The cable TV giant came under fire recently when it slowed a “peer-to-peer” transmission of the King James Bible sent as a test by an Associated Press reporter.
At two special hearings held by the Federal Communications Commission — one at Harvard and another last week at Stanford — the company was excoriated for delaying peer-to-peer traffic.
Peer-to-peer transmissions, which account for more than half of all Web traffic, enable computers to snatch music, data and video files from other computers. To assemble one file, a peer-to-peer service can tap into dozens, or even hundreds, of computers around the world.
Comcast (CMCSA), which has 13 million online customers, has been taking a low profile. Executives Tony Werner, Comcast’s chief technology officer, and Mitch Bowling, senior vice president of online service, agreed to discuss the incident with USA TODAY.
According to Werner, the transmission slowdown occurred automatically when network congestion started to build in the Boston area, affecting other customers. The King James transmission, which was small, didn’t cause the slowdown, he says. Once traffic loads got too high, he says, Comcast’s network automatically took steps to avoid further degradation. The result: Some peer-to-peer traffic, including the AP transmission, got delayed. But it was never blocked, he says. The transmission “showed up. It just took a little longer to get there.”
“The only reason you do something like that is to maintain consistent network performance,” Werner says. At the FCC hearings, Comcast was criticized for throttling back peer-to-peer traffic as a network management technique. “The technique is not unique to Comcast,” says Comcast’s Bowling.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin says Comcast should be specific about its bandwidth limitations. “Consumers have to be informed about what they are buying,” he says. Comcast service contracts say “excessive usage” is banned, but no cutoff point is specified. Bowling says there’s a good reason for that: “There isn’t a specific limit.”
Bowling says Comcast considers incidents case-by-case. Only a handful of people fall into the “excessive user” category, he says. Pressed to say how much bandwidth consumption is too much, Bowling offers this: People who use “the equivalent of two T-1 lines” — big data lines used by large corporations.
“I don’t think anybody could look at that as typical residential usage,” he says. – usa
Archive for April 21st, 2008
Posted by Xeno on April 21, 2008
Posted by Xeno on April 21, 2008
The latest insult piled onto all the injury inflicted by the Vioxx debacle is disclosed in an article published by the Journal of the American Medical Association last week: Much of the research backing up manufacturer Merck’s claims about the drug was ghostwritten by writers in Merck’s employ and then rubber-stamped by medical professionals who had little or not involvement in the studies but were willing to attach their names as authors nonetheless.
Though the information came to light in connection with lawsuits over Vioxx, the practice is not unique to Merck. Ghostwriting medical research is common in the pharmaceutical industry, according to many insiders.
The standard should be clear for any scientist asked to lend name and credentials to an article, says Ruth Faden, director of the Hopkins bioethics institute, in an article published by BaltimoreSun.com.
“If I have not contributed in a significant intellectual way to the science being reported or the review of analysis being reported, then I ought not be an author of that manuscript,” said Faden. That seems to be a monumental understatement. Taking credit for the work of another has an unsavory name in academic circles. It’s called “plagiarism,” and it can earn a student a failing grade — or expulsion.
Journalists who fail to properly attribute sources can lose their jobs and irreparably damage their reputations. Yet, call it “ghostwriting,” and the same shameful and deceitful practice suddenly takes on an aura of respectability — and lines the pockets of the people involved.
If it were merely dishonest, it would be one thing. In the case of medical research, however, the lives of others are at stake.
The issue has taken on graver importance because the US Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to allow the dissemination of articles that appear in peer-reviewed journals to physicians as tools to guide them in deciding whether or not to prescribe a particular drug to a patient for an off-label use.
The bottom line is that virtually everything published about a particular drug could originate with the manufacturer. The new FDA proposal requires that articles published in peer-reviewed journals not be misleading, according to The New York Times.
It strikes me as both appalling and sad that such a requirement should have to be articulated. -dailynews
As long as they kill you slowly enough, it isn’t murder.
Posted by Xeno on April 21, 2008
If you got flu shot and still came down with the flu symptoms like fever, cough and running nose, you should not be alone. A study released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the effectiveness of this year’s vaccine was estimated at only 44 percent, The New York Times reported.
What’s gone wrong with the vaccine then? According to the times, what makes it so hard for a vaccine to effectively prevent the flu is that the virus changes from year to year and experts would have to GUESS what forms of virus will be circulating for the next flu season based on the current year. Based on the guesstimation, experts formulate a vaccine to protect against those targeted strains.
The newspaper goes on to explain usually the experts’ guess work is pretty good and make the vaccine’s efficacy at 70 to 90 percent in healthy adults. But this year they guessed it wrong and made many recipients miserable.
This year’s vaccine was designed to protect against two strains of influenza A and one strain of influenza B. This is probably true for the vaccines made for previous years, according to some source. Based on data collected from central Wisconsin, the vaccine was said to be 58 percent effective against the predominant strain of influenza A, but ineffective against the B strain.
East and Southeast Asia have been blamed as the original sources of flu viruses. The times reported that an international team led by Britain researchers claimed based molecular and genetic analysis that they have figured out how seasonal flu strains evolve and sweep around the world.
According to the theory proposed by the researchers, new flu strains emerge in several countries in East and Southeast Asia and spread through travelers to Europe and North America after as short as six to nine months, and then continue their journey until they reach South America where they die out.
Although the sources of viruses could provide some opportunities for researchers to study the strains of flu viruses so that a potentially effective flu vaccine may be possibly made for the next flu season, the story reported by the times does not explain in sufficient detail why the vaccine is so ineffective.
The official explanation by the CDC may be only part of the story. In an article published in 2004 by the Center for Medical Consumers, which is a not-for-profit organization that does not accept any funding from the drug industry, Maryann Napoli, the staff writer for the Center, explains why flu vaccine is rarely effective.
It is commonly known that flu viruses change from year to year and researchers have to do some guesswork to make a choice as to how to construct the flu vaccine for the next season. The choice is based, according to Napoli, on a combination of guesswork, flu outbreaks in Asia, and the recommendations of the world Health Organization.
But what is not as commonly known is that the vaccine is more likely to be effective against the type that causes fewer than 15 percent of all flu cases. This is the one caused by influenza A or B. And researchers refer to all other forms of flu as influenza-like illness. But both types, influenza or influenza-like produce exactly the same symptoms – headache, fever, muscle aches, cough and runny nose. That probably explains why the official estimate on the vaccine efficacy is always higher than 15 percent.
Vaccine researcher Tom Jefferson, MD, was quoted in Napoli’s article as saying “The flu is not caused by a single ‘bug’-about one-third of all influenza is caused by an unknown agent; about one-third are caused by rhinoviruses, the same viruses that cause the common cold; and the remainder are a mixed bag of other agents including influenza A and B viruses and members of the coronavirus family.”
The difficulty with making an effective flu vaccine is that they all appear to the same illness and one cannot forecast how much of the influenza viruses in the upcoming flu season will be influenza A or B, according to Dr. Jefferson who was cited as saying “yet the public is never told this.”
In an editorial published in the British Medical Journal, Dr. Jefferson said vaccination successes are largely confined to influenza A and B, the type that accounts only for a small percentage of all influenza cases.
Flu vaccine has proved to be a controversial issue. Critics said that the recommendation for the vaccine is not justified based on both the severity of the flu and the efficacy of the vaccine. Official reports project that deaths from the flu can be as many as 36,000 a year. But critics said that the death toll includes both deaths from the flu and pneumonia. The actual number of death for any given year may not exceed 300. – foodconsumer
Posted by Xeno on April 21, 2008
Retired Officers, Still Doing The Pentagon’s Work on TV?
By Howard Kurtz John Garrett, a retired Army colonel and a Fox News military analyst, was in regular touch with the Pentagon as President Bush prepared to announce his Iraq troop surge last year.
US military groomed TV military analysts -NY Times Reuters
Pentagon helps steer military analysts behind the scenes Houston Chronicle