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Fall/Winter 2001 Vol. 1 No. 2



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BRIEF TAKES


Illustration of computer, World Wide Web ŠArtville Resolving Internet Identity Disputes

The stories abound: Owners of a mom and pop store purchase an Internet domain name -- the part of a Web address that follows the three w's -- before a similarly named mega-business can get to it; an enterprising 12-year-old creates a home page with an address named for his favorite rap star; an unhappy car owner registers her disapproval with a derogatory URL.

Such cases and others are being prosecuted under the 1999 Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. The alleged crime is using a trademarked name -- or something very close to a trademark -- for one's Web address. Trademark owners charge that these users are "diluting" their trademarks by causing confusion or even tarnishing their corporate images. Defendants claim that their rights, such as freedom of speech, are being violated.

In response to a request from Congress, a new committee of the National Research Council is looking into the matter. Specifically, it will determine whether new or existing technologies could help prevent such conflicts. It also is considering new, more effective ways for Internet users to locate information on the Web and ascertaining whether the domain name system could be reconfigured to recognize characters from languages other than English.

The committee will consider such suggested remedies as adding more top-level domains -- in addition to the dot-coms, dot-orgs, and dot-nets -- to create more options for Internet addresses; new methods to assign names; and new directories for finding pertinent information on the Web, wholly eliminating the need to type in a specific domain name. A final report is expected in 2002.   -- Jennifer Wenger

(See listing in New Projects and Publications for more information.)


The Battle for Young Recruits

Officer and recruit (photo by Staff Sgt. Ben Bloker, courtesy U.S. Air Force) It's unclear whether the nation's war on terrorism will spur waves of young Americans to enlist in the armed forces.

Over the past several years, most branches of the U.S. armed forces have struggled to meet their recruitment goals. Some observers have questioned whether increased competition from the private sector as well as lukewarm feelings about military service among today's youth and their parents have contributed to the difficulties.

To bolster thinning ranks, many military planners have adopted strategies that include not only aggressive advertising campaigns, but also offers of larger enlistment bonuses or more money for college. Officials in all branches have even turned to cyberspace, where many twentysomethings "hang out," to encourage young Americans to join up.

A new National Research Council project is exploring what implications the makeup of the nation's youth population and trends in military recruitment will have on efforts to meet future defense needs. The goal is to identify ways to ensure an adequate applicant pool. The study committee is examining a broad range of questions about the characteristics of 21st-century youngsters, the changing nature of work, and the effectiveness of various military advertising and incentive programs. A final report is expected in 2002.   -- Vanee Vines

(See listing in New Projects and Publications for more information.)


NIH at a Crossroads

Illustration of doctor using microscope ŠArtville Before World War II, the National Institutes of Health consisted of the health institute itself and the National Cancer Institute. Today it comprises 27 institutes and centers that correspond to different diseases, disciplines, and demographics, and its budget is on pace to double from 1998 levels in less than five years. To be sure, the growth over the past six decades has been paralleled by extraordinary medical advances, but are the increasing number of institutes within NIH making it difficult to manage, especially given the recent influx of new funding?

Given these concerns, Congress recently asked the National Academies to study the issue.

Once a new NIH director is named, a one-year study will begin to determine whether there are general principles by which NIH should be organized and whether the current configuration of the institutes reflects these principles or if restructuring is in order. In preparation for the study, a white paper on the present and historical structure of NIH has been commissioned.   -- Bill Kearney

(See listing in New Projects and Publications for more information.)



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Copyright 2001 by the National Academy of Sciences