test, you risk becoming a religious party,” he said. “And in a free country a political party cannot be viable in the long-term if it is seen as a sectarian party.” 

Schmidt, whose sister is a lesbian and who supports same-sex marriage, said he understands the Republican Party probably won’t reverse its resistance to same-sex marriage anytime soon. 

But he suggested that the party will be increasingly marginalized if it sustains that opposition long-term. 

April 17, 2009

Friday video fun — tax facts via Reason Magazine

Filed under: Business, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:54 pm

Points to ponder this week. Went out to dinner Wednesday night and ran into my CPA with his family. He looked pretty relieved.

It’s been a long time since I’ve done any video, so without further ado , courtesy of Reason Magazine, here’s “W-2 WTF?!?!: Tax Facts to Make Your Head Explode!”

Ten tips for angel dollars

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:44 pm

Looking for venture capital investment? Here’s ten hints to get the money.

Tip number one from the link:

Show your passion
“The entrepreneur is the Pied Piper of a company,” says Chip Hazard, general partner at Boston-based Flybridge Capital Partners. “We want an articulate, passionate CEO who can excite others – employees, customers, business partners.”Flybridge joined the syndicate that backed Goby Technologies, a Boston-based search startup that provides comprehensive leisure and travel information in a single site – first with a seed round to build a prototype, then with a multimillion-dollar Series A round to fund longer-term operations.

I now understand …

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:58 am

… why Hunter Thompson offed himself. Well I’m not going that far, and certainly not into Hunter’s psyche, but his last work for ESPN was far, far beyond subpar. I read that sporadic Page 2 column as it came out and was just saddened. Hunter had lost it. He lobotomized himself, but he’d lost it, whatever that “it” is.

George Will has hit that same wall. Will’s fall from written word grace has come from age against Thompson’s well-documented heavy drug (both licit and illicit) use, but it has come.

The evidence? This is the literary equivalent of, “GET OFF MY LAWN SONNY!.”

From this link:

On any American street, or in any airport or mall, you see the same sad tableau: A 10-year-old boy is walking with his father, whose development was evidently arrested when he was that age, judging by his clothes. Father and son are dressed identically — running shoes, T-shirts. And jeans, always jeans. If mother is there, she, too, is draped in denim.

Writer Daniel Akst has noticed and has had a constructive conniption. He should be given the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He has earned it by identifying an obnoxious misuse of freedom. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, he has denounced denim, summoning Americans to soul-searching and repentance about the plague of that ubiquitous fabric, which is symptomatic of deep disorders in the national psyche.

It is, he says, a manifestation of “the modern trend toward undifferentiated dressing, in which we all strive to look equally shabby.” Denim reflects “our most nostalgic and destructive agrarian longings — the ones that prompted all those exurban McMansions now sliding off their manicured lawns and into foreclosure.” Jeans come prewashed and acid-treated to make them look like what they are not — authentic work clothes for horny-handed sons of toil and the soil. Denim on the bourgeoisie is, Akst says, the wardrobe equivalent of driving a Hummer to a Whole Foods store — discordant.

April 16, 2009

The Internet and the 21st century electorate

Filed under: Media, Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:11 pm

This is a post I crafted for NewMajority around three months ago. It never ran, and I’m actually glad since some of my observations about partisan comment sections seem to have infected Frum’s attempt to refocus the conservative political movement.

I’m blockquoting the entire piece since it’s somewhat dated today:

The World Wide Web has changed pretty much every aspect of our lives in some fashion, and politics is no exception. For all the new sources of political commentary, access to unvarnished polling data for anyone with an Internet connection and other changes in how politics is conducted, two really stand out to me – online contributions and user communities on partisan websites.

Politics lives on donations. A great portion are large chunks of money from major donors. The GOP still has this in spades. Another set of donations is small donor contributions from a wide variety of sources, a group of contributors who typically represent, hopefully, a broad base of support. Obama completely rewrote the book on small donor contributions this election cycle, very largely based on online contributions.

Here’s a blog post-mortem of mine from November:

After deftly harnessing the web during the long campaign, it’s expected the Obama administration will continue its groundbreaking political use of the internet. During the campaign Obama garnered a half a billion dollars from over 3 million donors and utilized the net for all manner of organization (you can find a blog post of mine on his campaign’s tech here.)

From the first link:

With the campaign having learned what kinds of results you get from social-networking sites, viral videos, email lists, and text-messaging, it’s not hard to imagine that this administration will operate far differently than its predecessors. Sure, it’s not clear what shape it will take: how much YouTube, how much social-networking, how many email blasts from the White House or from proxies. Getting it right will be tricky. But clearly, Obama’s recent “radio address” on YouTube is a taste of things to come. I spoke yesterday with Thomas Gensemer, managing partner of Blue State Digital, the company that set up the social networking tools for the campaign (and which supplied the numbers above). He said: “My biggest outsider claim is this: The way the campaign helped inform critical decision-makers of the value of digital assets, means [these assets] will have a significant role in the ongoing administration.”

Beyond all the technology the Obama campaign harnessed, it’s worth repeating his small contribution base – half a billion dollars from over three million donors. One thing to take away this number is it doesn’t reflect a bunch of donors maxing out their allowed contributions in one pop. These are small donors who regularly gave samll amounts — $10 here, $50 there – in response to requests from the campaign. That is a powerful donor base.

The second area where the Internet has truly changed the electorate can be found on the forums, comment sections and user communities of partisan websites. I’m sure you’ve read about the “wing nuts” on the right and the “moon bats” or “nut roots” on the left. The latter is a takeoff from Netroots, the online political activism arm of the left.

The change these groups bring is the tone from both the right and the left. Much more raw, much more virulently partisan and much more attacking. If these sites are all you read, you’d think all political discourse in the U.S. has devolved into little more than petty spats and rumor-mongering. My take is the overall electorate is pretty sane and even-headed, whether partisan, or not. The net simply gives the fringe voice a very public, and loud, so-to-speak, outlet. At one point in time these voices might occasionally get a letter to the editor published in a local newspaper, but probably not all that often and the tone would be subject to editorial control.

Internet communities, particularly unmoderated forums and message boards, give this part of the electorate an unchecked outlet that reaches anyone online who chooses to visit the site and read the messages.

It’s empowering for the everyday voter, for certain, but the signal-to-noise level is so low I can’t help but wonder if the fringe of the electorate on both sides might not be having an inordinate effect on undecided and independent voters. Either through spreading baseless rumors – and both parties have been victims of this tactic – or through just distracting voters from the message the party is promoting.

I have to admit reading these forums offers a certain voyeuristic appeal, and culturally they are a fascinating phenomena. I’m just not too sure what value they are adding to political discourse.

The reaction to the OLC torture memo release …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:44 pm

… from an unnamed Bush 43 regime official isn’t surprising even if it is disappointing.

From the link:

A former top official in the administration of President George W. Bush called the publication of the memos “unbelievable.”

“It’s damaging because these are techniques that work, and by Obama’s action today, we are telling the terrorists what they are,” the official said. “We have laid it all out for our enemies. This is totally unnecessary. … Publicizing the techniques does grave damage to our national security by ensuring they can never be used again — even in a ticking-time- bomb scenario where thousands or even millions of American lives are at stake.”

“I don’t believe Obama would intentionally endanger the nation, so it must be that he thinks either 1. the previous administration, including the CIA professionals who have defended this program, is lying about its importance and effectiveness, or 2. he believes we are no longer really at war and no longer face the kind of grave threat to our national security this program has protected against.”

Of course this is the lede Drudge ran with for his link to the Politico story. I’m going with option number one here. I seriously doubt Obama expects he’s put the nation at any higher risk than we already face. If there is proof these torture techniques work, maybe it would behoove those in the know to offer something other than, “We know best. Trust us.” Every bit of evidence that has come to light has exposed the torture produced nothing other than false leads, wasting precious resources chasing shadows.

And, of course, there’s that pesky war crime aspect to the techniques as well. And the overturning of U.S. policy dating back to the Revolutionary War.

John Madden retires

Filed under: Media, Sports — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:34 pm

This announcement will spawn all sorts of comments. Madden had many fans and just as many, or more, very vocal detractors. At least detractors of his recent vintage work. I’ll miss him. Always enjoyable, if not fairly predictable. Sports broadcasting is a little diminished today.

Of course his cash cow — the Madden franchise with EA Sports — will go on. At least I hope so.

From the link:

John Madden is retiring from football announcing, where his enthusiastic, down-to-earth style made him one of sports’ most popular broadcasters for three decades.

The Hall of Fame coach spent the last three seasons on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.” His final telecast was the Super Bowl in February.

“You know at some point you have to do this — I got to that point,” Madden said on his Bay Area radio show Thursday. “The thing that made it hard is not because I’m second guessing, ‘Is it the right decision?’ But I enjoyed it so damn much.

“I enjoyed the game and the players and the coaches and the film and the travel and everything.”

Cris Collinsworth will replace Madden, moving over from the network’s studio show, NBC Sports chief Dick Ebersol said. Collinsworth filled in when Madden took a game off last October.

Ebersol called Madden “absolutely the best sports broadcaster who ever lived.”

We tortured

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:18 pm

Of course the United States public has known this for a long while, but seeing the actual memos from the highest levels of the Bush 43 regime really jabs the point home.

We, the United States of America, in a direct reversal of a non-torture policy implemented by the then General George Washington, who later became the first president of this nation, authorized the torture of another human being.

This singular act is easily the greatest betrayal of our national honor ever perpetrated by the executive branch. History will not be kind to George W. Bush, Dick Cheney or any other person involved in the Bush 43 regime who knew of these policies and remained silent.

Here is Andrew Sullivan on this dark dayin American history. He has kept the light shining on this travesty as well as anyone in the blogosphere and media.

From the link:

I do not believe that any American president has ever orchestrated, constructed or so closely monitored the torture of other human beings the way George W. Bush did. It is clear that it is pre-meditated; and it is clear that the parsing of torture techniques that you read in the report is a simply disgusting and repellent piece of dishonesty and bad faith. When you place it alongside the Red Cross’ debriefing of the torture victims, the fit is almost perfect. I say “almost” because even Jay Bybee, in this unprofessional travesty of lawyering, stipulates that these techniques might be combined successively in any ways that could cumulatively become torture even in his absurd redefinition of the term. And yet the ICRC report shows, as one might imagine, that outside these specious legalisms, such distinctions never hold in practice. And they didn’t. Human beings were contorted into classic stress positions used by the Gestapo; they had towels tied around their necks in order to smash their bodies against walls; they were denied of all sleep for up to eleven days and nights at a time; they were stuck in tiny suffocating boxes; they were waterboarded just as the victims of the Khmer Rouge were waterboarded. And through all this, Bush and Cheney had lawyers prepared to write elaborate memos saying that all of this was legal, constitutional, moral and not severe pain and suffering.

Bybee is not representing justice in this memo. He is representing the president. And the president is seeking to commit war crimes. And he succeeded. This much we now know beyond any reasonable doubt. It is a very dark day for this country, but less dark than every day since Cheney decided to turn the US into a torturing country until now.

Obama’s tax return

Filed under: Business, et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:51 pm

For the very curious, here’s a PDF of the 43-page document.

The AGI? $2,656,902. Almost all of it royalties on his books.

Top ten tech investments

This list comes courtesy of a survey by Robert Half Technology, so take this release for what it’s worth. Certainly food for investment thought, particularly since some analysts see tech on the rebound.

The release from the first link:

Top 10 Tech Investments – Information Security Leads List, CIO Survey Shows
TORONTO, April 15 /CNW/ – Despite a challenging economy, three-quarters (76 per cent) of chief information officers (CIOs) interviewed recently said their companies will invest in information technology (IT) initiatives in the next 12 months. Information security topped the list of projects executives expect their firms to invest in, with 57 per cent of the response, followed by virtualization (36 per cent) and data center efficiency (33 per cent).

The survey was developed by Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis, and conducted by an independent research firm. It was based on telephone interviews with 270 CIOs across Canada.

Following are five areas of IT investment that were cited most frequently by CIOs interviewed*:

 

<< 1. Information security (57 per cent): In any economy, protecting the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information is a must- have for companies of all sizes. Technology executives in the business services and professional services sectors cited security most often, with 96 per cent and 88 per cent of the responses, respectively. 2. Virtualization (36 per cent): Added budget pressures are forcing many companies to focus on more cost-effective solutions for servers, storage and networking. Virtualization tools enable greater consolidation, lower hardware costs, and reduced space and power requirements. Four in 10 CIOs at large (1,000+ employees) and 38 per cent of CIOs at midsize (500 to 999 employees) companies plan to invest in this area. 3. Data center efficiency (33 per cent): Improving efficiency within the data center to achieve longer-term cost savings is a top priority for organizations pressured to cut back on IT spending. Companies are realizing that by not improving efficiency, it will result in the need for more costly expansions and upgrades in the future. 4. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) (32 per cent): Lower monthly phone bills, greater network flexibility and unified messaging, which allows users to more efficiently retrieve messages, are among the benefits that companies realize when they invest in VoIP technology. 5. Business Intelligence (28 per cent): Companies are investing in business intelligence software that allows them to squeeze greater cost efficiencies from their existing resources and processes, and to identify and mitigate business risk. *CIOs were asked, “Which areas, if any, will your IT department be investing in over the next 12 months?” Multiple answers were permitted. Percentages reflect responses from 76 per cent of the 270 CIOs who plan to invest in IT. The survey was conducted in January 2009. >>

 

“Despite increased budgetary pressures, many companies recognize that investing in IT initiatives leads to improved security, efficiencies and revenues,” said Sandra Lavoy, a vice president with Robert Half Technology. “Enhancing IT infrastructure will help organizations better prepare for growth when the economy rebounds.”

 

<< Rounding out the top 10 list of IT investment areas: 6. Outsourcing (26 per cent) 7. Software as a Service (SaaS) (23 per cent) 8. Web 2.0 (18 percent) 9. Social networking technology (18 per cent) 10. Green IT (16 per cent) About the Survey —————- The national survey was developed by Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of information technology professionals on a project and full-time basis, and conducted by an independent research firm. The survey is based on more than 270 telephone interviews with CIOs from a random sample of Canadian companies with 100 or more employees. About Robert Half Technology —————————- >>

With more than 100 locations worldwide, Robert Half Technology is a leading provider of information technology professionals for initiatives ranging from web development and multiplatform systems integration to network security and technical support. Robert Half Technology offers online job search services at http://www.rht.com.

COBRA backgrounder

Here’s a good, easy to follow backgrounder on COBRA. I’ve recently blogged on this topic based on an article I wrote for WeCompareInsurance.com.

From the first link:

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly known as the stimulus package, created a significant amount of work for employee benefits professionals with its recent COBRA changes. ARRA creates a federal 65% subsidy for COBRA insurance for individuals who involuntarily lost or will lose their jobs between Sept. 1, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2009.

For example, if the monthly cost of COBRA coverage is $1,000, and employees are responsible for the full premium, under the subsidy, the employee will only be required to pay $350 each month for COBRA coverage, with a federal subsidy of $650.

How it works

The mechanics of the subsidy are interesting. Employers will receive a credit on their payroll tax returns for the federal subsidy. For example, if the federal subsidy is $650, and employee pays $350 for COBRA coverage, the employer will receive a credit of $650 on its federal withholding tax returns (i.e., Form 941).

For employers with more than 20 employees, these procedures will apply whether a plan is fully insured or self-insured. However, workers at small firms, who are not normally eligible for COBRA coverage, still will be entitled to the federal subsidy if state-mandated coverage is comparable to COBRA. However, in these circumstances, the insurance carrier, and not the employer, will be the entity responsible for providing the subsidy and taking the payroll tax credit.

The COBRA subsidy only lasts for a maximum of nine months. When COBRA rights are cut off, the subsidy ends. For example, if an employee receives new employment with a one-month waiting period, when the employee becomes eligible for new coverage, the COBRA subsidy ends. It is the responsibility of employees to notify employers when new coverage exists.

If an employer denies the employee the federal subsidy, there is an appeals procedure with the Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services. It is likely that disputes will exist with regard to employees who fail to return to employment following a period of FMLA leave or other leave of absence and consider themselves to be terminated. In many of these situations, the employer will consider the employee to have voluntarily abandoned their position when they fail to return to work following the expiration of an approved leave of absence. Clarification regarding the definition of involuntary termination is expected.

Fed sees light at the end of tunnel

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:11 pm

The latest beige book report goes for optimism. I’m guessing they’re more just satisfied things aren’t spiraling even further down as opposed to seeing anything worth getting excited about. But I’ve been pretty contrarian about this financial crisis going back to the first days of this blog.

From the first link:

The Fed’s “Beige Book,” which offers an anecdotal look at economic activity in its 12 districts, said that “overall economic activity contracted further or remained weak,” noting that areas such as manufacturing were still depressed.

But the report said that five of the districts “noted a moderation in the pace of decline, and several saw signs that activity in some sectors was stabilizing at a low level.”

The positives may have been the “green shoots” that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke referred to recently when saying he saw some signs of life in the economy.

It was “consistent with the recent data that have shown improvement in some sectors of the economy, particularly consumption and housing,” said Michelle Meyer of Barclays Capital.

“While downward pressure continues, the pace of the declines may be easing up, somewhat. Not a major surprise in light of the data we’ve seen for March, but noteworthy nonetheless,” said Ian Lyngen of RBS Securities. “That said, the overall picture remains negative for the U.S. economic outlook — home prices continuing to decline and credit remaining ‘very tight’ throughout the country.”

In finance, the Beige Book said “bankers reported tight credit conditions, rising delinquencies and some deterioration of loan quality.”

Though the report said home prices and construction were largely falling, “better-than-expected buyer traffic led to a scattered pickup in sales in a number of Districts.”

As if you didn’t have enough …

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:41 pm

… to think about with computer security.

You don’t have to don a black hat and prowl the murkier waters of the internet to find an app as dirty as a password stealer — just hit download.com.

This is the extreme edge of controlling your security, but it is a useful bit of advice from the linked article, ” …  always assume that any login entered on any public computer is compromised and should have its password changed as soon as you’re back at a trusted PC.”

More from the link:

A simple search can turn up a keylogger program available for download on numerous sites, including PCWorld.com, with the idea that the tools are offered for personal use to catch someone messing around on your own PC, or perhaps for concerned parents. That may be a thin veneer, but Christopher Boyd posted on the SpywareGuide Greynets Blogthe he came across a tool available as a free download at the oft-visited download.com that exists solely to steal passwords for IM accounts.

The app presents a fake IM app and captures usernames and passwords that are typed into the window, according to Boyd. It’s a bit of a stretch to think of how such a tool might be meant for personal use to catch snoops on your own computer, especially with a description like “This is perfect if a visitor is coming round who wants to access their IM account.”

April 15, 2009

MIT Media Lab’s Sixth Sense

No introductions necessary here — this is simply cool. Very cool.

From the link:

The wunderkinds at MIT’s Media Lab (Fluid Interfaces Group) have developed a gesture-controlled wearable computing device that feeds you relevant information and turns any surface into an interactive display. Called the Sixth Sense, the gadget relies on certain gestures and on object recognition to call up virtual gadgets and Web-based information, in a way that conjures up the movie Minority Report.

 

Sixth Sense by Pranav Mistry, Pattie Maes and MIT's Fluid Interfaces Group

Sixth Sense aims to integrate information and tech into everyday life.

 

The team built the Sixth Sense $350 prototype using off-the-shelf components—a simple web cam and portable battery-powered projector with a small mirror—that are fashioned into a pendant-style necklace that communicates with a cell phone.

When might Sixth Sense hit retail shelves? There’s no release date, and MIT Associate Professor and Founder of the school’s Fluid Interfaces Group Pattie Maes calls it “very much a work in progress.” (Perfecting the image recognition, for example, is an ongoing challenge.) Still, the MIT team says it has the potential to be made available today in a limited form.

Quick list of some of this device’s capabilities: Make a call, Call up a map, Take pictures, Create multimedia reading experiences, Call up e-mail, Get flight updates, Check the time, Get product information and Feed you information on people. You get the idea. Just wow.

Conficker not done?

Filed under: Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:56 pm

Either the Conficker virus has some very nasty surprise in store sometime soon, or it’s been the biggest over-hyped flop to come along in a very long time. The media had people (casual users) frightened to even boot their computers on April 1.

I’m thinking a lot of the ongoing reports — such as security analysts announcing the creator of the computer virus changed the bug’s orders plan after so much publicity broke out — are just signs that “security analysts” don’t want to appear wrong. Very similar to political pundits who declared great truths and when those proclamations turn out to be horseshit simply move on to the next idea.

At any rate, I’ll add to the noise level by posting this press release from one of those experts.

The release:

Conficker Worm Expected to Influence Rise in Spam, Says Commtouch Trend Report
SUNNYVALE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Computers infected by the Conficker worm could cause a meaningful rise in spam levels for the next quarter, according to the Q1 2009 Internet Threat Trends Report by Commtouch(R)(Nasdaq:CTCH). The multiple variations of the worm have infected approximately 15 million computers around the world according to researchers.

Highlights from the Q1 trend report include:

  • Loan spam jumped to the top of the list of top spam topics, with 28% in the first quarter, possibly reflective of the global economic situation.
  • Users of social networking sites were targeted by new, more complex phishing attacks.
  • Computers/Technology sites and Search engines/Portals are among the top 10 Web site categories infected with malware and/or manipulated by phishing according to the Commtouch Data Center.
  • Brazil continues to lead in zombie computer activity, producing nearly 14% of active zombies for the quarter.
  • Spam levels averaged 72% of all email traffic throughout the quarter and peaked at 96% of all email messages in early January. It then bottomed out at 65% in February.
  • Spammers attacked large groups of an ISP’s users and moved to the next ISP in a targeted spam outbreak.
  • An average of 302,000 zombies were activated each day for the purpose of malicious activity.

“To block the flood of spam that the massive botnet created by the Conficker worm is capable of sending, new spam detection methods beyond traditional content filtering must be employed,” said Amir Lev, chief technology officer of Commtouch. “Detection based on analysis of patterns is the best tool to block massive spam attacks as these patterns will be created in seconds and the IP addresses of the infected computers will be tracked within minutes.”

Commtouch Recurrent Pattern Detection(TM) and GlobalView(TM) technologies identify and block messaging and Web security threats, including increasingly malicious malware and phishing outbreaks. More details, including samples and statistics, are available in the Commtouch Q1 2009 Internet Threats Trend Report, available from Commtouch Labs at: http://www.commtouch.com/download/1348.

NOTE: Reported global spam levels are based on Internet email traffic as measured from unfiltered data streams, not including internal corporate traffic. Therefore global spam levels will differ from the quantities reaching end user inboxes, due to several possible layers of filtering at the ISP level.

About Commtouch

Commtouch(R) (NASDAQ:CTCH) provides proven messaging and Web security technology to more than 100 security companies and service providers for integration into their solutions. Commtouch’s patented Recurrent Pattern Detection(TM) (RPD(TM)) and GlobalView(TM) technologies are founded on a unique cloud-based approach, and work together in a comprehensive feedback loop to protect effectively in all languages and formats. Commtouch technology automatically analyzes billions of Internet transactions in real-time in its global data centers to identify new threats as they are initiated, protecting email infrastructures and enabling safe, compliant browsing. The company’s expertise in building efficient, massive-scale security services has resulted in mitigating Internet threats for thousands of organizations and hundreds of millions of users in 190 countries. Commtouch was founded in 1991, is headquartered in Netanya, Israel, and has a subsidiary in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Stay abreast of the latest messaging and Web threat trends all quarter long at the Commtouch Cafe: http://blog.commtouch.com. For more information about enhancing security offerings with Commtouch technology, see http://www.commtouch.com or write info@commtouch.com.

Recurrent Pattern Detection, RPD, Zero-Hour and GlobalView are trademarks, and Commtouch is a registered trademark, of Commtouch Software Ltd. U.S. Patent No. 6,330,590 is owned by Commtouch.

 

 

Commtouch

<<Business Wire — 04/15/2009>>

No rush to monetize Twitter …

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:06 pm

… according to co-founder Biz Stone. The buzz and profile is skyrocketing, but at some point that will max out. This should be an interesting rollout to keep your eyes on because at some point some serious money will change hands for an open API application that lets people send 140 characters at a pop. Think about that for a second and then realize there is no way to predict what will hit next in the online universe.

From the link:

“It’s not tough for us because we have a lot of money in the bank and patient investors [and a] patient board,” said Stone, adding that the company first wants to focus on growing the network, increasing its user base and adding new features to the site. “We want to focus on this before profit. If we focus on profit, then we take people away from focusing on features.”

Online pundits and bloggers have been closely eyeballing Twitter and criticizing the company’s lack of a business plan, doling out dire warnings about the future of the microblogging site unless it comes up with a viable strategy for making money sometime very soon.

A Wall Street Journal blog post written by Kara Swisher on Thursday is whipping up the rumor mill again.

About a week after rumors flew saying that Google Inc. was in talks to buy Twitter, Swisher’s post led to reports that Google and Microsoft Corp. are sparring to grab a piece of Twitter’s potential search advertising revenue.

In other Twitter news, hit this link for information about the Twitter worm and how to combat the virus.

Find me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/davidkonline.

Facebook takes Europe

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:56 pm

A release from the wee hours of this morning:

LONDON, April 15/PRNewswire/ —

    – Facebook Captures #1 Ranking in Spain for the First Time in February

    comScore, Inc. (Nasdaq: SCOR), a leader in measuring the digital world,
today released an analysis of Facebook’s growth in Europe during the past
year. As the popular social networking site has increasingly focused its
attention on global expansion and increased penetration across countries and
regions, the site has catapulted to the #6 ranked Web property worldwide with
275 million visitors in February, a 175-percent increase versus year ago. One
of the global regions that best illustrates Facebook’s growth is Europe,
where the site has seen a 314-percent increase to nearly 100 million
visitors.

    (Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20080115/COMSCORELOGO)

    Not only does Facebook have a growing audience, it is also a highly
engaged audience with the average user spending three hours per month on the
site. One year ago, Facebook usage accounted for 1.1 percent of all minutes
spent online in Europe, but by February 2009 that number had increased to 4.1
percent of all minutes. Facebook also accounts for a full 30.4-percent of
minutes spent in the social networking category, up from 12.3 percent a year
earlier.

   
    Facebook Share of Time Spent in Europe
    February 2009 vs. February 2008
    Total Europe, Age 15+ – Home and Work Locations
    Source: comScore World Metrix
   
                                         Share of Minutes
                                         Feb-08    Feb-09
   
    Share of Total Internet Minutes        1.1%      4.1%
    Share of Social Networking Minutes    12.3%     30.4%

    “Facebook has very quickly taken a leading position across most of the
European social networking market despite having a strong foothold in just a
few European countries one year ago,” said Mike Read, comScore Managing
Director of Europe. “Over the course of the past year, it has climbed the
rankings in virtually every market and taken over the top position in
several. Most recently, Facebook grabbed the top position in Spain after
nipping at the heels of a leading local player for the past several months.”

    Facebook Leads in Spain, Most of the Rest of Europe

    Facebook has taken a leading position in the social networking category
across the majority of countries in Europe in recent months. Of the 17
European countries individually reported by comScore, Facebook owned the top
position in the social networking category in 11 of them. The site’s audience
is largest in the U.K. with 22.7 million visitors (up 75 percent versus year
ago), followed by France with 13.7 million visitors (up 518 percent) and
Turkey with 12.4 million visitors (year ago data not available).

    Most recently, Facebook captured the top spot in the Spanish market in
February with 5.7 million visitors, representing a dramatic tenfold increase
versus year ago. It has also soared in Italy, growing more than 2,700 percent
to 10.8 million visitors.

   
    Facebook Growth in Europe
    February 2009 vs. February 2008
    Total Europe, Age 15+ – Home and Work Locations
    Source: comScore World Metrix
   
                                        Unique Visitors (000)
    Facebook.com                                             Rank in Social
                                              Percent     Networking Category
                        Feb-08      Feb-09    Change           in Feb-09
   
    Europe              24,118      99,776      314%                1
    United Kingdom      12,957      22,656       75%                1
    France               2,217      13,698      518%                1
    Turkey*                N/A      12,377       N/A                1
    Italy                  382      10,764     2721%                1
    Spain                  515       5,662      999%                1
    Germany                680       3,433      405%                4
    Belgium                327       2,308      607%                1
    Sweden               1,211       2,298       90%                1
    Denmark                533       2,022      279%                1
    Switzerland            282       1,690      499%                1
    Norway                 819       1,479       81%                1
    Finland                555       1,341      142%                1
    Netherlands            236       1,031      337%                2
    Austria                112         663      491%                2
    Ireland                203         512      153%                2
    Russia                 117         478      309%                7
    Portugal                72         193      169%                3

    *Turkey is a newly reported individual country in comScore World Metrix;
year ago data not available

    The only countries in which Facebook does not hold the #1 or #2 position
in the social networking category are Germany, where it ranks fourth, Russia
(#7) and Portugal (#3).

    About comScore

    comScore, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCOR) is a global leader in measuring the digital
world and preferred source of digital marketing intelligence. For more
information, please visit www.comscore.com/companyinfo.

Source: comScore, Inc.

April 14, 2009

An update on the war on drugs

Filed under: et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:17 pm

Yep, it’s been totally worth the cost to U.S. culture, social fabric and simple dollars.

Oh wait, not so much.

My apologies to Katherine Mangu-Ward blogging at Hit & Run for reproducing her entire post. It’s short and says everything I would. If you don’t read Reason.com and like the idea of free markets and free minds it’s worth your time to check in on a regular basis.

Katherine’s post:

The prices of hard drugs like heroin and cocaine have been declining for two decades, despite billions of drug war dollars spent to restrict supply. Then there’s this headline today on CNN.com:

Heroin cheaper than six-pack of beer

Don’t worry though. The drug war is totally working.

Via Best of the Web

Skype to IPO in 2010

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:51 pm

Looks like eBay is going to give Skype it own legs early next year.

From the link:

EBay Inc. said it would spin off its Internet-calling business Skype through an initial public offering in the first half of next year, after the online auctioneer faced calls for months to unload the company, which has fallen short of expectations.

“Skype is a great stand-alone business with strong fundamentals and accelerating momentum,” said eBay Chief Executive John Donahoe. “But it’s clear that Skype has limited synergies with eBay and PayPal. We believe operating Skype as a stand-alone publicly traded company is the best path for maximizing its potential.”

Ebay bought Skype for $2.6 billion in 2005.

A group of private-equity firms recently teamed up to back Skype’s founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis in an attempt to buy back the business from eBay, according to people familiar with the bid. The proposal involved private-equity firms contributing some $1 billion to the deal, according to people familiar with the situation, though a full deal price could not be learned. The founders’ offer fell on deaf ears, as it was well below the price at which eBay was willing to sell the business.

The government goes Twitter

Filed under: Media, Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:46 pm

Twitter is the tech phenomena for 2009 so far. Now the federal government is getting into the act.

It’s a little amazing. The big question still is exactly where is Twitter heading? And will this exponential growth lead to even more fail whale sightings.

You can find me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/davidkonline.

From the link:

Twitter is taking flight in unlikely skies: the U.S. federal government.

From NASA to the General Services Administration, more federal agencies are embracing Twitter as another Web-based channel to communicate news and engage in conversations with U.S. citizens (10 Twitter tips from early federal adopters).

NASA announced Mondaythat astronaut Mike Massimino would use Twitter to provide a personal behind-the-scenes peek at his last few weeks of training before embarking on a space shuttle mission.  In the first 48 hours of Astro_Mike tweets, Massimino attracted more than 14,000 followers on Twitter.

Follow Network World editors and bloggers on Twitter 

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration is notifying more than 3,200 consumers about recalls of peanut and pistachio products on its Twitter stream dubbed FDARecalls. FDA has been issuing four or five tweets a day announcing product recalls since December 2008.

Another leading advocate of Twitter is GSA, which manages government-wide IT contracts and provides training to federal Web managers on best practices for Web 2.0 technologies.

“We have done quite a bit with Twitter,” says B. Leilani Martinez, a bilingual content manager for the GSA’s Web site. “We have four official Twitter accounts for www.pueblo.gsa.gov, www.usa.gov, www.gobiernousa.gov, and www.govgab.gov. We blog one or two times a day….Twitter is just another channel that we are using to communicate.”

IRS list of “dirty dozen” tax scams

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:00 pm

The release from the IRS:

Beware of IRS’ 2009 “Dirty Dozen” Tax Scams

 
IR-2009-41, April 13, 2009

Video: English     American Sign Language  Text
   
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today issued its 2009 “dirty dozen” list of tax scams, including schemes involving phishing, hiding income offshore and false claims for refunds.

“Taxpayers should be wary of scams to avoid paying taxes that seem too good to be true, especially during these challenging economic times,” IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said. “There is no secret trick that can eliminate a person’s tax obligations. People should be wary of anyone peddling any of these scams.”

Tax schemes are illegal and can lead to problems for both scam artists and taxpayers who risk significant penalties, interest and possible criminal prosecution.

The IRS urges taxpayers to avoid these common schemes:

Phishing

Phishing is a tactic used by Internet-based scam artists to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal or financial information. The criminals use the information to steal the victim’s identity, access bank accounts, run up credit card charges or apply for loans in the victim’s name.

Phishing scams often take the form of an e-mail that appears to come from a legitimate source, including the IRS. The IRS never initiates unsolicited e-mail contact with taxpayers about their tax issues. Taxpayers who receive unsolicited e-mails that claim to be from the IRS can forward the message to phishing@irs.gov. Further instructions are available at IRS.gov. To date, taxpayers have forwarded scam e-mails reflecting thousands of confirmed IRS phishing sites. If you believe you have been the target of an identity thief, information is available at IRS.gov.

Hiding Income Offshore

The IRS aggressively pursues taxpayers and promoters involved in abusive offshore transactions. Taxpayers have tried to avoid or evade U.S. income tax by hiding income in offshore banks, brokerage accounts or through other entities. Recently, the IRS provided guidance to auditors on how to deal with those hiding income offshore in undisclosed accounts. The IRS draws a clear line between taxpayers with offshore accounts who voluntarily come forward and those who fail to come forward.

Taxpayers also evade taxes by using offshore debit cards, credit cards, wire transfers, foreign trusts, employee-leasing schemes, private annuities or life insurance plans. The IRS has also identified abusive offshore schemes including those that involve use of electronic funds transfer and payment systems, offshore business merchant accounts and private banking relationships.

Filing False or Misleading Forms

The IRS is seeing scam artists file false or misleading returns to claim refunds that they are not entitled to. Frivolous information returns, such as Form 1099-Original Issue Discount (OID), claiming false withholding credits are used to legitimize erroneous refund claims. The new scam has evolved from an earlier phony argument that a “strawman” bank account has been created for each citizen. Under this scheme, taxpayers fabricate an information return, arguing they used their “strawman” account to pay for goods and services and falsely claim the corresponding amount as withholding as a way to seek a tax refund.

Abuse of Charitable Organizations and Deductions

The IRS continues to observe the misuse of tax-exempt organizations. Abuse includes arrangements to improperly shield income or assets from taxation and attempts by donors to maintain control over donated assets or income from donated property. The IRS also continues to investigate various schemes involving the donation of non-cash assets, including easements on property, closely-held corporate stock and real property. Often, the donations are highly overvalued or the organization receiving the donation promises that the donor can purchase the items back at a later date at a price the donor sets. The Pension Protection Act of 2006 imposed increased penalties for inaccurate appraisals and new definitions of qualified appraisals and qualified appraisers for taxpayers claiming charitable contributions.

Return Preparer Fraud

Dishonest return preparers can cause many headaches for taxpayers who fall victim to their ploys. Such preparers derive financial gain by skimming a portion of their clients’ refunds and charging inflated fees for return preparation services. They attract new clients by promising large refunds. Taxpayers should choose carefully when hiring a tax preparer. As the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. No matter who prepares the return, the taxpayer is ultimately responsible for its accuracy. Since 2002, the courts have issued injunctions ordering dozens of individuals to cease preparing returns, and the Department of Justice has filed complaints against dozens of others, which are pending in court.

Frivolous Arguments

Promoters of frivolous schemes encourage people to make unreasonable and unfounded claims to avoid paying the taxes they owe. The IRS has a list of frivolous legal positions that taxpayers should stay away from. Taxpayers who file a tax return or make a submission based on one of the positions on the list are subject to a $5,000 penalty. More information is available on IRS.gov.

False Claims for Refund and Requests for Abatement

This scam involves a request for abatement of previously assessed tax using Form 843, Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement. Many individuals who try this have not previously filed tax returns. The tax they are trying to have abated has been assessed by the IRS through the Substitute for Return Program. The filer uses Form 843 to list reasons for the request. Often, one of the reasons given is “Failed to properly compute and/or calculate Section 83-Property Transferred in Connection with Performance of Service.”

Abusive Retirement Plans

The IRS continues to uncover abuses in retirement plan arrangements, including Roth Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs). The IRS is looking for transactions that taxpayers are using to avoid the limitations on contributions to IRAs as well as transactions that are not properly reported as early distributions. Taxpayers should be wary of advisers who encourage them to shift appreciated assets into IRAs or companies owned by their IRAs at less than fair market value to circumvent annual contribution limits. Other variations have included the use of limited liability companies to engage in activity which is considered prohibited.

Disguised Corporate Ownership

Some taxpayers form corporations and other entities in certain states for the primary purpose of disguising the ownership of a business or financial activity. Such entities can be used to facilitate underreporting of income, fictitious deductions, non-filing of tax returns, participating in listed transactions, money laundering, financial crimes, and even terrorist financing. The IRS is working with state authorities to identify these entities and to bring the owners of these entities into compliance.

Zero Wages

Filing a phony wage- or income-related information return to replace a legitimate information return has been used as an illegal method to lower the amount of taxes owed. Typically, a Form 4852 (Substitute Form W-2) or a “corrected” Form 1099 is used as a way to improperly reduce taxable income to zero. The taxpayer also may submit a statement rebutting wages and taxes reported by a payer to the IRS. Sometimes fraudsters even include an explanation on their Form 4852 that cites statutory language on the definition of wages or may include some reference to a paying company that refuses to issue a corrected Form W-2 for fear of IRS retaliation. Taxpayers should resist any temptation to participate in any of the variations of this scheme.

Misuse of Trusts

For years, unscrupulous promoters have urged taxpayers to transfer assets into trusts. While there are many legitimate, valid uses of trusts in tax and estate planning, some promoted transactions promise reduction of income subject to tax, deductions for personal expenses and reduced estate or gift taxes. Such trusts rarely deliver the promised tax benefits and are being used primarily as a means to avoid income tax liability and hide assets from creditors, including the IRS.

The IRS has recently seen an increase in the improper use of private annuity trusts and foreign trusts to divert income and deduct personal expenses. As with other arrangements, taxpayers should seek the advice of a trusted professional before entering into a trust arrangement.

Fuel Tax Credit Scams

The IRS is receiving claims for the fuel tax credit that are unreasonable. Some taxpayers, such as farmers who use fuel for off-highway business purposes, may be eligible for the fuel tax credit. But some individuals are claiming the tax credit for nontaxable uses of fuel when their occupation or income level makes the claim unreasonable. Fraud involving the fuel tax credit is considered a frivolous tax claim, potentially subjecting those who improperly claim the credit to a $5,000 penalty.

How to Report Suspected Tax Fraud Activity

Suspected tax fraud can be reported to the IRS using Form 3949-A, Information Referral. Form 3949-A is available for download from the IRS Web site at IRS.gov. The completed form or a letter detailing the alleged fraudulent activity should be addressed to the Internal Revenue Service, Fresno, CA 93888. The mailing should include specific information about who is being reported, the activity being reported, how the activity became known, when the alleged violation took place, the amount of money involved and any other information that might be helpful in an investigation. The person filing the report is not required to self-identify, although it is helpful to do so. The identity of the person filing the report can be kept confidential.

Whistleblowers also may provide allegations of fraud to the IRS and may be eligible for a reward by filing Form 211, Application for Award for Original Information, and following the procedures outlined in Notice 2008-4, Claims Submitted to the IRS Whistleblower Office under Section 7623.

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