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Social networking on the Internet was crucial in helping survivors of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami communicate with each other and the rest of the world.

According to Tom Byer, a professional soccer coach in Tokyo who communicated via Skype in an interview with Fox News on Saturday, he was able to watch cable news reports on the Internet. In much of the afflicted area Byer said cell phone to cell phone calls were completely shut down, and SMS messaging was occasionally available. Yet the Internet, e-mail, and Skype were still up.

In the aftermath of the Japan earthquake and tsunami, Google launched a person finder app to aid those affected by the massive, magnitude 8.9 offshore quake. The tool is an easy registry creator to help victims and loved ones communicate during emergencies and also was used when New Zealand’s 6.3 quake struck last month.

A local developer in Tokyo who is a member of the OpenStreetMap Foundation put up a localized Ushahidi crisis platform. Relief agencies immediately turned to Twitter and Facebook in the aftermath.

Twitter provided an opportunity for those in the stricken area to upload photos and videos of the devastation in real-time. On Saturday morning the Twitter stream of links to news, photos, videos and personal messages was itself a tsunami of trending tweets about Japan.

Japan’s major networks streamed the devastation live online.

Facebook pages sprouted immediately following the quake, providing users with even more opportunities to post messages, prayers and photos and support earthquake victims through direct emergency contributions.

Tsunami’s path mapped on video

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a stunning video that modeled the path the tsunami would take, sparked by the 8.9-magnitude earthquake that rocked Japan. The model depicted the expected speed, force and path of the tsumani. As the gigantic wave made its way across the Pacific basin, Hawaii prepared for it, as seen in several citizen videos uploaded to YouTube, where its Citizen Tube channel online site is collecting eyewitness videos from those who’ve experienced Japan’s largest earthquake in more than 100 years and the tsunami that followed.

Twitter travels faster than earthquake!

Software engineer Dave Kellogg blogged about the unimagined immediacy of social networks like Twitter, citing an incident that actually took place during the 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan.

A friend of his related the following: “We were on Twitter that night, and suddenly the Japanese Twittersphere lit up with tweets about the earthquake. So we called our family and got through to them while the earthquake was still in progress. As it got stronger the line got cut, but were nevertheless really happy that we spoke as, after that, we couldn’t get through on the phone lines for at least 12 hours.”

Kellogg wrote, “Think about that. Someone can tweet about an earthquake as it hits, you can get the tweet 5,000 miles away and call your friend while the earthquake’s still happening. In fact, once I really started to think about it, I realized that you can actually call your friend before the earthquake arrives if he is far enough from the epicenter.”

Yet for all of that, the U.S. Geological Survey beat everyone to it!

Killing net-neutrality – a look at the money

Does Congressional rule-making always depend on whose pockets are being lined? And by how much?

Throughout legislative history, it’s been the name of the game, and now the future of our Internet freedom from federal regulation hangs in the balance. It’s an open secret. Buying votes? Naw, not here…

Speaking of big bucks, four Google senior vice presidents will each collect more than $5 million in bonuses in 2011, according to a new filing with the SEC.

It recalls to mind something President Obama once said: “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.”

Does that apply to his friends at Google? Think he’ll scold his cozy White House Google insiders that enough is enough? Does the president get to decide when people have “made enough money?” Maybe there are different wage scales for friends of Obama?

Who gets Google’s preferential treatment?

Guess it pays to be business friends with Google. Positioning in Google’s search results can be a life-or-death issue. Just ask Mahalo.com, a company that laid off 10 percent of its workforce last week thanks to Google’s recent change to its search algorithm.

The stakes are high in Google’s placement game. Sites whose rankings rose to the top found that their traffic and revenue soared – but the adjustment had an equally devastating effect on those that were dropped. Online Publishers Association, a group of content producers comprising many of the Internet’s largest properties (including CNN.com), estimates that the algorithm change shifted $1 billion in annual revenue.

Google controls two-thirds of the U.S. search market, steering significant traffic to websites, many of which rely exclusively on advertising dollars to make money. By adjusting its algorithms, Google can make you or break you. Ask Wisegeek.com, Ezinearticles.com and Yahoo’s Associated Content.

Meanwhile, Google may face anti-trust hearings in the Senate for its “dominance over Internet search” and “allegations raised by e-commerce websites that compete with Google that they are being treated unfairly in search ranking and in their ability to purchase search advertising.”

White House wants new agency for Education IT – just $90 mil

The White House wants to spend even more of your tax dollars to create yet another federal agency – this one a $90 million education-focused federal research agency to develop “innovative technology” for learning and teaching. This is the latest in Obama’s education strategy, according to Tom Kalil, deputy director for policy in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, who wrote about it on the White House blog.

President Obama, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, say the goals of this Advanced Research Projects Agency-Education (ARPA-ED) – “a DARPA for education” – would award grants to innovative development programs.

As one observer noted: “The key statement in this article is the following: ‘develop innovative technology’ – How many pieces of innovative technology (software, hardware, networking systems) has the Department of Education invented that the U.S. population is using today?”

iPad ubiquity!

According to Federal Aviation Agency estimates, about 145,000 pilots were certified to fly for airlines as of 2009, along with roughly 126,000 others classified as commercial pilots. About 212,000 people held active private-pilot licenses. And what do they have in common? Paper navigation charts, typically produced by Jeppesen.

Now Jeppesen is working with Apple to develop iPad navigation software that will replace the bulky paper maps. The impetus for developing the iPad nav software came from pilots who already use the devices outside of work.

The iPad’s touch-screen and illumination display could be an advantage over folded paper in finding information such as an emergency-landing site,” said John Cox, a former U.S. Airways Group Inc. pilot who is now chief executive officer of consultant Safety Operating Systems LLC in Washington. “It’s easier to sort through the charts that you need.”

iPad drives your automobile into the digital future

Is Apple’s iPad re-shaping the auto industry? Not completely, but the tablet computer is making significant inroads.

This year’s Geneva Motor Show exhibited several new vehicles that integrated the iPad into their dashboards. Combining the smart phone, entertainment, auto performance indicators, satellite navigation – you name it – the iPad will take less room while replacing DVD players, MP3 interfaces, control panels and more.

The downside? Increased dependence on computerized features could make it easier for hackers to steal your new ride. According to a published report, with just a modest amount of expertise, computer hackers could gain remote access to your car – just as they do to people’s personal computers – and take over the vehicle’s basic functions, including control of its engine, according to a report by computer scientists from the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Washington.

The ubiquitous iPad has become hotter than the Cabbage Patch doll mania of old. If you’re planning to buy an iPad2, you’ll have to get in a very long line. Apple’s iPad2 went on sale online at 1 a.m. last Friday at store.apple.com. Those putting in the first orders were promised shipping in as little as 24 hours, but as the day wore on and the orders rolled in, shipping was pushed to two to three weeks, according to Apple’s online store.

Bits and bytes

Time capsule

44 B.C. – Ides of March, Julius Caesar assassinated.

1964 – Jack Ruby sentenced to death in Oswald killing.

1978 – Former Italian PM Aldo Moro kidnapped.

1988 – Thousands dead in Iraqi poison gas attack.

2003 – U.S. forces begin bombing Baghdad.

Now playing at the Princess Theater, Urbana, Ill.

Congratulations to WorldNetDaily readers Tom Piper of St. Augustine, Fla., and Lauren Bryan of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., who were among the first to correctly guess actor Michael Douglas in the 1987 movie “Wall Street”.

The Oscar-winning film tells the story of Bud Fox, a young and impatient stockbroker played by Charlie Sheen who is willing to do anything to get to the top, including trading on illegal inside information taken through Gordon Gekko, a ruthless and greedy corporate raider played by Michael Douglas, who takes the youth under his wing. The film was directed by Oliver Stone.

The quote: “Ever wonder why fund managers can’t beat the S&P 500? ‘Cause they’re sheep, and sheep get slaughtered.”

This week’s quote: “Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once.”

Name the movie, the actor and the character. Send your answer to me at the e-mail address below. Good luck!

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