The best of the federal blogosphere

No DNA tests at airport checkpoints; Broadband plan and recent failure; A full tank of hydrogen.

No DNA tests at airport checkpoints
TSA Blog
blog.tsa.gov
Feb. 26, 2011

Is the Transportation Security Administration about to start scanning the genetic makeup of airline passengers?

No way, writes TSA’s Blogger Bob. In a recent post refuting an erroneous news report, Bob assures readers that “TSA is not testing and has no plans to use any technology capable of testing DNA.

So why do some people think it does?

“An article was posted to ‘The Daily’ today with the misleading headline ‘Genetic Patdown,’ " Bob writes. “Even more misleading, the first sentence leads off with the mention of airport scanners. So obviously, even though the rest of the article says nothing about airports or TSA, some readers naturally assumed this was a new technology that would be heading to the airports, and the tweets went wild. It didn't help that ‘tsa-scanner’ was included in the URL.”

The Daily news service, which launched in early February, publishes articles directly to the Apple iPad and online.

Broadband plan and recent failure
The Hill’s Congress blog
thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog
Feb. 28, 2011

Craig Settles, a broadband industry analyst, writes that President Barack Obama’s National Broadband Plan is uncomfortably similar to the push for municipal broadband just a few years ago.

The problem, Settles argues, is the insistence on wireless communications. “Official D.C. is doing the same thing hundreds of elected officials did in 2006 — advocating a great set of significant, attainable economic goals, but betting on the weaker technology horse to carry us across this finish line,” he writes.

During the recent push for municipal broadband, the idea was to have towns and cities provide centralized Internet connections, which anyone with a Wi-Fi device could connect to from anywhere within range.

“Politicians nationwide glorified the power of Wi-Fi to produce a host of economic outcomes, from attracting new companies and making local business more profitable to keeping college grads from leaving town," Settles writes. "Soon every city and hamlet had to have a Wi-Fi network. In 2007, communities woke up to the fact that Wi-Fi was inadequate for enabling the kind of computing tasks required to achieve the economic outcomes promoted.”

Settles argues that a broadband policy should put fiber-optic cables ahead of wireless and let local areas determine what approach is best for them.

“D.C. policy people are enamored with wireless,” he writes. “With this fixation, much money and time will be lost. In those communities whose successful networks attract companies with new jobs, propel local businesses into global markets and transform education, wireless usually is just part of the picture. They understand that businesses and other job-producing organizations require fiber in the next three to five years.”

A full tank of hydrogen
FastLane
fastlane.dot.gov
Feb. 24, 2011

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wrote about the day that five fuel cell-powered cars from major manufacturers visited the Transportation Department.

The cars came from General Motors, Honda, Kia, Mercedes and Toyota. "Fuel-cell vehicles are zero-emissions vehicles that run on electricity from hydrogen and oxygen," LaHood writes. "And they represent an exciting new automotive technology that promises to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and lower our greenhouse gas emissions."

He didn't mention the reason for the visit but used the opportunity to tout the technological advancement the cars represent. However, widespread adoption of the technology is hampered by the same obstacle that conventional cars had to overcome: availability of fuel.

DOT is helping address that through special programs, he said. For example, the department is helping the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District in California build a refueling station for a fleet of 12 — so far — fuel cell-powered buses. The station will also allow members of the public to fuel hydrogen-powered cars.

"So when this technology hits the market, we're talking about a zero-emissions car powered by a fuel created with zero emissions," he writes. "That's American innovation at work for all of us."

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