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The State Of Surveillance: Too Much Data?

"The state of surveillance" (Cover Story, Aug. 8) concentrated on sensors, but we also need help analyzing all the data that these sensors generate. A simple example: The U.S. has 25 million security cameras and only 295 million people, which means that most of this video is not being carefully watched. Too much video is watched only after the fact. Better analysis might help us catch at least a few perpetrators before they get away.

Wayne Wolf

Princeton University

Princeton, N.J.

With the media and many public figures decrying the profiling of potential terrorists by any method, it is unlikely that the authorities will be able to utilize the new and potentially useful techniques to thwart attacks against our citizenry. It is hoped that the general public will realize that we are vulnerable and the safety that is threatened is ours, allowing the authorities to use all available tools to combat terrorism.

Nelson Marans

Silver Spring, Md.

As a nation, we are increasing our reliance on new technologies in the war on terror. Even the most sophisticated monitoring systems are only as adept as those who are managing them. Too often, it is the human side of security that is overlooked. Already, billions have been spent and lost on technologies aimed at countering today's threats -- only later found to be ineffective or unreliable.

Investments in sophisticated technology must be augmented by the selection of people who can respond to security threats quickly and effectively. Society looks to the security industry for protection, and we have a responsibility to educate the public about the necessity for constant vigilance. At the same time, the security industry faces an opportunity to grow and to elevate the reputation of the profession.

Ira A. Lipman

Founder & Chairman


New York

Your report on the gadgetry for our impending [James] Bondage shows that we still don't really know what to make of the enormous data glut that results. We should recall East Germany, where the Stasi secret police became its largest industry and eventually overdosed on information, taking the country with it. All that's left: warehouses full of files. It is therefore more important for us that the FBI lacks hundreds of translators of Arabic and other languages and already can't cope with its backlog.

John E. Ullmann

Hofstra University

Hempstead, N.Y.

The juxtaposition of "Mr. McDonough, you have the floor" (Finance, Aug. 1) and "Get creative! (Special Report, Aug. 1) reveals the dilemma for many large organizations. The resentment of runaway executive compensation is sapping employees' creative energy, reducing stockholders' respect, and stimulating competition from foreign suppliers. As McDonough complains, outrageous executive compensation (even in companies doing poorly) is a major problem. Leaders such as Jeffrey R. Immelt at General Electric Co. (GE) would do well to put half their compensation into a fund that rewards employees who create valuable ideas that benefit their companies.

As one experienced in running a corporate idea program for many years, I can assure everyone that we haven't begun to achieve what the American workforce is capable of doing with desirable and fair leadership.

Morley G. Melden

Monroe Township, N.J.

George Washington University would have been a fair addition to "Tomorrow's B-school? It might be a D-school" ("Get creative!" Special Report, Aug. 1). The GW full-time MBA program offers a Management of Science, Technology & Innovation concentration (MSTI), as well as elective courses that integrate technology and creativity into our marketing, management, and entrepreneurship programs.

Ryan Fairchild

Arlington, Va.

NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY was slighted in not being recognized for its "D" school, now in its fourth year. The program includes the basics of the Kellogg MBA program combined with professional engineering classes from the McCormick School of Engineering & Applied Science, that were developed specifically for this program.

Walter Herbst

Northwestern University

Evanston, Ill.

"What's so scary about rice?" (Science & Technology, Aug. 1) addressed well the benefits of using plants to grow biotech drugs. Plants yield a huge amount of biomass compared with the ordinary vehicles of bacteria or mammalian cells and are much easier to purify than those vehicles. But the consequences of environmental complaints about cross-contamination seem to be huge hindrances to the particularly advantageous process of plant-based biotech.

Another way to accomplish the same result is to grow the plants indoors, hydroponically, or in plastic-bag bio-reactors. Although there is some additional cost, indoor biotech-modified plant growing protects both the biotech crop and other crops from cross-contamination, obviating environmental complaints.

Howard D. Sterling

New York

It's a bit disingenuous to characterize beer Goliath Anheuser-Busch Cos. (BUD) as the injured party because of Ventria Bioscience's desire to plant genetically modified rice in Missouri. Let's put things in perspective. Anheuser-Busch uses rice to make beer. Ventria uses rice to make the same health-promoting and life-saving proteins that every nursing infant receives from its mother. Ventria's rice will be used to prevent life-threatening infections in millions of infants, the elderly, and the sick around the world.

And what about those birds? Since no one has ever died (or even become ill) from eating genetically modified food, I'm really not very concerned about the possibility of a bird pooping a seed containing mother's milk proteins in my backyard.

Raymond Rodriguez

University of California

Davis, Calif.

Editor's note: The writer is the founder and a former board member of Ventria.

Thank you, BusinessWeek, for placing Glenn Hubbard's "Happy 70th, Social Security" and Steven Rattner's "The rich get (much) richer" back to back (Viewpoint and Outside Shot, Aug. 8). As an Ivy League graduate with an income that places me above the 80% level, my personal experience is that a dynamic, growth-oriented economy requires a stronger government-backed safety net, not a throwback to an era of rugged individualism. My recent job transition entailed six months on unemployment insurance that barely covered my COBRA health insurance premiums and multiple rejections by private insurers to offer alternative coverage for me and my family.

I am all for a dynamic and growth-oriented economy, and I believe in open labor markets and Social Security reform. But personal experience tells me that economic security policy must be built around a concept of the greater common good, which is absent in both Hubbard's arguments as well as most coming from Washington these days.

Bob Hitchner

Ventura, Calif.

On behalf of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, Canada's largest trade and industry association, I am concerned that "A border transformed" (International Business, Aug. 1) creates an impression that security at the U.S.-Mexico border is superior to that of the U.S.-Canada border. The U.S.-Canada border is more secure than ever. The management of the U.S.-Canada border is built on two centuries of collaboration and mutual trust, in contrast to the two centuries of frequently hostile feelings between the U.S. and Mexico that you cite in your article. Most if not all of the security and customs initiatives, technologies, and systems being undertaken at the U.S-Mexico border originated at the northern border in partnership with Canadian industry and government authorities.

Border security and efficiency are dual strategic priorities at the U.S.-Canada border. They must be, because the trade relationship between the U.S. and Canada is the largest in the world. U.S.-Canada trade amounted to $680 billion in 2004, with more than $1.8 billion worth of goods and services crossing the border every day. That's $1 million of business a minute.

Jayson Myers

Senior Vice-President & Chief Economist

Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters


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