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OpenMarket: Tech and Telecom

  • Bean Counters Caucus in DC

    October 30, 2006
    The American Financial Services Association is holding its 90th annual meeting here in Washington this week, and attendees are tackling a number of challenges including the threat of identity theft to customers, the multiple levels of regulatory control over member companies and calls for the industry to "do good" in addition to doing good business. A lot of these are issues CEI has worked on as well. For more, see Wayne and Brooke's paper on identity theft, Wayne's latest installment of 10,000 Commandments on regulatory overkill, Isaac's take on "corporate social responsibility" and business do-gooders, and John's work on financial...
  • SEJ 2006: Marc Morano Takes on Alarmist Reporting

    October 28, 2006
    We've known that Marc Morano was a brave man for some time, but he proved it again last night at the Society of Environmental Journalists' conference here in Burlington. He was the lone critic on a panel about the media and global warming entitled "And Now a Word from Our Critics..." Not only was he the only critic of the mainstream reportage of climate change on the five-member panel, but I seemed to be one of the only people in the packed ballroom not actively hostile to his point of view. The panel lineup had changed significantly from the original plan - Associated Press reporter Seth Borenstein was sidelined due to an illness in the family (although was later noted to be listening to the proceedings via cell phone). The final lineup consisted of Oregon Public Radio producer Christy George, ABC News correspondent Bill Blakemore, New...
  • SEJ 2006: Open Source Journalism

    October 27, 2006
    There was yet more cool action from the Society of Environmental Journalists' conference this afternoon as Amy Gahran and Adam Glenn explained what Gahran called "open source journalism." She and Glenn encouraged their audience to become more involved blogging (and commenting online) on issues that they cover, both for professional development and to begin turning their readership into an extended community. Both of those goals, of course, come with significant personal rewards. A journalist who blogs, they explained, will reap the rewards of the distributed intelligence of everyone interested in their topics. Comments on reporter's posts are a great way to suggest story ideas or introduce a corrective point of view....
  • Can money offset venality?

    October 26, 2006
    Prizes sponsored by private individuals and organizations seem to be the new way to provide incentives for technological and other advances. Now a wealthy Sudanese entrepreneur, Mo Ibrahim, is offering a post-facto prize to African leaders who have governed well and in the interests of their people. Ibrahim says that the money may provide incentives for some African leaders to leave office, since they will have financial security instead of clinging to their positions of power and perhaps leading their countries into corruption. An index will be used to evaluate heads of state's performances. And the criteria sound similar to those of...
  • COPA: "So Much Easier than Parenting"

    October 24, 2006
    The Child Online Protection Act (COPA), signed by President Clinton eight years ago, has yet to be enforced. Kids have grown up waiting to be "protected" by it. The law requires that Website operators, through such means as requiring credit card numbers and other techniques for proof of age, must ensure that material "harmful to children," is not accessed by them. Sizeable penalties apply. Free speech advocates (Salon, the ACLU) have continued their arguments--in a trial in federal court starting today--that the law is too vague and could prevent the accessing of legitimate material by adults. The Supreme Court has twice upheld injunctions barring enforcement. It's become tiresome to reiterate...
  • The Newest Cell Phone Accessory: Lead Underpants

    October 24, 2006
    A new study out of the UK suggests that mobile phone radiation may be responsible for increased infertility in men. This observed decline in sperm count and motility, of course, has also been linked to obesity, smoking, stress, pollution and endocrine disrupting chemicals, but that needn't stand in the way of roping in yet another culprit. This latest round of worry over the health effects of mobile devices reminds one of Steve Milloy's recent round-up of the top ten junk science stories from the past ten years, including #2, the terrifying phantom risk of cell phone brain cancer.
  • Politics Nerds Rejoice

    October 23, 2006
    Students at my alma mater, Claremont McKenna College, have created a very wonky alternative to the season's popular fantasy football leagues: fantasy Congress. As The New York Times reports today, hundreds of people have already joined the fun: Just as in fantasy football or baseball, each player picks a team — in this case, 4 senators and 12 House members of varying seniority levels — and competes with other players in a league typically managed by a friend or a co-worker. Members determine whether to play for money or the thrill of victory. But that is where the similarities end. On the Fantasy Congress Web site, www....
  • Maybe That's Why the Lacrosse Scandal Disappeared from the News

    October 20, 2006
    Scientists at Duke University and Imperial College London have reportedly developed a cloaking device for solid objects. All of the relevant Romulan and Harry Potter jokes have, naturally, already been made. The military applications are obvious, but I'd like to hear anyone's ideas for civilian, consumer applications. Making your car invisible to vandals? Hiding that pile of unwashed dishes in your sink from party guests? Personally disappearing when activist canvassers come to the door?
  • News of YouTube's Death Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

    October 19, 2006
    An argument from Peter Hartlaub of the San Francisco Chronicle on why big business can never be cool, even when it acquires something that is: The circle of life on the Internet is very cruel: When giant corporations take interest in online cultural phenomena, they instantly become exponentially less cool. From Napster to MySpace to "Snakes on a Plane" -- all stopped being a good thing once the Man showed up in the room. In the wake of Google's acquisition of YouTube, parents groups are already calling for a safety czar to regulate the user-built video library, much like the one that MySpace appointed when News Corp. purchased that site. And is there anything that kills a party faster than a safety czar? In a sense, Google's purchase of YouTube will almost certainly kill YouTube. Of...
  • They're Coming to Audit Your Avatar

    October 19, 2006
    Fox News this morning raises the alarming prospect of the IRS taxing financial transactions taking places in online virtual communities like Second Life and World of Warcraft. So far people like Rep. Jim Saxton of the Joint Economic Committee are giving the proposal the thumbs down, but I guarantee we haven't heard the last of it.

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