Nancy Scola

Nancy Scola is a writer based in New York. Her work has appeared in Science Progress, Politics Magazine, AlterNet, and the Columbia Journalism Review.

Recent Articles

China Re-Ups on Google.

If I'd been forced to wager, I admit that a week ago I'd have bet China wasn't going to swallow Google's scheme to offer unrestricted search inside China by directing Chinese people to the Hong Kong version of Google. I'd have lost, it seems. Well worth the hypothetical money. We don't know much yet, but do we know from a one-line update slipped onto the Google corporate blog that the Chinese government has approved the Internet Content Provider license that Google needs under Chinese law to operate in the country: We are very pleased that the government has renewed our ICP license and we look forward to continuing to provide web search and local products to our users in China. Google put China on a fence here and, as diplomatically as possible, forced the country to hop to one side or the other. China chose, it seems, to look past the fact that Google's new approach may violate the spirit of China's censorship laws to say that the company is generally operating within acceptable...

The Google and China Showdown.

Google is betwixt and between , waiting at this very moment to see if China wants to get along badly enough that it will accept Google's new approach to Internet filtering. The new set-up has users inside China click a bright blue link (pictured at right) to lead them to the same unrestricted search results available to Google users in Hong Kong. Searching through the main search box pictured serves up filtered results. Will one click make all the difference? It's not likely. Google is rather desperately trying to figure out how the company can square its rejection of Chinese online censorship with the fact that the company is not willing to concede the China market quite yet. But the odds seem exceedingly slim that China is going to go for this plan, anymore than it went for the redirection workaround that Google rolled out just three months ago, which automatically pushed users in mainland China from the filtered Google.cn to the free and open Google.com/hk. "It's clear from...

Gambling the World's Wheat.

In the newest Harper's , Frederick Kaufman fills in backstory (subscription only) on the food-commodities part of the financial-reform debate, making the case that Goldman Sachs contributed to the tragic global wheat shortage of 2005 to 2008 by creating an agricultural commodities index that backfired when the market couldn't get enough of those delicious food futures: The index funds may never have held a single bushel of wheat, but they were hoarding staggering quantities of wheat futures, billions of promises to buy, not one of them to ever be fulfilled. The dreaded market corner had emerged not from a shortage in the wheat supply but from a much rarer economic occurrence, a shock inspired by the ceaseless call of index funds for wheat that did not exist and would never need exist: a demand shock. Here we seem to have something of a perfect storm. The focus of the global food system has shifted from feeding people to maximizing profit, and that runs into Wall Street's increased...

The Supreme Court's Anti-Software Patent Decision.

Sure, this week’s Supreme Court decision [PDF] in Bilski v. Kappos was hardly the lightning bolt of judicial clarity hoped for by those with an interest in patent reform -- in particular, those who hoped for a reform of so-called business-method patents and the software patents that piggyback off them. But reading what happened as an attempt by several justices to pull back the Court’s conservatives from engaging in patent activism seems to make at least as much sense as the celebratory noises being made by patent lawyers to The Wall Street Journal . To start, on the particular patent application at hand, the Court was unanimous: It was a no-go. According to the filings, Bilski and company had sought patent protection over “business methods” aimed at helping people make money by predicting how fluctuations, such changes in the weather, would affect energy prices. Kennedy, joined by the conservatives, wrote the opinion of the Court finding that Bilski’s creation was “unpatentably...

Chicken Little-ing Lieberman’s 'Kill Switch.'

If you track tech politics closely, there’s a good chance you can spot a Declan McCullagh column before you glance at the byline. McCullagh, a reporter and commentator for CNET , has a tendency to hang any tech news of the day on an anti-government framework, rarely stopping at healthy skepticism when there's a chance to spark full-blown hysteria. By his own admission , McCullagh started the ridiculous and harmful “Al Gore invented the Internet” meme in the late '90s. McCullagh’s latest hit tearing up the Web is that the Senate is considering a Sen. Joe Lieberman bill to equip the president with a “kill switch” over the Internet. The problem with a McCullagh framing is that it's intensely polarizing. The natural responses to it are either to become completely terrified or to write pieces completely discounting his concerns. TPMDC’s Megan Carpentier does a nice job fact checking the “kill switch," proving how overblown the McCullagh interpretation of it is. But she does, I think, fall...

Pages