|Ken Novak's Weblog
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Ken Novak's Weblog
Monday, December 19, 2005
States Taking Action on Global Warming:
With the federal governement inactive, states taking many actions.
- Cap-and-trade: New York, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont,
Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware --
plus Maryland, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, and the Eastern
Canadian Provinces as observers -- have agreed to create a nine state
cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), starting with
the electric power sector.
- Renewable power: "Seventeen states have legislated that part of their
electricity be generated by non-emitting renewable energy." 8 are
small amounts, but 6 are over 15%.
- Vehicles: Following California's lead, Connecticut, New
Jersey, New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island,
Washington, Oregon, and Pennsylvania have adopted or are considering
adoption of California's vehicle emissions standards. In November
2004, Canadian NGOs, provincial governments and parliament announced
their intention to adopt the California standard by 2006. If
California, Oregon, Washington, the Northeast states and Canada were to
adopt the California standards, around 40% of the US-Canada new car
market would be subject to these standards.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Business Blogging - Yahoo! Small Business hosts Movable Type
: "get the power of Movable Type for blogging from a web host you trust: Yahoo! Small Business web hosting. All the features you need, with no installation required." $8/mo for 200 GB transfers and 5GB storage, with normal upgrades from there. 11:23:08 PM
Gapminder: An interactive presentation for the "Human Development Report 2005" by UNDP, relating population, income and health across countries and regions over 50 years. Much improved in recent months. In 10 minutes, it conveys a lot about where the world is going. 12:50:27 AM
Saturday, December 17, 2005
State Department takes over Iraq reconstruction
: 2.5 years late. "President George W. Bush on Wednesday announced that the State Department would lead all US post-conflict reconstruction, a move that supersedes the controversial decision to give that task to the Pentagon in Iraq following the 2003 invasion." 11:12:25 AM
Op-Eds for Sale: "For years, rumors have swirled of an underground opinion "pay-for-play" industry in Washington in which think-tank employees and pundits trade their ability to shape public perception for cash. ..
A senior fellow at the Cato Institute resigned from the libertarian think tank on Dec. 15 after admitting that he had accepted payments from indicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff for writing op-ed articles favorable to the positions of some of Abramoff's clients. Doug Bandow [also] writes a syndicated column for Copley News Service .. Copley News Service announced it is suspending Bandow pending its own review. ..
Bandow isn't the only think-tanker to have received payments from Abramoff for writing articles. Peter Ferrara, a senior policy adviser at the conservative Institute for Policy Innovation, says he, too, took money from Abramoff to write op-ed pieces boosting the lobbyist's clients. "I do that all the time," Ferrara says. "I've done that in the past, and I'll do it in the future." 10:54:56 AM
Ferrara, who has been an influential conservative voice on Social Security reform, among other issues, says he doesn't see a conflict of interest in taking undisclosed money to write op-ed pieces because his columns never violated his ideological principles. "It's a matter of general support," Ferrara says. "These are my views, and if you want to support them, then that's good." But he adds that at some point over the years, Abramoff stopped working with him: "Jack lost interest in me and felt he had other writers who were writing in more prominent publications," Ferrara says.
Ferrara's boss has a very different take on the Abramoff op-ed writing than did his peers at Cato. "If somebody pinned me down and said, 'Do you think this is wrong or unethical?' I'd say no," says Tom Giovanetti, president of the Institute for Policy Innovation. Giovanetti says critics are applying a "naive purity standard" to the op-ed business. "I have a sense that there are a lot of people at think tanks who have similar arrangements."
Ferrara began working at the Institute for Policy Innovation after the period during which he wrote the op-ed pieces for Abramoff. Earlier, he worked at the activist anti-tax organization Americans for Tax Reform. .. He also wrote a 1998 book called The Choctaw Revolution: Lessons for Federal Indian Policy. Ferrara says the tribe paid him directly for his work on the book, which was published by the Americans for Tax Reform Foundation"
What the Troops Really Need: US nation-building assets are weak. "If you think that the $500 billion military is stretched thin, take a look at the anemic, $10 billion State Department. Most military officers crying for assistance in the field do not realize how small their diplomatic sister agency is. There are more musicians playing for the military services' bands than there are Foreign Service officers at State. This severe lack of capacity leaves the military with the bulk of the building, in addition to the clearing and the holding." 9:32:44 AM
Thursday, December 15, 2005
How to use yahoo alerts to issue SMS from RSS feeds, for free. 8:24:35 AM
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Nanotechnology for Development:
More groups are studying the potential impact of nanotech on developing countries. The World Bank Development Gateway has a site, with a few familar names (editor John Daly
, and advisor Anil Srivastava
) . The Merdian Institute Nanotechnology and Development News
provides daily updates via RSS or email. From a Press Release:
" Several recent reports, including the report of the UN Millennium Project Task Force on Science, Technology, and Innovation, conclude that science and technology, in particular nanotechnology, can contribute significantly to alleviating poverty and achieving the MDGs. "The use of nanotechnology applications for water treatment and remediation; energy storage, production, and conversion; disease diagnosis and screening; drug delivery systems; health monitoring; air pollution and remediation; food processing and storage; vector and pest detection and control; and agricultural productivity enhancement will help developing countries meet five of the Goals," states the Task Force Report. .. Over 20 countries, including innovative developing countries such as China, South Africa, Brazil, and India, have national nanotechnology programs.." 9:23:34 AM
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
AJAX and E4X for Fun and Profit:
Functions to make Ajax easier in Firefox. Published code on
class, with the
following APIs. Note that this was designed specifically for use with
Firefox 1.5 and above, though when I publish the full class
specification (this is still something of a work in progress) it should
work, with minor exceptions, on most browsers that support AJAX." 10:52:27 AM
Objectifying XML - E4X for Firefox 1.1:
E4X is ECMAScript for XML, a language extension proposed to the ECMA
late last summer. "The principle behind E4X is simple, but very
you have to create a set of interfaces and use the W3C DOM and
frequently some VERY painful treewalking or convoluted XPath calls in
XML as a native
strings, numbers and regular expressions. [And] it "objectifies" XML.
In other words, it
lets you convert an XML document into a representation of an object,
without having to go through the long, involved steps involved in
working with DOM." 10:41:31 AM
FTP File Sync:
"Add robust FTP file synchronization to your web application (ASP, PHP, etc) in just a few lines of code. As
an ActiveX component accessible through COM, FTP Sync is easily
integrated into client side, or server-side applications and scripts.
FTP Sync requires no user interface and can run transparently in the
background or respond directly to an event.
both Uploading and Downloading Synchronization methods, FTP Sync can be
used in a multitude of applications. With FTP Sync enabled client
applications, you can easily deploy new files to every client
application simply by uploading updated files to an FTP server." Inexpensive.
Software That Binds, And Converts, And Retains: In two articles, Baseline magazine profiles the use of customer relationship management (CRM) software in churches. They track people so that visitors become members, members contribute and volunteer more, and members change churches ("churn") less -- all classic CRM. "Eighteen months ago, [pastor] Hand implemented a new process based on software from a company called ConnectionPower to improve the church's outreach methods. ConnectionPower features modules for such things as automating the visitor follow-up process, tracking donations and revenues, and creating a Web portal for members. It's priced from $1,000 for a small church to about $20,000 for churches with 6,000 or more members.
At [Hand's church], new visitors continue to fill out registration cards as they had in the past, with information such as family member names, ages, address [and] e-mail address. But now volunteers immediately type the information into the Windows-based ConnectionPower software. And now, each Monday morning, Hand or his assistant logs in to the system and see the names of the new visitors. .. The software then produces follow-up recommendations. For example, if a 28-year-old mother of two visits, the software prompts a volunteer of a similar age and background to make contact later in the week."
And the churches embrace podcasting and other media. "69%of evangelicals use the Internet to send, receive and forward spiritual e-mail and electronic greeting cards and request prayers online, according to a Pew Internet survey last year. That's compared with 51% of Catholics and 54% of Jews, the Pew Internet study said. .. Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, an evangelical church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with 18,000 members, lets Apple iPod users download and take along a daily message from pastor Bob Coy, as part of what the church calls its Active Word Ministry. .. "If you don't have a parking lot, you can't get the people in the church to hear the message and ultimately lead them to the Lord. A Web site is as important as a parking lot to a church." " 10:12:28 AM
Brain imaging detects lies:
"Brain-imaging techniques that reveal when a person is lying are now reliable enough to identify criminals, claim researchers.
.. neuroscientists from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia have now told Nature that they believe their test is ready for real-life scenarios. Daniel Langleben and his colleagues use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to track people's brains when they lie and tell the truth. By analysing brain activity during both scenarios, they have developed an algorithm that can detect lies from truth with 99% accuracy.Team member Ruben Gur points out that, unlike the polygraph, fMRI does not rely on controllable symptoms such as sweating or a fast heartbeat. Instead it monitors the central nervous system. When someone lies, their brain inhibits them from telling the truth, and this makes the frontal lobes more active. "A lie is always more complicated than the truth," says Gur. "You think a bit more and fMRI picks that up." ..Langleben has previously warned that fMRI is a research tool, not a way to spot liars. But the latest research has changed his tune. "We can't say whether this person will one day use a bomb," he says. "But we can use fMRI to find concealed information. We can ask: is X involved in terrorist organization Y?" .. Critics argue that lab experiments do not equate to real-life situations. .. Critics and researchers agree that more funding is needed to standardize the method and iron out ethical concerns before the approach is used routinely. The team's next step is to expand its studies to include women, people of different cultures, and psychopaths.
" 9:13:17 AM
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Opinion Leaders Turn Cautious, Public Looks Homeward
: Pew poll reveals long term trends. Most striking: " Fully 42% of Americans say the United States should "mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own." This is on par with the percentage expressing that view during the mid-1970s, following the Vietnam War, and in the 1990s after the Cold War ended. " Note the least isolation occured after the Iran hostage crisis in 1979 and 9/11. Many other interesting findings, e.g. "Pluralities in every group of influentials – as well as the public – attribute the fact that there has not been a terrorist attack in the U.S. since 9/11 to luck. Just a third of the public – and no more than a third in any elite group – says it is because the government has done a good job in protecting the country." 5:00:15 PM
Shattering Iraq: Review of civil war histories related to Iraq. "By just about every meaningful standard that can be applied -- the reference points of history, the research criteria of political science, the contemporaneous reporting of on-the-ground observers, the grim roll of civilian and combatant casualties -- Iraq is now well into the bloody sequence of civil war. Dispense with the tentative locution "on the verge of." An active, if not full-boil, civil war is already a reality."
A Council on Foreign Relations report adds evidence that the Iraqi national army is not really national: "There is a growing chorus of complaints from Sunni Arab leaders that the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) has been infiltrated by Shiite militias that engage in torture, kidnappings, and, in some cases, deaths squads against Sunnis. .. “The ISF is not a true national force but rather a carved-up conglomeration of militias,” says Kenneth Katzman, senior Middle East analyst with the Congressional Research Service."
Also from Peter Galbraith, who welcomes the consitution's minimal central state in What Are We Holding Together?: "There is no reason to mourn the passing of the unified Iraqi state. For Iraq's 80-year history, Sunni Arab dictators held the country together -- and kept themselves in power -- with brutal force that culminated in Hussein's genocide against the Kurds and mass killings of Shiites. As a moral matter, Iraq's Kurds are no less entitled to independence than are Lithuanians, Croatians or Palestinians. And if Iraq's Shiites want to run their own affairs, or even have their own state, on what democratic principle should they be denied? If the price of a unified Iraq is another dictatorship, it is too high a price to pay." 4:52:19 PM
Friday, December 09, 2005
Qaeda-Iraq Link U.S. Cited Is Tied to Coercion: "The Bush administration based a crucial prewar assertion about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda on detailed statements made by a prisoner while in Egyptian custody who later said he had fabricated them to escape harsh treatment, according to current and former government officials. The officials said the captive, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, provided his most specific and elaborate accounts about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda only after he was secretly handed over to Egypt by the United States in January 2002, in a process known as rendition. The new disclosure provides the first public evidence that bad intelligence on Iraq may have resulted partly from the administration's heavy reliance on third countries to carry out interrogations of Qaeda members ..
The fact that Mr. Libi recanted after the American invasion of Iraq and that intelligence based on his remarks was withdrawn by the C.I.A. in March 2004 has been public for more than a year. But American officials had not previously acknowledged either that Mr. Libi made the false statements in foreign custody or that Mr. Libi contended that his statements had been coerced. ..
Mr. Libi was among a group of what American officials have described as about 150 prisoners sent by the United States from one foreign country to another since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks for the purposes of interrogation" 3:38:07 PM
Ogre to Slay? Outsource It to Chinese: "from Seoul to San Francisco, affluent online gamers who lack the time and patience to work their way up to the higher levels of gamedom are willing to pay the young Chinese here to play the early rounds for them. "For 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, my colleagues and I are killing monsters," said a 23-year-old gamer who works here in this makeshift factory and goes by the online code name Wandering. "I make about $250 a month" ..
[There are] hundreds - perhaps thousands - of online gaming factories here in China. By some estimates, there are well over 100,000 young people working in China as full-time gamers .. The Chinese government estimates that there are 24 million online gamers in China, meaning that nearly one in four Internet users here play online games." Good slideshow. 3:31:54 PM
The Hubris of the Humanities: "Increasingly, we face public policy issues - avian flu, stem cells - that require some knowledge of scientific methods, yet the present Congress contains 218 lawyers, and just 12 doctors and 3 biologists.
This disregard for science already hurts us. The U.S. has bungled research on stem cells, perhaps partly because Mr. Bush didn't realize how restrictive his curb on research funds would be. And we're risking our planet's future because our leaders are frozen in the headlights of climate change. In this century, one of the most complex choices we will make will be what tinkering to allow with human genes, to "improve" the human species. How can our leaders decide that issue if they barely know what DNA is?
Intellectuals have focused on the challenge from the right, which has led to a drop in the public acceptance of evolution in the U.S. over the last 20 years, to 40 percent from 45 percent. Jon Miller, a professor at the Northwestern University medical school who has tracked attitudes toward evolution in 34 countries, says Turkey is the only one with less support for evolution than the U.S" 1:02:11 PM
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Solar Power 2.0
: US consultancy on solar power, operating a portal with a news section and annotated lists of relevant sites. 8:52:41 AM
World Bank renewables support growing: It's from a very small base. There's lots to un-spin in the press release. Here we go. "The World Bank Group committed US$212 million to new renewable energy projects this year .. [WBG] funded $87 million in energy efficiency and another $449 million for large hydro (over 10 MW capacity) in the most recent fiscal year, for a combined total of $748 million compared with $339 million in the previous year. Total commitments to the three sectors since 1990 exceed $9 billion." So the annual average for 15 years was $9b/15=$600m, and the last 2 years together were average.
"Total energy sector commitments of $2.8 billion [were] made this year. .. WBG committed to increase its support for new renewables and energy efficiency by an average of 20% per year from 2005 to 2009. That commitment was made in Bonn, Germany in June 2004" At at 20% growth rate, it won't even equal the $2.5b of conventional and large hydro for 12 years! Pretty lame.
By region this year: East Asia & Pacific $129 m; Africa $46m; South Asia $16m; Latin America & Caribbean $15 m; Europe & Central Asia received $6m; Middle East & North Africa $1 m. So, only nominal support outside Asia and Africa.
"The lowest level of funding for new renewables was in 1991, when $2 million was supported, while the high was in 2000 at $444 million. The highest level for energy efficiency was $380 million in 1996, while hydro received $938 million in 1993. .. 8:40:28 AM
The report includes the support provided by the six regional energy units of the WBG, International Finance Corporation, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, Carbon Finance operations, Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme, and the Asia Alternative & Sustainable Energy Program. It notes that each dollar of WBG financing leveraged $5 from private investors, governments and others. ..
Forty renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in 28 countries were supported, with the smallest being the Yemen Rural Electrification & Renewable Energy Development Project, and the highest being$137 million for the first phase of the Renewable Energy Scale-up Program in support of China’s commitment to increase its share of renewables from 7% of generation capacity to 15% by 2020."
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
It's Not Whether You 'Win' or 'Lose': "[Is] all of this vocabulary -- winning, losing, victory, defeat -- is simply misplaced? There are, after all, wars that are not actually won or lost... There are wars that end ambivalently -- wars, for example, such as the one we fought in Korea...
Iraq is not Korea, of course, and the Middle East is not Asia. But it is perfectly possible that the two conflicts might eventually resemble one another in the ambivalence of their conclusions. Although both the administration and its antiwar opponents speak as if there must be an either/or solution for Iraq -- either democracy or Islamic fascism -- it is perfectly possible that we end up with both. We may indeed create the first truly democratic Arab regime, with independent media, real elections and a relatively liberal political culture. But we may also, simultaneously, strengthen al Qaeda and its radical Islamic allies, in Iraq and the entire region. We may create a more entrepreneurial, globally integrated Iraq that can inspire economic reform throughout the Middle East. We may also create a deep well of international anti-American resentment that hampers our ability to conduct everything from trade negotiations to counterintelligence for decades to come.
It is even possible, in the end, that we really will help bring into existence a new generation of democratic Arab reformers across the Middle East -- and that we will need to keep troops in the region for five decades to defend them. Would such an outcome mean the war was a "defeat"? Not necessarily. Would it mean the war was a "victory"? Not exactly. Can we, the nation that invented the Hollywood happy ending, live with such a conclusion? Hard to imagine, but we might not have a choice. " 9:24:50 AM
Al-Qaida Deputy Urges Oil-Plant Attacks
: "Al-Qaida's deputy leader called for attacks against Gulf oil facilities and urged insurgent groups in Iraq to unite to drive out American forces.. The posting was a full version of a video by al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri that was issued on Sept. 19, excerpts of which were broadcast by the Arab television network Al-Jazeera at the time. .. "I call on the holy warriors to concentrate their campaigns on the stolen oil of the Muslims, most of the revenues of which go to the enemies of Islam," al-Zawahri, the Egyptian deputy of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, said in a portion of the tape not previously broadcast." 9:18:35 AM
Monday, December 05, 2005
Why free software:
"you have three types of customers: those that will pay you, those that might pay you, and those that will never pay you. .. There were sufficient folks in the first category for us to get off the ground as a business, and enough in the second to grow the business. How did we do that? By leveraging the third category - the folks who will never pay us. I'll do anything and everything in my power to help the individual developers in my world for absolutely no money, because they give us relevance to the folks that will or might pay us. It really is that simple. Nor do we give everything away .. Like SugarCRM, most of what we do is free and available, but some isn't. To sum up: giving things away can easily grow your revenue opportunities, rather than undermine it." Then again, it ain't easy:
: "Even JBoss has had difficulty converting those who download its software into paying subscribers - BusinessWeek
earlier this year reported just five percent of JBoss users are subscribers." 8:45:32 AM
Thursday, December 01, 2005
San Diego Night
: With cameras that take pictures up to 4000 megapixels, The Gigapixl Project makes amazingly detailed images. The images expand the scope of "plain sight," and thereby reduce our zone of privacy
. [Thanks, Scott
] 2:27:39 PM
How wikis are evolving: Several recent examples of how large numbers of collaborators can contribute and distribute information rapidly:
- Wikinews collected stories from "citizen journalists" during Katrinareporting, linking and photographing from Louisiana and around the world. Among professional journaists, the Online Journalism Review also assembled a wiki to aggregate crucial information after Katrina struck.
- The Katrina Information Map, a public resource for tracking or reporting flood damage. "most people are using the service to inquire about loved ones or report flooding on various streets."
- London bombings information was tracked in real time. Among other things, you can view every revision as it was posted to see how the information was released.
- The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request in 2003 looking for evidence of prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It put the 4000 pages of documents on the a Detention Practices Project wiki and asked readers of the community blog Daily Kos to rapidly read and review them.
- Authors Cory Doctorow and Larry Lessig post their latest books online and invite readers to note errata or updates for the next edition. "Assembling pages of errata for my editor was a pain in the ass and very hard to use comprehensibly, especially when I got thoughts from readers in no particular order," Doctorow said. "Wikis let my readers self-organize it."