The Scout Report -- Volume 11, Number 14

April 8, 2005

A Publication of the Internet Scout Project
Computer Sciences Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Sponsored by University of Wisconsin - Madison Libraries.

NSDL Scout Reports

Research and Education

General Interest

Network Tools

In The News

NSDL Scout Reports

NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, and Technology

The seventh issue of the fourth volume of the MET Report is available. Its Topic in Depth section offers websites and comments about Forensic Engineering.

Research and Education

The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction [pdf]

Established by Executive Order 13328, this Commission is charged with assessing whether the intelligence community of the US government is sufficiently organized and equipped to identify and warn the US government about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Since its creation, the Commission (which is chaired jointly by Charles S. Robb and Laurence H. Silberman) has conducted a diverse program of research and interviews with persons and parties of interest in order to achieve this primary directive in full. On this site, visitors can peruse a list of FAQs related to the Commission's work, view a list of the commissioners, and peruse a host of related documents, including the Commission's official report to the President released on March 31, 2005. The thirteen chapters of this timely document contain important findings on the value of forging an integrated intelligence community, managing and sharing information, and other relevant subjects. [KMG]

The UN's Role in Nation Building [pdf]

The RAND Corporation publishes hundreds of timely documents for the general public each year, and one of its latest publications authored by James Dobbins (the director of the RAND International Security and Defense Policy Center) is well worth a look. In this 319-page study, the main finding is that the United Nations "provides the most suitable institutional framework for all but the largest and most demanding of nation-building missions". The report also mentions that this finding is largely attributable to the UN's rather low cost structure, high success rate, and high degree of international legitimacy. Over the course of its chapters, the study looks at case studies in the Belgian Congo, Namibia, El Salvador, Cambodia, Sierra Leone, East Timor, and two additional regions. The report also offers some helpful comparisons between UN- and US-led efforts that will be of interest to policy-makers and academics alike. [KMG]

Council of American Overseas Research Centers [pdf]

The Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC) has centers in a number of countries (including Cambodia, Cyprus, Egypt, Turkey, and Yemen) and is dedicated to providing a base for American scholars undertaking significant research in these various host countries. On the Council site, interested parties can learn about its various services and the different fellowship opportunities it are responsible for overseeing, such as the Andrew W. Mellon East-Central European Research Fellows program. Perhaps the most compelling resource on their site is the link to the Digital Library for International Research (DLIR),which was begun in 1999 by the CAORC and the American Institute for Yemeni Studies. Through this site, visitors can look at the combined holdings of these various libraries and peruse a number of related materials, such as various books in a number of African languages and the Foreign Photo-Archive database. [KMG]

The Walt Whitman Archive

A number of online literature archives provide material on a particular literary movement or the work of a singularly accomplished author. Falling into the latter category is the extremely helpful Walt Whitman Archive, which is under the direction of Kenneth M. Price of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Ed Folsom at the University of Iowa. With significant support from a host of organizations and institutions, the Archive has grown over the past few years to include a host of versions of Whitman's Leaves of Grass, his other diverse poetry manuscripts, and an integrated guide to the aforementioned manuscripts. This is far from all the site offers, as visitors can go on to read a detailed biography of Whitman, information about his writing disciples (such as John Burroughs), and a rather comprehensive bibliography of articles, books, chapters of books and poems about Whitman published from 1975 to the present. [KMG]

Bulletin of the World Health Organization [pdf]

The World Health Organization (WHO) is well-regarded for its numerous public health studies that span the globe and its extensive publication series, which includes working papers, reports, factsheets, and its _Bulletin of the World Health Organization_(BLT). From this webpage, visitors can peruse the current issue of the Bulletin, or browse the complete run of the Bulletin all the way back to the first issue, which was published in 1947. Persons looking for the Bulletin in other languages can peruse Volumes 77 through 80 in both Spanish and French. Some of the more compelling recent pieces include "Public health, emergencies, and the humanitarian impulse" and "Human resources for polio eradication". The site is rounded out by an area where visitors can also elect to sign up to receive a monthly email notification of the table of contents from the Bulletin. [KMG]

MIT Media Lab: Software Agents [pdf, Microsoft Word, QuickTime, Macromedia Flash Player, Windows Media Player, RealPlayer]

The Software Agents Group of the MIT Media Laboratory "investigates computer systems to which one can delegate tasks." Software agents are different from conventional software because they are "long-lived, semi-autonomous, proactive, and adaptive." Software Agents Group focuses on creating software that "acts as an assistant to the user rather than a tool, learning from interaction and proactively anticipating the user's needs." The website describes the group's various projects that use "common sense reasoning" to Enable the Semantic Web, to improve video came design, or to Find Cultural Differences in Text. Many of the descriptions include screenshots or video footage demonstrating the group's work, along with related publications. Various conference papers and journal article are also posted in the Publications section of the website. The resources section provides links to websites describing the Open Mind and ConceptNet projects, which form the foundation of the group's work. This site is also reviewed in the April 8, 2005 NSDL MET Report. [VF]

Publishers' Bindings Online 1815-1930: The Art of Books

In another historical era, decorative bookbindings were commonplace and even if owners of such items were not aware of their symbolic importance, they still often treasured such volumes. As part of a unique partnership between the University of Alabama University Libraries and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries, close to 5,000 of these intriguing bookbindings are now available online from this site. It is the project's hope that its work "will strengthen the growing interest in and create broader awareness for this 'common' object called the book." Visitors to the site will want to browse the various bookbindings by subject or perform a more detailed search, if they so desire. The "Research Tools" section of the site also contains some brief biographies of noted binding designers in the 19th and early 20th centuries and this area of the site also promises a glossary in the near future. Rounding out the site is ample documentation regarding the creation and development of the project, along with two reports presented to the funding agency, which in this case was the Institute of Museum and Library Services. [KMG]

Lakota Winter Counts [Macromedia Flash Player]

Different human societies across the millennia have sought to record their histories in a multitude of ways, and the Lakota people of the Northern Plains elected to record their experiences through what are known as winter counts. These winter counts are essentially histories or calendars in which events are recorded by pictures, with one picture for each year. These rather fascinating documents were used in conjunction with extensive oral histories, and as such, most of these events were widely known and recognized by a majority of the Lakota. This particular website from the National Anthropological Archives at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History allows visitors to view these winter counts, learn more about the Lakota, and view interviews with contemporary Lakota people about the winter counts. The site also contains an audio glossary and a number of helpful resources for educators. [KMG]

General Interest

The Great Transatlantic Cable [Macromedia Flash Player]

In the modern era of instantaneous communication, it is perhaps difficult to imagine a world only 130 years ago where sending messages and other items to Europe was a rather time-consuming affair. Transatlantic communications were vastly improved when Cyrus Field, a New York paper manufacturer, completed construction of a 2,000-mile-long cable beneath the Atlantic in 1866. This delightful website is designed to complement the American Experience documentary on the construction of the cable, and will be of great interest to those with a penchant for the history of technology. Visitors can learn about the laborious process involved with the construction of the cable, take part in an online poll, and learn about the science behind the transatlantic cable. Additional materials include a detailed timeline of related events, additional interviews with experts in the field, and a selection of cable-related humor from the period. [KMG]

From Filippo Lippi to Piero della Francesca: Fra Carnevale and the Making of a Renaissance Master

This special Web feature from the Metropolitan Museum centers around two fifteenth century paintings acquired by two US museums (the Metropolitan and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston) from the Barberini Collection in Rome in the 1930s, that have puzzled scholars for more than a century, and have only recently been identified as the work of Giovanni di Bartolomeo Corradini of Urbino, also known as Fra Carnevale. In addition to investigating the mystery of Fra Carnevale, the Web feature also examines the concepts of artistic identity, in contrast with the Renaissance practice of artworks that issue from the studio of a named artist, that are actually the work of many unnamed artists. To do this, the feature is divided into three sections: "Filippo Lippi", 29 works by Lippi and others trained in his workshop; "An Alternative Vision", seven paintings by artists working within the studio system, but, similar to Fra Carnevale's works, containing unusual elements; and "The Mystery of Fra Carnevale", including the two panels, most likely parts of Fra Carnevale's altarpiece for Santa Maria della Bella in Urbino, The Birth of the Virgin and The Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple, done in what has come to be recognized as Fra Carnevale's style-paintings so full of architectural details that the figures seem incidental to the architecture. [DS]

Newseum [pdf]

The freedom of the press to investigate important and timely subjects in an unfettered and responsible fashion is one that is an valuable component of democracy. In an effort to pay tribute to those efforts, the Newseum opened in Arlington, Va., in 1997. The Newseum's primary focus is to celebrate the First Amendment both in its museum and on its well-designed and informative website. Visitors to their homepage will want to begin by looking at the "Today's Front Pages" feature, where they may view the front pages of over 300 US and international newspapers. Moving on, visitors can also view a number of nice online exhibits, such as one that features photographs that have received the Pulitzer Prize and a fine exhibit on D-Day. Finally, interested parties may also browse a calendar of upcoming events of note sponsored by the Newseum. [KMG]


Around the country, a number of academic departments in a host of natural science fields have assembled databases of images that are meant to be utilized by researchers and the general public alike. One such project is the Bioimages database, developed by the Department of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University. Working in cooperation with a number of other participating institutions and agencies, the department has created this site that allows visitors to peruse a number of detailed image databases. The databases cover a wide range of topical and geographical areas, such as southeastern US plants and an area dedicated to providing information on plant features. Parties interested in submitting images for use on the database may also do so if they wish, or more casual visitors may want to download a few desktop images for display on their own computer. [KMG]

Palaeography Tutorial [pdf]

No doubt some of our faithful Scout Report readers have an interest in reading historic documents, and perhaps a few have some family items written in an ancient and formidable hand that they might need some help reading. If so, this nice online tutorial on palaeography (or the practice of reading old handwriting) from the National Archives (in conjunction with the School of Library, Archive and Information Studies at University College London) will be of great interest. Here visitors can learn about where to start in terms of reading and transcribing handwritten documents written in English between 1500 and 1800 and also peruse a quick reference section of historic terms that may be referenced in such documents. Appropriately enough, there are ten documents on which visitors may test their mettle, and as an additional bonus, each document also has a glossary, notes on the palaeography and a full transcript. [KMG]

National Information Standards Organization [pdf]

Founded in 1939, the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) is the premier contact organization responsible for identifying, developing, maintaining, and publishing technical standards "to manage information in our changing and ever-more digital environment". Their standards apply to both traditional and new technologies to the full range of information needs, such as storage, metadata, and preservation, to name but a few. On their site, visitors can read their monthly newsletter, peruse their annual report, and take a look at their various standards, including those that are still being developed. Visitors may also elect to download the current NISO standards if they so desire. The "Standards in Development" section is a nice place to take a look at, as it contains helpful notes and working documents on the development of such standards as technical metadata for digital still images and those for controlled vocabularies and thesauri. [KMG]

The Virginia Quarterly Review [RealPlayer]

Self-described as "a national journal of literature and discussion", The Virginia Quarterly Review has been in existence since 1925, and continues to publish important essays, poems, and other prose pieces on a wide range of topics. Its site is full of materials from the current issue and also a number of Web-only materials, such as an audio selection of Michael Chabon at the Virginia Festival of the Book. Visitors can also peruse more than a decade of back issues of the Quarterly at no charge and they may also be interested in reading a number of press releases from the Quarterly about their various activities and accolades. Of course, visitors who find the Quarterly particularly compelling may also elect to sign up for a subscription on this site or purchase other related items. [KMG]

Network Tools

Global Communications Network 2.9.1

More and more individuals are turning to the Internet to communicate with colleagues, friends, and relatives and there are a number of helpful programs currently available for general use. This edition of the Global Communications Network application allows visitors to engage in video and voice chat and administer their own chat rooms, all within a secure format. This version is compatible with Windows 95 or newer. [KMG]

Mozilla Firefox 1.0.2

Many people enjoy utilizing a variety of Web browsers, and this latest version of Mozilla's Firefox browser will be of interest to those persons and others as well. This release contains a number of interesting features, including the ability to create customized toolbars, integrated Google searching, and a tab-browsing mode. This version of Firefox is compatible with Windows 95 or newer. [KMG]

In The News

Discussion about the Pope's legacy continues

Pope's legacy is a truly global church
Pope for the Ages
Pope's legacy of pride sure to endure
Catholic rebel decries Pope's legacy
Pope John Paul's Legacy and the Church [RealPlayer]
Vatican: the Holy See

This Friday, Pope John Paul II will be laid to rest in the grotto of St. Peter's, close to his predecessors and to the tomb of St. Peter, who was the first pope. As the Vatican and the city of Rome brace for the millions of pilgrims who will be in attendance, many commentators continue to discuss, debate, and argue the various aspects of his time as the leader of the Roman Catholic church. Some have pointed to his substantial work in rallying against communism as a strong point in his papacy, while still others felt that he seemed to be unable to reconcile the modern concerns of many Catholics in Western Europe and the United States. Some commentators had more harsh words for the Pope, including the Swiss theologian Hans Kueng who had called upon the Pope to retire when his health began to decline and also remarked that the Pope's internal policies were "devastating".

The first link leads to a commentary on the legacy of the Pope's work from Richard Gwyn of the Toronto Star. The second link will take visitors to a news story from the Philadelphia Inquirer that discusses the work of the Pope during his time in office. The third link leads to a forceful and emphatic opinion piece written by Margo MacDonald for the Scotsman in regards to the Pope. The fourth link leads to a news story from the New Zealand Independent which talks about the problems that the theologian Hans Kueng had with the agenda of the Pope. The fifth link leads to a discussion about the Pope's legacy from National Public Radio. The final link leads to the homepage of the Vatican, where visitors may learn about the Pope, the Holy See, and their diverse activities and programs. [KMG]

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