Sunday, December 30, 2001

Ingenuity's Blueprints, Into History's Dustbin
Tonight, at least 30 large recycling bins are sitting in a driveway near the patent office's public search room, crammed with documents ready for destruction.

A few random swoops into the bins produce aged prints of patent documents dated from the 1880's and 90's, with spidery intricate sketches of inventions.
Four of the reproductions have the name T. A. Edison at the top of the page.

That's Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor of the light bulb and the holder of more than 1,000 United States patents. One of the sketches retrieved from the dust bin of bureaucracy is of Mr. Edison's "dynamo electric machine or motor," patented March 15, 1892.

Saturday, December 29, 2001

Missile Defense: The Untold Story
The concept at the heart of nuclear strategy is deterrence, which means that our ability to obliterate the enemy prevents him from doing something rash. It is generally accepted that our nuclear strength deterred the Soviet Union from raining nuclear warheads on America. But preventing Armageddon was not the main purpose of our nuclear forces. The foremost purpose was to stop the Soviet Union from sending its superior non-nuclear armies into Western Europe. By deliberately leaving open the possibility that we would go nuclear if Soviet tanks crossed the Fulda Gap into West Germany, we deterred the Soviets from beginning a conventional war in Europe. Would we in fact have risked decimating the planet to save Europe? Maybe not, but the Soviets could never be sure.

The schemers in the current debate fear that any nation with a few nuclear weapons can do to us what we did to the Soviets — deter us from projecting our vastly superior conventional forces into the world. This could mean Iraq or North Korea or Iran, but it most importantly means China. The real logic of missile defense, to these advocates, is not to defend but to protect our freedom to attack.
43,000 Students With Drug Convictions Face Denial of Aid
"Far more serious crimes do not carry the automatic denial of student aid," a senior vice president of the council, Terry Hartle, said.

Friday, December 28, 2001

OJR Reporter's Toolbox: Effects of Sanctions on Iraq
Trustworthy studies that may trigger the next war
OJR Points to Click: Terrorist Attacks Against the U.S. -- A Reporter's Resource
A good starting point
This Is Not a Test
The nub of the problem today is that India is behaving as if it and Pakistan were still two-bit countries. Talk to Indian officials and journalists, and the same refrain arises: Americans are destroying terrorists in Afghanistan and Israelis are swatting militants in the West Bank, so why can't we whack Pakistan for the attack on our Parliament building?

Such comments underscore how completely India misunderstands its position today. There is a double standard in international affairs, and India had better recognize it quickly. It is this: Major powers periodically invade minor countries that irritate them, but they do not lightly mess with other nuclear states.

For a variety of reasons, most of them foolish and having to do with national prestige, India created a nuclear arms race in South Asia. Having pulled both itself and Pakistan into the nuclear club, India has to calm down and engage Pakistan with the same terrified delicacy with which the United States, Russia and China treat each other.
Critics' Attack on Tribunals Turns to Law Among Nations

…some critics say the president's order includes so many provisions violating the Geneva Conventions that it would be difficult for the regulations to meet the conventions' requirements. Michael J. Kelly, an international-law specialist at Creighton University School of Law, in Omaha, said a line-by-line comparison showed many such instances. For example, he said, the president's assuming the authority to make the final decision on the disposition of each case is in direct conflict with the third Geneva Convention's provision that no prisoner be tried by a court that fails to offer "the essential guarantees of independence and impartiality."

Further, the convention guarantees prisoners a right of appeal, while the president's order seems to bar it. And the convention guarantees a defense counsel of the prisoner's choice, where the president's order, while authorizing defense lawyers, does not say whether the prisoner can choose his own.

Some of the critics, including Jordan J. Paust of the University of Houston Law Center, who has taught at the Army's military law school, said the president appeared to have concluded that it was assaults on civilian targets like the World Trade Center that made the attackers unlawful combatants.

The trouble with that analysis, Mr. Paust said, is that it give terrorists the ability to claim that under international law, attacks on military targets like the Pentagon and the destroyer Cole are lawful acts of combat.

Monday, December 24, 2001

Christmas Dinner for 1,000
Americans have been waging war on the poor for a long time. The late- 90's boom shielded this shameful practice for awhile, but now, with unemployment rising and welfare time limits kicking in, the signs of distress are becoming more and more visible.
Betrayed by the White House
Last month, Congress overwhelmingly approved a provision, added to a spending bill, that would have prevented federal agencies from opposing civil lawsuits by former prisoners of war against Japanese individuals or corporations. The White House succeeded in having the provision struck in a conference committee; the Bush administration feared it might interfere with gathering international support for the war on terrorism. A week later, on the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Bush and his father paid glowing tribute to the memory of World War II veterans. The president compared the Sept. 11 tragedy to Japan's surprise attack on Dec. 7, 1941, while his father announced that "duty, honor, country" still prevail.

This behavior reveals a stunning double standard. The United States government aggressively supported claims of European victims of wartime forced labor. The end result was a $5.2 billion fund to settle claims. But for American victims in the Pacific Theater the United States has taken the side of Japanese companies — including Mitsubishi, Mitsui and Nippon Steel — against the roughly 5,000 Americans still alive of the 36,000 servicemen used as slave labor during World War II.
Threat of National ID
All of us are willing to give up some of our personal privacy in return for greater safety. That's why we gladly suffer the pat-downs and "wanding" at airports, and show a local photo ID before boarding. Such precautions contribute to our peace of mind.

However, the fear of terror attack is being exploited by law enforcement sweeping for suspects as well as by commercial marketers seeking prospects. It has emboldened the zealots of intrusion to press for the holy grail of snoopery — a mandatory national ID.

Police unconcerned with the sanctity of an individual's home have already developed heat sensors to let them look inside people's houses. The federal "Carnivore" surveillance system feeds on your meatiest e- mail. Think you can encrypt your way to privacy? The Justice Department is proud of its new "Magic Lantern": all attempts by computer owners to encode their messages can now be overwhelmed by an electronic bug the F.B.I. can plant on your keyboard to read every stroke.

But in the dreams of Big Brother and his cousin, Big Marketing, nothing can compare to forcing every person in the United States — under penalty of law — to carry what the totalitarians used to call "papers."

The plastic card would not merely show a photograph, signature and address, as driver's licenses do. That's only the beginning. In time, and with exquisite refinements, the card would contain not only a fingerprint, description of DNA and the details of your eye's iris, but a host of other information about you.

Saturday, December 22, 2001

Sweep of Foreign Men Half-Finished as Deadline Passes
But Louis Massery, president of the Middle Eastern Lawyers Association in Boston,
criticized the project as an effort to make up for "the failure of the F.B.I. to do
investigative work following the attack on the World Trade Center in 1993."

"The F.B.I. did a great job investigating the Mafia, by using good investigative
techniques," Mr. Massery said. "They didn't interview everyone with Italian surnames."

Friday, December 21, 2001

Anthrax Report
A Compilation of Evidence and Comments on the Source of the Mailed Anthrax
Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, Federation of American Scientists
revised December 10, 2001

All the available evidence indicates that the source of the mailed anthrax, or the
information and materials to make it, is a US government program
Anthrax Report
The Art of Knowing the Enemy
At home, law-enforcement officials refer to Mohamed Atta, suspected as the ringleader of the Sept. 11 hijackers, as a criminal mastermind rather than as a military lieutenant dutifully following orders. The men he led are called suicide attackers, as if they were puppets afflicted with some sort of self-destructive psychosis rather than troops employing what is an extreme but by no means unusual military tactic: sacrificing their own handful of lives to achieve an overall objective deemed vital to their cause.

This basic error in profiling — treating terrorists as criminals rather than as soldiers — is the source from which other errors have sprung and continue to flow. What sane man, our officials have reasoned, abandons a loving family to engage in a suicidal crime? So the attackers must be insane. Yet would those same American officials and analysts make similar pronouncements about our own special forces troops who have died in high-risk operations? The willingness to sacrifice one's own life is not, in the context of military psychology, a foolproof gauge of mental imbalance. It can just as often — perhaps far more often — be evidence of a deep commitment.

Our lack of understanding of these men has even colored our interpretation of the bin Laden videotape. Even among anti-bin Laden Muslim commentators, there has been little if any suggestion that his occasional chuckling on the tape is intended as mockery of the Qaeda members who died in the attacks, as American officials characterized it. Rather, he is seen as expressing awe at the extent of their discipline and the damage they inflicted — just as Americans might quietly and admiringly chuckle at the amazing bravery and effectiveness of their own dead soldiers.

The mistaken ideas that Mr. bin Laden is scoffing at his followers and that the average Islamic terrorist is an unbalanced, suicidal misfit are more than just useless: this sort of profiling actively hampers the kind of genuine understanding that will help American citizens engage in constructive discrimination between those few Muslims who may be dangerous and the far greater number who have been placed under the pall of suspicion simply by virtue of their names, their nationalities and their religion.
Léopold Senghor Dies at 95; Senegal's Poet of Négritude
Senghor's `New York'

New York! At first your
beauty confused me, and your great
longlegged golden girls.

I was so timid at first under your blue
metallic eyes, your frosty smile

So timid. And the disquiet in the
depth of your skyscraper streets
Lifting up owl eyes in the sun's eclipse.

Your sulfurous light and the livid
shafts (their heads dumbfounding the

Skyscrapers defying cyclones on
their muscles of steel and their
weathered stone skins.

But a fortnight on the bald sidewalks
of Manhattan

— At the end of the third week, the
fever takes you with the pounce of a

A fortnight with no well or pasture,
all the birds of the air

Fall suddenly dead below the high
ashes of the terraces.
Hamas Orders Halt to Suicide Bombings
Arafat's crackdown on militants -- his security forces have arrested dozens of suspects and shut down some Hamas offices and mortar factories -- has been accompanied by bloody confrontations. Since Thursday, six Palestinians have been killed and at least 94 hurt in gun battles between militants and Palestinian police.
In Sacramento, a Publisher's Questions Draw the Wrath of the Crowd
"It was scary," said Bob Buckley, a computer sciences professor and president of the faculty senate. "For the first time in my life, I can see how something like the Japanese internment camps could happen in our country."

"We've always known that if you took the Bill of Rights to the street and asked most people to sign it, you would be unable to get a majority of Americans to do so," said Ramona Ripston, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union chapter in Los Angeles.

Thursday, December 20, 2001

Bombing That Killed 5 Children a Mistake, Says Israel
The Israeli military acknowledged Thursday that its troops made a ``professional mistake'' when they planted a bomb that killed five Palestinian school children in the Gaza Strip.

Several officers will be reprimanded, the military said in a statement.

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

New Wave of the Homeless Floods Cities' Shelters
A survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors released last week found that requests for emergency shelter in 27 cities had increased an average of 13 percent over last year. The report said the increases were 26 percent in Trenton; 25 percent in Kansas City, Mo.; 22 percent in Chicago; 20 percent in Denver; and 20 percent in New Orleans.

An unusual confluence of factors seems to be responsible for the surge. Housing prices, which soared in the expansion of the 1990's, have not gone down, even though the economy has tumbled. A stream of layoffs has newly unemployed people taking low-wage jobs that might have otherwise gone to the poor. Benefits for welfare recipients are expiring under government-imposed deadlines. And charitable donations to programs that help the disadvantaged are down considerably, officials around the country said, because of the economy and the outpouring of donations for people affected by Sept. 11.

Monday, December 17, 2001

Arafat Trying to Prove He Is Still 'Relevant'
"Arafat is not yet finished, as Sharon claims," said the Israeli foreign minister, Shimon Peres, who has argued to the prime minister, in vain, that talking to Mr. Arafat is in Israel's best interest.

Perhaps one of Mr. Arafat's greater strengths now is that even Palestinian critics, people who regard him as dictatorial and incompetent, are rallying to his side. They resent what they see as an Israeli attempt to dictate who should lead them, despite the insistence of Mr. Sharon's lieutenants that they have no such intention.

"As long as he is relevant to his people, he has to be relevant to the outside world," said Ghassan Khatib, a Palestinian political analyst.

Hanan Ashrawi, a well-known Palestinian spokeswoman, said in an interview conducted before the latest Israeli action that Israel had a "patronizing" habit of trying to decide "which Palestinian leader is kosher and which Palestinian leader isn't."
School Defies the Odds and Offers a Lesson
"How many effective schools do we have to see in this country before we conclude that it's not the kids?" asked Kati Haycock, executive director of Education Trust. She quoted Ron Edmonds, an education researcher, who said, "If your answer is more than one, then I submit that you have reasons of your own for preferring to believe that pupil performance derives from family background instead of school response to family background."
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists January/February 2002

The question immediately arose on September 11 and has persisted: As horrific as the terrorist attacks were, what might have happened if the terrorists who seized jumbo jets and used them as weapons against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had aimed them at nuclear power plants instead? And if more attacks are likely, as government officials have said, are nuclear facilities on the terrorist target list?

Could U.S. nuclear power facilities be the next targets of terrorism? If so, how well defended should they be? In “The NRC: What, Me Worry?” Daniel Hirsch looks at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s rules governing security at commercial nuclear power plants, and finds them sorely lacking. For example, even though the September 11 attacks were a coordinated effort perpetrated by at least 19 criminals acting in four teams, security guards at power reactors are not required to defend against more than three intruders, more than one team using coordinated tactics, more than one “inside” operator, weapons greater than hand-held automatic weapons, an attack by boat or plane, or any attack by “enemies of the United States.”
Spiritual Missile Shield
I thought it was ironic that President Bush announced that he was scrapping the ABM treaty — in order to build a missile shield — just a few minutes before he released the bin Laden tape. The president's emphasis on a missile shield reminded me of a man whose house had just been burned down by his neighbor's son and his response was to call a plumber, because that was the only phone number he could remember.

Sunday, December 16, 2001

Drug Seizures Have Surged at the Borders
Heightened security after the Sept. 11 attacks has had a major side effect: seizures of illegal drugs along the nation's borders and at its ports of entry increased substantially in October and November over the corresponding period a year ago, law enforcement authorities say.

The greatest increase, 326 percent, was in seizures from commercial traffic along the Canadian border. But the overall figure was also large: the amount of drugs seized from commercial traffic — that is, from trucks, ships and planes — at all borders and ports was up 66 percent, the Customs Service says.

Experts have no clear evidence that the increased seizures have created a shortage of drugs on the street or raised their price there.
Buyers Reading Cover Price, and Opting Not to Read the Rest
Prices to consumers have risen over the last decade even though printing and binding costs have declined significantly, said Stephen Snyder, executive vice president of the Book Manufacturers Institute. Although paper prices are cyclical, improvements in technology have made manufacturing cheaper. Consolidation in both publishing and printing has lowered prices through economies of scale and stiffer competition, he said.

As a result, manufacturing a hardcover book usually costs a publisher little more than $2 a copy, while producing a high-end paperback costs less than $1 a copy. Longer books and special features like color photographs raise costs, however.

Publishers also need to pay for the cost of unsold copies, typically about 30 percent of the number printed. Publishers typically sell books to stores wholesale for about half the cover price.

But publishers' profit margins remain among the lowest in the media industry. They are spending more for advances for big-name authors and to market their books. Publishers compete fiercely in both areas, fighting to woo authors and readers and squeezing their profits in the process. Bookstores have raised publishers' costs, too, by charging more to promote their books.

Saturday, December 15, 2001 - Palestinians condemn U.S. veto at U.N. - December 15, 2001
"I just want to ask President Bush one question," chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told CNN. "What if Texas, or any part of the United States, were to come under foreign occupation? Would you call upon the American people to surrender to this occupation? For God's sake, what should have been vetoed last night was Israeli occupation."
News: FBI confirms Net spying tool exists
An FBI spokesman confirmed on Wednesday that the U.S. government is working on a controversial Internet spying technology, code-named "Magic Lantern," which could be used to eavesdrop on computer communications by suspected criminals.

"It is a workbench project" that has not yet been deployed, said FBI spokesman Paul Bresson. "We can't discuss it because it's under development."

The FBI has already acknowledged that it uses software that records keystrokes typed into a computer to obtain passwords that can be used to read encrypted e-mail and other documents as part of criminal investigations.

Magic Lantern reportedly would allow the agency to plant a Trojan horse keystroke logger on a target's PC by sending a computer virus over the Internet, rather than require physical access to the computer, as is now the case.

When word of Magic Lantern leaked out in published reports in November, civil libertarians said the program could easily be abused by overzealous law enforcement agencies.

When asked if Magic Lantern would require a court order for the FBI to use it, as existing keystroke logger technology does, Bresson said: "Like all technology projects or tools deployed by the FBI it would be used pursuant to the appropriate legal process.",4586,5100652,00.html
Eleven and Counting
Embarrassing but true: Just one month ago the James A. Baker III Institute presented Alan Greenspan with its Enron Prize. I'm not suggesting any impropriety; it was just another indication of how deeply the failed energy company was enmeshed with our ruling elite.

And yet Mr. Greenspan also finds himself in Chapter 11. That is, the Fed has now cut interest rates 11 times this year, and has yet to see any results. What's going on?

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

The Senate recently rejected legislation designed to ensure USDA could close plants that violated salmonella limits.

Appeals Court Strikes Down Meat Tests
The Agriculture Department can't require meat processors to comply with limits on salmonella contamination, an appeals court says.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a Texas judge who blocked USDA from shutting down a ground beef plant that flunked a series of salmonella tests. Salmonella alone doesn't make meat unsafe, the appeals court said.

The department considers the tests a good measure of a plant's cleanliness. However, it is not known how much of the bacteria is necessary to make someone sick, and the meat industry says the testing limits are not justified scientifically.

The appeals court decision ``is clearly taking the harness off the ground meat industry by allowing meat that can be highly contaminated with salmonella to be sold to the public,'' said Caroline Smith DeWaal of the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Tuesday, December 11, 2001

Melting Glaciers in Antarctica Are Raising Oceans, Experts Say
Ocean levels have been rising at a rate of about eight inches a century. Half of that is attributable to the fact that water expands as temperatures rise; 20 percent appears to be water running down mountain glaciers. The remaining 30 percent is a mystery, but the new data suggests it is coming from Antarctica.

Monday, December 10, 2001

After a Long Climb to Respectability, a Muslim Charity Experiences a Rapid Fall
The landlord wasted no time in slapping a "For Lease" sign on the offices of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development after the federal government froze its assets on Monday, calling it a terrorist front. Several major corporate donors announced they would block all contributions to the foundation.

And on Wednesday, the foundation suffered an almost personal insult: its high-profile Washington law firm, Akin, Gump, informed the group's leaders that the government's accusations made it impossible for the firm to represent them in any efforts to reclaim their frozen assets or salvage their reputations.
Deported Immigrants With Nowhere to Go Wait in Jail
Immigration lawyers say that many of those who have been in I.N.S. detention since the terror attacks will most likely face long waits while the agency tries to make arrangements for their deportation. At best, the lawyers say, arranging for the repatriation of Palestinians, Iraqis, Iranians and Afghans is a slow process. At worst, it may be an impossible one.

"The people who will be in trouble are from the countries with which I.N.S. has had great trouble repatriating their citizens," said Chris Nugent of the American Bar Association's Immigration Pro Bono Project. "Iran and Iraq have been very difficult. And now Afghanistan will probably be like Somalia, where there's no functioning government.

"If you don't have a government and you don't have a consulate, how do you even begin to arrange travel documents? Or if the government is hostile to the United States, how does the I.N.S. make arrangements? Some of these new detainees are going to be here a long, long time."

"Palestinians of the diaspora may have travel documents from Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Egypt," said Karen Pennington, a Dallas immigration lawyer. "But they're not citizens and they don't have passports. The I.N.S. always alleges that they're nationals of the country where they were born. But those countries don't want them. They're on the voyage of the damned."

Post-Sept. 11 detainees face new hurdles. While Mr. Nofal and the others who have spent years in detention landed in jail because they committed crimes, the I.N.S. now detains those whose sole wrongdoing was overstaying their visas. And the Patriot Act, approved since the terrorist attacks, allows Attorney General John Ashcroft to detain indefinitely foreigners who are certified as endangering national security. Some detainees may be held even when the Zadvydas ruling would otherwise have limited their confinement.
California Appellate Ruling Aids Foes of 3-Strike Law
Life imprisonment for a man who shoplifted a screwdriver, an electric razor and a map from a Kmart. The same sentence for one who tried to steal a meat slicer and a mixer from an International House of Pancakes. Twenty-five years to life for a homeless man who broke into a restaurant, only to come away with four chocolate chip cookies — two in his left pocket, two in his right.

Since a federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled last month that a 50-year prison sentence for a videotape thief was cruel and unusual punishment, public defenders across the state have been digging up old cases to mount the first broad challenge to California's three-strikes law in years.

In Los Angeles, public defenders are looking through more than 500 cases in which offenders received sentences of 25 years to life for nonviolent offenses like drug possession or petty theft. In rural Kern County, public defenders are hoping to reduce, if not overturn, as many as 350 sentences. And throughout Southern California, where prosecutors have vigorously enforced the state law that puts people with three felony convictions in prison for 25 years or longer, public defenders are selecting a wide array of cases that they hope will be eligible for application of the appeals court ruling.

Sunday, December 09, 2001

Ask Not What . . .
…If you just look at the amount of money spontaneously donated to victims' families, it's clear that there is a deep reservoir of energy out there that could be channeled to become a real force for American renewal and transformation — and it's not being done. One senses that President Bush is intent on stapling his narrow, hard-right Sept. 10 agenda onto the Sept. 12 world, and that is his and our loss.

Imagine if tomorrow President Bush asked all Americans to turn down their home thermostats to 65 degrees so America would not be so much of a hostage to Middle East oil? Trust me, every American would turn down the thermostat to 65 degrees. Liberating us from the grip of OPEC would be our Victory Garden.

Imagine if the president announced a Manhattan Project to make us energy independent in a decade, on the basis of domestic oil, improved mileage standards and renewable resources, so we Americans, who are 5 percent of the world's population, don't continue hogging 25 percent of the world's energy? Imagine if the president called on every young person to consider enlisting in some form of service — the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, Peace Corps, Teach For America, AmeriCorps, the F.B.I., the C.I.A.? People would enlist in droves. Imagine if the president called on every corporate chieftain to take a 10 percent pay cut, starting with himself, so fewer employees would have to be laid off? Plenty would do it.
War's Hidden Cost
Of course, in this war as in every other, nobody ever really knows how many civilians are killed or wounded. The Taliban's tallies are not widely trusted, and with few forces on the ground, the Pentagon makes no attempt to estimate how many civilians its bombs have killed. Nor is it likely to attempt this later, though the Red Cross and human rights groups might.

Before every airstrike, the military does assess the risks to civilians, and legal officers must determine in advance that the risks are justifiable. Sometimes they veto proposed targets. But only in the event of a reported atrocity by United States forces would an investigation be carried out, as it was after the My Lai massacre in Vietnam.

It is clear that in the current conflict — part civil war, part holy war, part retribution for a terrorist outrage — no civilian is safe. In a survey of Afghanistan two years ago, the International Committee of the Red Cross found that more than half those interviewed had a family member killed. One in three was wounded, two in five were tortured, one in five imprisoned. One in four were soldiers. One in four had heard of the Geneva Conventions.

But to an American public that has come to expect pinpoint precision from 21st century weapons, it comes as a shock to see the images of widows and orphans hospitalized by an American air raid. In Europe, where political support for the war on terror is strongest, repeated reports of civilian casualtieshave stirred opposition to the American campaign. In the Islamic world, including Pakistan, the United States' crucial ally, the pictures of injured civilians spark outright hostility.
U.S. Seeks New Use for Secret Evidence
For national security reasons, the government argues that it should share secret evidence with only immigration judges and not with the immigrants and their lawyers.

The court did not act on the request, because it decided the case before it on other grounds. But legal experts say that request and other actions since Sept. 11 indicate that the government is moving toward the renewed use of secret evidence in immigration cases, one of the most criticized of the Justice Department's tactics in recent years.
The government, however, says that since President Bush's term began, it has not broken his campaign pledge not to use secret evidence against immigrants.

In the 1990's, immigrants' groups and other critics of secret evidence gained legal and political ground in their assertions that it relegates immigrants to a legal netherworld, having to disprove accusations like whether they have connections to terrorists without knowing specifically what the accusations are. The practice had ground nearly to a halt in recent years after several federal court decisions and under the criticism of some politicians.
Voucher Study Indicates No Steady Gains in Learning
The study by the Rand Corporation, released here Thursday, was neither a death knell for the school- choice movement nor a ringing endorsement. Rather, it revealed the paucity of reliable data from either side. For example, though the report reviewed hundreds of studies, the authors found only three on the crucial question of student achievement whose methodology they considered sound.

Saturday, December 08, 2001

TRAC Reports: Criminal Enforcement Against Terrorists
Many Investigations But Few Referred for Prosecution

The FBI now reports conducting more than 10,000 terrorism investigations a year. (See table.) By contrast, just released Justice Department data show that in the fiscal year ending September 30, 2001 that all the criminal investigative agencies of the government asked federal prosecutors to bring criminal charges against 463 individuals who the assistant U.S. Attorneys had identified as being involved in either international or domestic terrorism.

Referrals for Prosecution Up Sharply Even Before September 11

The Justice Department’s internal administrative data -- unlike the information reported by the FBI -- distinguish between international and domestic terrorism. For both groups investigative requests for prosecution increased substantially in FY 2001 but still represented only a tiny fraction of all federal criminal matters:

But Federal Prosectors Usually Decline To Bring Charges

The data also show that federal prosecutors declined to bring charges against more than two out of three of the criminal suspects who they themselves had classified as being involved in domestic or international terrorism. (See graph.) Most of the suspects were referred to the prosecutors by the FBI.

The prosecutors cited many reasons for rejecting the recommendations of the investigators during the five-year period ending on September 30, among them Justice Department policy, the death of the defendant, and jurisdictional or venue problems. But the prosecutors said they had declined more than one third of the matters presented to them because the referrals lacked evidence of criminal intent, were of minimal federal interest, were backed up by weak or insufficient admissible evidence, or did not involve a federal offense. (See international and domestic tables for reasons.)

Friday, December 07, 2001

Hitting the Trifecta
Shortly after Sept. 11, George W. Bush interrupted his inveighing against evildoers to crack a joke. Mr. Bush had repeatedly promised to run an overall budget surplus at least as large as the Social Security surplus, except in the event of recession, war or national emergency. "Lucky me," he remarked to Mitch Daniels, his budget director. "I hit the trifecta."
Ashcroft Defends Antiterror Plan and Says Criticism May Aid Foes

Some of the sharpest questioning came over the Justice Department's refusal to provide the F.B.I. with information about whether any of the more than 1,200 people who have been detained in the investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks had sought to purchase guns. The New York Times reported today that some F.B.I. and other law enforcement officials were frustrated by the Justice Department's decision to block its investigators from examining records of gun buyers' background checks to determine whether any of the detainees had purchased guns.

"Why is the department handcuffing the F.B.I. in its efforts to investigate gun purchases by suspected terrorists?" asked Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts.

Mr. Ashcroft said that he believed the law that created the national directory of gun purchase applications could not be used for anything other than an audit of the system.

"I believe we did the right thing in observing what the law of the United States compels us to observe," he said.

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, suggested that Mr. Ashcroft's reasoning was incorrect and the decision reflected the administration's opposition to gun control. "You're looking for new tools in every direction and I support most of those," Mr. Schumer said. "But when it comes to the area of even illegal immigrants getting guns and finding out if they did, this administration becomes as weak as a wet noodle."
Using Battle of Terrorism for Victory on Trade
President Bush won a major victory on trade in the House of Representatives today by updating a time- honored argument: Wartime is no time to undercut the president. This is especially true now, Mr. Bush and his allies argued, when the world is watching for any sign that an embattled America is pulling up its drawbridges.

Like the outcome of the presidential race that ended a year ago next week, his margin of victory could not have been narrower. He won streamlined trade negotiating authority by only one vote, 215 to 214. Even getting that required his Republican allies on the floor of the House to twist arms after the official clock had run out.
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Thursday, December 06, 2001

Middle East Detainee Conducts Hunger Strike
A French citizen from Djibouti, in East Africa, Mr. Seif is one of 93 men whom the government identified last week as having been indicted or charged with crimes as a result of the investigation into the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He is widely believed to be the lone man among the 93 who is protesting his treatment by refusing to eat. He has lost 25 pounds, restricting his intake to water, and weighs about 150 pounds.

But like many on the list, Mr. Seif, 36, who graduated from a flying school here and once flew turboprop planes for Djibouti Airlines, has not been charged with any crime that links him to the attacks. He was arrested in October on five felony counts, charged with providing false information to the Social Security Administration in 1999 and to the Federal Aviation Administration last year on questions about his name, ancestry and birthplace.

All that, the government says, makes him a criminal. Additional charges of bank fraud, arising out of information on credit-card applications, are generally expected to be filed against him by next week.

At a hearing here last month, John Bauman, an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, testified that the government had no evidence to suggest that Mr. Seif was involved with the attacks or that he knew about them beforehand.

"This is government policy now," Mr. Hoidal said today, explaining why he believed that prosecutors were pressing so hard to convict his client, who has lived in the Phoenix metropolitan region occasionally since his brother attended Arizona State University in the early 1990's. "Ninety-three people are facing similar charges. Most are from the Middle East, and they have Muhammad, or a form of the word, in their names. So the government is bringing whatever charges they can against persons caught up in the investigation."
At a hearing here last month, John Bauman, an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, testified that the government had no evidence to suggest that Mr. Seif was involved with the attacks or that he knew about them beforehand.

"This is government policy now," Mr. Hoidal said today, explaining why he believed that prosecutors were pressing so hard to convict his client, who has lived in the Phoenix metropolitan region occasionally since his brother attended Arizona State University in the early 1990's. "Ninety-three people are facing similar charges. Most are from the Middle East, and they have Muhammad, or a form of the word, in their names. So the government is bringing whatever charges they can against persons caught up in the investigation."
Justice Dept. Bars Use of Gun Checks in Terror Inquiry
The Justice Department has refused to let the F.B.I. check its records to determine whether any of the 1,200 people detained after the Sept. 11 attacks had bought guns, F.B.I. and Justice Department officials say.

The department made the decision in October after the F.B.I. asked to examine the records it maintains on background checks to see if any detainees had purchased guns in the United States.

Mindy Tucker, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said the request was rejected after several senior officials decided that the law creating the background check system did not permit the use of the records to investigate individuals.

Ms. Tucker did not elaborate on the decision, but it is in keeping with Attorney General John Ashcroft's strong support of gun rights and his longstanding opposition to the government's use of background check records. In 1998, as a senator from Missouri, Mr. Ashcroft voted for an amendment to the Brady gun-control law to destroy such records immediately after checking the background of a prospective gun buyer. That amendment was defeated.

"We intend to use every legal tool available to protect American lives," John Collingwood, an assistant director of the F.B.I., said, but he added that "applicable law does not permit" the background check records to be used "for this purpose."
Sharon's War Cannot Be Won
As a Palestinian I am often challenged by the press on my views about such horrific bombings. I emphatically repeat my condemnation and state that I oppose the targeting and killing of innocent civilians regardless of whether they are Israelis or Palestinians.

Yet I wonder why no one asked how I felt when five Palestinian schoolboys were killed by a bomb planted by the Israeli occupation forces in a refugee camp in Gaza less than two weeks ago — or why Israelis and pro-Israel spokesmen, who are called for comment by the same radio and television stations that call me, are rarely asked to condemn the violence that is committed in their name.

I watched in sadness the latest American envoy to the Middle East, Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, laying a wreath in Jerusalem at the site of the bombings. But where was the American wreath for the five boys killed in Gaza? Why are the targeting and killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians, including more than 150 children, and the suffocation by siege of three million Palestinians so often considered mere background noise to Israel's drama?

Wednesday, December 05, 2001

A New Health Plan May Raise Expenses for Sickest Workers
…Deborah Chollet, an economist at Mathematica, a nonprofit research concern, said the new plans could be a barrier to needed care for some people. The plans would leave families essentially without insurance until they have spent several thousand dollars, she said. "Uninsured people don't consume much care" because they may have difficulty deciding whether care is necessary or not, she said.

"This is taking coverage away from people," said Ms. Chollet, a health insurance specialist. "And it is obviously a greater hardship for the lower-income workers."
Groups Protest Bush's Freezing of Foundation's Assets
"This action is really creating outrage in the Muslim community," said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations, one of the groups. "The holy foundation has a long history of being a respected Muslim charity that does good work, not only in Palestine, but other parts of the world."

The Bush administration accuses the foundation, based in Richardson, Tex., of funneling money to the radical Palestinian group Hamas, which has claimed responsibility for a string of suicide bombings in Israel. The foundation, which has been under scrutiny by the American government for at least five years, says the accusations are untrue.

"We have always denied that accusation, and the administration did not produce any qualitative evidence," said Shukri Abu-Baker, the foundation's chief executive. "The foundation is strictly a humanitarian organization, and we have never supported Hamas."

Monday, December 03, 2001

Demanding a Diagnosis, and Outwitting Anthrax
Though he did not know it on those days, Oct. 11, 12 and 13, Mr. Richmond was already sick. He had inhaled anthrax spores, postal officials later told him, most likely on the morning of the 11th, while cleaning near a contaminated mail-sorting machine. A medical odyssey that would shake him and his family to the core and help rewrite the book on anthrax — its complications, its treatment, its survivability — had begun. And no one knew.
News: Got hacked? Blame it on the software
There's only one problem with software development these days, according to security analyst and author Gary McGraw: It isn't any good.

McGraw, noted for his books on Java security, is out with a new book that purports to tell software developers how to do it better. Titled Building Secure Software and co-authored with technologist John Viega, the book provides a plan for designing software better able to resist the hacker attacks and worm infestations that plague the networked world.

At the root of the problem, McGraw argues, lies "bad software." While the market demands that software companies develop more features more quickly, McGraw and others in the security field are sounding the alarm that complex and hastily designed applications are sure to be shot through with security holes.

McGraw's top five software-security nightmares
1. Buffer overflow
An attacker floods a field, typically an address bar, with more characters than it can accommodate. The excess characters in some cases can be run as "executable" code, effectively giving the attacker control of the computer without being constrained by security measures.

2. Race condition
"The idea is that you have something that should be done in an atomic fashion, all at once, that is done instead in multiple steps, and an attacker can sneak in between the steps and change things."

3. Random number generation
"The problem is that computers are predictable. And predictability turns out to be a big problem for cryptography, because what you want for cryptographic keys is real randomness, not pseudo-randomness. That's a mistake that a lot of programmers make."

4. Misuse of cryptography
"A lot of programmers think they can roll their own algorithms. But it turns out that crypto is a highly sophisticated art, and you need to be trained to do it."
5. Trust problems

"Not validating input, or (putting too much trust in things) sending you a message. No. 5 also could be authentication; it's a toss-up.",4586,2829102,00.html

Sunday, December 02, 2001

How Islam and Politics Mixed
Basically, this phenomenon involves the immoral, unscrupulous and irreligious exploitation of Islam as a political weapon — by everyone. The West, the United States, Arab and other Muslim tyrannies have all used the weapon of Islam. And all are paying their different prices for it.
African Artifacts Suggest an Earlier Modern Human
Until now, modern human behavior was widely assumed to have been a very late and abrupt development that seemed to have originated in a kind of "creative explosion" in Europe. The most spectacular evidence for it showed up after modern Homo sapiens arrived there from Africa about 40,000 years ago. Although there had been suggestions of an African genesis of modern behavior, no proof had turned up, certainly nothing comparable to the fine tools and cave art of Upper Paleolithic Europe.
Tribunal Comparison Taints Courts-Martial, Military Lawyers Say
Former military lawyers say they are angered by a public perception, fed most recently by the top White House lawyer, that the military tribunals authorized by President Bush are merely wartime versions of American courts-martial, a routine part of military life with a longstanding reputation for openness and procedural fairness.

In fact, the proposed tribunals are significantly different from courts- martial, the lawyers say, adding that confusion between the two has distorted the debate over the tribunals and unfairly denigrated military justice.

"It bothers me that people are thinking we try thousands of people this way in the courts-martial system," said Ronald W. Meister, a New York lawyer who is a former Navy lawyer and judge.

"We do nothing of the sort," he said. "These commissions are a totally different animal."

Saturday, December 01, 2001

Why is Attorney General Ashcroft using his office to punish this man so severely? At a time of national anxiety about Arabs and Muslims, Mr. Al-Najjar is a useful target: a Palestinian Muslim. More broadly, Mr. Ashcroft has claimed power to detain non-citizens even when immigration judges order them released.

It Can Happen Here
On the basis of secret evidence, the government accuses a non-citizen of connections to terrorism, and holds him in prison for three years. Then a judge conducts a full trial and rejects the terrorism charges. He releases the prisoner. A year later government agents rearrest the man, hold him in solitary confinement and state as facts the terrorism charges that the judge found untrue.

Could that happen in America? In John Ashcroft's America it has happened.

Mazen Al-Najjar, a Palestinian, came to the United States in 1984 as a graduate student and stayed to teach at a university. The Immigration Service moved to deport him for overstaying his visa — and asked an immigration judge, R. Kevin McHugh, to imprison him. Secret evidence, the government lawyers said, showed that Mr. Al-Najjar had raised funds for a terrorist organization, Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In June 1997 Judge McHugh issued the detention order.

Mr. Al-Najjar's lawyers went to federal court and challenged the use of secret evidence against him. The court held that he must at least be told enough about the evidence to have a fair chance of responding to it.

Judge McHugh then reopened the case in his immigration court. In a two-week trial the government's lead witness, an Immigration agent, admitted that there was no evidence of Mr. Al-Najjar contributing to a terrorist organization or ever advocating terrorism. At the end Judge McHugh found that there were no "bona fide reasons to conclude that [Mr. Al- Najjar] is a threat to national security."

Judge McHugh, a former U.S. marine, wrote a 56-page decision that evidently carried much legal weight. The Board of Immigration Appeals rejected a government appeal. And Attorney General Janet Reno, who had the right to step in, refused to do so. A year ago Mr. Al-Najjar rejoined his wife and three daughters.

Last Saturday immigration agents arrested Mr. Al-Najjar again. The Justice Department issued a triumphant press release saying that the case "underscores the department's commitment to address terrorism by using all legal authorities available." Mr. Al-Najjar, it said, "had established ties to terrorist organizations."

That flat, conclusory statement was in direct contradiction to the findings made by Judge McHugh after a full trial. And the department did not claim, this time, to be relying on undisclosed information. It said the detention was "not based on classified evidence."

Israel Tanks Surround West Bank Towns
The United States has asked Israel to stay out of Palestinian areas. Israeli tanks had just pulled out of Jenin last week, and the retaking of some areas came as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited the United States.

At sundown Saturday, Israeli tanks fired randomly toward the southern outskirts of Jenin and an adjacent refugee camp, Palestinian witnesses said.

A 19-year-old taxi passenger and an 11-year-old boy were killed by large-caliber bullets fired from tank-mounted machine guns, said Mohammed Abu Ghali, director of Jenin Hospital. Both victims suffered head wounds, he said. Witnesses said the boy was shot as he and other youngsters threw stones at soldiers.
Ashcroft Seeking to Free F.B.I. to Spy on Groups
The proposal would loosen one of the most fundamental restrictions on the conduct of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and would be another step by the Bush administration to modify civil-liberties protections as a means of defending the country against terrorists, the senior officials said.
Groups Gird for Long Legal Fight on New Bush Anti-Terror Powers
Bill Goodman, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, said that his group, which grew out of legal efforts to defend civil rights protesters in the 1960's, is planning to challenge the executive order signed by President Bush on Nov. 13 allowing special military tribunals to try foreigners charged with terrorism. Mr. Goodman said he was discussing the possible challenge with lawyers representing some of those likely to face charges.

Mr. Bush's order, he said, has effectively suspended the writ of habeas corpus, a centuries-old legal procedure protecting citizens from being held illegally by the government. No president has the right to do that without the approval of Congress, the center's lawyers argue.

"My job is to defend the Constitution from its enemies," Mr. Goodman said. "Its main enemies right now are the Justice Department and the White House."

con·cept: December 2001