Monthly Archives: April 2010

World Bank opens its data

This remark­able new web-resource from the World Bank is a big deal.

The [Wordl Bank] Open Data Ini­tia­tive marks a change in the way the Bank dis­sem­i­nates data. Pre­vi­ously, it relied on a net­work of pri­vate dis­trib­u­tors to get the infor­ma­tion to 1,000 sites and 25 mil­lion reg­is­tered users world­wide.

‘Now we’re chang­ing course and we’re going to attempt a much dif­fer­ent dis­tri­b­u­tion process that relies much more on hav­ing peo­ple come to us rather than our going out to peo­ple and see­ing what kind of use they make of the data…” Extract from News & Broad­cast — World Bank Frees Up Devel­op­ment Data

Trade researchers every­where should cheer!

Cardiovascular risks factors ‘unknown’

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For all the hyper­bole about the impact of obe­sity and dia­betes rates, the Aus­tralian Insti­tute of Health and Wel­fare (an agency of the Aus­tralian Depart­ment of Health) notes in a recent report that we don’t know how risk fac­tors are con­tribut­ing (or not) to the con­tin­u­ing decline in rates of heart and vas­cu­lar disease.

For the Aus­tralian pop­u­la­tion as a whole, there have been:
  • favourable trends in smok­ing rates and blood pres­sure levels
  • lit­tle evi­dence of national change in blood cho­les­terol levels
  • unfavourable trends in phys­i­cal inac­tiv­ity, obe­sity, and dia­betes prevalence.
It is not pos­si­ble to say how these trends have com­bined to affect the over­all risk of CVD for Aus­tralians.” Extract from Car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease mor­tal­ity: trends at dif­fer­ent ages (AIHW)

Do you feel safer now?

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We have no Bill or even Char­ter of rights. But Google is work­ing to keep our infor­ma­tion free. Maybe.

Google has decided to out requests from gov­ern­ments, includ­ing the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment, to take down or mod­ify information.

…[W]e reg­u­larly receive requests from gov­ern­ment agen­cies around the world to remove con­tent from our ser­vices, or pro­vide infor­ma­tion about users of our ser­vices and prod­ucts. The map shows the num­ber of requests that we received between July 1, 2009 and Decem­ber 31, 2009″ Extract from Gov­ern­ment requests directed to Google and YouTube

The Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment made 17 requests last year to take down infor­ma­tion from Google, includ­ing 1 blog­ger and 17 YouTube videos. But Brazil (almost 300 requests), Ger­many (188), India (142) and the U.S.A (123) were way ahead of us.

Google admits to com­ply­ing with just over half of the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment requests.

What the ash cloud meant for Kenya

$US12 mil­lion in lost fruit, veg­eta­bles and flow­ers exports to Europe as of 20 Tues­day 20 April.

It is bad. We have lost Sh228 mil­lion ($3 mil­lion) a night, so that is a total of about Sh912 mil­lion ($12 mil­lion) as of last night,’ Stephen Mbithi, the head of the Fresh Pro­duc­ers Exporters Asso­ci­a­tion of Kenya (FPEAK) told Reuters by phone. Mbithi said the coun­try flies out 1,000 tones of fruit and veg­eta­bles every night at this time of the year, and only about 100 tonnes left on Mon­day morn­ing, des­tined for Spain.” Extract from The [Kenyan] Standard

There were other losses, too, that cas­cade from the loss of export sales: espe­cially job losses. There’s not much of a mar­ket in Kenya buys the flow­ers and fruit that are not shipped.

Tidying up your music files

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OK, so you’ve taken my advice and used XLD to rip your CDs with Auto­ma­teXLD tak­ing care of press­ing those but­tons while you get on with other stuff [Update:Turns out that the Auto­ma­teXLD script is not needed—just use the ‘Start rip­ping auto­mat­i­cally’ set­ting in the Rip tab of the preferences ].

But XLD allows you to select only one out­put direc­tory (click the thumb­nail to see the XLD pref­er­ences set­tings). Now you’ve got a direc­tory (per­haps ~/Music) full of files from the XLD out­put: a bunch of .FLAC or .m4a or .mp3’s from dif­fer­ent CDs. ACK! How do you sort them out? Organ­ise them by col­lec­tion? For exam­ple, sort them into fold­ers by the name of the CD?

Here’s how… a com­mand line script that will do your house­work for you. [Update: But there’s an eas­ier way: see the tip from Jet in the comments!]

Auto rip multiple audio CDs in OS X

So you want to rip your library of CDs to your com­puter. ITunes will auto­mate this for you—loading and eject­ing CDs as it fills up its library.

But what if you want a more accu­rate rip using the Accu­rate Rip data­base? What if you pre­fer not to store your music only in iTunes; for exam­ple because you pre­fer another player or you pre­fer to use the file-system rather than a pro­pri­etary library to store your music? Or, per­haps, you want to encode to FLAC or some other non-proprietary or loss­less format?

Counterfeiting data is phoney

Ottawa Uni­ver­sity Pro­fes­sor of Law, Michael Geist, points to a new U.S. Gov­ern­ment Account­ing Office report that con­cludes the U.S. government—and they might add, other gov­ern­ments nego­ti­at­ing the poi­so­nous ACTA “anti-counterfeiting” treaty —have been invent­ing their esti­mates of losses from global counterfeiting.

Three com­monly cited esti­mates of U.S. indus­try losses due to coun­ter­feit­ing have been sourced to U.S. agen­cies, but can­not be sub­stan­ti­ated or traced back to an under­ly­ing data source or method­ol­ogy. First, a num­ber of indus­try, media, and gov­ern­ment pub­li­ca­tions have cited an FBI esti­mate that U.S. busi­nesses lose $200-$250 bil­lion to coun­ter­feit­ing on an annual basis. This esti­mate was con­tained in a 2002 FBI press release, but FBI offi­cials told us that it has no record of source data or method­ol­ogy for gen­er­at­ing the esti­mate and that it can­not be cor­rob­o­rated.

Sec­ond, a 2002 CBP press release con­tained an esti­mate that U.S. busi­nesses and indus­tries lose $200 bil­lion a year in rev­enue and 750,000 jobs due to coun­ter­feits of mer­chan­dise. How­ever, a CBP offi­cial stated that these fig­ures are of uncer­tain ori­gin, have been dis­cred­ited, and are no longer used by CBP. A March 2009 CBP inter­nal memo was cir­cu­lated to inform staff not to use the fig­ures. How­ever, another entity within DHS con­tin­ues to use them.

Third, the Motor and Equip­ment Man­u­fac­tur­ers Asso­ci­a­tion reported an esti­mate that the U.S. auto­mo­tive parts indus­try has lost $3 bil­lion in sales due to coun­ter­feit goods and attrib­uted the fig­ure to the Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion (FTC). The OECD has also ref­er­enced this esti­mate in its report on coun­ter­feit­ing and piracy, cit­ing the asso­ci­a­tion report that is sourced to the FTC. How­ever, when we con­tacted FTC offi­cials to sub­stan­ti­ate the esti­mate, they were unable to locate any record or source of this esti­mate within its reports or archives, and offi­cials could not recall the agency ever devel­op­ing or using this esti­mate. These esti­mates attrib­uted to FBI, CBP, and FTC con­tinue to be ref­er­enced by var­i­ous indus­try and gov­ern­ment sources as evi­dence of the sig­nif­i­cance of the coun­ter­feit­ing and piracy prob­lem to the U.S. econ­omy.” Extract from U.S. Gov­ern­ment Study: Coun­ter­feit­ing and Piracy Data Unre­li­able (empha­sis added)

I argued in my sub­mis­sion to the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment, oppos­ing their inten­tion to joint the nego­ti­a­tion, that the OECD esti­mate of global losses—mysteriously the same num­ber as that invented by U.S. agencies—was derived by implau­si­ble means and should not be accepted at face value.

Ques­tion: could we say that this GAO report sig­nals an “ACTA-gate” (a data manip­u­la­tion at least as sus­pi­cious as that con­trived by the “Cli­mate­gate” scientists)?