Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Did the news media feel that it was unpatriotic to question the administration's credibility? Some strange things certainly happened. For example, in September Mr. Bush cited an International Atomic Energy Agency report that he said showed that Saddam was only months from having nuclear weapons. "I don't know what more evidence we need," he said. In fact, the report said no such thing — and for a few hours the lead story on MSNBC's Web site bore the headline "White House: Bush Misstated Report on Iraq." Then the story vanished — not just from the top of the page, but from the site.

Thanks to this pattern of loud assertions and muted or suppressed retractions, the American public probably believes that we went to war to avert an immediate threat — just as it believes that Saddam had something to do with Sept. 11.

Now it's true that the war removed an evil tyrant. But a democracy's decisions, right or wrong, are supposed to take place with the informed consent of its citizens. That didn't happen this time. And we are a democracy — aren't we?

Matters of Emphasis
We were not lying," a Bush administration official told ABC News. "But it was just a matter of emphasis." The official was referring to the way the administration hyped the threat that Saddam Hussein posed to the United States. According to the ABC report, the real reason for the war was that the administration "wanted to make a statement." And why Iraq? "Officials acknowledge that Saddam had all the requirements to make him, from their standpoint, the perfect target."

A British newspaper, The Independent, reports that "intelligence agencies on both sides of the Atlantic were furious that briefings they gave political leaders were distorted in the rush to war." One "high-level source" told the paper that "they ignored intelligence assessments which said Iraq was not a threat."

Sure enough, we have yet to find any weapons of mass destruction. It's hard to believe that we won't eventually find some poison gas or crude biological weapons. But those aren't true W.M.D.'s, the sort of weapons that can make a small, poor country a threat to the greatest power the world has ever known. Remember that President Bush made his case for war by warning of a "mushroom cloud." Clearly, Iraq didn't have anything like that — and Mr. Bush must have known that it didn't.

Does it matter that we were misled into war? Some people say that it doesn't: we won, and the Iraqi people have been freed. But we ought to ask some hard questions — not just about Iraq, but about ourselves.

First, why is our compassion so selective? In 2001 the World Health Organization — the same organization we now count on to protect us from SARS — called for a program to fight infectious diseases in poor countries, arguing that it would save the lives of millions of people every year. The U.S. share of the expenses would have been about $10 billion per year — a small fraction of what we will spend on war and occupation. Yet the Bush administration contemptuously dismissed the proposal.

Or consider one of America's first major postwar acts of diplomacy: blocking a plan to send U.N. peacekeepers to Ivory Coast (a former French colony) to enforce a truce in a vicious civil war. The U.S. complains that it will cost too much. And that must be true — we wouldn't let innocent people die just to spite the French, would we?

So it seems that our deep concern for the Iraqi people doesn't extend to suffering people elsewhere. I guess it's just a matter of emphasis. A cynic might point out, however, that saving lives peacefully doesn't offer any occasion to stage a victory parade.

Meanwhile, aren't the leaders of a democratic nation supposed to tell their citizens the truth?…
News: Judge: File-swapping tools are legal
A federal judge in Los Angeles has handed a stunning court victory to file-swapping services Streamcast Networks and Grokster, dismissing much of the record industry and movie studios' lawsuit against the two companies.

In an almost complete reversal of previous victories for the record labels and movie studios, federal court Judge Stephen Wilson ruled that Streamcast--parent of the Morpheus software--and Grokster were not liable for copyright infringements that took place using their software. The ruling does not directly affect Kazaa, software distributed by Sharman Networks, which has also been targeted by the entertainment industry.

"Defendants distribute and support software, the users of which can and do choose to employ it for both lawful and unlawful ends," Wilson wrote in his opinion, released Friday. "Grokster and StreamCast are not significantly different from companies that sell home video recorders or copy machines, both of which can be and are used to infringe copyrights."

The ruling is the second major setback to date to the entertainment industry's efforts to keep a tight rein on online file-swapping, following a similiar decision in the Netherlands last year that found that Kazaa was not liable for its users' copyright infringements. If upheld, the decision could lead artists, record labels and movie studios to cast new legal strategies that they have until now been reluctant to try, including bringing lawsuits against individuals who copy unauthorized works over Napster-like networks.

According to the major record labels, file-swapping is a major contributor to declines in music sales over the past few years, a trend that has thrown the industry into disarray. Debt-ridden media conglomerates are now considering sales of their music divisions even as they begin to test paid online music services intended to compete with free file-swapping networks and turn the tide.

Attorneys called the ruling a blow for entertainment and record companies trying to stop the networks used to swap unauthorized copies of their works.

"This is a very serious setback for the record industry and other content industries, because they've uniformly won these cases in the U.S.," Mark Radcliffe, an intellectual property attorney at Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich said.

While the ruling in no way validates the legality of downloading copyrighted music online, it would shield companies providing decentralized file-swapping software such as Gnutella from liability for the actions of people using their products.…

The court's ruling applies only to existing versions of the Morpheus and Grokster software. Earlier versions of the software, which functioned slightly differently, could potentially leave the companies open to liability.

A spokeswoman for the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) said the copyright holders were deeply disappointed in the decision and would certainly appeal.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Killer Apps Share A Common Thread: Hacker Geeks
According to Tim O'Reilly, founder and president of O'Reilly and Associates Inc., and organizer of the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference here, four trends bear watching: Amazon.com Web Services; BARWN, or the Bay Area Research Wireless Network; hardware hacking; and multi-player gaming.

"There's a common thread – a hacker culture that ties together all of these four activities on the O'Reilly radar today," said O'Reilly said. "Essentially it is being able to recognize the alpha geeks in society and leveraging their enterprise."

"An invention has to make sense in the world it finishes in, not in the world it started," O'Reilly said. "We are beginning to see the rise of interconnected networks, the technology uptake is accelerating, there are people with passion like the hacker guys and people with professional experience like professional programmers, so it's not in the danger of being one really cool party. The most important thing is that this is bottom up – it has grassroots support," he said.
Rulings Define What's Legal In File-Sharing
A federal judge refused to uphold a motion filed by Verizon Internet Services to quash the disclosure of the identities of two of its users who had shared songs using the Kazaa file-sharing service. On Friday, however, a judge in a separate case ruled that StreamCast Networks and Grokster cannot be liable for the actions of its users.

Judge John Bates of the U.S. District Court ruled that the RIAA's request did violate the laws of free speech or Article III of the U.S. Constitution, which holds that a court may only rule when a legal case is pending before a judge.

More importantly, though, the judge ruled that Kazaa users do not have a right to anonymity. "The (Digitial Millennium Copyright Act), however, does not directly impact core political speech, and thus may not warrant the type of "exacting scrutiny" reserved for that context," Judge Bates wrote. "Section 512(h) deals strictly with copyright infringement. Verizon concedes, as it must, that there is no First Amendment defense to copyright violations."

The judge ruled that the DMCA adequately protects the consumer by requiring prosecuters, such as the RIAA, to show there is a "good faith" reason to believe that the defendant is violating it, and that the RIAA was acting on behalf of copyright holders.

The DMCA, by defending copyrights -- "the engine of free expression," in the words of the court -- "fosters speech by helping artists, musicians, and authors protect their creative works, in turn encouraging further expression".

RIAA executives expressed their pleasure with the decision.
News: Special Reports
Spam 2003: A progress report

The amount of spam grew in March and has almost doubled from last year, threatening to cost businesses $10 billion in 2003. The best tech minds are working feverishly to help you perform one simple task--read you e-mail.
News: Microsoft releases Windows security guide
Microsoft released on Friday a tutorial and templates to help system administrators lock down the security of computers running the company's newest operating system, Windows Server 2003.

The tutorial consists of portable document files (PDFs) detailing the reasoning behind configuring the server software for various applications, from a Web server connected to the Internet to a domain controller on a company's internal network. Also included are examples of Microsoft-recommended configurations for specific applications.

"There are a lot of different settings that a customer can set on something like a Web server," said Michael Stephenson, lead program manager for Windows Server 2003. "What the guide does is explain to customers why they would want a setting a certain way."
News: Special Reports
RSA Conference: Closing the security gap

RSA brings 10,000 security experts together to stem the tide against the increasing number of hacker attacks. Add a dramatic increase in the number of software vulnerabilities to the increasingly sophisticated attacks--and you've got a security gap.
News: Linus Torvalds opens door to DRM
Linus Torvalds, the founder of the Linux operating system, threw a curve ball into the open-source programming community Thursday.

In a posting sent to a key Linux-focused e-mail list, he outlined a controversial proposal: Nothing in the basic rules for the Linux operating system should block developers from using digital rights management (DRM) technology. DRM tools are technological locks or identification measures that range from ensuring a software program is genuine to protecting a movie against unauthorized copying.

In some open-source and "free software" circles, such technological locks and authentication measures are seen as infringements on their freedom. In his posting, Torvalds took a more pragmatic approach--Linux is an operating system, not a political movement, and people should ultimately be able to do what they want with it, he said.

"I also don't necessarily like DRM myself," Torvalds wrote on the "Linux-kernel" mailing list. "But...I'm an 'Oppenheimer,' and I refuse to play politics with Linux, and I think you can use Linux for whatever you want to--which very much includes things I don't necessarily personally approve of."

The posting and subsequent discussion brought to light what remains a serious tension in some open-source programming circles.

Proprietary software and hardware developers, led in large part by Microsoft and Intel, are in the midst of a long-term "trusted computing" initiative that backers say will allow computer users to trust that software running on their machine is virus- and Trojan-free. As outlined in plans such as Microsoft's Palladium, however, it requires building authentication capabilities deep into computer hardware and operating systems.

Some open-source developers suspect that this is code for saying that some software--such as that created by the open-source community--won't be able to run on standard machines or won't interoperate with standard programs. Others fear that the authentication tools will simply allow big content companies such as movie studios or record labels far more control over how computer owners use their content.

In his discussion, Torvalds conceded that content owners such as Disney could see their hands strengthened if rights-management technology were built deeply into computing systems--but noted that the drive to have trusted software was also a valuable goal. The two could not be separated, he added.

"There is zero technical difference. It's only a matter of intent--and even the intent will be a matter of interpretation," Torvalds wrote. "This is why I refuse to disallow even the 'bad' kinds of uses--because not allowing them would automatically also mean that 'good' uses aren't allowed."

Torvalds has issued edicts on thorny legal issues of Linux before. For example, he decreed that it's permissible to let the kernel--the open-source code at the heart of Linux--call upon proprietary modules of software. That's an important issue in some cases, for example, video card companies that might want to support Linux but not reveal the inner workings of the software that controls their products.

Discussion remains ongoing about whether DRM in Linux is a good idea--or even whether Torvalds has enough sway in the community to make his opinion stick. Torvalds said later he was willing to be persuaded to a different point of view.

"One of the reasons for posting (the message) was to get feedback, after all," he wrote in an e-mail to CNET News.com. "I always reserve the right to change my mind as a result of discussion."
News: Linus Torvalds opens door to DRM
digital rights management White Papers, Webcasts and Case Studies - ZDNet
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Sunday, April 27, 2003

A Flashback to the 60's for an Antiwar Protester
At the time, Brett A. Bursey says, he seemed to be having a 60's flashback.

There he was at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport with his antiwar sign. There were the thousands of Republicans gathering to welcome a president. There were the police officers arresting him for trespassing.

The first time this happened was in May 1969, before a visit by Richard M. Nixon. The charges against Mr. Bursey were dropped after the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that if protesters were on public property — as the antiwar demonstrators were — they could not be charged with trespassing.

Last Oct. 24, 33 years later and about 100 yards away, the now graying Mr. Bursey was again arrested for trespassing, this time before a visit by President Bush. The charge was soon dropped.

But last month, the local United States attorney, J. Strom Thurmond Jr., brought federal charges against Mr. Bursey under a seldom-used statute that allows the Secret Service to restrict access to areas the president is visiting. He faces six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

This being South Carolina, Mr. Bursey's story includes lots of colorful history, old grudges and improbable plot twists, not to mention the Confederate battle flag.

But to some legal experts it is also part of a growing pattern of repression against protesters, demonstrators and dissenters. The American Civil Liberties Union says it has found many examples, like increased arrests and interrogations of protesters and the shunning of celebrities who have opposed the war in Iraq.

"When you connect the dots, you see very clearly a climate of chilled dissent and debate," said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the civil liberties group.

In particular, Mr. Romero said, there is a growing practice of corralling protesters in "free-speech zones," which are often so far from the object of the protest as to be invisible. "It's an effort to mitigate the effectiveness of free speech," he said.

And he does not buy the argument that such zones are necessary to protect the president and other officials. "John Hinckley wasn't carrying an anti-Reagan sign when he shot him," Mr. Romero said.

It was just such a "protest zone" that got Mr. Bursey in trouble last fall. A spokeswoman for the airport said officials there had established a protest area on the verge of a highway, a good half mile from the hangar where the president would be speaking. (Airport police are not sure if anyone actually protested at the official zone, she said.)

Mr. Bursey hoped he and some friends could protest somewhere closer, maybe across the road from the hangar, he said. The police in Charleston and Greenville had been accommodating, he said, when he had asked to avoid the protest zones, which he described as being "out there behind the coliseum by the Dumpsters."

It did not work this time.

"We attempted to dialogue for a while, them telling me to go to the free-speech zone, me saying I was in it: the United States of America," Mr. Bursey said. Finally, he said, an airport policeman told him he had to put down his sign ("No War for Oil") or leave.

" `You mean, it's the content of my sign?' I asked him," Mr. Bursey said. "He said, `Yes, sir, it's the content of your sign.' "

Mr. Bursey kept the sign and was arrested; he said he watched Air Force One land from the back of a patrol wagon and spent the night in the county jail.

A Secret Service agent was present at the arrest, Mr. Bursey said, but he added that no one could have seen him and his companions as a security threat. "There was no one under 50 in that crowd," said Mr. Bursey, who is 54. "In my mind, at that time, we didn't pose a security threat; we posed a political threat."
Baghdad Blasts at Arms Dump Kill at Least 6
At least six Iraqi civilians were killed on the outskirts of Baghdad today when explosions ripped through an ammunition dump guarded by American troops in their neighborhood. Military officials said a group of attackers had fired a flare into the cache, setting off the blasts.

A statement from the United States Central Command said six Iraqis had been killed and four wounded. But a military official in Baghdad said the toll could be as high as 40 people killed or wounded in the attack.

An official at the scene said that the flare set off a Soviet-made Frog battlefield rocket that was part of the Iraqi arsenal, and that it resulted in the explosion that caused most of the casualties.

The military, concerned about the reaction from the Iraqi public, began radio broadcasts tonight saying that the attack had been by people trying to undermine Iraq's future, and that Americans had been trying to help Iraqis by collecting arms from around the city and adding them to the cache.

Officials said that they were still investigating the case and that the exact circumstances of what happened remained unclear. There was no definitive report of who was responsible for the explosion.

As some of soldiers from the Army's Third Infantry Division tried to provide medical assistance immediately after the explosions, they were fired on by angry residents, officials said. An American official said that one reason there were few details about the number of casualties was because soldiers withdrew after the angry reaction by residents.

Shouts of "Down with America" rang through the neighborhood, called Zafaraniya, and a truck drove through the streets with six coffins, apparently for the dead.

One hospital said it had received 20 patients who were wounded in the blast. One American soldier was wounded in the attack, Central Command said.

At the ammunition dump, Sgt. Maj. Gary Coker said that both American and Iraqi ammunition was stored over several acres of ground protected by a high wall.

As the extent of the casualties became clear, residents said they were incensed that American soldiers continued to add to the dump, which the government of Saddam Hussein had put so close to their neighborhood.…

In the statement, the Central Command said, "An unknown number of individuals attacked U.S. Third Infantry Division soldiers who were guarding a cache of captured Iraqi ammunition near Baghdad this morning."

"During the attack, the assailant fired an unknown incendiary device into the cache, causing it to catch fire and explode," the statement said. "The explosion caused the destruction of the cache as well as a nearby building."

The attack came as American officials here announced that they had been making steady progress in restoring basic services to Baghdad.…

Friday, April 25, 2003

CyberJournalist.net: A Bloggers' Code of Ethics
CyberJournalist.net has created a model Bloggers' Code of Ethics, by modifying the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics for the Weblog world. CyberJournalist.net follows this code and urges other Weblogs to as well.
Words of War
The Pentagon last week announced the end of major offensive operations in Iraq, and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has already assigned the military to gather "lessons learned" from the conflict.

Here is a sampling of terms the military has used to describe the war, its planning, conduct and aftermath.

Catastrophic Success — In advance of the war, commanders prepared for a spectrum of possible outcomes, from prolonged combat to such a speedy collapse of the regime that it presented a new host of problems.

The concept of "catastrophic success" was summed up by Mr. Rumsfeld after Baghdad fell in just three weeks: "We did, however, recognize that there was at least a chance of catastrophic success, if you will, to reverse the phrase, that you could in a given place or places have a victory that occurred well before reasonable people might have expected it, and that we needed to be ready for that. We needed to be ready with medicine, with food, with water."

After-Action Review — All bureaucracies engage in post-mortems to analyze successes and shortcomings of a mission, enterprise or deal just completed. For the military, it is the After-Action Review. This formalized process does not truly end until the lessons learned are incorporated and change the behavior of the armed services.

The Pentagon has a related but speedier process for actions on a much smaller scale. In advance of Congressional testimony or a public briefing, civilian officials and military officers subject themselves to a tough preparatory grilling by colleagues, called a "murder board." And just after the testimony or briefing, the quick recap of how things went is called a "hot wash."
I.R.S. to Ask Working Poor for Proof on Tax Credits
The Internal Revenue Service is planning to ask more than four million of the working poor who now claim a special tax credit to provide the most exhaustive proof of eligibility ever demanded of any class of taxpayers.

The I.R.S., trying to prevent errors and cheating, says it needs greater proof of eligibility months before people claim the credit on their tax returns because its efforts to find errors through audits after the fact have not worked. Treasury officials estimate that $6.5 billion to $10 billion is lost to improper payments each year.

But some tax experts criticize the higher burden of proof as unfair and a wasteful allocation of scarce I.R.S. enforcement dollars. They say that corporations, business owners, investors and partnerships deprive the government of many times what the working poor ever could — through both illegal means and legal shelters — yet these taxpayers face no demands to prove the validity of their claims in advance with certified records and sworn affidavits.

Others warn that the proposed I.R.S. rules will set a standard of proof so high that it will be difficult, and in some cases impossible, for honest taxpayers to meet it. As a result, some people entitled to the tax credit will no longer receive it. And those who do manage to file successful claims will almost certainly have to pay commercial tax preparers more for helping them with the extra paperwork.

"There is this double standard," said Robert Greenstein, executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a research group in Washington financed mainly by large foundations. "The losses are larger in other areas of the tax code, but somehow a different standard gets applied to this."

Instead of conventional welfare benefits, the earned-income tax credit provides an offset for the Social Security taxes low-income workers have already paid, along with a credit based on their earnings that is intended to give them an incentive to work. The credits vary according to income and family size, but no household with earned income above $34,692 is eligible.

The average tax credit, paid by the government by check, was $1,976 for households with children in 2001. That is less than the average food stamp benefit for households with children that year, $2,904. But the I.R.S.'s proposed rules would make it much harder to qualify for the tax credit than for food stamps.

Republicans and Democrats have both supported expanding the tax credit, but as the cost of the program has risen, many Republicans have been vehement in saying that the program is riddled with errors and fraud.

President Bush has praised the tax credit. But his administration has also complained about fraud, and the president has asked Congress for $100 million and 650 new employees to identify potentially erroneous claims before any money is paid out.

There is a similar effort with federally subsidized school lunches. Eric Bost, the under secretary of agriculture for food and nutrition, has increased efforts to weed out students who officials say are ineligible for free or subsidized school meals.

A Treasury official who insisted on not being identified said it was unfair to judge the size of the overpayment problem on the basis of just one year's tax credit, because the overpayments can continue year after year until each minor child listed on a false claim turns 18.

"It's a permanent thing," she said. "The I.R.S. tends to take things that are permanent very seriously, and put a lot of resources into them."

She added that screening out false claimants in advance could be characterized as a benefit to the poor, because such taxpayers would no longer have to have their claims audited, or scrounge for a way to pay back the money with interest if their claims are denied.

The new measures, which are expected to be published for public comment shortly, are scheduled to begin in July, when the first 45,000 taxpayers who fit into a "high-error category" will be asked to submit proof of their eligibility within six months. The program will accelerate to two million taxpayers in 2004. Eventually some four million "high error" claimants — a fifth of the 19 million who now claim the tax credit — will be required to submit advance proof of their eligibility.

The high-error category encompasses all claimants except married taxpayers filing joint returns and single mothers; it includes fathers with sole custody of children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, foster parents and others. They will have to provide papers proving that the relationship with the children claimed is as claimed, and that the children lived with them for at least six months of the year.

Only a few types of evidence will be acceptable to the I.R.S., and some are documents that will be difficult or impossible for people to get within the six-month deadline. To prove their relationships to children, for example, they are expected to produce marriage certificates, in some cases for other people's marriages; for marriages that took place abroad; and in a few cases for marriages of great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents.

Even American weddings may be hard to document adequately in less than six months. The State of California, for example, warns on its Web site that it may take "up to two to three years" to issue copies of marriage certificates, "due to budgetary constraints." The State of Ohio does not even issue copies of marriage certificates, only "marriage abstracts," which are not certified documents and take six months to obtain in any case.

New York State will not issue certificates to people who were married in New York City. New York City will not issue the certificates to anyone but the husband and wife, "or someone with written authorization from them." The I.R.S. plan does not offer any guidelines for the children of couples in common-law marriages.

To prove where a child lived, the I.R.S. will require claimants to produce school records, medical records, leases or similar documents that show both the filer's and the child's names and address, and state specifically the range of dates when they lived there together.

Filers who have no such documents will be allowed to produce instead a sworn affidavit from a school official, employer, member of the clergy or other person in a quasi-official capacity, specifically stating under penalty of perjury that he or she has "personal knowledge" that the taxpayer and child lived together during the dates cited. An affidavit from a landlord, who may live far away, would be accepted, but not one from a building superintendent who lives on the premises.
An I.R.S. briefing paper on the new rules states that in 1999 the Treasury lost $8.5 billion to $9.9 billion by paying earned-income tax credits to filers who should not have received them. A separate analysis, by two Treasury Department specialists, says subsequent measures may have reduced these erroneous payments by $2 billion.

By comparison, corporations managed to sidestep as much as $54 billion in 1998, by hiding about $155 billion in profits in tax shelters, according to a study by a Harvard economist, Mihir A. Desai.

The I.R.S.'s most recent attempt to measure tax cheating — based on 1988 data and published in 1992 — showed that the biggest tax dodgers by far were people running their own businesses. They cost the Treasury about $38 billion in lost 1992 taxes by failing to report all their income.

The same I.R.S. study found that people who wrongly took tax credits of all types — including earned-income tax credits — cost the Treasury less than $6 billion in 1992.
Roads Not Taken
Richard Gephardt's new proposal — to scrap the 2001 tax cut and use the reclaimed revenue to provide health benefits to the uninsured — has been widely dismissed as unrealistic. And in political terms that's probably true. After all, these days it's considered "moderate" to support an irresponsible tax cut that is merely large, as opposed to gigantic.

But today I'd like to take a holiday from political realism, and ask a naïve question: Why shouldn't the American people favor a proposal like Mr. Gephardt's? Never mind the details; why shouldn't the typical citizen, faced with a choice between Bush-style tax cuts and a plan to provide health insurance to most of the uninsured, choose the latter?

Of course, originally tax cuts weren't supposed to require sacrificing something else. In the 2000 campaign, and up through the passage of the 2001 tax cut, George Bush insisted that there was plenty of money for everything. But there wasn't — and now, having returned to an era of deficits, we are told that social programs must be shrunk even as taxes are cut further. Why not choose a different road?
Help-Site Computer Manuals
These days, a tech support professional can't specialize in just one
operating system. You have to be willing and able to support a number of
different platforms. If you're looking for a place where you can read a lot
about several operating systems, check out Help-Site Computer Manuals.

In this online technical library, you'll find links to technical support
documentation categories for DOS, Network, VAX/VMS, Windows NT,
Hardware, OS/2, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows 95/98/Me, Windows 98 Only,
Windows Me Only, Linux, Programming, Mac, and UNIX. There are also two
generic categories called Internet and Other Sites.

In each section, you'll find a variety of useful resources grouped under
one or all of the Categories, Documents, and Sites headings. When you
click the Windows 2000 category, you'll find links to tips about Active
Directory, upgrading to Windows 2000, and defragmentation.

From: TechRepublic
HELP DESK E-NEWSLETTER for April 22, 2003

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Why the Mullahs Love a Revolution
The Bush team's vision for a postwar Iraq was founded on the dreams of exiles and defectors, who promised that Iraqis would shower American troops with flowers. Now, with the crowds shouting, "No to America; no to Saddam," and most Iraqis already referring to the American "occupation," the Bush administration seems puzzled.

The truth is that the exiles had been in the West so long that they knew little of the reality inside Iraq; the defectors, in search of a haven from the cruel regime, told the eager Americans anything they wanted to hear. Now that these illusions have been shattered, American policy makers might do better to consider the history of the region. In particular, the dogged nationalism of the Iraqis that forced imperial Britain's departure in 1932; and, more recently, the events in 1979 after the downfall of the secular regime of the shah of Iran.

A big argument among American officials had been over the future of the secular Baath Party, with the pragmatists advocating a mere "head transplant" of the top leadership while keeping the body intact, and the ideologues proposing outright destruction. Events, however, ignored the debate in Washington, and the Baath disappeared altogether. So too have the military and most of the police.

This vacuum is reminiscent of what happened in Iran in February 1979. The 440,000-strong military of the pro-American shah disintegrated quickly, as did the police force and the Savak, the notorious secret police. Into that vacuum stepped the Islamic Revolutionary Komitehs, run by Shiite clerics operating from the local mosques. The Komitehs took over not only law enforcement but also such essential chores as distributing heating oil to households in wintry Tehran. Many groups took part in toppling the shah; but it was the nationwide religious network and the unified actions of the mullahs that enabled them to to become his successor.

A similar pattern has emerged in Iraq, particularly in the Shiite-majority south and the Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad. Over the centuries, as members of a community that was discriminated against and repressed, the Shiites learned to find comfort in religion and piety to a much greater extent than the ruling Sunnis. In recent decades, Shiite clerics devised clandestine networks of communication that even Saddam Hussein's spies failed to infiltrate. Eschewing written messages or telephones, they used personal envoys who spoke in code. In the wake of Iraq's collapse, this messenger system has proved remarkably efficient.

The Shiites, however, are not uniform in their outlook. Religious loyalties are divided between Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sestani, an Iranian-born cleric living in Najaf, and the Tehran-based Ayatollah Bakr al-Hakim, leader of Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Yet they are united in their demand, endorsed by predominantly Shiite Iran, that the Americans leave soon. The supreme council has a 10,000-man army, armed by Iran, and controls many Iraqi towns near the Iranian border. By contrast, the Free Iraqi Forces loyal to Ahmad Chalabi, leader of the American-sponsored Iraqi National Congress, has only about 600 men at arms.

The Pentagon made a show of airlifting Mr. Chalabi's men into the April 15 assembly of Iraqi politicians convened by the American pro-consul, retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner. But the attendance of a mere 80 delegates (the supreme council, previously part of the American-sponsored official Iraqi opposition, boycotted), along with a noisy anti-American protest by 20,000 demonstrators, showed the weakness of Washington's hand.…
Free Resources: TeleGeography, Inc.
The purpose of TeleGeography's research—and its published statistics, analyses, and graphics—is to create a body of knowledge and imagery that makes sense of the world's complex snarl of communications networks, players, and prices.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

The Briton, Tom Hurndall, 21, was in the Rafah refugee camp with eight other members of the International Solidarity Movement, a group that uses nonviolent methods to impede Israeli Army actions in the West Bank and Gaza. Snipers opened fire from a tower to the east, said Tom Wallace, a spokesman for the group, citing members who were present.

Mr. Wallace said that Mr. Hurndall had spotted a child who was in the open, and that he retrieved that child successfully before leaving a protected area to escort two other children to safety. "As he went to get the other children, he was shot in the back of his head," Mr. Wallace said.

The shooting occurred between 4:30 and 5, during daylight hours. Mr. Wallace said that Mr. Hurndall was wearing a bright orange jacket with reflective strips, and that no Palestinians were firing in the area.

The Israeli Army said it was investigating the report. But it said it knew of only one instance in which soldiers shot in that area today, to kill what the army said was an armed Palestinian who had opened fire on an Israeli post.

JERUSALEM, Sunday, April 20
Nazeh Darwazeh, 43, a Palestinian cameraman for Associated Press Television News, was hit by a bullet above the right eye while filming a clash between the army and Palestinians, witnesses said. He was the fourth journalist killed in the West Bank in just over a year.

The Associated Press quoted two Palestinian cameramen at the scene, Hassan Titi, with Reuters, and Sami al-Assi, who works with a Palestinian station, as saying the soldier aimed at the journalists.

Video footage taken by Reuters shows a soldier kneeling beside the tank and pointing a rifle down the alley where the journalists were wearing florescent green bulletproof vests that read, "Press." A moment later, Mr. Darwazeh was hit and fell to the ground.

The shooting occurred as army troops were leaving Nablus after arresting two Palestinian women, one of whom was believed to be a potential suicide bomber, and the other her recruiter, said Maj. Sharon Feingold, an army spokeswoman.

As the troops were pulling out, a tank hit a curb and became stuck, and large numbers of Palestinians began throwing stones and firebombs, with some firing guns at the stranded vehicle, she said.

According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, more than 700 Israelis have been killed in acts of terror over the two and a half years since the intifada began.

In the three previous years, when Oslo-mandated security cooperation between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization was in operation, the number killed in Israel was five. Oslo was far from perfect, but it saved hundreds of Israeli lives.(http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/18/opinion/L18MIDE.html)

BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 19
Even as Baghdad slowly returns to life, some things are clear. The armed forces have scattered. Almost every government ministry — with the notable exception of the Oil Ministry — was bombed, then looted and burned by Iraqis. Garbage trucks and buses have been stolen, in some cases put back into service by leaders of Shiite mosques already hostile to the American presence here. Banks around the city have been robbed by gangs.

United States military officials here make the point that the precision of the smart-bombs dropped on Baghdad limited damage to the most important infrastructure, including power and water facilities. Col. Mike Marletto, commanding officer of the 11th Marines regimental combat team, who also coordinates with Iraqis and aid groups here, said Iraqi electrical engineers told him that the damage this time was far less than during the gulf war in 1991, when power and water plants were direct targets for bombing.


There's a pattern here, Israeli's shoot Journalists and always claim they were shooting at someone else. We spare the Oil Ministry buildings in our bombing. We protect those buildings, and no others, from looting and arson and then claim the war was not about oil. We didn't target the Iraqi people, but, a little girl and four servicemen are injured when she hands one a bomblet from a cluster bomb. Cluster bombs are not precision munitions. They're designed to kill and injure the largest numbet of people possible in a given area. So why were they dropped in residential neighborhoods?
A. I.

Monday, April 21, 2003

Israeli Soldiers Kill 5 Palestinians, Including a Journalist
Nazeh Darwazeh, 43, a Palestinian cameraman for Associated Press Television News, was hit by a bullet above the right eye while filming a clash between the army and Palestinians, witnesses said. He was the fourth journalist killed in the West Bank in just over a year.

The Associated Press quoted two Palestinian cameramen at the scene, Hassan Titi, with Reuters, and Sami al-Assi, who works with a Palestinian station, as saying the soldier aimed at the journalists.

Video footage taken by Reuters shows a soldier kneeling beside the tank and pointing a rifle down the alley where the journalists were wearing florescent green bulletproof vests that read, "Press." A moment later, Mr. Darwazeh was hit and fell to the ground.
ABCNEWS.com : Justice Dept. Lifts FBI Database Limits
The Justice Department lifted a requirement … that the FBI ensure the accuracy and timeliness of information about criminals and crime victims before adding it to the country's most comprehensive law enforcement database.

The system, run by the FBI's National Crime Information Center, includes data about terrorists, fugitives, warrants, people missing, gang members and stolen vehicles, guns or boats.

Records are queried increasingly by the nation's law enforcement agencies to help decide whether to monitor, detain or arrest someone. The records are inaccessible to the public, and police have been prosecuted in U.S. courts for misusing the system to find, for example, personal information about girlfriends or former spouses.

Officials said the change, which immediately drew criticism from civil-liberties advocates, is necessary to ensure investigators have access to information that can't be confirmed but could take on new significance later, FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said.

The change to the 1974 U.S. Privacy Act was disclosed with an announcement published in the Federal Register.

The Privacy Act previously required the FBI to ensure information was "accurate, relevant, timely and complete" before it could be added to the system.…

Critics urged Congress to review the change, arguing that information in the computer files was especially important because it can affect many aspects of a person's life.

"This is information that has always been stigmatizing, the type of data that can prevent someone from getting a job," said Marc Rotenberg of the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center. "When you remove the accuracy obligations, you open the door to the use of unreliable information."

Critics have noted complaints for years about wrong information in the computer files that disrupted the lives of innocent citizens, and the FBI has acknowledged problems. In one case, a Phoenix resident was arrested for minor traffic violations that had been quashed weeks earlier; in another, a civilian was misidentified as a Navy deserter.

The system "is replete with inaccurate, untimely information, but everybody does their best to keep it up to date," said Beryl Howell, former general counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee. "That's a goal we shouldn't just throw out."

In the change, the Justice Department said earlier restrictions on information "would limit the ability of trained investigators and intelligence analysts to exercise their judgment in reporting on investigations and impede the development of criminal intelligence necessary for effective law enforcement."
Counterpane: Crypto-Gram: April 15, 2003
National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Database Accuracy

Last month the U.S. Justice Department administratively discharged the FBI of its statutory duty to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database. This database is enormous. It contains over 39 million criminal records. It contains information on wanted persons, missing persons, and gang members, as well as information about stolen cars, boats, and other information. Over 80,000 law enforcement agencies have access to this database. On average, there are 2.8 million transactions processed each day.

The Privacy Act of 1974 requires the FBI to make reasonable efforts to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the records in this database. Last month, the Justice Department exempted the system from the law's accuracy requirements.

This isn't just bad social practice, it's bad security. A database with more errors is much less useful than a database with fewer errors, and an error-filled security database is much more likely to target innocents than it is to let the guilty go free.

To see this, let's walk through an example. Assume a simple database -- name and a single code indicating "innocent" or "guilty." When a policeman encounters someone, he looks that person up in the database, and then arrests him if the database says "guilty."

Example 1: Assume the database is 100% accurate. If that is the case, there won't be any false arrests because of bad data. It works perfectly.

Example 2: Assume a 0.0001% error rate: one error in a million. (An error is defined as a person having an "innocent" code when he is guilty, or a "guilty" code when he is innocent.) Furthermore, assume that one in 10,000 people are guilty. In this case, for every 100 guilty people the database correctly identifies it will mistakenly identify one innocent person as guilty (because of an error). And the number of guilty people erroneously listed as innocent is tiny: one in a million.

Example 3: Assume a 1% error rate -- one in a hundred -- and the same one in 10,000 ratio of guilty people. The results are very different. For every 100 guilty people the database correctly identifies, it will mistakenly identify 10,000 innocent people as guilty. The number of guilty people erroneously listed as innocent is larger, but still very small: one in 100.

The differences between examples 2 and 3 are striking. In example 2, one person is erroneously arrested for every 100 people correctly arrested. In example 3, one person is correctly arrested for every 100 people erroneously arrested. The increase in error rate makes the database all but useless as a system for figuring out how to arrest. And this is despite the fact that, in both cases, almost no guilty people get away because of a database error.

The reason for this phenomenon is that the number of guilty people is a very small percentage of the population. If one in ten people were guilty, then a 0.0001% error rate would mistakenly arrest one innocent for every 100,000 guilty, and a 1% error rate would arrest approximately one innocent for every guilty. And if the number of guilty people is even less than one in ten thousand, then the problem of arresting innocents magnifies even more as the database has more errors.

Now this is a simple example, and the NCIC database has far more complex data and tries to make more complex correlations. And I am assuming that the error rate for false positives are the same as the error rate for false negatives, and there aren't any data dependencies that complicate the analysis. But even with these complications, the problems are still the same. Because there are so few terrorists (for example) amongst the general population, a error-filled database is far more likely to identify innocent people as terrorists than it is to catch actual terrorists.

This kind of thing is already happening. There are 13 million people on the FBI's terrorist watch list. That's ridiculous, it's simply inconceivable that a number of people equal to 4.5% of the population of the United States are terrorists. There are far more innocents on that list than there are guilty people not on that list. And these innocents are regularly harassed by police trying to do their job. And in any case, any watch list with 13 million people is basically useless. How many resources can anyone afford to spend watching about one-twentieth of the population, anyway?

That 13-million-person list feels a whole like CYA on the part of the FBI. Adding someone to the list probably has no cost and, in fact, may be one criterion for how your performance is evaluated at the FBI. Removing someone from the list probably takes considerable courage, since someone is going to have to take the fall when "the warnings were ignored" and "they failed to connect the dots." Best to leave that risky stuff to other people, and to keep innocent people on the list forever.…

Saturday, April 19, 2003

De-fense! De-fense! De-fense!
On offense in this war, you face outgunned opponents and, mostly, you kill them. On defense you face industry lobbyists, civil libertarians, investigative gadflies, pork-barrel politicians, employee unions, campaign consultants, tort lawyers, budget police, bureaucratic red tape, the Bill of Rights and the laws of physics. You can wage a war without deferring to allies or sharing the spoils, regardless of the wisdom of that, but the home front doesn't put up with unilateralists — except maybe Alan Greenspan.

On offense, victory may be expensive and bloody and it may give way to an ugly peace, but it is assured. You can declare it, date it and celebrate it with a parade. On defense, the overwhelming odds are that no matter how rigorously the government prepares, America will again suffer what the administration calls "terrorism of catastrophic proportions." Every day without a terrorist attack is not a victory, merely a reprieve.…

Friday, April 18, 2003

The Quest for Illicit Weapons
The continued failure of American forces to find any "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq must be worrying some officials, particularly at intelligence agencies that assured the White House that Baghdad had such weapons. If Saddam Hussein authorized his field commanders to use chemical weapons, as Secretary of State Colin Powell suggested to the United Nations in February, presumably some of the weapons should have been overrun by Army and Marine forces as they closed in on Baghdad. Yet so far every report of suspicious items has proved to be a false alarm. The very fact that pressure is mounting on the Bush administration to prove the presence of unconventional weapons makes it imperative that the White House bring in experienced inspectors from the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency to help locate illicit materials and enhance the credibility of any findings. Current White House plans to bypass the U.N. are heading in the wrong direction.

There may be good reasons for coming up dry so far. The Iraqis were expert at hiding forbidden materials, and it could take some time to find secret storage and manufacturing sites in a nation that is the size of California. But with every passing day, American credibility is called into question, particularly by other nations that were not enthusiastic about military action to begin with. The chief justification for invading Iraq was to get rid of Baghdad's stores of chemical and biological agents and dismantle its effort to produce a nuclear bomb. These weapons were deemed a threat not only to Iraq's neighbors, but also to the United States, particularly if Mr. Hussein were to make them available to terrorists, as President Bush suggested in his State of the Union message.

The military units searching for unconventional arms in Iraq are not truly expert in finding hidden weapons. They need to be buttressed not only by American civilian experts but, even more important, by respected international inspectors as well. Such neutral experts need to ensure a strict chain of custody and oversee the accuracy of laboratory analyses. Otherwise there is a danger that any findings will be discounted by a skeptical world that is all too ready to believe that the evidence was planted or manipulated.…
When Freedom Leads to Anarchy
The Bush administration, ill prepared to curb the lawlessness that has swept Iraq, is reinforcing one of the world's most powerful antidemocratic forces: the fear of chaos. Even as looting subsides, vigilantism flourishes. Revenge killings are reported to have begun in Kirkuk, and Kurdish militiamen are said to be ousting Arabs from villages around the city.

Unless the United States moves quickly to counter its mistakes, Iraqis are unlikely to trust their security to an open, pluralistic form of government. Public anxiety about disorder has been used to rationalize practically every police state, from left to right, from Moscow to Buenos Aires. Now, in part because of negligent planning in Washington, the notion is taking root in Baghdad that freedom means anarchy.

American ground commanders who said the war plan provided too few troops were right for the wrong reasons. There were enough soldiers during battle — but not enough afterward. There was plenty of fire power from air and armor but not enough visible power in the streets to create an impression of American control. If trained military police units had been deployed, they and large numbers of regular soldiers could have been stationed strategically and obviously as a symbol of order until Iraqi police forces were reconstituted in sufficient numbers.…

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Childhood Amid Uncertainty
Peace Diaries, an online space where children could air their feelings, guided by lesson plans. As fears about terrorism became fears about war, the Web site, peacediaries.org, has served as a journal of childhood amid uncertain times. The students' work is collected in book form; ''Peace Diaries Volume 2,'' due out in May, represents 13 countries.

Monday, April 14, 2003

News: Google's porn filters under fire
Children using Google's SafeSearch feature, designed to filter out links to Web sites with adult content, may be shielded from far more than their parents ever intended.

A report released this week by the Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society says that SafeSearch excludes many innocuous Web pages from search-result listings, including ones created by the White House, IBM, the American Library Association and clothing company Liz Claiborne.

The omissions occur because of the way Google designed the feature, which can be enabled or disabled through a preferences page. The feature uses a proprietary algorithm that automatically analyzes the pages and makes an educated guess, without intervention by Google employees.

The report http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/people/edelman/google-safesearch/ http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/people/edelman/google-safesearch/

SafeSearch http://www.google.com/help/customize.html#safe

preferences page http://www.google.com/preferences
Apple Patches Flaws in Mac OS X
Apple Computer … has released an update of its flagship Mac OS X operating system to fix seven serious security holes that could leak sensitive information and lead to DoS and system access attacks.

Apple pushed out the new version -- Mac OS X 10.2.5 -- after security research firm @Stake warned warned of known holes in the operating system's implementations of OpenSSL, Apache Server, Sendmail and Samba and two new vulnerabilities in the DirectoryService that can cause a denial-of-service.

A vulnerability alert from Secunia tagged the security holes with an "extremely critical" rating, especially because of the known Sendmail flaw that could allow an attacker to gain control of a unpatched Sendmail server.

In urging all users to upgrade to the latest Mac OS X 10.2.5 release, Apple said the previous versions contained an information disclosure vulnerability in OpenSSL that can be exploited by intruders to gain knowledge of the pre-master secret, which can be used to identify the session keys used during SSL/TLS sessions.

It also plugs an exceptional handling error issue in the Apache Server which can lead to denial-of-service attacks if an attacker sends multiple HTTP requests, which include large chunks of linefeeds.

The new holes, in DirectoryServices, leaves the Mac OS X susceptible to several attacks, ultimately allowing a local user to obtain root privileges. "In order for an attacker to exploit this vulnerability, they must first cause DirectoryServices to terminate. This can be done by simply connecting to port 625 repeatedly using an automated program," @Stake warned.…
News: W3C works compromise for patent specs
The World Wide Web Consortium has released what it hopes will be the final draft of its patent policy as it tries to create a mostly royalty-free environment for Web standards development.

The standards body has been grappling with the issue of how to deal with patents for more than three years, hoping to strike a balance between those who seek royalty-free standards and those who demand payment for their technologies. On Wednesday, the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) Patent Policy Working Group released a final draft of its Royalty-Free Patent Policy, which will be open for public comment for six weeks. The group hopes to have a final plan endorsed by its director sometime in May.

The basic premise of the policy, a compromise between open-source advocates and proprietary software companies, is that patented technology can be included in standards development as long as it is royalty-free in most cases.

However, the latest draft does contain provisions to incorporate technology into Web standards when that technology does not comply with certain inclusion standards, such as when the patent holder wants to charge fees. In that case, the W3C's Patent Advisory Group will investigate ways to deal with the issue. Some of those methods may include designing around the patent, removing it altogether or halting work in the area. The group also could recommend that the patented work be included in the standard anyway, even if the practice conflicts with the W3C's royalty-free goals. In that case, the public would be allowed to review the licensing terms.

"Some people will look at this and say this is a huge loophole," said Daniel Weitzner, chair of the W3C's Patent Policy Working Group. "The way I see it, it gives us the flexibility to look at situations that don't fit in with our royalty-free licensing policy and decide what to do rather than hit a dead end. I think it will be used very rarely."

Patents have been a flash point among software developers, companies and open-source and free software advocates. Some proprietary software companies rely on patents as part of their business strategy, cashing in on large patent portfolios by requiring licensing fees. Those companies may be reluctant to give away the rights to what they consider their intellectual property after investing time and money creating the technology. On the other hand, many in the open-source community believe patents impede the development process and can clog the adoption of standards.

"No single group--patent holders, open-source developers or users--got everything it wanted," Weitzner said. "But with this final draft, the Working Group believes it has found a common, workable path that will encourage the widespread adoption of W3C standards across a wide range of business models, from proprietary to open source."
News: Standards group beats back patent foes
An attempt to persuade a key Internet standards body to abandon its use of patented technologies has ended in defeat.

The intellectual property rights (IPR) working group of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) late Wednesday made official what members had known for some time: There is no consensus within the group to restrict the use of patented technologies in IETF standards.

"It's clear that there is no consensus to recharter to change the IETF's IPR policy," Steve Bellovin, the working group's chairman and an AT&T network security researcher, wrote in an e-mail to working group members. "In fact, there is likely consensus the other way, that we should not recharter at this time."

The IETF's vote to maintain its status quo, which lets working groups continue to use patented technologies with so-called reasonable and nondiscriminatory (RAND) licenses, comes after the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) went through more than a year of public controversy over the same issue.

The use of RAND technologies in standards has attracted widespread and organized criticism in the age of open-source development. Open-source developers claim that the threat of being charged royalties for using a standard makes it useless in the context of open-source licenses, which are usually granted free of charge.…

Friday, April 11, 2003

A World Upside Down
A large, angry mob was squaring off in the center of Basra against tense British troops backed by tanks and heavy machine guns, so I asked the Iraqis what they were doing.

"We're here to rob the banks," one man explained cheerfully.

I must have looked surprised because another man explained that mobs had already used rocket-propelled grenades to break into several banks, but that the safes inside were still intact. "So we've come to rob the banks, but those British soldiers won't let us in," he said indignantly. "We're very upset."

Iraq today is at once exuberant and upset — and caught in a vacuum of authority. Now that we've overthrown the tyrant of the Tigris, our big challenge is to move immediately to fill this vacuum and restore order.

Perhaps it's churlish to say this so soon after an impressive military victory, but we may have underestimated the risk of chaos in postwar Iraq.

"The robbers come at night, 20 or 30 together, and throw grenades" and break into private houses, complained Muhammad Jassem, a middle-aged man in a crowd gathered around British troops in Basra. "They ask for money and if they don't get it, they shoot you on the spot."

"We go to the British and ask for help," he added, "and they say they are not a police force."

"Now that Saddam is gone," mused Imad Saleh, a 30-year-old businessman who is delighted by the dictator's departure, "everything has gone crazy."

Revenge killings are becoming more common in Basra, and enjoy popular support. I poked around Basra for a top Baath Party official whom I had interviewed in the fall, Muhammad Al-Nuaimi, and asked people if they knew where he was.

"He has escaped," one man said disappointedly. "If we find him, we will kill him."

Andres Kruesi, an intrepid Swiss representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross, sits in his office in Basra and struggles to restore basic services in a lawless city. "To get electricity and water back on," he said in frustration, "you need to have security and the sense that people can drive to work without getting their cars stolen."

When a Red Cross car and a Basra utility department vehicle went out together to try to restore power to the city, he said, a mob allowed the Red Cross vehicle to pass. But the Iraqis dragged the engineers out of the city car and tried to steal it.

One distraught man named Karim Sobhi said he was grateful to the Americans for ousting Saddam. But he insisted that the needs of ordinary Iraqis were being neglected, saying, "Our prisoners of war are getting good treatment from the Americans — but no one else is."
Conquest and Neglect
Credit where credit is due: the hawks were right to say that a whiff of precision-guided grapeshot would lead to the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime. But even skeptics about this war expected a military victory. ("Of course we'll win on the battlefield, probably with ease" was the opening line of my start-of-the-war column.) Instead, we worried — and continue to worry — about what would follow. As another skeptic, Michael Kinsley of Slate, wrote yesterday: "I do hope to be proven wrong. But it hasn't happened yet."

Why worry? I won't pretend to have any insights into what is going on in the minds of the Iraqi people. But there is a pattern to the Bush administration's way of doing business that does not bode well for the future — a pattern of conquest followed by malign neglect.

One has to admit that the Bush people are very good at conquest, military and political. They focus all their attention on an issue; they pull out all the stops; they don't worry about breaking the rules. This technique brought them victory in the Florida recount battle, the passage of the 2001 tax cut, the fall of Kabul, victory in the midterm elections, and the fall of Baghdad.

But after the triumph, when it comes time to take care of what they've won, their attention wanders, and things go to pot.

The most obvious example is Afghanistan, the land the Bush administration forgot. Most of the country is back under the control of fundamentalist warlords; unpaid soldiers and policemen are deserting in droves. (Remember that the Bush administration forgot to include any Afghan aid in its latest budget.)

President Hamid Karzai's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, told an Associated Press reporter: "It is like I am seeing the same movie twice and no one is trying to fix the problem. What was promised to Afghans with the collapse of the Taliban was a new life of hope and change. But what was delivered? Nothing. Everyone is back in business."
Microsoft Patches Critical Virtual Machine Flaw

The Virtual Machine is included in nearly every version of Windows as well as in most version of Internet Explorer.

The vulnerability is in the ByteCode Verifier component of the VM, which is part of the class-verification process. The component does not correctly check for the presence of some malicious code as Java applets are loaded.

The most likely way for an attacker to exploit this flaw is by creating a malicious Java applet, embedding it in a Web page and then either enticing a user to visit the page or e-mailing the page to the user.

The patch for this vulnerability is available here:http://www.microsoft.com/technet/treeview/default.asp?url=/technet/security/bulletin/MS03-011.asp
News: March sees more spam than ever
March was another bumper month for spam, with the latest figures revealing a continued increase in the amount of unsolicited e-mail traffic.

Anti-spam firm Brightmail recorded a 4-percent month-on-month increase in the amount of spam detected by its Probe Network. More alarmingly, compared to the same month last year, the amount of spam detected has almost doubled.

The most common kinds of spam can best be described as the usual suspects, with porn, scams, financial services and product offers--such as natural Viagra or weight loss pills--all featuring heavily.
PCLT Exit Ramp
PC Lube and Tune is a Service Station and convenience store in business since Feb, 1994 at Exit 130.132 on the National Information Highway. An ordinary Service Station provides gas, sodas, repairs, maps, and advice. The PCLT objective is to supply usable introductions, tutorials, and education on technical subjects to the large audience of computer users. The method is to supply system independent hypertext files through the Internet and World Wide Web.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Must What Goes Up Also Come Down?
A parenthetical thought: lately, parallels have been drawn in the press between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and the repressive Communists who ruled Russia. I think an important difference between the two regimes was revealed when the solidity of the comparative statues was tested. The Soviet one had to be dragged away with much effort, exertion, etc. And when it came down, it came down in one piece. In contrast, the Iraqi monument toppled quite easily. And when it did, it broke apart, leaving the hollow boots of the dictator on the pedestal. Of course, the statue's quick demise could be attributed to the superiority of American equipment and expertise, which seem to be in plentiful supply in Baghdad these days.

Compared to the events in Berlin and Moscow, the crashing of Mr. Hussein's statue was a much more modest affair. One got the feeling that the dancing, shirtless men didn't extend too far beyond the camera's eye. This is probably not such a bad thing, because big symbolic gestures, while immensely satisfying at the time, rarely live up to their promise. This is certainly true with regard to Germany, where almost 14 years after the fall of the wall, the economic and psychological division between East and West endures.

As for Russia, there is now persistent talk coming from Moscow's conservative mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, that the statue of Dzerzhinsky (which conveniently survived intact and has been living a quiet life in a Moscow park) should be returned to its former home — a traffic island in front of the headquarters of the former K.G.B. and its successor, the Federal Security Services. The liberal intelligentsia, of course, vehemently objects to the resurrection. But with polls showing that more and more Russians are looking on the Soviet past with fondness, there is a distinct possibility that one day we will see the once-toppled monument back at the heart of Moscow, gazing imperiously at passers-by.
A New Spin on Wireless LAN Security
A new wireless LAN security solution for Windows XP is now a free download at Microsoft's Web site. Based on the Wi-Fi Alliance's new replacement for its Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) solution, Wireless Protected Access (WPA), this security offering is designed for both home and business users of Windows XP. There are no similar downloads for Windows 9.x or 2000, since the software is aimed at wireless features these operating systems do not have.…
Red Flags
The Red Flags section offers guidance on areas of public opinion research where findings may be misleading, unstable, or easily misinterpreted.

Public Agenda uses several indicators to judge when survey results should be reported and used cautiously:

Results change when survey questions are reworded slightly

Results change when implications or trade-offs of a policy are pointed out.

Results may be misleading if reported in isolation or out of context

Other research suggests that people have incomplete or inaccurate knowledge in this area.

Affirmative Action: What a Difference a Word Makes. Survey responses on affirmative action and increasing diversity on campus vary dramatically depending on how questions are worded and whether they emphasize the goal of diversity or focus explicitly on the issue of preferences. Surveys also suggest that many Americans may not completely understand much of the legal debate and press coverage of the issue. For example, surveys show that Americans have different definitions of what the words "affirmative action" mean and fairly large numbers say they aren't sure. Majorities of Americans say they support programs that offer "assistance" for minorities in college admissions or jobs, but support drops dramatically if the question is reworded to ask about "preferences." …
Higher Education:
…issue guide on Higher Education. The Understanding the Issue section lays out the facts and policy alternatives, while the Public Opinion section offers a detailed profile of public thinking about the issue.

-- Last Updated April 2, 2003

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Exposing the Future of Internet Security
By Robert Clyde
Guest Commentary: Worried about the Internet? You ain't seen nothing yet, says Symantec CTO Robert Clyde. Flash Worms, polymorphism and other threats will make even strong servers crumble.
News: HP unveils 'lean, mean' budget PCs
Lowering the bar on the price of an entry-level PC, Hewlett-Packard on Tuesday introduced a line of build-to-order models that start at just $319 after a $50 rebate.

For that price, customers get a Compaq Presario S3000V desktop computer that includes a 2GHz Intel Celeron chip, 128MB of memory, a 40GB hard drive and a CD-ROM drive. What they don't get is a monitor, which is sold separately.

"That's really the most aggressive thing I've seen," said IDC analyst Roger Kay. "That's a lean, mean price."
Deaths of Journalists Bring Accusations and Concerns
Yesterday's deaths galvanized advocacy groups in ways not seen so far in the war. The Committee to Protect Journalists, a nonprofit group that monitors the welfare of journalists worldwide, called on Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to investigate American strikes on the Baghdad bureau of Al Jazeera television and the Palestine Hotel, a base for foreign journalists.

Another advocacy group, Reporters Without Borders, said it was appalled at yesterday's attacks. "U.S. forces must prove that the incident was not a deliberate attack to dissuade or prevent journalists from continuing to report on what is happening in Baghdad," the group's secretary general, Robert Menard, said in a statement.

The news organizations whose staff members were killed yesterday took a more moderate tone.

"Clearly the war, and all its confusion, has come to the heart of Baghdad," Geert Linnebank, the editor in chief of Reuters, said in a statement. "But the incident raises questions about the judgment of the advancing U.S. troops, who have known all along that this hotel is the main base for almost all foreign journalists."

Al Jazeera's chairman, Sheik Hamad bin Thamer al-Thani, said in Qatar that he was withholding judgment on whether the attack was accidental or deliberate. But network staff members in Washington; Amman, Jordan; and Doha, Qatar, said they were convinced that the attack was premeditated.

"The feeling basically is they want to do something really ugly in Baghdad, and they don't want any Arab TV there, and they're just reinforcing it," said Imad Musa, a Jazeera producer in Washington.

The Baghdad offices of Al Jazeera's Arabic-language competitor, Abu Dhabi TV, were also struck yesterday by American fire.

Officials at United States Central Command in Qatar said initially that American troops had fired on Al Jazeera's offices after coming under "significant enemy fire from the building." Military officials said allied troops had no choice but to respond to fire from the Jazeera office building and the Palestine Hotel. Later in a news briefing, officials said the precise source of the fire could not be pinpointed. Journalists at both buildings disputed accounts of fire from their buildings.

The attacks, particularly the strike on Al Jazeera's offices, were a setback for the United States-led public relations campaign to convince the Arab world that the fight to remove Saddam Hussein was not an effort to occupy Iraq. Jazeera correspondents, who are estimated to reach up to 45 million people, told their viewers that they believed they were deliberately attacked.

Dima Tahboub, wife of Tariq Ayoub, 34, the Jazeera reporter who was killed, said in an interview with Agence France-Presse, "My prayer for Tariq is that his blood be a curse for those who help the Americans, the Jews and the English to strike our families in Iraq and Palestine."

Pentagon officials reiterated yesterday their warnings that journalists not traveling with troops were taking serious risks by remaining in Baghdad.
Two Democrats Call for Scrutiny of Bidding to Reconstruct Iraq
Two senior Democratic lawmakers asked today for an investigation into how the Bush administration is awarding contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq, with special attention to contracts already given to a subsidiary of Halliburton, the company once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney.

The lawmakers, Representatives Henry A. Waxman of California and John D. Dingell of Michigan, asked the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, to examine the bidding process at the United States Agency for International Development, which will award at least $1.6 billion in contracts to rebuild Iraq, and at the Pentagon, which will award tens of millions of dollars of contracts.

No one in the White House was available to comment on the request.
Analysis: Will Bush Now Push for Mideast Peace?
``It is not enough to introduce a roadmap, there must be a specific mechanism for action and Israel must stop its continuing aggression against the Palestinian people,'' Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said, reflecting Arab frustration.

Palestinian cabinet minister Ghassan Khatib complained that Bush ``keeps saying he's committed to the roadmap but he keeps postponing it, which gives us the impression he is not sincere.''

Washington delayed publishing the peace plan, drafted last December, first because of an Israeli election, then while Sharon formed his government, then until the Palestinians named a prime minister, and now until he appoints his cabinet.

Khatib said the Palestinians had started to fulfil their part of the bargain, working to reduce Palestinian violence and enact political and administrative reforms.

Yet while attacks on Israel had dwindled, Sharon continued killings of wanted Palestinian militants, he said.
No New Tax Cuts
…Congress must exercise restraint on both revenues and spending to prevent fiscal policy from spiraling out of control. The consensus in favor of long-term budget balance must be re-established. This issue is now directly before Congress as it debates the federal budget.

The fiscal outlook is much worse than official projections indicate. These projections assume that the tax cuts enacted in 2001 will expire at the end of 2010. They also assume that discretionary spending, the part of the budget that pays for national defense, domestic security, education and transportation, will shrink continuously as a share of the economy. Neither of these assumptions is realistic.…
Hold Your Applause
It's hard to smile when there's no water. It's hard to applaud when you're frightened. It's hard to say, "Thank you for liberating me," when liberation has meant that looters have ransacked everything from the grain silos to the local school, where they even took away the blackboard.

That was what I found when spending the day in Umm Qasr and its hospital, in southern Iraq. Umm Qasr was the first town liberated by coalition forces. But 20 days into the war, it is without running water, security or adequate food supplies. I went in with a Kuwaiti relief team, who, taking pity on the Iraqis, tossed out extra food from a bus window as we left. The Umm Qasr townsfolk scrambled after that food like pigeons jostling for bread crumbs in a park.

This was a scene of humiliation, not liberation. We must do better.

I am sure we will, as more relief crews arrive. But this scene explained to me why, even here in the anti-Saddam Shia heartland of southern Iraq, no one is giving U.S. troops a standing ovation. Applause? When I asked Lt. Col. Richard Murphy, part of the U.S. relief operation, how Iraqis were greeting his men, he answered bluntly and honestly: "I have not detected any overt hostility."

Overt hostility? We've gone from expecting applause to being relieved that there is no overt hostility. And we've been here only 20 days. As I said, I'm certain things will improve with time. But for now, America has broken the old order — Saddam's regime — but it has yet to put in place a new order, and the vacuum is being filled in way too many places by looters, thugs, chaos, thirst, hunger and insecurity. A particular problem here in the south is the fact that British troops have still not totally secured Basra, the regional center. Without free access to Basra, the whole southern economy is stalled.

It would be idiotic to even ask Iraqis here how they felt about politics. They are in a pre-political, primordial state of nature. For the moment, Saddam has been replaced by Hobbes, not Bush. When I asked Dr. Safaa Khalaf at Umm Qasr Hospital why the reception for U.S. forces had been so muted, he answered: "Many people here have sons who were soldiers. They were forced to join the army. Many people lost their sons. They are angry from the war. Since the war, no water, no food, no electricity. . . . We have not had water for washing or drinking for five days. . . . There is no law, no policeman to arrest people. I don't see yet the American reign of running the country."
Dances With Wolfowitz
The former C.I.A. director James Woolsey, a Wolfie pal and a prospective administrator in occupied Iraq, bluntly told U.C.L.A. students last week that to reshape the Middle East, the U.S. would have to spend years and maybe decades waging World War IV. (He counted the cold war as World War III.)

He identified America's enemies as the Islamist Shia who run Iran, the Iranian-supported Hezbollah, the fascist Baathists in Iraq and Syria, and the Islamist Sunnis who run Al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups.

Mr. Wolfowitz, however, played the diplomat on Sunday, gliding past Tim Russert's probing on whether the neo-cons' dreams of other campaigns in Syria, Iran and North Korea would come true. Pressed, he said, "There's got to be change in Syria as well."

And the Times's David Sanger reported that when a Bush aide stepped into the Oval Office recently to tell the president that the hard-boiled Rummy had also been shaking a fist at Syria, Mr. Bush smiled and said one word: "Good."

The administration already sounds as triumphalist as Lawrence at his giddiest. Today's satirical Onion headline reads: "Bush Subconsciously Sizes Up Spain for Invasion."

Last August, Mr. Scowcroft declared that the proposed war against Iraq was an unwarranted and divisive distraction from the struggle against global terrorism, a sentiment he reiterated today.

Scowcroft Urges Wide Role for the U.N. in Postwar Iraq
Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to the first President Bush during the 1991 Persian Gulf war, urged the United States today to let the United Nations organize the postwar administration of Iraq and warned that a quick push for democratic transformation could explode into sectarian violence or civil war.

Mr. Scowcroft made his remarks as President Bush, meeting in Northern Ireland with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, indicated that the United States and Britain should play the dominant role in establishing an interim governing authority.

Mr. Scowcroft suggested that this approach could provoke the "wrath and enmity" of the Muslim world.

"The security burden ought to stay with the British and the Americans, but the complete process of trying to put together a government ought to be a broader attempt," Mr. Scowcroft said, specifying the United Nations.

"I'm a skeptic about the ability to transform Iraq into a democracy in any realistic period of time," Mr. Scowcroft said, noting the lack of functioning institutions and a surplus of ill will among different religious and tribal groups.

"What's going to happen the first time we hold an election in Iraq and it turns out the radicals win?" Mr. Scowcroft asked. "What do you do? We're surely not going to let them take over."

Addressing an audience at the Norwegian Nobel Institute, Mr. Scowcroft said it would be difficult to find moderate Iraqi nationals able to maintain order.

"What's likely to happen is that the meanest, toughest ones will rise to the top, at least for a couple of generations," he said.…

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

News: Net outclasses TV war coverage
Stumbling our way through the fog of war, one conclusion is beyond dispute: The Internet has emerged as the best antidote to the numbing stupidity that passes for daily television coverage two weeks into America's battle with Iraq.

Before some coiffed curmudgeons accuse me of shilling for the medium where I practice my profession, I have the highest respect for embedded television reporters risking their lives to cover what arguably is an impossible assignment. But back at network central, it's a different story. Sitting by their studios, cheerleading anchors seem determined to outdo each other dumbing down the complexity of this historic conflict to the simplicity of a football match. John Madden meets Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf and we watch zombie-like as they call the big game.

Most people will no doubt continue to rely on television--here and around the globe--to make heads and tails of what's going on in a fast-moving, confusing conflict. More than a half a century of watching commercial television has unfortunately conditioned people to passively consume information, but change is afoot. After 9-11, the Internet emerged as a surprising source for people interested in context and a multiplicity of viewpoints. That is again proving the case. News sources and first-person accounts from both sides of the battlefield are available for the asking. And folks are saying: You know that when 'Al-Jazeera' overtakes 'sex' to become the most searched-for term on Lycos, we've passed some sort of Rubicon.

The Internet also puts an extra onus on Web surfers. Filtering out the noise and disinformation is not always easy. For example, one ongoing guessing game concerns the authenticity of the mysterious author of Where is Raed, a blog said to emanate from Baghdad. If he's on the up-and-up, Raed offers a fascinating insider's view of what it's like to sit through massive aerial bombardments. If it's a fraud, you know that Raed had a good long laugh getting us to tune in. (So, I should add, did television's Geraldo Rivera with his discoveryof Al Capone's vault.) For the record, the Raed blog hasn't been updated since March 24, one of the busiest days of the air war.

http://dear_raed.blogspot.com/, News: Net outclasses TV war coverage
con·cept: April 2003