Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Google announces privacy changes across products; users can’t opt out -

Google announces privacy changes across products; users can’t opt out - 

Google said Tuesday it will follow the activities of users across e-mail, search, YouTube and other services, a shift in strategy that is expected to invite greater scrutiny of its privacy and competitive practices.

The information will enable Google to develop a fuller picture of how people use its growing empire of Web sites. Consumers will have no choice but to accept the changes.

The policy will take effect March 1 and will also impact Android mobile phone users, who are required to log in to Google accounts when they activate their phones.

The changes comes as Google is facing stiff competition for the sometimes fleeting attention of Web surfers. It recently disappointed investors for the first time in several quarters, failing last week to meet earnings predictions. Apple, in contrast, reported record earnings Tuesday, blowing past even the most optimistic expectations.

Google’s move appears to be aimed squarely at Apple and Facebook — titans of the tech industry that have been successful in keeping people within their ecosystem of products. Google, which makes money by selling targeted ads, is hoping to do the same by offering a Web experience tailored to personal tastes.

“If you’re signed in, we may combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services,” Alma Whitten, Google’s director of privacy, product and engineering wrote in a blog post.

“In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience,” she said.

Google can track users when they sign into their accounts. It can also use cookies or find out where people are if they use a Google phone or its maps program. The company will now attempt to mix all of that information together into a single cauldron for each person.

For instance, a user who has watched YouTube videos of the Washington Wizards might suddenly see basketball ticket ads appear in his or her Gmail accounts.

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Today, January 24, 2012, is the 1000th day the US federal government has been operating without a budget -

Today, January 24, 2012, is the 1000th day the US federal government has been operating without a budget - 

Tuesday, January 24, will mark the 1,000th day since the U.S. Senate has passed a budget—an egregious dereliction of duty on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D–NV) watch. By enacting continuing resolution upon continuing resolution (short-term measures to keep the government running, spending money at the current rate), the Senate has taken a pass on leading, all to the detriment of the poor and middle class.

The budget process forces Congress to set priorities to protect the people’s money and put it to its appropriate use. Instead, the Democrat-controlled Senate has abdicated its responsibility. The result? The deficit is soaring, causing a looming tax burden and injecting uncertainty into the economy, leaving jobs and economic growth on the table. It’s no wonder the U.S. economy’s growth is so tepid.

As the 1,000th day nears, here are some facts about America’s budget and why the Senate must take action to be stewards of the people’s money as the Constitution requires:

The last time the Senate passed a budget was on April 29, 2009.
Since that date, the federal government has spent $9.4 trillion, adding $4.1 trillion in debt.
As of January 20, the outstanding public debt stands at $15,240,174,635,409.
Interest payments on the debt are now more than $200 billion per year.
President Obama proposed a FY2012 budget last year, and the Senate voted it down 97–0. (And that budget was no prize—according to the Congressional Budget Office, that proposal never had an annual deficit of less than $748 billion, would double the national debt in 10 years and would see annual interest payments approach $1 trillion per year.)
The Senate rejected House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R–WI) budget by 57–40 in May 2011, with no Democrats voting for it.
In FY2011, Washington spent $3.6 trillion. Compare that to the last time the budget was balanced in 2001, when Washington spent $1.8 trillion ($2.1 trillion when you adjust for inflation).
Entitlement spending will more than double by 2050. That includes spending on Medicare, Medicaid and the Obamacare subsidy program, and Social Security. Total spending on federal health care programs will triple.
By 2050, the national debt is set to hit 344 percent of Gross Domestic Product.
Taxes paid per household have risen dramatically, hitting $18,400 in 2010 (compared with $11,295 in 1965). If the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts expire and more middle-class Americans are required to pay the alternative minimum tax (AMT), taxes will reach unprecedented levels.
Federal spending per household is skyrocketing. Since 1965, spending per household has grown by nearly 162 percent, from $11,431 in 1965 to $29,401 in 2010. From 2010 to 2021, it is projected to rise to $35,773, a 22 percent increase.


Facebook and Twitter engineers launch ‘fairer’ version of Google -

Facebook and Twitter engineers launch ‘fairer’ version of Google - 
The Focus on the User website adds results from Twitter and Facebook (right), which aren't included in Google+ search results (left).

Snubbed Facebook and Twitter engineers are trying to teach Google a lesson in fairness.

Google this month created a new search tool on its site. Search Plus scours the Internet through Google and Google Plus.

Which means it leaves out the world’s most popular social-networking sites: Facebook and Twitter.

No fair, said a group describing themselves as “some engineers at Facebook, Twitter and MySpace and in consultation with several other social networking companies.”

To fight back, they created a “proof of concept” site called Focusontheuser.org .

“How much better would social search be if Google surfaced results from all across the web?” the site says on its home page.

“We created a tool that uses Google’s own relevance measure — the ranking of their organic search results — to determine what social content should appear in the areas where Google+ results are currently hardcoded.”

The site explains: If you search on the word “cooking,” Google decides celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is what you want, but with a link to his inactive Google Plus site, rather than his very active Twitter site.

“Is Google’s relevance algorithm simply misguided?” the Focusontheuser engineers ask.

If you search the name “Jamie Oliver” on Google, his Twitter profile comes up first and his Google Plus profile isn’t even on the first page.

“When Google’s engineers are allowed to focus purely on relevancy, they get it right,” declare the Focusontheuser engineers.


More Americans now die from drug overdoses than in car accidents -

More Americans now die from drug overdoses than in car accidents - 

More Americans now die from drug overdoses than in car accidents, according to a new government report released Tuesday.

In 2008, poisoning deaths became the number one cause of accidental deaths in the United States and the leading cause of injury death in 30 states, according to the report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ninety percent of these poisonings were linked to drugs, with a surge in deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses reported.

"During the past three decades, the number of drug poisoning deaths has increased sixfold, from about 6,000 deaths in 1980 to over 36,500 in 2008," said report author Margaret Warner, an injury epidemiologist at CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, who added that this trend is only expected to continue.

The authors of the report found a 90 percent increase in poisoning deaths since 1999, while deaths from car accidents have dropped 15 percent in the same period.

By 2008, nine out of every 10 poisoning deaths were due to drugs. In that year, some 77 percent of these deaths were unintentional, 13 percent were suicides and 9 percent were of undetermined intent, according to the report.

Over the last 10 years, these increases were seen among both men and women and in all age and race/ethnic groups, Warner said. In 2008, the highest rates were among males and those aged 45 to 54.

In 2008, more than 40 percent of poisoning deaths were due to opioid painkillers. That's way up from 1999 when these drugs were involved in only 25 percent of these deaths, Warner said. "CDC has called this an epidemic," she noted.

In 1999, there were 4,000 deaths related to painkillers, but by 2008 that number had tripled, to almost 15,000 deaths, according to the CDC.

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