Emergency cell phone messages from the president

Does anyone see anything wrong with this?

A new national alert system is set to begin in New York City that will alert the public to emergencies via cell phones.

It’s called the Personal Localized Alert Network or PLAN. Presidential and local emergency messages as well as Amber Alerts would appear on cell phones equipped with special chips and software.

The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency said the system would also warn about terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

“The lessons that were reinforced on 9/11 is the importance of getting clear and accurate information to the public during a crisis,” New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Verizon and AT&T, the nation’s largest cell phone carriers, are already on board. Consumers would be able to opt out of all but those presidential messages.

via National Emergency Alert System Set To Launch In NYC « CBS New York.

It sounds like a good idea.  So why does it FEEL wrong?

Mercury, up close

NASA’s Messenger space probe has flown by Mercury, the smallest planet and the one closest to the Sun, sending back pictures.

And now .xxx

There will now be a new domain name just for pornography:  .xxx.  However, pornography will still continue to populate the .coms and every other domain also.  The big opponents:  The porn industry, which knows that the creation of an internet red light district will mean their product be easier to block:

On Friday in San Francisco, the California nonprofit that oversees Internet addresses gave the green light to the virtual red-light district. The vote comes after several years of clashes and deliberations by the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers.

Adult-entertainment sites will still populate the .com space and every other corner of the Internet. But now, many pornographic sites can also join a specialized domain that instantly telegraphs its content with the infamous suffix. ICM Registry, a Florida-based company that will run .xxx, said the domain’s Web sites will be the Internet’s most trusted place for adult entertainment: ICM will monitor the sites to ensure that they prohibit spam, viruses and any other illegal behavior. And it says it will use some of the registration fees for an affiliated foundation to promote free speech and combat child pornography.

“At the moment, the consumer has no way of knowing who is operating to good standards or has viruses,” Stuart Lawley, ICM Registry’s chairman and chief executive, said in an interview. “This new domain allows webmasters to associate with best business practices.”

But the dirty domain has a slew of critics. The Obama administration and some foreign nations say the domain’s offensive material will only encourage oppressive regimes to block .xxx entirely. A Commerce Department spokeswoman said the administration neither supports nor objects to the domain’s actual content or merit.

“We are disappointed that ICANN ignored the clear advice of governments worldwide, including the U.S.,” said Lawrence Strickling, assistant Commerce secretary. “This decision goes against the global public interest, and it will open the door to more Internet blocking by governments and undermine the stability and security of the Internet.”

Another set of foes, oddly enough: major pornography industry players, who fear that .xxx will be easily vulnerable to governments’ censorship. They also are concerned about aggressive policing by ICM and worry that porn Web sites will be forced to pay thousands of dollars in registration fees to buy multiple .xxx addresses simply to protect their brands from cybersquatters.

“This is putting a red target on us,” said Diane Duke, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, a trade association representing multiple adult-entertainment organizations including Hustler. “People who are pedophiles and child pornographers are not part of the adult-entertainment system. We have a code of ethics.

via Coming soon online: Dot-XXX – The Washington Post.

Right.  Anyway, pro-family groups also tend to oppose this, I suppose because it seems to legitimize pornography.  It seems that if porn will continue to operate from it current .com sites, this will do little one way or the other.  And if pornographers oppose it, they have no reason to put their material on .xxx sites.  If porn could be all moved to the .xxx sites, would that be a good thing or a bad thing?

Facebook and divorce

Back to the bad effects of the internet:

Facebook is cited in 1 out of every 5 divorces in the United States, according to the Loyola University Health System. Furthermore, 81 percent of the country’s top divorce attorneys say they have seen an increase in the number of cases using social networking evidence during the past five years, according to a recent survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML). Last but not least, Facebook is the unrivaled leader for online divorce evidence with 66 percent citing it as the primary source, the AAML said.

It’s not that Facebook is solely to blame: already-strained marriages are bound to break with or without the service. Still, a couple doesn’t have to be experiencing marital difficulties for an online relationship to develop from mere online chatting into a full-fledged affair.

via Facebook blamed for 1 in 5 divorces in the US | ZDNet.

HT: Joe Carter

Let us now praise the internet

A new study has found that young people who are active on the internet are actually more engaged with civic affairs than those who are not.  As opposed to the stereotype of teenagers plugged into their own virtual worlds and never interacting with real people and oblivious to the outside universe.   See  Does the Internet make for more engaged citizens? – MacArthur Foundation.

We have often criticized the new information technology for its baleful cultural effects–doing so, of course, using the new information technology–so let’s look at the other side of the coin.

How has the internet made you more involved with issues, improved your relationships, helped your church, or otherwise been an actual blessing, a good gift from the hand of God through the vocation of those who made all of this possible?

HT:  Webmonk

Google turns to farming

The most cutting edge information technology meets the most ancient survival technology, as Google invests in weather-insurance, backed by meterological computing, for farmers.

Google Inc.’s venture capital arm is backing a start-up founded by ex-Googlers that insures farms and other business against the whims of Mother Nature.

Launched four years ago, WeatherBill Inc. is announcing today $42 million in Series B funding from Google Ventures, Khosla Ventures and several previous investors.

Founded by two ex-Googlers–Chief Executive David Friedberg, who worked on Google’s corporate development team and Google AdWords, and Chief Technology Officer Siraj Khaliq, who worked on Google Booksearch and other technical projects–WeatherBill aggregates large amounts of weather data from the National Weather Service and other sources and applies statistical analyses to run large-scale simulations that assess the probability of weather occurring several years in advance anywhere on the globe, the company said.

According to Friedberg, more than 90% of crop losses are due to unexpected weather, and these losses are exacerbated by the increasing number of extreme weather events caused by climate change. Friedberg cited recent droughts in Russia and China and flooding in Australia, while one of WeatherBill’s customers–Steve Wolters, a farmer who grows corn, soybean and wheat in Celina, Ohio–cited a very dry growing season in Ohio nine years ago followed by a year in which 14 inches of rain fell in 10 days.

“The flip flop of weather from one year to the next is the biggest challenge farmers face,” Wolters said in a statement.

WeatherBill’s flagship product, called Total Weather Insurance, acts as a subsidy to government-subsidized crop insurance by enabling farmers to hedge their risk on crops. Farmers can create contracts that lock in profits based on their locations and how much damage they could incur from rain, drought, heat, cold or snow. WeatherBill pays automatically based on measured weather conditions within 10 days of when a policy ends. . . .

“Agriculture is an unusual area for venture capital, but we submit that agricultural technology has the same potential as biotechnology had in pharmaceuticals or chips had in telecommunications,” Khosla said on Monday.

Google Ventures, meanwhile, is attracted to WeatherBill by “the power of massively parallel computing infrastructure, which was not possible even 10 years ago,” said Managing Partner Bill Maris. “We understand the problem and are looking forward to deploying resources to help them solve it. We have a cloud looking for big problems to solve.”

via Google Ventures, Khosla Make Rain For WeatherBill – Venture Capital Dispatch – WSJ.

Here is the website for the company, should you want to insure some crops: Weatherbill.

HT:  Rich Shipe.


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