May 31, 2009
Maybe I should have titled this one, “Theocrat uses church for murder.” Of course that would be misleading because we don’t the philosophy of this particular murderer. We do know the philosophy of many public figures who speak of abortion and abortion-performing doctors in militant terms.
Dr. George Tiller’s blood is on the hands of many. Hopefully the one who pulled the trigger is caught and fully punished. I’m going out on a limb and guessing eventually we’ll find out he “did it for god.”
From the link:
George Tiller, a Wichita doctor who was one of the few doctors in the nation to perform late-term abortions, was shot to death on Sunday as he attended church, city officials in Wichita said.
Dr. Tiller, who had performed abortions since the 1970s, had long been a lightning rod for controversy over the issue of abortion, particularly in Kansas, where abortion opponents regularly protested outside his clinic and sometimes his home and church. In 1993, he was shot in both arms by an abortion opponent but recovered.
He had also been the subject of many efforts at prosecution, including a citizen-initiated grand jury investigation. In the latest such effort, in March, Dr. Tiller was acquitted of charges that he had performed late-term abortions that violated state law.
The shooting occurred at around 10 a.m. (Central time) at Reformation Lutheran Church on the city’s East Side, Dr. Tiller’s regular church.
Update: You can follow the real time reactions at Twittervia the #tiller hashtag. There’s news and condolences, but then there’s a lot of great, and sickening, examples of the mindset of christianists and theocrats. Truly sick people and enemies of the United States. Religious terrorism anyone?
The perpetrator of this murder and all who encouraged this act explicitly or implicitly are nothing more than domestic terrorists. Looks like the battle against religious terrorism has a renewed front and a slightly different flavor in terms of the “good book” used to justify the terrorist acts.
Take any opinion on abortion and abortionists you like, but Dr. Tiller was a certified medical doctor practicing medicine the United States and performing legal medical procedures. He died for simply doing his job and providing a legal service (late-term abortions) few other doctors dare offer, often because of fear of being murdered. That is the definition of terrorism.
May 30, 2009
I don’t see this overtaking email, but it’s an interesting idea. You have to hand it to Google, it really does get outside the box to find brand new utilites and apps.
From the link:
Google co-founder Sergey Brin has put his reputation behind a project launched today by a team from Google Australia which seeks to overthrow email as the dominant mode of internet communication and replace it with a new hybrid.
“What we are seeing with Wave really rethinks how communication works,” Brin said today. “I think you will see a form of interaction that you would not have previously imagined.”
Christened Wave, the new system is a combination of email and instant messaging and document-, maps- image- and video-sharing all housed in one spot (screenshots can be found here).
Much like a conference call, it also allows for conversations between more than two people to happen simultaneously. And it can happen in different languages using an instantaneous translation tool.
And because it all takes place inside a web browser, there is no special software to download or plug-in – which means it can be used from any computer or internet-enabled mobile phone.
Update 6-1-09 — More on Wave from CIO.com.
Here’s the latest news in solar — using lasers to improve solar cells.
Lasers are making solar cells competitive
Solar electricity has a future: It is renewable and available in unlimited quantities, and it does not produce any gases detrimental to the climate. Its only drawback right now is the price: the electric power currently being produced by solar cells in northern Europe must be subsidized if it is to compete against the household electricity generated by traditional power plants. At “Laser 2009” in Munich, June 15 to 18, Fraunhofer researchers will be demonstrating how laser technology can contribute to optimizing the manufacturing costs and efficiency of solar cells.
Cell phones, computers, MP3 players, kitchen stoves, and irons all have one thing in common: They need electricity. And in the future, more and more cars will also be fuelled by electric power. If the latest forecast from the World Energy Council WEC can be believed, global electricity requirements will double in the next 40 years. At the same time, prices for the dwindling resources of petroleum and natural gas are climbing.
“Rising energy prices are making alternative energy sources increasingly cost-effective. Sometime in the coming years, renewable energy sources, such as solar energy, will be competitive, even without subsidization,” explains Dr. Arnold Gillner, head of the microtechnology department at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology in Aachen, Germany. “Experts predict that grid parity will be achieved in a few years. This means that the costs and opportunities in the grid will be equal for solar electricity and conventionally generated household electricity.” Together with his team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, this researcher is developing technologies now that will allow faster, better, and cheaper production of solar cells in the future. “Lasers work quickly, precisely, and without contact. In other words, they are an ideal tool for manufacturing fragile solar cells. In fact, lasers are already being used in production today, but there is still considerable room for process optimization.” In addition to gradually improving the manufacturing technology, the physicists and engineers in Aachen are working with solar cell developers – for example, at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Freiburg – on new engineering and design alternatives.
New production technologies allow new design alternatives
At “Laser 2009” in Munich, the researchers will be demonstrating how lasers can drill holes into silicon cells at breathtaking speed: The ILT laser system drills more than 3,000 holes within one second. Because it is not possible to move the laser source at this speed, the experts have developed optimized manufacturing systems which guide and focuses the light beam at the required points. “We are currently experimenting with various laser sources and optical systems,” Gillner explains. “Our goal is to increase the performance to 10,000 holes a second. This is the speed that must be reached in order to drill 10,000 to 20,000 holes into a wafer within the cycle time of the production machines.”
The tiny holes in the wafer – their diameter is only 50 micrometers – open up undreamt-of possibilities for the solar cell developers. “Previously, the electrical contacts were arranged on the top of the cells. The holes make it possible to move the contacts to the back, with the advantage that the electrodes, which currently act as a dark grid to absorb light, disappear. And so the energy yield increases. The goal is a degree of efficiency of 20 percent% in industrially-produced emitter wrap-through (EWT) cells, with a yield of one-third more than classic silicon cells,” Gillner explains. The design principle itself remains unchanged: In the semi-conductor layer, light particles, or photons, produce negative electrons and positive holes, each of which then wanders to the oppositely poled electrodes. The contacts for anodes and cathodes in the EWT cells are all on the back, there is no shading caused by the electrodes, and the degree of efficiency increases. With this technique, it may one day be possible to use unpurified “dirty” silicon to manufacture solar cells that have poorer electrical properties, but that are cheaper.
Drilling holes into silicon cells is only one of many laser applications in solar cell manufacturing. In the EU project Solasys – Next Generation Solar Cell and Module Laser Processing Systems – an international research team is currently developing new technologies that will allow production to be optimized in the future. ILT in Aachen is coordinating the six million euro project. “We are working on new methods that make the doping of semiconductors, the drilling and the surface structuring of silicon, the edge isolation of the cells, and the soldering of the modules more economical,” project coordinator Gillner explains. For example, “selective laser soldering” makes it possible to improve the rejection rates and quality of the contacting, and so reduce manufacturing costs. Until now, the electrodes were mechanically pressed onto the cells, and then heated in an oven. “But silicon cells often break during this process,” Gillner knows. “Breakage is a primary cost factor in production.” On the other hand, however, with “selective laser soldering” the contacts are pressed on to the cells with compressed air and then soldered with the laser. The mechanical stress approaches zero and the temperature can be precisely regulated. The result: Optimal contacts and almost no rejects.
Laser technology means more efficient thin film cells
Laser technology is also helping to optimize the manufacture of thin film solar cells. The extremely thin film packages made of semiconducting oxide, amorphous silicon, and metal that are deposited onto the glass panels still have a market share of only ten percent. But as Gillner knows, “This could be higher, because thin film solar cells can be used anywhere that non-transparent glass panels can be mounted, for example, on house facades or sound-insulating walls. But the degrees of efficiency are comparable low at five to eight percent, and the production costs are comparatively high.” The laser researchers are working to improve these costs. Until now, the manufacturers have used mechanical methods or solid-state lasers in the nanosecond range in order to structure the active layers on the glass panels. In order to produce electric connections between the semiconductor and the metal, grooves only a few micrometers wide must be created. At the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft booth at “Laser 2009” the ILT researchers will be demonstrating a 400-watt ultrashort pulse laser that processes thin-film solar modules ten times faster than conventional diode-pumped solid-state lasers. “The ultrashort pulse laser is an ideal tool for ablating thin layers: It works very precisely, does not heat the material and, working with a pulse frequency of 80 MHz, can process a 2-by-3 meter glass panel in under two minutes,” Gillner reports. “The technology is still very new, and high-performance scanning systems and optical systems adapted to the process must be developed first. In the medium term, however, this technology will be able to reduce production costs.”
The rise of laser technology in solar technology is just taking off, and it still has a long way to go. “Lasers simplify and optimize the manufacture of classic silicon and thin-film cells, and they allow the development of new design alternatives,” Gillner continues. “And so laser technology is making an important contribution towards allowing renewable energy sources to penetrate further into the energy market.”
I guess attacking on race is either all those on the right who oppose Sotomayor have, or its all they know because the actual judicial record has no bearing on the argument.
The meme has become quite strong, however, and is being hammered by multiple GOPers at multiple media outlets so I guess the Republican Party is going to live, die or fade further in obscurity and irrelevance on opposing Obama’s first Supreme Court pick purely on an argument based on race.
Here’s Andrew Sullivan on the topic, first quoting Tim Goldstein:
In sum, in an eleven-year career on the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor has participated in roughly 100 panel decisions involving questions of race and has disagreed with her colleagues in those cases (a fair measure of whether she is an outlier) a total of 4 times. Only one case (Gant) in that entire eleven years actually involved the question whether race discrimination may have occurred. (In another case (Pappas) she dissented to favor a white bigot.) She participated in two other panels rejecting district court rulings agreeing with race-based jury-selection claims.
Given that record, it seems absurd to say that Judge Sotomayor allows race to infect her decisionmaking.
Absurd would be the word. I don’t doubt she’s a liberal on these issues – guess who won the election – but I see no smoking racial gun here. Even a toy one.
May 29, 2009
… might have less worth than reading tea leaves or engaging in navel gazing. Like most numbers they can be spun up, down or sideways, but anyone seeing blue skies and smelling roses from these reports has given up and started taking antidepressants.
From the link:
The economy is sending a message of hope laced with caution: That the recession is steadily easing, but new threats could delay any recovery.One piece of heartening news was that the number of people seeking first-time jobless aid fell last week, a sign companies are cutting fewer workers.
And even though sales of newly built homes were flat last month, the figures suggested that the battered U.S. real estate market is nearing a gradual comeback.
But pessimists could point to bleaker news Thursday: The number of people continuing to receive unemployment benefits rose to 6.78 million _ the largest total on records dating to 1967 and the 17th straight record-high week.
The figure signaled that the jobless rate, which reached 8.9 percent in April, will rise in May, economists said. And many economists expect the rate to approach 10 percent by year’s end.
Another worrisome sign is that a record 12 percent of homeowners with a mortgage are behind on their payments or in foreclosure as the housing crisis spreads to borrowers with good credit, the Mortgage Bankers Association said. And the wave of foreclosures isn’t expected to crest until the end of next year.
It’s a confusing credit situation out there for small business, but it looks like entrepreneurs who hit up smaller banks for money have a much greater chance of securing the needed loan. If this plays out correctly on the ground it could get small business and small banking back on the same team.
At one point in time bank mangers and presidents had personal relationships with small business owners and could make gut-level decisions to help the entrepreneurs. As all the business went toward larger banks small business owners were subject to the whims of loan risk algorithms and random policy shifts that could, and did, impact the bottom line.
A friend of mine last year went through just that with a major bank that doesn’t exist in name any longer. A policy shift and manager transfer left his account wildly overdrawn for no reasonable reason from a business perspective. The event cost him a fair bit of money, but luckily not any contractors working under him or contracts he was servicing.
Small business owners, the lesson is get local with your banking, and hopefully you’ll develop relationships that can last with the decisions makers at your local banking institution.
From the link:
At first blush, the evidence seems contradictory. On one hand, many national banks have drastically cut back small-business lending. In addition, Advanta, a major issuer of small-business credit cards, declared on May 12 that it was closing customer accounts to new charges.
On the other hand, the Federal Reserve’s April survey of lending practices showed credit conditions have loosened. The Small Business Administration says the weekly volume of loans to small businesses is up more than 25 percent since March. And community banks, those smallish, old-fashioned institutions that make up the vast majority of the country’s 8,300 banks, say that they are ready to take back customers from the national lenders.
Much of the confusion has its roots in contrasting banking strategies. Big national banks are much more likely to have been drawn into the morass of securitized loans, credit-default swaps and the like, which has forced them to preserve capital by curtailing lending.
The smaller banks, meanwhile, have traditionally made their livings off of loans that they carry on their own balance sheets to individuals and small businesses. For them, despite the economic crisis, the current situation is more or less business as usual.
Indeed, a May survey of 1,500 small businesses by Barlow Research Associates found that companies that applied to small banks for loans in the past year were three times as likely to get credit as those who applied to large banks.
… from your home state. Tax revenues from the states is down for Q1 this year, and unemployment is down in every state.
I haven’t linked to Paul Caron’s tax blog in a while and it’s my pleasure to provide these numbers from TaxProf Blog:
- Corporate income tax: -16.2%
- Personal income tax: -15.8%
- Sales tax: -7.6%
The decline was biggest in the Far West (-18.1%) and smallest in the Plains (-5.0%). Here are the states with the ten biggest and smallest declines in tax revenues:
5 New Jersey
6 New York
7 North Carolina
2 South Dakota
4 North Dakota
9 Rhode Island
Bing is the latest incarnation of Microsoft’s search engine space efforts. I really don’t see how this latest rebranding will do anything in terms of market share for the Redmond behemoth, but I guess it won’t do any real harm either. Google is just dominant and the brand new engine with brand new tech in Wolfram Alpha will continue getting all the buzz.
Just on timing and the overall feel we’ve seen this before, I’m going to say this is another misfire from Microsoft.
From the link:
Microsoft’s latest vehicle for achieving the elusive goal of Web dominance is Bing. Previously known as Kumo while in development, Bing replaces Microsoft’s Live Searchbrand and carries forward the company’s strategy for taking on Google and Yahoo. Besides introducing a new look to Microsoft’s search interface, Bing adds a spruced-up navigation for search results, including a new left-hand navigation bar, a hover feature that lets users preview Web pages before visiting them, and a categorized search feature that groups search results by topic category.Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer publically demonstrated Bing for the first time Tuesday at the D: All Things Digital technology conference. Bing goes live to the public beginning on June 3; it will be phased in over the course of several days.
Time Warner finally pares a lot of dead weight from it’s already bloated structure and in the process concludes one of the ghastliest (on so many levels) deals of the tech boom of the late-90s/early 00s. AOL was an immediate drag on Time Warner and never lived up to any aspect of its end of the deal.
From the link:
Time Warner will finally rid itself of AOL, its struggling Internet subsidiary, by spinning it off as a publicly traded company.The move comes as no surprise. Time Warner executives have been considering for years whether and how to dump AOL, whose transformation into an ad-supported business has been a disappointment.
The separation will allow Time Warner to continue “reshaping” itself with a focus on its content business, while AOL will gain more flexibility to seek Internet market success, Time Warner said on Thursday.
To proceed with the separation, Time Warner will first buy the 5 percent of AOL that Google owns, having paid US$1 billion for it in December 2005. That transaction will happen in this year’s third quarter. Earlier this year, Google wrote down that investment, acknowledging it has dropped in value.
Here’s something I wrote about the deal back in December 2003:
Wired magazine ran a great piece in the November 2003 issue on the death march of AOL outlining the company’s ongoing problems. AOL’s subscriber figure most likely peaked in the third quarter of 2002 at around 35 million. It has consistently fallen since that time. In January 2001 the merger of AOL and Time Warner was approved, the stock began trading as “AOL” and the AOL side of the merger ran the show, so to speak, because its stock valuation (based on nothing more than hot air bandied around a boardroom) was higher than Time Warner’s business filled with publications and other physical media.
The tech bust hit AOL pretty hard and in September of this year AOL/Time Warner dropped “AOL” from the name to separate the brands and switched back to the “TWX” ticker symbol. Yesterday TWX closed at $16.48 with a 52-week high of $16.98 and a low of only $9.90.
Like many companies during the boom, AOL got ahead of itself and made the common business mistake of hubris. It viewed its hold over Internet service as a given. Not unlike Microsoft underestimating the Internet, AOL completely misjudged the broadband threat and is now late in the game and scrambling. All those Net newbies who wanted the handholding provided by AOL were forced to wean themselves in order to make the early switch to DSL or cable Internet access and found the transition pretty painless.
Of course unlike Microsoft, AOL doesn’t have a stranglehold product (Windows) that allows it to quickly get up to speed in the broadband game. Microsoft may have been late on the World Wide Web boat, but it got there via a jet-engined craft with a fiberglass hull. AOL has been caught staring at the broadband access train pulling out of the station wondering if its cool, tech boom scooter will be enough to keep it up to speed.
Which leads back to AOL’s ill-fated Netscape acquisition. Netscape lost the browser war to Microsoft long ago (its browser tech has effectively been abandoned by AOL) and the parent company is looking for any way to parlay the brand name into a commodity. Hence the Radio@Netscape Plus player. Replacing a perfectly adequate app in Spinner, and actually making it a little worse with the 31 song re-up rather than Spinner’s old 201song string.
May 28, 2009
I’ve done plenty of blogging on the financial crisis/economic downturn/recession/possible depression, and lately I’ve been pushing back a little at what I see as overly optimistic short-term outlooks.
This thing is far from over, but in the interest of fairness this chart provides a little perspective. Things are rough — as in as bad as has been seen in around fifty years — but no where near the Great Depression. And I do think the worst of bleeding has been staunched so it’s really unlikely we to those depths.
From the second link:
The Great Depression was an unspeakably bad time for the U.S. economy. I know that sounds obvious, but it seems necessary to say given all the recent rhetoric about “the worst economy since the Great Depression.”
Our economy has indeed been in terrible shape lately, with millions of families struggling with falling incomes, job losses, home foreclosures, and plummeting wealth. The current recession is severe by any reasonable metric. But it still pales in comparison to the Great Depression.
(Hat tip: the Daily Dish)
May 27, 2009
To this point I’ve done no blogging on Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court. This is interesting and ought to allieve concerns for some on the right, she has a decent track record regarding business.
From the link:
Sonia Sotomayor, President Barack Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court, has compiled a balanced record on business issues that is hard to pin down, legal experts said.As with David Souter, the justice she would replace if approved by the Senate, Sotomayor’s stances as an appeals court judge are unpredictable and sometimes defy expectations of both supporters and critics, they said.
“She has not been consistently … on one side of the spectrum or the other,” said Evan Tager, a partner at the law firm Mayer Brown, who has reviewed her decisions as a judge on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Still, some conservative critics argue that her stances in high-profile affirmative action and securities litigation cases show she’ll bend the law to favor employees and consumers over business.
Other analysts note, though, that Sotomayor has supported limiting damages in lawsuits against companies and will dismiss discrimination claims if she finds they aren’t supported by the law.
Tager said some of the positions she’s taken in damage awards cases, in particular, should hearten the business community.
May 26, 2009
… is immanent.
From the link:
General Motors, is good for the USA.”has failed to persuade enough bondholders to accept a debt-for-equity swap, setting the stage for the largest-ever U.S. industrial bankruptcy within days.The event marks a critical disappointment for GM, the largest U.S. automaker and once considered the bellwether of U.S. manufacturing. A popular ad for the automaker once stated that “What’s good for
“I would say this is a sound rejection of an unsuitable offer,” said Pete Hastings, a credit analyst at Morgan Keegan who has followed GM. “I have been saying for some time that this thing was dead on arrival and we were just waiting for the doctor to pronounce it dead. Now that’s happened.”
The largest U.S. automaker had so far failed to gain anywhere near the 90 percent of bondholder support desired to stave off bankruptcy, two sources familiar with the discussions told Reuters on Tuesday. Bondholders have until midnight to make their final decision on the tender.
May 23, 2009
What passes for conservative in today’s parlance and politics is not the least bit connected to traditional Western political conservatism. Quoted here is a great graf from Sam Tanenhaus’ essay, “Conservatism Is Dead” from the New Republic. The bit below is a great illustration of Burkean conservatism.
Anyone who considers themselves a political conservative with no more background than YouTubed speeches from Reagan should do themselves a huge favor and read a little Edmund Burke.
(Just to make the point a bit more obvious for latter day “conservatives” notice George’s inflexibility and how that relates to today’s Republican Party)
From the link:
At the same time, Burke recognized that governments were obligated to use their powers to meliorate intolerable conditions. He had, for example, supported the American Revolution because its architects, unlike the French rebels, had not sought to destroy the English government; on the contrary, they petitioned for just representation within it. Had King George III complied, he would have strengthened, not weakened, the Crown and Parliament. Instead, he had inflexibly clung to the hard line and so shared responsibility for the Americans’ revolt. “A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation,” Burke warned. The task of the statesman was to maintain equilibrium between “[t]he two principles of conservation and correction.” Governance was a perpetual act of compromise–“sometimes between good and evil, and sometimes between evil and evil.” In such a scheme there is no useful place for the either/or of ideological purism.
May 22, 2009
Looks like a conservative radio talk show host on the side of “waterboarding is not torture” put his money where his mouth is and took the test. After being waterboarded he declared unequivocally waterboarding is torture. Maybe a few more waterboarding defenders ought to undergo the procedure and see if they don’t have a change of heart.
And keep in mind this reaction is coming from someone in a very controlled situation with medical staff on hand and a “safe” device he could toss to end the waterboarding at any time (at around seven seconds in this case.)
For anyone who supports waterboarding terrorists and claims it isn’t torture (although U.S. and international law considers the procedure so) imagine one of your loved ones picked up by the police in a foreign country for seemingly no reason and repeatedly subjected to waterboarding. Would that be torture?
Here’s a clip of the torture and its aftermath:
Via KurzweilAI.net — this one just gets a wow. There are so many useful apps for this device it’s astounding. I’m curious how robust it is.
Plugging In $40 Computers New York Times, May 21, 2009
SheevaPlug, a tiny plastic “plug computer” that you plug into an electric outlet, includes a 1.2 Ghz application processor running Linux with 512 megabytes of RAM and 512 megabytes of flashstorage, and USB and Gigabit Ethernet sockets.
By adding peripherals and software, it can become a network server, security camera to the Internet, video stream storage device, and serve other functions. Price is $99; it may be available for under $40 in two years.
I’d hazard a guess most renters don’t carry renters insurance. I know all the years I rented apartments and houses not once did I have insurance, and it was a bad idea. Suffered one break-in through the sub-par back door of a rental house, and got lucky to never have any damage or loss due to fires or flooding in all the places I lived before buying a house.
From the first link:
Carrying renters insurance may rarely be a provision in a rental agreement, but protecting your possessions and yourself against liability through renters insurance is a very good idea for a number of reasons. Your landlord will likely have a commercial property or homeowners insurance policy on the structure you are renting, but that policy does not cover your possessions such as furniture, clothing, electronic equipment and other belongings. Beyond protecting your property, the liability provision in renters insurance protects you against legal action for personal injury or property damage caused by you, members of your family and even your pets. Even though renters insurance is relatively inexpensive it does pay to compare renters insurance policies to find the best deal.
One of the best reasons to carry renters insurance is there are many factors affecting your household that are largely, if not completely, out of your control as a renter. These include the upkeep and overall condition of your rented house, condo, apartment or other structure, and who might be living around you. Renters insurance helps protect you from loss from any problem arising because of one of these elements.
Via KurzweilAI.net — Sanyo broke its own record for solar cell energy conversion efficiency.
SANYO Breaks Solar Cell Record Azonanotechnology, May 21, 2009
SANYO Electric has broken its own record for the world’s highest energy conversion efficiency in practical size (100 cm2 or more) crystalline silicon-type solar cells, achieving a efficiency of 23.0% (until now 22.3%) at a research level for its proprietary HIT solar photovoltaic cells.
Well, really these tips are all “don’ts” instead of “dos.” Good information for anyone who does presentations, expert or beginner.
From the link:
4. Read from Your Slides
“Most presenters who are just considered average or mediocre are usually caught reading the text on their slides,” Gallo says. This dreadful presentation technique ties into Gallo Rule #2. “When you place a lot of text on slides,” he says, “naturally you want to read from them, so you turn your back to audience and you read from slides on the display.”
Unfortunately, people read from their PowerPoint slides much more than they think they do, Gallo notes. “When you read from your notes or from slides,” he says, “that completely breaks the connection you have with audience.”
Gallo’s Tip: Practice your speech and know it cold, so that you can sustain eye contact with your audience while you are presenting. “Great presenters will do this: They glance at a slide just for a second to prompt them for the next piece of information,” Gallo says. “And then they turn and deliver to audience. They know what’s on the slide because they have practiced.”
Something to think about in terms of future threats to our increasingly electronic and computurized lives.
Viral epidemics poised to go mobile
Scientists predict mobile phone viruses will pose a serious threat
If you own a computer, chances are you have experienced the aftermath of a nasty virus at some point. In contrast, there have been no major outbreaks of mobile phone viral infection, despite the fact that over 80 percent of Americans now use these devices. A team headed by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, director of the Center for Complex Network Research at Northeastern University, set out to explain why this is true.
The researchers used calling and mobility data from over six million anonymous mobile phone users to create a comprehensive picture of the threat mobile phone viruses pose to users. The results of this study, published in the May 22 issue of Science, indicate that a highly fragmented market share has effectively hindered outbreaks thus far. Further, their work predicts that viruses will pose a serious threat once a single mobile operating system’s market share grows sufficiently large. This event may not be far off, given the 150 percent annual growth rate of smart phones.
“We haven’t had a problem so far because only phones with operating systems, so-called ‘smart phones’, are susceptible to viral infection,” explained Marta Gonzalez, one of the authors of the publication. “Once a single operating system becomes common, we could potentially see outbreaks of epidemic proportion because a mobile phone virus can spread by two mechanisms: a Bluetooth virus can infect all Bluetooth-activated phones in a 10-30 meter radius, while Multimedia Messaging System (MMS) virus, like many computer viruses, spreads using the address book of the device. Not surprisingly, hybrid viruses, which can infect via both routes, pose the most significant danger.”
This study builds upon earlier research by the same group, which used mobile phone data to create a predictive model of human mobility patterns. The current work used this model to simulate Bluetooth virus infection scenarios, finding that Bluetooth viruses will eventually infect all susceptible handsets, but the rate is slow, being limited by human behavioral patterns. This characteristic suggests there should be sufficient time to deploy countermeasures such as antiviral software to prevent major Bluetooth outbreaks. In contrast, spread of MMS viruses is not restricted by human behavioral patterns, however spread of these types of viruses are constrained because the number of susceptible devices is currently much smaller.
As our world becomes increasingly connected we face unprecedented challenges. Studies such as this one, categorized as computational social science, are necessary to understand group behavior and organization, assess potential threats, and develop solutions to the issues faced by our ever-changing society.
“This is what statistical analysis of complex systems is all about: finding patterns in nature,” said Gonzalez. “This research is vital because it puts a huge amount of data into the service of science.”
May 21, 2009
A release hot from the inbox:
NASA Details Plans for Lunar Exploration Robotic Missions
WASHINGTON, May 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — NASA’s return to the moon will get a boost in June with the launch of two satellites that will return a wealth of data about Earth’s nearest neighbor. On Thursday, the agency outlined the upcoming missions of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS. The spacecraft will launch together June 17 aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Using a suite of seven instruments, LRO will help identify safe landing sites for future human explorers, locate potential resources, characterize the radiation environment and test new technology. LCROSS will seek a definitive answer about the presence of water ice at the lunar poles. LCROSS will use the spent second stage Atlas Centaur rocket in an unprecedented way that will culminate with two spectacular impacts on the moon’s surface.
“These two missions will provide exciting new information about the moon, our nearest neighbor,” said Doug Cooke, associate administrator of NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in Washington. “Imaging will show dramatic landscapes and areas of interest down to one-meter resolution. The data also will provide information about potential new uses of the moon. These teams have done a tremendous job designing and building these two spacecraft.”
LRO’s instruments will help scientists compile high resolution, three-dimensional maps of the lunar surface and also survey it in the far ultraviolet spectrum. The satellite’s instruments will help explain how the lunar radiation environment may affect humans and measure radiation absorption with a plastic that is like human tissue.
LRO’s instruments also will allow scientists to explore the moon’s deepest craters, look beneath its surface for clues to the location of water ice, and identify and explore both permanently lit and permanently shadowed regions. High resolution imagery from its camera will help identify landing sites and characterize the moon’s topography and composition. A miniaturized radar will image the poles and test the system’s communications capabilities.
“LRO is an amazingly sophisticated spacecraft,” said Craig Tooley, LRO project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “Its suite of instruments will work in concert to send us data in areas where we’ve been hungry for information for years.”
While most Centaurs complete their work after boosting payloads out of Earth’s orbit, the LCROSS Centaur will journey with the spacecraft for four months and be guided to an impact in a permanently shadowed crater at one of the moon’s poles. The resulting debris plume is expected to rise more than six miles. It presents a dynamic observation target for LCROSS as well as a network of ground-based telescopes, LRO, and possibly the Hubble Space Telescope. Observers will search for evidence of water ice by examining the plume in direct sunlight. LCROSS also will increase knowledge of the mineralogical makeup of some of the remote polar craters that sunlight never reaches. The satellite represents a new generation of fast development, cost capped missions that use flight proven hardware and off the shelf software to achieve focused mission goals.
“We look forward to engaging a wide cross section of the public in LCROSS’ spectacular arrival at the moon and search for water ice,” said LCROSS Project Manager Dan Andrews of NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. “It’s possible we’ll learn the answer to what is increasingly one of planetary science’s most intriguing questions.”
LRO and LCROSS are the first missions launched by the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. Their data will be used to advance goals of future human exploration of the solar system. LRO will spend at least one year in low polar orbit around the moon, collecting detailed information for exploration purposes before being transferred to NASA’s Science Mission Directorate to continue collecting additional scientific data.
Goddard manages the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Ames manages the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite. LRO is a NASA mission with international participation from the Institute for Space Research in Moscow. Russia provides the neutron detector aboard the spacecraft. Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, Calif., built the LCROSS spacecraft.
For more information about LRO, visit:
For more information about LCROSS, visit:
AP Archive: http://photoarchive.ap.org/
PRN Photo Desk email@example.com
Web Site: http://www.nasa.gov/
Another bone for Main Street from the IRS.
Law Offers Special Tax Breaks for Small Business; Act Now and Save, IRS Says
IR-2009-51, May 20, 2009
Small Business Week is May 17 to 23, and the Internal Revenue Service urges small businesses to act now and take advantage of tax-saving opportunities included in the recovery law.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), enacted in February, created, extended or expanded a variety of business tax deductions and credits. Because some of these changes—the bonus depreciation and increased section 179 deduction, for example—are only available this year, eligible businesses only have a few months to take action and save on their taxes. Here is a quick rundown of some of the key provisions.
Faster Write-Offs for Certain Capital Expenditures
Many small businesses that invest in new property and equipment will be able to write off most or all of these purchases on their 2009 returns. The new law extends through 2009 the special 50 percent depreciation allowance, also known as bonus depreciation, and increased limits on the section 179 deduction, named for the relevant section of the Internal Revenue Code. Normally, businesses recover these capital investments through annual depreciation deductions spread over several years. Both of these provisions encourage these investments by enabling businesses to write them off more quickly.
The bonus depreciation provision generally enables businesses to deduct half the cost of qualifying property in the year it is placed in service.
The section 179 deduction enables small businesses to deduct up to $250,000 of the cost of machinery, equipment, vehicles, furniture and other qualifying property placed in service during 2009. Without the new law, the limit would have dropped to $133,000. The existing $25,000 limit still applies to sport utility vehicles. A special phase-out provision effectively targets the section 179 deduction to small businesses and generally eliminates it for most larger businesses.
Bonus depreciation and the section 179 deduction are claimed on Form 4562. Further details are in the instructions for this form.
Expanded Net Operating Loss Carryback
Many small businesses that had expenses exceeding their incomes for 2008 can choose to carry those losses back for up to five years, instead of the usual two. For small businesses that were profitable in the past but lost money in 2008, this could mean a special tax refund. The option is available for a small business that has no more than an average of $15 million in gross receipts over a three-year period.
This option is still available for most eligible taxpayers, but only for a limited time. A corporation that operates on a calendar-year basis, for example, must file a claim by Sept. 15, 2009. For eligible individuals, the deadline is Oct. 15, 2009.
Eligible individuals should file a claim using Form 1045, and corporations should use Form 1139. Details can be found in the instructions for each of these forms, and answers to frequently-asked questions are posted on IRS.gov.
Exclusion of Gain on the Sale of Certain Small Business Stock
The new law provides an extra incentive for individuals who invest in small businesses. Investors in qualified small business stock can exclude 75 percent of the gain upon sale of the stock. This increased exclusion applies only if the qualified small business stock is acquired after Feb. 17, 2009 and before Jan. 1, 2011, and held for more than five years. For previously-acquired stock, the exclusion rate remains at 50 percent in most cases.
Estimated Tax Requirement Modified
Many individual small business taxpayers may be able to defer, until the end of the year, paying a larger part of their 2009 tax obligations. For 2009, eligible individuals can make quarterly estimated tax payments equal to 90 percent of their 2009 tax or 90 percent of their 2008 tax, whichever is less. Individuals qualify if they received more than half of their gross income from their small businesses in 2008 and meet other requirements. For details, see Publication 505.
Employers that provide the 65 percent COBRA premium subsidy under ARRA to eligible former employees claim credit for this subsidy on their quarterly or annual employment tax returns. To help avoid imposing an unnecessary cash-flow burden, affected employers can reduce their employment tax deposits by the amount of the credit. For details, see Form 941. Answers to frequently-asked questions are posted on IRS.gov.
Other ARRA business provisions relate to discharges of certain business indebtedness, the holding period for S corporation built-in gains and acceleration of certain business credits for corporations. Also see Fact Sheet FS-2009-11.
I hate to always blog about tough financial news or to dispute what I see as overly rosy near-term projections, but I think reality should trump blind wishes. Particularly when those wishes will most likely be dashed in short order.
In an interview I was asked my operating philosophy of life and my response was “optimistic pessimism,” which for me is a succinct way of saying I hope for the best and plan for the worst. Optimistic pessimism is a very prudent way to view the world’s economy in both bad and good times.
From the link:
Federal Reserve officials fear the recession is worse than recent projections and that the recovery could drag on for two years as unemployment continues to edge higher, according to the minutes from the Fed’s April meeting.
Some members noted that it might be necessary to raise the amounts of mortgage and Treasury securities purchased above the $1.75 trillion that the government has already committed to buying.
“Some members noted that a further increase in the total amount of purchases might well be warranted at some point to spur a more rapid pace of recovery,” according to the minutes of the April 28-29 meeting.
The buying programs were put in place to create liquidity for these types of securities created from loans, and to serve as a catalyst for lending in an effort to thaw frozen credit markets.
The Federal Open Market Committee minutes are always released three weeks after the meeting is held.
As widely expected, the Fed left a key interest rate alone at that meeting, leaving the target federal funds rate at a range near zero.
Fed officials have said rates will stay “exceptionally low…for an extended period,” which some analysts have interpreted as meaning possibly into next year.
The economy looked a little brighter three weeks ago when Fed officials released a statement at the conclusion of their two-day meeting. Things are less rosy now.
I’m betting many elected GOP figures just wish Dick Cheney would head back to a secret location — any secret location — and stay out of the news.
Obama gives a speech on national security outlining his plan to keep America safe:
President Obama kicked off the debate with a far-reaching speech about the expanse and limits of the office of the presidency, defending decisions he’s already made that reverse his predecessor’s policies and also those upholding others. Addressing critics from the right and left, Mr. Obama didn’t back down from his plans to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center nor did he shrink from his refusal to release more photographs of abused prisoners.
He accused some critics of fear-mongering, of stoking the public’s anxieties over terrorism and without mentioning names, castigated officials of the previous administration for an “anything goes” mindset that permitted torture and a vastly broad view of executive authority. He relied in words and visual imagery on the historical documents displayed around him – the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.
Immediately following Obama’s speech looking toward the future and outlining a clear plan of action that represents a return to a United States once again walking softly, but carrying a big stick, Dick Cheney hits the airwaves looking not to the future, but the past. September 11 to be exact, reminding the world that the worst terrorist attack on the domestic U.S. happened under the Bush 43 watch.
He’s clearly scrambling, but he’s certainly not helping his party and he’s undermining the sitting president in ways I’m guessing he’d consider actionable if it were occurring when he and Bush were in office. The hypocrisy is not lost on the American public.
Cheney’s reputation is in shambles, he is more likely than not to face war crime charges in either U.S. or international courts and he is basically taking a large dump on the tattered remains on the Republican Party. The leftover rump might take it and ask for a little more, but every time Cheney attempts to defend the Bush 43 regime a few more holdout center-right voters turn their backs on the GOP.
From the same link above:
In line after line, Mr. Cheney drew upon the horrific imagery of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 as though they had occurred just yesterday. While commending Mr. Obama for a new Afghanistan war strategy, he accused the president of faulting and mischaracterizing Bush practices. Indeed, Mr. Cheney added as a prelude to his lengthy speech, so much so that Mr. Obama “deserved an answer.” Mr. Cheney continued to insist that the harsh interrogation methods now opposed by the president were successful in thwarting more assaults against the United States. And he argued that “seven and a half years without a repeat is not a record to be rebuked and scorned, much less criminalized. It is a record to be continued until danger has passed.”
If you’ve never heard of them before, easter eggs are little hidden bits of fun, features or information in video games, applications, DVDs, books or other objects.
The latest in search/computational engine technology, Wolfram|Alpha, is no exception.
Here’s ten fun easter eggs that have been uncovered so far.
Number eight from the list, a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference: