Saturday, January 30, 2010

The cold facts about "global warming"

Here.

I also thought this was good, (but I also highly recommend the paper. One of the best things I've read for the facts.)




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Amplification of CO2 feedback significantly less than thought, study suggests

Science Daily:

A new estimate of the feedback between temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration has been derived from a comprehensive comparison of temperature and CO2 records spanning the past millennium.

The result, which is based on more than 200,000 individual comparisons, implies that the amplification of current global warming by carbon-cycle feedback will be significantly less than recent work has suggested.

Climate warming causes many changes in the global carbon cycle, with the net effect generally considered to be an increase in atmospheric CO2 with increasing temperature -- in other words, a positive feedback between temperature and CO2. Uncertainty in the magnitude of this feedback has led to a wide range in projections of current global warming: about 40% of the uncertainty in these projections comes from this source.

Recent attempts to quantify the feedback by examining the co-variation of pre-industrial climate and CO2 records yielded estimates of about 40 parts per million by volume (p.p.m.v.) CO2 per degree Celsius, which would imply significant amplification of current warming trends.

In this week's Nature, David Frank and colleagues extend this empirical approach by comparing nine global-scale temperature reconstructions with CO2 data from three Antarctic ice cores over the period ad 1050-1800. The authors derive a likely range for the feedback strength of 1.7-21.4 p.p.m.v. CO2 per degree Celsius, with a median value of 7.7.

The researchers conclude that the recent estimates of 40 p.p.m.v. CO2 per degree Celsius can be excluded with 95% confidence, suggesting significantly less amplification of current warming.



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Lagging and leading indicators of the business "cycle"

Here.

And here.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Who owns the national debt?

Zero Hedge:

The true shocker is in the vast change in internal ownership of US debt versus the amount owned by foreign nations and the Federal Reserve. Between 1985 and 2009 U.S. ownership of the federal debt has decreased from 56% to 27% while foreign ownership has increased from 14% to 29%. Even more shocking is the vast change in the amount owned by the Federal Reserve, from 31% to 44%.
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Obama increases budget for nuclear weapons even though days ago he said he "seeks a world without them"

Barf and change.

Daily Mail:

President Obama is planning to increase spending on America's nuclear weapons stockpile just days after pledging to try to rid the world of them.

In his budget to be announced on Monday, Mr Obama has allocated £4.3billion to maintain the U.S. arsenal - £370million more than George Bush spent on nuclear weapons in his final year.

The Obama administration also plans to spend a further £3.1billion over the next five years on nuclear security.

The announcement comes despite the American President declaring nuclear weapons were the ‘greatest danger’ to U.S. people during in his State of the Union address on Wednesday.

[...]During his 70-minute State of the Union speech on Wednesday, which marked his first year in office, Obama said: 'I have embraced the vision of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan through a strategy that reverses the spread of these weapons, and seeks a world without them.'

However, Vice President Joe Biden today supported the increase on nuclear weapons maintenance, saying: ‘Even in a time of tough budget decisions, these are investments we must make for our security.
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This week in false IPCC statements

Last week, the IPCC got attention for their Himalayan glaciers claim being exposed as a fraud.

Let's see if they can top themselves this week.

On the IPCC claim that the "global warming" is linked to an increased number of natural disasters.

Times Online:

THE United Nations climate science panel faces new controversy for wrongly linking global warming to an increase in the number and severity of natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods.

It based the claims on an unpublished report that had not been subjected to routine scientific scrutiny — and ignored warnings from scientific advisers that the evidence supporting the link too weak. The report's own authors later withdrew the claim because they felt the evidence was not strong enough.

The claim by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that global warming is already affecting the severity and frequency of global disasters, has since become embedded in political and public debate. It was central to discussions at last month's Copenhagen climate summit, including a demand by developing countries for compensation of $100 billion (£62 billion) from the rich nations blamed for creating the most emissions.

Ed Miliband, the energy and climate change minister, has suggested British and overseas floods — such as those in Bangladesh in 2007 — could be linked to global warming. Barack Obama, the US president, said last autumn: "More powerful storms and floods threaten every continent."

[...]When the paper was eventually published, in 2008, it had a new caveat. It said: "We find insufficient evidence to claim a statistical relationship between global temperature increase and catastrophe losses."

Despite this change the IPCC did not issue a clarification ahead of the Copenhagen climate summit last month. It has also emerged that at least two scientific reviewers who checked drafts of the IPCC report urged greater caution in proposing a link between climate change and disaster impacts — but were ignored.

[...]Muir-Wood's paper [against the IPCC claim] was originally commissioned by Roger Pielke, professor of environmental studies at Colorado University, also an expert on disaster impacts, for a workshop on disaster losses in 2006. The researchers who attended that workshop published a statement agreeing that so far there was no evidence to link global warming with any increase in the severity or frequency of disasters. Pielke has also told the IPCC that citing one section of Muir-Wood's paper in preference to the rest of his work, and all the other peer-reviewed literature, was wrong.
On the IPCC's claim that the 3rd world will face more water shortages because of "global warming."

Watts Up With That:

I want to spotlight another error in the IPCC report. This is an error, based not on blunders or poor scholarship but on selective reporting of results, where one side of the story is highlighted but the other side is buried in silence. In other words, it’s a sin of omission, that is, it results, literally, from being economical with the truth. It succeeds in conveying an erroneous impression of the issue — similar to what “hide the decline” did successfully (until Climategate opened and let the sunshine in).

I have written about this previously at WUWT in a post, How the IPCC Portrayed a Net Positive Impact of Climate Change as a Negative, and in a peer reviewed article on global warming and public health. Both pieces show how the IPCC Working Group II’s Summary for Policy Makers (SPM), which deals with the impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change, hid the projected decline in the future global population at risk of water shortage due to climate change. Not surprisingly, news outlets (e.g., here and here) routinely report that climate change could increase the population at risk of water shortage, despite the fact that studies show exactly the opposite regarding the net global population at risk of water shortage.
And the claim that global warming could devastate African agriculture:

Herald Sun:

Yet more evidence that the IPCC cooked the books. Here’s its 2007 claim that global warming could devastate African agriculture:

In other [African] countries, additional risks that could be exacerbated by climate change include greater erosion, deficiencies in yields from rain-fed agriculture of up to 50% during the 2000-2020 period, and reductions in crop growth period…
In fact, that claim comes from a non-peer-reviewed and non-scientific paper which looked at just three African countries, and was produced by a sustainable development lobby group. How did this end up as IPCC gospel?
What about the claim of the Amazon being in peril?

Herald Sun:

Now yet another scare claim in the IPCC’s 2007 report collapses on closer inspection.

This time ithe dodgy claim is this:

Up to 40%of theAmazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation; this means that the tropical vegetation, hydrology and climate system in South America could change very rapidly to another steady state, not necessarily producing gradual changes between the current and the future situation (Rowell and Moore, 2000). It is more probable that forests will be replaced by ecosystems that have more resistance to multiple stresses caused by temperature increase, droughts and fires, such as tropical savannas.
In fact, as Richard North points out:

At first sight, the reference looks kosher enough but, following it through, one sees:
Rowell, A. and P.F. Moore, 2000: Global Review of Forest Fires. WWF/IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, 66 pp. http://www.iucn.org/themes/fcp/publications/files/global_review_forest_fires.pdf.
This, then appears to be another WWF report, carried out in conjunction with the IUCN – The International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The link given is no longer active, but the report is on the IUCN website here. Furthermore, the IUCN along with WWF is another advocacy group and the report is not peer-reviewed. According to IPCC rules, it should not have been used as a primary source.
In fact, neither of the authors is even a scientist, and one is a green campaigner and journalist. Nor can North find any support in the WWF document for the IPCC’s claim that 40 per cent of the Amazonian forest is threatened - or at least no legitimate support.
On the head of the IPCC getting grants from the phony Himalayan glaciers claim.

Times Online:

The chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has used bogus claims that Himalayan glaciers were melting to win grants worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Rajendra Pachauri's Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), based in New Delhi, was awarded up to £310,000 by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the lion's share of a £2.5m EU grant funded by European taxpayers.

It means that EU taxpayers are funding research into a scientific claim about glaciers that any ice researcher should immediately recognise as bogus. The revelation comes just a week after The Sunday Times highlighted serious scientific flaws in the IPCC's 2007 benchmark report on the likely impacts of global warming.
Oh and who is this Rajendra Pachauri, head of the IPCC?

Telegraph:

Although Dr Pachauri is often presented as a scientist (he was even once described by the BBC as “the world’s top climate scientist”), as a former railway engineer with a PhD in economics he has no qualifications in climate science at all.
Yup, I think this week wins.

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Average TV watching per country




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US babies being born lighter

New Scientist:

A 52-gram drop in the weight of full-term singletons – from an average of 3.441 to 3.389 kilograms – has left Emily Oken’s team at Harvard Medical School scratching their heads. It can’t be accounted for by an increase in caesarean sections or induced labours, which shorten gestation. What’s more, women in the US now smoke less and gain more weight during pregnancy, which should make babies heavier. Oken suggests that unmeasured factors, such as diet or exercise, could explain why babies are being born lighter. (Uh huh, exercise)
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Thursday, January 28, 2010

America's impending "master class dictatorship"

Kitco:

One stark and sobering way to frame the crisis is this: if the United States government were to nationalize (in other words, steal) every penny of private wealth accumulated by America’s citizens since the nation’s founding 235 years ago, the government would remain totally bankrupt.

According to the Federal Reserve’s most recent report on wealth, America’s private net worth was $53.4 trillion as of September, 2009. But at the same time, America’s debt and unfunded liabilities totaled at least $120 trillion[...] If the government does not directly seize the nation’s private wealth, then it will require $389,610 from each and every citizen to balance the country’s books. State, county and municipal debts and deficits are additional, already elephantine in many states (e.g., California, Illinois, New Jersey and New York) and growing at an alarming rate nationwide.

[...]Using the GAAP accounting method (which is what corporations are required to use because it presents a far more accurate and honest picture of a company’s finances than the cash accounting method primarily and misleadingly used by the U.S. government), the nation’s fiscal year 2009 deficit was roughly $9,000,000,000,000.00 ($9 trillion), or $24,700,000,000.00 ($24.7 billion) per day

[...]Given this, is it any surprise that Treasury Secretary Geithner has announced that the release of the nation’s FY 2009 supplemental GAAP financial statements has been delayed?

[...]It is estimated that the top 1% of Americans control roughly 40% of the nation’s wealth. In other words, 3 million people own $21,400,000,000,000.00 ($21.4 trillion) in net private assets, while the other 305 million own the remaining $32,000,000,000,000.00 ($32 trillion). 77,000,000 (77 million) Americans (the lowest 25%) have mean net assets of minus $2,300 ($-2,300.00) per person; they live from paycheck to paycheck, or on public assistance. The lower 50% of Americans own mean net assets of $27,800 each, about enough to purchase a modest car. Obviously, it would be impossible to retire on such an amount without significant government or other assistance. Meanwhile, the richest 10% of Americans possess mean net assets of $3,976,000.00 each, or 143 times those of the bottom 50%; the top 2% control assets worth more than 1,500 times those in the bottom 50%. When you combine these facts with Wall Street’s typical multi-million dollar annual bonuses, you get an idea of wealth inequality in America. Historically, such extreme inequality has been a well-documented breeding ground for totalitarianism.

If the government decides to expropriate (steal) or commandeer (e.g., force into Treasuries) America’s private wealth in order to buy survival time, such a measure will be designed to destroy the common citizens, not the elite.

[...]Furthermore, with the budgetary equivalent of a straight face, the Office of Management and Budget reports in its long-term, inter-generational budget projection that the United States government will experience massive, non-stop deficits for the next 70 (SEVENTY) years, requiring the issuance of tens of trillions of dollars of additional debt. The OMB does not project even one year of surplus during the entire seventy year budget period.

[...]When more than seven million American workers lost their jobs and were subsisting on unemployment benefits and food stamps, federal government employees, who now earn DOUBLE what private sector workers earn, were given another round of pay and benefits increases anyway.

[...]Every single government entitlement program in the United States is bankrupt. This includes Social Security ($17,500,000,000,000.00 underfunded; $17.5 trillion); Medicare Part A ($36,700,000,000,000.00 underfunded; $36.7 trillion); Medicare Part B ($37,000,000,000,000.00 underfunded; $37 trillion); Medicare Part D ($15,600,000,000,000 underfunded; $15.6 trillion), Government and military pensions ($2,000,000,000,000 underfunded; $2 trillion), Food Stamps (current underfunding difficult to measure because the number of recipients is exploding; hundreds of billions underfunded versus original projections, minimum); and the list goes on. The above underfunding amounts are NET of projected tax receipts over the next 50 years. But the current recession has invalidated virtually all long-term budget and tax receipt assumptions, meaning that the true underfunded amounts are now greater than current, already mind-boggling estimates.

[...]“Cap and Trade” is a multi-trillion dollar tax scam being foisted onto the American public without a legitimate debate or popular referendum. You might be surprised to learn that “Climate Revenues” are already included in the federal budget, starting with $79,000,000,000.00 ($79 billion) in fiscal year 2012, which begins only 20 months from now. During fiscal years 2012 through 2019, the government expects to collect $646,000,000,000.00 ($646 billion) in “Climate Revenues,” a completely new tax category. Have any of your elected traitors told you that they have enacted $646,000,000,000.00 ($646 billion) in “Climate” taxes beginning twenty months from now and continuing forever?


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Why you've never heard of the Great Depression of 1920




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The economics of recylcing

For a very special member.




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Friday, January 22, 2010

1/4 of US grain crops used to fuel cars, not people

Guardian:

One-quarter of all the maize and other grain crops grown in the US now ends up as biofuel in cars rather than being used to feed people, according to new analysis which suggests that the biofuel revolution launched by former President George Bush in 2007 is impacting on world food supplies.

The 2009 figures from the US Department of Agriculture shows ethanol production rising to record levels driven by farm subsidies and laws which require vehicles to use increasing amounts of biofuels.

"The grain grown to produce fuel in the US [in 2009] was enough to feed 330 million people for one year at average world consumption levels," said Lester Brown, the director of the Earth Policy Institute, a Washington thinktank that conducted the analysis.

Last year 107m tonnes of grain, mostly corn, was grown by US farmers to be blended with petrol. This was nearly twice as much as in 2007, when Bush challenged farmers to increase production by 500% by 2017 to save cut oil imports and reduce carbon emissions.



More than 80 new ethanol plants have been built since then, with more expected by 2015, by which time the US will need to produce a further 5bn gallons of ethanol if it is to meet its renewable fuel standard.

According to Brown, the growing demand for US ethanol derived from grains helped to push world grain prices to record highs between late 2006 and 2008. In 2008, the Guardian revealed a secret World Bank report that concluded that the drive for biofuels by American and European governments had pushed up food prices by 75%, in stark contrast to US claims that prices had risen only 2-3% as a result.

Since then, the number of hungry people in the world has increased to over 1 billion people, according to the UN's World Food programme.

"Continuing to divert more food to fuel, as is now mandated by the US federal government in its renewable fuel standard, will likely only reinforce the disturbing rise in world hunger. By subsidising the production of ethanol to the tune of some $6bn each year, US taxpayers are in effect subsidising rising food bills at home and around the world," said Brown.

[...]The US is by far the world's leading grain exporter, exporting more than Argentina, Australia, Canada, and Russia combined. In 2008, the UN called for a comprehensive review of biofuel production from food crops.

[...][C]ampaigners also argue that many scientists question whether biofuels made from food crops actually save any greenhouse gas emissions.
Also, here's Mises.org on corn subsidies. Also, check out Food Inc. to see the impact of corn on our diet and economy.



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Thursday, January 21, 2010

On the US patent office

Mike Chambers:

Normally the US Patent & Trademark Office could be seen as a pathway to jump-start the economy. Some 6300 patent examiners hold the future fate of the American economy in their hands. But the patent office is backlogged. It embarrassingly has 6 years of patent applications, what amounts to over 1 million filings, waiting to be evaluated. Over $700 million of fees have been siphoned off by Congress to pay for other extraneous government projects, slowing the patent approval process to an agonizingly pace. About 7 of every 10 applicants were granted a patent in the past. But today, less than half are approved.

From "Tucker: A Man and His Dream"

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The FCC is allowing virtually no new television or radio stations to be built

FCC:

Unlicensed Operation Is Prohibited. A very common question asked to the FCC is whether broadcasting at very low power requires a license. Please be aware that unlicensed operation of radio broadcast stations is prohibited, even at such low powers such as 1 watt or less.

[...]NOTICE: THE FCC IS NOT ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR NEW AM BROADCAST STATIONS AT THE PRESENT TIME. The Media Bureau will announce a filing window period at intervals during which new station applications and major change applications may be filed. Filing window announcements will be made via public notice, and notice will also be posted at several locations on the Commission's Internet Web site (including the Headlines section of the Audio Division's main page at http://www.fcc.gov/mb/audio/index.html#HEADLINES).

[...]NOTICE: THE FCC IS NOT ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR NEW FM COMMERCIAL BROADCAST STATIONS AT THE PRESENT TIME. The Media Bureau will announce a filing window period at at some future date during which new station applications and major change applications may be filed. Filing window announcements will be made via public notice, and notice will also be posted at several locations on the Commission's Internet Web site (including the Headlines section of the Audio Division's main page at http://www.fcc.gov/mb/audio/index.html#HEADLINES).

[...]A limited number of allotments in the commercial FM radio band (92 - 108 MHz) that are reserved for noncommercial educational use will be available for application during an application filing window period between February 19 - 26, 2010. See the October 16 and 23 Public Notices posted in the Headlines section at http://www.fcc.gov/mb/audio/index.html#HEADLINES.

[...]NOTICE: THE FCC IS NOT ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR NEW LPFM BROADCAST STATIONS AT THE PRESENT TIME. Applications for new LPFM stations may only be filed during the dates specified for an application filing window. Applications received at other times will be returned without consideration. We cannot provide advance information as to when the next application filing window period may be, but when announcement is made, it will be posted on the Audio Division home page at http://www.fcc.gov/mb/audio/index.html#HEADLINES and on the LPFM main page at http://www.fcc.gov/mb/audio/lpfm/index.html.

[...]NOTICE: APPLICATIONS FOR NEW COMMERCIAL OR NONCOMMERCIAL EDUCATIONAL TRANSLATORS MAY NOT BE FILED AT THE PRESENT TIME. The Media Bureau will announce a filing window period at intervals during which new station applications and major change applications may be filed. Filing window announcements will be made via public notice, and notice will also be posted at several locations on the Commission's Internet Web site (including the Headlines section of the Audio Division's main page at http://www.fcc.gov/mb/audio/index.html#HEADLINES). Please note the we cannot provide advance information as to when the next application filing window might be.

[...]No new station application may be filed. Until the conversion to digital TV broadcasting is complete, the Commission is not accepting applications for new television stations.

Auctions will be required. Once applications for new television stations begin to be accepted by the Commission at some future date (to be announced in a Public Notice), these applications will be subject to broadcast auctions, with the possible exception of those few allotments specifically reserved for noncommmercial educational television use. (General information about auctions.)


Regulations for Telecommunication

Chomsky disagreeing that the media helped end Vietnam

A bit after minute 3.

Political censorship and granting licenses from the FCC

Mises:

If you think the censorship is limited to foul language and flashing, you might find the FCC's case history sobering:

In 1931, an Iowa broadcaster was denied renewal of his license because of his "bitter personal attacks on persons and institutions he did not like." The FCC wrote, "Though we may not censor, it is our duty to see that broadcasting licenses do not afford mere personal organs, and also to see that a standard of refinement fitting our day and generation is maintained." (We can't censor you, but we can keep you off the air?)

In 1940, the FCC established "The Mayflower doctrine" which threatened to deny renewals to any station that expressed political opinions. (In 1948 the Commission re-examined the Mayflower Doctrine. They agreed that their policies abridged political freedoms, but they insisted that this was necessary!)

In 1947, the New York Daily News applied for a broadcast license. The American Jewish Congress petitioned the FCC to deny the license because the Daily News had "evidenced bias against minority groups, particularly Jews and Negroes. . ." The FCC claimed to reject the application on different grounds, but as economist Ronald Coase would later comment, "What seems clear is that a newspaper which has an editorial policy approved of by the Commission is more likely to obtain a radio or television license than one that does not."

When Edward Lamb's license came up for renewal in 1954, the FCC charged him with having Communist associations, which he denied. In this case, the FCC did renew his license, but insisted that it needed "character and candor requirements" for licensing decisions, and that they had both the right and responsibility "to inquire into past associations, activities, and beliefs" of broadcasters.[4]

In the late 1960s, the FCC threatened a major radio station in Hawaii with non-renewal of their license. KTRG had been broadcasting libertarian programs for several hours a day for approximately two years. The legal costs for fighting the FCC's decision forced the owners to shut down the station permanently in 1970.[5]

[...]Hoover's annual broadcast conferences continued and in 1925 they outlined a policy agenda in which they advocated a "public interest" standard for licensing.

Later that year, the Secretary decided to stop issuing new licenses, arguing that the spectrum was completely filled. He invited a court challenge.[9]

How to start a TV channel

TV Startup:

Carriage Agreements

Unless you get a national launch, a new cable station many times has to build its territory. The way this is done is through "carriage agreements". This is where a channel and a cable company agree on terms to have the channel carried to subscribers. This is usually applies to channels that launch in their local markets or states. Doing it this way you might not get paid at first to have your channel carried on a cable system, but if your channel gains in popularity you will get paid just to have your channel on their system. The more carriage agreements you sign, the more territory, and people your station will cover.

Here is a little tid bit you might not know. If you are a local broadcast station a cable company is required by law to carry your station to their local market. The reason is so that a community can still get their local news, and weather. You can use this to your advantage. If you are thinking about starting a cable station contact us so we can get one of our professionals to guide you in the right direction.

An article on lobbying and the media

Corp Watch:

Continuing a twenty-year trend that has seen advertising expenses skyrocket as traditional political party organizing has fallen by the wayside, the total for political ads this election year is estimated by most industry analysts at over $1.5 billion, $400 million of which will be spent by the presidential campaigns. Over the last 24 years, broadcast TV advertising alone has increased from $90 million to over a $1 billion. At roughly the same pace that advertising revenue has grown, broadcast TV coverage of substantive electoral issues has dwindled. Network convention coverage, for example, has fallen from around 100 hours in 1980 to approximately 18 hours this year.

Another study shows that the two weeks leading up to the Super Tuesday primaries, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox devoted an average of just eight percent of their news coverage to election coverage. Industry spokespeople defend their record citing surveys that show the public is satisfied with the amount of election coverage they are getting (Wow, what a surprise). The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the largest trade association of TV stattions in the U.S., argues that politicians are happy with the system as well. NAB spokesperson, Jeff York claims that politicians prefer advertising to independent news coverage because, "They can control the message when they buy advertising. They have less control when it's live news."

But critics of the broadcast industry say that the reliance on political advertisement to communicate with the public amplifies the need for big money funders and empowers special interests. They claim that the solution to the spiraling cost of political advertising is surprisingly simple, make it free. After all, the broadcast networks receive their licenses free from the federal government in exchange for meeting the needs of the public interest.

Since 1987, when the Reagan appointed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed the last effective elements of the Fairness Doctrine requiring broadcasters to cover contrasting views of important issues, there have been no serious public interest requirements regarding electoral coverage. After Clinton pushed through the incumbent friendly Telecommunications Act of 1996, again with no public interest requirements, broadcasters have happily consolidated ownership and raked in the advertising profits at an ever accelerating pace. (Same thing with forcing Perot out of the 96 Presidential debate)

In January 1998, Clinton briefly toyed with a proposal for free or reduced rate television time for electoral candidates, going so far as to order then FCC chairman, Bill Kennard, to develop new rules for political ads. But Kennard quickly backed down when within days, the FCC received a letter from 17 Republican members of the House, including Tom Delay (R-Texas) and Billy Tauzin (R-Louisiana), proclaiming that “only Congress has the authority to write the laws of this nation”. In the Senate, John McCain (R-Arizona) and Conrad Burns (R-Montana) announced that they would block the FCC free airtime initiative.

In the late 90s, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-New York) introduced the Fairness in Political Advertising Act in three successive sessions of Congress. While she has found 14 other brave souls to co-sponsor the bill she's never received a congressional hearing on the subject. Later, Slaughter learned that the broadcasting industry had spent $11 million to defeat her bill.

In 2002, during the debate on the Campaign Finance Reform Act banning unlimited soft money contributions to the political parties, Slaughter again pushed to decrease the cost of political advertising. "I find it extremely ironic that this body would consider an amendment to protect this special interest group [the broadcasters] as we work to limit the influence of special interest money in our political process," she remarked.

According to a the Center for Responsive Politics, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) spent thousands in campaign contributions prior to the vote to approve the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Law, including $15,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee and $17,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. In addition to these soft money contributions, the NAB doled out more than $60,000 to House and Senate members during that time, including large contributions to Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina), Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), and John Dingell (D-Michigan), all of whom later went on to sponsor pro-industry amendments.

Slaughter's position on cheaper commercials lost in the house 321-101. A provision to reduce the cost of airtime did clear the Senate with a 60-40 vote but according to Meredith McGehee of the Alliance for Better Campaigns, it turns out that incumbent Senators face a slightly different equation when it comes to advertising costs. McGehee explains that “Because of redistricting, races for house seats are usually more secure, incumbent Congressmen are hesitant to support a policy that might upset that security. The Senate is more open to granting political ad subsidies, because their campaigns already rely more heavily on advertising to communicate their message.”

NAB spokesperson Jeff York downplays NAB's role in killing cheaper commercial
time in Congress. He argues that politicians currently refuse the free airtime that they are offered because they are afraid to confront their challengers. To support his claim he points to a Washington Post article that exposed eleven Senators who refused to debate their opponents on NBC’s Meet the Press. Tim Russert, the show’s host is quoted stating that the Senate candidates would “prefer to hide behind 30-second ads."

NAB's York claims that “it would be hard to imagine a broadcaster refusing to get both candidates on the air, who wouldn’t want to have that explosive debate?” But in fact broadcasters do regularly refuse to broadcast debates. In a study released just last week by the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate shows that 73% of the 174 debates (gubernatorial and congressional) researched by the committee were not aired by any of the networks (NBC, ABC, CBS, UPN, Fox, and WB). Furthermore, 82% of stations with one or more debates in their area refused to air them.

Political payoffs
So far this election season broadcasters have donated $ 3,592,069 in hard money contributions to candidates. Over the past three years the big five Media companies, Disney (ABC), News Corp (Fox) GE (NBC & Telemundo), Viacom (ABC), Time Warner (CNN & WB) plus the NAB have spent over $ 79,740,000 on lobbying.

Political Moneyline /FECinfo.com
Killing free or reduced air time for political ads is only one of the lobbying goals of the NAB and the big media companies (Can't just be them, even if they're the primary public face). NAB's legislative agenda ranges from promoting protectionist policies against the Satellite Television industry and Low Power radio, to limiting their public interest requirements by fighting spectrum user fees and political advertisement subsidies. Beyond protecting the broadcasting industry, media company lobbying efforts have ranged from supporting provisions in international free trade agreements to the elimination of the estate tax.

Contributions, lobbying, all expenses paid junkets, and above all favorable spin during the ever smaller news hole in which news issues are framed are the payback provided by the broadcasters to the politicians. Norman Solomon, media analyst for the media watchdog group FAIR, points out that Fox New’s parent, NewsCorp had a large stake in the deregulation rules because they both already owned more stations than the previous rules had allowed. Fox provided vehemently pro-war news coverage and editorials in the period before the Iraq invasion. Solomon comments, "This is the typical Karl Rove strategy of helping out those who further the agenda of the administration.”

It can be hard to determine which partner is leading the dance at any given moment. General Electric, which owns NBC, spent over $45 million dollars on lobbying in 2003 alone. GE is also a defense department contractor with annual revenue of $134.2 billion, profiting handsomely from its government contracts in Iraq.

GE's has also been caught up in some controversy involving the coveage of the 2000 presidential election. Congressman Henry Waxman (D-California) has repeatedly accused Jack Welch, then CEO of GE, of interfering with the election coverage by ordering the premature announcement of Bush’s victory on NBC. Welch, a long time Bush supporter, has denied the charges. But according to Neil Gordon, investigator for the Center for Public Integrity, Welch did admit that he was cheering for Bush at NBC headquarters. He reports that after initially promising to turn over an internal videotape of Welch at NBC headquarters on election night, NBC withdrew the offer.

On the democratic presidential side, John Kerry has in the past been an outspoken critic of special interest money in politics (Uh huh, unless it comes from Heinz.) co-sponsoring the joint resolution against media consolidation and supporting multiple bills restricting campaign financing. He also recently gave an interview to John Nichols of The Nation magazine, where he used the media democracy rhetoric of the left to express his views. But media remains missing from his campaign platform, and not one of the 400+ press releases on the website has anything to do with media issues.

Kerry's relative reticence on media reform might be related to the fact that his top financial supporters are media companies and the law firms that represent them. Two of Kerry’s top four career patrons are the law firms Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, who represent telecom and cable interests, and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, who represent Time Warner and News Corp.. Time Warner also ranks in the top four category of Kerry supporters.

Grassroots campaign
The failure of politicians to produce meaningful media reforms has provoked a nationwide effort to open the public airwaves serve for political debate, especially among candidates. This year a coalition of 60 non-profits, unions and churches have joined the a campaign called “Our Democracy, Our Airwaves.” The coalition includes the AFL-CIO, Common Cause, the Communications Workers of America, the Consumers Union, the League of Women Voters, the Sierra Club, and the United Church of Christ, amongst others.

Their aim is to require that broadcasters to air a minimum of two hours of candidate or issue-focused programming a week as part of their public interest requirement. They also want to create a voucher system for political advertisements, funded by a spectrum user fee applied to broadcasters. This campaign already has a bill of the same title in the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee of the Senate, and is sponsored by John McCain (R-Arizona), Richard Durbin (D-Illinois), Russ Feingold, (D-Wisconsin) and Jon Corzine (D-New Jersey). This campaign obviously goes against the interests of the broadcasting industry’s bottom line, but with a strong grassroots constituency, they hope to counter the broadcaster’s political weight, making it so that politicians might have more to lose than their campaign contributions.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Government subsidies to media

Online Journalism Review:

A mythology about the relationship between American government and the news business is again making the rounds, and it needs a corrective jolt. The myth is that the commercial press in this country stands wholly independent of governmental sustenance. Here's the jolt: There's never been a time in U.S. history when government dollars weren't propping up the news business. This year, federal, state and local governments will spend well over $1 billion to support commercial news publishers through tax breaks, postal subsidies and the printing of public notices. And the amount used to be much higher.

[...]The truth is that American government and the news business have always been joined at the hip, and not just through the government's copyright protections, restrictions on anti-competitive practices and regulation of the public airwaves. It's also through the infusion of tax dollars.

The Postal Service's subsidy of mailing costs for newspapers and magazines, which dates back to colonial America and the Postal Act of 1792, is often raised as Exhibit A. Less well known is just how large this subsidy was – and how much it has shrunk. As recently as the late 1960s, the government was forgiving roughly three-fourths of print publications' periodical mailing expenses, at a cost of about $400 million annually (or, adjusted for inflation, about $2 billion today). Much of that disappeared with the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 and in subsequent cutbacks. But the Post Office still discounts the postage cost of periodicals by about $270 million a year.

Postal subsidies, though, are just the start of the story. Federal and state governments forego about $890 million a year on income and sales tax breaks to the newspaper industry, most of it at the state level. The actual figure is probably much higher because many states don't report tax expenditure details.

Another major form of government support comes through public-notice requirements, which also have their roots in colonial America. These laws require cities, counties and school districts, along with state and federal agencies, to buy advertising space in newspapers to disclose a range of government actions – such as plans for a new school. Take a look at the Wall Street Journal, for example, and you’ll usually find a page or more of federally paid and mandated ads – in impossibly small print -- announcing property seizures. Those are public notices, and nationwide they bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

But all three of these categories are shrinking. For example, legislation has been introduced in 40 states to move public notices to the Web, and the Department of Justice has already announced it will shift property-forfeiture notices from newspapers to its own Web site. The impact would be another blow to newspapers, especially small ones: In 2000, the National Newspaper Association estimated that public-notice billings accounted for 5-10 percent of newspaper revenue.

Postal subsidies, tax breaks and public-notice requirements only begin to describe the ways governments at every level have supported the American news industry. Municipalities provide newspapers with enormous sales and marketing benefits by allowing vendor boxes on public sidewalks at little or no cost to the newspaper companies. Drug advertising regulations by the Food and Drug Administration have been a boon to magazine publishers because they require TV ads to be accompanied by more specific disclosure, and magazines are one of the approved outlets. Commercial broadcasting has also benefited mightily, via the free use of government-licensed airwaves.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Subliminal advertising





Don't know how he does it? Go back and listen to the message very carefully.

FDA allows ineffective cancer drugs to stay on the market for years, and says they have no intention of changing

Wow.

AP:

The Food and Drug Administration has allowed drugs for cancer and other diseases to stay on the market even when follow-up studies showed they didn’t extend patients’ lives, say congressional investigators.

A report due out Monday from the Government Accountability Office also shows that the FDA has never pulled a drug off the market due to a lack of required follow-up about its actual benefits — even when such information is more than a decade overdue.

When pressed about that policy, agency officials said they have no plans to get more aggressive.

[...]Of the 144 studies the FDA has required under the program since 1992, 64 percent have been completed and more than one-third are still pending, according to the GAO. Investigators said the FDA does not rigorously track whether companies are making progress on their required studies, although the agency is improving.

Drug maker knew Vioxx was deadly for years before risk was made public

Natural News:

The Vioxx scandal widened this week as new research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine reveals that Vioxx maker Merck held data for three years that proved Vioxx caused an alarming increase in the risk of heart attacks and strokes. And yet Merck chose not to release that data. In fact, it took three more years of patients dying from heart attacks before Vioxx was pulled off the market, and even then, Merck insisted the drug was not dangerous.

[...]Many people (and many states) are fed up with the criminal behavior of drug companies. Nearly 10,000 individuals filed personal injury lawsuits against Merck over the Vioxx scandal. Most were settled for $4.85 billion in 2007, but many lawsuits remain. Eleven states' Attorneys General have also filed lawsuits against Merck, alleging the company committed fraud in its marketing of the drug to state Medicaid programs. Those lawsuits have yet to be resolved.

Mergepocalypse: Media consolidation

Consumerist:

Let's Just Look At What Comcast/NBC Would Own

TV Stations: NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, Bravo, Chiller, CNBC World, mun2, Oxygen, Sleuth, Syfy, Universal HD, USA Network, The Weather Channel, E! Entertainment Channel, G4, Golf Channel, PBS Kids Sprout, Style, TV one, Versus, CN8, Exercise TV, FEARnet, AZN Television, a portion of MLB Network.

NBC owned and operated stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Bay Area, Dallas/Fort Worth, Washington, Miami, San Diego, Connecticut.

Telemundo owned and operated stations in Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, San Antonio, Las Vegas, San Francisco/San Jose, Phoenix, Fresno, Denver, Boston, Tucson, Puerto Rico.

Film: Universal Pictures, Focus Pictures, Universal Studios Home Entertainment

Internet: Hulu, iVillage, NBC.com, CNBC.com, Weather.com

That's a lot of channels, and they're ones that Comcast/NBC will be able to use as bargaining chips against other cable and internet providers who want to carry them. Comcast/NBC will have the incentive and means to discriminate against other channels that compete with NBC content, in favor of the NBC alternative.

For example, a recent story about the merger suggests that Comcast/NBC would challenge ESPN for sports content. Comcast's own sports channel, Versus, would benefit from NBC's pool of talent and production resources, but Comcast/NBC could prop Versus up in more ways. The most obvious thing Comcast could do to hurt ESPN, though unlikely, is refuse to carry the channel, thus depriving ESPN of all of Comcast's cable subscribers. Another scenario is that whatever sports content that Comcast/NBC acquired and offered, like the Olympics, could be entirely exclusive to Comcast/NBC. That is, ESPN wouldn't be able to run footage from Comcast/NBC events on SportsCenter.

[...]More Mergers Will Happen, and Cable Rates Will Rise

If the Comcast/NBC merger goes through, it will lead to more media consolidation. Other service and content providers will merge in order to keep pace with Comcast/NBC, further limiting competition and increasing the possibility of collusion and price fixing, including rate increases. This was repeatedly seen in the late 1990s: after media ownership rules were relaxed, companies scrambled to buy up as many stations as they could to remain in equilibrium with each other (as a refresher, here's a sickening breakdown of who owns what).

[...]Although Hulu has already announced that it will begin charging for content, Comcast's acquisition of NBC, which, along with ABC and Fox, owns a substantial share of Hulu, would further harm the developing streaming video market.

Bush instructed agencies to ignore ruling barring "covert propaganda"

World Socialist Web Site:

The Bush administration last week instructed US government agencies to ignore a ruling by the comptroller general of the United States barring the dissemination of “covert propaganda.”

The phrase—generally associated with police-state dictatorships—was used by the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of the US Congress, in describing the proliferation of video news releases produced by the Pentagon, State Department and at least 18 other US agencies. The GAO ordered a halt to the dissemination of such videos on the grounds that they “conceal or do not clearly identify for the television viewing audience that the agency was the source of those materials.”

In a front-page article published Sunday, the New York Times detailed the government’s increasing use of the videos, which simulate genuine television news segments. They include the use of public relations employees posing as on-the-spot reporters and “interviews” with government officials that have been scripted and rehearsed.

The Times cited a report issued by Congressional Democrats estimating that during its first term the Bush administration spent $254 million on public relations contracts that pay for the production of these videos, nearly doubling the amount spent by the Clinton administration in its last four years.

Journalist took $240,000 to push Bush education program

World Socialist Web Site: :)

The revelation that Armstrong Williams, a black conservative journalist, received $240,000 in US government money to promote the “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) program before black audiences further demonstrates the extent to which the American media has become a vehicle for official propaganda.

White House wants to "personalize" the information you see on government web pages

Washington Post:

The Obama administration is proposing to scale back a long-standing ban on tracking how people use government Internet sites with "cookies" and other technologies, raising alarms among privacy groups.

A two-week public comment period ended Monday on a proposal by the White House Office of Management and Budget to end a ban on federal Internet sites using such technologies and replace it with other privacy safeguards. The current prohibition, in place since 2000, can be waived if an agency head cites a "compelling need."

Supporters of a change say social networking and similar services, which often take advantage of the tracking technologies, have transformed how people communicate over the Internet, and Obama's aides say those services can make government more transparent and increase public involvement.

Some privacy groups say the proposal amounts to a "massive" and unexplained shift in government policy. In a statement Monday, American Civil Liberties Union spokesman Michael Macleod-Ball said the move could "allow the mass collection of personal information of every user of a federal government website."

Even groups that support updating the policy question whether the administration is seeking changes at the request of private companies, such as online search giant Google, as the industry's economic clout and influence in Washington have grown rapidly.

Two prominent technology policy advocacy groups, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and Electronic Frontier Foundation, cited the terms of a Feb. 19 contract with Google, in which a unnamed federal agency explicitly carved out an exemption from the ban so that the agency could use Google's YouTube video player.
Contract Terms

The terms of the contract, negotiated through the General Services Administration, "expressly waives those rules or guidelines as they may apply to Google." The contract was obtained by EPIC through a Freedom of Information Act request.

"Our primary concern is that the GSA, has failed to protect the privacy rights of U.S. citizens," EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg said. "The expectation is they should be complying with the government regulations, not that the government should change its regulations to accommodate these companies."

Cindy Cohn, legal director for Electronic Frontier Foundation, called the contract "troubling."

"It appears that these companies are forcing the government to lower the privacy protections that the government had promised the American people," Cohn said. "The government should be requiring companies to raise the level of privacy protection if they want government contracts."

The episode recalls a dispute in January when critics complained that a redesigned White House Web site featured embedded Google YouTube videos -- depicting events such as the president's weekly address -- that used tracking cookies. The White House and Google later reassured users that they had stopped collecting data.

But the current ban on cookies, according to senior OMB officials, applies only to federal agencies and not third parties. That means that a visitor to http://www.whitehouse.gov, for example, isn't tracked by the government, but information about a user who clicks on a YouTube video on the site could be tracked by Google, according to a source at the company with knowledge of the partnership with the Obama administration.

Google spokeswoman Christine Chen directed broader questions to the government, but said in a statement that the White House use of YouTube "is just one example of how government and citizens communicate more effectively online, and we are proud of having worked closely with the White House to provide privacy protections for users."

GSA and White House officials would not answer questions, releasing only a statement by OMB spokesman Kenneth Baer that said the administration is committed to protecting users' privacy. "That is why when we asked for public comment on a new cookie policy, we specifically identified privacy considerations as a main area of focus," Baer wrote.

In a May 28 letter responding to EPIC's public records request, Zachariah I. Miller, a GSA presidential management fellow, said "...GSA and the rest of the Government do take personal privacy seriously and apply all existing privacy statutes and regulations in this area."

Similar to Online Stores

Vivek Kundra, the government's chief information officer, and OMB official Michael Fitzpatrick, wrote in a July 24 blog posting that the policy review is intended to improve customer service by allowing agencies to analyze how people use their sites and to remember individual visitors' "data, settings or preferences." Such use is similar to online stores' creation of personalized "shopping cart" services that have won wide public acceptance.

The pair proposed that if the change is made, visitors be clearly notified that tracking technologies are being used and allow them to opt out without penalty. For technologies that track users over more than a single Internet session, known as "persistent identifiers," there would be higher levels of privacy safeguards, they said.

EFF and another group, the Center for Democracy and Technology, have said that the time has come to expand privacy safeguards to new tracking technologies. At the same time, they say that the cookie ban might be too broad, keeping the government from improving its services for the public.

Chertoff shills for body scanners

Boston Globe:

Since the attempted bombing of a US airliner on Christmas Day, former Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff has given dozens of media interviews touting the need for the federal government to buy more full-body scanners for airports.

What he has made little mention of is that the Chertoff Group, his security consulting agency, includes a client that manufactures the machines. Chertoff disclosed the relationship on a CNN program Wednesday, in response to a question.

An airport passengers’ rights group on Thursday criticized Chertoff’s use of his former government credentials to advocate for a product that benefits his clients.

Manipulating memory- advertising style!

Neuronarrative:

A recent study in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology tested whether showing people photos of completed actions–such as a broken pencil or an opened envelope–could influence them to believe they’d done something they had not, particularly if they were shown the photos multiple times. (So, if you show a photo to someone (of a "completed action"), do they think that they've done it?)

Participants were presented with a series of objects on a table, and for each object were asked to either perform an action or imagine performing an action (i.e. “crack the walnut”). One week later, the same participants were brought back and randomly presented with a series of photos on a computer screen, each of a completed action (i.e. a cracked walnut), either one, two or three times. Other participants were not shown any photos.

One week later, they were brought back to complete a memory test in which they were presented with action phrases (i.e. “I cracked a walnut”) and asked to answer whether they had performed the action, imagined performing it, or neither, and rate their confidence level for each answer on a scale of one to four.

The results: the more times people were exposed to a photo of a completed action, the more often they thought they’d completed the action, even though they had really only imagined doing it. Those shown a photo of a completed action once were twice as likely to erroneously think they’d completed the action than those not shown a photo at all. People shown a photo three times were almost three times as likely as those not shown a photo.

[...]A similar study discussed here tackled the same sort of memory issues with video instead of photos, and found a similar result.

Facebook and the government

Wired:

America’s spy agencies want to read your blog posts, keep track of your Twitter updates — even check out your book reviews on Amazon.

In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA and the wider intelligence community, is putting cash into Visible Technologies, a software firm that specializes in monitoring. It’s part of a larger movement within the spy services to get better at using ”open source intelligence” — information that’s publicly available, but often hidden in the flood of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts, online videos and radio reports generated every day.

Visible crawls over half a million web 2.0 sites a day, scraping more than a million posts and conversations taking place on blogs, online forums, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon. (It doesn’t touch closed social networks, like Facebook, at the moment.) Customers get customized, real-time feeds of what’s being said on these sites, based on a series of keywords.

[...]Then Visible “scores” each post, labeling it as positive or negative, mixed or neutral. It examines how influential a conversation or an author is. (”Trying to determine who really matters,” as Cahill puts it.) Finally, Visible gives users a chance to tag posts, forward them to colleagues and allow them to response through a web interface.

In-Q-Tel says it wants Visible to keep track of foreign social media, and give spooks “early-warning detection on how issues are playing internationally,” spokesperson Donald Tighe tells Danger Room.

Of course, such a tool can also be pointed inward, at domestic bloggers or tweeters. Visible already keeps tabs on web 2.0 sites for Dell, AT&T and Verizon. For Microsoft, the company is monitoring the buzz on its Windows 7 rollout. For Spam-maker Hormel, Visible is tracking animal-right activists’ online campaigns against the company.
Actually, what this article doesn't mention is that In-Q-Tel (what a cute name for a CIA operation) was one of the first investors in Facebook.

Originally from The New Zealand Herald (2007):

Facebook's first round of venture capital funding ($US500,000) came from former Paypal CEO Peter Thiel. Author of anti-multicultural tome 'The Diversity Myth', he is also on the board of radical conservative group VanguardPAC.

The second round of funding into Facebook ($US12.7 million) came from venture capital firm Accel Partners. Its manager James Breyer was formerly chairman of the National Venture Capital Association, and served on the board with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm established by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1999. One of the company's key areas of expertise are in "data mining technologies".

[...]It was when a journalist lifted the lid on the DARPA's Information Awareness Office that the public began to show concern at its information mining projects.

Wikipedia's IAO page says: "the IAO has the stated mission to gather as much information as possible about everyone, in a centralised location, for easy perusal by the United States government, including (though not limited to) internet activity, credit card purchase histories, airline ticket purchases, car rentals, medical records, educational transcripts, driver's licenses, utility bills, tax returns, and any other available data.".

Not surprisingly, the backlash from civil libertarians led to a Congressional investigation into DARPA's activity, the Information Awareness Office lost its funding.

Now the internet conspiracy theorists are citing Facebook as the IAO's new mask.

Parts of the IAO's technology round-up included 'human network analysis and behaviour model building engines', which Facebook's massive volume of neatly-targeted data gathering allows for.

Facebook's own Terms of use state: "by posting Member Content to any part of the Web site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license to use, copy, perform, display, reformat, translate, excerpt and distribute such information and content and to prepare derivative works of, or incorpoate into other works, such information and content, and to grant and authorise sublicenses of the foregoing.

And in its equally interesting privacy policy: "Facebook may also collect information about you from other sources, such as newspapers, blogs, instant messaging services, and other users of the Facebook service through the operation of the service (eg. photo tags) in order to provide you with more useful information and a more personalised experience. By using Facebook, you are consenting to have your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States."

Obama punks trying to radically alter (read: curtail) file sharers' right to use the internet

Boing Boing:

The internet chapter of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, a secret copyright treaty whose text Obama's administration refused to disclose due to "national security" concerns, has leaked. It's bad. It says:

* That ISPs have to proactively police copyright on user-contributed material. This means that it will be impossible to run a service like Flickr or YouTube or Blogger, since hiring enough lawyers to ensure that the mountain of material uploaded every second isn't infringing will exceed any hope of profitability.

* That ISPs have to cut off the Internet access of accused copyright infringers or face liability. This means that your entire family could be denied to the internet -- and hence to civic participation, health information, education, communications, and their means of earning a living -- if one member is accused of copyright infringement, without access to a trial or counsel.

* That the whole world must adopt US-style "notice-and-takedown" rules that require ISPs to remove any material that is accused -- again, without evidence or trial -- of infringing copyright. This has proved a disaster in the US and other countries, where it provides an easy means of censoring material, just by accusing it of infringing copyright.

Effect of television on children

Time:

Thanks to marketing claims for TV shows and DVDs created for babies, many parents believe that watching educational programming will stimulate infants' brains and actually promote learning. It's a seductive line of reasoning. Certainly, exposing a baby to brain-engaging DVDs will put him on an early path to becoming, well, a baby Einstein, right? Maybe not. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television time for toddlers younger than 2, in large part because no studies have yet established that TV exposure improves babies' learning. Now a new study published in the current issue of Pediatrics confirms that position.

Marie Evans Schmidt, a research associate at the Center on Media & Child Health at Children's Hospital Boston, studied more than 800 youngsters from birth to 3 years, recording the time they spent watching television or DVDs as reported by their mothers, as well as their performance on language and motor-skill tests. On average, the babies spent 1.2 hr. per day watching TV during their first two years of life, slightly less than the average viewing time reported in previous studies.

In her initial analysis, Schmidt found that babies who spent more time in front of the TV performed worse on language and motor-skill tests at age 3 than those who watched less. But once Schmidt and her team controlled for other factors — the mother's educational status and household income — the relationship between TV-viewing and cognitive development disappeared. That means that TV-viewing alone did not appear to influence babies' brain development; a parent's education and finances mattered more. "Initially it looked like TV-viewing was associated with cognitive development," says Schmidt, "but in fact TV-viewing is an outgrowth of other characteristics of the home environment that lead to lower test scores."

[...]This study is only the second to track TV-viewing and cognitive development in infants over time. Its results diverge from those of the other longitudinal study, conducted by Dr. Dimitri Christakis at Seattle Children's Research Institute, which found that DVD-viewing hindered toddlers' ability to learn vocabulary. In that study, with each additional hour spent in front of a screen, babies at 8 to 16 months learned six to eight fewer vocabulary words than infants who stayed away from videos. "We don't have any definitive answers yet as to what effects TV-viewing can have on infants with respect to cognitive outcomes," says Christakis. "But here is what we do know — there is absolutely no benefit to this viewing despite claims that continue to be made by commercial products." (See nine kid foods to avoid.)

While Schmidt's study found no benefit, it ultimately found no negative effect of watching TV. The researcher offers a few reasons: for one, the children in her study reported less time viewing TV and DVDs than previous surveys of the same-age population; it's possible that her study group did not meet the threshold dose of TV exposure that triggered the negative effects found in Christakis' research. Schmidt's study also stopped following the toddlers at age 3; she acknowledges that some cognitive changes may not occur until children are a few years older.

TV exposure in babies younger than 2 doesn't do any good, Schmidt and Christakis agree.

TV watching associated with aggressive behavior in infants

Eureka Alert:

Three-year-old children who are exposed to more TV appear to be at an increased risk for exhibiting aggressive behavior, according to a report in the November issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

"Early childhood aggression can be problematic for parents, teachers and childhood peers and sometimes is predictive of more serious behavior problems to come, such as juvenile delinquency, adulthood violence and criminal behavior," according to background information in the article. Various predictive factors for childhood aggression have been studied. These include parents' discipline style, neighborhood safety and media exposure. "After music, television is the medium children aged 0 to 3 years are exposed to the most." Although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen media for children younger than age 2, studies have found consistent use of television in that age group.

[...]About two-thirds (65 percent) of mothers reported that their 3-year-old child watched more than two hours of television per day. On average, children were exposed to an additional 5.2 hours of household TV use per day.

Obama nominee: infiltrate "conspiracy" groups, take organs without permission, censor internet, ban guns for individuals

Seriously.

Apparently, this guy was even on the shortlist to be nominated to the Supreme Court.

Raw Story:

In a 2008 academic paper, President Barack Obama’s appointee to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs advocated “cognitive infiltration” (What a nice word) of groups that advocate “conspiracy theories” like the ones surrounding 9/11.

Cass Sunstein, a Harvard law professor, co-wrote an academic article entitled “Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures,” in which he argued that the government should stealthily infiltrate groups that pose alternative theories on historical events via “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine” those groups. (Have fun infiltrating enough groups to spy on 36% of Americans)

As head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Sunstein is in charge of “overseeing policies relating to privacy, information quality, and statistical programs,” according to the White House Web site.

Sunstein’s article, published in the Journal of Political Philosphy in 2008 and recently uncovered by blogger Marc Estrin, states that “our primary claim is that conspiracy theories typically stem not from irrationality or mental illness of any kind but from a ‘crippled epistemology,’ in the form of a sharply limited number of (relevant) informational sources.”

By “crippled epistemology” Sunstein means that people who believe in conspiracy theories have a limited number of sources of information that they trust (Ha, imagine that). Therefore, Sunstein argued in the article, it would not work to simply refute the conspiracy theories in public — the very sources that conspiracy theorists believe would have to be infiltrated.
On taking organs out of the dead without consent.

CNS News:

Cass Sunstein, President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), has advocated a policy under which the government would “presume” someone has consented to having his or her organs removed for transplantation into someone else when they die unless that person has explicitly indicated that his or her organs should not be taken.

Under such a policy, hospitals would harvest organs from people who never gave permission for this to be done.

[...]“The major obstacle to increasing [organ] donations is the need to get the consent of surviving family members,” said Sunstein and Thaler.

This problem could be remedied if governments changed the laws for organ donation, they said. Currently, unless a patient has explicitly chosen to be an organ donor, either on his driver’s license or with a donor card, the doctors assume that the person did not want to donate and therefore do not harvest his organs. Thaler and Sunstein called this “explicit consent.”
On internet censorship.

American Thinker:

Sunstein's book is a blueprint for online censorship as he wants to hold blogs and web hosting services accountable for the remarks of commenters on websites while altering libel laws to make it easier to sue for spreading "rumors."

Smith notes that bloggers and others would be forced to remove such criticism unless they could be "proven". The litigation expense would be daunting; the time necessary to defend a posting (or an article) would work to the benefit of the public figure being criticized since the delay would probably allow the figure to win an election before the truth "won out". The mere threat of retaliatory actions would be enough to dissuade many commentators from daring to issue a word of criticism or skepticism.
And how does he feel about the 2nd Ammendment?

BBC swaps "coldest December since 1981" headline

I mean, why would anyone do that? I thought that the global warming types were the grassroots and the global warming skeptics were fat cat with ties to the media.

Watt's Up with That:



It is still showing up in Google, but changes are afoot, odd that a headline like that can’t stand on its own:http://www.google.com/search?q=Coldest+December+since+1981%E2%80%8E+&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t
And google news:
http://news.google.com/news?q=Coldest%20December%20since%201981%E2%80%8E&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wn
The URL for the story in the image above is:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/northern_ireland/8438408.stm
but note the number of the story in the URL 8438408 now now goes to a different title, presto change-o!
Icy conditions lead to closure of Giant’s Causeway



Same URL:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/northern_ireland/8438408.stm
h/t to Popular Technology

Where is the love?

Online game that is recruiting tool for Army cost $32.8M

BNet:

The U.S. Army cost the taxpayer $32.8 million in developing the online videogame America’s Army, a recruitment tool, according to GameSpot.

The costs were spread over 10 years. The game was developed as part of the Army’s recruitment advertising efforts. All branches of the military combined spent about $700 million on recruitment advertising during the first term of President George W. Bush, when the Iraq war started. Here’s a breakdown of expenditures on the video game, which GameSpot got from a Freedom of Information Act request:

America’s Army year-by-year budget summary
2000–$3,500,000
2001–$5,600,000
2002–$1,862,985
2003–$2,600,000
2004–$3,866,482
2005–$1,288,552
2006–$4,050,748
2007–$2,788,137
2008–$3,887,450
2009–$3,395,702
EuoGamer notes that the project was originally intended to cost just $7 million over five years.

And finally: One of the creepier aspects of America’s Army is that in the online multiplayer version, the “enemy” fighters are actually other players, who through a software trick are all playing as U.S. soldiers. None of the players realize they appear as the enemy to the others — or that they are being subjected to what arguably amounts to friendly fire.

US government hires company to fine tune web-based propaganda

The Register:

The secretive US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has awarded arms globocorp General Dynamics a $10m contract to set up a network of psychological-warfare "influence websites" supporting the Global War On Terror. France and Britain are specifically included as "targeted regions."

Military hires PR firm to screen embedded journalists

Wants them to be even more "truthy."

Stars and Stripes:

As more journalists seek permission to accompany U.S. forces engaged in escalating military operations in Afghanistan, many of them could be screened by a controversial Washington-based public relations firm contracted by the Pentagon to determine whether their past coverage has portrayed the U.S. military in a positive light.

U.S. public affairs officials in Afghanistan acknowledged to Stars and Stripes that any reporter seeking to embed with U.S. forces is subject to a background profile by The Rendon Group, which gained notoriety in the run-up to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq for its work helping to create the Iraqi National Congress. That opposition group, reportedly funded by the CIA, furnished much of the false information about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction used by the Bush administration to justify the invasion.

Federal Trade Commision tries to create double standard for online media vs. "traditional" media

EFF:

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has published vague new advertising rules that require online writers to disclose whether they've been compensated for product endorsements. The rules are full of ambiguities and double-standards, many of which are summed up on this article in The Atlantic Wire.

Significantly, the new rules place requirements on social media from which traditional print and television media are exempt. For instance, if a blogger publishes a book review, the rules will require her to disclose whether she received a free copy of the book from the publisher. Book reviews in print media face no such restrictions.

When pressed on the rules' discrepancies by blogger Edward Champion, the FTC's Michael Cleland explained that newspapers are more trustworthy

Shumer attempts to limit protection for bloggers (or anyone not mainstream media) under "Free Flow of Information Act"

EFF:

Since 2007, Congress has been slowly considering The Free Flow Of Information Act. The bill is intended to prevent reporters from being forced to reveal the identity of anonymous sources. (As a side note, Obama just started being against this after being for it in the campaign) It was proposed in the wake of the Valerie Plame scandal, in which New York Times reporter Judith Miller was jailed for refusing to reveal a source.

It's a critically important bill which unfortunately contains some rather large loopholes. A source can be exposed in cases where corporate trade secrets have been revealed, where national security could be harmed, or even where it's simply deemed to be in "the public interest."

Despite these flaws, the bill remains insufficiently dismantled for the tastes of some lawmakers. Senator Chuck Schumer last week introduced an amendment that would exempt bloggers, freelancers and other non-salaried journalists from the protections.

This is just baldly nonsensical. As EFF successfully argued in Apple v. Does in 2006, the goal of a shield law is to protect the free flow of information, not the the people we historically think of as journalists. Freedom of speech shouldn't be dependent on employment status.

When pressed by blogger "Kos" Moulitsas on the issue, Senator Schumer's office claimed that the amendment was a mere procedural ploy, and said he would "work to make sure" bloggers are protected in the final bill. Let's hope he's sincere.

Major Hollywood charity looks to politicize programming

“[F]rom October 19-25, more than 60 network TV shows [will] spotlight the power and personal benefits of service.” This “unprecedented block of TV programming is the first wave of a multi-year ‘I Participate’ campaign.”

Via press release from Entertainment Industry Foundation

Breitbart:

Ideally, storylines will touch on one or more of the key issues that have outlined as the country's priorities for services:

* Education and children
* Health and well-being
* Environmental conservation and reduced energy consumption
* Economic development and financial security
* Support for military families

By connecting characters and storylines to broad themes around service and/or providing messaging through the casts, a picture will be painted of what service and volunteering can look like today, and inspire viewers.

NEA director who encouraged politically-motivated art resigns

This is from a couple months ago.

ABC News:

Embattled former National Endowment for the Arts communications director Yosi Sergant is out of a job. Late this afternoon, the NEA released a short statement saying, "This afternoon Yosi Sergant submitted his resignation from the National Endowment for the Arts. His resignation has been accepted and is effective immediately." The agency provided no further details.

Sergant had been under scrutiny after leading a controversial conference call on August 10, where he encouraged artists to create work to promote the Obama administration's agenda. Sergant was initially removed from his post as communications director, but continued to work at the NEA.