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’


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?


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


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)?