HD Radio: New Chance for More Fed Regs?

January 24, 2006
By Roy Mark
Internet News

WASHINGTON — The music industry has a new digital bogeyman in its closet: high definition radio that lets users download and store music. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) wants Capitol Hill to do something about it.

AM and FM stations are currently rolling out HD radio throughout the United States, promising improved listening quality, multi-casting and the prospect of downloading digital tunes. Another battle in the digital copyright wars has been joined.

“Our concern is not over the rollout of HD radio itself, but rather the advent of new digital radio services and devices that will effectively turn radio into a music library, without paying the fair market price for licensing music that a download store or subscription service must pay,” RIAA Chief Mitch Bainwol told a Senate panel Tuesday.

Bainwol wants Congress to mandate an audio flag similar to the broadcast flag rules issued in 2003 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The technology prevents downloaders from making a copy of a digital copy.

The courts lowered the broadcast flag last year, not because of the technology but because of issues related to the FCC’s authority in the matter. Congress is now considering giving the FCC the specific authority to mandate a broadcast flag and the RIAA wants lawmakers to throw in audio flags while they’re at it.

Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) is circulating draft legislation to reinstate the broadcast flag and to create a federal advisory committee charged with developing an audio flag.

“The recent growth in digital programming has been fueled in part by the availability of secure distribution media, including DVDs, CDs, computer applications like iTunes and cable and satellite television,” Smith said. “These media share one important attribute – technological measures to protect against piracy.”

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), while wholeheartedly supporting the broadcast flag, is opposed to an audio flag.

“As a starting point, we should note that peer-to-peer file sharing and unauthorized distribution of music over the Internet, all present a larger and more immediate threat to copyright holders than does HD radio,” Dan Halyburton, an official for Susquehanna Radio and speaking on behalf of the NAB, told lawmakers.

Halyburton added, “Accordingly, we are simply not a good source for music piracy.”

The NAB says there are currently 624 AM and FM digital radio stations on the air, more than the triple the amount from a year ago. More than 2,000 radio broadcasters are committed to upgrading to digital.

“No proposal should be allowed to derail the HD radio rollout, by making obsolete thousands of receivers already on the market, as well as millions more in the manufacturing pipeline,” Halyburton said.

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) also expressed reservations over an audio flag.

“Instead of merely replicating the broadcast flag, [the] RIAA apparently wants to severely limit consumer use of HD radio and satellite radio services and new products coming to market,” said CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro.

Shapiro said the proposed audio flag would also serve as a curb on fair use rights, testifying that, “They [RIAA] appear to want to stop Americans from recording free over-the-air radio in their private homes for later enjoyment.”

Under Smith’s draft legislation, Shapiro said, the FCC would be in the position to unilaterally mandate anti-copying technology that every digital device must use. That, he said, would give the FCC design authority over consumer electronic products.

The RIAA’s Bainwol said the issue is all about keeping the legal download business perking.

“We have no issue with the convergence of radio and downloads, as long as they are licensed for that purpose,” he said.

However, he noted, the RIAA objects to a radio service using free spectrum to change the very nature of its business to compete “unfairly against download and on-demand subscription services that need to obtain an appropriate license.”

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This Global Warming Stinks

By Elizabeth Svoboda|
02:00 AM Aug, 21, 2006
Wired

In the infamous ‚’Who Shot Mr. Burns?‚’ episode of The Simpsons, Mr. Burns designs a giant sun-blocking disc to ensure the town’s dependence on nuclear power. A Nobel laureate has proposed a similar strategy with a nobler purpose: stopping global warming.
Scientists agree that the planet is getting warmer because excess carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere acts like a pane of glass, trapping heat from solar radiation. Using less electricity and driving less are often recommended by climatologists to reduce carbon emissions.
But Paul Crutzen, a director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany, has a very different idea: He recommends injecting massive amounts of sulfur into the upper atmosphere so less sun will penetrate it.
Stanford ecologist Ken Caldeira, who has investigated similar climate-modification strategies, thinks Crutzen’s clout will drive this seemingly off-the-wall project forward. Efforts to manipulate the environment fall under a category known as geoengineering, which “lived in a shadowy netherworld, just beyond what was considered politically acceptable,” Caldeira said. “Crutzen’s paper is important because it shines a light on geoengineering, bringing it out of that netherworld.”
Crutzen published his proposal in the August issue of Climatic Change. He won the 1995 Nobel prize in chemistry for his work on the ozone layer.
When sulfur particles are released into the Earth’s atmosphere, they reflect solar radiation back into space much as large ice sheets in the Arctic do. Crutzen envisions lofting sulfur into the stratosphere on small balloon crafts, which will use artillery guns to release their smelly payload.
It’s a response, Crutzen writes, to the failure of international political efforts to establish carbon emission limits. “The preferred way to resolve this dilemma is to lower the emissions of greenhouse gases,” he said in the Climatic Change editorial. “However, so far, attempts in that direction have been grossly unsuccessful.”
Crutzen’s idea might sound surreal, but it was inspired by a natural event. When Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted in 1991, it sprayed millions of tons of sulfur into the atmosphere. Much to scientists’ surprise, the sulfur reflected so much sun that the Earth‚Äôs surface cooled by almost one full degree Fahrenheit in the year following the eruption.
Because sulfur can achieve such immediate cooling effects, some scientists think Crutzen’s plan could lower global temperatures even as more carbon dioxide accumulates in the atmosphere.
“It’s a short-term fix to a long-term problem,” said Stephen Schwartz, an atmospheric scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory. “Our entire energy economy is dependent on burning fossil fuel, and that’s not going to stop anytime soon. We need a stopgap solution.”
But Schwartz cautions that sulfur-spraying would not enable the international community to shelve measures like the Kyoto Protocol.
The sulfur solution would not be permanent, since the element lingers in the atmosphere for only a couple of years. Carbon dioxide, on the other hand, stays around for more than a century.
In addition, says John Latham, an atmospheric scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the ecological domino effect of shooting sulfur into the stratosphere is unpredictable.
“Many species of plants, for instance, depend on specific amounts of sunlight to complete their normal growth cycles,” he said. “If sulfur clouds blot this light out, even slightly, the ecosystems these plants belong to could be irrevocably altered.”
Still, Latham believes the consequences of doing nothing could be grave. A few years ago, he proposed his own artificial global-warming fix: Spray droplets of ocean water into the air to encourage formation of clouds that would bounce solar rays back into space.
“Among the major oil-burning countries, there’s very little sign that we’re going to limit our consumption of fossil fuels,” he said. “Because of that, it’s good for our future that someone of Crutzen’s distinction has come into the arena.”
 

Inside the Islamic group accused by MI5 and FBI

Paul Lewis
Saturday August 19, 2006
Guardian

Thousands of young Muslim men are attending meetings in east London every week run by a fundamentalist Islamic movement believed by western intelligence agencies to be used as a fertile recruiting ground by extremists.
Tablighi Jamaat, whose activities are being monitored by the security services, holds the tightly guarded meetings on an industrial estate close to the area where some of the suspects in last week’s terror raids were arrested.

This week it emerged that at least seven of the 23 suspects under arrest on suspicion of involvement in the plot to blow up transatlantic airliners may have participated in Tablighi events.

The organisation – influenced by a branch of Saudi Arabian Islam known as Wahhabism – has already been linked to two of the July 7 suicide bombers who attended a Tablighi mosque at the organisation’s headquarters in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. The jailed shoe bomber Richard Reid is also known to have attended Tablighi meetings.

Until now, the leaders of Tablighi Jamaat – which means “group of preachers” – have refused to open their doors to outsiders, shrouding the organisation in mystery.

Tablighi enthusiasts say that the organisation, founded by a scholar in India in the 1920s, has no involvement with terrorism and simply encourages Muslims to follow the example of the prophet and proselytise the teachings of the Qur’an. As one sympathetic imam put it, they were the “Jehovah’s Witnesses of Islam”.

On Thursday evening, the Guardian witnessed around 3,000 men from as far afield as Great Yarmouth and the Isle of Wight stream through the backstreets of Stratford to the meeting. There, at the gates of a seemingly derelict industrial site, men in fluorescent jackets waved those who are known to the Tablighi Jamaat hierarchy under a security barrier, and into one of three fields that surround a cluster of prefabricated buildings which form a temporary mosque.

As the Guardian entered the complex one person spoke admiringly about the “main man” for the south-east division of Tablighi Jamaat. “We can’t call him a prophet,” he said. “No one can be a prophet. But when you meet him you’ll realise. He’s helped a lot of people in Walthamstow to follow the right path, the path of the prophet. He’ll talk to you openly this evening and everything will make sense.”

Seconds later, the main man stood next to his red van in Islamic dress and a smart blue waistcoat as hundreds of men, many carrying suitcases and sleeping bags, filed past him into a network of six rooms cobbled together with planks of wood and corrugated plastic windows. He later said he was from Walthamstow.

The largest room was reserved for the main speaker, an elder from Preston who spoke in Urdu. His sermon was relayed through a microphone to five other rooms in which interpreters provided simultaneous translation into English, Arabic, Sinhala, Turkish and Somali.

The English-speaking room heaved as a sea of faces, white, black and Asian, spilled into the hallway. Most were teenagers and men in their 20s and 30s dressed in Islamic dress, caps and beards. Some came in suits and ties, others in jeans and hoodies. There were old men too, who weaved slowly through to the front of the room, and a few young boys.

The Walthamstow man took a seat in the middle of the room to interpret proceedings. The murmur of hundreds of whispering voices stopped as he put on his headphones. “We come to submit our will to Allah,” he began. “We have to live the life that Allah has prescribed for us. We have been invited into Allah’s house.”

He continued to translate the preacher’s message. “If a person is drowning, the man who saves him needs to take him out of the water. If he has swallowed too much water, that water must come out. At the moment we are in a worldly ocean and we are all drowning. For us to become successful, we must come out of this world for a short period of time.”

Although not a scholar, the interpreter is deeply respected. Quietly, some in the congregation whisper that he has seen miracles – the sign of a truly committed Tablighi.

After an hour the preacher concluded with a call for followers to join the effort and commit to a trip away. “We must leave our houses, our businesses, our families, for a short period of time, and follow the path of Allah and practise the ways of the prophet, going from mosque to mosque,” said the interpreter. “Then [the behaviour] will become second nature to us. We shall go to India and Pakistan for four months to follow these ways.”

What Tablighi followers call “the effort” – travelling around the country for three days or 10 days, depending on their level of commitment – is key to the organisation. Once they have completed the first stage, they may undertake a 40-day trip, which is likely to entail travel around Europe.

Finally, a Tablighi member will be given the opportunity to take a four-month journey to Pakistan or India. During their “efforts” members are encouraged to emulate the life of the prophet and show others “the path”.

On domestic trips, members are sent to communities where they will have most leverage. In September, for example, students will be sent to universities throughout the country.

Later in the evening, the rooms are transformed into dining halls. A small group of men who know several of the Walthamstow suspects gathered round to share out plastic plates of chickpeas, lamb and naan bread, washed down with cans of peach juice and Coke.

“It will shock you but we all used to be deep into drugs and crime and all that,” said one man, in his 20s, who went on a three-day trip to Woking with one of the suspects arrested in last week’s raids. “Walthamstow used to be a dodgy area. Tablighi changed all that.”

A former body builder showed pictures on his mobile of the “pumped-up gym fanatic” he used to be. After spells in prison, he said, he went on a life-changing four-month trip to Pakistan. “I went to places you wouldn’t believe,” he said. “There are people in Pakistan and India who know less about the prophet than people in east London.”

The Urdu interpreter from Walthamstow acknowledged that Tablighi Jamaat had roused suspicions. “I know three or four people who come here regularly who are informants,” he said. “After September 11 the security services met with our elders at our headquarters and told them that they keep the flight records of every Tablighi member who travels abroad. But we are not worried. They can close us down and it will not matter because the effort will continue. We have no fear.”

He said he was not worried about the Walthamstow suspect he knows best, a young man he recently took on a 40-day trip to Scotland. “Anyone who suffers for Islam will be rewarded,” he said.

Asked about the association between Tablighi Jamaat and terrorist groups, he replied: “Tablighi is like Oxford University. We have intelligent people – doctors, solicitors, businessmen – but one or two will become drug dealers, fraudsters. But you won’t blame Oxford University for that. You see, it does not matter if someone speaks in favour or against this effort. Everything happens with the will of God.”

Another follower added: “Sometimes the youngsters say that if they saw President Bush they would chop his head off, and things like that. But we’re discouraged from talking about politics. If elders say these things it is out of anger. They’re not dangerous, they can’t actually do anything.”

By the early hours, 300 followers had volunteered for a three-day trip. One man who knows six of the suspects arrested last week leaned against the wall, the City of London glowing behind his shoulders, and adjusted his cap. “Do you see now?” he said.

“Tablighi is not the problem. It is the solution. It is another world in here, completely different from the world outside.”

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

Solar energy is hot stuff

Once a distant technology that just sat on roofs, solar power has become a tool we can hold in our hands

Adam Vaughan
Thursday August 17, 2006
The Guardian

If you go down to Hyde Park today, you’re sure of a big surprise. Cruising alongside the usual mix of bladers, nannies and tourists, there’s an exotic new addition: a sleek,virtually silent, people-carrying boat that moves as if by magic. Designed by Christoph Behling, the solar-powered vessel – the Serpentine Solar Shuttle – is the latest evidence that solar is officially hot, among designers at least.
Sharp, the world’s number one solar cell producer, has just turned its hand to glass studded with LED lights and cells. Instead of generating enough electricity to run a home, it creates a psychedelic light show at night, powered entirely by the day’s sun: it’s more likely to feature in a photo shoot for Wallpaper* magazine than a Green Party newsletter. Tory leader David Cameron’s cool halo owes much to the solar panels he’s installing on his Notting Hill roof. And I can’t walk down the street wearing my solar backpack without being stopped by fascinated strangers, an experience Graham Hill of the American eco-blog treehugger.com knows well.

Gadgets like the backpack have certainly played a large part in solar’s image revival. Our appetite for consumer electronics of all sorts has grown hugely over the past few years, with sales totalling a record $135.4bn (£71.4bn) in the US alone last year. With so many gizmos to power, solar suddenly has new uses. When Will Gould, a gadget lover and TV script editor, set off to travel the world for a year, his first purchase was a solar charger for iPods and phones. “I didn’t know when I’d be near a plug socket,” he explains, “and, yes, there’s gadget lust: the Solio I bought has a beautiful flower-like, iPod white design”.

Once a distant technology that sat on roofs and was hard to understand, solar power has become a tool that we can hold in our hands. As John Laumer, a Treehugger contributor, puts it, “seeing is believing”. New gadgets increasingly have solar built-in. Recent outlandish additions include a solar-powered tent, scooter and LED house numbers, while mundane ones like bike lights, torches and radios have been around for years. “Solar bags” that charge anything smaller than a laptop have been particularly popular, and when the hip snow’n’surf brand O’Neill introduced one, it sold out. Even high street store Maplins now sells the Scotty, a relatively cheap (£35) solar charger.

Like other elements of the green revolution – such as furniture and fashion – design has been key. Adam Thacker, from Better Energy Systems,the Solio’s maker, says: “When we first looked at making a renewable-powered charger, it fast became apparent that most stuff was sold by making people feel guilty about their environmental impact. Design is so important. The iPod’s not the best MP3 player out there, but it’s caught people’s imagination because of the way it looks.”

Purchases inspired by design and hands-on experience have gone some way to demolishing ignorance about solar power. Contrary to popular myth, solar cells don’t need direct sunlight to produce electricity, and Britain’s actually quite well located for the sun. Sharp’s research says that if every single building in the UK was roofed with solar panels, we’d generate more than the UK’s present industrial and residential electricity consumption – there’d be no need for gas, nuclear, coal or even wind power.

Clearly, some of us are waking up to the benefits of making our own electricity at home. Solarcentury, a company promoting solar in the UK, has seen sales to its residential installers – the teams that fit solar panels on homes – double between 2005 and 2006. Donnachadh McCarthy, who offers “eco audits” from his solar-powered south London home, thinks the Cameron effect shouldn’t be ignored.

“He’s definitely made solar sexy. Lately, I’ve had several rich, naturally Tory, clients who want solar, and their genuine motivation is to reduce carbon emissions,” he says. “But there are a host of other reasons. One family was concerned about its lighting going off in the case of an energy emergency or oil crisis.”

There’s also a practical, very British reason for our interest in solar: money. With the average household’s electricity bill above £900 (and set to rise again with British Gas’s latest price rises), solar panels start to make sense at £4,000, after you’ve received a government grant available for installation. They can add value, too. When two new homes in Norfolk sold recently, the one with solar PV roof tiles by Solarcentury sold for 8.6% more than its neighbour. Energy efficiency ratings in next year’s home information packs, grants of up to £3,000 and imminent improved planning laws should help further.

Solar may suddenly be cool, but there are reasons for pause. The recent government energy review contained little concrete promotion of solar, and the scale of what’s been achieved can be overstated. As McCarthy points out, “only 100 solar PV installs have happened in London since 1999, so it’s perhaps a bit early to say it’s truly trendy.” Plus the price of fitting solar on your home is unlikely to drop soon, since silicon – the raw material in solar cells – is currently in high demand. Sharp, however, is working to keep prices down by slicing the silicon used in cells even thinner than today’s 180 microns.

Still, the forecast looks bright for solar. Cameron’s celebrity power shouldn’t be underestimated, our growing gadget energy use – expected to double by 2010 – should ensure cheap green alternatives’ success, and ethical living is in fashion. If you’re making fairtrade, organic and green choices in other areas of your life, solar’s the next obvious step. Besides, as the thronged parks and high streets of summer prove, we Brits love anything to do with the sun.

· If you’d like to comment on any aspect of Technology Guardian, send your emails to tech@guardian.co.uk

Restored, an Emperor’s Lair Will Be Forbidden No More

August 2, 2006
Beijing Journal
New York Times

By JIM YARDLEY

BEIJING, Aug. 1 — John Stubbs, an American historic preservationist, had flicked on his flashlight and was slowly ascending a darkened staircase inside the Forbidden City when he stopped at a dusty paneled wall etched with elegant lines of calligraphy.

“I didn’t even see this until yesterday, or two days ago!” exclaimed Mr. Stubbs, almost ecstatic, as he stood in the dank, musty air. The calligraphy was a poem by the 18th-century Qing dynasty emperor Qianlong, who built the room as part of an intended retirement compound, a private city within the Forbidden City.

For a few days last week Mr. Stubbs and colleagues from the World Monuments Fund rummaged around the restricted Qianlong Garden section and admitted that the experience left them a little giddy. The fund, a private, nonprofit New York-based preservation group, has just begun overseeing the renovation of the Qianlong section, a project that should be finished by 2016.

“For us, it is wonderful seeing it this way,” Henry Tzu Ng, executive vice president of the group, said during an informal tour last Wednesday, “before 10 years from now, when it is restored.”

Anyone who has visited Beijing in the last few years knows that the Forbidden City, the ancient home of China’s emperors, is in the midst of a total restoration. Plans call for work to be completed by 2020, in time to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the imperial compound.

The refurbishment is part of Beijing’s selective preservation work in advance of the 2008 Olympics. Heavily visited historic sites like the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven are undergoing multimillion-dollar face-lifts, even as a few ancient residential neighborhoods are being bulldozed for new development. One such neighborhood, Qianmen, is less than a mile from the Forbidden City.

The scope of the work inside the high gray walls of the Forbidden City is displayed in the office of Jin Hongkui, the deputy director of the Palace Museum, as the imperial compound is formally known.

Last Friday he used a red penlight to highlight the different stages of renovation on a large map of the complex, including the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the central structure of the Forbidden City, which is now shrouded in scaffolding.

Mr. Jin said the renovation program, which began in earnest in 2002, was focused on finishing the largest public buildings before the Olympics and would restore the entire complex by the 2020 deadline. He said almost 2,000 construction workers and craftsmen were involved.

“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the whole world is watching,” he said. “We can’t make any mistakes.”

The craftsmen and workers doing the renovation are Chinese, but Mr. Jin said foreign conservationists were providing advice on certain projects. Preservationists with the Italian government are consulting on the work at the Hall of Supreme Harmony.

Mr. Jin said the arrangement with the World Monuments Fund was the first major collaboration involving an American conservation group and the Forbidden City. The partnership began in 2003, when the fund committed $3.3 million to restoring the building known as Qianlong’s Lodge of Retirement.

Last March a broader $15 million agreement, which included $5 million from the Chinese side, was announced to restore all 24 buildings and the elaborate outdoor courtyards of the entire Qianlong Garden.

Last week’s visit allowed conservationists from both sides to discuss the renovation and also gave the Americans a new chance to explore buildings sealed from the public since the last emperor, Puyi, was ordered out of the Forbidden City in 1924.

On a gray Wednesday morning they led a few guests through the private chambers and did not seem bothered by the disrepair. For decades the rooms had been used for storage, and Mr. Stubbs seemed tickled that curators still had the keys.

“It is as if the last emperor left in 1924 and this is what has remained,” Mr. Ng said.

Qianlong, the fifth emperor of the Qing Dynasty, ruled from 1735 until his retirement in 1796, then continuing as a behind-the-throne presence until his death three years later. He was a major patron of the arts who wrote poetry and collected ceramics. During the 1770’s he employed thousands of Chinese and foreign craftsmen to build the complex of buildings and gardens for his retirement.

The Qianlong Garden is only 1.7 acres, or roughly 1 percent of the acreage of the Forbidden City, but Mr. Stubbs said the complex had been built with some of the finest examples of Chinese art and craftsmanship, as well as European influences.

In one building, Mr. Stubbs pointed out a large ‘‘moongate,’’ a wall with a circular opening decorated with bamboo and jade to illustrate an ancient Chinese motif about a virtuous official in a time of corruption. In another room he lifted a sheet of protective covering to find a stack of 16 wooden screens with inlaid jade.

“We knew it was fine,” he said of the Qianlong Garden, “but we didn’t know how brilliantly fine it was.”

The group is bringing over American conservation specialists in textiles, wood and lacquer to share the latest preservation techniques. Nancy Berliner, a curator of Chinese art with the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass., came last week to offer advice on how to interpret and present the rooms for public display.

Chinese craftsmen are being trained in different skills, including how to make conservation-quality paper as backing for the massive silk murals, which are being restored as part of the renovation.

Mr. Ng jokingly said he had already decided which building would be used as the host site for the opening reception in 2016: the Fu Wang Ge, or Hall of Wishes Fulfilled.

He broke away briefly from the Wednesday tour to lead a guest up a warren of narrow staircases to a third-floor room. It was empty except for a large writing table placed in front of a dust-covered throne.

He said the room must have been a personal sanctuary for Qianlong, and he stepped onto the balcony to look over the yellow rooftops of the Forbidden City and its high gray wall. “This is one of the few spots where he could look above the wall and see the outside world,” Mr. Ng said.

He said he had discovered the room and the balcony only a day earlier. “We finally went up and up and up,” he said of his initial visit. “And we realized we had to show this to somebody.”