No ‘major shift’ for policy on data protection at FTC

No ‘major shift’ for policy on data protection at FTC

In an article that ran in The Hill on May 14 (“FTC explains standard for online protecting privacy”), the reporter mischaracterized my statement at a NetCaucus event on the Federal Trade Commission’s privacy report. The article erroneously stated that the March 2012 report represented a “major shift” in FTC policy as to what information deserves privacy protection. In fact, I stated that the March 2012 report retained the view expressed in the December 2010 preliminary staff report that companies should apply privacy protections to data that is “reasonably linked to a consumer, computer, or device.”

Washington, DC

From Maneesha Mithal, associate director of privacy and identity protection at the Federal Trade Commission


Retiring NASA’s shuttle program was a mistake

David Weaver, a member of NASA’s communication team, wrote in a letter published May 7 that “As the Space Shuttle Discovery and the other orbiter vehicles of NASA’s storied Shuttle fleet are transferred to museums around the country, it should be understood that NASA has entered a new era of exploration” (“Shuttles’ retirement marks the next era of exploration”). This line echoes the same rhetoric that has been used by Administrator Charles Bolden to signal the big steps ahead for America’s space program. With commercial crew low-orbit capabilities and a new deep-space launch system coming down the line, it can be argued, as they do, that the American-manned spaceflight program still has the right stuff. But after seeing the lack of funding that commercial crew is receiving, I think it is time to save the shuttle program and return Atlantis and Endeavor to space. 

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The shuttles were originally tasked to fly 100 missions apiece. They embodied a new way to fly into space; multi-person crews could be tasked with launching large payloads, and crews of up to eight could conduct research and fix unique problems such as the repairs that needed to be made to the Hubble telescope. Forced into early retirement — a poor decision made by former President George W. Bush, and carried out by President Obama — the end of the program has left us with two gaps. 

The first is a gap in U.S. capability to go to low Earth orbit. Unlike during the gap that occurred after the end of the Apollo program, we have an active need to ferry astronauts and supplies to the international space station. To this end we have been hitching a ride to the International Space Station with the Russians, who were kind enough to increase the price per trip after the shuttle program had ended. While the Soyuz is in general reliable, it does not have the same skill set as the shuttle. It is little more than a taxi, when we need an SUV. 

The second gap is in the spreading of wonder and imagination. The shuttle is the embodiment of a potential space age, the symbol of space exploration for my generation. As I grew up I watched every launch on TV I could. I became interested in space, and like so many would take my toy shuttle out flying. And as I grew, I kept that love of space. As I watched the last three shuttle launches I felt a tremendous sense of loss. And when Discovery flew over D.C. I was down at the Lincoln Memorial with so many others marveling at her last sweep around Washington. Discovery should not be in a museum. We can’t lose a generation to promises of future spaceflight — our children need something like the space shuttle to help form their dreams.

America made a mistake at the end of the Apollo program, choosing to focus on lowering NASA’s budget. Congress can still act, over the president’s veto if necessary, to fund the shuttle program once more. It is time to un-retire and refit Atlantis and Endeavor. It is time for us to return to the stars. 

Washington, D.C.

From Daniel Dupuis


Polls about  pre-existing condition rule mislead

The Hill’s May 17 article “Boehner: Keeping any parts of Obama health law ‘unacceptable’ ” describes ObamaCare’s ban on discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions as “politically popular.” A moment’s reflection will show it is not. 

Polls typically ask about only the benefits of that provision — i.e., giving sick people health insurance. It has inherent costs, too. Gauging its popularity requires asking voters about both. 

When pollsters do that, support plummets. A March 2012 Reason-Rupe poll [from Reason magazine] found that when people are told this policy will reduce the quality of care, support drops from 52 percent to 15 percent and opposition explodes from 39 percent to 76 percent. Seventy. Six. Percent.

Most people are ignorant of this because the last poll to tie this policy to lower-quality care was a Gallup survey conducted in 1994.

Washington, D.C.

From Michael F. Cannon, director of Health Policy Studies, the Cato Institute