Friday, February 28, 2003

Ultimately, after two hours of debate in the 180-year-old hall of the Oxford Union — a contrarian student body that famously declared in 1933 that it would "in no circumstances fight for its king and country" — the answer came down to a narrow 195-to-151 vote in America's favor.

America the Monster? Not Altogether, Oxford Says
"The United States is creating terrorism out of unilateralism and arrogance," said Alex
Betts, a British student speaker, who asked whether in fact it was "the Bush doctrine
that makes the United States the rogue state."

The theme was echoed by a Canadian, Andrew Zadel, who called the United States "powerful, dangerous and expansionist," rephrasing the American Constitution to begin, "We the people of America and to hell with everyone else."

Bob Marshall-Andrews, a legislator from the Labor Party of Mr. Blair, declared, "The America that we indict today is the illegitimate America of George W. Bush."

While no other country offered so much liberty to its own people, he said, "there is no other country that is so reviled for denying that liberty to other people."
No Relief in Sight
…Glenn Hubbard has resigned as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers — to spend more time with his family, of course. (Pay no attention to the knife handles protruding from his back.) Gregory Mankiw, his successor, is a very good economist, but never mind: When the political apparatchiks who make all decisions in this administration want Mr. Mankiw's opinion, they'll tell Mr. Mankiw what it is.

Meanwhile consumer confidence is plunging, and almost two-thirds of voters rate the current state of the economy as "poor." Is there any relief in sight? No.
Sharon's New Government Increases Pressure on Arafat
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new right-wing government won parliamentary approval early today, and he declared that peace negotiations with the Palestinians would not resume until the violence stops and the current Palestinian leadership is replaced.

"Before returning to the diplomatic track there is a need for ending terror and incitement, for reforms within the Palestinian Authority to be implemented, and for replacing the existing leadership," Mr. Sharon said in remarks on Thursday afternoon directed at Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader.

The speech came a day after President Bush said that a war to topple President Saddam Hussein of Iraq would make the region more stable and could lay the groundwork for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. Israel would be expected to support the creation of a Palestinian state and must stop expanding settlements, Mr. Bush said.

However, prospects for a swift resumption of the peace talks remain dim.

Mr. Bush has strongly supported Mr. Sharon during the Middle East fighting, and both have made clear they would like to see Mr. Arafat replaced, though Mr. Arafat's position appears solid for now.

Mr. Sharon's four-party coalition, which was formally approved in a vote shortly after midnight, holds 68 of the 120 seats in Parliament. None of the four parties are calling for a resumption of peace talks.

Two far-right groups, the National Union and the National Religious Party, reject a Palestinian state under any circumstances. Mr. Sharon's Likud Party, the largest single faction, with 40 seats, contains some members who do not want a Palestinian state and some like Mr. Sharon who say they would accept a limited state under certain conditions. The fourth coalition member, the center-right Shinui Party, favors resuming peace talks after Mr. Arafat is gone.

Palestinians accuse Mr. Sharon of erecting obstacles that have blocked diplomatic proposals by the United States and other would-be international mediators. In addition, Palestinian leaders say the hard-liners who will dominate the new Israeli government could aggravate tensions by emphasizing military actions and supporting the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

"President Bush is talking about a Palestinian state, and Sharon is determined to undermine it," said Saeb Erekat a cabinet member in the Palestinian Authority. "The only thing that is missing from this government is the peace process."
ZDNet: Story: How the FCC got it 'bass ackwards'
HERE'S HOW and why: The three commissioners who voted "aye" misguidedly placed more importance on traditional, hardwired voice service--a mature market that's starting to show signs of decline. Consider this single, damning statistic: Americans subscribed to 189.1 million phone lines last year, down some 2 percent since 2001, the first year the numbers have fallen since the Depression.

As they communicate more and more via cell phone, Internet telephony, e-mail, and instant messaging, they're depending less and less on traditional phone service. In short, the FCC decided to preserve competition in a market segment that doesn't really need it.

Broadband, by contrast, needs competition badly. And conventional wisdom says it will only need it more and more as time goes by. Those of you who already have a fat pipe at work or at home know the positive impacts of having a fast connection that's always on: It brings the power of the Internet to its full fruition--for communicating, learning, and conducting business.,10738,2911787,00.html
News: DVD-copying upstart battles Hollywood
321 Studios is asking a judge to block Hollywood's attempts to stop it from shipping its DVD-copying products, claiming its software is protected free speech.

The company has been sued by seven major movie studios, which claim 321's DVD X Copy and DVD Copy Plus programs are helping to promote movie piracy. The studios claim the company is violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by selling software that can bypass protections on DVDs to make near-perfect copies.

However, in its latest filing, 321 argued that its products are protected free speech and that the studios are violating the First Amendment by trying to quash them. The company said the software is designed to allow people to make backups of DVDs they already own.

"The documentation presented to the court in 321 Studios' recent filing illustrates that the position taken by the major movie studios and the legislation behind which they hide--the DMCA--is unconstitutional," Daralyn Durie, an attorney with Keker & Van Nest who's representing 321, said in a statement.

The studios attempt to block 321 "violates the First Amendment rights of third parties who want to engage in protected expression using software and violates the rights of 321 Studios by prohibiting the sale of their DVD backup products, which are considered speech and are therefore guaranteed protection under Free Speech rights," Durie continued.

The company also claims its products do not circumvent copy controls, an action prohibited by the DMCA.

321's legal saga started last April, when the company asked a judge to declare its family of DVD-copying products legal because, 321 argued, they're intended to allow people to make backup copies of DVDs they already own. The company filed the request after reading newspaper articles quoting a Motion Picture Association of America representative, who suggested software such as 321's violated criminal copyright laws.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Gartner | Emerging Storm
The Emerging Storm weblog provides information to help your organization prepare for potential disruptions during this time of global unrest. Gartner will assist you with what you need to know, and what you need to do, to handle critical business issues in a time of instability. Remember that Weblogs are conversations- so we welcome your input, views and comments.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Wired News: Why Did Google Want Blogger?
Forget war and strife, the only news that mattered on the Web this week was Google's acquisition of Pyra Labs, the scrappy San Francisco startup behind the Blogger weblogging tool.

News of Pyra's sale for an undisclosed sum broke on Feb. 14, but details about the deal have so far been scant. Neither Google nor Pyra is saying much about it. Evan Williams, Pyra's co-founder, blogged his day-to-day life for the last three years right up until it got interesting. Williams pulled his blog offline earlier this week.

Meanwhile, thousands of weblogs and weblog indexes like Daypop and Blogdex have been loaded with debate about what the deal meant for the Web, for searching and for blogging. The acquisition has puzzled some onlookers: what would a search company want with a tool for making weblogs?

Someone in a unique position to speculate is Chris Cleveland, CEO of Dieselpoint, a search software company based in Chicago that worked with Pyra last year to develop a search engine for Blogger.

"We worked on this project for a couple of months and everything seemed to be going pretty well until about January when communication stopped," said Cleveland. "Now I know why."

Cleveland said Google's acquisition of Pyra would, quite simply, help Google create a more accurate search engine by adding rich new sources of data gleaned from weblogs.

The secret, Cleveland said, is in the scores of links webloggers create every day to content on the Web.,1282,57754,00.html
Web Site Optimization - speed up your site with web site optimization and optimized html
What Is Web Site Optimization?
Web site optimization (WSO) is the process of reducing web site size and complexity to maximize speed. WSO can optionally include search engine optimization as part of the optimization process. Speed Up Your Site: Web Site Optimization is a new book about WSO from New Riders.

The Problem
User patience is a time bomb. It starts ticking each time they open one of your pages. You only have a few seconds to get compelling content onto the screen. Fail, and you can kiss your customers and profits goodbye.
XML Security Standard Ratified
The Extensible Access Control Markup Language (XACML) has been ratified as an open standard by a major standards body.

The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) announced Tuesday that its members had approved XACML as a standard. XACML is a security standard for expressing XML policies for information access over the Internet. Using XACML, developers can enforce policies for information access.

XACML joins several other OASIS security standards including the Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML), which was ratified in November, as well as other OASIS work-in-progress specifications like WS-Security, the Service Provisioning Markup Language (SPML), Digital Signature Services (DSS) and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI).,3959,893831,00.asp

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Attack Exposes ATM Vulnerabilities
Two Cambridge University researchers have discovered a new attack on the hardware security nodules employed by banks that makes it possible to retrieve customers' cash machine PINs in an average of 15 tries.

…The system, used by many ATMs, reads the customer's account number that is encoded on the magnetic strip of the ATM card. The software then encrypts the account number using a secret DES key. The ciphertext of the account number is then converted to hexadecimal and the first four digits of it are retained.

Those digits are then put through a decimalization table, which converts them to a format that's usable on the ATM keypad. By manipulating the contents of this table, it's possible for an attacker to learn progressively more about the PIN with each guess. Using various schemes described in the paper, a knowledgeable attacker could discover as many as 7,000 PINs in a half hour, the authors say.

The researchers' paper has drawn quite a bit of attention and is now part of a controversial court case in the U.K. concerning so-called phantom withdrawals from ATMs. The case concerns a South African couple that claims someone used their Diners Club card to make 190 withdrawals at ATMs all over the U.K. while they were in South Africa. The card's issuer says that's not possible, because their ATM network is secure, and is suing the couple to recover the nearly $80,000 that was charged against the card. The couple has refused to pay, according to court documents filed in the case.

As part of the defense, Bond has been asked to testify about the ATM-related weaknesses he and Zielinski address in their paper. However, the plaintiffs, Diners Club SA Ltd., have asked for a secrecy order around the testimony of Bond and other security experts, saying that the publication of the ATM issues described in the paper would harm their business and open their networks up to attack.,3959,899796,00.asp

Monday, February 24, 2003

Prosecutors See Limits to Doubt in Capital Cases
Judge Laura Denvir Stith seemed not to believe what she was hearing.

A prosecutor was trying to block a death row inmate from having his conviction reopened on the basis of new evidence, and Judge Stith, of the Missouri Supreme Court, was getting exasperated. "Are you suggesting," she asked the prosecutor, that "even if we find Mr. Amrine is actually innocent, he should be executed?"

Frank A. Jung, an assistant state attorney general, replied, "That's correct, your honor."

That exchange was, legal experts say, unusual only for its frankness.

After a trial and appeal, many prosecutors say, new evidence of claimed innocence should generally not be considered by the courts.
ZDNet: Story: Why we must stop the plot to ban encryption
There's a bumper sticker I often see that reads: "Play an accordion, go to jail. It's the law." It's a joke, of course. No such law exists. But the bumper sticker makes me think of U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft's current effort to create a "use encryption, go to jail" law. Only I'm not laughing.

Encryption is one of the pillars of Internet security. Along with antivirus software and firewalls, the ability to encode data is essential for anyone who wants to keep information private. Without encryption, identity and intellectual property theft would occur far more often than they do today.

Yet, in an apparent effort to prevent U.S. citizens from keeping secrets from the government, the attorney general is pushing to include anti-encryption laws in a new round of homeland security legislation.

THIS IS NOT the first--nor, I expect, the last--time that the U.S. government has sought to regulate the use of encryption. But I believe we must oppose any attempts--backdoor or otherwise--to restrict or ban its use. Encryption is a basic element of our right to online privacy and, as such, must be protected.

This new piece of legislation--the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 (also known as Patriot Act II)--has not yet been made officially available to the public. But you can get a copy of the confidential document from the Center for Public Integrity. A hard copy obtained by Bill Moyers for PBS television indicated that the draft had already been sent to House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Vice President Dick Cheney for comment, although no members of Congress have been briefed on its contents.

Many of the proposed laws in the new act do not involve the Internet or high tech. For example, it calls for establishing a DNA database of "known terrorists," denying the release of detainees' names or alleged crimes (which is currently guaranteed in the Freedom of Information Act), and the automatic expatriation of U.S. citizens who join terrorist organizations.

But one section, titled "Use of encryption to conceal criminal activity," does relate to technology. It makes the use of encryption to conceal a federal crime or an attempted federal crime an offense punishable by five to ten years in prison (in addition to the sentence imposed for the crime itself). I imagine they're thinking about high-profile terrorism-related crimes, not your garden-variety copyright violators.

Of course, it's possible the draft report itself is a red herring. Who knows whether this proposed legislation will actually include the encryption restrictions when--and if--it is made public. Here's what I hope: News of this anti-encryption law will spread, and, before long, we'll see "Use encryption, go to jail" bumper stickers. Such an effort would certainly boost encryption's use and acceptance in the mainstream population, and secure the Internet at the same time. Maybe that's what Mr. Ashcroft intended all along. You think?,10738,2911336,00.html

Sunday, February 23, 2003

'Free Agents' Find Too Much Free Time
It's difficult to gauge how many people are independent contractors, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that about 6.5 million Americans were self-employed when the economy peaked in 2000; the current total, it says, is about 6.2 million. With the economy now weak, many free agents are trying to find their way through a nebulous zone that isn't quite unemployment, but is still nowhere near the full-time business they once had.

Projects have become smaller and less frequent than they were two years ago, said Robert Steir, the founder of MBA GlobalNet in New York, a network of management consultants who bid jointly on projects.

At, which lists freelance assignments for technology professionals, contract job listings fell 14 percent in 2002, after declining 28 percent in 2001, said Thomas Silver, a senior vice president.

According to the Labor Department, the number of self-employed people working full time, or at least 35 hours a week, declined 5 percent in 2002 from 2000, while the level of self-employed people working part time rose 9 percent.

"It's similar to being on unemployment," said Dr. Jo Ann Brusa, a counselor and psychologist at Oak Consulting, a human resources consulting company in Lisle, Ill. "You're dealing with loss in your business and anger and possibly depression."

There are ways to get through this down cycle, which some career experts and consultants expect to continue through this year. But solo professionals also need to be at least a little creative when it comes to marketing themselves and networking for leads.

The biggest challenge is financial. Free agents don't have unemployment checks or severance pay to fall back on when work stops for a few months.

Some independent consultants have had to take other jobs outside their fields to carry them until business picks up. Todd Smith, 32, a consultant in Jacksonville, Fla., who helps small companies develop and execute business plans, hit a 10-month dry spell in 2002. Only two years out of graduate business programs at the University of California at Los Angeles and Thunderbird, a graduate school of international management in Glendale, Ariz., and still carrying big student loans, he had no time to build a financial cushion.

Fortunately, he had a real estate license, received in 1995. He put it to work recently for the first time, helping clients buy and sell property in the Jacksonville area and investing in houses with partners who could provide most of the cash.

The plan was to fix up the properties for rent or resale. But with no money to hire contractors and with plenty of extra time, Mr. Smith said he "spent most of 2002 building decks and walls, drywalling, tiling, carpeting and painting."

He periodically checked in with U.C.L.A., MBA GlobalNet or freelance Web sites like for new work leads. In the meantime, income from the rentals and one or two quick sales helped make ends meet.

…One of the hardest things about being underemployed, or unemployed, is figuring out how to be productive while also staying optimistic about marketing your talents. That's why some free agents have decided that when they cannot sell their skills, it may be worthwhile to give them away.

Volunteer work also lets professionals meet people in their fields or related sectors, which can lead to paying work.

"People I've met through volunteer gigs have approached me about contract opportunities," Ms. Mullens said.

Julian E. Lange, an associate professor of entrepreneurial studies at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass. and a private consultant himself, agreed that people who work alone need to make extra effort to look outward when business slows.
Sharon Turns Sharp Right in Search for Government
Israel's government-in-the-making turned sharply to the right Sunday, prompting the party behind historic peace deals with the Palestinians to end talks on forming a ``unity'' coalition with Ariel Sharon.

Partnership between the center-left Labor Party and the prime minister's right-wing Likud would have put a more moderate face on his government ahead of anticipated U.S. pressure for Israeli territorial handovers after any war in Iraq.

A coalition deal between Likud and the National Religious Party (NRP), a champion of Jewish settlement on occupied land and an opponent of a Palestinian state, led Labour's chairman Amram Mitzna to declare an end to its own talks on an alliance.

``The NRP's position suits him (Sharon) better,'' Mitzna said in a speech to Labor members, predicting the Israeli leader would make no breakthrough toward peace with the Palestinians.

Together with the NRP's six parliamentary seats, the 15 held by likely coalition partner Shinui, a centrist party, and Likud's 40 lawmakers, Sharon could form a narrow, shaky government of 61 legislators in the 120-member Knesset.

Israel's business leaders had been pushing for a broad government as the best chance to restore economic stability rocked by a Palestinian uprising for statehood.

Sharon turned to the NRP after holding three inconclusive meetings with Mitzna, who campaigned in the January 29 election on a pledge not to join a Likud-led coalition and on a promise to resume peace talks with the Palestinians immediately.
Israelis Kill 2 Palestinians Amid Discussions of Cease-Fire Plan
A senior Palestinian official said in remarks published today that the Palestinian leadership supported a proposed one-year cease-fire in the conflict, to put the onus for ending the violence on Israel.

The comments by the official, Mahmoud Abbas, better known as Abu Mazen, referred to a truce proposed by Egypt last month during talks in Cairo with the main Palestinian nationalist and Islamist factions.

The Fatah faction of the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, has said it accepts the plan to end armed attacks. But some major militant groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and an armed offshoot of Fatah rejected it, demanding that Israel cease killing Palestinians before signing any deal to end armed attacks in the 28-month-old conflict.

"We do not expect the Israeli government will stop its escalation against our people even if the Palestinian factions stopped their actions, but in that case the whole world will see for itself who is responsible for escalating the conflict," Mr. Abbas, the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee, told the Palestinian newspaper Al Ayyam.

"Therefore the accusations will be directed at Israel rather than the Palestinians," the newspaper quoted him as saying. "This is why we agreed to freeze military activities for one year."

Mr. Abbas, who has been cited as a potential successor to Mr. Arafat, said he expected that the Cairo talks would resume, possibly next week, and that he hoped the proposal would eventually win the backing of additional factions needed to make a truce hold.
Behind Duct Tape and Sheeting, an Unlikely Proponent
Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, said, "We did not create a new Department of Homeland Security just to be told, `Buy duct tape and plastic.' " Late-night comedians had a field day. "This means the only people who are going to survive an attack are serial killers," Jay Leno said. "Who else has duct tape and plastic sheeting in their car?"

Many experts are die-hard skeptics and say the government is being irresponsible.
"If there were a serious large-scale attack with biological and chemical weapons, duct tape is not going to do anyone any good," said Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, chairman of the Federation of American Scientists' working group on biological weapons.

Also, Dr. Rosenberg said, "There are no terrorists who have the capability to launch that kind of attack." Dr. Gomory takes the skepticism in stride, although he does point out, a bit testily, that duct tape and plastic were only 2 of more than 25 suggestions. After all, it was skepticism that got the Sloan Foundation into the business of finding possible responses to the threat of biological and chemical attacks.

Dr. Gomory, 73, who was the senior vice president for science and technology at I.B.M. when he retired in 1989, simply refused to accept the prevailing wisdom on the subject, which was either that there was no threat or that nothing could be done to respond to it.

"I was not impressed by either argument," Dr. Gomory said. "Experts could go up to a board and list 20 really very powerful diseases that could be spread relatively easily, but when you asked them what to do about it, they shrugged and said nothing could be done."

The ready availability of recipes for disaster on the Internet made Dr. Gomory almost certain that an attack would take place.
Agencies Warn of Lone Terrorists
The possibility of war with Iraq could unleash acts of anti-American violence in the United States or overseas by individual extremists who do not belong to Al Qaeda or other Middle Eastern terrorist groups but sympathize with their grievances, intelligence and law enforcement officials say.

A classified F.B.I. intelligence bulletin, issued on Wednesday to state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the country, warned the authorities to be on the alert for lone terrorists who are not directed by organizations like Al Qaeda.

"Lone extremists represent an ongoing terrorist threat in the United States," the bulletin said. "Lone extremists may operate independently or on the fringes of established extremist groups, either alone or with one or two accomplices."

The officials said a war would inflame anti-American sentiment throughout the Arab world, adding to a litany of causes that have stoked hatred of the United States. One of the main issues expressed by many Arabs is their belief that the United States has supported Israel in its effort to put down the Palestinian intifada, or uprising. And some people may decide to strike against American targets almost on the spur of the moment, officials warned.

Moreover, analysts regard the new taped message believed to be from Osama bin Laden as a summons to his followers, and perhaps to new sympathizers, to conduct actions against the American targets in response to the possible war in Iraq.

Counterterrorism officials have long feared that a solitary terrorist with an automatic weapon or one committed to a suicide bombing could inflict heavy casualties in the United States.

The threat posed by what officials refer to as "lone wolves" who suddenly decide to act because of their increasingly radicalized views toward the United States is a major concern for American officials because their actions are difficult to predict or prevent.

"Many lone extremists have no links to conventional terrorist groups," the bulletin of the Federal Bureau of Investigation said. "In fact, F.B.I. analysis suggests that psychological abnormalities, as much as devotion to an ideology, drive lone extremists to commit violent acts."

Robert S. Mueller III, the bureau director, cited the threat of lone extremists in testimony last week to the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services Committees.

"The threat from single individuals sympathetic or affiliated with Al Qaeda, acting without external support or surrounding conspiracies, is increasing, in part because of heightened publicity surrounding recent events such as the October 2002 Washington area sniper attacks and the anthrax letter attacks," Mr. Mueller said.

One case cited in the F.B.I. bulletin was that of Hesham Mohamed Ali Hadayet, an Egyptian immigrant who fatally shot two people at El Al Airlines' ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport in July 2002. While there are indications that Mr. Hadayet had connections to terrorists, the F.B.I. says it believes he acted alone.

American counterterrorism officials who have studied the nature of the threat from extremist Islamic terrorist groups said that they now realized they must distinguish between intricate plots that are carefully coordinated by groups like Al Qaeda and the less organized actions of individuals on the fringes of extremist movements.

The F.B.I. bulletin cited other examples of people who had engaged in the kind of violence that has worried counterterrorism officials. One was Timothy J. McVeigh, who was executed for the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. Mr. McVeigh began plotting the bombing after a Michigan militia group distanced itself from him because "it became apparent that his views were too radical," the bulletin said.

Another solitary extremist identified in the F.B.I. bulletin was Paul J. Hill, an anti-abortion militant who fatally shot an abortion doctor and his assistant in Pensacola, Fla., in 1994.
Did Symantec Know About Slammer And Not Tell?
According to this press release from Symantec , the company knew about the Slammer worm well before it began to propagate. Yet, Symantec did not report the danger to those who were not its paying customers, allowing the worm to spread nationwide before precautions could be taken to limit its spread.

Was Symantec a good Netizen? Did the company act irresponsibly when it failed to disclose the existence of the worm to those who could have slowed or stopped its spread? Read the release (Warning: Serious marketing hype enclosed) and this Wired News article and decide for yourself.,1377,57676,00.html,3973,898630,00.asp

Saturday, February 22, 2003

Fear on the Home Front
What leaps out most powerfully, though, comparing then and now, is the visceral fear that this time war will admit new horrors into our own lives. In the reporting of 1991 you find occasional mentions of a possible terrorist backlash, but they are hypothetical. Americans then, four years before Oklahoma City, were mostly innocent on the subject of terror. This time, when the C.I.A. predicts that invading Iraq will provoke new assaults on our cities, Americans know in our stomachs what that means.

These anxieties are amplified by doubts about the president who leads us. Some Americans question Mr. Bush's very legitimacy as president and as commander. I doubt anyone ever referred to his father as a "chicken hawk," or to the first Bush administration as a "junta." These are insults, not arguments, but they add heat to an opposition that is more passionate this time.

Our uncertainty about whether we are in safe hands has been compounded by Mr. Bush's own leadership. We have the skewed priorities of an administration that bids $26 billion for Turkish basing rights but shortchanges local emergency preparedness, that declines to call for any sacrifice, even from those who can best afford it. We have Mr. Bush's manhandling of our partners in security — beginning with the gratuitous decision to take a project that could have been framed from the beginning as the enforcement of United Nations resolutions and elevate it to an America-first doctrine of pre-emptive power. We have the loopy alarums of the Department of Homeland Security — what Garrison Keillor calls the Department of Scaring People Into Staying Home — which is prescribing duct tape one day and Prozac the next.

What most of all animates our national anxiety, I think, is the fear that war will backfire. Most people did not imagine themselves anywhere near the front line in 1991. Now the front line is where we live, and we are afraid.
Inspector Orders Iraq to Dismantle Disputed Missiles
Iraqi officials insist the missile will not exceed the proscribed range when the actual warhead and guidance equipment are mounted. They have offered to conduct test firings for the United States. Mr. Blix and missile experts have dismissed this argument, saying the missile has an inherent ability to fly well beyond the range limits and has done so in tests.

American diplomats had no public comment on the letter. But one diplomat said, "We are very pleased," adding that it seemed unlikely that Iraq would destroy a system that it had spent heavily to build.
Public Agenda Special Edition: Terrorism
Public Opinion: The Home Front
Not surprisingly, surveys reported public concern about terrorism was high in early February as the government put the country on "orange alert" and suggested families stockpile supplies. Surveys find the public's views are tinged with fatalism and a belief that some terrorist, sometime, will be able to strike the U.S. again.

On Feb. 7-9, as the government raised the terrorist "threat level," Gallup found 66 percent who thought there would be terrorist attacks in the next few weeks (16 percent said it was "very likely," 50 percent said it was "somewhat likely"). But fewer worried they or their families would be a victim: only 35 percent said they were somewhat worried and 13 percent said they were very worried. Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) told the ABC News/Washington Post poll on Feb. 16 that they had stockpiled supplies of some kind.

By contrast, 85 percent told Gallup another attack was likely during the anthrax scare of October 2001, with 40 percent believing it very likely. That was the high point in terms of public concern, with nearly a quarter believing they or their family might be a victim.

Yet only 41 percent of the public told the ABC News/Washington Post survey in early September 2002 that they were confident the government could prevent further attacks, a steady decline in confidence since November 2001 (63 percent).

Friday, February 21, 2003

"Our demand is not to remove a checkpoint outside Nablus," he said. "We want political independence. That's why the intifada began."

Armed With Weapons and a Will, Palestinian Factions Plot Revenge
Over sugary coffee and hot mincemeat sandwiches, the young men gathered here to plot revenge.

They were all in their 20's, an age that might lead such a group to talk about soccer or romance. But as Israeli forces once again scoured the casbah for militants, representatives of the "military wings" of several main Palestinian factions relaxed on overstuffed sofas in a living room elsewhere in the city to talk strategy, politics and death.

Each of the seven men had a pistol at his belt and a mobile phone close at hand, in case their lieutenants outside spotted soldiers. One had had to make an escape from here over the rooftops before; the walls of the hallway downstairs were pitted with bullet holes from that unwelcome Israeli visit.

"If anything happens," one of them said, holding up his gun, "we're not going to be arrested."

Viewed from Israel or abroad, the Palestinian factions can present a crimson continuum of violent means and aims. But although more than two years of conflict and a shared nationalist impulse have blurred the distinctions, divisions of ideology endure — even in Nablus, which Israel calls the center for terrorism in the West Bank.

Even the cellphones of these men mapped their varying politics. The liquid crystal display on the phone of a bearded representative of Hamas showed a picture of Osama bin Laden beside an image of the Twin Towers. The representative of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a group with Marxist roots, displayed a picture of Ché Guevara and a single English word: freedom. A leader of the Aksa Martyrs Brigade, a militant group of Yasir Arafat's Fatah faction, had chosen a picture of a semiautomatic rifle.

But all these men presented themselves as backed into a corner by the Israelis and compelled to fight together. "We're not occupying Nablus — they are," said a member of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades. "We're pushed to do this. We don't like blood, but we have no other choice."

Israel says it has had no choice but to occupy Nablus to protect its citizens from men like these.

Another member of Al Aksa, a leader who is 28 and gave only a nom de guerre, Abu Mujahid, met last week with Hani al-Hasan, the interior minister of the Palestinian Authority. Mr. Hasan spent several days in Nablus trying to calm things down.

Mr. Hasan is a veteran of Fatah, but his credentials meant so little even to the Fatah militants here that one offshoot of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades issued a threat on his life for promoting a limited cease-fire.

The two Hamas representatives at the meeting today — who sat side by side, smoking or fingering prayer beads — had no interest in sitting down with the Fatah leader.

"How can we meet Hani al-Hasan when there are political prisoners in Palestinian jails?" asked one of them, who gave his age as 26. Officials of the Palestinian Authority, he said, "are thinking of their own interests, not the Palestinian people's interests."

He added: "Stop resistance? Stop resistance for what? The Authority is not able to offer us anything yet."

Israel has offered to ease restrictions and withdraw its forces from areas where Palestinians achieve calm. But like the man from Hamas, the member of the Popular Front here, who is 25, scoffed at the idea that the proposal should limit the intifada, or the Palestinian uprising.

"Our demand is not to remove a checkpoint outside Nablus," he said. "We want political independence. That's why the intifada began."
Crummy UCITA Legislation is Back

By John C. Dvorak

There is good news and bad news. The good news is that the American Bar Association refused to endorse the horrible Uniform Computer Information Transaction Act (UCITA), which is designed to standardize the total legality of rigid licenses for software and more. The bad news is that the promoters of this vile law are still at it, hoping that a long-term push will win out because a fickle public loses interest over time. Many of the anti-UCITA Web sites, for example, are suffering from a failure to update and will soon be offline or ridiculously out of date due to fatigue and boredom.

UCITA is seen by most critics as an onerous end run around the legal system so software companies can do whatever they want without fear of any legal action whatsoever. Here is a good FAQ on it from a very credible group. And for a good argument try this site Good, but dated.

Only two states have, stupidly, passed this law—Maryland and Virginia—and the law they passed incorporated earlier wacky provisos that could make it illegal to review or criticize software! This, to me, is incredible. I always thought the people of Virginia and Maryland were some of the smartest in the nation, but this sure proves me wrong.

In an attempt to get this moronic legislation passed in the rest of the country, the promoters have softened a number of provisions, hoping they can turn the tide. The new changes, made at the beginning of 2002, included, among other things, a softening of the wording that made software reviews illegal. The perpetrators also gave up on the notion that there's no problem with software companies remotely going into your computer and disabling software and possibly anything else they want if they think you're a pirate. And the controversial edict against reverse engineering was only softened enough to allow limited reverse engineering for cross-platform compatibility.…,4149,890836,00.asp

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Israel Kills 12 Arabs in Clashes in West Bank and Gaza
Violence spiraled through the day. After Israel withdrew its forces from Gaza, Hamas broke a three-week lull in rocket attacks and fired at least three rockets from northern Gaza at the Israeli town of Sderot, wounding an Israeli man.

In the West Bank city of Jenin, a Palestinian militant from Yasir Arafat's Fatah faction was killed when his car mysteriously exploded. His organization, Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades, called his death an Israeli assassination.

In keeping with the pattern of such incursions, Israeli forces withdrew from Gaza after a few hours, but in Nablus they settled in for a longer mission, imposing a curfew on its old city as soldiers searched houses.

Gunshots and percussion grenades cracked as boys and young men, in the smoke of burning tires, smashed cinder blocks into smaller stones to fling at armored vehicles.

Two Palestinians were shot dead here, and 20 were wounded, Palestinian hospital officials said. The army said soldiers had fired at one man who flung a firebomb at them and at another who fled and ignored warning shots after being ordered to stop.

Palestinians identified one of the dead as a 16-year-old stone-thrower and the other as Nasser Abu Safiyeh, 32, who was walking from prayers with his 93-year-old father, Mustafa Abu Safiyeh. "The blood of my son remained on the ground, like the blood of four sheep slaughtered together," Mr. Abu Safiyeh said.

Today's violence followed separate meetings in London by Palestinian and Israeli delegations with representatives of the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia about possibly resuming a peace effort.

Both in northern Gaza and here, officials of Mr. Arafat's Palestinian Authority have recently been working to reduce the violence, Israeli officials have said. They credited Palestinian security forces with stopping the firing of rockets at Israel, but discounted that as a small step intended only to forestall Israeli military movements into Gaza.
SearchDay - Puzzling Out Google's Blogger Acquisition - 18 February 2003
This isn't the first time Google has purchased a web "community." Google purchased the Deja Usenet newsgroup archives in February 2001, and now runs them as "Google Groups." The interactive, often self-referential nature of many weblogs has many similarities to newsgroup postings.

Yet Google has said little about the Pyra deal, issuing a sparse 77 word statement to the media with few clues about the rationale behind the purchase:

"Google recently acquired Pyra Labs, developers of Blogger -- a self-service weblog publishing tool used by more than one million people. We're thrilled about the many synergies and future opportunities between our two companies. Blogs are a global self-publishing phenomenon that connect Internet users with dynamic, diverse points of view while also enabling comment and participation. In the coming weeks, we will report additional details. Blogger users can expect to see no immediate changes to the service."

…it's possible to infer a few of the "synergies and future opportunities" between Google and Pyra Labs.

First, Pyra has over 1 million registered users, with about a quarter of those actively publishing weblogs. For the most part, these blogs are ad-free, offering an appealing distribution channel for Google's AdWords text based ads.

Second, Google could use the links created by webloggers to enhance its news service. Even though Google's news crawlers are constantly updating Google News' 4,000 sources of information, alternative internet sources are gaining a reputation for breaking important news stories more quickly than traditional media sources.

For example, the New York Times reported that the first hint of problems that doomed the space shuttle Columbia appeared on an online discussion eleven minutes before the Associated Press issued its first wire-service alert.

Intriguingly, news of Google's Pyra acquisition was broken by San Jose Mercury News tech journalist Dan Gillmor on his weblog, moments before Pyra CEO Evan Williams "announced" the news to the audience at the "Live from the Blogosphere" event via a projected screen from the presentation laptop -- by clicking a link to Gillmor's weblog!

Though weblogs are often compared to the frequently introspective and self-focused personal web pages hosted by Geocities or Angelfire, most weblogs are far more interactive, actively commenting on and linking to other web content. This commentary and linking behavior offers several potential benefits to a search engine like Google.

Weblog entries are often concise, pithy abstracts of other web content. In that sense, they function as an enhanced directory listing, of sorts.

Currently, Google and all other search engines look at the text surrounding a link to infer content of the page the link points to. With weblogs this text is often much more "focused" and can offer much more context about a page that's pointed to.

We've already seen Google experimenting with letting you see what the web "says" about pages, through its experimental "Webquotes" project available in Google Labs. Weblog postings could be a natural way to enhance these "quotes," potentially improving search results.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Smithsonian Folkways Dusts Off Titles With New Technology
When the Smithsonian Institution bought Folkways from the Asch estate in 1987, the museum agreed to keep every title in print. Initially, requests for rare, out-of-stock albums were fulfilled with dubbed cassettes.

Now, music fans hankering for "Burmese Folk and Traditional Music" from 1953 can pay $19.95 and receive a CD-R "burned" with the original album, along with a standard cardboard slipcase that includes a folded photocopy of the original liner notes.

The Recording Industry Association of America, a trade group representing the major music corporations, worries that CD-R technology aids music piracy. Rather than buy new CD's, the theory goes, people will burn downloaded music onto CD-R's or burn a copy of a friend's CD.

In 2002, 681 million CD's were sold, down from 763 million the year before, according to Nielsen SoundScan. But Smithsonian Folkways Recordings has been using the CD-R technology since 1996 to sell its obscure titles, essentially creating a just-in-time delivery model for record companies. Every time an order comes in, a Folkways employee burns five copies, one for the customer, and four for future requests.

Last year, the company sold 13,467 CD-R's, accounting for 6 percent of its CD sales, said Richard Burgess, director of marketing. Over all, Smithsonian Folkways had net album sales of almost $2.9 million in 2002, up 33 percent from 2001, despite its cutting its advertising budget more than 50 percent.

Interest in Smithsonian Folkways has jumped since the bluegrass-flavored soundtrack to "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" (2001), from Universal, won a Grammy for Album of the Year and went platinum six times over.

But it is not just rustic American music that Smithsonian Folkways is selling.

A 2002 double-CD set of Middle Eastern and Asian songs called "The Silk Road: A Musical Caravan" has sold 7,800 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Though that is just a fraction of the sales for Eminem in a single week, it is a respectable figure for a museum label that makes no videos, places few ads and deals primarily in music recorded by artists long dead, or in foreign languages, or from locales most Americans will never visit.

But Smithsonian Folkways is also venturing into just-in-time delivery for more popular titles. Last fall, the company enlisted the print-on-demand company Americ Disc to manufacture CD's, which are expected to sell significantly more copies than typical CD-R's, but fewer than full-blown retail releases. These Collector's Series discs come with full-color booklets and are identical in quality to commercial releases, but are sold only through the Smithsonian Folkways Web site (

The first CD in the series, "Bells & Winter Festivals of Greek Macedonia" proved so popular through mail order that the company quickly made it a regular retail release.

It is hard for some to ignore the irony that as Smithsonian Folkways uses CD-R's to further its business, much of the industry hopes to limit the technology's use.
Woman Offers Details of Israeli Detention Methods

— The news broadcast over Israeli radio this morning was stunning: The Israeli Army had arrested three women, calling them terrorists primed for suicide bombings. One of them was apparently the first Christian would-be suicide bomber.

But even as the reports were still being broadcast, the Christian suspect, Fida Misleh, 23, was already back home, having been taken to an army base in her pajamas, interrogated and released to catch a bus. Her father, Khalil Misleh, a gardener in a convent here, had been taken in and released with her.

"It was a joke," she said of the Israeli accusation, as she fielded telephone calls from alarmed friends. "But it was a painful joke."

A second woman was also released, Palestinians here said, but the third was apparently still being held tonight.

The army did not immediately explain the turnabout. "There was some intelligence about them being suicide bombers," an army spokeswoman said. "We don't have anything else on them at the moment."

Ms. Misleh's experience illustrates the high price charged to the innocent on both sides in this conflict, now dragging into its third year. Israeli officials say the army has no option but to act instantly on intelligence of possible suicide attacks, to protect Israel's civilians.

Ms. Misleh, sitting in her living room here below a row of icons, said she opposed such attacks. "I believe if you want to defend your homeland, this is not the way to do it," she said.

With the experience just a few hours old, the Mislehs provided an unusually detailed account of the detention and interrogation.

At 2 a.m., soldiers pounded on the door of Ms. Misleh's brother, Issa, who lives with his wife and two children in the family's old home. Mr. Misleh said the soldiers searched the house, then demanded to know if he had brothers or sisters.

Mr. Misleh said he told them he had three sisters, two of whom were married and a third, Fida, who lived with her parents.

Ms. Misleh said soldiers ransacked the house then blindfolded and handcuffed her and loaded her and her father into a jeep. "They were very tough and rude," she said. She said when she asked what was going on, the soldiers told her not to say anything.

When a soldier eventually removed her blindfold, she said, she and her father were in a small room with two other Palestinian women and their fathers. They were ordered not to speak, she said.

She said she was the first to be interrogated. Her questioner spoke excellent Arabic, she said, and typed her answers into a computer, watched by a female security officer: her date of birth, identification number, what she does for living. She is a secretary for a lawyer for Palestinian prisoners.

"They didn't ask me if I had plans to blow myself up, or if I'm involved in political activities," she said.…

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

"It's the gorilla in the living room that nobody wants to talk about."

Data on Epilepsy Point to Dangers of Repeated Seizures
For years, doctors have reassured epilepsy patients that seizures are relatively benign. While a fall during a seizure may cause injury, the surge of electricity in the brain does no actual damage, patients were told.

…mounting evidence now suggests that repeated seizures can indeed harm the brain — or, in rare cases, even lead to death.

In the past decade, research in epilepsy has exploded. In part, the boom has been driven by advances in biology and technology, like the mapping of the genome and the continuing miniaturization of electronics.

But largely, it has been driven by a new recognition that seizures themselves are harmful. Mounting data point to damage to the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for laying down new memories, as the cumulative effect of a lifetime of uncontrolled seizures.

Furthermore, recent studies suggest that seizures beget seizures: each electrical surge in the brain causes changes that make future seizures more likely.

Doctors are also realizing that patients with seizures that are not suppressed by drugs or surgery are at higher risk of dying prematurely. A syndrome called sudden unexpected death in epilepsy patients, or Sudep, appears to be much more common than previously thought. No one is sure exactly what happens in the syndrome, but the suspicion is that an electrical short circuit either turns off respiration or the heart.

Among patients with severe epilepsy, about 10 to 15 of 10,000 die unexpectedly each year, according to Dr. Robert S. Fisher, a professor of neurology at Stanford. Often patients and their families know nothing about the syndrome, until there is a death.

In a commentary published last spring in The Lancet, the London-based medical journal, epilepsy experts pointed to new information on the prevalence of the sudden death syndrome among patients with poorly controlled seizures and said the information should serve as a "wake-up call" to the doctors who treat them.

About 1 percent of Americans have epilepsy, a condition characterized by periodic seizures that originate in the brain. Basically, experts say, normal brain activity is fairly chaotic, with neurons sparking as needed. But in people with epilepsy, neurons occasionally begin to fire in sync. There is a power surge and the finer circuits of the brain are overwhelmed as the seizure progresses.

The seizures themselves can range from a brief loss of consciousness lasting one to 10 seconds to a complete loss of consciousness. It is the seizures that provoke a loss of consciousness that most worry researchers because these seizures appear to be most linked to sudden death and damage to the hippocampus.

Although there were hints in the past that uncontrolled seizures led to hippocampal damage, only in the last few years has strong evidence been accumulated.
Data on Epilepsy Point to Dangers of Repeated Seizures
News: 'Selfish' routers slow the Internet
A packet of data has many ways to reach its destination and relies on the routers it encounters to direct it. Routers today, the computer scientists said, have several means to decide which way to send the information. They might send out test packets and time them. At other times, the routers might exchange information about the condition of networks close to them. More often than not, the router will choose the least congested path until it, too, becomes clogged. At that time, the router will settle on a previously neglected route.

The system will eventually stream to an equilibrium that mathematicians call a Nash flow, which is usually slower than an ideal system. The researchers constructed a mathematical analysis of how routers direct packets and found that the average time of travel increased by up to 1.33 times compared with an ideal system.

Adding more interconnected pathways to the network can also be counterproductive because of an effect called Braess' paradox, the researchers said. According to the paradox, the packets of information would simply hop from one path to another--much like drivers switching lanes in a traffic jam--actually slowing down all the other packets traveling on those pathways.…
Behind the Great Divide
There has been much speculation why Europe and the U.S. are suddenly at such odds. Is it about culture? About history? But I haven't seen much discussion of an obvious point: We have different views partly because we see different news.…
Palestinians Fear Being Trapped by Israeli Wall

Claire Anastas spent most of last week trying to keep her four children playing or studying while they were cooped up in their home here under Israeli Army curfew.

Then, on Sunday, the army informed her that it would soon build a new wall, at least 25 feet high, outside her house. The wall will separate her neighborhood from the rest of Bethlehem, and her children from their schools.

Under the plan, Palestinians like Mrs. Anastas will be left on the Israeli side of the wall, and they will have to pass through an army checkpoint inside it to reach the rest of Palestinian Bethlehem.

The family's predicament underscores the difficulty Israel is having untangling the knotted populations, and their intertwined political and religious traditions, as it builds a new barrier fence in the West Bank.

According to the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Israel must build the wall through the northern outskirts of Bethlehem to protect Jewish worshipers at the shrine they revere as the Tomb of Rachel, wife of the biblical patriarch Jacob.

The tomb, now hidden by 15-foot concrete barriers, topped by guard towers and patrolled by soldiers in battle gear, is just across Yasir Arafat Street from Mrs. Anastas's house. Less than 500 yards inside Bethlehem, it has been a flash point for years. Worshipers arrived there today in an armored bus.

"There's a very important historical and religious site which has been the target of repeated attacks," Raanan Gissin, Mr. Sharon's spokesman, said. "The main purpose here is not to annex that land, but to provide security."

The new wall is a segment of a barrier fence of concrete and wire that Israel is building in what it says is an effort to safeguard Israelis from Palestinians. The government says that the snaking path of the fence is being guided not by politics or religion but by security needs.

But the blurriness of those categories is at the very root of this conflict. Right-wing Israelis have been pushing to fence Jewish settlements and holy sites into the Israeli side. The proposed path of the fence already means it will include thousands of Palestinians on the Israeli side, to some extent undermining the fence's stated purpose — separation.…

Sunday, February 16, 2003

The Underground Railroad @

National Geographic Online: The Underground Railroad
Just in time to celebrate Black History Month, this multimedia educational Web site from National Geographic offers a diverse set of materials that describe the Underground Railroad, the famed network of individuals who helped transport African-Americans to freedom before the abolition of slavery. Students will want to start by taking The Journey, which, with the aid of visual materials (such as historical photographs of slaves and abolitionists) and audio selections (such as popular spirituals of the day), allows young people to make decisions about what to do in order to reach the North and freedom. Next, visitors can look at a map of the Underground Railroad routes, including those specific to Harriet Tubman. Also, a nice timeline provides some context to the history of slavery in the New World, beginning with the importing of slaves by Spaniards to Santo Domingo in 1501, and concluding in 1865 when slavery was abolished by the passage of the 13th Amendment. The site is rounded out by a number of educational resources for teachers, divided by grade levels. [KMG]
>From The Scout Report, Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2002.
The Underground Railroad @
Design for buyers - Web Design Library -

By Andrew Chak

In e-commerce, usability is important, but it isn't always enough to convert users to buyers. Why? Because even if a user can easily buy something on your Web site, it doesn't mean that they will buy. Users don't go to your Web site to be sold. They go there to buy. Your site needs to give them guidance and information so that they can be confident enough to buy a product.

To design a site for buyers, you must understand that a purchase decision is a process and not a single action. In his book Customer-Centered Selling, Robert L. Jolles describes the eight steps of his customer-centered decision cycle. Addressing Web commerce, we've simplified the purchase process to three basic approaches: browsing, evaluating, and transacting. Let's explore these processes though the eyes of three characters:
The WebSites linked in this article alone make it worth a good look

Practical Web Design: Fundamentals of Web Design Parts 1 And 2 - The article is broken into 2 parts:
Part 1: The Essentials
Part 2: Looking Good

Saturday, February 15, 2003

The Cost of Slavery
Marching across the South in 1865, Union soldiers seized up to 900,000 acres of "abandoned property." Some radical Northerners hoped to use this land to provide freed slaves with the now-legendary "40 acres and a mule" as restitution for slavery. Their hopes were obviously dashed. But the argument for reparations lives on nearly 140 years later.

While few doubt that slavery was a great wrong, the challenge before us is how to make things right through financial restitution. But just how would we devise a practical formula to determine who gets what?

Most assessments start with the notion of payment for lost wages. One researcher took 1860's prices for slaves as an estimate of their labor value and applied compound interest. The result: $2 trillion to $4 trillion. Six generations after slavery's demise, such approaches present serious difficulties. There are issues of what to do with whites (and blacks) who immigrated here after slavery ended. What about descendants of blacks who lived freely during the antebellum period? Does someone who is born to a white parent and a black parent cancel out? It would take Solomon to solve this.

Perhaps the issue needs to be looked at differently. One way is to recognize slavery as an institution upon which America's wealth was built. If we take this view, it is not important whether a white family arrived in 1700 or in 1965. If you wear cotton blue jeans, if you take out an insurance policy, if you buy from anyone who has a connection to the industries that were built on chattel labor, then you have benefited from slavery. Likewise, if you are black — regardless of when your ancestors arrived — you live with slavery's stigma.

Extending the reparations argument this broadly frees one to move beyond the issue of lost wages and seek out other factors on which to base a formula. If there were one statistic that captured the persistence of racial inequality, it would be net worth.

The typical white family enjoys a net worth that is more than eight times that of its black counterpart, according to the economist Edward Wolff. Even at equivalent income levels, gaps remain large. Among families earning less than $15,000 a year, the median African-American family has a net worth of zero, while the corresponding white family has $10,000 in equity. The typical white family earning $40,000 annually has a nest egg of around $80,000. Its black counterpart has about half that amount.

This equity inequity is partly the result of the head start whites enjoy in accumulating and passing on assets. Some economists estimate that up to 80 percent of lifetime wealth accumulation results from gifts from earlier generations, ranging from the down payment on a home to a bequest by a parent. If the government used such net-worth inequality as a basis, and then factored in measures like population size, it could address reparations by transferring about 13 percent of white household wealth to blacks. A two-adult black family would receive an average reparation of about $35,000.

What would be the effect of wealth redistribution on such a vast scale? My own research — using national data to follow black and white adolescents into adulthood — shows that when we compare families with the same net worth, blacks are more likely to finish high school than whites and are equally likely to complete a bachelor's degree. Racial differences in welfare rates disappear. Thus, one generation after reparations were paid, racial gaps in education should close — eliminating the need for affirmative action.
Four Israeli Soldiers Killed as Tank Hits Bomb
Four Israeli soldiers were killed in a tank when a roadside bomb exploded next to it near a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, the army said.

The military wing of Islamic militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement faxed to Reuters. Hamas has spearheaded a 28-month-old Palestinian militant uprising for an independent state in Gaza and the West Bank.

Palestinian militants have blown up several Merkava-3 tanks, a symbol of the Jewish state's military prowess, with roadside bombs in Gaza during the revolt.

Hamas said the attack was meant to avenge the killing of two Hamas militants in the same area by Israeli troops during the four-day Muslim Eid al-Adha feast holiday which ended on Friday.

Friday, February 14, 2003

I saw this at Byte ( but I'm not sure about sites without domain names. A. Ingram

The Register
SBC Communications Inc is enforcing a patent it owns that, it claims, covers the use of frame-like user interfaces in web sites, it emerged this week Kevin Murphy writes. . If your web site uses a frames or a persistent user interface, then you could be in infringement.

Some Yahoo hacks aren't even hacks at all.

New Architect: Cracking Yahoo, Closing Shop
One of the most frightening trends in security breaches has been the recent dramatic rise in hacks against personal accounts on Hotmail, Yahoo, and the like. Hotmail has long been notorious for its poor security, but hacked email accounts raise few eyebrows. With Yahoo accounts, however, things are a little dicier. Thanks to Yahoo's plethora of services, a hacked password can give you access to financial data, the ability to bid on items at Yahoo Auctions, or even a direct link into someone's small business.

Breaching Yahoo's security all comes down to knowing your target. Armed with a user ID and some personal information, such as date of birth and zip code, a hacker can reset a Yahoo password and have it mailed to an alternate address. While Yahoo users can also specify a "security question," whether it secures anything is iffy: The answer to a user's security question is usually either their mother's maiden name or their pet's name—both of which are about as easy to unravel as their zip code.

Some Yahoo hacks aren't even hacks at all. Recently, Chris Gore, publisher of the Film Threat site (, checked his email only to find that a spam message had found its way onto the Film Threat mailing list, a newsletter hosted at Yahoo Groups. Even after he found the spammers (a Dallas politician and her husband, according to Gore; they did not return requests for comment), they denied responsibility. Gore threatened to sue, and the incident exploded into a nightmare of additional spam attacks and calls from Gore to the FBI and FTC. Gore is now filing a civil suit along with Yahoo.

How'd they do it? It looks like the oldest spammer trick in the book: When a mailing list's only security method is checking to see that the sender of the message is the moderator of the group, forging a few email headers is all it takes to hijack it.
News: Phone number, e-mail address the same?
The Bush administration is lending its support to an international proposal to map telephone numbers to Internet addresses.

In a recent internal letter, the Commerce Department recommended that the United States participate in an emerging electronic numbering system, known as ENUM, that will allow people to use one identifier for many different purposes, including mobile phones, e-mail, instant messaging and faxes. ENUM is designed to accelerate the convergence of the telephone network and the Internet and is expected to offer a huge boost to online telephony services.
Arafat Agrees to Name a Prime Minister
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said Friday he would appoint a prime minister to help run day-to-day affairs, meeting a key reform the United States and the European Union have demanded for months.

Arafat, speaking to reporters at his battered compound in Ramallah, did not say who the prime minister would be, when the appointment would begin or how much power the position would have.

The move could help improve the climate for reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations that collapsed more than two years ago. The two sides have had increased contacts in recent days but have not achieved any breakthroughs.
Privacy Invasion Curtailed
Readers with keen memories will recall a blast in this space three months ago at the proposed "Total Information Awareness" project, which the Pentagon proudly described as "a virtual, centralized grand database."

In the name of combating terrorism, it would scoop up your lifetime paper trail — bank records, medical files, credit card purchases, academic records, etc. — and marry them to every nosy neighbor's gossip to the F.B.I. about you. The combination of intrusive commercial "data mining" and new law enforcement tapping into the private lives of innocent Americans was described here as "a supersnoop's dream."

My even-tempered objection stirred the ire of uncivil anti-libertarians. "Blather, nonsense, piffle, and flapdoodle," argued the judicious Stuart Taylor in National Journal about my "hyperventilating." The Washington Post also thought my reaction a tad "fast-breathing." William Kristol's Weekly Standard sneered at "the ravings of privacy fanatics like the New York Times columnist William Safire, who triggered the anti-T.I.A. stampede."

With the nation rightly worried about a new terrorist strike, and with Washington supermarkets stripped of duct tape and bottled water by residents dutifully following Homeland Security warnings, the privacy-be-damned crowd casting its electronic dragnet seemed invincible. "Strangling this new technology with a procedural noose is no answer to the threat of terrorism," intoned the Heritage Foundation.

Then the strangest thing happened. Those of us on the flapdoodle fringe — from Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum on the right to People for the American Way on the left — found wide and deep bipartisan agreement in the usually contentious Congress. An amendment to the budget bill by Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, co-sponsored by Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, put a bit in the mouth of the Pentagon's runaway horse.

The Wyden amendment held up funding for the Total Information Awareness penetration of the American home until the administration (1) explained it in detail to Congress, including its impact on civil liberties, and (2) barred any deployment of the technology against U.S. citizens without prior Congressional approval. One hundred senators voted in favor.

Why? One reason was that two respected old bulls, one on each side of the Senate aisle — Alaska's Ted Stevens and Hawaii's Daniel Inouye — distrusted the executive power grab, and would not be panicked by the pitch of those zealots who held that the war on terror required the subversion of constitutional oversight.

Another reason was the blessed stupidity of Pentagon officials in entrusting this dangerous surveillance to one Adm. John Poindexter. He was convicted of five felony counts of lying to Congress about Iran-contra, but the jury's verdict was overturned because Congress had immunized him. This was hardly the person to ask elected officials to trust with unprecedented, unchecked power.

Belatedly, the Pentagon tried to get House leaders to kill the bill in conference. But the House agreed with the Senate that enforceable limits must be set on snooping into the private lives of innocent Americans.

Think about that: Even as the nation braces for more terrorist murders, a Republican-led Congress absolutely refuses to give carte blanche to a Republican war president to treat all citizens as suspects. These legislators are attuned to the views of their voters; this means that a courageous constituency exists to defend personal freedom.

The next assault will come from Attorney General John Ashcroft, whose lawyers are drafting a law to enable the Justice Department to wiretap citizens for two weeks before bothering to ask a judge for a warrant.

In this age of identity theft and hacking contests, of course, there is little to prevent someone from inventing a moving story and publishing it online. It is hard to know if any of the 200-plus sites listed by are fake, but e-panhandlers are often willing to go far to prove their sincerity.

Web's Tin Cups Find Soft Touches Aplenty
Ever since Karyn Bosnak, a television producer with an unquenchable desire for fancy footwear, started a Web site last June to solicit donations to pay off her credit card debt, such "e-panhandling" sites have grown like compounded interest on a Visa balance. Michel Huang of Cerritos, Calif., has used her site to collect more than $3,300 to pay for breast augmentation surgery.

Like Ms. Bosnak's creation,, these sites offer long and sometimes well-written accounts of their owners' plights: tales of marital difficulties, tuition expenses, medical problems, the trials of being a single parent or, in Ms. Huang's case, being smaller-breasted. Contributions are usually sent through eBay's PayPal service, other electronic payment methods or regular mail. In addition to their life stories, cyber-beggars often publish updates on their funds' progress as well as personal diaries.

To some extent, the sites have drawn traffic through networking, with one referring potential donors to others. Ms. Smith of said she had advertised her site by joining Web rings, groups of similar sites that link to one another. Since Ms. Bosnak eliminated her debt last November, she now uses her site to promote other cyber-beggars, and many compete to become beneficiaries of her fame and site traffic. The category has also grown to such proportions that it is now indexed: the CyberBeg .com directory links to more than 200 e-panhandling Web sites, and Yahoo and Google offer smaller lists.

In this age of identity theft and hacking contests, of course, there is little to prevent someone from inventing a moving story and publishing it online. It is hard to know if any of the 200-plus sites listed by are fake, but e-panhandlers are often willing to go far to prove their sincerity. Penny Hawkins, whose Internet site,, has collected more than $2,000 to pay for her nursing education and divorce, published her school report card as evidence of her legitimacy. Ms. Huang provides photos of what she considers her imperfect chest. In some cases, cyber-beggars offer proof by having donors send money directly to their creditors.

Ms. Mullin said she was convinced by Ms. Smith's site because Ms. Smith included unobscured photographs of herself (many cyber-panhandlers do not show their faces at their sites) and because it was easy to find Ms. Smith's address and telephone number. She also relied on her urban survival instincts: "I think I used a cyber-version of the instant judging that New Yorkers put into play every time they see a panhandler on the subway," she said.
Investigators Say Hole in Aluminum Wrecked Shuttle
The panel investigating the loss of the space shuttle Columbia said today that a hole developed in its aluminum skin, allowing superheated gas to flow into the left wing and causing the ship's destruction.

NASA also released a highly detailed map showing for the first time that the Columbia's sensors began detecting subtle signs of trouble when the craft was still above the Pacific Ocean, 400 miles off the coast of Sonoma County in Northern California.

The new map, combined with the board's finding that a hole was burning through spacecraft's skin, suggested that observations of glowing pieces falling away from the shuttle over California carry significant clues to the ultimate cause of the disaster. It could mean that the catastrophic series of failures began almost the moment the Columbia re-entered the atmosphere, lending credence to theories that its exterior had been damaged earlier — perhaps by a piece of foam insulation that fell off during launching, perhaps by space debris or by some other phenomenon like a storm in space.

The statement today from the board about a hole means that engineers have all but eliminated an earlier theory of the disaster: that the aluminum skin was not breached, but that a lost or damaged tile on the skin allowed heat to be conducted into the wheel well in the wing, where sensor failures gave the first indications of trouble.

"Preliminary analysis by a NASA working group this week indicates that the temperature indications seen in Columbia's left wheel well during entry would require the presence of plasma," the superheated gas that surrounds the shuttle as it enters the atmosphere, the board said in a statement released late today.

The board also said that "the heat transfer through the structure, as from a missing tile, would not be sufficient to cause the temperature indications seen in the last minutes of flight." Instead, the panel said, only a jet of plasma, which can reach 3,000 degrees under the brutal conditions of re-entry, could have caused the heating and failures that were detected before the shuttle disintegrated on Feb. 1.

The board did not address the central mystery of how the hole was created. Early suspicions focused on damage from a piece of falling foam insulation that struck the wing about 80 seconds into the launching, and the new finding does not rule out that problem as a possible cause. But since then, other possible sources of damage have also been considered, including collision with space debris or meteoroids.
Tax Moves by Enron Said to Mystify the I.R.S.
Enron and other big companies have escaped taxes in recent years through financial maneuvers so complex that the Internal Revenue Service has been unable to understand them, the Senate Finance Committee will be told this morning by Congressional tax experts who spent nearly a year going over Enron's tax returns.

In a report to the committee, the experts will explain that companies can avoid taxes by exploiting differences in the rules governing the two sets of books that all companies must keep, one for shareholders and the other for the I.R.S., according to people who have seen the report.

These differences between what are known as book accounting and tax accounting can be used to make taxes disappear, but only through costly transactions that create risks for shareholders that are not disclosed.

Current laws are ineffective at stopping the use of such transactions, whose only purpose is to avoid taxes, according to four people who had access to the report's findings.

Enron, the Houston-based energy trading company, was one of the most politically connected businesses in the country, with ties to President Bush and many other federal officials. Its name became synonymous with corporate scandal when its stock price collapsed and it sought bankruptcy protection in December 2001. Enron's chief financial officer is awaiting trial on fraud and other charges.

The report's disclosures on corporate tax avoidance, and its details on executive compensation, "are eye-popping," said Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, the ranking minority member of the Senate Finance Committee and one of only two people who would speak publicly yesterday about its contents.

"The report paints quite a shocking picture of Enron's tax gimmicks and structured transactions and executive compensation," Mr. Baucus said. "Bad as Enron is going to come out, the deeper concern is this is just not Enron alone. It involves lots of other companies and how they inundated the I.R.S., out-complexed the I.R.S. The I.R.S. just cannot handle the complexity of some of these transactions."

Enron created 881 offshore subsidiaries, 692 of them in the Cayman Islands, as part of its strategy to avoid taxes.

The committee chairman, Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, called the report "an absolute barn-burner."

At a confirmation hearing for new Tax Court judges yesterday, Senator Grassley said the report "provides for the first time the complete story of Enron's efforts to manipulate its taxes and accounting."

"The report is very disturbing in its findings," he added. "From this report, I'm worried about the Tax Court blessing highly artful interpretations of the code."
Afghans Report 17 Civilians Killed in Allied Air Raids
Afghan officials said today that 17 civilians, including women and children, had been killed in an American-led bombing of a mountainous region of southern Afghanistan, where United States Special Forces have been fighting rebels since Monday.
College-Entrance Preferences for the Well Connected Draw Ire
Now that critics of affirmative action have persuaded the Supreme Court to consider whether black and Hispanic applicants are taking the rightful spots of more-qualified whites, some supporters of race-conscious admissions are mounting a counteroffensive. They complain that it is the preferential treatment afforded some applicants because of their parents' wealth or college affiliation that is unfair.

At Middlebury and other highly selective colleges, the chance that the children of alumni will be admitted is often double that of applicants without such connections, though frequently not as great as the admission rate of underrepresented minorities and even some athletes.

The lament of the excluded, long expressed by unsuccessful applicants to Harvard and Yale, has crept into the early presidential campaign. In a speech not long ago at the University of Maryland, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, apparently seeking to enhance egalitarian credentials in his pursuit of the Democratic nomination, criticized the preferences given children of alumni.

"Affirmative action remedies past discrimination," Senator Edwards, a graduate of North Carolina State whose parents did not attend college, said in an interview. "Legacy admissions give more to kids who already have more."

Unlike affirmative action, the preferences for children of alumni have rarely been tested in the courts. But since the overwhelming number of beneficiaries of such policies are white, some scholars say that legal challenges are inevitable.

"Even if it's a private institution, a college is a nonprofit organization subject to civil rights law," said Michael Lind, a former lecturer at Harvard Law School who is now a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, a centrist public policy institute. "Legacies are a relic of white supremacy and Northeastern establishment dominance."

In response to legal challenges to affirmative action, the public university systems of Georgia and California have dropped preferences in recent years for legacies and other so-called V.I.P. applicants. But no highly selective private college has followed suit, in large part because the economic benefit of admitting such applicants is so great.

Middlebury, like other colleges, does occasionally disappoint its big donors. A few years ago, an alumnus who was negotiating a six-figure donation to Middlebury decided to hold off until the admissions committee had ruled on his child's application. When the committee said no, citing low test scores and grades, the prospective donor walked away, Dean Schoenfeld said.

"Our philanthropy follows our children," Dean Schoenfeld quoted the benefactor as saying, "and our children aren't going to Middlebury."

Nonetheless, the admission rate of legacies, even those whose parents rarely donate to the college, far exceeds that of applicants as a whole. At Middlebury, the admission rate of legacies in the class of 2006 was 45 percent, compared with 27 percent for the entire class. At Harvard, legacies who applied for the current freshman class were admitted at nearly four times the rate of students over all (39 percent, versus 11 percent). At Stanford, where nearly 10 percent of students in the freshman class are legacies, their admission rate (about 25 percent ) was double that of the class as a whole (12.7 percent).

Siblings, too, of current and past students often receive favored treatment. But at many selective colleges, athletes receive the greatest boost of all, while accounting for some of the lowest-rated transcripts.

To those who argue that the children of the connected receive an unfair advantage, Mr. McCardell, who has been president of Middlebury since 1992, argues that the admissions process entails "imperfect human beings' exercising their imperfect judgment in rationing a scarce commodity."
NASA Engineer Warned of Dire Effects of Shuttle Liftoff Damage
Two days before the Columbia broke apart, a NASA safety engineer warned of the possibility of "catastrophic" consequences if damage from the foam insulation that struck the shuttle in liftoff allowed the heat of re-entry to penetrate the wheel well and burst the shuttle's tires. because other NASA officials had concluded by then that the foam could not have caused extensive damage, no one acted on the engineer's concerns.

The engineer, Robert H. Daugherty, who works at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., was responding to a request to assess the potential impact of damage to the sensitive heat-shielding tiles around the shuttle's wheel well. In an e-mail message to engineers at the Johnson Space Center at Houston, Mr. Daugherty laid out what he called the "absolute worst-case scenarios."

He said that if temperatures increased markedly in the wheel well, the shuttle's wheels could fail and the tires explode.

"It seems to me that with that much carnage in the wheel well, something could get screwed up enough to prevent deployment and then you are in a world of hurt," Mr. Daugherty wrote.

Mr. Daugherty said the pressure in the wheel well "would almost certainly blow the door off the hinges or at least send it out into the slip stream — catastrophic."
NASA released copies of the engineer's warnings on its Web site this morning.
con·cept: February 2003