Sunday, April 20, 2008

France Wants Phones in Flight

Air France is vying to be the first airline carrier to allow passengers to use cellular phones during flight. 

The French airline had a test last week to see how plausible cellular communication is at 20,000 feet above sea level.  The results were not as hoped. 

Officials on the air carrier said service was shoddy and sounded as though they were talking to a small robot. 

American air carriers have not entered experimental stages with cell phones citing their patrons vehemently opposed the measure. 

Kinks still need to be worked out between the phone companies and the air lines. The air lines realized they have stumbled on a market they can't afford not to be a part of. 

The technology, which allows cellphone users to make and receive calls through an on board base station linked to a satellite, delivers a still-patchy quality that keeps most in-flight calls short and tinny. And then there are the eye-popping roaming charges of up to 3 euros ($4.72) a minute. 

Now all that is left to do is wait to see if the technology advances and if American air carriers catch on. 

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Europe Deafens Noise Concerns

Europe has just enacted a law to limit the amount of damaging noise workers can be exposed to. 

This measure by rule, was enacted for construction workers and others where the noise is not necessarily under their control. But in musicians' cases, they are the ones making the noise. 

Health officials had two solutions but both were dismissed as improbable. The first was to ask conductors and composers to do softer pieces. The second was asking the players to wear ear plugs or decibel reducing devices. Neither side was happy with either suggestion. 

“It’s like saying to a racing-car driver that they have to wear a blindfold,” Alan Garner said, an oboist and English horn player who is the chairman of the players’ committee at the Royal Opera House

Another solution was so use sound reflecting panels especially in front of noisier sections like brass. The problem there is the brass players didn't like it; they said they felt almost ostracized. 

But some progress has been made. Most orchestras are now installing foam padding above the heads of the players to absorb some of the damaging decibels. Some groups are even trying rotating the players to sit in different sections to limit hearing loss. 

Scientists are working with musicians on decibel-reducing devices that both sides will enjoy. Conductors are being asked not to go for the "big and loud" orchestra styles and to consider they are working with humans, not machines. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

France Could Outlaw "Skinny" Online

Paris, a fashion capitol of the World, is working in legislation to outlaw Web sites that promote eating disorders. The bill, approved by the lower house of Parliament, faces a Senate vote.

If passed, this bill could affect all mediums of communication, not just the Web. Punishments may be up to three years in prison and more than $70,000 in fines for and media promoting anorexia or bulimia. 

The legislation is backed by the government’s health minister, Roselyne Bachelot. The legislation was sponsored by Valérie Boyer, a conservative lawmaker from the Bouches-du-Rhône region in the south of France

“We have noticed,” Ms. Boyer said in an interview with The Associated Press, “that the sociocultural and media environment seems to favor the emergence of troubled nutritional behavior, and that is why I think it necessary to act.”

It is one of the strongest measures proposed since the 2006 death of a Brazilian model, Ana Carolina Reston, from anorexia.

Critics from the French Socialist Party complained that the bill was vaguely worded and rushed through the lower house by the U.M.P., the conservative party of President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Eating disorder experts also expressed doubts about whether such a law would help victims or create even more demand for the sites by publicizing them.As written, the proposed French law does not make it clear who would be ultimately responsible for the content of such sites — the content creator or the Internet service hosting the site.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

MySpace Targets Overseas

MySpace has signed a deal with a British-based production firm, ShineReveille International, to distribute its video content overseas. This will make MySpace a breeding ground for television series.

The Web site with 110 million members wants to be seen as an outlet for original content. The company owned by News Corporation, called itself “Hollywood’s digital playground.”

ShineReveille International has carried the international format rights to shows including “The Biggest Loser” and “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?”

Elisabeth Murdoch, a daughter of the News Corporation’s chairman, Rupert Murdoch, is the chief executive of the Shine Group.

Online videos usually are not high cost productions and last less than five minutes. MySpace wants to change that. It had one web-based show which flopped in February, "Quaterlife." Fewer than four million viewers tuned into the debut on NBC.

But Shine intends to localize shows for international markets and adapt specific concepts of the shows for television.

MySpace will be using a new technique to test pilots. Instead of spending millions in a show that might not even get a series, they intend use its social network as a test bed. In the United States, MySpace’s TV section has two original shows, “Roommates” and a hidden-camera series, “Special Delivery,” and more than a dozen in development.

From MySpace to YourSpace

MySpace to Discuss Effort to Customize Ads

Do You MySpace?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

New Generation Studies Philosophy for an Examined Life

The number of students graduating with philosophy degrees has gone up tremendously over the last few years. Many think it is because students want to arm themselves with the ability to live an examined life.

Facing such issues at the conflict in the Middle East and the political scandal of the week, it's no wonder younger generations want to possess the tools to be able to form their own opinions and beliefs.

At the City University of New York, where enrollment is up 18 percent over the past six years, there are 322 philosophy majors, a 51 percent increase since 2002.

Students at Rutgers said that studying philosophy, with its emphasis on the big questions and alternative points of view, provided good training for looking at larger societal questions, like globalization and technology

David E. Schrader, executive director of the American Philosophical Association, a professional organization with 11,000 members, said that in an era in which people change careers frequently, philosophy makes sense. “It’s a major that helps them become quick learners and gives them strong skills in writing, analysis and critical thinking,” he said.

Leaning analytical skills and knowing how "think through" a problem to a solution could certainly be used in numerous fields.

Philosophy: Only Education can Make Nation Prosperous

Students Choose Philosophy

How to Use You Philosophy Degree

Health Database "Ignores" Abortion

Federal officials raised questions about two articles in Popline's database, the World's largest database for reproductive health, run by Johns Hopkins University.

The University had the system ignore the word "abortion" in searches of large, publicly financed databases.

After learning of the restrictions on Friday, the dean, Dr. Michael J. Klag, said: “I could not disagree more strongly with this decision, and I have directed that the Popline administrators restore ‘abortion’ as a search term immediately. I will also launch an inquiry to determine why this change occurred.”

Pro Choice advocates weren't happy either.

Ted Miller, a spokesman for Naral Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights group, said: “The public has a right to know why someone would censor relevant medical information. The Bush administration has politicized science as part of an ideological agenda. So it’s important to know if that occurred here.”

Officials said users could search for the topic using synonyms like "unwanted pregnancy." Nay-Sayers were quick to point out that an unwanted pregnancy was not a symptom for abortion.

The dean of the Public Health School lifted the restrictions after learning of them.

Health Database Censors Abortion

Popline Ignores Abortion

Can Search for Abortion Again on Health Site

Saturday, April 5, 2008

52 Children Removed from Polygamist Compound

Texas law enforcement removed 52 children from a West Texas ranch founded by Warren Jeffs, a convicted polygamist. They were responding to an accusation of sexual abuse on a 16-year-old female.

All 52 were female and eighteen of the children, ages 6 months to 17 years, were believed to have been abused or at risk of abuse. They were placed in foster care by Child Protective Services, said Darrell Azar, communications manager for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Thirty-four were taken to a nearby civic center for questioning, Mr. Azar said.

There were no immediate arrests. The 1,700-acre compound, the Yearning for Zion Ranch of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a breakaway Mormon sect, is located in Eldorado, about 160 miles northwest of San Antonio.

Mr. Azar said the girls were removed “because we had reason to believe they had been abused or were at immediate risk of future abuse.”

“We haven’t talked to any boys yet,” he said. “We will be interviewing boys, too.”

The ranch was built in 2003 by followers of Jeffs, who was sentenced last November in Utah to 10 years to life in prison for forcing a 14-year-old girl to marry her 19-year-old cousin and to submit to sexual relations against her will. Mr. Jeffs is in jail in Arizona awaiting trial on separate rape charges involving the arranged marriages of two teenage girls to older relatives.