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Published Jun. 29, 2010

I've heard somewhere that there's a bill before Congress that could change the way we use the Internet, and not for the better. Is this true?

H.R. 3101, also known as the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009, was introduced June 26, 2009, and was the subject of subcommittee hearings on June 10. It still has a long way to go before passage.

The bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and has 50 co-sponsors, would amend the Communications Act of 1934. It's primarily an effort to improve access to the Internet for people with disabilities by requiring that all Internet connected products and services be accessible by Americans with all disabilities. That would include requiring closed captions for all videos on the Web, except those generated by users (think YouTube), and descriptive video.

Generally speaking, people in the business of making consumer electronics are not in favor of this bill, arguing that you can't require every new technology to be responsive to every disability and that to do so would create an undue burden on the industry. Backing the bill are advocates for the disabled and key communications and video programming providers.

Why are key communications and video programming providers, such as Verizon and AT&T, in favor? Some think it's because the bill would put fees on such currently free VoIP (Voice over Internet providers) services such as Skype and other competitors.

You can read the summary or full text of the bill at

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Small plane crashes

It seems like every week there's a story about a small plane crash somewhere. How many are there in a year?

According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association's 2009 Joseph T. Nall report, there were 1,254 noncommercial plane accidents in 2008, a decrease of 5 percent from 2007's 1,324, but that was mostly attributed to a decrease in flight activity. There were 236 fatal accidents with 433 fatalities, and the fatal plane crash rate remained steady with about 19 percent of crashes resulting in fatalities.

Almost 71 percent of the fatal crashes were judged to be pilot error, with 7.6 percent blamed on mechanical issues and 21.6 percent unknown.

You can view the complete report at

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Recession not declared over yet

Is the U.S. recession that began in December 2007 officially over?

Signs point to the recession being over, but it's not official until the National Bureau of Economic Research says it is. At its last meeting in April, the NBER said economic indicators are turning up, but it was premature to call the recession over.