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March 26, 2007

Sleeping Well? [9:53 am]

And you thought you should be worrying about identity theft: Terror Database Has Quadrupled In Four Years - pdf

Each day, thousands of pieces of intelligence information from around the world — field reports, captured documents, news from foreign allies and sometimes idle gossip — arrive in a computer-filled office in McLean, where analysts feed them into the nation’s central list of terrorists and terrorism suspects.

Called TIDE, for Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, the list is a storehouse for data about individuals that the intelligence community believes might harm the United States. It is the wellspring for watch lists distributed to airlines, law enforcement, border posts and U.S. consulates, created to close one of the key intelligence gaps revealed after Sept. 11, 2001: the failure of federal agencies to share what they knew about al-Qaeda operatives.

But in addressing one problem, TIDE has spawned others. Ballooning from fewer than 100,000 files in 2003 to about 435,000, the growing database threatens to overwhelm the people who manage it. “The single biggest worry that I have is long-term quality control,” said Russ Travers, in charge of TIDE at the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean. “Where am I going to be, where is my successor going to be, five years down the road?”

TIDE has also created concerns about secrecy, errors and privacy. The list marks the first time foreigners and U.S. citizens are combined in an intelligence database. The bar for inclusion is low, and once someone is on the list, it is virtually impossible to get off it. At any stage, the process can lead to “horror stories” of mixed-up names and unconfirmed information, Travers acknowledged.

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A Look At The TimesSelect Model [9:46 am]

Whoa. Just: Whoa.

TimesSelect, the fee-based product on NYTimes.com that includes The Times’s distinctive columnists and extensive access to its archives, currently has approximately 639,000 subscribers, with about 66% receiving TimesSelect as a benefit of their home-delivery subscriptions and 34% receiving it from online-only subscriptions.

34% of 639,000 = 217,260 paying subscribers.

Assuming all of these people are paying full freight yearly subscriptions–not guaranteed, that–that’s $10.9 million in revenue.

Is it worth $10.9 million to the Times for it to wall off its columnists? You tell me.

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With the Converstion To Digital TV, A New Opportunity [6:33 am]

Or not: Hot Spectrum Draws Cash, and Ideals

“This offers the potential for a real game changer in broadband spectrum,” said John M. R. Kneuer, assistant secretary for communications and information at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an arm of the Commerce Department. “It can both generate new innovation and lower prices.”

The airwaves in question are in the 700-megahertz band, a segment used until now for UHF television but freed up by the move to digital broadcasting. Unless Congress reverses itself, those frequencies are scheduled to be reclaimed by the government and reallocated for public safety and commercial broadband networks on Feb. 19, 2009.

Mr. Kneuer points out that because the new band is at a lower frequency than today’s cellular and digital wireless services, it has a far greater range as well as the ability to penetrate the walls of homes and office buildings more effectively.

That could enable a new entrant to build out a broadband service dedicated to mobile devices — a sector considered to have greater growth potential than conventional voice services. This could be done quickly and relatively inexpensively with just a few transmission towers and then filled in with additional capacity as new customers join the network.

“This is the realization of a truly national wireless Internet,” said Reed E. Hundt, a former F.C.C. chairman.

[...] “This spectrum could catalyze tremendous innovation,” said Kevin Werbach, assistant professor of legal studies at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. “However, if the auction process is focused on raising the most amount of money for the government, it might prove counterproductive for the larger economic interests of the country.”

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