Friday, May 23, 2003

…the law has imposed very few limits on what [data] they can get and how they can get it…

TIA Gets New Name, Old Questions Persist
The Pentagon's research arm, in a report released Tuesday, changed the name of its mammoth electronic surveillance project following public outcry, but concerns that the project will unnecessarily invade privacy without necessarily improving national security remain strong.

The Total Information Awareness program, now called the Terrorism Information Awareness program, under development at the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, will integrate data search, pattern recognition and collaborative software to analyze potential terrorist threats. Because of public controversy over the secret research, Congress ordered DARPA in January to submit a report explaining the project, its efficacy and its impact on privacy.

According to the TIA report released today, one of the key elements of the program is developing a secure environment for collaboration among agencies. The program is also researching ways to structure and automate data searches, develop software to discover linkages among events, places, people and things, and incorporate memory into decision-making.,3959,1097384,00.asp
Wiretap Law to Fight Terrorism Used in Other Ways
New electronic surveillance powers enacted in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have been used widely by law enforcement agents, but not solely in pursuit of terrorism; some new powers bestowed by the USA PATRIOT Act allegedly have been used in cases involving drug violations and credit card fraud.

Even as the law enforcement and defense communities consider requesting additional spying technologies and wiretap powers from Congress, lawmakers are taking a close, critical look at the powers enacted hastily in the USA PATRIOT Act. Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee released the Justice Department's answers to dozens of questions lawmakers have raised.

Charging that the USA PATRIOT Act was rushed into law without thoughtful consideration, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said its enactment was a "shameful procedure" driven by vague threats from the Bush administration that lives could be lost if Congress did not hurry.

"With this kind of hysteria, the bill was passed almost sight unseen by this House," Nadler said during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee. "It is now time for a sober second look."

The second look includes a review of the emergency searches done under the auspices of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), passed in 1978. Over the course of one year, Attorney General John Ashcroft authorized 113 emergency electronic surveillance orders. In the previous 23 years, only 47 such authorizations were issued.

Privacy advocates are particularly concerned about a provision in the USA PATRIOT Act that extends "trap and trace" and "pen register" authorities from the wireline telephone environment to the Internet and wireless networks. A full search warrant, which allows the interception of content, requires a showing of probable cause, but a trap and trace order, which allows the interception only of telephone digits dialed, requires a lower standard of judicial review. The problem for privacy rights advocates is that in Internet communications the equivalent of digits dialed is undefined, and content could be wrongly intercepted without a showing of probable cause.…,3959,1098052,00.asp

Thursday, May 22, 2003

After the Oslo agreement came the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the election of the hard-line Benjamin Netanyahu, the rise of Ehud Barak and his willingness to explore points of accommodation never before offered, the agonizing failure to reach agreement, the second intifada with its suicide bombings, Ariel Sharon's electoral victory and the all-out triumph of noise.

"Noise . . . gunshots and shouts, incendiary words and mournful laments, and explosions and demonstrations, and heaps of clichés and special broadcasts from the scenes of terrorist attacks, and calls for revenge. . . .

"And within that whirlwind, in the eye of the storm, there is silence. It can't be heard; it is felt, in every cell of the body. A silence such as one feels in the brief moment between receiving bad news and comprehending it, between the blow and the pain. This is the empty space in which every person, Israeli or Palestinian, knows with piercing certainty all that he does not want or does not dare to know."

The temptation is to flee back to the noise, because the silence is unbearable. "There, laid bare, stripped of any national, religious, tribal or social garments that protect him, a man sits alone, curled up inside himself."
Texas Deleted Documents About Search for Democrats
The fight over the flight of Democratic legislators intensified yesterday as the Texas Department of Public Safety admitted it had destroyed documents that were collected last week as state troopers searched for the missing lawmakers.
What started out as a local partisan dispute about redistricting escalated into accusations of a cover-up and abuse of federal power.

Indeed, federal authorities are investigating how the Department of Homeland Security became involved in the search for the lawmakers.

Today's uproar began after The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that a commander at the Department of Public Safety issued an e-mail notice instructing that all "notes, correspondence, photos, etc." concerning the search "be destroyed immediately."

"It just doesn't smell right," said State Representative Garnet F. Coleman of Houston, a leader of the move by 51 Democrats to go to Oklahoma to deny House Republicans a quorum for a vote on redistricting.

"Clearly, there's some people trying to remove information, or delete information, that is damaging to their reputation," Mr. Coleman said. "We question the motive on the destruction. And what we really want to know is, who told the Department of Public Safety to do it?"

Democrats in Texas and in the state's delegation in Washington have asked for an investigation into why the federal Department of Homeland Security was called in on the case.

The security department has begun its own inquiry and said it got involved only because it had been told that a plane carrying the lawmakers was missing or had crashed.…
U.S. Wins Support to End Sanctions Imposed on Iraq

The final American concessions on the resolution to end nearly 13 years of sanctions against Iraq won the support of France, Russia and Germany today, ensuring the overwhelming approval of the measure, which is set for a vote on Thursday morning.

The measure grants the United States and Britain an extraordinary amount of authority over Iraq's political and economic affairs until a representative, internationally recognized government is installed. The resolution would give a limited but independent role to a United Nations special representative to help the occupying powers and Iraqi groups create a new government.

In a final concession, Washington agreed to a Security Council review within 12 months to examine how the resolution has been put into effect. The French had sought to give the Council power to rescind the mandate later.

The French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, appearing at a news conference with his German and Russian counterparts, Joschka Fischer and Igor S. Ivanov, said last night that the latest version of the resolution put the United Nations "back in the game," adding that the United Nations special representative will now have a "tangible and independent role."
5/19/03 Worm Alert: Don't Open E-Mail from
"Your Password" -- To Trouble
by Eric Grevstad

A new virus infection has been spreading rapidly since last weekend, luring gullible e-mail users to execute an attachment to a bogus e-mail message from

The subject line of the message may read "Your Password," "Your details," "Approved (Ref: 38446-263)," "Screensaver," or a "Re:" variation on the above. The message body reads only, "All information is in attached file."

The attached file is the Palyh worm, which -- like last week's fast-spreading Fizzer or the Sobig virus of several months ago -- copies itself to the Windows directory, Registry, and Startup folder and begins looking for open network connections and sending itself to every e-mail address it can find on the infected PC. Antivirus vendors say the worm will stop propagating after May 31.
5/19/03 Worm Alert: Don't Open E-Mail from

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Justices Allow Drug-Cost Plan to Go Forward
Maine's innovative effort to reduce prescription drug costs for uninsured state residents by pressuring manufacturers to grant price rebates received the Supreme Court's qualified approval today.

The 6-to-3 decision lifted an injunction that has kept the Maine Rx Program from taking effect since the state's Legislature enacted it in 2000. The court's action is likely to shift the drug pricing debate away from the courts and back to the executive branch and the states.

Other states have been following the Maine case closely, with 29 states filing a Supreme Court brief on Maine's behalf. As prescription drug legislation has remained stalled in Congress, about half the states have started experimenting with ways to hold down costs for various groups of consumers.

Among these efforts, the Maine program was not only one of the earliest but also one of the broadest. While the program was intended primarily for the state's 325,000 residents who lack medical insurance, it set no income ceiling or other description of financial need. The program is theoretically open to anyone, although the state has proposed regulations to disqualify those who have prescription drug coverage.

Under Maine Rx, the state assumes the role of a pharmacy benefit manager and requires drug manufacturers who want to sell their products in Maine to negotiate rebates similar to those the manufacturers have accepted on drugs they sell through the Medicaid program, which provides medical assistance for the poor.

Since a state cannot directly impose price regulation, Maine gave the drug companies a powerful incentive to go along: manufacturers that did not cooperate faced having their products subject to a "prior authorization" procedure, under which the state's Department of Human Services would have to approve prescriptions case by case before pharmacies could dispense them.

For drugs prescribed through Medicaid, federal law permits states to use this pre-authorization procedure, which manufacturers, doctors, and patients all regard as onerous. Doctors and patients tend to seek alternatives to drugs for which pre-authorization is required. The industry argued in its lawsuit that by using the procedure for a purpose not directly linked to Medicaid, Maine had gone beyond its legal authority.

The state had not sought federal approval for its program, a fact the Bush administration stressed in urging the justices to invalidate it.

The court today declined to take that step, instead leaving the next move up to the state and the administration. "We cannot predict at this preliminary stage the ultimate fate of the Maine Rx Program," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in a portion of the opinion that was joined by Justices David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.…
Full Text at

Monday, May 19, 2003

Truth, Lies and Subtext
I've seen drunks, incompetents and out-and-out lunatics in the newsrooms I've passed through over the years. I've seen plagiarizers, fiction writers and reporters who felt it was beneath them to show up for work at all.

I remember a police captain who said of a columnist at The Daily News: "I didn't mind him makin' stuff up as long as I looked O.K. But now he's startin' to [tick] me off."

I was at NBC when some geniuses decided it was a good idea to attach incendiary devices to a few General Motors pickup trucks to show that the trucks had a propensity to burst into flames. That became a scandal that grew into a conflagration that took down the entire power structure at NBC News.

I've seen schmoozers, snoozers and high-powered losers in every venue I've been in. Most of these rogues, scoundrels and miscreants were white because most of the staffers in America's mainstream newsrooms are white. What I haven't seen in all these years was the suggestion that any of these individuals fouled up — or were put into positions where they could foul up — because they were white.

Which brings us to the Jayson Blair scandal. For those who have been watching nothing but the Food Network for the past few weeks, Mr. Blair was a Times reporter who resigned after it was learned that his work contained fabrications and plagiarized passages on a monumental scale. The truth and Jayson Blair inhabited separate universes. If there was a blizzard raging, Mr. Blair could tell you with the straightest and friendliest of faces that the weather outside was sunny and warm.

Now this would be a juicy story under any circumstances. But Mr. Blair is black, so there is the additional spice of race, to which so many Americans are terminally addicted.

Listen up: the race issue in this case is as bogus as some of Jayson Blair's reporting.…
Looting Is Derailing Detailed U.S. Plan to Restore Iraq
Long before President Bush ordered the attack against Iraq, the White House and the Pentagon drew up a plan for rebuilding and running the country after the war that was nearly as meticulous as the battle plan.

But over the past two to three weeks, the wheels have threatened to come off their vehicle for establishing the peace.

The looting, lawlessness and violence that planners thought would mar only the first few weeks has proved more widespread and enduring than Mr. Bush and his aides expected and is threatening to undermine the American plan.

Five weeks after Baghdad fell, Mr. Bush finds himself exactly where he did not want to be: forced to impose control with a larger number of troops and to delay the start of efforts to turn power over to Iraqis.

The message that reached the White House from two recent meetings with potential Iraqi leaders, officials say, was that it would be foolish to start experimenting with democracy without making people feel secure enough to go back to work or school, and without giving them back at least the basic services they received during Saddam Hussein's brutal rule.

Senior administration officials said they had foreseen some problems, but not all. "You couldn't know how it would end," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said in a telephone conversation on Friday that he initiated. "When it did end, you take it as you found it and get at it, knowing the single most important thing is security."

Another senior administration official said the White House was surprised to learn how badly broken Iraq's prewar infrastructure was. "From the outside it looked like Baghdad was a city that works," the official said. "It isn't."

Mr. Bush's aides cautioned reporters before the war that even the best plans would have to be rewritten on the ground.

Those plans called for quickly returning Baghdad police officers to duty to maintain a semblance of order, and having Iraqi soldiers build roads and clear rubble. They envisioned cheering crowds and a swift restoration of electricity and other utilities. The quick establishment of a civilian Iraqi interim authority, officials said, would help demonstrate to a suspicious Arab world that America would not act as an occupier, as in Japan and Germany.

"We will in fact be greeted as liberators," Vice President Dick Cheney said on March 16, three days before the war started.

But many of Baghdad's 10,000 police officers are just now trickling back. The Iraqi soldiers disappeared. No one in Washington anticipated the degree to which the chaos would undermine that central goal of presenting the United States as a liberator, senior officials said.

In fact, that instinct may have worsened the problem, senior officials said in interviews. Inside the White House, officials feared that if the looters were shot — the fastest way to send the message that the United States was intent on restoring order — the pictures on Al Jazeera would reinforce the worst images of America in the Arab world.

Within the administration, the backbiting has intensified. Some say Jay Garner, the retired Army lieutenant general initially charged with the physical and political rebuilding of Iraq, moved too slowly.

The sense that General Garner's team got off to a slow start was reinforced when he and a small team of aides finally arrived in Baghdad in late April to discover that they had no functioning e-mail, no way for outsiders to reach them by telephone, no cars and drivers to get them around the city and no interpreters. Aides say those problems have since eased.

Moreover, General Garner clashed with his top administrator for Baghdad, Barbara Bodine, a former ambassador to Yemen who has since left. "They were two very strong personalities, and they never came together as a team," said one senior official here.

But even critics of General Garner, who was replaced on May 7 by a career diplomat, L. Paul Bremer III, say he has been a victim of fierce infighting between the Pentagon and State Department over running postwar operations, and of a security environment he does not control.…

Sunday, May 18, 2003

Iraq's Slide Into Lawlessness Squanders Good Will for U.S.
It was another bad week for Karim W. Hassan, director general of Iraq's electricity commission.

Looters had already pilfered underground cables, carted off computers that regulate power distribution, stolen 25 of the guards' 30 patrol cars, emptied warehouses of spare parts, ransacked substations and shot up transmission lines across the country's electric grid.

Then, his men reported, armed bandits stole the only cable splicer in central Iraq, needed to repair countless vandalized electric lines.

On top of that, another group of gunmen stole his own car. The upshot: yet more delays in restoring electricity in this city, weeks after the war ended.

"Give me security," said Dr. Hassan, speaking for many Iraqis, "and I'll give you electricity."

The power company's problems are but one example of how Iraq's descent into lawlessness has stalled its return to normalcy, increased the costs of reconstruction and squandered much of the good will Iraqis felt for their new American overseers.…
Bored With Baghdad — Already
…when Saddam vanished, so did his police and government. This created a power vacuum that we were not ready to fill. This unleashed the looting, which Donald Rumsfeld blithely dismissed with his infamous line: "Freedom is untidy. Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things." And so they did. Many pieces of Iraq's economic and governmental infrastructure — which the U.S. Air Force carefully spared with its smart bombs — were destroyed from the ground up by dumb looters or saboteurs, while we watched. Chaos is untidy. Freedom requires limits.

Drive around Basra and see what looters have done to just one institution: the 12,000-student Basra University. It looks like a tornado hit it. Looters have made off with all the desks and chairs, ransacked the library, and were last seen by my colleague Marc Santora ripping out window frames and digging up cables. Check out some of the factories around Baghdad, or many ministries, power plants, oil refineries, police stations, water systems. All have been hobbled by looting — which is why power is in short supply, phones don't work, and gas lines are a mile long.

I am sure things will improve. But after traveling around central Iraq, here's what worries me: The buildup to this war was so exhausting, the coverage of the dash to Baghdad so telegenic, and the climax of the toppling of Saddam's statue so dramatic, that everyone who went through it seems to prefer that the story just end there. The U.S. networks changed the subject after the fall of Baghdad as fast as you can say "Laci Peterson," and President Bush did the same as fast as you can say "tax cuts."

They are not only underestimating how hard nation building will be with this brutalized people, but how much the looting and power vacuum have put us into an even deeper hole. We need an emergency airlift of military police officers, a mobile telephone system so people can communicate, and a TV station. And we need, as one U.S. general said to me, to "take that $600 million of Saddam's money we found behind that wall, go up in a helicopter and spread it from one end of the country to the other." We have to get the economy going.

Iraqis are an exhausted people. Most seem ready to give us a chance, and we do have a shot at making this a decent place — but not with nation building lite. That approach is coming unstuck in Afghanistan and it will never work in Iraq. We've wasted an important month. We must get our act together and our energy up. Why doesn't Mr. Rumsfeld brief reporters every day about rebuilding Iraq, the way he did about destroying Saddam?
Suicide Bombings Are Condemned in Saudi Mosques
As they arrived in the torrid heat at Abu Bakr Mosque for the first Friday Prayers since this week's bombings, most worshipers seemed to expect that today's sermon would condemn the attacks as contrary to Islamic tenets. They were not disappointed, or in disagreement.

"I totally reject these attacks, and I don't think anyone in Saudi Arabia would approve them," said Khalid Ibrahim, 32, an elementary school teacher.

But Mr. Ibrahim added that the killing of 34 Americans, Saudis and others in the explosions at three residential compounds here in the Saudi capital on Monday night had to be placed in context.

"I see hundreds of our Muslim brothers dying in Iraq and Palestine," he said. "Part of the reason for these attacks in our country is retaliation against that injustice."

Such comments were echoed by a dozen other worshipers in an upper-class suburb in eastern Riyadh. Many cited the Koran as teaching that the killing of innocents, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, is not simply forbidden, but certain to lead to punishment in hell. They cited recent headlines to make the point of suffering by fellow Muslims.

In the holy city of Mecca, the imam of the Grand Mosque, Sheik Saleh bin Abdullah bin Humaid, condemned the bombings today as "criminal acts" and "an aggression, an act of killing, terrorizing others and destruction," as well as "bloodshed of protected souls."

In Medina, the imam of the Prophet Mosque, Ali bin Abdel Rahman al-Hudhaify, said that while Muslims were "required to punish any fellow Muslims who violate Islamic teachings," they should also ask the West "to punish those who commit terrorist acts against the Palestinians and to guarantee their right to live in peace and dignity in their homeland."

The imam at Abu Bakr Mosque here, Mazin al-Raji, said the attacks posed a test that separated believers from nonbelievers. Believers, he said, understood that the bombers were "mentally twisted and unstable" people whose conduct was also an act of treason against the state and against human nature.

But the imam also cited conditions in Chechnya, the Palestinian territories and Iraq, and warned that arresting people and suppressing their opinions could "create another reason for terrorism."

Taken together, these comments seem to suggest that while the bombings may have stirred a new resolve among Saudis to fight terrorism, there is a wide gulf between Riyadh and Washington on policy issues like postwar Iraq and the Middle East peace talks.…

Friday, May 16, 2003

News: Fizzer worm spreads across the Internet
A very clever mass-mailing worm is spreading rapidly across the Internet.

Fizzer (w32.fizzer@mm) has many different components, each timed to trigger different processes, making it quite difficult to contain.

The worm spreads via e-mail and includes its own SMTP engine to bypass any security your e-mail client may have. Fizzer also spreads via Kazaa, a popular file-sharing application.

The worm establishes its own accounts on Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and AOL Instant Messenger, in order to await further instructions from the virus author.

Fizzer attempts to disable any antivirus program running at the time of infection. Systems infected with Fizzer could be used in distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on other computers.

Fizzer includes a keystroke-logging Trojan horse, which can be used to steal passwords words and credit card information.

Because Fizzer spreads via e-mail and Kazaa, contains a keystroke-logging Trojan horse, and could be used in a DDoS attack, this worm rates a 7 on the ZDNet Virus Meter.

Most antivirus software companies have updated their signature files to include this worm. This will stop the infection upon contact and in some cases will remove an active infection from your system. For more information, see Central Command, F-Secure, McAfee, MessageLabs, Sophos, Symantec, or Trend Micro.
The JavaScript Source: Calculators: Light Years Calculator
Ever wonder how far a light year is? This calculator script translates light years to miles. | Iraq
In a sign that all is not well with the transitional government, Paul Bremer, a former State Department counter-terrorism chief, has been appointed to replace Jay Garner, a retired general, as Iraq’s top civilian administrator. In his first news conference after taking office at the start of the week, Mr Bremer promised on Thursday May 15th that restoring law and order would be his priority. Thousands of American-trained Iraqi police had been put on the streets of Baghdad, he said, and had detained 300 suspects in the past 48 hours.

Tensions remain high at the diplomatic level. On Thursday, America presented to the United Nations Security Council a new draft of its proposed resolution to lift sanctions against Iraq and to give America and Britain broad powers to run the country until an elected Iraqi government can take over. The new draft expands the role of a proposed UN envoy in Iraq but still leaves his duties vague. Thus it may not satisfy France, Russia and others who suspect that President George Bush may be backsliding on his promise of a “vital” role for the UN in rebuilding Iraq.

America wants sanctions against Iraq scrapped so the country can quickly resume trading with the rest of the world. But France and Russia have proposed only a temporary suspension, until UN inspectors have returned to Iraq and certified that it no longer has weapons of mass destruction. Colin Powell, America's secretary of state, said on Thursday that America might agree to this, but he and Mr Bush's spokesmen retracted this immediately afterwards, saying America was not ready to make such a big concession. Until now, Germany has lined up with France and Russia in the “anti-war” camp. On Friday, though, Mr Powell met Germany's chancellor, Gerhard Schröder and won his backing for a rapid end to sanctions: “We believe the sanctions no longer make any sense and that they should be removed as soon as possible,” Mr Schröder said afterwards.

Meanwhile, the debate about whether it was right to wage war on Saddam Hussein’s regime has not grown any quieter. The coalition countries cited two main justifications for the removal of Saddam: the threat his murderous regime posed to the Iraqi people, especially the Shia Muslims and Kurds; and the threat its development of weapons of mass destruction posed to international security.

On the first of these, plenty of evidence in support of the Americans’ claims has been unearthed—literally. This week, thousands of Iraqis have been searching for missing relatives in a mass grave discovered near the city of Hilla. The grave is not the first to be discovered since the fall of the old regime—officials in the southern city of Basra, for instance, have reported finding a pit containing around 1,000 bodies. But the Hilla find is certainly the largest so far. Local volunteers say the remains of up to 3,000 people have already been found at the site, where as many as 15,000 bodies may be buried. The corpses are thought to be those of political prisoners and their families, killed after a Shia uprising against Saddam’s Sunni Muslim regime in 1991. Human-rights groups estimate that up to 200,000 people could be buried in mass graves across Iraq.

The hunt for banned weapons has been less successful. In the run-up to war, Mr Bush insisted that Iraq had large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that it had also been trying to develop nuclear weapons. Saddam, he said, might seek to put these in terrorists’ hands if left in power. The disarmament theme was one to which American politicians and diplomats returned again and again during the Security Council debates before the war.

But the weapons haul has so far been meagre. Investigators have found no chemical weapons. Nor have they found fresh evidence of a nuclear programme. (Intelligence reports before the war that Iraq was trying to buy nuclear materials from Niger have been discredited). On the biological front, there has been a bit more progress. American forces have seized two trailers that they say could have been used as mobile germ-weapons labs, and tests are being carried out on them. Two of Saddam’s most senior microbiologists have also been arrested. One of them, Rihab Rashid Taha al-Azzawi al-Tikriti, dubbed “Dr Germ”, admitted producing anthrax and botulinum, but claimed that they were only developed as a deterrent against threats from Israel and that all of Iraq’s bioweapons were destroyed long ago.

Ms Taha would say that, wouldn’t she? And yet, there is clearly a sense of disappointment among American officials that they still do not have a powerful “smoking gun”. When the war started, the American military drew up a list of 19 top weapons sites. By May 11th, all but two had been searched and found to contain no weapons of mass destruction. Officials in Washington, meanwhile, continue to insist that the search has barely begun. They were probably not best pleased when, on May 13th, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a think-tank that had helped set the pro-war agenda, accepted that banned weapons were unlikely to be found in large quantities. “The absence of chemical weapons was a big surprise,” said Gary Samore, an Iraq expert at the IISS.…

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Mind the Gap
The Senate debate over President Bush's tax plan has focused so far on the plan's short-term effects, like whether a reduction in the dividend tax will help the stock market. While economic stimulus is important, Congress and the president should also take up an issue with far more consequence for America's long-term growth and stability: economic inequality.

According to the Census Bureau, the bottom 40 percent of American families earned 18 percent of the national income in 1970, but by 1998 they earned only 14 percent — and that figure could fall to 10 percent before too long. On a global scale, too, inequality is a problem. Per capita gross domestic product in India in 2000 was only 7 percent of that of the United States, and for China the figure was 11 percent. Such a difference could increase the possibility of greater inequality within America.

The prospect of worsening inequality is truly frightening, but in the present political environment, there appears little that can be done. In fact, Washington can act now to help prevent inequality from worsening. Without making any changes in tax rates, it could reform the tax system so that it automatically prevents economic inequality from getting any worse.

The tax cut passed two years ago was fairly conventional. Tax rates and brackets were mostly indexed to the Consumer Price Index. President Bush's current tax plan proposes some minor adjustments in this plan that accelerate the tax reductions.

This basic framework for tax law doesn't make much sense. Instead, future tax brackets and rates should be contingent on the extent of future inequality. Tax law should be based on a principle that might be called inequality insurance: the taxes would be collected in such a way as to insure that the level of inequality, after taxes and transfers, does not exceed the levels present when the law was enacted. If such indexing were put in place today, the brackets and rates would adjust whenever inequality worsened beyond today's levels.…
The China Syndrome
A funny thing happened during the Iraq war: many Americans turned to the BBC for their TV news. They were looking for an alternative point of view — something they couldn't find on domestic networks, which, in the words of the BBC's director general, "wrapped themselves in the American flag and substituted patriotism for impartiality."

Leave aside the rights and wrongs of the war itself, and consider the paradox. The BBC is owned by the British government, and one might have expected it to support that government's policies. In fact, however, it tried hard — too hard, its critics say — to stay impartial. America's TV networks are privately owned, yet they behaved like state-run media.

What explains this paradox? It may have something to do with the China syndrome. No, not the one involving nuclear reactors — the one exhibited by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation when dealing with the government of the People's Republic.

In the United States, Mr. Murdoch's media empire — which includes Fox News and The New York Post — is known for its flag-waving patriotism. But all that patriotism didn't stop him from, as a Fortune article put it, "pandering to China's repressive regime to get his programming into that vast market." The pandering included dropping the BBC's World Service — which reports news China's government doesn't want disseminated — from his satellite programming, and having his publishing company cancel the publication of a book critical of the Chinese regime.

Can something like that happen in this country? Of course it can. Through its policy decisions — especially, though not only, decisions involving media regulation — the U.S. government can reward media companies that please it, punish those that don't. This gives private networks an incentive to curry favor with those in power. Yet because the networks aren't government-owned, they aren't subject to the kind of scrutiny faced by the BBC, which must take care not to seem like a tool of the ruling party. So we shouldn't be surprised if America's "independent" television is far more deferential to those in power than the state-run systems in Britain or — for another example — Israel.

A recent report by Stephen Labaton of The Times contained a nice illustration of the U.S. government's ability to reward media companies that do what it wants. The issue was a proposal by Michael Powell, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, to relax regulations on media ownership. The proposal, formally presented yesterday, may be summarized as a plan to let the bigger fish eat more of the smaller fish. Big media companies will be allowed to have a larger share of the national market and own more TV stations in any given local market, and many restrictions on "cross-ownership" — owning radio stations, TV stations and newspapers in the same local market — will be lifted.

The plan's defects aside — it will further reduce the diversity of news available to most people — what struck me was the horse-trading involved. One media group wrote to Mr. Powell, dropping its opposition to part of his plan "in return for favorable commission action" on another matter. That was indiscreet, but you'd have to be very naïve not to imagine that there are a lot of implicit quid pro quos out there.

And the implicit trading surely extends to news content. Imagine a TV news executive considering whether to run a major story that might damage the Bush administration — say, a follow-up on Senator Bob Graham's charge that a Congressional report on Sept. 11 has been kept classified because it would raise embarrassing questions about the administration's performance. Surely it would occur to that executive that the administration could punish any network running that story.…
New Study Finds 60 Million Uninsured During a Year
Members of Congress, administration officials, lobbyists and advocates often cite the Census Bureau when they declare that 41 million people have no health insurance.

But in a new report today, the budget office said the bureau's figure "overstates the number of people who are uninsured all year," while significantly understating the number who are insured for only part of the year.

The report said 57 million to 59 million people, "about a quarter of the nonelderly population," lacked insurance at some time in 1998, the most recent year for which reliable comparative figures were available.

At the same time, the budget office said, government surveys suggest that the number of people uninsured for the entire year was 21 million to 31 million, or 9 percent to 13 percent of nonelderly Americans.

The widely used figure from the Census Bureau is based on interviews conducted by the government, as part of the Current Population Survey, in March of each year. The questions about insurance are meant to identify people who were uninsured for all the prior calendar year.

But the budget office said that many people "report their insurance status as of the time of the interview, rather than for the previous calendar year as requested."

The new research confirms what some economists and health policy experts had suspected for years: that it is difficult to count the uninsured because people are continually losing and gaining coverage, and they do not always understand the questions asked in government surveys.

…Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, said: "The report underscores how big a crisis our country is facing. On any given day, more than 40 million Americans live with the prospect of facing financial ruin in order to pay for their health care, or going without care altogether."

One question the budget office addressed was how long people go without coverage when they are uninsured. For some, the experience is relatively brief. But others go more than two years without insurance.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Six Log: A Proposal: RSS for Weblogs
On Scripting News, Dave writes:

We could establish a profile of RSS 2.0 and implement strict compliance with that profile in the major blogging tools.

This has been followed by a discussion of the issues on Sam's weblog, with a lot of discussion over whether the core profile should be based on RSS 1.0, 2.0, or whether it's really necessary at all.

What we need is a profile of RSS specific to weblogs: "RSS for Weblogs".

RSS 1.0 and 2.0 are designed for extensibility, and can be used to represent non-weblog data. Currently they're really only being used for weblogs/news feeds, and Dave has said in the past that RSS is intended only as a news/syndication format. But the point of making RSS extensible is so that new features can easily be added, and new types of data can be represented.…
Six Log: A Proposal: RSS for Weblogs

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Senate Panel Votes to Lift Ban on Small Nuclear Arms
A sharply divided Senate Armed Services Committee voted today (2003/05/10) to repeal a 10-year-old ban on the development of small nuclear weapons, asserting that the United States must begin looking at new ways of deterring terrorist groups and so-called rogue nuclear powers like North Korea.

"We have tried for 50-plus years to make these weapons unthinkable," said Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island. "And now we're talking about giving them a tactical application. It's a dangerous departure."

Proponents, mainly Republicans, argue that low-yield warheads could be used to incinerate chemical or biological weapons installations without scattering deadly agents into the atmosphere.

"Without committing to deployment, research on low-yield nuclear weapons is a prudent step to safeguard America from emerging threats and enemies who go deeper and deeper underground," said Senator John Warner, a Republican from Virginia who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

Arms control advocates and many Democrats contend improvements in laser and satellite guidance systems have made conventional weapons nearly as destructive as small nuclear weapons. They argue that lifting the ban on low-yield nuclear weapons will only undermine America's ability to prevent the spread of such weapons to other countries.

"This just undermines our whole argument," said Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee. "Were driving recklessly down a road that we're telling other people not to walk down."
Download Dreamweaver MX template to jump start dev efforts

Whether you need to get a simple business Web site up or crank out a quick mock-up for a client,'s free Dreamweaver MX site template may be just what you need.

You'll either need to sign up as a guest or join. (It's worth it!)

Monday, May 12, 2003

Israel Seals Off Gaza Strip; Palestinians Say 3 Were Killed
Despite a pledge to ease Palestinian hardships, Israel again sealed off the Gaza Strip today, and Palestinians said Israeli soldiers killed three people in the southern part of the territory.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel told Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on Sunday that Israel would undertake several measures intended to improve living conditions for the Palestinians. The most immediate was allowing Palestinian workers from Gaza into Israel on Sunday.

But early today, before Mr. Powell left for Egypt, Israel again closed the crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Military officials said they were acting in response to intelligence information warning of a possible attack.

Israel has frequently shut the main Gaza crossing point during the 31 months of violence to keep out Palestinian militants, but the measure has also contributed to the severe economic downturn in Palestinian areas. Before the the Palestinian uprising, or intifada, began in September 2000, about 150,000 Palestinians commuted daily from the West Bank and Gaza to work in Israel.

Also in Gaza today, the Israeli Army said its troops found two weapons-smuggling tunnels in Rafah, a town on the border with Egypt. While soldiers were operating in the area, they spotted two Palestinians attempting to plant a bomb, and shot them, the army said. Palestinians said both were killed.

Israeli troops also shot dead a Palestinian farmer outside the nearby town of Khan Yunis, Palestinians said. The army said it was checking the report.

Palestinians said they were discouraged that Mr. Powell's visit did not produce an Israeli commitment to implementing the new Middle East peace plan, known as the road map.

"The general impression among Palestinians is one of disappointment," said Ziad Abu Amr, a cabinet minister. "The hope was that both the Israelis and Palestinians would make a public declaration accepting the road map."

The Palestinians say they accept the current form of the plan, which calls for a Mideast peace agreement and a Palestinian state within three years.

But Israel says it has more than a dozen reservations about the plan, and it insists that the Palestinians stop the violence before the process can move ahead.…
SOAP Version 1.2 Part 0: Primer
SOAP Version 1.2 Part 0: Primer

In particular, this primer describes the features of SOAP through various usage scenarios, and is intended to complement the normative text contained in SOAP Version 1.2 Part 1: Messaging Framework (hereafter [SOAP Part1]) and SOAP Version 1.2 Part 2: Adjuncts (hereafter [SOAP Part2]) of the SOAP Version 1.2 specifications.

It is expected that the reader has some familiarity with the basic syntax of XML, including the use of XML namespaces and infosets, and Web concepts such as URIs and HTTP. It is intended primarily for users of SOAP, such as application designers, rather than implementors of the SOAP specifications, although the latter may derive some benefit. This primer aims at highlighting the essential features of SOAP Version 1.2, not at completeness in describing every nuance or edge case. Therefore, there is no substitute for the main specifications to obtain a fuller understanding of SOAP. To that end, this primer provides extensive links to the main specifications wherever new concepts are introduced or used.…

This document (the primer) is not normative, which means that it does not provide the definitive specification of SOAP Version 1.2. The examples provided here are intended to complement the formal specifications, and in any question of interpretation the formal specifications naturally take precedence. The examples shown here provide a subset of the uses expected for SOAP. In actual usage scenarios, SOAP will most likely be a part of an overall solution, and there will no doubt be other application-specific requirements which are not captured in these examples.…

Sunday, May 11, 2003

More 'Can I Help You?' Jobs Migrate From U.S. to India
Her accent, pleasant and neutral, was hard to place. When callers asked her location, she demurred. If they knew where she was, said Ms. Martin, 27, "they would drop off their seat."

Some New Jersey officials say they just about did that when they learned that a contractor had arranged for Bombay operators to handle calls from the state's welfare recipients. County welfare directors complained. A state legislator, Shirley Turner, proposed a bill requiring that workers hired under state contracts be American citizens or legal aliens, or fill a specialty niche Americans could not, prompting at least four other states to consider similar bills.

Much as the exodus of manufacturing jobs abroad did in decades past, sending service or knowledge-intensive jobs to countries like India is causing fears of displacement in the United States and elsewhere.

A study by Forrester Research of Cambridge, Mass., estimated that this type of labor migration, generally referred to as outsourcing if contracted to another company, or offshoring if run by a company itself, could send 3.3 million American jobs overseas by 2015. India, with its large pool of English-speakers and more than two million college graduates every year, is expected to get 70 percent of them.

American companies say a weak economy is pushing them to find new ways to cut costs. American workers say the same economy is the reason they need the jobs to stay home.

"There is a feeling of unease," said Kiran Karnik, the president of India's National Association of Software and Service Companies. "Unless the U.S. economy picks up there's going to be a continuing issue about job loss, and also migration."

Ultimately, Ms. Martin's company, the eFunds Corporation, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., reached an agreement with New Jersey's Department of Human Services to move the work to the state. It created 12 jobs in New Jersey — at an additional cost to the state of $1.2 million until the contract ends in August 2004.

"For us it was about the consistency of the message," said Andy Williams, a department spokesman. The department is telling welfare recipients that they have to work or try to, he noted, "so to have a contract where you're exporting service-sector jobs — it just seemed we were working against our clients' interests."

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Searching Images of Popular Culture
Want a look at a Time Magazine cover from 1923? How about album covers for Blue Note records, or Chateau Mouton Rothschild Wine Labels? A searchable image database lets you view all of these, and more. connects collectors with each other, and with authoritative catalogues of the collectible universe. Although the site is primarily designed for collectors to communicate, buy and sell from one another, there's also a cool set of "checklists" that can be viewed by anyone.

For example, there are about 3,900 Time Magazine covers, going back to 1922. There are also cover archives of Life Magazine, and that venerable icon of American culture, Mad Magazine.…
Ten Tips to the Top of Google
By Jill Whalen, Guest Writer
April 30, 2003

Having a Web site that gets found in Google isn't hard to do, but it can be difficult to know where to begin. Here are ten tips to get you started.
How Search Engines Make Sense of the Web
Search engines are essentially massive full-text indexes of web pages. The quality of the indexes, and how the engines use the information they contain, is what makes -- or breaks -- the quality of search results.

We're all familiar with back-of-the-book indexes. They're simply alphabetized lists of the important words in the book, and the pages on which they appear.

Search engine indexes are similar, but vastly more complex that back-of-the-book indexes. Although most of us will never want to become experts on web indexing, knowing even a little bit about how they're built and used can vastly improve your searching skills.

A good way to learn about web indexing is to spend some time with a page compiled by The School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia. Indexing Resources on the WWW is a lengthy list of links to research, articles and web sites concerned with the process of indexing of all kinds.

SearchDay Readers will want to investigate two sections in particular. The first, Information Retrieval, looks at all types of searching.…
Optimizing Flash for Search Engines
Macromedia Flash and other non-HTML formats can pose problems for search engines, unless you take appropriate steps to optimize the content.

"Search engines were originally built to index and serve HTML documents," said Tim Mayer, Vice President of Web Search at FAST. "Now the web has become more diverse in content types, knowing how to treat Flash and other types of content has become more important for search engines."

"These other content types present different challenges to the search engines," Mayer continued. "For example, Flash files generally contain too little text whereas PDF documents contain too much text. The technology to include differing content types and score them appropriately will become even more important as new areas in web search become more important -- such as real time data which will provide the challenge of lacking inbound links."

Flash is the leading vector graphics technology for creating design-focused web sites. Over 98 percent of Internet users can view Flash content with the Flash player software already installed in their browsers. Over 490 million people use the Flash player.

Gregory Markel, Founder/President of Infuse Creative, an entertainment and technology consulting company, discussed issues related to search engine visibility and Flash sites. "The good news is that FAST Search and Google can follow embedded links within the [Flash] files," he said.

FAST built its Flash indexing capabilities using the Macromedia's Flash search engine software developer's kit (SDK). The SDK was designed to convert a Flash file's text and links into HTML for indexing.

"Not all search engine spiders have the ability to crawl or index Flash, he said. "As far as I am able to determine, Google has not included the Flash-SDK setup for indexing, like FAST. But Google can follow embedded links."

Markel warned that the Macromedia's SDK solution is far from perfect. "All it does is it takes whatever [content] is there, and converts it to an HTML version. But the converted HTML doesn't include anything you actually need to do well in the search engines. No title tags, alt tags, body text, etc. SDK is a step in the right direction, but has a long way to go."

"One of the big problems with Flash content is that it's very hard to find," stated Tim Mayer. "We have a lot of Flash content in the FAST index, though I've rarely come across a Flash file, myself, in the main search results."

One of the reasons for the paucity of optimized Flash files is that the search engine industry hasn't adopted SDK as the standard, explained Mayer. "The SEOs out there don't know that we're actually going to index their files," he said, "so they don't prepare them in an optimized way (for the SDK). This will change as more search engines adopt this."

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Free Fall in Iraq
Lines at the gasoline pump in Iraq now last up to three days. Electricity, needed for water and refrigeration units, flickers on and off. Uncollected garbage rots in the hot streets. An outbreak of cholera was reported yesterday in Basra. Cases of diarrhea in young children are also increasing. Hospitals looted of drugs and diagnostic equipment limp along. Few Iraqis are feeling nostalgic for the sadistic terror of Saddam Hussein. But in the bad old days, basic services were more dependable.

It is too soon for definitive judgments. But it is not too early to say that the first few weeks of American occupation under the leadership of Jay Garner, a retired Army lieutenant general, have left a great deal to be desired.
Hussein Loyalists Rise Again, Enraging Iraqis
BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 7 — Hundreds of Iraqi doctors, nurses and health workers demonstrated today against a decision by the American authorities here to appoint Ali al-Janabi, a senior Baath Party member, to be minister of health.

The demonstration by doctors in starched white coats was the latest indication of rising concern over the enduring influence of some members of the party that was long the vehicle for Saddam Hussein to impose his terror on Iraq.

The medical staff piled onto the bus that the American Third Infantry Division had provided to get them to their hospital jobs and told the driver to take them to the Baghdad hotel housing most foreign journalists. Unfurling neatly printed white banners, they marched silently, and a bit self-consciously, for the cameras.

"With this change in the country, we have the chance to give our ideas in a new democratic way," said Dr. Adel Eswet, a cardiac surgeon who helped organize the demonstration against the selection of Mr. Janabi, a senior official in Mr. Hussein's government. "So we're starting in a nice quiet democratic way."

Most of the health workers have not been paid in two months; many live without electricity and work in deplorable conditions. But that was not the reason for their anger. They came out in in a phalanx that was so neat and tidy that it looked more like a class photo than a protest. Indignation against the return of Baath Party officials powered their march.

The issue of how far to purge officials of an overthrown authoritarian state is one common to all transitions such as that under way in Iraq. Hatred of the Baath Party is widespread, but in many cases its members are those who know how to get things done.

Despite Bush administration statements that it would dismantle Mr. Hussein's police state, senior Baath Party officials are working openly in many Iraqi cities, especially here in the capital where power is still up for grabs.
The Search Engine Report - Number 78
In This Issue
Search Engine Watch News
Search Engine Strategies Coming To London, San Jose
Yahoo's Search Engine Continues Evolving
Google Buys Applied Semantics
Harvard Criticizes Google's Adult Content Filter
Inktomi, Google Win In Recent Relevancy Test
SearchDay Articles
Search Engine Articles

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Man on Horseback
We do things differently here — or we used to. Has "man on horseback" politics come to America?

Some background: the Constitution declares the president commander in chief of the armed forces to make it clear that civilians, not the military, hold ultimate authority. That's why American presidents traditionally make a point of avoiding military affectations. Dwight Eisenhower was a victorious general and John Kennedy a genuine war hero, but while in office neither wore anything that resembled military garb.

Given that history, George Bush's "Top Gun" act aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln — c'mon, guys, it wasn't about honoring the troops, it was about showing the president in a flight suit — was as scary as it was funny.

Mind you, it was funny. At first the White House claimed the dramatic tail-hook landing was necessary because the carrier was too far out to use a helicopter. In fact, the ship was so close to shore that, according to The Associated Press, administration officials "acknowledged positioning the massive ship to provide the best TV angle for Bush's speech, with the sea as his background instead of the San Diego coastline."

A U.S.-based British journalist told me that he and his colleagues had laughed through the whole scene. If Tony Blair had tried such a stunt, he said, the press would have demanded to know how many hospital beds could have been provided for the cost of the jet fuel.

But U.S. television coverage ranged from respectful to gushing. Nobody pointed out that Mr. Bush was breaking an important tradition. And nobody seemed bothered that Mr. Bush, who appears to have skipped more than a year of the National Guard service that kept him out of Vietnam, is now emphasizing his flying experience. (Spare me the hate mail. An exhaustive study by The Boston Globe found no evidence that Mr. Bush fulfilled any of his duties during that missing year. And since Mr. Bush has chosen to play up his National Guard career, this can't be shrugged off as old news.)

Anyway, it was quite a show. Luckily for Mr. Bush, the frustrating search for Osama bin Laden somehow morphed into a good old-fashioned war, the kind where you seize the enemy's capital and get to declare victory after a cheering crowd pulls down the tyrant's statue. (It wasn't much of a crowd, and American soldiers actually brought down the statue, but it looked great on TV.)

Let me be frank. Why is the failure to find any evidence of an active Iraqi nuclear weapons program, or vast quantities of chemical and biological weapons (a few drums don't qualify — though we haven't found even that) a big deal? Mainly because it feeds suspicions that the war wasn't waged to eliminate real threats. This suspicion is further fed by the administration's lackadaisical attitude toward those supposed threats once Baghdad fell. For example, Iraq's main nuclear waste dump wasn't secured until a few days ago, by which time it had been thoroughly looted. So was it all about the photo ops?
House Considers Measure to Cut Billions in Pension Obligations
The measure would allow companies to assume that their blue-collar workers will on average die sooner than pension plans now assume they will. So companies, not having to plan to pay future blue-collar pensions as long as they now do, would not be required to put aside as much pension money as government regulations now require them to do.

But the leader of a panel that developed the actuarial data on which the new provision is based said he had written to the Treasury Department, which regulates pension funds, to express concern that the data were being misapplied.

Edwin C. Hustead, chairman of the actuarial panel, said in an interview he was concerned that the data were being used in an improper way. White-collar workers are shown by statistics to live longer, he said, but the bill would not require companies to factor that into their pension calculations. If it were included, unionized companies with largely white-collar workers would have to set aside more to fulfill their promises to retirees in the future.

In addition, Mr. Hustead said workers' pay had been shown to be a more powerful predictor of life expectancy than whether a worker was blue collar or white collar, but the bill did not recognize that higher-paid workers live longer and therefore require longer pension payouts. Many auto workers and airline pilots are classified as blue collar in the bill, because they are covered by collective bargaining agreements, even though they are highly paid.…With most pension plans now underfunded, Mr. Hustead and some other actuaries fear that a reduction in contributions could increase the risk of defaults, at a time when companies are already defaulting on their pension plans at a greatly accelerated rate.

"I do not agree that the tables should be adjusted for differences between mortality for blue-collar and white-collar employees," Mr. Hustead wrote to Treasury, which regulates how companies set aside money to cover pension promises.

After spending five years collecting and analyzing data for the new mortality table, Mr. Hustead warned that his panel's findings seemed at risk of being used in a "curious" and "arbitrary" way. He said in an interview that he had not received any response from the Treasury.…
Missing in Action: Truth
Missing in Action: Truth


When I raised the Mystery of the Missing W.M.D. recently, hawks fired barrages of reproachful e-mail at me. The gist was: "You *&#*! Who cares if we never find weapons of mass destruction, because we've liberated the Iraqi people from a murderous tyrant."

But it does matter, enormously, for American credibility. After all, as Ari Fleischer said on April 10 about W.M.D.: "That is what this war was about."

I rejoice in the newfound freedoms in Iraq. But there are indications that the U.S. government souped up intelligence, leaned on spooks to change their conclusions and concealed contrary information to deceive people at home and around the world.

Let's fervently hope that tomorrow we find an Iraqi superdome filled with 500 tons of mustard gas and nerve gas, 25,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 29,984 prohibited munitions capable of delivering chemical agents, several dozen Scud missiles, gas centrifuges to enrich uranium, 18 mobile biological warfare factories, long-range unmanned aerial vehicles to dispense anthrax, and proof of close ties with Al Qaeda. Those are the things that President Bush or his aides suggested Iraq might have, and I don't want to believe that top administration officials tried to win support for the war with a campaign of wholesale deceit.

Consider the now-disproved claims by President Bush and Colin Powell that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger so it could build nuclear weapons. As Seymour Hersh noted in The New Yorker, the claims were based on documents that had been forged so amateurishly that they should never have been taken seriously.

I'm told by a person involved in the Niger caper that more than a year ago the vice president's office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger. In February 2002, according to someone present at the meetings, that envoy reported to the C.I.A. and State Department that the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged.

The envoy reported, for example, that a Niger minister whose signature was on one of the documents had in fact been out of office for more than a decade. In addition, the Niger mining program was structured so that the uranium diversion had been impossible. The envoy's debunking of the forgery was passed around the administration and seemed to be accepted — except that President Bush and the State Department kept citing it anyway.…
News: U.S. may add to copyright confusion
Technology buffs usually don't pay much attention to the peregrinations of the United States Trade Representative.

They ought to start taking a closer look.

Sometime this month, the current post holder, Robert Zoellick, is going to request President Bush's imprimatur on a couple of free trade deals his office worked out with Singapore and Chile. If that comes about, the government may one day find itself accused of breaking the very law it nowadays uses to prosecute people accused of digital piracy.…
Install BlogThis
BlogThis and BlogQuote Installers

In the beginning there was BlogThis, and it was good, and right-click BlogThis for Internet Explorer on Windows, and it was great. Then came Internet Explorer 6, seemingly designed to break as many little things as possible, in the most incomprehensible way possible. Right-click BlogThis was one of the broken things, producing a "permission denied" error anywhere except on pages. Until Marcus figured out the problem, anybody using IE6 was out of luck.

For reasons beyond the ken of mortal man, the IE programmers decided that a script called from a context menu could no longer get the url of the page where it was called from external.menuArguments.document.location.href, it could only get it from external.menuArguments.location.href. Yeah. You probably didn't need to know that, but now you do. Marcus posted temporary instructions (which are looking more permanent all the time) for a fix that involves saving the script on your computer, and then editing the Windows registry to point the BlogThis menu item at your version of the script. That's fine for those of us who don't mind editing the registry, but because registry editing is a great way to turn your computer into a doorstop, there are a number of people who—quite reasonably—aren't willing to try it. If you are one of them, this page is for you.…

Monday, May 05, 2003

Campaign Documents Show Depth of Bush Fund-Raising
As President Bush's fund-raising team prepares for his re-election campaign, documents subpoenaed from the 2000 campaign suggest that he will have an even deeper base to draw from than was previously realized.

The documents, which surfaced in the courtroom fight over the new campaign finance law, offer new details about Mr. Bush's most active fund-raisers — including his top three, who were awarded plum jobs as ambassadors.

They also show that more than 500 people signed up to be "Pioneers" by promising to raise at least $100,000 for Mr. Bush from individual donors. Previously, the Bush campaign had said that about 230 people had become Pioneers by raising $100,000.

It is not clear how much money the other people who signed up to be Pioneers were able to raise, as the data turned over under subpoena is incomplete and does not cover the last months of the campaign. A spokesman for the Republican National Committee said this afternoon that officials were unaware of anyone raising more than $100,000 besides the 230 people already disclosed.

Still, the records underscore the depth of the Bush fund-raising machine and suggest that Mr. Bush's totals are likely to soar in his re-election campaign, when fund-raisers will be able to take advantage of higher limits on donations. Under the new McCain-Feingold law, individuals can donate up to $2,000 to a candidate, or twice the $1,000 limit in force during the last presidential race.

The documents were obtained by the National Voting Rights Institute, a group in Boston that has challenged the increased limits.

The higher limits will continue to force "electoral power upwards," said Bonnie Tenneriello, a staff lawyer at the voting rights group.

"If you are a candidate whose supporters are only able to give $25 or $50, they're not going to stand a chance when candidates who have big networks in place are able to haul in the money from large donors in such large increments," Ms. Tenneriello said.

An analysis of the documents shows that the 21 most successful Pioneers raised at least $6.6 million. At least $24.9 million was collected by the Pioneers.

But the true number may be significantly higher, as the information turned over by the Bush campaign only lists money collected through March 15, 2000. In all, the campaign raised about $100 million, and Bush officials say they are planning to raise twice as much, or more, for the re-election campaign.…
Case Challenges Employees' Waiving Right to Sue
Donald Lagatree was delighted to be offered the job as a legal secretary, except for one provision in the pile of papers that the law firm asked him to sign.

The firm wanted him to sign away his right to file a lawsuit over any employment-rated matter, including any discrimination claim, insisting that such disputes go to arbitration.

When Mr. Lagatree balked, the law firm, Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps, withdrew its job offer.

"I thought it was very unfair," Mr. Lagatree said. "I didn't think I should be signing away what I thought was my right."

That was six years ago. Mr. Lagatree is now at the center of a potentially groundbreaking federal suit contending that the law firm violated civil rights laws by retaliating against him for refusing to sign away his right to sue.

Mr. Lagatree's case addresses one of the most pressing questions in employment law today: Can employers force workers to waive their right to bring employment-related civil rights suits and to accept arbitration instead?

About 8 percent of American workers are bound by arbitration agreements, and the number is climbing because employers view arbitration as less expensive and cumbersome than going to court. But lawyers who represent employees say many aspects of arbitration are not as fair as court trials. For instance, employees in arbitrations must sometimes pay tens of thousands of dollars in legal costs and often face far greater restrictions in obtaining evidence than they would in a court case.

Mr. Lagatree's lawyer, Cliff Palefsky, said the trend toward compulsory arbitration was worrisome. "Civil rights laws have no meaning if you don't have the right to go to court to enforce them," he said.…
Trial of Palestinian Leader Focuses Attention on Israeli Courts
Marwan Barghouti, the Palestinian leader charged with orchestrating 26 killings in the current violence between Israel and the Palestinians, was ushered into District Court today in his brown prison uniform and unleashed what has become his familiar objections.

"You don't have the right to try me," Mr. Barghouti, the West Bank chief of Yasir Arafat's Fatah movement, told the three-judge panel. "This is a violation of international law and the Geneva Convention."

Judge Sara Sirota, presiding over the panel, said, "We've heard you before, Mr. Barghouti." In response to his unsolicited comments, she had him removed from the courtroom several times as testimony proceeded without him.

This case is the centerpiece of an Israeli effort to show it can counter violence and still run an open legal system that meets internationally accepted standards. Mr. Barghouti, whose trial began a month ago, is the most prominent Palestinian figure ever brought before an Israeli civilian court.

Israel has previously handled such cases in its military courts in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, where the rules are somewhat more favorable to the prosecution. Military prosecutors filed 5,500 criminal cases against Palestinians last year. While many are still not resolved, the conviction rate in military courts has been running at 97 percent in recent years, according to military officials.

Israel asserts that even its most widely debated practices to try to stem violence can withstand legal scrutiny — the killings of dozens of Palestinian militants, the detention of suspects without charges and the demolition of family homes that belonged to those accused of carrying out attacks against Israelis. But Palestinians and human rights activists say these actions are legally unacceptable, and often amount to collective punishment of Palestinians.

The American justice system is facing similar questions about the treatment of defendants in terrorism cases, in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks

Lior Yavne, a spokesman for the Israeli human rights group B'tselem, said that "inside Israel proper, you have a law-abiding state, a proper liberal democracy."

"But once you cross into the Palestinian territories, the situation changes immediately," he said in reference to the West Bank and Gaza. "Whatever is convenient to do in the occupied territories, Israel does without concern for international legal norms."

Israeli civilians have faced attacks for decades, and in hundreds of legal rulings, the courts have confronted the toughest issues about what is a justified Israeli response.

The Israeli Supreme Court outlawed torture in 1999, though critics say it still takes place. The justices have upheld detention without trial and house demolitions, while setting criteria to limit the practices. The court is preparing to rule on a petition objecting to singling out individual militants for attacks, which Palestinians call assassinations.…
Who Wants to Be a Martyr?
One given in the war against terrorism seems to be that suicide attackers are evil, deluded or homicidal misfits who thrive in poverty, ignorance and anarchy.

President Bush, at last year's United Nations conference on poor nations in Monterrey, Mexico, said that "we fight against poverty because hope is an answer to terror." Senator John Warner, the Virginia Republican, argued that a new security doctrine including wars of preemption was necessary because "those who would commit suicide in their assaults on the free world are not rational." A State Department report issued on the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks said that development aid should be based "on the belief that poverty provides a breeding ground for terrorism."

As logical as the poverty-breeds-terrorism argument may seem, study after study shows that suicide attackers and their supporters are rarely ignorant or impoverished. Nor are they crazed, cowardly, apathetic or asocial. If terrorist groups relied on such maladjusted people, "they couldn't produce effective and reliable killers," according to Todd Stewart, a retired Air Force general who directs the Ohio State University program in international and domestic security.

In the suicide bombing of a cafe in Tel Aviv last week that killed three bystanders, for instance, the bomber and the man accused of being his accomplice grew up in Britain, in relatively prosperous circumstances, and attended college.

The Princeton economist Alan Krueger and others released a study in 2002 comparing Lebanese Hezbollah militants who died in violent action to other Lebanese of the same age group. He found that the Hezbollah members were less likely to come from poor homes and more likely to have a secondary school education.

Nasra Hassan, a Pakistani relief worker, interviewed nearly 250 aspiring Palestinian suicide bombers and their recruiters. "None were uneducated, desperately poor, simple-minded or depressed," she reported in 2001. "They all seemed to be entirely normal members of their families."

A 2001 poll by the nonprofit Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research indicated that Palestinian adults with 12 years or more of education are far more likely to support bomb attacks than those who cannot read.

Officials with the Army Defense Intelligence Agency who have interrogated Saudi-born members of Al Qaeda being detained at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have told me that these fundamentalists, especially those in leadership positions, are often educated above reasonable employment level; a surprising number have graduate degrees and come from high-status families. Their motivation and commitment are evident in their willingness to sacrifice material and emotional comforts (families, jobs, physical security), to travel long distances and to pay their own way.

The body of research shows that over all, suicide terrorists tend not to have the attributes of the socially dysfunctional (fatherless, friendless, jobless). They don't vent fear of enemies or express hopelessness or a sense of "nothing to lose" because of lack of a career or social mobility as would be consistent with economic theories of criminal behavior. Suicide attackers don't opt for paradise out of despair. If they did, say Muslim clerics who countenance martyrdom for Allah but not personal suicide, their actions would be criminal and blasphemous.…
The Scout Report -- Volume 9, Number 17
Why does the American Constitution Lack Social and Economic Guarantees? [.pdf]

Released in January 2003, this working paper from the University of Chicago's Public Law and Legal Theory Working Paper Series asks the vexing question: "Why does the American Constitution lack social and economic guarantees?" Authored by Professor Cass Sunstein, the 20-page paper explores four possible reasons why this may be the case. As noted by Sunstein, these reasons can be articulated as being either chronological, cultural, institutional, or realist. Divided into seven parts, Sunstein's paper engages each of these potential reasons, along with offering some brief concluding remarks. The realist explanation is perhaps the most provocative aspect of the work, suggesting that the four critical Supreme Court appointments made by President Nixon may have effectively undercut an emerging movement that may have led to the incorporation of such guarantees into the Constitution.

From The Scout Report, Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2003.
News: Lawmakers finally fed up with spam
The deluge of unsolicited bulk e-mail has snarled networks, clogged servers, and created such a public nuisance that new laws are necessary, participants concluded during the first day of a three-day government summit on spam.

Exactly how a law might be worded will be discussed later this week, but companies told the Federal Trade Commission that they need help urgently. AOL Time Warner's America Online, for instance, said its spam volume has doubled in the last two months, with more than 2 billion unsolicited e-mail messages arriving every day.

For Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., it's personal: He told the crowd that his 14-year-old daughter was inundated with spam promoting pornographic Web sites and that he was "utterly amazed" to learn that no federal criminal laws existed to punish that practice. In response, Schumer said, he asked his staff to draft a set of bills that would create a national "do not e-mail" list and levy criminal penalties on repeat offenders.

The first federal antispam bill was introduced in 1997, and after six years of closed-door wrangling and repeated delays, Congress still has not acted. But consumer outrage and complaints from legitimate businesses have been keeping pace with the growth of bulk e-mail. Now it's open season on spam in Washington.

Schumer said his legislation is still being drafted but likely will have three levels of penalties: a warning, then $5,000-a-day fines, and finally jail time of up to two years for repeat offenders. He predicted it was a certainty that a comprehensive antispam law would be enacted by the end of 2004.

In addition to Schumer's proposed legislation, which he said will be finished in May:

• This week, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., proposed a second bill that would require commercial advertisers to tag messages with "ADV:" if they do not have a pre-existing relationship with the recipient. Violators could be sued by the FTC or an Internet service provider.

• The FTC said its analysis of 1,000 spam messages suggests that two-thirds of the bulk mail piling up in in-boxes contains claims that are probably false. E-mail offering investment and business opportunities was even more likely to be fraudulent, with about 96 percent of such messages containing false or misleading information, according to the FTC's estimate.

• About 79 percent of Americans want ISPs to treat pornographic spam differently than other types of unsolicited e-mail, according to a survey commissioned by Bigfoot Interactive that is scheduled to be released Thursday. The random digit-dialing survey of 1,023 people, conducted by RoperASW, also found that 38 percent of respondents said legitimate e-mail was accidentally lost.

• Earlier this month, senators Conrad Burns, R-Mont., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., reintroduced a bill that they first drafted in 1999 that would make it a federal crime to use a false address when sending spam.

In the afternoon, panelists warned that spammers were using not just open mail relays, but open proxies to send bulk messages near-anonymously. Open proxies typically are misconfigured Web servers on a digital subscriber line or cable modem that permit spammers to use them as relay points for outgoing e-mail and cloak their identity in the process.

Matt Sergeant, an antispam technologist at MessageLabs, said people who accidentally configure their computers to be open proxies often didn't mean to do so. "They don't get to find out that they've been blacklisted," Sergeant said. "They didn't know they have an insecure system. So they can't solve the problem."

Sergeant estimated that the number of open proxies is doubling every five to six months.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

A Fraud by Any Other Name
In the roaring 90's, most private investors were little guys who perhaps didn't know stocks but knew their brokers. Or at least they thought they did.

Last week they got to know their investment advisers a little better. Ten major Wall Street investment firms agreed to pay $1.4 billion to settle conflict-of-interest charges; they would do things like issue enthusiastic research reports about the same stocks they were describing as worthless junk in internal e-mail messages. Federal, state and market regulators singled out three of the firms — Citigroup's Salomon Smith Barney, Merrill Lynch and Credit Suisse First Boston — and accused them of outright fraud in issuing bogus research.

The $1.4 billion amounts to only 7 percent of the industry's profits from last year, Wall Street's worst year since 1995. (I wonder why it was the worst year. Could it be that people don't trust Wall Street any more?) But the settlement also includes "structural reforms" intended to protect the individual investor from being duped again. From now on, the regulators will make sure that the firms build "barriers" to separate their investment bankers from their stock analysts. They won't talk to each other. Really.

Right. Imagine the same remedies being imposed on the other purveyors of fraud in the news last week: outfits that use the Internet to sell things like penis enlargers. The state of Virginia couldn't. Instead, it simply outlawed fraudulent commercial e-mail, known as spam. Send spam to, from or through Virginia, and you could be looking at five years in prison.

What if, instead of threatening to send them to jail, the authorities said: "O.K., hand over 7 percent of last year's profits on that herbal Viagra. Then follow up with some structural reforms. Make sure the people testing this stuff don't talk to the people selling it." How would they react? How would we?

What is the real difference between Henry Blodget, Merrill Lynch's Internet analyst during the tech boom, and the guy who tries to entice me into the latest e-mail scam? With Mr. Blodget, I suppose, there was a tiny chance that things could work out. But both are trying to sell me something they know to be worth less than advertised. Mr. Blodget reached me through the programming of all-business cable channels like CNBC. The guy from Nigeria who promises me untold thousands if only I will provide him with the number of my bank account reaches me through the Internet.

The central engine of fraud never changes: tell lies to gullible people until they hand over their money. By the time the dupes find out those supplements don't actually make them lose weight while they sleep, or that the stock they bought for $90 is actually worth 32 cents, their checks have been cashed, their credit cards charged.…
Public Agenda Special Edition: Terrorism
Public Opinion: Public Faces Task of Rebuilding But Divided on How
As the U.S. begins its attempt to rebuild Iraq, surveys find the American public still supportive of both the war and its aftermath. Eight in 10 say they approve of the way the U.S. has handled the situation since the fighting ended. Six in 10 say the U.S. is winning the war on terrorism, a 25-point jump since last fall. But the public seems to recognize the difficulties ahead. A strong majority says the rebuilding of Iraq will be more difficult than winning the war and the public is divided on whether the Bush administration has a clear plan for rebuilding.

The public is divided on some key questions of how the rebuilding should proceed. The public gives different answers, for example, on the role of the United Nations in the rebuilding process and on what kind of outcome they want to see. When the latest Gallup poll asked respondents to choose between a "democratic government that is not friendly to the United States" or a government that is "friendly…but is not freely elected," the public was almost evenly split: 46 percent preferred the unfriendly democracy, while 44 percent chose the friendly but unelected regime.

The public has, however, had concerns about the long-term implications of the war for months. While two-thirds told the ABC/Post poll that the war would result in greater Mideast stability, only half said it would strengthen the U.S. position in the world. Six in 10 worry that the U.S will become bogged down in a long occupation. Yet Gallup found that three-quarters are also willing to have U.S. troops in Iraq for a year or more to make sure a democratic government is established. The CBS/New York Times poll on April 11-13 found the public divided on whether the Bush administration has a clear plan for rebuilding Iraq: 46 percent said it did; 42 percent said it didn't. Still, that's a dramatic increase from early March, when only 29 percent said the U.S. had a clear plan for rebuilding.

Support for the war overall remains substantial, as it has since hostilities began. Multiple surveys have shown at least seven in 10 Americans supported the war since hostilities began. Responses on specific poll questions (particularly on the number of casualties and how long the war will take) have swung widely, depending on events and intensive news coverage. But basic support for the war has not. The public historically rallies behind their leaders in a crisis, particularly when the crisis involves sending U.S. troops into battle.

It's important to note that many experts are sharply critical of overnight surveys, because they are more prone to error than surveys taken over a period of days or weeks. In such surveys, the samples are often smaller, the margin of error is higher and researchers only reach people who happen to be at home that evening. In addition, since people haven't had time to think about an issue, overnight surveys only capture surface reactions.…
con·cept: May 2003