Friday 15 September 2006

An All-American Google

Google dominates the world of Internet search, fielding billions of inquiries each day. But a door may be opening for a new kind of search.

Call it the "all-American Google."

Last year the European Court of Justice established the so-called "right to be forgotten." The European Union's highest court imposed rules on search engines, including Google, forcing them to recognize the principle. Europeans who feel certain search results misrepresent them can ask Google to omit the results from future searches. Such censorship on data retrieval would never stand up in America, or so many observers theorized.

That view may soon be put to the test. French regulators now insist that all of Google's sites, not simply the European versions, must omit these results in response to requests. If such a rule were enforced, an American conducting a search on, whose servers are housed on American soil, may be denied access to a search result that would otherwise appear due to a complaint lodged in France - or Spain, or Germany.

The risk to the free flow of information is obvious. In a blog post, Google's global privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer, wrote, "We believe that no one country should have the authority to control what content someone in a second country can access." (1)

Google is pushing back against the French, which is heartening, though ultimately the dispute is likely to end up in the European courts where our First Amendment guarantees of free communication do not apply. If Google loses, the stage will be set for the next Google - one that will let Americans, and others living in less-regulated societies, see everything to which their country's protections entitle them.

The all-American Google might be Google itself, if the company is willing to withdraw from most of Europe. The European Court of Justice specified in the original ruling that simply keeping servers off European soil won't let a company off the hook where delinking is concerned; Google showed itself willing to do as much in mainland China rather than submit its search results to Chinese censorship. If Google is willing to forsake Europe entirely, it could perhaps preserve user trust and search dominance elsewhere. (Conceivably, the recently announced reorganization of Google as merely the dominant holding of a portfolio company called Alphabet could at least leave the firm's other businesses free to operate overseas.)

If not, the new provider might be an upstart business, whose forte would be dispensing search results and other content under the latitude provided by the U.S. Constitution. Such content might or might not be available elsewhere. Countries like France would have to decide whether to emulate places like China and Iran by restricting information flowing in from outside their borders. Foreign advertisers and subscribers presumably would be free to buy the service, as long as their home governments didn't effectively prevent them from paying for it. But the real draw would be for American users, who could be sure they were not subjected to other countries' censorship when searching the Internet.

By not placing any employees or infrastructure in more restrictive societies, this Google 2.0 could stay true to the original Google's American-influenced mission of the free flow of information, staying beyond the reach of foreign restrictions. Larry Page, Google's CEO and co-founder, described the "perfect search engine" as one that "understands exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you want." (2)

Ultimately, information can't be chained. Once stored in digital form, it can't be forgotten either. Europe's nanny-state mentality may want to create a kind of v-chip for the Internet, dictating what users can and can't see, but such efforts will offer no more than limited effectiveness for a limited time.

The ultimate question is whether Europe, which benefits from Google commerce and Google facilities, really wants to turn the world's largest information service into an all-American company.

Sunday 20 November 2005

Robin Williams One Year Later

August 11 marks one year since Robin Williams passed away. He was such a beloved person and his death shocked so many.

I have never been one who gets dramatic over celebrity deaths, but his was different because we were the same age, suffer from physical problems, loved his work, and understood financial difficulties. I cried when I heard the news. The only other famous person I cried over was when John Lennon was assassinated.

From the first time I saw Robin on the program 'Mork and Mindy' I liked him. He always came across to me as a person who was sad. Yes, he made me laugh tremendously, but I understood that there was a level of sadness always around him. Many want to blame his death on alcohol and drugs, which was proven untrue in the autopsy. So many do not understand depression, especially when they perceive someone as having everything, such as Robin. Of course there will always be theories about why or how he died, but I think it's better to remember the brilliant talented man that he was.

From being one of the highest paid actors in the 1990's his celebrity had declined over the years because he started choosing rolls that appealed to him, and they were not always comedies. He made over 50 movies. He had the ability to be a serious actor and brought such depth to each character he played. He proved how good he was as an actor in Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting, What Dreams May Come, Patch Adams, and the touching Bicentennial Man.

Of course he will always be remembered for his great comedies such as Mrs. Doubtfire, The Fisher King, The Birdcage, Jack, and who can forget his marvelous genie in Aladdin. These are just to name a few of his movies. He left a large body of work behind that will entertain people for many generations to come.

His one man standup comedy shows were always something I looked forward to. He just had a way of making you see the world a little differently. No matter what he did he always came across as lovable.

My personal favorite movie of his is "Moscow on the Hudson." He mixed comedy with serious acting. He learned to speak Russian fluently and the other actors who were Russian could not believe how well he spoke it. Whatever he did he put his whole self into it and created magic.

It turns out that financially he was not well off anymore, between high alimony payments, and lack of income, at the level he had been receiving, he was struggling financially. Also he was suffering from Parkinson's disease. I understand the effects of that extremely well as my father had it and so do I. Physical decline often causes depression to worsen. When you cannot do what you used to it is horrific. Ask anyone who suffers from chronic illness or an accident and they will tell you.

At the time of his death I had not seen many of his latest movies and have seen them since and I am astounded at how good they were. Recently I saw "Angriest Man in Brooklyn" and found it totally believable from the standpoint of being someone who is chronically ill. Often you get angry when your health goes. I thought he did a standout performance and yet many people do not like this movie.

He was a gentle kind man and I have read many different stories from people who have met him accidentally and he never acted like a celebrity. He was always just himself, which was quite humble. He let his crazy side out when he performed. Often people confuse a person with the characters they have played. For me he will always be a sweet lovable human who did his best to make others happy.

He worked for free on the charity to help the homeless 'Comic Relief'. He traveled to Iraq several times and performed for the troops without great publicity or fanfare. He always wanted to help others. Robin had a requirement that for every single event or film he did, the company hiring him also had to hire a certain number of homeless people and put them to work.

So take a few moments and remember this wonderful man who graced our planet and made the world smile. Perhaps watch one of his movies in memory of him.

The main thing is he is at peace and will always be remembered.

Thank you for everything Robin.

Bless your spirit

Spiritual Advisor Cherokee Billie offers help through the lens of wisdom, philosophy, self-help, and spirituality. Cherokee Billie is the Author of "Heavenly Seduction" an best seller. In addition, Cherokee Billie is a Naturopathic Doctor (twenty years experience) Author, an Life Strategist, a Radio Personality, and an Ordained Minister leading people to a pathway to spiritual enlightenment.

Monday 24 October 2005

How Far We Have Come: Using A Website Rather Than a Ruler to Determine Distance

The world is not flat. Therefore, finding the distance between two points is more than a matter of drawing a straight line. Still, it can be very helpful to have an idea of how many miles or kilometers exist between two points. In those cases, the use of a straight line distance calculator can be helpful. Instead of using a map, a ruler and the key that explains the scale of the map, you can simply input the two cities and find the direction to distance between cities. This greatly simplifies the process.

A straight line distance calculator is a new phenomenon. Previously, someone who wanted to know how far it is between Boston, Massachusetts, and London, England, for example, would have to sit down with a world map. It would be necessary to find the distance between the two points on the map. Next, the individual would need to examine the scale for the map and determine what each unit of measurement equals (i.e. one inch equals x amount of miles or one centimeter equals x amount of kilometers). Mathematical equations would be used, and the total distance would be calculated.

The Internet has greatly simplified this process by providing access to a straight line distance calculator. These calculators have been made to provide the pertinent information in the format that is desired by each individual (i.e. miles or kilometers). It can even provide sea miles for those who need that measurement for a particular project. The straight line distance between cities can be important information for various projects or factoring for trips. This information can be easily gathered simply by accessing a calculator created for the purpose.

The straight line distance between cities is not helpful to those who are hoping to take a trip via car and want to know the real-time expectations of travel from one location to another. Still, even these individuals can gain something from the direction line distance. It is a good piece of information to have if you need a general idea of how far apart two places are - i.e. if a move is planned for your future or if relatives like knowing how far away a family member is who lives in another city.

A straight line distance calculator provides a general idea of the space between two cities or certain landmarks. It also allows the individual to find the measurement that applies to "how the crow flies." This measurement can be helpful in various ways. That includes giving two individuals who bet on the distance between two locations a method to determine the winner of the bet, or an author an idea of how far away two characters are if they live in the two cities. The straight line distance between cities may not provide much practical benefit, but it can be a great piece of information to have for those who enjoy knowing tidbits of information with little to no practical value.

Saturday 23 October 2004

Don't Let Someone Else's Hate Influence You

It is pretty obvious that hate abounds in society and this world, and it can never be entirely eliminated. Even with all the advances in the civil rights area, there remain many people who cannot accept others as deserving equal rights. Unfortunately, prejudice and discrimination are common.

There are people in the United States of American who still believe that the unjust mistreatment of Americans and immigrants of Japanese descent during World War II was justified. Because America was at war with the nation of Japan, they blame anyone who can be even remotely associated with Japan even if they are American citizens born in this country.

When hate is exhibited toward a person, it is natural to have some initial reaction. If the hatred is expressed in words as it often is, it should not be physically debilitating. It is necessary to combat that hatred by NOT allowing it to influence your actions adversely. Sometimes it is normal to give up one's own goals and ambitions because of hatred expressed by someone else. Don't let anyone steal your dreams because they are narrow minded and mean spirited.

One of the goals of my husband and myself in recent times has been to "Share the Story" by helping people to understand what happened to Japanese Americans during World War II when 120,000 people were forcibly removed from their West Coast homes. Most were incarcerated in what have come to be known as "American concentration camps" where they were held like prisoners with armed guards looking over them. These people had done nothing wrong, but they were persecuted for their ethnic heritage because of the hatred and discrimination of that period. Two thirds of those imprisoned in that manner were American citizens.

Encountering hatred from someone who obviously is full of hate and feels that the incarceration was justified is disheartening. Although experiencing that type of negative reaction could cause someone to give up the goals for which he/she is working, it is important to NOT let someone else's hate influence you to the point of giving up on something you are trying to accomplish.

There is no way that hate will be eradicated from the world because of the failings of humans. It is not a perfect world and never will be. That means that it is imperative that the recipients of hatred do not allow hate to ruin them. Hate already creates negative forces in the person who expresses hatred to others. The objects of that hatred should not be subjected to further suffering by allowing themselves to be intimidated and thus adversely affected.

Friday 19 September 2003

Sometime Around the Bend, An End to Drunk Driving

An end, not because we're abstaining but because technology in our smarter and smarter cars is going to one day take away the option of putting our foot on the gas pedal when intoxicated. Personal responsibility assumed by a machine...

The research represents a partnership between the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS), the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS), and the National Highway Safety Administration. Since 2008, it's been going strong, taking two different approaches to the problem of drunk drivers:

Breath: Sensors mounted in front of the driver will "measure the concentration of carbon dioxide and ethanol molecules being exhaled." Hit a certain ratio between the two, and the car won't start.

Touch: When a driver hits the start button or some other specially designed surface, the touch pad will identify chemical properties in the skin, including ethanol levels. If they measure 0.08% or more, the car won't start.
Wow, right? But all this science fiction tech will be offered only as an optional safety feature, instead of being installed on all cars as required by law. Know, too, that it won't be ready for prime time until 2020 at the earliest. None too soon, however, given that every day, almost 30 people die in this country because of an alcohol-impaired driver. In other words, one such death occurs every 51 minutes. And drunk driving is costly, too, amounting to more than $59 billion that tax payers have to shell out every year.

Then there are these grim statistics:

In 2013, 10,076 people died in alcohol-related car crashes, representing 31% of all traffic deaths.
Of the 1,149 children killed in traffic accidents, 17% involved drunken drivers.
In 2010 alone, more than 1.4 million drivers were arrested for being alcohol-impaired.
The picture is no brighter in Pennsylvania. For starters, drunk driving has recently resulted in the deaths of 368 people. That translates to 30.5% of all the traffic deaths that have occurred here this year. Then there are these state-wide facts:

There were 7,900 alcohol-related crash injuries involving drivers with a 0.1 BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) or higher.
There were 11,041 alcohol-related crashes involving drivers with a 0.1 BAC or higher.
64,024 Pennsylvanians were recently arrested for DUI (Driving Under the Influence).
The cost to us tax payers who must subsidize drunk driving fatalities in the commonwealth: $1.9 billion.
And that's not an end to the bad news in Pennsylvania. That's because our kids are following in our footsteps. In fact, it's been determined that in just one recent month, 28.30% of our 12- to 20-year-olds drank alcohol; in other words, 445,000 of them.

As for the binge drinking that makes headlines from time-to-time? Those numbers are unsettling, too, with 18.70% of that same age group recently engaging in such behavior, adding up to 294,000 of them.

Now imagine what the roads will look like if recreational marijuana is legalized here as is hoped by many, including some of our legislators. As it is-and unlike a number of states--Pennsylvania already has eight alcohol-related laws on the books to help, and here they all are:

Vehicular homicide laws establish penalties for drunk drivers who cause a fatality.

Social host laws hold adults accountable for supplying alcohol to the under-21 set.

Sobriety checkpoints allow police to stop folks along their routes if suspected of being intoxicated-or not.

Mandatory Alcohol Assessment/Treatment laws are in place so that those convicted of driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated (DWI) can be assessed for alcohol abuse issues and receive treatment.

Ignition interlock statutes allow judges or administrative agencies to install an interlock ignition device on the cars of those convicted of drunk driving for a certain period of time.

DUI child endangerment statutes allow additional penalties to be placed on those convicted of drunk driving with a child on board.

Dram shop laws can hold establishments liable for selling alcohol to obviously intoxicated adults or minors who cause either death or injury to others in alcohol-related crashes.

The .08 per se law makes it illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher.
And so it goes. We'll just have to wait for the technology to catch up with our drinking habits, and, in the meantime, hope that most folks will, if not abstain, know when to stop or, at the very least, hand their keys to a sober friend or call a cab...

Carol is a learning specialist who worked with middle school children and their parents at the Methacton School District in Pennsylvania for more than 25 years and now supervises student teachers at Gwynedd-Mercy University and Ursinus College. Along with the booklet, 149 Parenting School-Wise Tips: Intermediate Grades & Up, and numerous articles in such publications as Teaching Pre-K-8 and Curious Parents, she has authored three successful learning guidebooks: Getting School-Wise: A Student Guidebook, Other-Wise and School-Wise: A Parent Guidebook, and ESL Activities for Every Month of the School Year. 

Wednesday 11 June 2003

Courts Count for the Quality of Your Community

I recently attended a conference on the essential qualities resulting from the best-planned, best organized communities. Items like affordable housing and recreational opportunities immediately came to mind. People need shelter that matches a budget and they need recreational opportunities for health and exercise as well as places to visit like parks, lakes, or rose or vegetable gardens. One of the guest speakers, a local judge, added that good communities also have an excellent court system.

Of course, the safety of a community arises from sound law enforcement and a fair judicial system. If officers are out and about in a community, with their eye out for the well being of citizens, those who live in a community are able to feel secure and live knowing that they are safe. Whether they are in their backyard for a barbecue or out for a walk through the neighborhood, knowing officers are on duty is a priority is reassuring that a community is protected. And, I believe, safety breeds safety just as dangerous neighborhoods so often breed danger.

When laws are broken it is critical that the judicial system is in top working order. It makes no sense to arrest or charge willy-nilly, but rather with the best intentions and the best plans for the safety of a community. Officers who are brash are often as dangerous as the criminals they are looking for just as officers who enjoy donuts and coffee more than patrolling and keeping an eye on a community, do not fulfill the commitment and responsibilities of their job. I just want things in my community to be fair, with citizens served with honesty and trustworthiness. Living in a small town I have the advantage of knowing most of our officers. I admire their dedication to their job and those of us who live there. I know that if I ever need help they will be on the scene in a flash to assist me.

From the work of these officers those who have or who allegedly have broken laws appear before a judge. The judge provides probably the most important factor in maintaining the safety of a community. As not all cases are cut-and-dried, it is invaluable that the judge be able to examine each case in an individual fashion. Sometimes bad things just seem to happen while at other times crimes are perpetrated. The judge has to see through all of this and then determine a punishment that is fair and that also serves as a life-long deterrent. If the judge is too lax, the criminal is very likely to become a courtroom regular; if the judge is too severe, a person's life can end up dedicated to the four walls of a cell.

Yes, our speaker is absolutely correct: The courts of a community, regulated by the judge or judges of that community, do count for the quality of the community and thus the safety and security of every resident. I thank my local judges for their wisdom and devotion. They do make a very positive difference.

Friday 6 June 2003

Humans and Humanity

What are the critical elements that make us human? Do these elements transpond time and space, cultures and continents, communities, families? We breath the same air, occupy the same planet, live and die, but beyond these how similar are we? Genetics play a grand role in determining our human characteristics such as hair and eye color, stature, other physical traits along with many capabilities such as brainpower and physical dexterity. Our environment also plays a special role. Where we were born, the time frame, our parents and extended family begin us on our journey and then comes all of the other potential encounters and experiences. It is nature versus nurture and so much more.

Our humanity is influenced by the civilization in which we live, the morality and mortality factors that affect our lives and living, the human condition that surrounds us, and the variables of life. Humanity is also the characteristic that presents itself through our kindness, compassion, and sympathy for others. Having been brought up in a loving, two-parent home, with terrific sisters as role models, I was taught to love the out-of-doors and nature, physical fitness, and education, my family and friends, and to live with generosity and goodness toward others. Because my family likes each other, we can also love each other, forgiving the errors we make and embracing the wonders of family. I think this solid foundation of mutual respect set up much of the personal life I live now.

Because of my upbringing and experiences, I model my behavior in certain ways but I also know that others live differently and I work hard to accept that that is their right. While I feel relief that I never was put in a situation where I needed to consider an abortion, I respect that that is a decision that others might make. I live in a loving heterosexual relationship but I understand that others might desire to live in a different style. As a woman I have freedom to go and do and choose, but I realize that this is not true everywhere in the world and while this is hard to accept, I appreciate that other women live a different life. I embrace the freedoms that are provided to me in this country and see them as quite wonderful, but I realize that others live differently and that these freedoms appear altogether wrong. In my recognition of the variation of humans and their lifestyles, I believe I exemplify compassion and consideration to all humankind.

I found it interesting to read that some communities that have been overtaken by ISIS forces are quite content to have these soldiers present. One man stated that at least with ISIS there is no corruption and no greed and as long as he stays within their good graces, he lives a safe and secure life. The murders that surrounded him just seemed to be the way things are and he is neither alarmed nor particularly interested. He feels his life is in better shape under what I view as a reign of terror than his previous life, which I would also view as a life of terror. The article mentions the fact that ISIS and similar forces may win out in the end simply because citizens are satisfied with this less terroristic lifestyle and acceptance of current conditions.

This type of life and ideology are alien to me but if I am human and a true member of humanity, I must accept that for some, freedom is valued differently and is not necessarily the government and life choice they want. Who am I to judge? I do not live in these nations, I have not been brought up in these cultures, I have little understanding other than brief visits abroad, reading, and listening to the news. And so as a human, while I am willing to help and education, it is not my job to interfere with criticism or moral degradation. I am fortunate to live where and how I do, but it is not mine to subject upon others.