Wednesday, December 31, 2003

An Unrepentant Spammer Considers the Risks:
"Alan Ralsky, according to experts in the field, has long been one of the most prolific senders of junk e-mail messages in the world. But he has not sent a single message over the Internet in the last few weeks.

He stopped sending e-mail offers for everything from debt repayment schemes to time-share vacations even before President Bush, on Dec. 16, signed the new Can Spam Act, a law meant to crack down on marketers like Mr. Ralsky.

He plans to resume in January, he said, after he overcomes some computer problems, and only after he changes his practices to include in his messages a return address and other information required by the law, the title of which stands for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing. "

That is quite a switch for Mr. Ralsky, who has earned a reputation as a master of cyberdisguise. By his own admission, he once produced more than 70 million messages a day from domains registered with fake names, largely by way of foreign countries - or sometimes even by way of hijacked computers - so that the recipients could not trace the mail back to him.

Most experts in junk e-mail, known as spam, have dismissed the new federal law as largely ineffectual. And many high-volume e-mailers say the law may even improve the situation for them because it wipes away a handful of tougher state laws.

But Mr. Ralsky, who lives in a Detroit suburb, says the law's potential penalties - fines of up to $6 million and up to five years in jail - are making him rethink his business.

"Of course I'm worried about it," he said after the law was signed. "You would have to be stupid to try to violate this law."

No one is saying that e-mail in-boxes will be clean of spam any time soon. But the world is getting to be a much more hostile place for spammers, particularly those who send some of the most offensive messages. The biggest threat is not so much the new law, though it is expected to play a role in stepped-up enforcement, as the increased willingness of prosecutors to go after spammers.
Experts Try to Assess Risk From Diseased Cow:
"There are two fears that Americans seem to have in the wake of the discovery of mad cow disease in a Washington cow, and the science of assessing them is very different.

The first: Did my family eat any of that cow, and, if so, will it hurt them?

The second: Never mind that one cow — how many others are out there? "

Answering the first is really a matter of looking at the history of similar brain diseases in Britain and New Guinea.

Answering the second is, for the moment, largely a matter of statistics — but difficult, because the numbers are so vague.

It seems almost inevitable that some part of the cow was eaten. It was killed on Dec. 9, and ground up with about 20 others to make a batch of 10,000 pounds of hamburger that was shipped to groceries in eight states and Guam, although 80 percent went to Oregon and Washington, the Agriculture Department says.

The diseased cow was not found until Dec. 23, and a recall order was issued.

Dr. Gary Weber, a spokesman for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said he thought that, like most ground beef, the batch would have been frozen for transit. He had heard that 20 percent was found in storage, he said. But he said of the rest: "I'd hazard a guess that some of it has been consumed."

In Britain, nearly 200,000 cows were infected. Millions of people ate meat from those cows, including steaks, ribs, hamburger, neckbones, beef marrow and brains. Material from cows was used in a wide variety of items, including beauty products, polio vaccines and weightlifters' steroid substitutes. A lion in the Newquay zoo in England was found to have a form of the disease. Yet only about 150 Europeans have died of it. Early predictions of 100,000 to 200,000 British deaths did not come true.

Some research has indicated that not everyone is equally at risk, that some people have a genetic predisposition toward the disease.

Moreover, assuming the Agriculture Department was correct, and only muscle meat from the Washington cow was ground up, the risk is probably far lower. Although prions, the misfolded proteins that cause the disease, have been found in the muscles of hamsters, mice and humans infected with the disease, brain and nerve tissue is thought to be a million times more infectious.

But not all scientists agree. When young animals are infected, the disease does not show up in their brains for at least 30 months, said Dr. Stanley B. Prusiner, a neurologist at the University of California in San Francisco who won a Nobel Prize in medicine for his work on prion diseases. But it could be present in low levels in other tissues, including muscle, Dr. Prusiner said, and at higher levels in the lymph glands of calves. It is not clear that those levels would be enough to infect anyone, and federal officials have asserted that the muscle meat is safe.

Also, it is possible for brain tissue to be driven into or splattered on muscles in a slaughterhouse. Animals are usually killed with a blow from a hand-held jackhammer that slams a piston into the skull. The last few beats of the animal's heart can circulate the tissue. Also, sawing a carcass in half can splatter spinal cord tissue around, as can the use of high-pressure jets that strip meat from bone. Agriculture officials said they believed that such methods were not used on this carcass.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Op-Ed Contributor: Spare the Rod, Save the Nation:
"For most of us Diwaniyah was personal. The site of skirmishes we had with fedayeen, Iraqi Army Special Forces and local militias, the city represented my battalion's 'blooding' — the scene of our first important combat action and casualties. By returning, we had the chance to root out remaining resistance and help restore a community wrecked by war.

As marines only a few days out of intense combat, it was natural for us to want to undertake the "rooting out" part first — going after the resistance with a vengeance. Fortunately, our division commander, Maj. Gen. Jim Mattis, had a different approach. He shifted our focus from conventional combat toward winning over the people. In so doing, his thinking went, we could isolate the Baathist insurgents and criminal elements and make them easier to detect and eliminate."

His guiding principle was "do no harm." So he detached our M-1 tanks and armored personnel carriers and, together with artillery, returned them to Kuwait. Armored vehicles are threatening by their very presence — not to mention being magnets for rocket-propelled grenades. General Mattis believed that any engagement with remaining insurgents could be handled by dismounted infantry.

We also tried to be aware of Iraqi sensitivities. We "dressed down" during foot patrols, removing body armor and helmets. Arabs consider sunglasses distasteful, so we took off our wraparound Oakleys when talking to Iraqis. And with varying degrees of success, we directed young marines not to look at Iraqi women and teenage girls.

Most of our efforts were straightforward. We cleaned, painted and picked up trash at schools. Wherever we went, we used "wave tactics" — waving at locals, especially children, and smiling at pedestrians. After capturing $5 million during a raid on suspected Baathists, we donated a large sum to a leading mullah for the needy who were not directly eligible for reconstruction money. It seemed the right thing to do and not "buying the peace." And it worked. The mullah became a grateful and helpful friend of the Marines.

In our efforts to overcome rampant crime and pursue remaining Baathists, we flooded neighborhoods with foot patrols, talked with townsfolk to gain information and laid ambushes in problem areas. We avoided rotating companies so that each company could develop a relationship with a specific village.

When out-of-work Iraqi soldiers began staging demonstrations, we invited their leaders into our compound and listened to their grievances while offering them cold sodas. By treating them as equals, we eased frustrations and countered a descent toward armed confrontation.

None of these techniques were particularly novel to the Marines. And they were practiced by our battalions across south-central Iraq. To be sure, we all benefited from the Shiite majority in the region, most of whom were joyous at the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. But it is undeniably significant that in the succeeding five months of post-conflict presence, not a single marine was killed because of hostile action.…
Op-Ed Columnist: Our So-Called Boom:
"It was a merry Christmas for Sharper Image and Neiman Marcus, which reported big sales increases over last year's holiday season. It was considerably less cheery at Wal-Mart and other low-priced chains. We don't know the final sales figures yet, but it's clear that high-end stores did very well, while stores catering to middle- and low-income families achieved only modest gains.

Based on these reports, you may be tempted to speculate that the economic recovery is an exclusive party, and most people weren't invited. You'd be right."

Commerce Department figures reveal a startling disconnect between overall economic growth, which has been impressive since last spring, and the incomes of a great majority of Americans. In the third quarter of 2003, as everyone knows, real G.D.P. rose at an annual rate of 8.2 percent. But wage and salary income, adjusted for inflation, rose at an annual rate of only 0.8 percent. More recent data don't change the picture: in the six months that ended in November, income from wages rose only 0.65 percent after inflation.

Why aren't workers sharing in the so-called boom? Start with jobs.

Payroll employment began rising in August, but the pace of job growth remains modest, averaging less than 90,000 per month. That's well short of the 225,000 jobs added per month during the Clinton years; it's even below the roughly 150,000 jobs needed to keep up with a growing working-age population.

But if the number of jobs isn't rising much, aren't workers at least earning more? You may have thought so. After all, companies have been able to increase output without hiring more workers, thanks to the rapidly rising output per worker. (Yes, that's a tautology.) Historically, higher productivity has translated into rising wages. But not this time: thanks to a weak labor market, employers have felt no pressure to share productivity gains. Calculations by the Economic Policy Institute show real wages for most workers flat or falling even as the economy expands.

An aside: how weak is the labor market? The measured unemployment rate of 5.9 percent isn't that high by historical standards, but there's something funny about that number. An unusually large number of people have given up looking for work, so they are no longer counted as unemployed, and many of those who say they have jobs seem to be only marginally employed. Such measures as the length of time it takes laid-off workers to get new jobs continue to indicate the worst job market in 20 years.

So if jobs are scarce and wages are flat, who's benefiting from the economy's expansion? The direct gains are going largely to corporate profits, which rose at an annual rate of more than 40 percent in the third quarter. Indirectly, that means that gains are going to stockholders, who are the ultimate owners of corporate profits. (That is, if the gains don't go to self-dealing executives, but let's save that topic for another day.)

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Middlemen in the Low-Wage Economy:
Critics of business-contractor ties insist that companies know exactly what they are getting when they hire outsiders to supply them with labor.

"They're doing it for the same reason they've always done it, to save money," said Della Bahan, a lawyer who helped bring the suit against the California supermarket chains on behalf of hundreds of janitors from Mexico. "These companies are pretending they're not the employer. The contractor is willing to work people seven days a week, not pay payroll taxes, not pay workers-comp taxes. The companies don't want to do that themselves, but they're willing to look the other way when their contractors do it."

Contracting out is steadily increasing, business experts say. Some supermarkets turn to outside contractors to help deliver groceries and run cash registers, as well as to clean floors. Many hotels use them to handle laundry, catering and housekeeping. Real estate companies rely on contractors for cleaning and security, while the forestry industry uses them to plant seedlings.

Historians say labor contractors were first used in Philadelphia in the 19th century when builders needed more workers and turned to some enterprising Italian-Americans who knew where to find newly arrived countrymen. Those contractors, like the Mexican immigrants of today who are farm labor contractors in California and Florida, also used their language skills to manage their work crews. In the late 19th century, garment manufacturers often turned to smaller jobbers to help with production. The contractors often submitted low bids and then violated wage and other laws to squeeze costs, helping to create sweatshops.

Today, using contractors makes sense, business strategists say, because it allows managers to concentrate on doing what they do best, instead of worrying about cleaning bathrooms. Companies frequently save money by using contractors, who often do not provide fringe benefits, like health insurance and pensions, that companies usually offer direct hires. And labor has difficulty unionizing contractors' employees because many are temporary hires, and legal disputes often develop over who their employer is.

Probably the loudest complaints involve farm labor contractors, who are being used increasingly as illegal immigration has soared. Often, they provide dilapidated housing, do not pay overtime and make migrant workers pay for their tools and rides to work. Over the past three years, five contractors in Florida have been convicted of enslaving farm workers.

Phillip Martin, a professor of agricultural economics at the University of California at Davis, said using contractors gives employers the ability to deny knowledge that people working for them were illegal immigrants or were not paid overtime. "Increasingly the purpose of contractors is to be risk absorbers," he said.

… problems are reported in many sectors. Some contractors trick immigrant workers into believing they are not covered by minimum-wage laws, telling these workers that they are independent contractors, not regular employees. A contractor working for a Manhattan grocery chain was accused of using this rationale to try to justify paying just $2 an hour to African immigrants who delivered groceries. The federal minimum is $5.15. Two weeks ago, the state attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, announced a $3.2 million settlement in which the chain, Gristede's, agreed to compensate the deliverymen for the contractor's minimum-wage and overtime violations. Gristede's had maintained it was not the employer and was thus not responsible for the violations.

There is a growing effort to make companies responsible when their contractors skirt the law. A California law now makes apparel companies that use contractors joint employers. In Florida, farm worker advocates recently sought a law to make orange and tomato growers liable whenever labor contractors violated minimum-wage laws, but the growers blocked it.

Like Wal-Mart, thousands of American enterprises rely on labor contractors to help hold down costs, and those industries - from New York apparel makers to California's vegetable growers - have given similar 'I had no idea' responses when their contractors have been accused of cutting corners.

But American companies are facing increasing legal challenges to hold them accountable for their contractors' practices. "

American Politics: A New Movement Logs on to the Democratic Party and May Reshape It:
"Even if Howard Dean's own electoral ambitions are not realized, he may take credit for ushering in an era of movement politics that could have implications for the Democrats, and Republicans, for years to come.

More than any Democratic politician in years, Dr. Dean, the former governor of Vermont, has tapped into an intensifying bitterness among his party faithful toward the administration in power, and, through the Internet, has drawn a corps of citizens who had not paid heed to electoral politics. For Democrats, the payoff is that many of these new faces have views that fit the left wing of politics, the party's old-time base."

At the core of the movement is an inchoate anger stirred by the war in Iraq and, more broadly, by the rightward tilt of many policies in the Bush administration. President Bush has become the personification of much of this anger, but the Dean movement also seems to be reviving some long-held Democratic Party sentiments about the role of government in the life of the nation.

Through his assertive approach, or his clever tapping into the Internet, Dr. Dean has somehow put himself at the head of this parade. Democratic activists are now turning to him to answer - and remedy - all their concerns about the environment, social programs and the economy.

But the more Dr. Dean is viewed as the mouthpiece for the left, the more perilous his quest could be. The party's pragmatists are fearful. The danger, they say, is that Dr. Dean's success means that the Democrats could abandon the delicate machinations of Bill Clinton that pushed the party to the middle - and helped them take the White House. It was the first time a Democrat had won two terms since Roosevelt.

Recognizing the Dean campaign's success, Republicans are already trying to compete by beefing up their own grass-roots operations and use of the Internet.

But at least some of Dr. Dean's success is because he presents himself as the candidate who best embodies the "anti-Bush.'' By seizing on his opposition to the war, Dr. Dean is essentially repudiating Mr. Bush.

Yet Dr. Dean is different from movement politicians of the past like Barry M. Goldwater and Ronald Reagan because they were far more ideological - and promoted an array of values and positions. By contrast, Dr. Dean resembles George McGovern and Eugene McCarthy, Democrats whose appeal was founded in their antiwar positions but could not sustain their support because they had little to say when the war ended.

Dr. Dean's ideological underpinnings are less evident: many Democrats say he is the liberal in the field (the White House is certainly trying to) but politicians in Vermont say his record was middle of the road.

If he does not win the Democratic nomination, let alone the presidency, Dr. Dean could suffer the fate of Mr. McGovern and Mr. McCarthy because his appeal is so steeped in the issue of the war.

On the other hand, Dr. Dean has the potential to lead an enduring movement because he is less of an establishment figure than those two former senators. There is also a practical advantage that past movement leaders did not have: the Internet could continue to be a backbone of his appeal.
Annan Resists Calls to Send U.N. Staff Back to Baghdad:
"It is the quick-fix remedy prescribed by many critics of the American-led effort in Iraq — send in the United Nations.

For Europeans, the United Nations' presence would provide a global-law seal of approval and a counterweight to American influence.

For the American-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, it would introduce a notion of outside acceptance."

Public opinion surveys of Americans showing 60 percent approving of President Bush's conduct of the Iraq operation also show nearly 70 percent of those polled calling for greater United Nations activity there. Even the United Nations-wary Bush administration has joined in the calls for the world body to get more involved right away.

Yet, with these urgent summonses coming into its New York headquarters from all sides, the United Nations itself is resisting.

It is doing so despite being a champion of joint international endeavors, an experienced hand at helping restore postconflict societies and an institution hounded by detractors' charges that its performance in Iraq is proving its irrelevance.

The issue for Kofi Annan, the secretary general, is what the United Nations' precise role would be and whether its people would be safe.

He pulled out all non-Iraqi staff members in October after a surge of attacks on relief workers and diplomats and the bombing of the organization's Baghdad headquarters in which 22 people, including the mission chief, Sergio Vieira de Mello, were killed.

In a chilling comment later to foreign ministers meeting in Geneva, Mr. Annan underlined how gravely he viewed the responsibility of having clear orders for his people. "Bad resolutions," he said, "kill people."

Saturday, December 27, 2003

The Ghost of Medical Atrocities: What's Next, After the Unveiling?:
"…since 1972, when the American public first learned about the Tuskegee syphilis research that subjected African-American men to scientific experiments without their consent, the medical profession has had much explaining to do about its past.

Since then, several disturbing instances have come to light. In those cases, scientists, physicians and the government-sanctioned research or treatments that we would today consider unethical, like trials of untested vaccines or medications on mentally retarded children and prisoners."

Since 2002, five states — Virginia, Oregon, North Carolina, South Carolina and California — have publicly apologized to people who were forcibly sterilized under laws in effect from the early 1900's until the 1970's. Thirty-three states enacted such laws in this period, and about 60,000 women and men were sterilized. All were deemed "unfit to reproduce" by the medical experts of the day.

When these sterilization laws were written, many subscribed to a simplistic version of genetics called eugenics and hoped to improve American society by encouraging the "healthy" to reproduce while simultaneously preventing those with "deleterious inherited traits" from doing so. Under this rubric, mental retardation, insanity and even criminal behavior were considered hereditary and the "carriers" of these traits a danger to future generations.

Sadly, those targeted for reproductive quarantine were already defined as outcasts by a white majority: the mentally ill or retarded, "sexual deviants," the impoverished, African-Americans and immigrants.

The recent series of public apologies for forced sterilizations has unfolded with markedly different results, depending on who did the apologizing and the motives of the person or group.

Reflecting on her experience as a member of the citizens committee that convinced President Bill Clinton in 1997 to apologize for the government's role in the Tuskegee syphilis experiments, Susan Reverby, a historian at Wellesley College, said: "There needs to be more than a television talk show format of confession and a pledge for repentance. Relying only on emotion, while critical and cathartic, is a temporary fix, at best."

These apologies would be far more meaningful if they prompted us to reflect on some troubling aspects of medical research financed by federal agencies and American pharmaceutical companies in developing countries today, like experimental drug trials in Africa, where there are markedly less strict regulations on patients' rights.

Perhaps the cruelest aspect of such trials is how comparatively little these federal agencies or companies do to ameliorate or prevent the scourges that are killing Africans and others by the tens of thousands every day.

AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, measles and diarrheal diseases are all major killers that we can actually do something about now. Decades hence, will our successors conclude that the impulses that nurtured experiments like Tuskegee or public health policies like eugenic sterilizations simply moved offshore in the early 21st century?
Expert Warned That Mad Cow Was Imminent:
…six weeks ago, Dr. Prusiner, who won the 1997 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work on prions, entered Ms. Veneman's office with a message. "I went to tell her that what happened in Canada was going to happen in the United States," Dr. Prusiner said. "I told her it was just a matter of time."

"Ever since he identified the bizarre brain-destroying proteins that cause mad cow disease, Dr. Stanley Prusiner, a neurologist at the University of California at San Francisco, has worried about whether the meat supply in America is safe.

He spoke over the years of the need to increase testing and safety measures. Then in May, a case of mad cow disease appeared in Canada, and he quickly sought a meeting with Ann M. Veneman, the secretary of agriculture. He was rebuffed, he said in an interview yesterday, until he ran into Karl Rove, senior adviser to President Bush."

So six weeks ago, Dr. Prusiner, who won the 1997 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work on prions, entered Ms. Veneman's office with a message. "I went to tell her that what happened in Canada was going to happen in the United States," Dr. Prusiner said. "I told her it was just a matter of time."

The department had been willfully blind to the threat, he said. The only reason mad cow disease had not been found here, he said, is that the department's animal inspection agency was testing too few animals. Once more cows are tested, he added, "we'll be able to understand the magnitude of our problem."

This nation should immediately start testing every cow that shows signs of illness and eventually every single cow upon slaughter, he said he told Ms. Veneman. Japan has such a program and is finding the disease in young asymptomatic animals.

Fast, accurate and inexpensive tests are available, Dr. Prusiner said, including one that he has patented through his university.

Ms. Veneman's response (he said she did not share his sense of urgency) left him frustrated. That frustration soared this week after a cow in Washington State was tentatively found to have the disease. If the nation had increased testing and inspections, meat from that cow might never have entered the food chain, he said.
Free Trade Accord at 10: Growing Pains Are Clear:
"Leaders promised the accord would create millions of good jobs, curb illegal immigration and raise living standards 'from the Yukon to the Yucatan.' A decade later, the verdict, even among Nafta's strongest supporters, is that for those goals free trade by itself is not enough.

Nafta's effects cannot be isolated from the broader changes in a globalizing economy. But many economists and political analysts say that while the accord stimulated trade and overall growth, it also brought jarring dislocations. For better or worse — or both — Nafta transformed the continent's economic landscape with startling speed."

Gary Hufbauer, a senior analyst at the Institute for International Economics, a Washington research group that supports free trade, said the gains for the United States — lower priced consumer goods and increased corporate earnings — are large compared to the losses.

"However, the gains are so thinly spread across the country that people don't thank Nafta when they buy a mango or inexpensive auto parts," he said.

The pain, he said, is concentrated in places like the Midwest, where manufacturing jobs have been lost to Mexico and Canada, and now to China. "Nafta-related job loss and lower income may be small, but the echo is very large because of all the other jobs lost to globalization," he said. "Nafta is the symbol for all of that pain."

The debate over Nafta continues to shape the future of free trade, even as more nations line up for its presumed benefits, like the four Central American countries that reached their own accord with the United States last week.

But even that agreement is likely to face agonizing debate in Congress during an election year as Nafta's wrenching changes provide a rallying point for opponents who say it was too much too fast and paid too little attention to the impact on workers.

With the national consensus on free trade fraying and the loss of jobs looming as a campaign issue, it is doubtful whether any Democratic candidate or President Bush will stand unapologetically behind deeper trade liberalization in the coming year.
For the past several years, Israel has been destroying the ability of the Palestinian Authority to control anything. Then complaining because they aren't controlling the violence. That's like knocking a mans teeth out, then beating him to death for mumbling

News Analysis: Bombing After Lull: Israel Still Believes the Worst Is Over:
"The day after the first suicide bomb attack in Israel in almost three months, senior Israeli officials were offering what might seem a paradoxical assessment: Despite the bombing, the worst of the terrorism is already over because Israel is winning its war against the terrorists.

Of course, as with every other aspect of the tormented politics of the Middle East, that is a matter of some dispute.

The basic official position of Israel is that since the Palestinian Authority has not been able, or willing, to dismantle what Israel calls the terrorist infrastructure, the Israelis have been doing the job themselves, using two techniques. One is to step up work on the barrier they are constructing along a twisted north-south axis on the West Bank; the other is to undertake almost constant nighttime military operations in the centers of militant activity, most recently in and around the town of Nablus.…"

Israeli officials have offered positive assessments of the barrier and their raids before, but mostly in the last two and a half months, during which there were no suicide bombings against Israelis, and Israel undertook no "targeted killings" of what it regards as terrorist leaders.

But General Yaalon's comments came with the renewal of a sadly familiar ritual, part mourning, part retaliation, that follows terrorist attacks. On Friday, there were the funerals of the victims of the bus-stop bombing in a Tel Aviv suburb, including those of three soldiers, two of them young women and the other a young man. Meanwhile, Israeli troops destroyed the home of the suicide bomber, an 18-year-old man.

If the latest bombing was a reminder to Israelis of the worst days of the recent past, some, like General Yaalon, do not believe that it portends a full resurgence of terrorism. Israel may not be able to stop every attack, the reasoning goes, but the calm of the last months took place because Israel was able to stop most of the numerous terror attempts that were made. The fact that Thursday's attack was not carried out by Hamas is in its way a hopeful sign for the Israelis, who see the group's relative inaction as a product of their policy of targeted killings and not some change of heart.

Palestinian spokesmen, by contrast, say the relative lull that had lasted until Thursday was a result of to restraint among the militant Palestinian groups, not to Israeli military operations.

"I think there were no suicide bombings because these factions are for a while trying to give a chance," Ghassan Khatib, the minister of labor in the Palestinian Authority, said in an interview on Friday. "My view is that these factions can carry out suicide bombings, unfortunately, whenever they want."

In addition, the Palestinians say, the constant Israeli pressure only intensifies the hatred that prompts the attacks in the first place.…

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Terrorism and Liberty:
"After four years of work, a federal commission on terrorism issued its final report last week. The report was unremarkable except for one recommendation that shone brightly through the usual thicket of bureaucratic prose. Aggressive antiterrorism policies, the report suggested, when combined with increasingly sophisticated surveillance technologies, could have a 'chilling effect' on the right to privacy and other fundamental civil liberties. To prevent that from happening, the commission recommended that the White House establish a bipartisan panel to review how constitutional guarantees would be affected by all new laws and regulations aimed at enhancing national security.

The report appeared only days before two federal courts rebuked the Bush administration for ignoring constitutional restraints in the name of fighting terrorism. The commission did not directly criticize the administration's policies, but it urged the government to take special precautions to protect against the infringement of basic rights. The report was also notable for the fact that it came from a fairly conservative panel consisting mainly of law-enforcement and municipal officials and headed by James Gilmore III, a former Republican governor of Virginia."
Chicago Tribune | GDP Roars Ahead at 8.2 Percent in Q3:
"All of the GDP figures released Tuesday reflected a comprehensive revision that the government does every five years to make sure the measurement of total output keeps up with the times. With the changes, the GDP grew by 2.2 percent for all of 2002, down slightly from the previous estimate of 2.4 percent.

The benchmark revisions and the changes to third quarter GDP showed a number of crosscutting revisions that basically offset each other to make little impact on the bottom-line number. "

For the third quarter, consumer spending was revised up to an even-stronger 6.9 percent rate of growth, the best showing since the third quarter of 1986, compared to last month's estimate of 6.4 percent.

But private investment, which covers housing construction and business spending on plants and equipment, was revised down to a 14.8 percent rate of increase, reflecting slightly less business investment which offset a bigger increase in housing construction.…,1,163359.story
Chicago Tribune | Sales disappoint; stores cut prices:
"Against a backdrop of disappointing sales over the weekend, major retailers including Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Federated Department Stores Inc. are cutting prices, analysts and merchants said Monday.

Many retailers, in addition to the discounts, are extending hours to attract procrastinating shoppers and salvage slower-than-forecast holiday sales."

Analysts said they saw little reason to change their assessment of the holiday shopping season, which has not delivered on expectations for a strong rebound from last year's disappointing performance.

"It certainly is not going to be a barnburner holiday," said Robert Mettler, who heads Federated's Macy's West division. "We're seeing the continuing trend of buying closer to need. That's a bit nerve-wracking."

Analysts said anecdotal reports suggested weekend sales were good, but not great, across the sector. The Saturday before Christmas is usually the busiest shopping day of the year for retailers.

Retailers finally got a snowstorm-free weekend after back-to-back weekend white-outs in parts of the Northeast, but the U.S. Department of Homeland Security raised its color-coded terror alert level to orange on Sunday, its second-highest level, warning of a high risk of attack.

That may have kept some shoppers away from the major malls.,1,1382815.story

Monday, December 22, 2003

U.S. Expanding G.I. Presence in Afghanistan to Permit Aid Work:
"American forces will expand deployment in the southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan to increase security so that reconstruction work can begin unmolested by Taliban and Qaeda attackers, the top military commander here said Sunday.

The announcement by the commander, Lt. Gen. David Barno, amounted to an admission by the Americans that the 11,500 troops in Afghanistan have been unable to stop a constant stream of insurgent attacks that have undermined or slowed international aid efforts. "

The announcement also signaled a major shift in emphasis for the so-called provincial reconstruction teams run by the military, which have been helping mainly to provide emergency relief to Afghans and win the trust of the population. Now those teams will focus primarily on providing security in the southern and eastern areas of Afghanistan that have been most vulnerable to insurgent attacks this year.…

The military has five provincial reconstruction teams, consisting of 50 to 70 soldiers each, and is putting six more in place. Twelve teams in all will be working by March, the spokesman said. They will concentrate on a range of security initiatives, including patrolling, and building up local police and Afghan security forces.

NATO, which commands the peacekeeping force in Kabul and is taking over control of a German-run reconstruction team in northern Afghanistan at the end of the month, will also set up more such teams in coming months, General Barno said.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and international and Afghan aid agencies have for months called for a stronger international effort to improve security. Some prominent agencies have criticized the reconstruction teams as an inadequate response to the serious security threats facing the Afghan people and those providing assistance.

"There is still not a clear mandate about how they are going to operate," said Sally Austin, deputy country director of CARE International in Kabul. She added that a year after the first reconstruction team started in the town of Gardez, southeast of Kabul, it remained unclear what achievements there had been there. Security has improved recently in the Gardez area, she said, but she attributed the improvement more to the change in governor than any impact by the team.

Two foreign aid workers, an Italian tourist and 13 Afghan aid workers have been killed in Taliban-orchestrated attacks this year. At least 100 Afghan policemen and 8 American troops have also died. Five Afghan border guards were killed and two wounded in the latest attack, on Saturday night at their post close to the border with Pakistan near the southern town of Spinbaldak.

After a 29-year-old woman from the United Nations refugee agency was shot dead last month in the town of Ghazni, south of Kabul, the United Nations special representative to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, said the organization might have to pull staff members out of the country if security does not improve.

The security problems may jeopardize the entire political process and national elections scheduled for June next year. Elections may have to move to September, and can go ahead at all only if there is a major improvement in security, Mr. Brahimi said in an interview on Friday.
When Workers Die: U.S. Rarely Seeks Charges for Deaths in Workplace: "very one of their deaths was a potential crime. Workers decapitated on assembly lines, shredded in machinery, burned beyond recognition, electrocuted, buried alive — all of them killed, investigators concluded, because their employers willfully violated workplace safety laws.

These deaths represent the very worst in the American workplace, acts of intentional wrongdoing or plain indifference that kill about 100 workers each year. They were not accidents. They happened because a boss removed a safety device to speed up production, or because a company ignored explicit safety warnings, or because a worker was denied proper protective gear.

And for years, in news releases and Congressional testimony, senior officials at the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration have described these cases as intolerable outrages, "horror stories" that demanded the agency's strongest response. They have repeatedly pledged to press wherever possible for criminal charges against those responsible.

These promises have not been kept. "

Over a span of two decades, from 1982 to 2002, OSHA investigated 1,242 of these horror stories mdash; instances in which the agency itself concluded that workers had died because of their employer's "willful" safety violations. Yet in 93 percent of those cases, OSHA declined to seek prosecution, an eight-month examination of workplace deaths by The New York Times has found.

What is more, having avoided prosecution once, at least 70 employers willfully violated safety laws again, resulting in scores of additional deaths. Even these repeat violators were rarely prosecuted.

OSHA's reluctance to seek prosecution, The Times found, persisted even when employers had been cited before for the very same safety violation. It persisted even when the violations caused multiple deaths, or when the victims were teenagers. And it persisted even where reviews by administrative judges found abundant proof of willful wrongdoing.

Behind that reluctance, current and former OSHA officials say, is a bureaucracy that works at every level to thwart criminal referrals. They described a bureaucracy that fails to reward, and sometimes penalizes, those who push too hard for prosecution, where aggressive enforcement is suffocated by endless layers of review, where victims' families are frozen out but companies adeptly work the rules in their favor.

"A simple lack of guts and political will," said John T. Phillips, a former regional OSHA administrator in Kansas City and Boston. "You try to reason why something is criminal, and it never flies."

In fact, OSHA has increasingly helped employers, particularly large corporations, avoid the threat of prosecution altogether. Since 1990, the agency has quietly downgraded 202 fatality cases from "willful" to "unclassified," a vague term favored by defense lawyers in part because it virtually forecloses the possibility of prosecution.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

On the Web, an Amateur Audience Creates Anti-Bush Ads:
"When the Web-based political group announced a contest in October for homemade commercials challenging the Bush administration (the winner to be shown on television during the week of the State of the Union address) grass-roots America proved a willing and eager advertising agency."

Thirty-second spots poured in by the hundreds in e-mail attachments to, which has already shown that the Internet can be a battering ram for political activism by organizing protests against the invasion of Iraq. Last week, the group posted 1,017 of the amateur commercials on a Web site (, asking viewers to pick their favorites.

In the first hour of polling on Wednesday, more than 5,700 votes were logged. So many people visited the site that MoveOn, experiencing bandwidth problems, limited the curious to 20 ads a day.

Next month the top vote-getters will be shown to a panel of left-leaning celebrity judges including Moby, Michael Moore, Janeane Garofalo, Margaret Cho and Gus Van Sant, with one or more winning entries to be broadcast as paid advertisements in Washington, D.C., in potential swing states or perhaps nationally.

What the cascade of entries demonstrates is that the home-movie revolution made possible by inexpensive digital camcorders and off-the-shelf software has elevated the United States from merely being a nation of wedding videographers.…
Money & Medicine: Making Malpractice Harder to Prove:
"DOCTORS' groups, insurers and President Bush have vowed to continue their fight in 2004 to pass legislation that caps jury awards in medical malpractice suits. But there is another movement inching forward, and it, too, could have far-reaching consequences for injured patients.

Slowly and quietly, the rules regarding expert witness testimony in medical malpractice cases have been changing: a handful of states have passed legislation in the last two years that generally requires physician experts to work in the same field as a defendant doctor, while professional doctors' groups are setting up committees to review the testimony of their members. "

A medical expert is indispensable to a medical malpractice case. To show negligence, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the "standard of care" has been breached by the doctor in question. And who knows more about that standard than another doctor? Without a medical expert, there is no case.

Rick Del Cueto found this out the hard way. In 1995, he said, his 3-year-old daughter, Cristine, suffered a stroke when the surgeon who was operating to remove a tumor near her optic nerve cut a major artery to her brain and then, unaware of his error, cauterized and packed the area to stop the bleeding. After the operation, Cristine could not speak or walk, and lost all movement on her right side. The doctors assured them that she would get better in a few months, Mr. Del Cueto, 45, an accountant, said. But she didn't, and he and his wife, Lily, 44, who had traveled from their home in Miami to Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in Manhattan for the operation, decided to sue. (The Del Cuetos say that Cristine, now 11, still suffers from cognitive and physical disabilities: she drags her right foot when she walks and cannot move her right hand.)

The case against the surgeon took seven years to prepare. Early on, lawyers for the Del Cueto family brought in as an expert witness Dr. Robert W. Rand, a neurosurgeon who was then chairman of the pediatric neuro-oncology department at John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, Calif. But less than a month before the trial was scheduled to begin in April, Dr. Rand pulled out of the case. His letter to the family's lawyer, Gary Alan Friedman, said: "I have been informed by the senior neurosurgical society to discontinue expert testimony for plaintiffs or risk membership. Therefore I am withdrawing as your expert."

The Del Cuetos were stunned. "You wind yourself up for this; you get anxiety attacks," Mr. Del Cueto said. "And then to hear that it's called off because some sanctioning body doesn't want him to testify, it was incredibly frustrating." Rather than start over, the family settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, according to Mr. Del Cueto. Dr. Rand did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Dr. Edgar Housepian, the surgeon named in the suit, denied any wrongdoing. "It's unfortunate the child was hurt," he said. "I didn't consider it malpractice, but on the advice of my attorney I felt it was best to settle the case, and we did."

Doctors have long complained that the courts do not do enough to weed out so-called hired guns, physicians who make a living testifying as expert witnesses. Many doctors who take only occasional cases are tarred with the same brush. In recent years, with "truth in testimony" as their rallying cry, many doctors have become activists for restrictions and closer scrutiny regarding expert witness testimony.

But some people question their motives. "Doctors are so desperate to get relief from malpractice costs that they're willing to chip away at the opportunity to present an expert public opinion," said Arthur L. Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania. "They know this is probably bad public policy. But they want to get away from the high costs."
There's a Blurry Line Between Rx and O.T.C.:
"A popular prescription drug to prevent unwanted pregnancies is safe enough that it should be made available over the counter to the women who urgently need it, an advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration recommended last week.

The F.D.A.'s commissioner, Mark McClellan, must now decide to accept or reject the finding, and faces an intense debate over the ethics of selling the morning-after pill, called Plan B, as if it were no different from aspirin, for example. But what about the scientific question? If the pill is so safe, and so important, why was it sold by prescription in the first place, as it has been since 1999? "

The decision to sell a drug by prescription, experts say, may involve factors that have nothing to do with science or patient safety. Marketing and financial considerations, politics, doctors' concerns and consumer psychology all may play a role.

"Unequivocally, there is no bright line," said Peter Barton Hutt, a former chief counsel at the F.D.A. who now teaches at Harvard and represents drug companies. "It's a judgment issue."
Critics Attack Secret Deals by Middlemen to Buy Drugs:
"Federal prosecutors who have been investigating the industry are offering briefings to employers on ways to demand more transparency in their drug plans. Big employers, including the Ford Motor Company and Verizon Communications, have been pressing in negotiations for the benefit managers to be more open or to eliminate their deals with manufacturers altogether.

Some drug manufacturers, meanwhile, are saying they have no objection to letting employers see their contracts with the pharmacy benefit managers, contradicting assertions by those companies that it is the manufacturers who have insisted on secrecy."

And though a disclosure requirement was dropped from the Medicare bill before it was passed by Congress, regulators are likely to demand information about rebate arrangements, said Thomas Scully, who resigned this month as head of the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Systems.

"They will have to be more transparent if they are dealing with taxpayer dollars," he said, adding that the government would probably offer benefit managers the assurance that information they disclose would not be released to competitors.

The pharmacy benefit managers have been growing robustly, and their stocks are up more than 80 percent this year. But they face rising competition from pharmacy managers owned by large insurance companies.

On Tuesday, Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in Illinois, Texas and New Mexico said they were dropping their pharmacy manager, AdvancePCS, and transferring four million members to Prime Therapeutics, a fast-growing Blue Cross-owned pharmacy benefit manager based in Minnesota.

As owners, the health plans will of course be fully informed about Prime Therapeutics' contracts with drug manufacturers. "The market wants transparency," said Tim Dickman, the president and chief executive of Prime.

Several large commercial insurers, including Aetna, Wellpoint, Anthem, Cigna and Pacificare also have their own drug units.

Pharmacy benefit managers are paid by employers and health plans to negotiate reduced prices for drugs on preferred lists. The benefit managers also typically receive rebates from manufacturers, based on sales volume. They agree to pass a portion of these rebates, as well as other fees paid by the drug manufacturers, along to their customers.

Two big benefit managers, Express Scripts and Caremark Rx, have made formal promises to inform their customers fully about the manufacturers' payments. And many big employers use independent auditors to make sure they are receiving their due.

Even some of the largest employers say the four biggest pharmacy benefit managers - Express Scripts, Caremark RX, AdvancePCS and Medco Health Solutions - have refused to let them see the full text of the managers' contracts with manufacturers. Medco said last night that some of its clients, but not all, had the ability to see the full text in audits.

The inability to see the contracts has created "a cloud of suspicion, because of the inability of the benefit payers to see what those relationships are and how they may be affecting us as a benefit payer," said Dr. John Wright, pharmacy benefit manager at Ford Motor.…

Saturday, December 20, 2003

like an asthma attack
slip up slowly,
unnoticed, the stairs
are a little harder
to climb

The details
slip from memory
as I try to read
and answer the
mail I want,
and block the
spam, spam, damn!

But, I can't
catch up, I can't
ease off, I can't
tell the truth,
because, I don't
know the truth.

It's a little harder
to walk, nor is it
easier to talk,
and whatever I
write, seems trite.
Peace on earth?
Peace on planet three?
That's something we'd
all like to see.

how could that be?
when human hearts
lie dormant in their
own early winter,
and faith itself is

Frozen hearts dream
of killing, imagine that
their twisted rage is key
to God's eternal presence
when a heart filled with
hate has no room,
no more room than
the inn in Bethlehem.

Have we chosen?
To be like them
frozen? Compassion
dead, justice dying
in a world of hungry
children crying.
Why can't we see
beyond our hardened
Electronic Voting:

"Electronic voting has garnered significant attention in recent months. Controversy abounds over whether e-voting machines are secure and reliable, while strong movements toward expanding their use have arisen. India, for instance, announced in July 2003 that it would use exclusively electronic polls in its future elections. This trend and its associated security risks are examined in this Topic in Depth."

The NSDL Scout Report for Mathematics Engineering and Technology-- Volume 2, Number 25 Topic in Depth

1. The Free E-Democracy Project

2. Caltech-MIT/Voting Technology Project [pdf, RealOne Player]

3. Electronic Voting and Counting [pdf]

4. The Open Voting Consortium

5. Election Reform and Electronic Voting Systems (DREs): Analysis of Security Issues [pdf]

6. Electronic Voting: What You Need to Know

7. Can Voting Machines Be Trusted?

From The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology, Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2003.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Record Industry May Not Subpoena Online Providers:
The industry's argument that the subpoena power could be applied to an Internet service provider "regardless of what function it performs," even if songs are only momentarily passing through its data pipes, "borders upon the silly."

"The recording industry cannot compel an Internet service provider to give up the names of customers who trade music online without judicial review, a federal appeals court in Washington ruled today.

The sharply worded ruling, which dismissed one industry argument by saying that it 'borders on the silly,' is a blow to the music companies in the online music wars. It overturns a decision in federal district court that favored the industry and ordered Verizon Communications to disclose the identity of a subscriber based on simple subpoenas submitted to a court clerk. "

The music industry has been struggling to counter an army of downloaders tens of millions strong who, beginning with the advent of Napster in the 1990's, have swapped songs online on so-called "peer-to-peer" networks without regard to the property rights of artists, composers and the companies that make the music.

In September, the industry began suing large-scale file swappers. In doing so, it used a controversial provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, section 512 (h), to demand that the service providers reveal the identities of customers whose activities could otherwise be linked by the industry only to an identifier known as an Internet Protocol number.

The opinion, written by Chief Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, did not strike down the new provisions of the copyright act on constitutional grounds. Instead, it said that the statute was applied incorrectly by the recording industry.

Under the terms of the law, the court said, subpoenas that the industry sent to Verizon demanding the identity of the file trader and the removal of infringing files could not be applied to the company when its customers were trading files on a peer-to-peer network. As an Internet service provider, or I.S.P., Verizon was "acting merely as a conduit" for the music files and did not store the data on its own computer network, Judge Ginsburg wrote. "A subpoena may be issued only to an I.S.P. engaged in storing on its servers material that is infringing or the subject of infringing activity."

Since the law requires a "takedown notice" that identifies the material that must be removed from the Internet, and since the material in question is not on the Internet service provider's own servers, "the R.I.A.A.'s notification identifies absolutely no material Verizon could remove or access to which it could disable," Judge Ginsburg wrote.

Although the recording industry argued that an Internet service provider can, in fact, remove the offending material by cutting off the subscriber's account, Judge Ginsburg wrote that "this argument is undone by the terms of the act," which clearly distinguished between blocking access to copyrighted files and cutting off the accounts of infringing users.

The industry's argument that the subpoena power could be applied to an Internet service provider "regardless of what function it performs," even if songs are only momentarily passing through its data pipes, "borders upon the silly," the judge wrote.

Such attempts by the industry to broaden the definition and role of Internet service provider, Judge Ginsburg wrote, must fail under the harsh light of careful statutory analysis. "Define all the world as an I.S.P. if you like, the validity of a 512(h) subpoena still depends upon the copyright holder having given the I.S.P., however defined, a notification" that is effective under other crucial provisions of the law, he wrote.… - Tips for Last-Minute E-Shopping:
Retailers offer to ship later than ever--for a price.

"This year, online stores are pushing back holiday shopping deadlines, allowing customers to order products later than ever while still guaranteeing delivery by December 24. Most sites will let you order right up until December 22 for delivery by Christmas Eve.

But this last-minute convenience won't come cheap--and if you're expecting free shipping, forget it. And the later you are, better chance something could go wrong. Still, if you're a procrastinator at heart, it's not too late to avoid the malls and do your holiday shopping online."

Online retailers, in general, have become much better at honestly assessing whether they can deliver products by a certain date, says Patti Freeman-Evans, a retail analyst with Jupiter Research.

In 1999, the Federal Trade Commission sued seven sites for violating the Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise rule. This requires retailers to have a reasonable basis for any shipping promise they make, and to promptly notify customers of any delay. The FTC continues to monitor online retailers each year, reminding sites that promise fast shipping that they are required to deliver. But since 1999, the industry has seen vast improvement, says Joel Brewer, an FTC attorney.

Customers have noticed that improvement, Freeman-Evans says, making them more comfortable with shopping online, even for last-minute purchases.

"They've been online longer. They've shopped online in the past. They've used these sites and gotten their merchandise delivered when they expected it to be delivered. They trust these retailers," she says. "Last year, consumers were very happy with the performance of online retailers and their ability to ship on time."

So this year, consumers are willing to shop later than ever, taking advantage of later shipping deadlines--deadlines that could be risky for retailers.,aid,113919,00.asp

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Courts Deal Blow to Bush on Treatment of Terror Suspects: Majority Opinion:
We conclude that the Secretary of Defense is a proper respondent and that the
District Court had jurisdiction. We also conclude that Padilla’s detention was not authorized by
Congress, and absent such authorization, the President does not have the power under Article II
of the Constitution to detain as an enemy combatant an American citizen seized on American soil
outside a zone of combat.

"As this Court sits only a short distance from where the World Trade Center once stood,
we are as keenly aware as anyone of the threat al Qaeda poses to our country and of the responsibilities the President and law enforcement officials bear for protecting the nation. But presidential authority does not exist in a vacuum, and this case involves not whether those responsibilities should be aggressively pursued, but whether the President is obligated, in the circumstances presented here, to share them with Congress.

Where, as here, the President’s power as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and the domestic rule of law intersect, we conclude that clear congressional authorization is required for detentions of American citizens on American soil because 18 U.S.C. § 4001(a) (2000) (the “Non-Detention Act”) prohibits such detentions absent specific congressional authorization. Congress’s Authorization for Use of Military Force Joint Resolution, Pub. L. No. 107-40, 115 Stat. 224 (2001) (“Joint Resolution”), passed shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, is not such an authorization, and no exception to section 4001(a) otherwise exists. In light of this express prohibition, the government must undertake to show that Padilla’s detention can nonetheless be grounded in the President’s inherent constitutional powers."
Remember 'Weapons of Mass Destruction'? For Bush, They Are a Nonissue:
"This was a pre-emptive war, and the rationale was that there was an imminent threat," said Senator Bob Graham of Florida, a Democrat who has said that by elevating Iraq to the most dangerous menace facing the United States, the administration unwisely diverted resources from fighting Al Qaeda and other terrorists.

"On Tuesday, with Mr. Hussein in American custody and polls showing support for the White House's Iraq policy rebounding, Mr. Bush suggested that he no longer saw much distinction between the possibilities.

'So what's the difference?' he responded at one point as he was pressed on the topic during an interview by Diane Sawyer of ABC News.

To critics of the war, there is a big difference. They say that the administration's statements that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons that it could use on the battlefield or turn over to terrorists added an urgency to the case for immediate military action that would have been lacking if Mr. Hussein were portrayed as just developing the banned weapons."

The overwhelming vote in Congress last year to authorize the use of force against Iraq would have been closer "but for the fact that the president had so explicitly said that there were weapons of mass destruction that posed an imminent threat to citizens of the United States," Mr. Graham said in an interview on Wednesday.

As early as last spring, Mr. Bush suggested that the Iraqis might have dispersed their biological and chemical weapons so widely that they would be extremely difficult to find. And some weapons experts have suggested that Mr. Hussein may have destroyed banned weapons that he had in the early 1990's but left in place the capacity to produce more.

This week, at a news conference on Monday and in the ABC interview on Tuesday, Mr. Bush's answers to questions on the subject continued a gradual shift in the way he has addressed the topic, from the immediacy of the threat to an assertion that no matter what, the world is better off without Mr. Hussein in power.

Where once Mr. Bush and his top officials asserted unambiguously that Mr. Hussein had the weapons at the ready, their statements now are often far more couched, reflecting the fact that no weapons have been found — "yet," as Mr. Bush was quick to interject during the interview.

In trying to build public and international support for toppling Mr. Hussein, the administration cited, with different emphasis at different times, the banned weapons, links between the Iraqi leader and terrorist organizations, a desire to liberate the Iraqi people and a policy of bringing democracy to the Middle East.

When it came to describing the weapons program, Mr. Bush never hedged before the war. "If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today — and we do — does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?" Mr. Bush asked during a speech in Cincinnati in October 2002.

In the weeks after the fall of Baghdad in April, the White House was equally explicit. "One of the reasons we went to war was because of their possession of weapons of mass destruction," Ari Fleischer, then the White House spokesman, told reporters on May 7. "And nothing has changed on that front at all."
Chicago Tribune | Technology raises risk of tyranny:
"What does the government know about you?

As technology has changed in recent years, the type and the quantity of information about us that the government can use have increased and changed. How government gathers and uses information is changing in ways that should be important to a people asserting the right to control its government."

Most people are probably not aware of the scope of these changes or why they are important to our everyday lives in a free society. People want to be safe. But will these changes really make us safer?

When we look closely, we can discern a pattern of information gathering underway at the national level that is staggering in its breadth and purposes. Its relationship to our safety is tenuous, at best.

So we must look closer still. The national information-gathering puzzle is made up of many pieces. Viewed separately, some may seem innocuous, even common sense, while others are troubling. Viewed together, their existence should give us all pause.…

The danger posed to freedom by the administration's current initiatives lies in the use of computers and computer systems, which allow for much of the collection and use of information. Computer power allows government to access a greater variety of types of information, pull more pieces together into a whole and analyze data without needing to have a human being look at it.

In the past, government could collect information, but it couldn't necessarily use it all. Human intervention was required to make connections between pieces of information. When government wanted to tyrannize its citizens, it gathered information and placed it in Manila file folders. Perhaps some of these files were centrally located under the control of a person charged with determining the importance of that information. Yet the government had only so many resources; there were only so many people who could be tyrannized at one time. People reviewed people, and people could do only so much. The danger of mass tyranny was not based on information itself, but on the leg power of government.

But today computers allow different government agencies to share information; information collected for one purpose is now reviewed for others. Computers analyze according to their programs, spitting out potential relationships between facts and figures. Tyranny, as much as if not more than freedom, is facilitated by the computer. And the administration's current programs have the potential for tyrannical effects.

How does the Bush administration respond to civil rights advocates concerned about its efforts? As it does with its justification for nearly all of its current activities: by reference to the "war on terrorism." And while the administration admits that it cannot ensure our safety from terrorism, all the while it goes about establishing systems designed to violate our freedoms and liberties in pursuit of a politically expedient (and false) sense of security.

There are those who would argue that protecting the lives of Americans takes precedence over freedoms, liberties and perhaps all other obligations. We, as a nation, must reject this argument. Benjamin Franklin, more than 20 years before the Revolutionary War, said, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.",1,4293431.story?coll=chi-technologyviews-hed

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

The Outlook: Joy Fades as Iraqis Chafe Under a Grim Occupation:
"In the evening gloom, on a dirt track a quarter mile from this country's largest killing field, the two brothers spoke of the need for answers.

They wanted Saddam Hussein to tell them — to tell all of Iraq — why the bullet-scarred remains of more than 3,000 people had been dug up here last summer. They wanted to know why one of their cousins was among those found, why this cousin had disappeared 12 years earlier while buying flour at the village market, why members of the Baath Party had killed so many of their own countrymen.…

More important, said the brothers, Dhiya and Ayad Abed, they wanted to know why life had gotten worse for them since the American-led forces ousted Mr. Hussein. Why did they lack electricity and fuel, why were there no jobs, why were armed bandits roaming the streets?"

"It was inevitable that he be captured," said Dhiya Abed, 27. "There was no other way for this to end. But the Americans have to do something for us because things are worse than before."

The Abed brothers and others in this rural area provide a sobering glimpse into the impact of Mr. Hussein's capture on Iraqis, including those who suffered enormously under his rule. The joyous bursts of gunfire that echoed throughout parts of Iraq on Sunday are already a distant memory. Many people are left wondering how they will push on with their daily lives in a country controlled by a foreign power and filled with political and economic uncertainty.

Nowhere do those concerns seem more ominous than in this village, about 50 miles south of Baghdad, where many families lost members to execution squads. The bodies at Mahawil began accumulating in 1991, during the ill-fated mass uprising against Mr. Hussein. This is the largest of the country's more than 260 potential mass graves identified by human rights workers.

So one would expect the people of Mahawil to be clamoring for accountability from the imprisoned Mr. Hussein. They are, but they are clamoring even louder for accountability from the American occupiers.…

Few things illustrate the brutality of Mr. Hussein's rule more potently than the mass graves. He will undoubtedly be called on to explain them during his trial, whenever that takes place. Though senior American and Iraqi officials are saying Mr. Hussein will be brought before an Iraqi-led criminal tribunal, some residents of Mahawil said they preferred to see him judged in an international court.

"Of course he should answer for this; he had to know about these graves," said Muhammad Moussa, a Sudanese worker at a poultry farm near the graves. "I think he should be taken to trial in an international court. Not only have Iraqis suffered under him, but other people too."

Down the road, the Abed brothers echoed those sentiments while reflecting on their family's loss. Their cousin went to the market one day in 1991, they said, and was inexplicably picked up by local Baathists. The Abeds did not know his fate until they found his remains 12 years later.

Mr. Hussein, Mr. Abed said, "should be taken to an international court.

"We're not in a situation where we can have an Iraqi court," he added. "Naturally, the graves should come up. Most of the people were innocent and didn't do anything."

But the brothers did not dwell on the subject. There were more pressing matters, they said. Ayad, 21, a law student at Babylon University, waved his hand at the gathering darkness. "There's no electricity," he said, clutching two textbooks to his chest.

On the highway running past Mahawil, two policemen watching over traffic were preparing to end their shift. It was too dangerous to stay out past dark, they said.
Advertising: Two Unions Criticize Ads for Attacks Against Dean:
"Two labor unions that provided financing for a shadowy Democratic political group running tough commercials against former Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont criticized the advertising campaign yesterday, and one said it might ask for its money back.

Both unions, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and the Laborers' International Union of North America, have endorsed Representative Richard A. Gephardt, who said yesterday that he knew nothing about the group running the commercials."

Rick Sloan, a spokesman for the machinists, said the union donated $50,000 to the group, Americans for Jobs, Health Care and Progressive Values.

Mr. Sloan said the group's treasurer, David Jones, solicited the money by saying it would pay for "issues ads." The union, Mr. Sloan said, believed the group's commercials would focus on economic and health care policies.

But in the end, he said, the advertisements were not what the union had bargained for, especially the latest one, in which an announcer questions Dr. Dean's national security qualifications as a camera zooms in on a magazine cover showing Osama bin Laden's face.

"Osama bin Laden has nothing at all to do with this campaign; it's a travesty," Mr. Sloan said. "We think the ads are despicable and if it was up to me, we'd ask for a refund."

He said the union's leadership had not yet had a chance to meet and discuss requesting its money back.

Noting Mr. Gephardt's slippage in some polls since the group began running advertisements against Dr. Dean two weeks ago, Mr. Sloan said, "They are doing more damage to Dick Gephardt than any of his opponents could have hoped to have done or dreamed of doing."
Crime Database Misused for Civil Issues, Suit Says:
"The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security are unlawfully using a national crime database to get local police departments to enforce civil immigration laws, lawyers who have assembled a federal class-action lawsuit against the practice said yesterday.

The lawsuit, which they plan to file today in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, is the first to challenge the addition of civil information about thousands of noncitizens to the National Criminal Information Center database, which the F.B.I. uses to notify law enforcement agencies about people wanted for crimes."

Immigration violations, like staying in the country after a visa has expired, can lead to deportation but are not criminal matters and have traditionally been the responsibility of federal agents.

Congress has neither authorized nor required local police agencies to routinely arrest people for such violations, and a bill that would do so has drawn unexpectedly strong opposition from many police departments, including those in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, Denver, Boston and Chicago. Advocates for immigrants argue that it would undermine local crime-fighting by making immigrants even more fearful of reporting crimes or helping with police investigations.…

Monday, December 15, 2003

New Economy: Considering Computer Voting:
"HIGH-TECH voting is getting a low-tech backstop: paper. Most new voting machines are basically computers with touch screens instead of keyboards. Their makers promise that the new machines will simplify voting and forever end the prospect of pregnant and hanging chads. But as the market for computerized voting equipment has intensified, a band of critics has emerged, ranging from the analytical to the apoplectic."

The opponents of the current machines, along with the people who make them and election officials who buy them, gathered to spar in Gaithersburg, a Washington suburb, last Wednesday and Thursday, at a symposium optimistically titled, "Building Trust and Confidence in Voting Systems."

The critics complained that the companies were putting democracy into a mystery box, and that the computer code for the systems was not written to standards that ensure security. Critics are uneasy about the major vendors' political ties, and they worry about what a malevolent insider or a hacker could do to an election. But above all, they complain that few of the new machines allow voters to verify their votes, whether with a paper receipt or another method, an idea favored by computer scientists including David L. Dill of Stanford University.

The companies generally respond that the lever-style, mechanical voting machines offer no such backup, either. The critics counter that the computerized systems are the first to need voter verification methods.

Now a growing number of election officials and politicians seem to be agreeing with the skeptics. Last week, Nevada said it was buying voting machines for the entire state, and it demanded paper receipts for all voters. Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller said he received an overwhelming message from voters that they did not trust electronic voting. "Frankly, they think the process is working against them, rather than working for them," Mr. Heller, a Republican, said. Last month, the California secretary of state, Kevin Shelley said that his state would require all touch-screen voting machines to provide a "voter-verified paper audit trail."
Op-Ed Columnist: Another Battle for Bush:
"If you just went by recent headlines, you'd have the impression that the U.S. economy is as bright as the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. The G.D.P. is surging. The stock market, retail sales and corporate profits are up. So is productivity.

The front-page headline in The Daily News on Thursday said, 'Santa Comes Early to Wall Street.' It was accompanied by a photo of Philip Purcell, the chairman and C.E.O. of Morgan Stanley, who was described by The News as 'the first titan to cash in at the end of a banner year.'

The article cited several executives who were expected to receive year-end bonuses in the $12 million to $17 million range.

The Bush crowd will tell you that these economic goodies are bound to trickle down. Jobs will become plentiful. Pay envelopes will fatten. Nirvana is just around the corner. "

The problem with this scenario is that there are no facts to back it up. The closer you look at employment in this country, the more convinced you become that the condition of the ordinary worker is deteriorating, not improving.

The problem is that we are not creating many jobs, and the quality of those we are creating is, for the most part, not good. Job growth at the moment is about 80,000 per month, which is not even enough to cover the new workers entering the job market.

And when the Economic Policy Institute compared the average wage of industries that are creating jobs with those that are losing jobs, analysts found a big discrepancy. The jobs lost paid about $17 an hour, compared with $14.50 an hour for those being created.

The Bush administration and its corporate allies give the impression that they would welcome a big surge in employment that would raise the wages and quality of life for all working Americans and their families. But their policies tell an entirely different story. A fierce and bitter war — not bloody like the war in Iraq, but a war just the same — is being waged against American workers. And so far, at least, the Bush administration has been on the wrong side.…
2 Car Bombers Attack Iraqi Police, as Insurgency Continues:
"Two powerful car bombs exploded at police stations in Baghdad today, killing at least six Iraqi officers and announcing that the insurgency here has not ended with the capture of Saddam Hussein.

'People did this to say, `We can do this even though you caught Saddam,' ' said Salem Abed Ali, 40, who was rocked at his breakfast table this morning, along with his wife and two children, when a bomb exploded across the street, at a police station in the Husseiniya neighborhood. 'They want to keep battling inside Iraqi lands.'"

In his national address on Sunday, President Bush cautioned Americans that the "capture of Saddam Hussein does not mean the end of violence in Iraq." His warning appeared to be confirmed in the rubble, shredded cars and bloodied bits of human being at the sites of the two bombings today, one of them at a place where American military investigators work but had not yet shown up for the day.

Against the images of a bedraggled and helpless-looking Mr. Hussein printed in Iraqi newspapers and played endlessly on satellite television, the attacks also confronted Iraqis, as well as the American troops doing the fighting, with the question of just what kind of force is mounting the attacks.…

United States officials, conceding that their knowledge of the insurgents is weak, have blamed the attacks largely on loyalists to Mr. Hussein, Iraqi Islamic extremists and Muslims from outside Iraq. The assumption has been that some percentage has been fighting for Mr. Hussein's return to power, and the question in the coming weeks will be whether the insurgency will grow or shrink with Mr. Hussein's return to power no longer a realistic prospect. Some Iraqis believe Mr. Hussein's capture may actually fuel the insurgency.…

In Tikrit, where support for Mr. Hussein remains strong, American soldiers today dispersed crowds of people expressing anger at his arrest. In Ramadi and Khaldiya, two other strongholds for Mr. Hussein west of Baghdad, huge crowds chanted in support of him and fired off weapons this evening, apparently because of rumors that he had not in fact been captured.

There were also reports of exchanges of gunfire with passing American troops in Ramadi, possibly resulting in Iraqi casualties, though that could not immediately be confirmed.…

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Without Firing a Shot, U.S. Forces Detain Deposed Leader:
"Military authorities said that although Mr. Hussein was armed with a pistol at the time of his capture, he put up no resistance and not one shot was fired in the operation.

'He was caught like a rat,' Maj. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who heads the Army's Fourth Infantry Division, told reporters.

Officials said they were able to confirm Mr. Hussein's identity using DNA tests."

Now, how ablout those weapons of mass distraction? A.I.
Captain Yee's Ordeal:
"The military's mean-spirited and incompetent prosecution of Capt. James Yee, the former Muslim chaplain at Guantánamo Bay, illustrates the danger of allowing the war on terrorism to trump basic rights. After holding Captain Yee in solitary confinement for nearly three months, and smearing him with adultery and pornography charges, the military is now uncertain whether the documents whose confidentiality he is charged with breaching were even confidential. In the interest of justice, and of resurrecting their own reputation, military prosecutors should drop the case."

The charges against Captain Yee, who was arrested in September, have always been murky. The military seems to have suspected him of being part of a plot to infiltrate Guantánamo, and to have been concerned about contacts between him and two other military men it was keeping under watch. But rather than bring serious conspiracy charges, the military merely accused Captain Yee of taking home, and improperly transporting, classified material. Military officials have been unforthcoming about the nature of the material, but at least some, and perhaps all of it appears to be documents, such as maps of the camp and lists of prisoners who have been interrogated, that a chaplain might have for job-related reasons.

Rather than put the questions about the charges to rest right away, the military led off its case against Captain Yee last week with evidence he had an affair with a female officer, testimony that his wife and child had to listen to as they sat in court. It has also accused him of keeping pornography on a government computer. These charges in no way suggest that he was a security threat, and they are the kind the military generally does not bother to bring. They seem to be motivated, in this case, by a desire to embarrass Captain Yee, and by frustration that the larger case against him is so weak.…
U.S. Suits Multiply, but Fewer Ever Get to Trial, Study Says:
"On television and in the popular imagination, lawsuits and prosecutions end in trials, in open court before a jury. In reality, according to a new study, trials have become quite uncommon. "

In 1962, the study says, 11.5 percent of all civil cases in federal court went to trial. By last year, that number had dropped to 1.8 percent. And even though there are five times as many lawsuits today, the raw number of civil trials has dropped, too. They peaked in 1985 at 12,529. Last year, 4,569 civil cases were tried in federal court.

"What's documented here," William G. Young, the chief judge of the Federal District Court in Boston, said in a telephone interview, "is nothing less than the passing of the common law adversarial system that is uniquely American."

The percentage of federal criminal prosecutions resolved by trials also declined, to less than 5 percent last year from 15 percent in 1962. The number of prosecutions more than doubled in the last four decades, but the number of criminal trials fell, to 3,574 last year from 5,097 in 1962.

The study, based on data compiled by the federal court system, was prepared by Marc Galanter, who teaches law at the University of Wisconsin and the London School of Economics, for the American Bar Association.

"This is a cultural shift of enormous significance," said Arthur Miller, a law professor at Harvard.

Opinions vary on whether the shift is a positive one. Negotiated settlements may satisfy both sides in a way a win-or-lose trial cannot, and pretrial dismissals of cases by judges may avoid needless trials of frivolous claims. Both of these alternatives to trial are less cumbersome, less expensive and more efficient.

On the other hand, some studies suggest that individuals suing companies fare considerably better before juries than they do in settlements and before judges, meaning that a decline in the number of trials may hurt plaintiffs with valid claims.…
con·cept: 2003