The best of the federal blogosphere

Climate Change: The Big Picture
State Department
Aug. 13, 2010

Virginia Shore, a curator for the Art in Embassies Program at the State Department, highlights the work of Subhankar Banerjee, a photographer and scientist from Kolkata (Calcutta) in West Bengal, India.

Banerjee, whose work will be on display at the U.S. consulate in Mumbai, is known for landscape photographs that are intended to reflect the effects of climate change around the world in places such as Siberia and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Banerjee “successfully enables the viewer to transcend the breathtaking landscape to perceive the pressing ecological concerns endangering the land and the species on view,” Shore writes. “He enlightens his audience through beauty.”

A Ground-Level View of Afghanistan
Defense Department
Aug. 11, 2010

Capt. Tristan Hinderliter, an Air Force public affairs officer, reports from the field on the work being done by the often-overlooked provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan.

PRTs work in areas far removed from the country' central government, providing security, working with local leaders and overseeing reconstruction projects. All told, there are 27 teams in Afghanistan, nearly half of which are led by U.S. forces.

“I suspect many people, even in the military, may not be familiar with the concept of PRTs and what they do,” writes Hinderliter, who is deployed with a team in the Laghman province, approximately 60 miles from Kabul.

TSA: Why Liquids Are a Threat
Transportation Security Administration
Aug. 13, 2010

John Pistole, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, takes to the “Talk to TSA” blog to explain why the agency still limits the amount of liquids that passengers can pack in their carry-on luggage.

The fundamental problem is this: Viewed on an X-ray monitor, liquid explosives do not look any different from water or other innocuous drinks. Fortunately, TSA researchers determined that limiting the size and number of liquid containers makes it practically impossible for a would-be terrorist to create an explosion. Thus, the 3-1-1 formulation: 3.4 ounce containers inside a clear, one-quart zip-top bag and one bag per passenger.

Many people grumble about 3-1-1, but the policy is sound, Pistole writes. “We understand that 3-1-1 is an inconvenience,” he writes. “But it’s also an inconvenience to terrorists and significantly drops their chances of getting a liquid or explosive on an airplane.”

But better days are ahead, Pistole adds: X-ray systems will soon be upgraded with software to enable the screening of liquids.

How Much Bandwidth Do You Need?
Federal Communications Commission
Aug. 11, 2010

Many home PC users probably do not require as much bandwidth as they think, writes blogger Ellen Satterwhite.

People signing up for broadband networking are often lured by the prospect of streaming videos and conducting videoconferences, but that’s not typically how it works out. Instead, according to a study released in 2009, e-mail and Web browsing account for almost 80 percent of the typical person’s data use.

Satterwhite uses her mother as an example. She likes to check e-mail and keeps several browsers open while also streaming a TV show. But even then, she probably only needs a download speed of 1 to 4 megabits/sec, according to the TestMyISP.com Web site.

Yet studies by the Federal Communications Commission and others have found that many users are paying for download speeds of 7 megabits/sec or higher. On the other hand, Satterwhite writes, studies have found that most broadband services deliver only half the speed they advertise.

 

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