Facebook now available in Spanish

Facebook Inc. this week launched a Spanish-language version of its social networking site in an effort to expand its audience and compete with rival MySpace.com, which is already available in 13 languages, the Associated Press reports. Starting next week, users accessing Facebook from a Spanish-speaking country will automatically be routed to the Spanish-language Web site. Facebook completed the translation with help from roughly 1,500 Facebook users, who translated the site's vernacular and applications into Spanish using a tool provided by the company. With plans to add French and German versions by April 2008, company officials note that adding more languages is a critical move because nearly 60 percent of its 64 million active users are based outside the United States (AP/Yahoo! News, 2/7/08).

NASA uses satellite data for public health research

NASA’s National Space Science and Technology Center (NSSTC) and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Public Health are partnering to use satellite imagery and data to identify how environmental factors influence a variety of diseases and conditions, Government Computer News reports. The project culls information from a Global Positioning System satellite receiver that triangulates its position using three to four satellites orbiting the Earth. Researchers then digitize and incorporate the images and data into a geographic information systems database to create colorful digital maps and pictures showing the visible or thermal properties of an area, such as environmental changes, agricultural activities, water temperatures and erosion. Officials note that the combination of data enables researchers to “pinpoint any statistical relationships between these diseases and where these people live, how hot their climate is and so forth.” Officials expect the resulting findings to help health officials determine environmental exposure and recommendations (Hickey, GCN, 2/4/08).

Google News adds local feature

Google Inc. on Thursday launched a new feature allowing Google News users the ability to view local news stories, InformationWeek reports. According to Google software engineers, users can find local news by typing in city name or ZIP code. Noting the feature is not innovative, the engineers say their feature is slightly different than others because they are “able to create a local section for any city, state, or country in the world and include thousands of sources.” They add that they are “not simply looking at the byline or the source,” and instead analyze “every word in every story to understand what location the news is about and where the source is located" (Claburn, InformationWeek, 2/8/08).

Cisco, Harris enhance secure wireless networks

Cisco and Harris RF Communications on Tuesday announced they are partnering to develop and speed installation of the Secure Mobile Architecture Type 1 (SMArT-1), a project that will enable federal agencies improved data sharing across wireless networks, Government Computer News reports. The project taps Type 1 secure wireless networks, which meet federal standards for data confidentiality, user and device authentication, and intrusion detection. Under the partnership, Cisco will provide routers, controllers and other networking equipment, in addition to networking design and engineering services. Harris, meanwhile, will provide its SecNet54, a modular wireless encryption device that offers Type 1 security up to and including top secret, as well as installation and maintenance support (Walsh, GCN, 2/7/08).

Thailand’s education minister plans to award 1 million computers to students

The Thai Education Ministry on Thursday announced plans to purchase 1 million computers to distribute to underserved students, The Nation reports. According to the minister, the project was initially planned under the Thai Rak Thai Party during 2005election campaigns. One official said she believed the Minister was referring to a project initiated by the previous prime minister to purchase low-cost notebook computers designed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for rural students, who do not have the same access to technology as those in urban cities. The Basic Education Commission (BEC) is expected to inform the new minister on Monday how many computers are needed for education, as well as help determine strategies for deciding eligibility for the computer project (The Nation, 2/8/08; The Nation, 2/8/08).

Harvard technology fund supports emerging technologies

Harvard University's Office of Technology Development on Friday announced its second launch of the Technology Development Accelerator Fund, a new initiative designed to propel emerging technologies originating from the university's biomedical and life science research community into the marketplace, the Boston Business Journal reports. Launched last year with $6 million in donations, the Fund is a new initiative that aims drive emerging technologies development within the university's biomedical and life science research community into the marketplace. Specifically, it is designed to bridge the so-called "development gap," an obstacle often encountered by scientists with promising early-stage discoveries. According to the Business Journal, inventions from the first group of Fund-supported research projects have been licensed to industry, demonstrating validation of the fund's core strategy (Boston Business Journal, 2/8/08).

Grants help New Orleans school-based clinics deploy EMR network

Two grants totaling nearly $970,000 will enable New Orleans-area school-based health centers to connect via an electronic medical records (EMR) system, the Associated Press reports. According to the Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI), the EMR system will help reduce medical errors, as providers will have access to updated treatment and medical history information. In addition, LPHI expects the system to facilitate data sharing in the event of a disaster and improve bill collection procedures. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the W.W. Kellogg Foundation have invested $745,000 and $222,952, respectively, to support system installation at 13 health centers that serve more than 14,000 students throughout the region. LPHI notes that other local medical and community sponsors including the City of New Orleans Health Department and the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center are contributing in-kind donations to support the initiative (AP/New Orleans Times Picayune, 2/6/08).

Wisconsin bill would ease privacy rules for health data exchange

Wisconsin lawmakers will soon consider a bill that would change the state's health data privacy rules to facilitate the sharing of medical records among health care organizations statewide, Government Health IT reports. Ultimately easing data sharing, the bill would allow all health information not covered under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act to be shared without a patient's consent. Specifically, the legislation would allow information such as patient names, addresses, names of mental health providers, diagnoses and medications to be shared without consent. However, the founder of the Patient Privacy Rights Foundation calls the new law a "privacy destructive rule," noting its of particular concern for patients with mental illnesses. She added that many states are trying to strengthen privacy protections, as "privacy is not a barrier [to data sharing]" (Robinson, Government Health IT, 2/5/08; Plas, Wisconsin Technology, 1/30/08).

Gates Foundation awards $4.1 million to boost technology in N.Y. libraries

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently awarded a total of $4.1 million to public libraries throughout New York to improve computer service in underserved communities, the Long Island Newsday reports. Granted through the foundation’s "Opportunity Online" program, the funding will enable 421 libraries to purchase more than 2,000 new computers. Under the grant agreement, however, libraries will need to provide matching funds for part of the purchases. According to Newsday, the foundation has been awarding Opportunity Online grants nationwide to help update technology for all U.S. libraries that serve underprivileged residents (Newsday, 2/7/08).

Nigeria to impose duty on imported old computers

Nigerian officials on Wednesday announced plans to charge duties on old computers imported for spare parts because much of the excess material is later dumped and causes toxic waste, Reuters reports. The strong local culture in Nigeria seeks affordable computers and habitually patches older systems up to keep them working for many years. Currently, importers at no cost can ship in old computers, which are gutted for spare parts. The unwanted pieces, however, are simply thrown away, causing waste disposal issues. According to Reuters, developed countries have increasingly turned to regulating the disposal of unwanted electronic appliances, but in Nigeria and other developing countries waste management is haphazard, with roadside trash burnings common throughout Nigerian cities, as well as the growth of massive dumps sites in densely populated areas. Nigerian officials note that "[old computers] will be banned completely later, but it has to be a gradual process to avoid our country turning into a dumping ground for scrap," adding that the tariffs "became necessary because [the computer parts] are found to have toxic waste that causes cancer and other hazards to health" (Reuters South Africa, 2/7/08).

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