August 10, 2006

OT: One View on the Role of Morality In International Affairs [10:00 pm]

What Washington can learn from Britain’s foiled terror plot

There’s a broader lesson here, and it speaks to the Bush administration’s present jam throughout the Middle East and in other danger zones. If the British had adopted the same policy toward dealing with Pakistan that Bush has adopted toward dealing with, say, Syria or Iran (namely, it’s an evil regime, and we don’t speak with evil regimes), then a lot of passenger planes would have shattered and spilled into the ocean, hundreds or thousands of people would have died, and the world would have suddenly been plunged into very scary territory.

It is time to ask: Which is the more “moral” course—to shun odious regimes as a matter of principle or to take unpleasant steps that might prevent mass terror?

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JuryQuest: Statistical Profiling and Juries [5:46 pm]

Jury-rigging

That a computer program might become a vital tool in predicting juror bias is perhaps less surprising than the fact that it isn’t already: The necessary mathematical formulas and attitude scaling techniques were developed by the early 20th century. To rate a jury pool, the program needs only seven pieces of information: age, sex, race, education, occupation, marital status, and prior jury service. Once entered, the program uses factor analysis to match the categories against a 4 million-item database built from survey questionnaires designed to identify authoritarian (prosecution-friendly) versus egalitarian (defense-sympathetic) bias.

[...] JuryQuest’s own early record suggests similar promise. After what co-founder Norm Revis says was “less than millions” of dollars in research, JuryQuest released its software in 2005. Out of the roughly 100 criminal trials in which the software has been used, defense attorneys have won around 50 percent, Revis says; that’s far greater than the national average. And even in cases where JuryQuest-approved panels convict, they tend to buck the DA’s sentencing recommendation in favor of lighter sentences. The software can be licensed for as little as a few hundred dollars a trial, and there’s reason to believe it’s going to keep getting better: Empirical results from JuryQuest trials are promptly fed back into its database, gradually supplanting and improving its original data.

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More Claims Of A Property Right In Numbers [1:45 pm]

Baseball to Challenge Ruling on Fantasy League Licensing - pdf

Major League Baseball said it would appeal a federal court ruling allowing an online fantasy baseball business to use names and statistics without paying for a licensing agreement.

M.L.B. and the players union also said Wednesday that they expected to win back the right to demand money from fantasy operators like the St. Louis-based CBC Distribution and Marketing Inc., which prevailed in its lawsuit in a federal court’s summary judgment issued Tuesday.

Case background; a cite of some of the content of the decision

The opinion: C.B.C. Distribution and Marketing, Inc., vs.Major League baseball Advanced Media, L.P. and Major League Baseball Players’ Association

For the reasons more fully set forth above, the court finds that the undisputed facts establish that the players do not have a right of publicity in their names and playing records as used in CBC’s fantasy games and that CBC has not violated the players’ claimed right of publicity. The court further finds, alternatively, that even if the players have a claimed right of publicity, the First Amendment takes precedence over such a right. The court further finds that the undisputed facts establish that the names and playing records of Major League baseball players as used in CBC’s fantasy games are not copyrightable and, therefore, federal copyright law does not preempt the players’ claimed right of publicity. Additionally, the court finds that the no-challenge provision of the 2002 Agreement between CBC and the Players’ Association and the provision of this Agreement which prohibits CBC from using players’ names and playing records after the expiration of the Agreement are unenforceable based on public policy considerations. The court finds, therefore, that declaratory judgment should issue in CBC’s favor. As such, the court will order the Players’ Association and Advanced Media to refrain from interfering with CBC’s fantasy games in the manner proscribed by this court’s decision.

Accordingly,

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that CBC’s Motions for Summary Judgment are GRANTED;

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Navigating The Deep Waters Of Videogaming [7:38 am]

With Bully, Rockstar Looks to Beat the Grand Theft Auto Rap

When Rockstar first mentioned Bully to the public more than a year ago at a video-game trade show, the project sent a wave of concern through the industry. Anti-game activists claimed that it would encourage players to become bullies themselves. Even some executives at other game companies feared that Bully, coming from Rockstar, a company that has long been a lightning rod for politicians and others fearful of video games, would drag the entire industry into yet another quagmire of criticism.

[...] The broader point is that rather than simply transferring the wanton violence and mayhem of the Grand Theft Auto series to a juvenile setting, Rockstar seems to have pulled out that game’s most compelling elements — an open world for the player to explore, tightly defined and memorable characters, a strong story line, high-end voice acting — and rewrapped them in a game that the company clearly hopes will be rated T for Teen rather than M for Mature.

The game sanitizes many aspects of the modern prep school experience. There is no mission to sneak into a girl’s dorm at night and have sex. There is no plan to hide drug use from the authorities. There is no quest to find a liquor store in town that will sell to you.

In short it’s not really a boarding-school simulation, and that may be a good thing. [....]

Or not; it will be interesting to see how well it sells……….

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OT: Making Use of “Rats With Wings” [7:18 am]

Pigeon-Scientists? They Just Wing It - pdf

Pigeons wearing tiny backpacks and cellphones will roam the skies of Northern California this weekend as part of an unusual art project.

Equipped with miniature smog sensors, the birds will transmit air pollution data to a “pigeon blog” website.

[...] Despite protests from animal-rights activists, the first flock of feathered aviators took off Tuesday evening for a 30-minute smog reconnaissance mission over the Silicon Valley. A second flight is scheduled for Saturday.

The airborne art expedition is part of ZeroOne San Jose, a weeklong showcase of technology and art that includes a robotic willow tree, a karaoke ice cream truck and a laughing bicycle.

[...] Now, pigeons have entered the Digital Age. Da Costa and two graduate students spent a year developing bird-sized cellphones, GPS tracking devices and air pollution monitors. (Sorry, still no sign of a pigeon iPod.)

The featherweight gadgetry fits inside a spandex backpack originally designed by a Colorado river-rafting company that employs pigeons to carry rolls of film back to civilization during wilderness tours.

Each smog-sniffing backpack weighs less than a 10th of a pigeon’s body weight and costs $250, Da Costa said. Measurements of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide are relayed to Earth via pigeon cellphone and posted at pigeonblog.mapyourcity.net.

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A Look At Jukebox Culture [7:14 am]

Keeping the jukes jumping - pdf

“I have always been the party guy,” a grinning [Don] Muller says, adding that his first business, in the 1960s, was called Parties Unlimited. He’d bring the music, the sound gear, the sorority girls, even provide the rented house.

“But then one day I rented a jukebox for a party. People loved it. It was the best party we ever had!” he nearly shouts. “I got an idea. I started buying up every jukebox I could get my hands on.”The outrageous success of the iPod and, before that, illegal file-sharing sites such as Napster are only the latest way to scratch what is now a 129-year-old itch: to program your own music, on your own machine, and make your own party. That desire began with the invention of Thomas Edison’s “Phonograph or Speaking Machine” in 1877, but it didn’t become a staple of public life until Edison’s machine became the jukebox. And that happened, fittingly, in a bar.

According to recorded-music lore, the official birth date of the jukebox is Nov. 23, 1889, when Louis Glass and William Arnold demonstrated an Edison Class M Electric Phonograph, which played prerecorded cylinders, fitted with a coin mechanism known as a “nickel-in-the-slot,” in the saloon of the Palais Royale restaurant in San Francisco. It was a smash success, and they patented the coin apparatus. By May 1890, the two men said, the 15 machines they had built had raked in $4,000, a huge sum for the times. A booming business was born.

The flat-record disc as we know it already existed at that time, having been patented by Emile Berliner in 1888, but disc and cylinder players were both too expensive for the average home, so the coin-operated players exploded in popularity. For the next 25 years or so, this was the record industry. Near the turn of the century, the spring-driven machines began replacing live bands in the “juke joints” that proliferated near the cotton fields of the South, and thus the name was born: the jukebox. By the 1930s, the big-name manufacturers we know today began developing their effusive, bulbous wonder gizmos that dazzle the eye as well as the ear — the Rudolph Wurlitzer Co., the Rockola Manufacturing Co., AMI Inc. and the J.P. Seeburg Co.

In 1947, Seeburg came out with a durable mechanism that could manage 50 vinyl records, playing both sides of what were then big 78-rpm discs, thus offering 100 selections. The modern jukebox era was born, and competition among operators was stiff.

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LATimes, Part IV: Small Screen Video Distribution Difficulties [6:57 am]

Part 4: No Big Demand for Small Screen - pdf

Entertainment purveyors may be scrambling to package their content into mobisodes, video downloads and podcasts, but a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll found that teens and young adults — the generation most likely to be the early adopters of this new technology — have yet to fully embrace it.

About half of young adults and 4 in 10 teenagers said they were uninterested in watching television shows or movies on computers, cellphones or hand-held devices such as video iPods, the poll found.

While more than 2 out of 5 teens and young adults indicated they were open to viewing this kind of content online, only 14% of teenagers said they wanted to watch television on a cellphone, and 17% said they would view programs on an iPod.

The findings suggest that networks are rushing to package content for these new platforms before even tech-savvy young consumers are hankering for the “third screen” experience.

[...] Perhaps most intriguing, however, was the indication of a widespread indifference toward small-screen viewing among teenagers and young adults. While many in the industry expect the demand for such content to rise dramatically in the coming years, the poll offered clues to a consumer reluctance that first must be overcome.

In follow-up interviews with those surveyed, many young people said they were intrigued by the notion of getting their entertainment on devices such as cellphones and iPods. But two major obstacles have so far dampened their enthusiasm: the cost and the uneven quality of the experience.

Earlier looks at the next generation entertainment polling: part 1, part 2 and part 3

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Google’s Schmidt Looking to Pre-empt? [6:47 am]

Or just looking to upset governments? Google sees privacy threats - pdf

But [Google CEO Eric] Schmidt said a more serious threat to user privacy lay in potential demands on Google by governments to make the company give up data on its customer’s surfing habits.

“You can never say never,” Schmidt said during an onstage interview with Web search industry analyst Danny Sullivan.

“The more interesting question is not an accidental error but something where a government, not just the U.S. government but maybe a non-U.S. government would try to get in (Google’s computer systems),” Schmidt said.

Google won kudos earlier this year from privacy advocates for going to court to block a U.S. government request for data on Google users. Schmidt warned that such intrusions could occur again.

Related: Western Internet firms “act as censors” in China - pdf

Also, Slashdot’s Google to Continue Storing Search Requests

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