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News Items

News Items October, November, December 2001

IT in Education Spending for 2001-02 (12/24/01)

Supercomputer To Forecast Weather (12/23/01)

Telesurgery (12/23/01)

Moving Toward a Huge Increase in Internet Addresses (12/6/01)

Are You "Future Ready?" (12/6/01) 

IBM Says Two Transistor Gates Are Better Than One (12/3/01)

Intel Announces Another Technological Breakthrough (11/26/01)

Army Intranet: World's Largest (11/20/01)

Digital Archaeology (11/8/01)

George Lucas Foundation Report on Project-Based Learning (11/7/01)

Computational Neurobiology (11/7/01)

IBM Introduces Self-Healing Business Software Systems (10/31/01)

Social Aspects of Distance Learning

Average Lifespan of Corporate PCs (10/16/01)

Voice Input to Replace Use of Stylus on Handhelds (10/13/01)

AMD Introduces New Chip (10/9/01)

Intel Wraps Up Another Chip Breakthrough (10/9/01)

Public Computing On A Terabyte Scale (10/5/01)

IT, Airport Security, and Privacy (10/24/01)

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IT in Education Spending for 2001-02

The following is quoted from Accessed 12/24/01: http://hellerreports.com/dte/lead3.html.

QED's new School Market Trends: District Technology Forecast 2001-2002 report, based on its Technology Purchasing Forecast series, projects total technology spending among U.S. public school districts at an estimated $7.0 billion for the 2000-2001 school year and projects expenditures of $7.05 billion (plus or minus 12%) in the subsequent (2001-2002) school year.

Over the last decade, the school technology market has shown steady increases. At first glance, QED's projections show district technology spending to be relatively flat for the 2001-2002 school year. However, the hard figures don't take into consideration the innovative new ways districts are finding to fund their technology purchases such as new extended-payment contracts with vendors and one-time grants from various government agencies to improve technology infrastructure and student-to-computer ratios. "The school technology market is more robust -- and becoming more predictable -- than other technology sectors; it is a market that technology companies should not ignore," said Andy Lacy, General Manager, QED.

Comment: The data suggest that the K-12 education system is spending approximately two-percent of its budget on Information and Communicatoins Technology. A significant fraction of this funding is coming from the US Federal Government eRate, and additional funding is coming from various states. This level of funding is woefully inadequate! For more about Moursund's thoughts on this topic see http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~moursund/

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Supercomputer To Forecast Weather

IBM will build the world's fastest supercomputer for weather prediction. The European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) will be able to make four-day weather forecasts as accurate as three-day forecasts, according to European experts. IBM said the computer, dubbed Blue Storm, will be 1,700 times as fast as Deep Blue and will be capable of processing 7 trillion calculations per second when it debuts next year. By 2004, that peak rate will have surged to 20 trillion. ECMWF needs such formidable computing power in order to handle data gathered from 21 million grid points, as well as satellite imagery with higher resolution. ECMWF director David Burridge expects forecasting improvements to be gradual; the aim is to lengthen the forecast period by one day every decade. University of Oklahoma's Kelvin Droegemeier said efforts to use computers to predict the weather have been ongoing since the dawn of the Manhattan Project during the 1940s. (USA Today, 21 December 2001) (Edupage, December 21, 2001)

Comment: Weather forecasting is good example of a discipline or professional field that has been significantly changed by Information and Communications Technology. The discipline and ICT are interwoven. For many years, the various weather bureaus throughout the world have made extensive use of the fastest computers currently available. Improvements in data gathering, computer modeling, underlying weather forecasting theory, and computer capabilities have contributed to improved forecasts.

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In a discussion of "the telesurgery revolution" in The Futurist magazine, surgeon Jacques Marescau, a professor at the European Institute of Telesurgery, offers the following description of the success of the remotely performed surgical procedure as the beginning of a "third revolution" in surgery within the last decade: "The first was the arrival of minimally invasive surgery, enabling procedures to be performed with guidance by a camera, meaning that the abdomen and thorax do not have to be opened. The second was the introduction of computer-assisted surgery, where sophisticated software algorithms enhance the safety of the surgeon's movements during a procedure, rendering them more accurate, while introducing the concept of distance between the surgeon and the patient. It was thus a natural extrapolation to imagine that this distance--currently several meters in the operating room--could potentially be up to several thousand kilometers." A high-speed fiber optic connection between New York and France makes it possible to achieve an average time delay of only 150 milliseconds. "I felt as comfortable operating on my patient as if I had been in the room," says Marescaux. (The Futurist Jan/Feb 2002) (NewsScan Daily, 20 December 2001)

Comment: This brief article discusses three major changes in surgery that have begun during the past decade, and that are due to progress in Information and Communications Technology. These are examples of ICT becoming a significant component of the field of medicine. Each area of human intellectual endeavor is being significantly changed by ICT. As educators, we should be implementing changes in curriculum content, instructional processes, assessment, and our own professional work to appropriately reflect the continuing rapid pace of change that ICT is bringing to all of the areas that we teach. Unfortunately our rate of progress in these endeavors is lagging behind the pace of change of ICT.

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Moving Toward a Huge Increase in Internet Addresses

Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) is being integrated into new routing equipment and polished by groups such as the Internet Engineering Task Force. The current standard, IPv4, only allows for 4.3 billion individual Internet addresses, which is fast becoming a problem as developing countries come online and the number of connected devices grows, since each Internet-connected device requires its own address. IPv6, in development since 1994, will allow many trillions of computing devices to be connected to the Internet. The standard is being ironed out so that it works seamlessly with the current IPv4 standard, and it will contain greater security features, said Juniper Networks' Kevin Dillon. Dillion said that IPv6 will allow "every car, every toaster, and every TV" in the world as well as every person to have an IP address, making them all accessible on the Internet. (Investor's Business Daily, 4 December 2001) (Edupage, December 5, 2001)

Comment: Think about the last sentence in the brief news item. We are moving rapidly toward connectivity of people and machines throughout the world. Increasingly, "ordinary people" will tell their machines what to do (that is, program their machines) and will be able to query their machines as to the current status on what they are doing.

This suggests that our educational system should be giving more though to helping students learn to "program" machines.

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Are You "Future Ready?"

When Darwin magazine asked John Sculley, the Pepsi Cola marketing genius who replaced Steve Jobs (and was himself eventually replaced) as CEO of Apple Computer, "What's the most important lesson that people can learn from technology?" he answered: "They can learn to be future-ready. That means they have to adapt to probably the biggest power shift since the introduction by Henry Ford 100 years ago. They have to adapt to a shift from producers in control of important business decisions to a new world where customers are in control of everything and customers are defining what brands they want. And the customers will be extremely demanding. They will want the best quality, the best service, the cheapest prices customized exactly the way they want it and they will want it right away. The question is, how does a company make money when customers have so much control over so many things?" (Darwin 15 Nov 2001) http://www.darwinmag.com/read/thoughts/ (NewsScan Daily, 5 December 2001)

Comment: The brief news item is aimed at business people. We (educators) are in the business of helping students learn. Education is a very large business. It is quite interesting and challenging to think about the educational system meaning of John Scully's statement. Are you "future ready?"

While educators have a strong focus on students, they do not tend to have a focus on the full range of customers in education, and the needs/desires of these customers. For example, we now have a relatively strong federal law in the area of special education. The "special education" group of customers was not satisfied with how our educational system was treating them. They chose a legal route to improving the situation.

The improved communication and availability to information made possible by the Internet and the Web is gradually empowering students, parents, and other educationally-oriented stakeholder groups. Distance Learning vis the Internet is adding a new dimension to the educational system. Our federal government is continuing to put significant funds into supporting the Charter School movement.

In essence, what is happening is that there is growing competition for our traditional, public school system of education. This system will gradually lose customers if it does not appropriately respond to the growing competition.

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IBM Says Two Transistor Gates Are Better Than One

IBM has made another chip technology breakthrough, announcing the development of a transistor with two gates instead of one -- an advance that will block the flow of electrons more securely, preventing the leakage that can occur as transistors get ever smaller. VP Bijan Davari says the double-gate approach significantly lowers a transistor's energy usage, thus reducing the heat given off by the processor (which can melt the transistor) and solving another problem that has threatened the continuance of Moore's Law, which postulates that semiconductors will continue to double in performance every 18 months. This latest development probably won't be introduced until 2007, says Davari, because a recently announced innovation called strained silicon is providing better-than-expected results, postponing the need to introduce another technology. (Wall Street Journal 3 Dec 2001) http://interactive.wsj.com/articles/SB1007337759524046600.htm (NewsScan Daily, 3 December 2001)

Comment: One might ask why there has been so much emphasis (in these Brief News Items) on giving examples of technological progress during the past few months. If further progress in computer speed ceased, it would be many many years before the software began to catch up to the software.

However, in some sense the increased speed, storage capacity, and connectivity of computers is giving us the "easy" part of progress in ICT. If this progress continues, it tends to make it easier to bring technology into everyday life and everyday education. For example, we are just now getting the compute power to have voice input to a handheld machine. We do not yet have the compute power (now, the knowledge) to do good translation of voice input from one language to another. We do not yet have the compute power needed to study the protein folding that goes on as the body develops proteins. There are many problems that scientists want to study that require far more compute power than is currently avail;able. Thus, progress in computer technology is still very important.

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Intel Announces Another Technological Breakthrough

Intel has developed a new structure and material for making transistors, enabling the chipmaker to pack more and faster circuits onto silicon chips, while reducing heat and power consumption. The new technology, dubbed "the terahertz transistor," will enable Intel to develop chips with capabilities such as real-time voice and face recognition. The company says the terahertz transistors will be as small as 15 nanometers across, compared with the 70 nanometers currently possible. Some elements of the new technology will begin appearing in Intel chips as early as 2005. (Wall Street Journal 26 Nov 2001) http://interactive.wsj.com/articles/
SB100672410132137880.htm (sub req'd) (NewsScan Daily, 26 November 2001)

Comment: As noted in several of the Brief News Items, various companies are continuing to make significant progress that will lead to more powerful microcomputers. Currently, "experts" seem to be predicting that Moore's law will continue to be a good prediction of the future until sometime in the 2010 to 2015 time range. The, one of two things will happen. The silicone technology (and similar technology) will no longer be able to produce the continued rate of improvement in transistor technology, and no replacement will have been developed. Or, replacement technology will have been developed that will lead to equal or even faster improvements in transistor technology and capabilities of Information and Communications Technology.

Note that a change from 70 nanometers to 15 nanometers is a change by a factor of 70/15 = 4.67. Assuming that this ratio holds for both length and width, it portends an improvement by a factor of more than 20 in the number of transistors that fit into a given sized chip.

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Army Intranet: World's Largest

The U.S. Army has unveiled its Army Knowledge Online Portal allowing all active and retired personnel to access hundreds of Army internal sites, servers, and resources. With a storage capacity three times the size of the Library of Congress', the network will use six servers and three document management servers to provide access for the estimated 1 million to 3 million users who are expected to sign up. Information will be personalized and targeted, based on a person's rank, experience, location, and duties. Users can use everything from instant messaging to retrieving e-mails to finding relevant military information. To compensate for different types of Internet connections, the network will be integrated with software that detects the type of connection and chooses an appropriate version of a site for downloading. (Wired News, 15 November 2001) (Edupage, November 19, 2001)

Comment: This brief article provides a good example of individualization of education/information services. A good sense of direction for our educational system would be to provide a similar level of individualization for all students.

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Digital Archaeology

The field of archaeology will receive a big boost from 3D computer modeling techniques. Thanks to a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation, researchers at Columbia University are building digital tools that will enable archaeologists to examine the details of sites without having to dig or damage structures. The new 3D modeling techniques will also allow archaeologists to take virtual tours of sites. The digital tools include a mobile robot equipped with a laser scanner for taking high-detail shots aboveground, and a radar sensor for taking shots deep underground. A 3D model of sites can be produced once the data is scanned into a computer. Initial tests already have been completed, but there are plans to test the digital tools at the Amheida site in the Dakhla Oasis, in the western desert of Egypt, and to put the computerized data of the site online. (InformationWeek, 29 October 2001) (Edupage, November 7, 2001)

Comment: In every area of research, IT has become a standardly used tool. Computer models and computer simulation are now part of each scholarly discipline--part of the way of knowing and doing or using each discipline. Our K-12 education and teacher education system is not doing well in keeping up with this major change.

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George Lucas Foundation Report on Project-Based Learning

The George Lucas Educational Foundation is an excellent source of information about IT in education. The homepage is at Accessed 11/7/01: http://glef.org/. November 6, 2001 report from the Foundation focuses on Project-Based Learning. It contains a number of good examples of PBL at various grade levels and in various subject areas.

Comment: IT-assisted PBL is a relatively new and a quite exciting addition to our educational system. For more information about this topic see:

Moursund, D.G. Workshop on IT-Assisted Project-Based [Online]. Accessed 11/7/01: http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~moursund/PBL/.

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Computational Neurobiology

Synopsis of Program: The most exciting and difficult challenge facing neuroscientists is to understand the functions of complex neurobiological systems. Computational neuroscience provides a theoretical foundation and set of technological approaches that may enhance our understanding of nervous system function by providing analytical and modeling tools that describe, traverse and integrate different levels of organization, spanning vast temporal and spatial scales. Computational approaches are needed in the study of neuroscience as the requirement for comprehensive analysis and interpretation of complex data sets becomes increasingly important. Collaborations among computer scientists, cognitive scientists, engineers, theoreticians and neurobiologists are imperative to advance our understanding of the nervous system.

Participating Directorates of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Institutes of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (see cover list) plan to support interdisciplinary research in computational neuroscience. Both agencies recognize the need for research that focuses on integrating computational models and methods with neuroscience. This solicitation is designed to encourage new and existing collaborations at this interface.

The above is a National Science Foundation RFP [Online]. Accessed 11/7/01: http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2002/

Comment: In all fields of science, "computational" is now one of the ways of knowing and working in the field. This represents a major change from "theoretical" and "experimental" being the two major approaches to science disciplines. And, of course, it represents a major challenge to our educational system. Students learning science (at all grade levels) need to understand that computer modeling and simulation is one of the really important tools of a scientist.

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IBM Introduces Self-Healing Business Software Systems

Adapting the same kind of "brute force" computing strategy of its chess-playing Deep Blue supercomputer, IBM's e-business Management Services is introducing "self-healing" business software that will allow machines to detect and work around failing parts and work overloads without requiring the intervention of onsite technicians. Irving Wladawsky-Berger, the company's vice president for technology and strategy, says: "This is really the essence of making systems behave in an intelligent manner... God knows if this means they are intelligent. But what we really like about this, and we learned a lot about this in Deep Blue, is the brute force techniques of having a lot of information and a lot of computer power is the most effective way of making systems behave in what we humans would call intelligence." (Reuters/San Jose Mercury News 31 Oct 2001) http://www.siliconvalley.com/docs/
news/svfront/076589.htm (NewsScan Daily, 31 October 2001)

Comment: Almost all serious computer users are frustrated by the occasional and/or frequent crashes of their machines. (We certainly would not fly in airplanes or drive in cars that malfunctioned so frequently.) Hardware and software developers recognize the problem and are making some progress in addressing it. This brief article indicates progress is occurring. Apple's OS X for the Macintosh represents progress. The field has a long way to go!

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Social Aspects of Distance Learning

Typically, online college education lacks the social interaction of traditional colleges, such as football games and concerts. And that is problematic, said John Seely Brown, co-author of "The Social Life of Information." Since online universities focus mainly on educational issues, Brown argued, they do not provide the social context that makes learning meaningful. Students need to converse, argue, have discussion groups, and so on, he said. Internet courses at colleges, businesses, and other places are slowly becoming more socially interactive. Many institutions have substituted a number of social elements in their online classes. They include e-mail, instant messaging, chat rooms, and threaded discussion boards, which provide more intimacy among students, said John Flores of the U.S. Distance Learning Association. He added that tools such as streaming media, videoconferencing, and other multimedia technologies will help make e-learning more like campus learning. (CIO, 15 October 2001) (Edupage, October 22, 2001)

Comment: John Seely Brown has had a long and distinguished career that has touched on a variety of important topics in the field of computers in education as well as other aspects of computer and information science. For 10 years, ending in the year 2000, he was the director of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). In this brief article he reminds us that education is a social endeavor. Our current educational system has had many years in which to adjust to the social needs of students. Distance Learning has a long way to go. However, steady improvements in telecommunications are contributing to significant progress in this endeavor.

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Average Lifespan of Corporate PCs

The following is quoted from page 84 of the October 15, 2001 issue of Business Week.

"…the average lifespan of a corporate PC is expected to rise to four years by 2004, from 3.3 years in 1999, according to researcher Gartner, Inc."

Comment: The quote is from the cover story article titled "Intel." The article notes that growth of sales of microcomputers has slowed. One reason is that an increasing number of people are seeing that the gain in speed and other features obtained by replacing a computer that is only three years or so old may not be worth the money. There are some types of microcomputer use that can take full advantage of state of the art microcomputers. A great many computer users, however, are well served by lesser machines.

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Voice Input to Replace Use of Stylus on Handhelds

Technologists at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center and other speech recognition labs are pioneering new software that makes the handheld computer a voice-computing platform. Such computers are able to accept voice commands and reply to questions. Currently, IBM has succeeded in equipping Palm and Compaq PDAs and other handhelds with microphones, speakers, and extra processing power so that they can be operated without a stylus. This approach capitalizes on recent improvements in battery life and processing power. The strategy differs from that of Microsoft, which favors wireless connections between handhelds and central processors that translate voice data. Meanwhile, speech software company Voice Signal Technologies has succeeded in compacting its voice recognition software to about one megabyte of memory, letting handhelds process e-mail dictation. (New York Times, 11 October 2001) (Edupage, October 12, 2001)

Comment: It is fun to watch the progress of voice input technology. And, in recent years the progress has been impressive. However, voice input has some inherent limitatoins. Imagine lecturing to a class in which all students are using voice input to take notes!

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AMD Introduces New Chip

Advanced Micro Devices is introducing a new line of microprocessors called the Athlon XP, each of which is packed with at least half a million transistors, and which requires only 80% of the power needed for previous generations of Athlon. AMD holds about 20% of the PC chip market (compared to Intel's 80%), and has set its prices using overall performance rather than clock speed. Athlon XP performance will be determined with verification of Andersen, the professional services firm. The AMD position is using clock speed as a performance measure is like buying a car based on how fast its pistons fire, rather than on how fast the car accelerates. (AP/Washington Post 9 Oct 2001) (NewsScan Daily, 9 October 2001)

Comment: It is interesting to compare this brief news item with Intel Wraps Up Another Chip Breakthrough. There is a limited amount of competition in the microcomputer CPU field. AMD's comment about performance is quite important. The issue is, can my microcomputer do what I want it to do? This is quite different than "what is the clock speed of my microcomputer?"

Research progress is continuing on making smaller transistors. A nice summary of part of the state-of-the-art is given at http://www.bell-labs.com/

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Intel Wraps Up Another Chip Breakthrough (10/9/01)

Intel has developed a new "bumpless" chip packaging technology that it says will enable it to build microprocessors with more than a billion transistors, compared with the 42 million now available on its current high-end Pentium 4 chip. The bumpless technology eliminates the solder "bumps" that connect the tiny wires to a silicon chip. "The problem with the use of bumps is that as chips become ever more complex, there is a risk that they will touch each other and thus will short-circuit the device," says an Intel researcher. The technology could also be used to combine several microprocessors in an extremely thin format, creating new opportunities for different types of computer products. Intel says the bumpless packaging will not be launched in commercial products for at least three to four years. (Financial Times 8 Oct 2001) (NewsScan Daily, 8 October 2001)

Comment: This "breakthrough" represents a gain by a factor of about 24 in the number of transistors in a CPU chip. In terms of the Moore's Law prediction of component density in a CPU chip, this represents more than five years of predicted change. It suggests that microprocessors are continuing on a path of very rapid increase in capability. See the Brief News Items for July, August, September 2001 to find other examples of continued rapid progress in IT hardware.

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Public Computing On A Terabyte Scale (10/5/01)

The world's second-most powerful computer, the Terascale Computing System (TCS), was launched this week. Capable of 6 trillion floating point operations per second, TCS will be used to conduct public scientific research that former President Clinton said would "accelerate the pace of discovery in science and engineering--allowing us to better predict tornadoes, speed up the discovery of life-saving drugs, and design more fuel-efficient engines." The National Science Foundation, which funded the system's creation and maintenance, acts as an underwriter. Over the next six months, TCS will be involved in numerous projects, including a global simulation of the magnetosphere, cosmological structures studies, and cancer drug testing. TCS is housed in the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center. The center's scientific director, Mike Levine, expects testing to continue for a few more months before the system is completely operational. (Wired News, 4 October 2001) (Edupage, October 5, 2001)

Comment: This computer is perhaps 4,000 times as fast as top of the line microcomputers. Thus, it can do in one second an amount of computation that would take an hour on a modern microcomputer. Notice the range of problems that are being addressed. A very large number of researchers are working at the state of the art in in various aspects of Computational approaches to some important research questions. In any academic, "Computational" is now one of the ways to represent and attempt to solve challenging research questions. For the most part, this aspect of computer use is not yet being taught in our K-12 schools or in teacher education programs.

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IT, Airport Security, and Privacy

As an aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorists attacks in New York and Washington DC, security at airports is being tightened. The following two brief news items discuss potential roles of IT in this endeavor. They can be used to facilitate (heated) discussion in social studies classes.


A government committee appointed to review airport security procedures will recommend to Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta the employment of face-recognition systems that create a digital map of a person's face and translate it into mathematical formulas claimed to be as uniquely distinguishing as a fingerprint. Privacy advocates like David Sobel regard this as a "potentially invasive technology" whose use will eventually expand to other purposes and endanger the civil liberties of ordinary people. The president of FaceIt Systems, one of the best-known manufacturers of face-recognition systems, says he shares privacy concerns and asserts that the answer is to have rules governing whose photos can be included in a database of suspects or criminals for comparison with mere passers-by. (Washington Post 24 Sep 2001) (NewsScan Daily, 24 September 2001)


Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison says that America needs to create a national identification card system, and is offering to donate Oracle's database software to make such a system possible: "We need a national ID card with our photograph and thumbprint digitized and embedded in the ID card. We need a database behind that, so when you're walking into an airport and you say that you are Larry Ellison, you take that card and put it in a reader and you put your thumb down and that system confirms that this is Larry Ellison." Asked about privacy concerns, he responded: "Well, this privacy you're concerned about is largely an illusion. All you have to give up is your illusions, not any of your privacy. Right now, you can go onto the Internet and get a credit report about your neighbor and find out where your neighbor works, how much they earn and if they had a late mortgage payment and tons of other information.'' Ellison argues that shoppers now have to disclose more information to make a purchase at a shopping mail than they do to get on an airplane, and poses the following question: "Let me ask you. There are two different airlines. Airline A says before you board that airplane you prove you are who you say you are. Airline B, no problem. Anyone who wants the price of a ticket, they can go on that airline. Which airplane do you get on?" (San Jose Mercury News 23 Sep 2001) (NewsScan Daily, 24 September 2001)

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