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Old 04-21-2005, 01:31 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Santorum's Latest Corporate Welfare Bill

He just introduced a bill that would force the National Weather Service to quit providing forcasts and various other data for free on their websites, etc. His 'logic' is that it makes business too difficult for AccuWeather or The Weather Channel.


Do you want a seven-day weather forecast for your ZIP code? Or hour-by-hour predictions of the temperature, wind speed, humidity and chance of rain? Or weather data beamed to your cellphone?

That information is available for free from the National Weather Service.

But under a bill pending in the U.S. Senate, it might all disappear.

The bill, introduced last week by Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., would prohibit federal meteorologists from competing with companies such as AccuWeather and The Weather Channel, which offer their own forecasts through paid services and free ad-supported Web sites.

Supporters say the bill wouldn't hamper the weather service or the National Hurricane Center from alerting the public to hazards in fact, it exempts forecasts meant to protect "life and property."

But critics say the bill's wording is so vague they can't tell exactly what it would ban.

"I believe I've paid for that data once. ... I don't want to have to pay for it again," said Scott Bradner, a technical consultant at Harvard University.

He says that as he reads the bill, a vast amount of federal weather data would be forced offline.

"The National Weather Service Web site would have to go away," Bradner said. "What would be permitted under this bill is not clear it doesn't say. Even including hurricanes."

Nelson questions intention

The decision of what information to remove would be up to Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez possibly followed, in the event of legal challenges, by a federal judge.

A spokesman for Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said the bill threatens to push the weather service back to a "pre-Internet era" a questionable move in light of the four hurricanes that struck the state last year. Nelson serves on the Senate Commerce Committee, which has been assigned to consider the bill.

"The weather service proved so instrumental and popular and helpful in the wake of the hurricanes. How can you make an argument that we should pull it off the Net now?" said Nelson's spokesman, Dan McLaughlin. "What are you going to do, charge hurricane victims to go online, or give them a pop-up ad?"

But Barry Myers, AccuWeather's executive vice president, said the bill would improve public safety by making the weather service devote its efforts to hurricanes, tsunamis and other dangers, rather than duplicating products already available from the private sector.

"The National Weather Service has not focused on what its core mission should be, which is protecting other people's lives and property," said Myers, whose company is based in State College, Pa. Instead, he said, "It spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year, every day, producing forecasts of 'warm and sunny.'"

Santorum made similar arguments April 14 when introducing his bill. He also said expanded federal services threaten the livelihoods of private weather companies.

"It is not an easy prospect for a business to attract advertisers, subscribers or investors when the government is providing similar products and services for free," Santorum said.

AccuWeather has been an especially vocal critic of the weather service and its parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The company has accused the federal agencies of withholding data on hurricanes and other hazards, and failing to ensure that employees don't feed upcoming forecasts to favored investors in farming and energy markets.

Weather service expands data

The rivalry intensified last year, when NOAA shelved a 1991 policy that had barred the weather agency from offering services that private industry could provide.

Also last year, the weather service began offering much of its raw data on the Internet in an easily digestible format, allowing entrepreneurs and hobbyists to write simple programs to retrieve the information. At the same time, the weather service's own Web pages have become increasingly sophisticated.

Combined, the trends threaten AccuWeather's business of providing detailed weather reports based on an array of government and private data. AccuWeather's 15,000 customers include The Palm Beach Post, which uses the company's hurricane forecast maps on its Web site, PalmBeachPost.com.

NOAA has taken no position on the bill. But Ed Johnson, the weather service's director of strategic planning and policy, said his agency is expanding its online offerings to serve the public.

"If someone claims that our core mission is just warning the public of hazardous conditions, that's really impossible unless we forecast the weather all the time," Johnson said. "You don't just plug in your clock when you want to know what time it is."

Myers argued that nearly all consumers get their weather information for free through commercial providers, including the news media, so there's little reason for the federal agency to duplicate their efforts.

"Do you really need that from the NOAA Web site?" he asked.

But some weather fans, such as Bradner, say they prefer the federal site's ad-free format.

Another supporter of the weather service's efforts, Tallahassee database analyst John Simpson, said the plethora of free data becoming available could eventually fuel a new industry of small and emerging companies that would repackage the information for public consumption. He said a similar explosion occurred in the 1990s, when corporations' federal securities filings became freely available on the Web.

Shutting off the information flow would stifle that innovation and solidify the major weather companies' hold on the market, Simpson said.

Santorum's bill also would require the weather service to provide "simultaneous and equal access" to its information.

That would prevent weather service employees from favoring some news outlets over others, which Santorum and Myers said has happened in some markets. But it also could end the common practice of giving one-on-one interviews to individual reporters who have questions about storms, droughts or other weather patterns.

"What we want is to make sure that whatever information is provided to one source is provided to all," Myers said.

But Johnson said it's importanst to answer reporters' questions so the public receives accurate information especially when lives are at stake.

"We are not interested in turning off our telephones," Johnson said. "I would be concerned that that would actually be dangerous."
Who goes out and collects all of the data that companies like Accuweather use to make their predictions? That's right the NOAA and the NWS.

On a completely unrelated note, Accuweather has donated $3,550 to Santorum. If this Bill makes it through they will get quite a return on that investment. It's pathetic that a Senator can be bought for less than 5 grand.

Last edited by kutulu; 04-21-2005 at 01:38 PM..
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Old 04-21-2005, 02:09 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Location: North of Mexico, South of Canada
And after noticing this on my yahoo news, I wrote a letter not an hour ago to my reps stating my opposition as their constituant to this bill. It will go out with the morning mail.

If you do not know your reps name and address,
Here is the House of Representative search feature by zip code
Here is the Senate representatives listing

Email is rarely effective, though feel free to use that to dash off a quick note. Now.
But also follow it up with a real letter if you have the time.

As a Florida resident who depends on the NOAA website for Hurrican information, as well as historic data which I use for architecture, I am very concerned. (The bill will not affect Hurrican forecasting, but will cut off access to historic data and meterological information that many hobbyists depend on.

We paid for this information. Our taxes [ay for the NOAA, and we foot the bill. Now we are being asked to foot the bill twice by paying to have the data collected, and then paying private companies for access, when they get it in bulk for little money.

To make an analogy, would you pay to buy a car, and then like to pay every time you need to drive it?
We paid for the information, and now we are being told we also need to pay to use it.

Here is the bill
Seen on an employer evaluation:

"The wheel is turning but the hamsters dead"
Is arch13 really a porn diety ? find out after the film at 11.

Last edited by arch13; 04-21-2005 at 02:19 PM..
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Old 04-21-2005, 02:11 PM   #3 (permalink)
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That's a shame. Odds are it won't pass, though, at least at any luck.
I got in a fight one time with a really big guy, and he said, "I'm going to mop the floor with your face." I said, "You'll be sorry." He said, "Oh, yeah? Why?" I said, "Well, you won't be able to get into the corners very well."
Emo Philips
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Old 04-21-2005, 05:11 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Location: inside my own mind
what's funny is that most of the data these companies use is from the National Weather service...(I much prefer the weather.gov forcasts myself)
A damn dirty hippie without the dirty part....
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Old 04-21-2005, 08:04 PM   #5 (permalink)
Location: MI
This is one of the most idiotic proposals I've heard in a long, long time.

We've already paid for this information with our tax dollars. If Santorum has his way, we'll have to pay for it again. So much for being against high taxes.

So is this why Pennsylvanians elected him?
Ceci n'est pas une pipe.

Last edited by abscondo; 04-21-2005 at 08:09 PM.. Reason: addition
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Old 04-21-2005, 09:13 PM   #6 (permalink)
Location: MI
Originally Posted by kutulu
On a completely unrelated note, Accuweather has donated $3,550 to Santorum. If this Bill makes it through they will get quite a return on that investment. It's pathetic that a Senator can be bought for less than 5 grand.
I followed your link and broadened the search somewhat. Unfortunately, I can't figure out how to do a permalink, but...

A Barry Myers (VP at AccuWeather -- maybe Joel's son?) donated $5000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee. He and his wife also made additional donations of at least $2250 to the NRCC and Santorum.

Joel also gave $250 to the Republican Federal Committee of Pennsylvania.

A Peggy Myers in the same city gave Santorum $700.

By my count, that's $11,750 to Santorum and/or the GOP (but excluding Arlen Spector and candidates I don't recognize). So cheer up -- maybe it does take more than $5000 to buy a Senator!
Ceci n'est pas une pipe.
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Old 04-21-2005, 09:18 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Whoa I thought this was a thread about "the sometimes frothy, usually slimy, amalgam of lubricant, stray fecal matter, and ejaculate that leaks out of the receiving partner's anus after a session of anal intercourse." What's all this about a Senator? Is this serious?
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Old 04-22-2005, 06:29 AM   #8 (permalink)
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though you woudl have every reason to think that santorum=santorum, sadly there is also an actual far-right senator from the state in which i live, one whose idiocy had reached a kind of virtuoso level. this absurd proposal is but one example. personally, i prefer the santorum=santorum situation, which would require that the actually existing senator be booted out of office leaving behind only the frothy speckled substance in the mind of the savage love readership, and maybe in that of the "public" more generally.
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