• And we’re a go, people: Get ready for the world’s first study on human embryonic stem cell therapy.
• But first, bye bye absurd abortion laws!
• The Inauguration killed the Internets! No mere series of tubes can withstand the pressure of this seminal moment in history.
• “BarackBerry,” “ObamaBerry”—call it what you will, we still can’t get over the fact that he’s the first president ever to use e-mail while in office.
• An economist explains why all those hospital procedures cost what they do.
• The trees are dying! The trees are dying!
• OMG! We’re in the White House! Blogging, presidential style.
• No, Virginia, there’s no such thing as truly clean coal.
In a little under a half hour, Barack Obama will officially take his place as the country’s next POTUS. And while the event will be brimming with historic firsts for the country, the coverage contains plenty of firsts for the integration of technology, politics, and major events.
Sure, there’ll be some people who actually attend the event in person—around 2 million brave souls have packed into the Mall in frigid temperatures, with questionable bathroom status (for comparison, around 400,000 showed up for Bush’s first inauguration). But for the rest of the world that didn’t make it to D.C. for the party, there’s a veritable smorgasbord of real-time coverage and information all over the airwaves. For those who still watch TV, you can see Obama take the reins on any cable or broadcast news station, or watch live feeds online from CNN, MSNBC, and just about every other news source. Then there are the liveblogs and Twitters, ot to mention Facebook statuses which, according to CNN (which has partnered with Facebook to offer simultaneous Web viewing and status-updating), are being updated at around 2,000 updates per minute, and 3,000 comments per minute. Not to mention the conversation rampaging among the 4 million fans on Obama’s official Facebook page.
Text messaging the event is rampant as well, to the point where the CEO of EzTexting.com Shane Neman issued a press release saying he believes millions of text messages will be lost, on the level of New Year’s Eve.
So there you have it—500 different ways to find out what’s going on in D.C. And if you miss all of it, not to worry—the replays will show up on YouTube momentarily.
• A ruckus brews over cookies at the White House—and we don’t mean the kind with sugar and sprinkles.
• Recession? What recession? Pass the console.
As if people-sniffing robots weren’t enough: A satellite system called the “Sea Horse,” which was built to monitor migrant vessels from the coast of North Africa, will be used to track the movements of illegal immigrants making their way from Africa to Europe, particularly the shores of Spain and Portugal.
Funded by the E.U. and developed in Spain, the Sea Horse will, according to Russia Today:
enable police forces in the partaking countries to distinguish any illegal activities, namely illegal immigration and drug trafficking, by a single high-speed communications and data network. A coordination centre has been set up in Gran Canaria’s capital Las Palmas where officials receive information about immigration flows and suspicious ships sent from the individual surveillance stations established in coastline cities such as Praia in Cape Verde and Dakar in Senegal. Police will then be able to plot charts and prepare the interception of illegal vessels.
The tech world is literally (and virtually) beside itself over Obama’s announcement that he plans to appoint the first ever chief technology officer to oversee the full-fledged technologization (not actually a word, but it should be) of his administration. Today, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and entrepreneur Andrea Weckerle took to CNN to extol the president-elect’s decision and offer their advice for the fledgling CTO. Among their more interesting suggestions:
Ruthlessly modernize: Examine the technology used within the federal system and determine what is outdated, redundant and inadequate, then keep what works and expel what doesn’t. Examine procurement polices and demand they are in line with best practices. The results of this endeavor alone will save the federal government massive amounts of money…
Create openness of information: This will serve two important functions, namely allowing people to see what the government is doing, thus fostering accountability born of transparency, and also providing access to data that will inevitably inspire and support innovation and collaboration within the private sector. In this realm, the old adage from the free software movement of “release early, release often” is quite helpful…
Right now on Facebook, you can find around 20 Britney Spears’, at least 6 George Bushes, a Barack Obama (which is legit!) and a couple Elvises. But you won’t find a profile for Bharrat Jagdeo, the president of Guyana. Why not? Because after learning that an impersonator had created a profile claiming to be him, Jagdeo, the president of the South American nation since 1999, threw a veritable hissy fit, calling the Guyana police in to track down the page’s creator.
Considering that Jagdeo’s phony profile attracted around 170 supporters before it was pulled, and that the page contained no mocking comments, revealing personal information, or doctored photos (the tenets of celebrity impersonations on the Internet), Jagdeo might have even taken the impersonation as a compliment—imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all.
But not so.
• A holy union of incentives and science: A car key that disables cell phones when the car is in use.
• Will the hordes of laid-off techies be driven to crime?
• All this carbon offsetting and greening is nice and all, but the elephant in the room is still coal.
• Any chemists want to weigh in on what type of drugs can be manufactured at home?
• When Madoff strikes, no sustainable food business is safe.
• And finally, the perfect Christmas medley: electronics meets art meets taut consumerist criticism.
We’re all for the continued intersection of law and technology, but this is getting a little nuts: A court in Australia has ruled that a lawyer can serve legally binding documents to a couple via Facebook.
Lawyer Mark McCormack tried several times through home visits and email to serve process on a man and a woman who had defaulted on their home loan. Eventually, he looked up their profiles on Facebook, and sent them the lien notice as an attachment via the social networking site.
Granted, by the time McCormack got the documents approved by the court, the couple’s profiles had been removed from public view. Still, the ruling, coming out of no less than the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court, effectively sets precedent for the practice of using Facebook as a binding legal tool. If that trend heads across the ocean, Lord help us all.
Most people peruse blogs at the office, meaning that if you’re reading this, there’s a decent chance you weren’t a victim of Bloody November, in which around 500,000 jobs were systematically purged from the U.S. workforce—many of them from the tech sector. But one industry that’s been hiring in droves, reports the Boston Globe, is defense contractors, particularly those focused on the latest in war technology.
The cluster of defense companies based in New England is expected to weather the downturn reasonably well, because of their tech focus:
[R]ather than building entire jets, ships, tanks, or ground installations, many of the region’s defense firms develop the electronics, combat, and communications systems they use…
Area contractors, for instance, work on electronic eavesdropping, signal processing for radar systems, and equipment used to integrate intelligence from different sources, technologies critical to helping the US military and allies battle terrorists in multiple countries.
Not that we’re suggesting qualified applicant shouldn’t jump at a well- (or any-) paying gig, but it’s worth asking: Is this really the place we want to be re-channeling our tech talent?
It’s always interesting when technology and religion/culture collide like Mac trucks. The BBC reports that Muxlim Pal, the first virtual world aimed at the Muslim community, is now live in Beta, and will officially launch in 2009.
The site, aimed at “Muslims in Western nations,” is based on the standard virtual world model popularized by The Sims and the eponymous Second Life. Each player gets an avatar that can be fitted with a number of inventory and wardrobe options including hijabs. Avatars can earn and spend currency, though the creators haven’t set up any of the money-making systems pervasive in Second Life. Each avatar multiple “meters” governing its “happiness, fitness, knowledge and spirituality that change when the character carries out tasks in the social world.”
Mohamed El-Fatatry, the founder of the parent site, Muxlim.com, stresses that the focus of the site is not religion itself—of the 26 different content categories on the site, only one is religion. Rather, the focus is on creating a space for Muslim culture in the virtual realm: