Sunday, November 30, 2003

When Breathing Is Believing:
"The report, in fact, does not conclude that the E.P.A. was wrong in saying, one week after the attack, that the air in Lower Manhattan was 'safe to breathe,' but only that the scientific underpinning was inadequate, at that moment, for such a broad generalization. Nonetheless, former and current E.P.A. officials and independent scientists now say the declaration was a failure that could have lasting consequences in the next crisis, when health and safety information might save or cost lives."

From the first days after Sept. 11, 2001, the fears and unknowns about health and air quality in Lower Manhattan were compounded by the politics that swirl, as always, around the Environmental Protection Agency.

An arm of the federal government that is second-guessed and distrusted as perhaps no other had been put in charge of the environmental response. What was in the air and what people in Washington and New York believed about the E.P.A. were immediately intertwined.

That volatile mixture resurfaced this fall when the E.P.A. inspector general's office released its report on the agency's handling of the crisis. The report described an agency that struggled mightily to meet a challenge it had never been intended to face, using tools and standards that were sometimes inadequate to the task.

But the inspector general, Nikki L. Tinsley, also directly addressed what has become an even more grave crisis for the agency — gnawing public cynicism and doubt about its performance after the attack. She concluded that administrators, at a crucial moment on Sept. 18, 2001, went beyond what they knew about the effects of the World Trade Center towers' collapse.

On the basis of tests for asbestos, which had been mostly reassuring, they made a blanket pronouncement that the air was safe to breathe. And the White House, the report said, at least indirectly influenced the wording of some of that statement and others by removing cautionary language from agency news releases. Later, broader tests for things like PCB's and dioxins largely validated the statement of air safety, the report said. But for the E.P.A. and its relationship with New Yorkers, many of whom had mistrusted the first reassurances, it was too late. A corrosion of trust had begun.…
The Unemployment Myth:
"The government's announcement on Tuesday that the economy grew even faster than expected makes the current 'jobless recovery' even more puzzling. To give some perspective, unemployment normally falls significantly in such economic boom times. The last time growth was this good, in 1983, unemployment fell 2.5 percentage points and another full percentage point the next year. That's what happens in a typical recovery. So why not this time? Because we have more to recover from than we've been told."

The reality is that we didn't have a mild recession. Jobs-wise, we had a deep one.

The government reported that annual unemployment during this recession peaked at only around 6 percent, compared with more than 7 percent in 1992 and more than 9 percent in 1982. But the unemployment rate has been low only because government programs, especially Social Security disability, have effectively been buying people off the unemployment rolls and reclassifying them as "not in the labor force."

In other words, the government has cooked the books. It has been a more subtle manipulation than the one during the Reagan administration, when people serving in the military were reclassified from "not in the labor force" to "employed" in order to reduce the unemployment rate. Nonetheless, the impact has been the same.

Research by the economists David Autor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Mark Duggan at the University of Maryland shows that once Congress began loosening the standards to qualify for disability payments in the late 1980's and early 1990's, people who would normally be counted as unemployed started moving in record numbers into the disability system — a kind of invisible unemployment. Almost all of the increase came from hard-to-verify disabilities like back pain and mental disorders. As the rolls swelled, the meaning of the official unemployment rate changed as millions of people were left out.

By the end of the 1990's boom, this invisible unemployment seemed to have stabilized. With the arrival of this recession, it has exploded. From 1999 to 2003, applications for disability payments rose more than 50 percent and the number of people enrolled has grown by one million. Therefore, if you correctly accounted for all of these people, the peak unemployment rate in this recession would have probably pushed 8 percent.

The point is not whether every person on disability deserves payments. The point is that in previous recessions these people would have been called unemployed. They would have filed for unemployment insurance. They would have shown up in the statistics. They would have helped create a more accurate picture of national unemployment, a crucial barometer we use to measure the performance of the economy, the likelihood of inflation and the state of the job market.…
The Productivity Paradox:
"Despite the economy's stunning 8.2 percent surge in the third quarter, the staying power of this economic recovery remains a matter of debate. But there is one aspect of the economy on which agreement is nearly unanimous: America's miraculous productivity. In the third quarter, productivity grew by 8.1 percent in the nonfarm business sector — a figure likely to be revised upwards — and it has grown at an average rate of 5.4 percent in the last two years."

This surge is not simply a byproduct of the business cycle, even accounting for the usual uptick in productivity after a recession. In the first two years of the six most recent recoveries, productivity gains averaged only 3.5 percent. The favored explanation is that improved productivity is yet another benefit of the so-called New Economy. American business has reinvented itself. Manufacturing and services companies have figured out how to get more from less. By using information technologies, they can squeeze ever increasing value out of the average worker.

It's a great story, and if correct, it could lead to a new and lasting prosperity in the United States. But it may be wide of the mark.

First of all, productivity measurement is more art than science — especially in America's vast services sector, which employs fully 80 percent of the nation's private work force, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Productivity is calculated as the ratio of output per unit of work time. How do we measure value added in the amorphous services sector?

Very poorly, is the answer. The numerator of the productivity equation, output, is hopelessly vague for services. For many years, government statisticians have used worker compensation to approximate output in many service industries, which makes little or no intuitive sense. The denominator of the productivity equation — units of work time — is even more spurious. Government data on work schedules are woefully out of touch with reality — especially in America's largest occupational group, the professional and managerial segments, which together account for 35 percent of the total work force.

For example, in financial services, the Labor Department tells us that the average workweek has been unchanged, at 35.5 hours, since 1988. That's patently absurd. Courtesy of a profusion of portable information appliances (laptops, cell phones, personal digital assistants, etc.), along with near ubiquitous connectivity (hard-wired and now increasingly wireless), most information workers can toil around the clock. The official data don't come close to capturing this cultural shift.

As a result, we are woefully underestimating the time actually spent on the job. It follows, therefore, that we are equally guilty of overestimating white-collar productivity. Productivity is not about working longer. It's about getting more value from each unit of work time. The official productivity numbers are, in effect, mistaking work time for leisure time.…
Prewar Planning: Iraqi Leaders Say U.S. Was Warned of Disorder After Hussein, but Little Was Done:
"In the months before the Iraq invasion, Iraqi exile leaders trooped through the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department carrying a message about the future of their homeland: without a strong plan for managing Iraq after toppling Saddam Hussein, widespread looting and violence would erupt."

"On many occasions, I told the Americans that from the very moment the regime fell, if an alternative government was not ready there would be a power vacuum and there would be chaos and looting," said Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and a longtime ally of the United States. "Given our history, it is very obvious this would occur."

Similar warnings came from international relief experts and from within the United States government. In 1999 the same military command that was preparing to attack Iraq conducted a detailed war game that found that toppling Mr. Hussein risked creating a major security void, said Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, who headed the command.

But as Pentagon officials hurriedly prepared for war last winter, they envisioned Iraq after the fall of Mr. Hussein's government as far more manageable.

That miscalculation and the low priority given to planning for the aftermath of Mr. Hussein's fall have taken on new significance with the recent wave of deadly attacks and the Bush administration's abrupt decision this month to accelerate its timetable for transferring control to the kind of Iraqi authority that leading exiles were calling for a year ago.

The exiles were among the most energetic cheerleaders for the war, and critics of the Bush administration have accused some of them of skewing the facts in the process. But more than a dozen of the leaders who have returned to Iraq said in interviews here that they had also warned about the chaos that could follow.

The fact that the administration embraced their encouragement to go to war but apparently discounted their warnings is an insight into the Pentagon's prewar planning.…

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Spying: U.S. Is Worried Foe Is Tracking Targets in Iraq:
"Bush administration officials are increasingly concerned that anti-American forces in Iraq are using simple but effective means to monitor activities and coordinate attacks against the American military, civilian administrators and visiting dignitaries. "

As evidence, Pentagon and military officials cite a recent raid by troops of the 101st Airborne Division during which they broke up an apparent plot to assassinate an American colonel. The would-be assailants, they said, had observed and charted the Army officer's daily routine — including his jogging route and schedule of public appearances — to plan their attack.

Evidence gathered by investigators also sheds new light on the rocket attack that struck the Rashid Hotel during the overnight visit to Baghdad by Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, in late October. Military intelligence officers have reported that the hotel staff was infiltrated over the summer by at least one former member of Saddam Hussein's secret service.…American troops already vary their routes and routines, officials said, and are being encouraged to do it more. But Baghdad's infrastructure of roads and secure places to stay is limited, making it difficult to obscure actions that might allow an observant resistance to plan attacks.

"It does not require a very robust intelligence capability to pick up from time to time the presence of `high value' American officials," said a Bush administration official with access to intelligence reports from Iraq. "It is hard to shield the large security presence that identifies senior officials in Iraq."

Investigators are reviewing recent attacks on American convoys hit by improvised explosives to see whether the routes had become so routine as to make them obvious targets. They are also examining the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad in August, in which the explosives-packed vehicle detonated adjacent to the United Nations special representative's window.

American officials say operatives loyal to the ousted Hussein government do not require high-technology eavesdropping devices to gather substantial amounts of information on the activities of American officials. "Given the size of our footprint, you can't overestimate the amount of information you can gather just standing on a street corner and watching," one official said.

Mr. Hussein's government operated a Stalinist-style domestic security apparatus to control Iraqis, so there is no shortage of agents skilled in traditional surveillance techniques.

In the case of the Rashid, which had become home to Americans and other foreigners working for the Coalition Provisional Authority, "the hotel was penetrated," according to a Pentagon official.

Military intelligence officers discovered that, at least as early as summer, the Rashid's catering service had on its staff a former member of Mr. Hussein's intelligence agency, officials in Washington and Iraq said.

But officials noted that given the large Iraqi staff at the hotel, valuable information could just as easily have been gathered by listening to coffee house gossip, or by watching streets around the hotel for unusually large convoys.

Much of the intelligence-gathering by supporters of the former government falls into this category of waiting, watching and listening in order to plan attacks, officials said.…

American officials in Washington and Iraq offer differing assessments on whether the multiple-rocket launcher set up outside the Rashid's security wall during the visit by Mr. Wolfowitz was specifically timed for that. One Army officer was killed, and more than a dozen Americans and other foreigners were wounded.

The launcher itself had taken weeks to construct, military officials said. While Mr. Wolfowitz's visit was a closely held secret before his departure, "I cannot believe that former regime loyalists were unaware the deputy was staying there," a senior administration official said. "He had been in the country for a day or two, which was widely publicized. He hosted an event the night before in the hotel, and did not leave. He travels with not a small footprint."

Friday, November 28, 2003

Sharon Warns Palestinians: Make Peace or Risk Losing Land:
"Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel warned Palestinians on Thursday to become more conciliatory or risk losing permanently some of the land they want for a state.

As he has in the past, Mr. Sharon hinted at possible but unnamed territorial concessions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, saying, 'Obviously, ultimately we will not be in all the places that we are in today.'"

But speaking at a news conference in Tel Aviv, he said he might make the decisions about territory unilaterally if he decides the Palestinian leadership is not serious about peace.

"They do not have unlimited time at their disposal," Mr. Sharon said. "While I am against setting artificial timetables, ultimately there is also a limit to our patience."

He added, "The Palestinians should have understood already that what they didn't get today, they may be unable to receive tomorrow."

Nabil Shaath, the Palestinian foreign minister, reacted angrily to Mr. Sharon's remarks, calling them "rude and arrogant."

"Sharon wants to declare an extreme position, and then to declare some measures that have no value that he will describe later as painful concessions," Mr. Shaath said. "But in fact they're painful concessions for us, not for him."

Mr. Sharon sounded a defiant note on Thursday on two points that have brought him criticism from the Bush administration. He said Israel was "accelerating" its construction of a barrier in the West Bank. The barrier, a combination of fencing, concrete, ditches and guardposts that is supposed to stretch some 360 miles, has consumed some stretches of West Bank land.

He also said Israel would retain some of the so-called settlement outposts, the rough clusters of trailers placed on isolated West Bank hilltops. Mr. Sharon said there were some outposts that were "of security importance of the first order."

The road map requires Israel to "immediately" dismantle "settlement outposts erected since March 2001." There are dozens of them.…
Broad Bills Stuffed With Lawmakers' Pet Items:
"In public, members of Congress have spent hundreds of hours debating the future of Medicare and the need for a national energy policy. Behind the scenes, they have spent even more time working on little-known provisions of the legislation that would benefit specific health care providers and energy companies."

Tucked inside the Medicare bill is an assortment of provisions that have nothing to do with providing prescription drug benefits to the elderly. The energy bill and the annual spending bills for federal agencies are also stuffed with pet projects, intended to win votes for the legislation.

Congress gave final approval to the Medicare bill on Tuesday, but is still wrestling with the energy measure.

The two bills — top priorities for President Bush and the Republican leaders of Congress — provided convenient vehicles for spending narrowly focused on special interests. Hundreds of health care providers and colleges now receive such largess, and the numbers have soared in recent years.…

A provision benefiting a specific hospital in Tennessee was added to the Medicare bill at the last minute in an effort to get the vote of Representative Harold E. Ford Jr., Democrat of Tennessee.…

The Medicare bill also increases payments for doctors in Alaska for a cancer treatment known as brachytherapy and for health maintenance organizations that have been dropping out of the Medicare market.

The energy bill includes $1 billion for a new nuclear reactor in Idaho, $800 million in federal loan guarantees for a coal gasification plant in Minnesota and tens of millions of dollars in subsidies for timber companies to log national forests for energy production.

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said "parochial projects" were siphoning money away from higher priorities at many agencies.

Timothy M. Westmoreland, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, said: "Big bills become larded with whatever bait it takes to get a majority vote. A lot of money in the Medicare bill is spent on things that have nothing to do with a prescription drug benefit."

For decades, it has been common practice for lawmakers to designate money for specific military bases, post offices and waterways. In recent years, they have funneled increasing amounts to specific hospitals, medical schools and health care projects.

Data collected by The Chronicle of Higher Education shows that spending on pork barrel projects at colleges and universities topped $2 billion this year for the first time. In a recent report, the Democratic staff of the House Appropriations Committee said the number of projects designated for assistance under the health and education spending bill nearly quadrupled, to 1,850, in the last three years.…

Just before the Senate gave final approval to the Medicare bill on Tuesday, Dr. Frist displayed a chart listing 358 organizations that supported it.

Members of many of those groups stand to benefit from the bill and participated in a lobbying campaign coordinated by Susan B. Hirschmann, a former chief of staff to Tom DeLay of Texas, now the House Republican leader.

The push for special interest provisions to ensure passage of the Medicare and energy bills led, in some cases, to new variations on the traditional relationships between lobbyists and lawmakers.

Lobbyists have long tried to influence members of Congress. But increasingly members of Congress have put pressure on lobbyists to support their legislative priorities. E-mail messages obtained from recipients provide details of such reverse lobbying.

On Sept. 12, Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, the chairman of the Finance Committee, sent a "wake-up call" to hospital executives around the country, asking for their help in fighting cuts proposed by the House.

"I met with Washington representatives from the American Hospital Association, the Federation of American Hospitals, the Catholic Health Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges and the National Association of Public Hospitals," Mr. Grassley wrote. "I asked them to stand with me in opposing these cuts."

Senator Grassley was successful. Hospitals were spared, and rural hospitals received substantial increases in payments.…

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Chicago Tribune | Governor to punish big drug companies:

"With Congress moving to undermine his push to buy prescription drugs from Canada, Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Tuesday said he would seek to punish big drug companies that fought his initiative by making it more difficult or expensive for state workers to buy their drugs if safe alternatives are available."
Firms' medicines to be off state list

The five pharmaceutical firms impacted by the decision, which have been limiting supplies of their pills to Canada, criticized Blagojevich and said the governor was playing politics with an issue that affects public safety.

The pharmaceutical industry's trade association also suggested the governor's insistence on punishing the companies could hamper another effort he is pushing to make prescription drugs more affordable--a consumer-discount club aimed at bringing lower-priced drugs to seniors.

The club, which is set to begin operations Jan. 1, is designed to allow senior citizens to join forces with state agencies that now buy $1.8 billion in medicines, creating an entity with massive buying power that could have the clout to command price breaks. The state still must negotiate those savings with drug companies, and critics have questioned whether that effort could be impeded by Blagojevich's Canadian drug purchase campaign, which has antagonized the pharmaceutical industry.

"He should give the buying club a chance to work, and it hasn't even been implemented yet," said Jeff Trewhitt, spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a drug-industry lobby.

Blagojevich said he doubted drug companies would retaliate.

"They're not going to cut their nose to spite their face when they run the risk of losing even more business in Illinois," Blagojevich said.

Though the drug buying club could potentially affect hundreds of thousands of seniors, Blagojevich's initiative unveiled Tuesday deals only with drugs for state employees and retirees, inmates in state prisons and patients at state mental facilities.

Still, it is the Democratic governor's latest effort in a battle to seize the initiative on a controversial issue with compelling appeal to voters. Because Canada has price controls on medicine, Blagojevich has said the state could save $91 million if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allowed Illinois to buy prescriptions north of the border. The FDA, however, has said the governor's savings claims are exaggerated and that the agency cannot certify the safety of medication coming from Canada, which is often ordered over the Internet.

Medicare reform legislation passed by Congress Tuesday did not include a provision sought by many Democrats and fought by big drug companies that would have allowed states and cities to import cheap Canadian drugs.

"It should have been in the bill," Blagojevich argued. "It's a missed opportunity."

As the debate has raged in recent months, the five companies Blagojevich has targeted chose to begin limiting drug supplies to Canada, saying it was done to prevent Canada from becoming a middleman supplying drugs to the U.S. while endangering the drug supply for Canadians.

According to Blagojevich's new plan, the state will remove from its preferred drugs list name-brand pharmaceuticals made by the firms when safe equivalents are available. The five companies--AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Wyeth--currently make up between 20 and 25 percent of the market share in Illinois.…,1,4720596.story

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

News: Unwanted ads prompt 'spam rage':
"Call it spam rage: A Silicon Valley computer programmer has been arrested for threatening to torture and kill employees of the company he blames for bombarding his computer with Web ads promising to enlarge his penis. "

In one of the first prosecutions of its kind in the state that made "road rage" famous, Charles Booher, 44, was arrested on Thursday and released on $75,000 bond for allegedly making repeated threats to the staff of a Canadian company between May and July.

Prosecutors said that Booher threatened to send a "package full of anthrax spores" to the company, to "disable" an employee with a bullet and torture him with a power drill and ice pick, and to hunt down and castrate the employees unless they removed him from their e-mail list. He used return e-mail addresses including, they said.

In other cases, Internet vigilantes have bombarded spammers with both unsolicited e-mail and regular mail and phone calls, launched attacks on spammers' computers and posted spammers' personal information on the Internet, according to reports.

In a telephone interview with Reuters on Friday, Booher acknowledged that he had behaved badly but said his computer had been rendered almost unusable for about two months by a barrage of pop-up advertising and e-mail.

"Here's what happened: I go to their Web site and start complaining to them, would you please, please, please stop bothering me," he said. "It just sort of escalated...and I sort of lost my cool at that point."

The Sunnyvale, Calif., man now faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, with a preliminary hearing scheduled for next month on charges of threatening to injure someone. He said he did not own any guns or have access to anthrax.

Booher said the problem stemmed from a program he mistakenly downloaded from the Internet that brought a continuous stream of advertising to his computer.

The object of the Californian's anger was Douglas Mackay, president of DM Contact Management, which works for Albion Medical, a company advertising the "Only Reliable, Medically Approved Penis Enhancement."
Op-Ed Columnist: The Uncivil War:
"One of the problems with media coverage of this administration,' wrote Eric Alterman in The Nation, 'is that it requires bad manners.'

He's right. There's no nice way to explain how the administration uses cooked numbers to sell its tax cuts, or how its arrogance and gullibility led to the current mess in Iraq."

So it was predictable that the administration and its allies, no longer very successful at claiming that questioning the president is unpatriotic, would use appeals to good manners as a way to silence critics. Not, mind you, that Emily Post has taken over the Republican Party: the same people who denounce liberal incivility continue to impugn the motives of their opponents.

Smart conservatives admit that their own side was a bit rude during the Clinton years. But now, they say, they've learned better, and it's those angry liberals who have a problem. The reality, however, is that they can only convince themselves that liberals have an anger problem by applying a double standard.

When Ann Coulter expresses regret that Timothy McVeigh didn't blow up The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal laughs it off as "tongue-in-cheek agitprop." But when Al Franken writes about lies and lying liars in a funny, but carefully researched book, he's degrading the discourse.

More important, the Bush administration — which likes to portray itself as the inheritor of Reagan-like optimism — actually has a Nixonian habit of demonizing its opponents.…
News: U.N. report: Economic pressures push outsourcing:
"Companies in the United States and Europe will continue to move information technology work offshore even though they don't fully understand the costs and benefits of doing so, according to a report released by the United Nations this week. "

The study, released by the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on Thursday, found that companies in the United States and Europe are looking for competitive advantages and cost-cutting measures when they look to developing countries for IT outsourcing.

And to some degree, they're finding it, even though the level of service in many countries is still low. The UN agency said offshore outsourcing has been successful in India. Services providers are also starting to gain a foothold in other developing countries, including Bangladesh, Brazil, China, the Philippines, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Venezuela and Vietnam. As those countries improve their service levels, outsourcing business there should rise, the study found.
Absolutely the Best Dentist:
"You must read 'Absolutely the Best Dentist,' a devilishly clever send-up of the 'No Child Left Behind' legislation"

"Did you hear about the new state program to measure the effectiveness of dentists with their young patients?" I said.

"No," he responded. "How will they do that?"

"It's quite simple," I said. "They will just count the number of cavities each patient has at age 10, 14 and 18 and average that to determine a dentist's rating. Dentists will be rated as Excellent, Good, Average, Below Average and Unsatisfactory. That way parents will know which are the best dentists. It will also encourage the less effective dentists to get better," I said. "Poor dentists who don’t improve could lose their licenses to practice in South Carolina."

Monday, November 24, 2003

Frank Rich: When You Got It, Flaunt It:
"The reigning bogus good ole boy in public life remains our blue-blood president,
an heir to large and aristocratic American fortunes on both the Bush and Walker sides of his family. Unlike his father, he is not about to be caught asking for 'a splash more coffee.' On the eve of his visit to London this week, he hit a characteristically phony note when he told an interviewer, 'I never dreamt when I was living in Midland, Texas, that I would be staying in Buckingham Palace.' Mr. Bush, who was born in New Haven, lived in Midland until only the age of 15 before moving on to such hick venues as Andover, Yale and Harvard when not vacationing in family compounds in Kennebunkport, Me., or Jupiter Island, a tony neighbor of Palm Beach."
Medicare Debate Turns to Pricing of Drug Benefits:
"With Congress poised for final action on a major Medicare bill this week, some of the fiercest debate is focused on a section of the bill that prohibits the government from negotiating lower drug prices for the 40 million people on Medicare.

That provision epitomizes much of the bill, which relies on insurance companies and private health plans to manage the new drug benefit. They could negotiate with drug companies, but the government, with much greater purchasing power, would be forbidden to do so."

Supporters of the provision say it is necessary to prevent the government from imposing price controls that could stifle innovation in the pharmaceutical industry. Critics say the restriction would force the government and Medicare beneficiaries to spend much more for drugs than they should.

The House passed the Medicare bill on Saturday by a vote of 220 to 215, after an all-night session and an extraordinary three-hour roll call. President Bush and House Republican leaders persuaded a few wayward conservatives to vote for the bill, which calls for the biggest expansion of Medicare since its creation in 1965.

In the Senate, debate continued on Sunday, with Democrats asserting that the bill would severely undermine the traditional Medicare program. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, said he would lead a filibuster against the measure.

Democrats acknowledged they did not have the votes to sustain a filibuster. But they said they would use points of order to slow the legislation, whose passage is a priority for President Bush.…

No provision has been mentioned more often in Congressional debate than the section that prohibits the government from interfering in negotiations with drug companies.

Democrats have repeatedly asserted that Medicare could provide more generous drug benefits if, like other big buyers, it took advantage of its market power to secure large discounts.

But many Republicans have expressed alarm at the possibility that federal officials might negotiate drug prices. The Medicare program, they say, dwarfs other purchasers, and the government is unlike other customers because it could give itself the power to set prices by statute or regulation, just as it sets the rates paid to doctors and hospitals for treating Medicare patients.

Under the bill, the government would subsidize a new type of insurance policy known as a prescription drug plan.

"In order to promote competition," the bill says, the secretary of health and human services "may not interfere with the negotiations between drug manufacturers and pharmacies and prescription drug plan sponsors, and may not require a particular formulary or institute a price structure for the reimbursement" of drugs.…

Representative Tom Allen, Democrat of Maine, said it struck him as absurd that "the government will not be able to negotiate lower prices" for the drugs on which it plans to spend $400 billion in the next decade.

"The bill will allow the pharmaceutical industry to continue charging America's seniors the highest prices in the world," Mr. Allen said.

Representative Peter A. DeFazio, Democrat of Oregon, said, "We could provide a much more meaningful benefit if we negotiated lower prices as other nations have done."

Representative Rahm Emanuel, Democrat of Illinois, said: "We could bring down drug prices if we allowed the secretary of health and human services to negotiate on behalf of 40 million seniors. That is what Sam's Club does."
Chicago Tribune | Iraqi mob mutilates 2 soldiers:
"…There were conflicting reports on whether the men were shot or slashed to death. Military spokesmen in Baghdad refused to discuss the attack in detail.

The 101st Airborne Division, the soldiers' unit, released a statement Sunday night that said the men were shot to death and 'that there was no official report of anything to do with stabbings or throat slashings.'"

Another military official Sunday night, however, acknowledged than an internal report found that soldiers were shot and slashed. The report had not determined how they died, he said, and the slashings may have happened in the mayhem after the men died.

"Their bodies were mutilated," the official said.

In Washington, the bloodletting in the streets of Mosul provided political fodder for Sunday talk shows as Democratic leaders challenged the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq and the escalating insurgency against the U.S-led coalition.

The incident, reported widely on satellite news broadcasts and Western and Arab Web news sites, underscored the vulnerability of the heavily armed American troops as they operate in urban areas of Iraq.…,1,3231915.story

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | While we have your attention, Mr President...:
"Dear George,
I hate to wake you up from that dream you are having, the one in which you are a superhero bringing democracy and freedom to underdeveloped, oppressed countries. But you really need to check things out in one of the countries you have recently bombed to freedom. Georgie, I am kind of worried that things are going a bit bad in Iraq and you don't seem to care that much. You might want it to appear as if things are going well and sign Iraq off as a job well done, but I am afraid this is not the case. "

Listen, habibi, it is not over yet. Let me explain this in simple terms. You have spilled a glass full of tomato juice on an already dirty carpet and now you have to clean up the whole room. Not all of the mess is your fault but you volunteered to clean it up. I bet if someone had explained it to you like that you would have been less hasty going on our Rambo-in-Baghdad trip.

To tell you the truth, I am glad that someone is doing the cleaning up, and thank you for getting rid of that scary guy with the hideous moustache that we had for president. But I have to say that the advertisements you were dropping from your B52s before the bombs fell promised a much more efficient and speedy service. We are a bit disappointed. So would you please, pretty please, with sugar on top, get your act together and stop telling people you have Iraq all figured out when you are giving us the trial-and-error approach?

Anyway, I hope this doesn't disturb you too much. Have a nice stay in London, wave hello to the demonstrators, and give my regards to your spin doctors. I bet they are having a hell of a job making you look good.
Salam Pax
The Baghdad Blogger,12809,1087630,00.html
The Reading File: Dear Mr. President: Are You Getting Out Enough?:
"BEFORE President Bush's visit to Britain last week, the liberal newspaper The Guardian asked 60 people to write him an open letter. Excerpts follow (the letters can be read in their entirety at"

Dear Mr. Bush,

Two years ago, shortly after the 9/11 atrocity I was arrested in the early hours of the morning at the home I shared with my wife in Colnbrook. . . .

The front page headlines around the world reported the U.S. and their representatives as saying that I was the "lead instructor" of four of the pilots responsible for the hijackings and that I would in time be charged for "conspiracy to murder." . . .

I spent five months of hell in Belmarsh prison where threats were made on my life. My dream of a career as a pilot is over. . . . My wife and I are unemployed. Many people will now always think of me as a terrorist. . . . The "war on terror" has moved on but my life and family are still in pieces.

Lotfi Raissi, the pilot falsely accused of aiding the Sept. 11 terrorists,12809,1087630,00.html
Iraqi Town Relishes Freedom, but Resentment Runs Beneath:
"We were hungry for change, but nothing changed," Fadil Abdul Amir, a butcher said. "Only Saddam is gone."

"The first bombs began falling unexpectedly on this village at 3:30 one morning in March. Ali Kazim Hamza was shepherding his family into what he hoped would be a safe room when one bomb landed outside his front door."

The blast crumbled the front of the house and hurled him across the entryway. He cradled his son, Muhammad, in his beefy arms. Shrapnel or perhaps flying shards of brick had sliced through the boy's forehead, killing him. He was 2.

Eight months ago, this small, dusty village on the Euphrates became an unexpected obstacle to the American assault on Baghdad. Massed a few miles west, the Army's Third Infantry Division ordered its forces across the river and into the village to cut off Iraqi reinforcements headed toward Najaf.

What followed was some of the most intense fighting that the division's First Brigade encountered, and it left deep scars.

Now, Kifl is one measure of America's halting progress since Saddam Hussein's overthrow. [Violence continued Saturday, as a missile reportedly hit a civilian plane in Baghdad and bombers killed 14 people at two police stations near the capital.]

The people of Kifl — all Shiites repressed under Mr. Hussein's rule — relish their new freedom but fear the uncertainty that freedom has brought. They have rebuilt some of what was destroyed.

But they also angrily complain that their expectations — of aid and compensation, of democracy and security — remain unmet. And some of what was lost can never be restored.

"We are breathing freedom," Mr. Hamza said.

For him, though, more than for most, it came at a cost — a son's short life. "Yes," he said, "it was too expensive a price."

…Kifl is an oasis that fulfills much of the Bush administration's vision for a new Iraq. Today there are no foreign forces here, no barriers of concrete and concertina wire. The covered market pulses beneath ancient brick vaults, its stalls full of trinkets and cheap goods. Its main street — eight months ago a shattered mess, strewn with charred wreckage and a gruesome trail of death — is now a cacophonic bustle of crowds, cars and carts.

Beneath the outward peace, however, runs an undercurrent of need and grievance and simmering resentment that has not boiled over but easily could.

There was no electricity for three days this week. Trash and sewage foul the streets. The bridge over the Euphrates, which Iraqi forces blew up on March 25 after the First Brigade's troops crossed it, remains buckled and blocked to traffic, severing the city from Najaf to the south and Karbala to the north.

There have been 21 cases of cholera and smaller outbreaks of other infectious diseases, including typhoid and meningitis. The hospital has no medicine at all.

On the main street an agitated crowd quickly gathered as Sheik Aziz Izzi al-Abud explained that Kifl had welcomed the American overthrow of Mr. Hussein, only to grow wary and increasingly impatient.

The men shouted and shoved as they voiced their complaints. It is not safe to drive at night. There are no new jobs. Pensions are delayed. The prices of staples — gas, cooking oil, grains, sheep — have skyrocketed. The mayor's friends have skimmed off what aid has come, they complained, while the rest of the village's residents have gone wanting.

"We have had a lot of unjust treatment," Sheik Izzi said. "For 13 years we were under embargo. The Americans promised everything. All the good would come with the tanks, and it didn't."

What becomes clear on the streets of Kifl, as in other parts of Iraq, is that a cold calculation is being made, as people tally the dinars in their pockets. Freedom and democracy, it would seem, are often beside the point. Some people have more than they did under Mr. Hussein, and others have less.…
Bombers Kill 14 in Iraq; Missile Hits Civilian Plane:
"A missile hit a civilian airplane in Baghdad on Saturday, American military officials said, as suicide attackers exploded huge bombs at two police stations, one of them in this town north of Baghdad, killing at least 14 people, including two young girls, and wounding at least 50."

With the continuing chaos and violence in Iraq, which American soldiers have been unable to snuff out, a top Iraqi politician, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, was attacked by a mortar shell on Friday night at a mosque in Baghdad. But the shell failed to explode and Mr. Hakim, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council and brother of the slain pro-American Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim, was not hurt.

The airplane, operated by the courier company DHL, was hit by one or two surface-to-air missiles just after taking off from the main airport in Baghdad, the military said. The plane, an Airbus A300 jet, was apparently hit in a wing, an engine caught fire, and it was forced into an emergency landing at the heavily guarded airport that is a major base for United States soldiers in Iraq. None of the three crew members were hurt.

Military officials said there had been at least 12 other attempted attacks on the few civilian flights that operate in Iraq, and this first successful hit of a civilian aircraft might further delay opening the airport to civilian traffic and thus postpone one major marker for stability in Iraq.

Attackers have been increasingly successful in hitting aircraft in Iraq: 39 American soldiers have been killed in four helicopter crashes since Nov. 2, in which enemy fire either brought down the crafts or probably caused them to fall.

Forces hostile to the occupation here apparently intended to show their increasing sophistication and firepower by exploding two huge bombs — reportedly identical devices detonated almost simultaneously — at police stations about 20 miles apart north of Baghdad.

Six police officers and three civilians were killed in this small town about 20 miles north of Baghdad, and in Baquba, a restive city another 20 miles to the north, four policemen were killed along with a girl walking with her father. There were unconfirmed reports of several more dead.

The Iraqi police, trained and paid by the Americans, have been a frequent target, and on Saturday several policemen said they needed more support — in money and equipment — to prevent further attacks and take over, as the Bush administration is planning, more day-to-day security operations in Iraq.

"The American government and the Governing Council — how have they supported us to manage this enormous task of keeping stability?" said Maj. Raed Ali Ismael, head of intelligence for the police department in Baquba. "We don't have proper training. We don't have any support or modern equipment."

Another officer in Baquba, Maj. Hussein Israel Hamed, added, "Our enemy's technology is better than ours."

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Op-Ed Columnist: Death by Dividend:
"In this impoverished corner of southwestern Guatemala, lush with jungle and burbling brooks, you can just about see people dying as an indirect result of America's trade agenda.

Even now, some governments in Central America choose to let their people die rather than distribute cheap generic AIDS drugs, which would save more lives but might irritate the U.S. And now America is trying to make it more difficult for these countries to use generic drugs."

…the stark choice that we Americans face: Do we want to maximize profits for U.S. pharmaceutical companies, or do we want to save lives?

American trade negotiators, in both the Clinton and Bush administrations, have pushed U.S. interests in a narrow economic sense by making it difficult for poor nations to use cheap generic medicines. In front of the television cameras, the U.S. has made some concessions to public health needs, but the compassion usually vanishes in trade negotiations.

The public drafts of the F.T.A.A. clearly place the priority on patents over public health, and the word is that the (still secret) draft text of a Central American Free Trade Agreement should also embarrass us.

"An F.T.A.A. agreement with strong I.P. [intellectual property] provisions threatens to have a catastrophic impact on the lives of millions of people living with H.I.V./ AIDS and other diseases," warns Doctors Without Borders, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning aid group.

I know, I know. Mention "intellectual property" and eyes glaze over. But meet the people whose lives are at stake.…

Juan Emiliano Sánchez, 51, may be too far gone to be saved. A farmer with a son in San Rafael, Calif., Mr. Sánchez has advanced AIDS and is so frail that he can barely walk. "I really want to fight this as long as I can," he said, his face glistening with a feverish sweat, but it looks as if that won't be long.

María Gloria Gerónimo is a different story. A 27-year-old hotel maid, she was infected with H.I.V. by her husband, and she in turn passed the virus to their son, Rony, during childbirth. Desperate to save Rony's life, Ms. Gerónimo trekked around Guatemala until she found an AIDS clinic where Doctors Without Borders uses generic antiretrovirals to treat AIDS. Both she and Rony, who is now 5, are strong again.

Should drug company profits be more important than the lives of Mr. Sánchez, Ms. Gerónimo and Rony?

"I don't understand how it's in the interests of Americans to pursue policies that are going to lead to the deaths of tens of thousands, maybe even millions," says Robert Weissman, an intellectual property lawyer in Washington who is co-director of Essential Action, which monitors trade agreements.

The U.S. trade officials I spoke with vigorously deny that they are insensitive to third-world health needs. But almost every expert I spoke to outside the U.S. government said that the U.S. continued to place hurdles in front of the use of generics to save lives.

Even now, ahead of the F.T.A.A., Guatemala and Honduras avoid using generic antiretrovirals for fear of offending the U.S. Guatemala, for example, has 67,000 people, including 5,000 children, with H.I.V. or AIDS. Most will die. Astonishingly, the country spends most of its scarce AIDS money on brand-name drugs rather than cheaper generics, which could treat three times as many people. Honduras does the same, preferring to let people die than use generics.

Why would these countries do this? The doctors and public health officials I interviewed said that Central American nations had a strong desire to curry favor with Washington, which is perceived as hostile to generics.
The Silence of the Cams: "Like many others, I stopped clicking on the watch-video button long ago and never looked back. Until late last Friday, when I went online to see whether there was any decent coverage of the leftists who had been in town that day to march on the World Bank and other redoubts of the global capitalist conspiracy. I'm fascinated by these events, mainly because they never live up to their advance billing in the media. The hordes of protesters don't materialize, and those who do show are not fire-breathing Marxist monsters but a bunch of naive kids who really believe that the Gap and Starbucks are the Hitler and Mussolini of our time."

Warned again this year of the expected mayhem—shades of Paris in 1789, or Washington in 1968—I stayed well away from the protests myself. Now night had fallen on our embattled capital, and I was curious about what had really gone on. So I went to, where I found a color photo of the marchers, a couple of text stories, and a video offering. Normally, of course, I wouldn't have considered the video. But I'd missed the evening news and really wanted to see the heavily hyped protests. Having just started a free trial of America Online's broadband service at home, I figured this was a chance to test its worth. Was Web video still a nightmare?

The Web site's protest piece was the video equivalent of what feature writers call a "scene piece," except the scene isn't conveyed with words but with images captured by a handheld camera, edited, and put up on the Web. sent one of its videographers (as they're called), John Poole, out to observe the protesters as they marched, chanted, danced, and got arrested. The results, which you can view at, are surprising for a few reasons. First, this video has no narrator. The images and sounds Poole caught—protesters and police speaking to the camera, plus lots of captured scenes—speak for themselves. But this is no mere passive journalism of the I-Am-a-Camera school. It's clear the piece was carefully edited. Given that the editing was done on deadline (the piece was up on the Web site before 6 p.m.), the results are downright artful.… has been doing these unnarrated videos since it stumbled on the form while covering the 2000 presidential race. "At first we were mostly doing talking-heads stand-ups," recalls Mark Stencel, vice president for multimedia. "It very quickly evolved to this form of self-narrated video storytelling.... There were parts of the conventions where it was more interesting to have the delegates tell what was going on there than for us to tell you what the delegates were doing."

The managing editor who oversees the multimedia operation, Tom Kennedy, was previously director of photography for National Geographic. "It sort of is a carryover of a style of storytelling that I learned there," he says. "I thought that the methodology was translatable to video. In other words, letting the subject sort of tell their own story, rather than having a lot of mediation by reporters, voice-overs, that sort of thing. I wanted to see if that could work in a Web environment."

Friday, November 21, 2003

Dispatches: Nation-Building in Iraq: Lessons From the Past:
"James Dobbins has long been one of those troubleshooters who never seem to miss a crisis.

As the special United States envoy for Afghanistan, Mr. Dobbins was responsible for finding and installing a successor to the Taliban after they were toppled in 2001. During the 1990's, Mr. Dobbins hop-scotched from one trouble spot to another as he served as special envoy to Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti and Somalia.

So when he offers a critique of the Bush administration's nation-building effort in Iraq, it is worth paying attention. Now out of government, Mr. Dobbins, who has worked for Republican as well as Democratic administrations, does not have a partisan ax to grind."

I spoke with Mr. Dobbins after reading "America's Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq," which Mr. Dobbins co-wrote with other experts at the Rand Corporation, where he is now a senior official. L. Paul Bremer III, the American administrator of Iraq, describes the recent book as a valuable "how to" manual on nation-building. Nevertheless, Mr. Dobbins believes that much of the Bush administration's planning for the political and physical reconstruction of Iraq is an object lesson in how not to go about the nation-building task.

Mr. Dobbins's basic argument is this: The Bush administration would have been better prepared for its Iraq mission if it had heeded the lessons of the United States' ongoing peacekeeping missions in the Balkans and other recent nation-building efforts. Those are cases, he argues, in which the United States had to contend with a security vacuum and the potential for ethnic strife, and designed a force to maintain order.

But the Bush administration, he argues, has such disdain for anything associated with former President Bill Clinton that it largely ignored useful lessons from recent United States peacekeeping operations. To the extent it looked to history, the Mr. Bush's administration turned to the American occupation of Germany and Japan more than half a century ago.

It was, Mr. Dobbins says, a costly exercise in "political correctness."

"Iraq in 2003 looks more like Yugoslavia in 1996 than Germany and Japan in 1945," Mr. Dobbins says. "What they have not done is look to the models worked out in the 1990's for sharing the burden and allowing others to participate in the management of the enterprise."

Iraq poses its own unique challenges, but Mr. Dobbins argues that the nation-building problems there more closely resemble those faced in Bosnia and Kosovo than in Germany. Like the former Yugoslavia, Iraq is a multi-ethnic state that was held together by a dictator. Like Bosnia and Kosovo, it has a Muslim population. Unlike Germany, Iraq does not have an ethnically homogenous population or a first-world economy. Nor has it been devastated by total war.

The failure to reflect on the sort of security breakdowns and power vacuums that the United States confronted in the former Yugoslavia, or Afghanistan and Haiti for that matter, Mr. Dobbins said, left the Bush administration less prepared for post-Hussein Iraq than it should have been. There is little historical support for the Defense Department's initial claim that it would take fewer troops to occupy Iraq and stabilize the country than to topple the Saddam Hussein regime.…
White House Is Evacuated, but the Scene is Serene:
We Will Not Be Intimidated… We Will Not Be Intimidated…

"Was it a bird, a plane, a computer glitch? No one connected to the nation's air defense system claimed to know, but whatever it was, it briefly turned the White House upside down on Thursday.

About 9:20 a.m., staff members in the West Wing and schoolchildren on tours were suddenly ordered by the Secret Service to evacuate. The initial word was that radar had picked up a plane flying within five miles of restricted White House airspace."

In fact, it was nothing more than a false alarm. But somewhere, somehow, someone monitoring a computer screen saw something disturbing on a clear blue late fall morning in the nation's capital. Officials at the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or Norad, in Colorado Springs, would provide no other details, but they scrambled two F-16 fighter jets from the nearby Andrews Air Force Base to investigate.

The White House staff, meanwhile, clustered across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House near the historic townhouses of Jackson Place, a far more placid scene than the terrifying White House evacuation of Sept. 11, 2001.

This time, Tom Ridge, the domestic security secretary whose job was created after the Sept. 11 attacks, was seen leaving, too. Some staff members spotted Secret Service agents stationed near the door of the White House bombproof underground bunker, the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, apparently waiting for Vice President Dick Cheney. President Bush was in London.…
When Soldiers Go Without Paychecks:
"Members of the National Guard and the various military reserves joined up to be part-time civilian soldiers, called up during domestic emergencies and in time of war. This model was coming to an end even before the war in Iraq. Stretched thin by the peacekeeping missions of the 1990's, the Pentagon was already calling up more part-timers and stationing them abroad for longer. But the invasion and occupation of Iraq have magnified the problem."

If the Defense Department wants the reservists to be full-time, long-term soldiers, it is especially important that it end the unfair practice of paying them late — or not at all — for months on end. A new report from the General Accounting Office blames a payroll system so primitive and error-prone that few people fully understand it. The system fails because the people who run it often do not know how to process active-duty pay for mobilized reservists. As a result, soldiers sometimes spend months waiting for the pay they have earned.

In one striking case, a Special Forces unit deployed in Afghanistan for a year received incorrect paychecks for 11 months, capped by largely erroneous statements saying that each soldier, on average, owed the federal government $48,000.…
Op-Ed Columnist: AARP Gone Astray:
"This is a good bill that will help every Medicare beneficiary,' wrote Tom Scully, the Medicare administrator, in a letter to The New York Times defending the prescription drug bill. That's flatly untrue. (Are you surprised?) As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, the bill will force millions of beneficiaries to pay more for drugs, thanks to a provision that cuts off supplemental aid from Medicaid. Poorer recipients may find previously affordable drugs moving out of reach."

That's only one of a number of anti-retiree measures tucked away in the bill. It contains several Trojan horse provisions that are clearly intended to undermine Medicare over time — it will allow private insurers to cherry-pick healthy clients in selected cities, and it will heavily subsidize private plans competing with traditional Medicare. Meanwhile, the bill prohibits Medicare from using its bargaining power to cut drug prices; drug company stocks have soared since the bill's details became public.

Yet the bill has a good chance of passing, thanks to an endorsement from AARP, the retiree advocacy organization, which has already begun an expensive advertising campaign on the bill's behalf. What's going on?
AeANET : 11/19/2003 - U.S. High-Tech Industry Sheds More than One-Half Million Jobs in 2002, AeA Report Says:
"However, Decline in 2003 Has Slowed Dramatically"

A study released today by AeA shows that in 2002 the U.S. high-tech industry lost 540,000 jobs, dropping from 6.5 million to 6.0 million. A preliminary look at data for 2003 shows that the decline in high-tech employment slowed considerably in 2003. The report, AeA’s annual Cyberstates 2003: A State-by-State Overview of the High-Technology Industry, details national and state trends in high-tech employment, wages, exports, and other economic indicators.

The sector with the largest decrease in jobs was electronics manufacturing, accounting for more than half of all tech jobs lost between 2001 and 2002. For the first time in the seven years of publishing Cyberstates, the software sector recorded a loss of nearly 150,000 jobs last year. Indeed, the once-thriving software sector posted large increases in employment in all previous editions of Cyberstates. The communications services sector posted a similar loss of jobs. The engineering and tech services sector lost 15,000 jobs in 2002. The one bright spot was in R&D and testing labs, where employment increased by 7,000 in 2002.

"While high-tech employment fell by eight percent last year, preliminary 2003 data show a significant slowdown in high-tech job losses, with a decline of four percent," said AeA’s President and CEO William T. Archey. "We project that the 2003 high-tech job losses will total 234,000--down 57 percent from the 540,000 decline in 2002."

Archey further stated, "However, these declines have caused us to pause about two important issues. We are aware of current budget constraints, but now is not the time to cut back on education, particularly in math and science. We need a world class workforce to deal with world class challenges. Our second concern is the decline in basic research, particularly in technology, by the federal government. We worry that we have eaten the seed corn of federal research of 20 and 30 years ago that is not being replenished."

For the first time, Cyberstates 2003 is based on the newly implemented North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). AeA selected 49 NAICS codes to define the high-tech industry. They fall into four broad categories: electronics manufacturing, communications services, software, and engineering and tech services. This more current and comprehensive system allows us to capture several sectors which we could not with the previous system. These include fiber optic cable manufacturers, semiconductor machinery manufacturers, and web search portals.

This new industry classification system is fundamentally different from the old Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system. Every sector of the economy has been restructured and redefined by the NAICS. Consequently, the data presented in this report are not comparable in any way to previous editions of Cyberstates. In this edition, however, 2001, 2002, and 2003 data use the NAICS system and are therefore comparable.

Cyberstates 2003 found that all but three states lost high-tech jobs in 2002. California lost the greatest number of tech jobs, shedding some 123,000 jobs. Texas was second with tech jobs down by 61,000 jobs. Interestingly, the District of Columbia, Wyoming, and Montana were the only three cyberstates to add technology jobs between 2001 and 2002.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

ZDNet AnchorDesk: It wasn't me, it was the Trojan horse:
"Remember the Twinkie defense? Well, now there's the Trojan horse defense. That's right: In three recent court cases in the United Kingdom, defendants pleaded not guilty on the basis that someone else put code on their computer (via a Trojan horse) that caused their machines to break the law. "

While these cases have no direct bearing on U.S. court cases, they could lead to creative defenses for computer-related crimes in this country as well.

THE FIRST TWO cases involved the downloading of child pornography, while the third concerned a denial-of-service attack that caused real-world economic damage. All three defendants were acquitted.

In one of the child pornography cases, Karl Schofield of Whitley, England was cleared of processing 14 images of child pornography on his home PC. In the other, Julian Green of Devon, England, who was acquitted of storing 172 images of child pornography on his system.

In both cases, computer forensics experts found evidence of Trojan horses on the suspects' hard drives. The rogue code was allegedly deposited there via pop-up advertisements, banner ads, or Internet worms.

The third case involved a U.K. teenager named Aaron Caffrey. U.S. police discovered that his computer was responsible for the denial-of-service attack that crashed servers at the Port of Houston in October. However, Caffrey claimed that someone else put a Trojan horse on his PC that allowed his system to be controlled remotely. When investigators were unable to find evidence of such a remote-control Trojan, Caffrey claimed the Trojan had automatically erased itself.

THIS SEEMS suspicious to me, if only because Microsoft Windows (the operating system on Caffrey's computer) is notorious for creating duplicates or logs of all data. So either Caffrey was lying, or the authorities who investigated him were inept, as evidence of a Trojan horse should be relatively easy to find. Computer forensics tools, such as Guidance Software's EnCase, can quickly reveal hidden, partial, or even deleted files.…
Chicago Tribune: Muslim exodus from U.S. unravels tightknit enclaves:
"On the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, Shakeel Ahmed loaded his wife and five children into the family's green 1994 Mercury mini-van, their years in America reduced to a pair of cardboard boxes stuffed with children's clothes.

The rest they left behind: a television, furniture, pots and pans, blankets and pillows. Ahmed figured he had little time to waste because word had spread through the sweet shops and mosques around Devon Avenue, the heart of Chicago's South Asian community, that the federal government was deporting illegal immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries.

As he drove down Devon for the last time, Ahmed's thoughts turned to a cabdriver friend who had left with his family just two days before. Another companion they'd played cricket with in Washington Park had left months earlier.

Now it was his turn."

"I never cry in my life," he said. "The day I left Chicago, tears came out of my eyes."

And so the Ahmeds joined the vanguard of those fleeing America, not only from Devon but from Warren Road in Dearborn, Mich., Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn and the other main streets of America's Muslim and Arab enclaves.

Federal officials saw this as a bonus: immigration enforcement, free of charge to U.S. taxpayers.…,1,7516113,print.story?coll=chi-homepagenews-utl

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Who's Reading Your X-Ray?:
"SANJAY SAINI was not prepared for the hate mail. A radiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. Saini thought he had found a clever way to relieve an acute shortage of specialists who could read X-rays and M.R.I. scans. The hospital would beam images electronically from some scans to India, to be worked on by radiologists there."

But the arrangement, made late last year with a company in India, has touched off a minor furor. It turns out that even American radiologists, with their years of training and annual salaries of $250,000 or more, worry about their jobs moving to countries with lower wages, in much the same way that garment knitters, blast-furnace operators and data-entry clerks do.

Since the news got out, Dr. Saini has received a flurry of angry e-mail messages, most of them anonymous, urging him to stop. The American College of Radiology, the professional group for the country's 30,000 radiologists, has set up a task force to look at the offshore transfer of radiology services. And the online discussion groups of, a Web site for radiologists, have been buzzing with debate about the prospects for competition from "radiology sweatshops" abroad.

"This teleradiology thing is another nail in the coffin of the job market," wrote someone on the Web site who identified himself as a radiologist. "Who needs to pay us $350,000/yr if they can get a cheap Indian radiologist for $25,000/yr."

Daniel Courneya, a radiologist in Hibbing, Minn., fumed on the site that Massachusetts General, a Harvard teaching hospital known to its admirers as "Man's Greatest Hospital," should instead be called "Money Grubbing Hospital," another play on its initials.

On the surface, the controversy may seem a bit odd. Experts say that the number of X-rays from the United States now being read in India is minuscule and that regulatory restrictions are likely to keep it from growing rapidly. Moreover, most hospital jobs, unlike those in radiology, require close patient contact, so there is a limit to how much offshore outsourcing can be done.

Besides, employment in American health care has been growing. In the 12 months ended in August, the category added about 250,000 jobs while overall nonfarm payroll jobs shrank by nearly 500,000. Hospitals alone added about 70,000 jobs in that period.

Still, Dr. Saini's plan shows that even medical care, the most intimate and localized of services, is grappling with the globalization that has moved many jobs - first in manufacturing and more recently in white-collar work - across the ocean. And in health care, of course, there is more at stake than jobs. Dr. Courneya and other critics worry that radiologists outside the United States may not be trained properly, endangering patients' safety.…
For Middle Class, Health Insurance Becomes a Luxury:
"The majority of the uninsured are neither poor by official standards nor unemployed. They are accountants like Mr. Thornton, employees of small businesses, civil servants, single working mothers and those working part time or on contract.

'Now it's hitting people who look like you and me, dress like you and me, drive nice cars and live in nice houses but can't afford $1,000 a month for health insurance for their families,' said R. King Hillier, director of legislative relations for Harris County, which includes Houston.

Paying for health insurance is becoming a middle-class problem, and not just here. 'After paying for health insurance, you take home less than minimum wage,' says a poster in New York City subways sponsored by Working Today, a nonprofit agency that offers health insurance to independent contractors in New York. 'Welcome to middle-class poverty.' In Southern California, 70,000 supermarket workers have been on strike for five weeks over plans to cut their health benefits."

The insurance crisis is especially visible in Texas, which has the highest proportion of uninsured in the country — almost one in every four residents. The state has a large population of immigrants; its labor market is dominated by low-wage service sector jobs, and it has a higher than average number of small businesses, which are less likely to provide health benefits because they pay higher insurance costs than large companies.

State cuts to subsidies for health insurance to help close a $10 billion budget gap will cost the state $500 million in federal matching money and are expected to further spur the rise in uninsured. In September, for example, more than half a million children enrolled in a state- and federal-subsidized insurance program lost dental, vision and most mental care coverage, and some 169,000 children will lose all insurance by 2005.

"These were tough economic times that the legislature was dealing with, and the governor believed in setting the tone for the legislative session that the government must operate the way Texas families do and Texas businesses do and live within its means," said Kathy Walt, spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry.

She noted that the legislature raised spending on health and human services by $1 billion this year, and that lawmakers passed two bills intended to make it easier for small businesses to provide health insurance for their employees.

Those measures, however, will not help Theresa Pardo or other Texas residents like her who have to make tough choices about medical care they need but cannot afford.

Ms. Pardo, a 29-year-old from Houston, said that having no insurance meant choosing between buying an inhaler for her 9-year-old asthmatic daughter or buying her a birthday present. The girl, Morgan, lost her state-subsidized insurance last month, and now her mother must pay $80 instead of $5 for the inhaler.

Rent, car payments and insurance, day care and utilities cost Ms. Pardo more than $1,200 a month, leaving less than $200 for food, gas and other expenses. So even though her employer, the Harris County government, provides her with low-cost insurance, she cannot afford the $275 a month she would have to pay to add her daughter to her plan.…
For Middle Class, Health Insurance Becomes a Luxury:
"The majority of the uninsured are neither poor by official standards nor unemployed. They are accountants like Mr. Thornton, employees of small businesses, civil servants, single working mothers and those working part time or on contract.

'Now it's hitting people who look like you and me, dress like you and me, drive nice cars and live in nice houses but can't afford $1,000 a month for health insurance for their families,' said R. King Hillier, director of legislative relations for Harris County, which includes Houston.
Paying for health insurance is becoming a middle-class problem, and not just here. 'After paying for health insurance, you take home less than minimum wage,' says a poster in New York City subways sponsored by Working Today, a nonprofit agency that offers health insurance to independent contractors in New York. 'Welcome to middle-class poverty.' In Southern California, 70,000 supermarket workers have been on strike for five weeks over plans to cut their health benefits."
Witness: The New Iraq Is Grim, Hopeful and Still Scary:
"With no metal chaff or magnesium flares to fool missile guidance systems, the pilots on the 600-mile flight from Amman pray they will outwit attempts to shoot down the aircraft by keeping their spiral over populated areas of the city and a stretch of desert reaching northwest to the town of Abu Ghraib. Landing is a relief, still more so for a first encounter with the polite, American-trained Iraqi immigration officials who have replaced the thugs of Mr. Hussein's time who imposed compulsory AIDS tests and searched every bag for forbidden 'spying equipment' like satellite telephones."

Even the path of descent into the airport seemed a metaphor for a reporter who spent months before, during and after the American-led invasion in Baghdad, covering the last chapter of Mr. Hussein's rule and the first weeks of the American occupation.

Nothing was so grim in that compelling and often frightening passage as the events at the Abu Ghraib prison on Oct. 20, 2002. Mr. Hussein, seeking to counter President Bush's characterizations of him as a murdering tyrant, ordered 100,000 prisoners released from his prisons then, many of them from the vast, forbidding complex at Abu Ghraib.

The day turned into a parable of his terror, and, because of what some criminals released that day have done to support the violence now directed at the American occupation, a harbinger of much that followed. At the prison, emaciated men emerged into the sunlight after long years incarcerated, often for nothing more than whispering against Mr. Hussein; women in black cloaks fell to the ground in despair, appealing to Allah, when husbands, brothers and sons they hoped had survived proved to be gone forever.…
America's Gamble: A Quick Exit Plan for Iraq:
"The announcement of a firm date to create an interim Iraqi government and end the formal American occupation — though not the American military presence — promises the Iraqis the sovereignty they have clamored for, and offers President Bush the political symbol he needed: the beginnings of an exit strategy that he can explain to American voters."

But the price of a speedy transfer of power, Mr. Bush's own top aides worry, may be a rapid loss of control — control over the drafting of a constitution, and over the effort to make democracy flower in a land where it had never been cultivated. Now that Mr. Bush himself has redefined America's mission in Iraq — from disarming Saddam Hussein to creating "a free and democratic society" that will be a model for the rest of the Middle East — any plan that grants Iraq its sovereignty before it adopts full-fledged democracy risks derailing that grander mission.

"It's a gamble, a huge gamble," one of the most senior architects of Mr. Bush's campaign to oust Saddam Hussein conceded this week, after two days of meetings with L. Paul Bremer III, the head of the American-led occupation authority. "But it's easy to overestimate the degree of control we have over events now," the official said, "and to underestimate how much we will retain."

If the plan succeeds, Mr. Bush could declare an end the formal American occupation of Iraq by early summer, just as the presidential campaign heads into its final and decisive stretch.

But American officials expect that tens of thousands of allied troops will remain at the new government's "invitation," and nobody can predict whether they will still face a violent and deadly insurgency, possibly targeting Iraqi security forces as well. That would make it harder for Mr. Bush to describe the transfer of power to a new government, and the drawing down of American troops, as an unqualified success.

Aside from its continuing military presence — the United States will continue to flex its financial muscle as it doles out $20 billion in rebuilding aid and oversees billions more in private investments in the country.

But the combination of an intensifying insurgency and rapidly eroding Iraqi support for the American occupation left President Bush few options but to loosen his grip over the nation that he had conquered and is now trying to rebuild.

So in the past week, an administration that is loath to admit any doubts about the wisdom of its judgments basically rewrote its strategy.…
U.N. Officials Are Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop:
"``There may be a temptation to rub one's hands together and say, `Ha, ha! It's not working out the way Bush thought - we told you so!''' a senior United Nations administrator said this week. ``But, frankly, it's not good for anyone if the U.S. is defeated in Iraq.'' "

When United Nations officials speak of Iraq these days, any impulse to gloat is overwhelmed by frustration with the harsh realities of the situation in Iraq and sadness over the loss of 22 colleagues and visitors in the Aug. 19 bombing of their Baghdad headquarters.…

The Bush administration's decision this week to speed up the transfer of power to the Iraqis won evenhanded, public praise from Secretary General Kofi Annan, who had long championed a quicker restoration of Iraqi sovereignty.

But officials and diplomats here, while welcoming the policy change, warned privately against a rapid reduction of American military forces and said they feared that the United States would dump Iraq into the hands of the United Nations.

Mr. Annan has never been a proponent of a United Nations administration for Iraq, like in East Timor or Kosovo. Instead, he has said that the United Nations should help shepherd the transition under the authority of a sovereign, broad-based interim government and alongside a multinational security force led by the United States and endorsed by the Security Council.

But as the violence in Iraq worsens under the American occupation, the future participation of the United Nations in Iraq will remain highly uncertain, even doubtful, officials say.…

Saturday, November 15, 2003

400 Gone, And Still Counting

The Saturday Profile: Qaeda Pawn, U.S. Calls Him. Victim, He Calls Himself.:
"As Mr. Arar tells it, American officials detained him on circumstantial evidence during what was supposed to be a brief stopover at Kennedy Airport on Sept. 26, 2002. Within days, they packed him off to Syria where, he says, he was locked in squalor and tortured for nearly a year. Though he holds dual Canadian and Syrian citizenship, he had not lived in Syria for 16 years.

'After what happened, I started asking myself questions,' Mr. Arar, 33, said in a calm voice in an interview in his living room. 'How can a country like the United States send me to a country where they know torture is commonplace, where they know there is no law?'"

His story has proved deeply embarrassing to American officials, even if they continue to insist, privately, that Mr. Arar is not just the mild-mannered computer consultant he seems, but a man with ties to a probable cell of Al Qaeda in Canada, though he has never been charged with a thing.

Whatever the truth, Mr. Arar's soft, steady voice has touched the conscience of Canada and raised disturbing questions about whether Washington's pursuit of terror suspects has trampled judicial due process, or swept up guiltless bystanders.

In his short time home, Mr. Arar's sad, bearded face has become a staple of Canadian television news shows. He has been the subject of newspaper editorials and angry debate in the House of Commons, whose foreign affairs committee called for a public investigation.

Today Mr. Arar appears a determined but shattered man. He says his limp comes from almost a year of beatings and sleeping on a cold tile floor. Though he lost 40 pounds, he has little appetite. He still paces his living room, a habit he picked up in his tiny cell.

At night, he wakes from nightmares in which a guard slaps him and tells him he must return to Syria. In the day, his mind wanders to a world so distant he does not hear his wife, Monia, pleading for him to return.

Bush administration officials concede that the entire episode has been a public relations disaster. "The damage has been done," one official said. "We need to say something because `Arar' is going to become shorthand for excess in the name of security, running roughshod over the rule of law."

While the administration has yet to make its case publicly, American officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said the evidence was strong that Mr. Arar had associated with suspected Islamic militants over a long period in Canada. They say he confessed under torture in Syria that he had gone to Afghanistan for terrorist training, named his instructors and gave other intimate details.

In the interview, Mr. Arar said that he would have said anything to stop his beatings, so intense that he urinated on himself twice, and that he had never been to Afghanistan or Syria or anywhere nearby since he came with his family to Montreal at 17.

At least part of the evidence against him, he said, was a 1997 apartment lease that was witnessed and signed by Abdullah Almalki, another Syrian-Canadian immigrant suspected of having terrorist links.

American officials, Mr. Arar said, showed him a copy of the lease at the airport, where he was to make a connecting flight on his way home from a vacation in Tunisia, his wife's family home. His answer, he said, was that he had wanted Mr. Almalki's brother to sign, but that he had not been available.

He said his request for a lawyer was ignored. Taken to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, he said, he was strip-searched and given an injection that prison officials refused to identify.…

Friday, November 14, 2003

Air Raid Sends Iraqis Message, but What Is It?:
"After the start of a well-publicized offensive against Iraqi insurgents, American commanders said Thursday that they were intent on sending the rebels 'a message.'

But here at the site of one of the operation's primary targets, local Iraqis said they were uncertain what that message was supposed to be."

On the southern edge of the capital, a large building that American commanders said was a "meeting, planning, storage and rendezvous point" for the insurgents still stood, despite the military's claim that it had been destroyed in an airstrike the night before.

American soldiers came to the neighborhood several hours before the attack, local residents said, warning of the impending strike and making sure that everyone in the area was evacuated. Then an American AC-130 gunship strafed the building, knocking holes in the walls and wrecking much of the textile machinery arrayed inside.

After the strike, the Americans came back but detained no suspects, not even the owner of the building, and found no weapons.

The owner, Waad Dakhil Bolane, who said the Americans had warned his guards of the impending air raid, shook his head in befuddlement.

"Does this look like a military base to you?" he asked, standing inside his factory, which was still filled with textile machinery. "The Americans came here, told the guards to leave and then attacked. I don't understand."

American commanders, who have been threatening for days to crack down on the Iraqi insurgents, said later that they were certain that the building had been used to fire mortars at American soldiers. One local Iraqi man seemed to confirm this. Told by a visitor that he intended to visit the factory, the man, Dervish Mohammad, waved his hand in warning. "Look out," he said, "there are bad people in there."

But the commanders conceded that their primary aim had been to impress the guerrillas as much as to kill them.

"We were sending a message," an allied official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The message is, `We're coming.' "

In recent weeks military commanders have seemed to be judiciously choosing targets that provide relatively benign opportunities to remind Iraqis of the firepower they have at their disposal.…
Op-Ed Contributor: The Sabotage of Democracy:
"The hastily called conference at the White House involving America's top man in Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer, clearly revealed that the Bush administration knows its program in Iraq is failing. The 'Iraqification' of the security forces has not dimmed the rate or deadliness of attacks against coalition troops; the Iraqi Governing Council has willfully stalled the process of drafting a new constitution; a new American intelligence report leaked to the press indicates that Iraqis are increasingly angry with the American presence. "

The administration is now going to grant the Governing Council's wish: it will become more or less an autonomous provisional government. In return, the council has promised to set a timetable for drafting a constitution and holding democratic national elections (although, oddly, the question of which will come first remains up in the air). This new approach, the White House hopes, will make Iraqis feel more responsible for their own fate, and thus more willing to take over security from coalition forces. In sum, the administration that waged a war for democracy now wants an exit strategy that is not at all dependent upon Iraq's democratic progress.

In fact, the administration's efforts to improve internal security and midwife democracy are now seriously at odds. Where once American officials were sensitive to the need to have political reconstruction precede the re-establishment of a small Iraqi army, they are now rushing Iraqis into uniform, showing no concern about the long history of overgrown security and military forces running roughshod over the country's parliaments and civil traditions.

Worse, the administration remains convinced that the democratic participation of the Iraqi people in a constitutional assembly would be counterproductive. Senior officials in Washington and in the Coalition Provisional Authority have warned that a new constitution should be the product of a small unelected committee. Introducing democracy now, they feel, would undermine the focus of the Coalition Authority and the Governing Council, whose members would naturally be consumed by elections and constitutional deliberations. Quick democracy might also empower illiberal, anti-American forces among the Shiites — who, given their majority status in the population, could possibly dominate a constitutional convention.…
con·cept: November 2003