Saturday, July 31, 2004

The New York Times > National > Office Finds Disk Holding Voting Data From 2002

The New York Times > National > Office Finds Disk Holding Voting Data From 2002:
"Ms. Kaplan said that the loss of the data did not affect the tabulation of results in the race between Bill McBride and Janet Reno, the two Democratic candidates for governor in the 2002 primary. The electronic voting records on touch-screen machines are a back-up measure listing everything that happens from boot-up to shutdown, documenting in an 'event log' when every ballot was cast.

The records also include 'vote image reports' that show for whom each ballot was cast. But the state recently prohibited the use of this data for recounts, saying that touch-screen machines do not allow for human error.

Ms. Kaplan said one computer crash occurred when office employees rearranged the tabulation room without properly powering down the computer network first. Since then, she said, the office has begun backing up data daily on external tapes.

The reappearance of the records seemed to provide little comfort to the county commissioners"

One commissioner, Betty Ferguson, asked why the elections office publicly acknowledged problems only after citizens groups or reporters discovered them. The Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition, the same group that uncovered the loss of the 2002 records, also discovered through a public-records request this spring that the audit log functions in Miami-Dade's touch-screen machines were flawed.

Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, chairwoman of the election reform coalition, questioned why the office had not used the audit data to investigate complaints of lost votes in 2002. A study by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida found that 8 percent of votes, or 1,544, appeared to have been lost on touch-screen machines in 31 precincts in Miami-Dade County.

The New York Times > Washington > New Fight on Guantánamo Rights

The New York Times > Washington > New Fight on Guantánamo Rights:
"The Justice Department said in a federal court filing on Friday that prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, who were seeking to file petitions challenging their detentions were not entitled to access to their lawyers to do so.

The department said the prisoners were not entitled to see their lawyers because they were foreigners held outside the jurisdiction of the United States. "

The government's 30-page brief argues that despite the 6-to-3 Supreme Court ruling on June 28 that said Guantánamo prisoners could challenge their detentions in federal courts, the prisoners still do not enjoy the rights provided by the Constitution.

"As aliens detained by the military outside the sovereign territory of the United States and lacking a sufficient connection to the country, petitioners have no cognizable constitutional rights," the brief said.…

The filing conveys the strong suggestion that despite the Supreme Court's ruling that prisoners should be allowed to file habeas corpus petitions challenging their detentions, the Bush administration remains committed to retaining as much control as possible over the detainees.

Friday, July 30, 2004

The New York Times > Homeland Security Given Data on Arab-Americans

The New York Times > Washington > Homeland Security Given Data on Arab-Americans:
"The Census Bureau has provided specially tabulated population statistics on Arab-Americans to the Department of Homeland Security, including detailed information on how many people of Arab backgrounds live in certain ZIP codes.

The assistance is legal, but civil liberties groups and Arab-American advocacy organizations say it is a dangerous breach of public trust and liken it to the Census Bureau's compilation of similar information about Japanese-Americans during World War II.

The tabulations were produced in August 2002 and December 2003 in response to requests from what is now the Customs and Border Protection division of the Department of Homeland Security. One set listed cities with more than 1,000 Arab-Americans. The second, far more detailed, provided ZIP-code-level breakdowns of Arab-American populations, sorted by country of origin. The categories provided were Egyptian, Iraqi, Jordanian, Lebanese, Moroccan, Palestinian, Syrian and two general categories, 'Arab/Arabic' and 'Other Arab.'…"

Census tabulations of specialized data are legal as long as they do not identify any individual.

Christiana Halsey, a spokeswoman for Customs and Border Protection, said the requests were made to help the agency identify in which airports to post signs and pamphlets in Arabic. "The information is not in any way being used for law enforcement purposes," she said. "It's being used to educate the traveler. We're simply using basic demographic information to help us communicate U.S. laws and regulations to the traveling public."

But critics of the information sharing said general demographic snapshots could be derived without such detailed information and that the ZIP-code-level data with its breakdowns of ancestral origin seemed particularly excessive because for all of the groups only English or Arabic need be used.

"The real question is to Homeland Security," said Samia El-Badry, an Arab-American member of the Census Bureau's decennial census advisory committee. "What are they hiding? Why do they need this?"

James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, said the data sharing was particularly harmful at a time when the Census Bureau is struggling to build trust within Arab-American communities. "As this gets out, any effort to encourage people to full compliance with the census is down the tubes," Mr. Zogby said. "How can you get people to comply when they believe that by complying they put at risk their personal and family security?"

In 2000, the bureau issued a formal apology for allowing its statistical data to be used to round up Japanese-Americans for internment during World War II.

Are P2P networks leaking military secrets? - News - ZDNet

Are P2P networks leaking military secrets? - News - ZDNet:
"A new Web log is posting what it purports are pictures, documents and letters from U.S. soldiers and military bases in Iraq and elsewhere--all of which the site's operator claims to have downloaded from peer-to-peer networks such as Gnutella.

The 'See What You Share': site has been online for a week and has published photos ranging from a crashed military jet to a screenshot of a spreadsheet file that appears to include names, addresses and telephone numbers of Marines.

The site's operator, a 30-year-old named Rick Wallace, wrote in a blog posting that he is trying to help the military understand how serious a security risk unmonitored peer-to-peer file sharing can be. CNET could not independently verify the authenticity of the documents posted on the site. "

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Transcripts and Video: by Speaker - 2004 Democratic National Convention Official Site

Transcripts and Video: View All by Speaker - 2004 Democratic National Convention Official Site:
"Roberta Achtenberg
David Alston
Rep. Tammy Baldwin
Senator Barbara Boxer
Marcia Bristo
Tom Carper
President Jimmy Carter
Elizabeth Cavendish
President Bill Clinton
Senator Hillary Clinton
Senator John Corzine
Howard Dean
Dianna DeGette
Rep. Rosa DeLauro
Rep. John Dingell
Gloria Feldt of Planned Parenthood
Shirley Franklin
Rep. Richard Gephardt
Vice-President Al Gore
Teresa Heinz Kerry"

Podium Videos - Tuesday - 2004 Democratic National Convention Official Site

Podium Videos - Tuesday - 2004 Democratic National Convention Official Site:
"Day 3: A Stronger More Secure America
State Senator Barack Obama"

Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation, not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy. Our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

That is the true genius of America, a faith in the simple dreams of its people, the insistence on small miracles. That we can tuck in our children at night and know they are fed and clothed and safe from harm. That we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door. That we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe or hiring somebody’s son. That we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution, and that our votes will be counted—or at least, most of the time.

This year, in this election, we are called to reaffirm our values and commitments, to hold them against a hard reality and see how we are measuring up, to the legacy of our forbearers, and the promise of future generations. And fellow Americans—Democrats, Republicans, Independents—I say to you tonight: we have more work to do.…

New York Times > Washington Letter: World Bank Challenged: Are Poor Really Helped?

The New York Times > International > Letter From Washington: World Bank Challenged: Are Poor Really Helped?:
"Wealthy nations and international organizations, including the World Bank, spend more than $55 billion annually to better the lot of the world's 2.7 billion poor people. Yet they have scant evidence that the myriad projects they finance have made any real difference, many economists say.

That important fact has left some critics of the World Bank, the largest financier of antipoverty programs in developing countries, dissatisfied, and they have begun throwing down an essential challenge. It is not enough, they say, just to measure how many miles of roads are built, schools constructed or microcredit loans provided. You must also measure whether those investments actually help poor people live longer, more prosperous lives. "

It is a common-sense approach that is harder than it sounds, just like the question it seeks to answer: Does aid really work?

Sunday, July 25, 2004

The New York Times > RICHARD A. CLARKE: Honorable Commission, Toothless Report

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: Honorable Commission, Toothless Report:
"Among the obvious truths that were documented but unarticulated were the facts that the Bush administration did little on terrorism before 9/11, and that by invading Iraq the administration has left us less safe as a nation. (Fortunately, opinion polls show that the majority of Americans have already come to these conclusions on their own. )

What the commissioners did clearly state was that Iraq had no collaborative relationship with Al Qaeda and no hand in 9/11. They also disclosed that Iran provided support to Al Qaeda, including to some 9/11 hijackers. These two facts may cause many people to conclude that the Bush administration focused on the wrong country. They would be right to think that.

So what now? News coverage of the commission's recommendations has focused on the organizational improvements: a new cabinet-level national intelligence director and a new National Counterterrorism Center to ensure that our 15 or so intelligence agencies play well together. Both are good ideas, but they are purely incremental. Had these changes been made six years ago, they would not have significantly altered the way we dealt with Al Qaeda; they certainly would not have prevented 9/11. Putting these recommendations in place will marginally improve our ability to crush the new, decentralized Al Qaeda, but there are other changes that would help more. "

The New York Times > Guest Columnist BARBARA EHRENREICH: Wal-Mars Invades Earth

The New York Times > Opinion > Guest Columnist: Wal-Mars Invades Earth:
"Wal-Mart is frequently lauded for bringing consumerism to the masses, but more than half of its own 'associates,' as the employees are euphemistically termed, cannot afford the company's health insurance, never mind its Faded Glory jeans. With hourly wages declining throughout the economy, Wal-Mart - the nation's largest employer - is already seeing its sales go soft. "

In my own brief stint at the company in 2000, I worked with a woman for whom a $7 Wal-Mart polo shirt, of the kind we had been ordered to wear, was an impossible dream: It took us an hour to earn that much. Some stores encourage their employees to apply for food stamps and welfare; many take second jobs. Critics point out that Wal-Mart has consumed $1 billion in public subsidies, but that doesn't count the government expenditures required to keep its associates alive. Apparently the Wal-Martians, before landing, failed to check on the biological requirements for human life.

But a creature afflicted with the appetite of a starved hyena doesn't have time for niceties. Wal-Mart is facing class-action suits for sex discrimination and nonpayment for overtime work (meaning no payment at all), as well as accusations that employees have been locked into stores overnight, unable to get help even in medical emergencies. These are the kinds of conditions we associate with third world sweatshops, and in fact Wal-Mart fails at least five out of 10 criteria set by the Worker Rights Consortium, which monitors universities' sources of logoed apparel - making it the world's largest sweatshop.

In a Shift, Bush Moves to Block Medical Suits

The New York Times > Washington > In a Shift, Bush Moves to Block Medical Suits:
"Patients and their families said they felt betrayed.

Kimberley K. Witczakof Minneapolis said her husband, Timothy, 37, committed suicide last year after taking the antidepressant drug Zoloft for five weeks. 'I do not believe in frivolous lawsuits,' Ms. Witczak said, 'but it's ridiculous that the government is filing legal briefs on the side of drug companies when it's supposed to be protecting the public. My husband would be alive today if he had received adequate warnings about the risk of self-harm.' Ms. Witczak sued Pfizer, the maker of Zoloft, in May. The government has not intervened in her case.

Thomas W. Woodward of North Wales, Pa., whose 17-year-old daughter committed suicide last year after taking Zoloft for a week, said, 'I've been sickened to see the government taking the side of pharmaceutical companies in court.' Mr. Woodward has not filed a suit.

Mr. Hinchey said that F.D.A. lawyers, led by the agency's chief counsel, Daniel E. Troy, had 'repeatedly interceded in civil suits on behalf of drug and medical device manufacturers.'"

Ms. Witczak, Mr. Woodward and Mr. Hinchey said Mr. Troy had a potential conflict of interest because Pfizer was one of his clients when he was a lawyer in private practice.

Mr. Troy refused to discuss the agency's legal arguments or the criticism of his role. Dr. Lester M. Crawford, the acting commissioner of food and drugs, said Mr. Troy had "complied with the ethical requirement to recuse himself from any matter involving a past client for a year" after he joined the government in August 2001.

In its court filings, the Bush administration argues that private lawsuits threaten to disrupt a comprehensive nationwide system of drug regulation, and that federal standards pre-empt requirements established by state judges and legislators. In effect, the administration says, if a local judge or jury finds that a drug or device is unsafe, it is in direct conflict with the conclusion reached by the F.D.A. after years of rigorous testing and evaluation.

Five of Mr. Troy's predecessors sent a letter to Congress dated July 15 endorsing his position. The government occasionally filed such briefs in the last 25 years, they said, but "there is a greater need for F.D.A. intervention today because plaintiffs are intruding more heavily on F.D.A.'s primary jurisdiction than ever before."

Some judges and legal experts disagree. Erwin Chemerinsky,a constitutional scholar at the University of Southern California Law School, said, "The Supreme Court has expressly ruled that F.D.A. regulation does not pre-empt state law and local regulation" in all cases.

In a Tennessee case involving a cardiac pacemaker, the Bush administration told a state trial court, "It is inappropriate for a jury to second-guess F.D.A.'s scientific judgment on a matter that is within F.D.A.'s particular expertise."

Saturday, July 24, 2004

America's Amnesia Matthew Rothschild July 2004 Issue

America's Amnesia Matthew Rothschild July 2004 Issue:
"When Veronica de Negri first saw the pictures from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, she happened to be writing her testimony for the Chilean commission investigating human rights abuses during the regime of Augusto Pinochet.

'That kind of abuse was what I lived in Chile under Pinochet,' says de Negri, who came to the United States twenty-seven years ago. Even the vocabulary carried an echo. 'They told us, too, they were trying to soften us up.'

De Negri was detained in 1976. 'I was beaten up. I had electroshock,' she says. 'I was raped not just by the torturers but with a mouse. It's very repulsive. Imagination cannot reach the reality.'

She recognizes that 'the torturers in my case were Chilean,' but she blames Washington for helping to overthrow Salvador Allende in 1973, for supporting Pinochet, and for training Chilean torturers. De Negri left Chile with her family in 1977, but her son Rodrigo Rojas went back almost a decade later. 'He was participating in a national strike on July 2, 1986, when he was arrested, badly beaten, and set on fire and burned alive by Pinochet's forces,' she says.

Americans are 'very naïve,' she says. 'They don't want to see' the involvement of the United States in torture over the years. The Abu Ghraib scandal 'is nothing new,' she says. 'This has been happening behind your eyes for many years.'"

Friday, July 23, 2004

The New York Times > Op-Ed Contributor: More Jobs, Worse Work

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: More Jobs, Worse Work:
"The state of the American labor market remains the defining issue of the current economic debate. Through February, the United States was mired in the depths of the worst jobless recovery of the post-World War II era. Now, there are signs the magic may be back. More than a million jobs have been added to total nonfarm payrolls over the past four months, the sharpest increase since early 2000.

These gains certainly compare favorably with the net loss of 594,000 jobs in the first 27 months of this recovery. But there's little cause for celebration: the increases barely make a dent in the weakest hiring cycle in modern history. From the trough of the last recession in November 2001 through last month, private sector payrolls have risen a paltry 0.2 percent. This stands in contrast to the nearly 7.5 percent increase recorded, on average, over the comparable 31-month interval of the six preceding recoveries.

Nor is there much reason to celebrate the type of jobs that have been created over the past four months. In general, they have been at the lower end of the economic spectrum.

By industry, the leading sources of hiring turn out to be restaurants, temporary hiring agencies and building services. These three categories, which make up only 9.7 percent of total nonfarm payrolls, accounted for 25 percent of the cumulative growth in overall hiring from March to June. Hiring has also accelerated at clothing stores, courier services, hotels, grocery stores, trucking businesses, hospitals, social work agencies, business support companies and providers of personal and laundry services. This group, which makes up 12 percent of the nonfarm work force, accounted for 19 percent of the total growth in business payrolls over the past four months.

That's not to say there hasn't been any improvement at the upper end of the labor market, with the construction industry leading the way. At the same time, there has been increased hiring in several of the higher-end professions: there is more demand for lawyers, architects, engineers, computer scientists and bankers. Manufacturing, however, has continued to lag.

Putting these pieces together, there can be no mistaking the unusual bifurcation of the recent improvement in the American labor market. Lower-end industries, which employ 22 percent of the work force, accounted for 44 percent of new hiring from March to June. Higher-end industries, which make up 24 percent of overall employment, accounted for 29 percent of total job growth over the past four months.

In short, jobs are growing at both ends of the spectrum, but the low-paying jobs are growing much more quickly. The contribution of low-end industries to the recent pick-up in hiring has been almost double the share attributable to high-end industries.

An equally dramatic picture emerges from the survey of American households. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the total count of persons at work part time - both for economic and non-economic reasons - increased by 495,000 from March to June. That amounts to an astonishing 97 percent of the cumulative increase of the total growth in employment measured by the household survey over this period. By this measure, as the hiring dynamic has shifted gears in recent months, the bulk of the benefits have all but escaped America's full-time work force.

Finally, the occupational breakdown of the American labor market, as also sampled by the survey of households, provides yet another facet of the character of the recent hiring upturn. It turns out that fully 81 percent of total job growth over the past year was concentrated in low-end occupations in transportation and material moving, sales and repair and maintenance services. At the upper end of the occupational hierarchy, increases in construction and professional jobs were partly offset by sharp declines in the numbers of production workers, who mainly toil in manufacturing plants.

Consequently, from three different vantage points - employment breakdowns by industry, by occupation and by degree of attachment - the same basic picture emerges: While there has been an increase in job creation over the past four months - an unusually belated and anemic spurt by historical standards - the bulk of the activity has been at the low end of the quality spectrum. The Great American Job Machine is not even close to generating the surge of the high-powered jobs that is typically the driving force behind greater incomes and consumer demand."

Thursday, July 22, 2004

What's Next: For Doctored Photos, a New Flavor of Digital Truth Serum

The New York Times > Technology > Circuits > What's Next: For Doctored Photos, a New Flavor of Digital Truth Serum:
"'It used to be that you had a photograph, and that was the end of it - that was truth,' said Hany Farid, an associate professor of computer science at Dartmouth College who is a leader in the field. 'We're trying to bring some of that back. To put some measure of guarantee back in photography.'

At stake is more than the fate of possible child pornographers. The United States military has become increasingly reliant on digital images from drones and satellites to give soldiers a sense of the battlefield. Law enforcement officers routinely use digital cameras to photograph crime scenes. Newspapers and magazines are now dependent on digital photographs that can be easily doctored.

Over the last three years, Professor Farid and his students have become experts at forgery, making hundreds of images that look authentic but have in fact been digitally tweaked. License plate numbers are changed. A single stool standing on a checkerboard floor is suddenly a pair of stools. Dents on a car are wiped away with a few mouse clicks.

The skillful tampering disturbed the images in ways that the human eye could not detect. But Professor Farid says his algorithms can spot them and sound the alarm."

For example, when two images are spliced together - like the picture of a shark attacking a helicopter that has circulated around the Internet in the past few years - one or both of the original pictures usually has to be shrunk, enlarged or rotated to make the pieces fit together. And those changes, no matter how artful, leave clues behind.

Take a picture that is 10 pixels by 10 pixels, for a total of 100. Stretch it to 10 by 20 pixels, and image-editing software like Adobe Photoshop will assign the picture's original pixels to every other slot in the new picture. That leaves 100 pixels "blank," or without values. Image-editing software fills in the gaps by examining what their neighbors look like, and then applying an average. To oversimplify, if pixel A is blue, and pixel C is red, the blank pixel B will become purple.

This kind of averaging becomes "pretty obvious" after some analysis of the image, Professor Farid said.

In tests on several hundred doctored photos, this technique for detecting changes proved to be virtually foolproof if the picture quality was high enough. Uncompressed TIFF image files, which contain enormous amounts of data, were like an open book to Professor Farid's team.

But Professor Farid said that for now the technique does not work as well with files created in JPEG, the compressed picture format most commonly used online.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Keep Your Kids Safe

Keep Your Kids Safe:
"In September 2003, 53-year-old John Zuccarini was arrested at a Florida hotel and, after admitting to his crimes in a plea bargain, became the first person convicted under the national Truth in Domain Names Act. The crime: According to the United States Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York, Zuccarini registered and used more than 3,000 misleading domain names, many of which directed children to hard-core porn sites and graphic depictions of young people engaged in sex acts. The domains included www and—both misspellings of the addresses for popular children's TV shows.

Porn is just one of many issues parents should be concerned about when their kids go online. Problems could be as dangerous as encountering a predator in a chat room, as common as sharing music and software illegally via peer-to-peer file-sharing services, or as simple as spending far too much time playing games and chatting with friends.

Recent market research suggests that many parents consider online chatting more dangerous than Web surfing. Last year, Microsoft's MSN service shut down its chat rooms in 28 countries partly because of concerns about sexual predators preying on minors. And in a study published by Harris Interactive in November 2003, 24 percent of 550 U.S. teens surveyed said they had been contacted online by a stranger who tried to arrange an off-line meeting.

Meanwhile, the amount of time kids spend online is just as important an issue. A November study performed by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that almost 70 percent of young users say they would find it "very hard to give up" the Internet, compared with only 48 percent who said the same about television. Computers have become a hub for social activity. And for the most part, it is an unsupervised environment. Many parents go to sleep every night convinced that their kids are sleeping too, while some of the kids are actually chatting online with friends and strangers. And not surprisingly, some kids are also chatting when they should be doing homework.

The Internet has so much good to offer, however, that you can't just take your kids' access away permanently. It's a great educational resource and an essential form of communication today. And the more your kids learn about using the Internet now, the better prepared they'll be for using it in the future.

Parents need to protect their kids online. Just as they want some control over where their kids go and whom they talk to in real life, parents need to establish some rules on where they go and whom they talk to online. Which strategy is best for your needs is your decision. The good news is that the products on the market offer a variety of approaches, so finding the right solution shouldn't be too difficult.",1759,1620643,00.asp

Chicago Tribune | Omnibus tax bill indulges lobbyists

Chicago Tribune | Omnibus tax bill indulges lobbyists:
"Congress is on the verge of turning a small tax bill, designed to undo a single corporate subsidy, into a sprawling package of special tax breaks that is leaving reformers and tax-fairness advocates appalled.

The House and Senate have approved differing versions of the legislation, but both share a long list of special-interest tax provisions pushed by Washington's powerful corporate lobbyists.

There are tax breaks for, among others, bow-and-arrow makers, Oldsmobile dealers, NASCAR racetrack owners and producers of fishing-tackle boxes and sonar fish-finders--not to mention a $12 billion buyout for tobacco farmers.

Land developers, ranchers, small-airplane manufacturers, commodity traders and distillers also would benefit from various tax provisions, as would makers of ceiling fans.…"

All this began when the World Trade Organization two years ago ruled illegal a $5 billion U.S. export subsidy for American businesses, granted through creation of so-called foreign sales corporations. In retaliation, Europeans began imposing tariffs on U.S. goods this year.

While the Bush administration supports a repeal of the subsidy to comply with WTO rules, it held its fire as Congress went on a spree of approving corporate tax breaks that in most cases would offset the subsidies U.S. companies would lose.

The ease with which many of the provisions went through both houses not only proved discouraging to tax reformers but also illustrated what they called a lack of fiscal discipline in Washington and a willingness to shred the tax system with new corporate preferences. The Senate approved the bill by voice vote, so no one will know how senators lined up on final passage.

A variety of beneficiaries

Among the beneficiaries are whaling captains recognized by the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, who could claim a charitable income tax deduction of up to $10,500 for expenses supporting Native Alaskan subsistence whaling.

The Senate bill would exclude from U.S. taxation the winnings of foreigners who bet on dog and horse races in the U.S. The House bill would ensure that those who exercise stock options would not have to pay withholding taxes.

To many tax reformers, the bills represent a classic "Christmas tree" of tax breaks that shows who has the real clout in Washington--lobbyists. The tax code has been riddled with new loopholes since it was last reformed, in 1986, when Ronald Reagan was in the White House. Now there likely will be many more.

The multinational-company tax break, with GE as the biggest beneficiary, would reverse provisions in the 1986 tax reform that limited how much large companies could offset U.S. taxes with taxes paid to foreign governments on their overseas earnings.…

The business-tax breaks in the House bill exceed $90 billion, and in the Senate version they amount to almost $170 billion, though much of this would be offset by tightening up on some tax shelters and using a portion of federal gasoline tax revenues.

Both measures would reduce the corporate income tax by 10 percent for manufacturing companies. But the definition of manufacturing would be broadened to include movie production, farming and software production. Small businesses that make less than $20 million a year in profits also would see a cut in corporate taxes.

Daniel Mitchell, a tax expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation, was so outraged by the special-interest tax breaks that he wrote in a report saying Congress should junk them all and "instead reduce the corporate tax rate."

There seems little chance of that.,1,5460134.story?coll=chi-newsnationworld-hed

Monday, July 19, 2004

Opposition Grows to Paperless Voting

Opposition Grows to Paperless Voting:
"Voters took to the streets in 19 states last week to protest paperless electronic voting machines. In the coast-to-coast 'Computer Ate My Vote' rallies, citizens showed what activists say could become widespread dissent against nonverifiable ballots if this year's presidential election becomes another close call.

The crowds mobilized last week were not Luddites looking to thwart progress; most were civil rights advocates and technology professionals, including computer scientists from some of the country's most prestigious institutions. Their concern is that the rush to make voting more user-friendly has made the process less secure and reliable.

The growing movement to secure election paper trails has captured the attention of lawmakers and policy-makers. Congress is belatedly holding hearings this month on VVPAT (voter-verifiable paper audit trail) legislation that has been pending for more than a year. While it is almost certainly too late to make changes for this year's election, momentum is surging to ensure that voters will have VVPAT options by the 2006 elections."

The main problem with paperless, touch-screen voting machines (also called direct recording election, or DRE, machines), computer scientists say, is that there is no way to conduct a recount. Even if some of the machines had not been found in recent analyses to be vulnerable to simple attacks—as the AccuVote-TS Ballot Station made by Diebold Inc., based in North Canton, Ohio, was found to be last summer—there is no way, without a verifiable paper ballot, to ensure votes are recorded accurately.,1759,1624631,00.asp?kc=ewnws071904dtx1k0000599

Sunday, July 18, 2004

The New York Times Magazine > The Maimed

The New York Times Magazine > The Maimed:
"One of the more shaming paradoxes of war and terrorism is that it seems easier to honor the dead than to acknowledge the wounded. Newspapers print the names of the dead, names that eventually make their way onto memorials -- cold comfort though it may be to those that loved the dead and ache for them. But the wounded -- at least the civilian wounded, who are shown here -- are listed by number, and there is not even any public tally of who has suffered some passing injury and who has lost a kidney, who has been blinded, who has lost a limb.

As of June 23, according to the United Nations, 3,437 Palestinians have been killed in the uprising that began in late September 2000, while 33,776 have been wounded. The Israeli Magen David Adom emergency service reports that as of July 1 it has taken care of 864 dead, most of them killed by terrorists. (The figure does not include the many soldiers either evacuated for burial or treated by the Israeli Defense Forces.) Of the 6,399 Israeli wounded, Magen David Adom estimates that 556 have been severely injured. "

Anyone who has spent time in Israel and Palestine knows all too well how commonplace the maimed have become in the streets of Jerusalem, Haifa, Ramallah or Nablus. Yet even there, the dead take pride of place. The stock image of the aftermath of a terrorist incident is of members of ZAKA, an Orthodox Jewish group combing the site for body parts. On the Palestinian side, the image endlessly repeated on television and wall posters is of the shaheed, the martyr -- usually a suicide bomber in a heroic pose, armed to the teeth in front of a picture of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

Those images may tell us a great deal about faith or about politics, but they tell us nothing about what it is to be maimed. Perhaps that is to be expected: it is easy to romanticize death and almost impossible to make an ideological fable out of having one's legs blown off or one's face burned.

The New York Times > Week in Review > Israel's Wall: Giving Up on Peace

The New York Times > Week in Review > Israel's Wall: Building for Calm by Giving Up on Peace:
"Inside the 'War Room,' as it is informally called, Israeli soldiers gaze at banks of computer and television screens. What they see are images of the wall or fence or barrier - it is all these things in different places - that is transforming the physical and mental landscape of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Their job is to stop anyone crossing the barrier and so make Israel safer.

An officer shows off the gadgetry: night-vision cameras trained 24 hours a day on a barrier loaded with electronic gizmos that signal the precise location of anyone who touches it, ensuring that Israeli forces reach the area within two to eight minutes to stop the sort of infiltration of Palestinian suicide bombers that brought nearly 100 Israeli deaths in March 2002 alone.

The barrier, destined to run over 430 miles, from the northern West Bank to its southern rim, with numerous protrusions into the area, has become an article of faith for these soldiers and officers. It is an effective tool, they say, not a political statement. Projected to cost well over $1 billion, it works and must be completed.…"

So when the International Court of Justice in The Hague rules that the barrier is illegal, or when Israel's Supreme Court says its planned path must be changed, many Israelis shrug. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's insistence that the barrier is necessary for self-defense finds a generally sympathetic domestic reception.

Opinions diverge on the reasons for the precipitous fall in Palestinian bombings this year. Is the intifada exhausted after almost four years? Was Yasir Arafat cowed by the Israeli killing of Hamas leaders? Did the removal of those leaders throw Palestinian militants into disarray? Have the ceaseless patrols by more than 12,000 Israeli soldiers in the West Bank blocked attacks?

Perhaps each theory has its share of truth. But whoever espouses these ideas also tends to see the barrier as an effective, additional guarantee of some semblance of normal life in Israel. Sure, the price is high - the defeat of hope - but so be it.

What often seems to be missing from these Israeli musings is any grasp of the life of the Palestinians on the other side of the barrier. On those war-room screens the most common sight is a Palestinian in a donkey cart trundling along a dirt track. The contrast between the high-tech Israeli cameras that deliver these images and the abject existence of the Palestinians photographed provides an apt summation of the divergence of the societies: a first-world Israel forging ahead as best it can, a third-world Palestinian society going backward.

To move through the West Bank today is to witness the growth of parallel networks. Israelis drive on highways to settlements spreading like garrisons on hills. Palestinians are increasingly confined to dirt tracks beside these roads.

Nowhere is this separation more evident than between Qalqilya and the adjacent West Bank town of Hable. After building the fence around three sides of the towns, the Israeli authorities realized that the two places depended on each other. So now the army is building tunnels under the fence, to be used by Palestinians.

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Machine at Work

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Machine at Work: "From a business point of view, Enron is a smoking ruin. But there's important evidence in the rubble. If Enron hadn't collapsed, we might still have only circumstantial evidence that energy companies artificially drove up prices during California's electricity crisis. Because of that collapse, we have direct evidence in the form of the now-infamous Enron tapes — although the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Justice Department tried to prevent their release. Now, e-mail and other Enron documents are revealing why Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, is one of the most powerful men in America."

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Chicago Tribune | FBI sought to fire complaining agent: Memo describes retaliation plan

Chicago Tribune | FBI sought to fire complaining agent:
"A Chicago FBI agent who has complained to the media and Congress that the bureau bungled terrorism investigations had been targeted for firing by supervisors who vowed to 'take him out,' according to a memo written by a former high-ranking official in the FBI's disciplinary office.

The FBI opened an internal investigation against Agent Robert G. Wright Jr. in 2003 just days after his appearance at a news conference and on a national television news program, according to the memo obtained by the Tribune.

The top two agents in the FBI's disciplinary office at the time, Robert J. Jordan and J.P. 'Jody' Weis, ordered an investigation into Wright for insubordination and had already made up their minds to have him fired, according to the memo."

The memo, written by John Roberts when he was third in command of the Office of Professional Responsibility, questioned how often supervisors misused the disciplinary process to silence employees critical of the FBI.

Roberts could not be reached Monday for comment, but his lawyer, Stephen Kohn, said the memo's point is clear. "The FBI uses its Office of Professional Responsibility to retaliate against whistleblowers," Kohn said.

Wright, an agent since 1990, would not comment. He has been the subject of at least six disciplinary investigations in his career, and his supporters have long suspected that the FBI retaliated against him for his harsh public criticism of the bureau.…

The memo, written while Roberts still worked as unit chief for the office, was heavily censored by the bureau before it was turned over to the Judiciary Committee's ranking members, Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.).

The Senate Judiciary Committee this week may release Roberts' memo providing accounts of the Wright case and other alleged misconduct by the Office of Professional Responsibility, according to sources familiar with the committee's work.

Grassley and Leahy have warned the bureau about retaliating against agents, having singled out Wright in a June 2003 letter to FBI director Robert Mueller.

"The FBI should worry more about catching terrorists than gagging its own agents." Grassley wrote to Mueller. "Suppressing free speech is not the way to reform the FBI."

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Wright has held two national news conferences and has given several television news interviews in which he accused the FBI of mishandling terrorism investigations during the 1990s into fundraising by militant Islamic groups such as Hamas.

On June 2, 2003, Wright held a news conference in Washington, D.C., in which he called the FBI's attempts to investigate terrorism "pathetic" and referred to the bureau's International Terrorism Unit as a "complete joke." He also appeared on an ABC-TV news program.

Roberts said he had problems with the bureau after he appeared on "60 Minutes" in 2002 and criticized the FBI, saying a double standard of discipline existed in which lower-level employees were treated more harshly then the bosses. He had FBI clearance to appear on TV.,1,6705096.story

Do no harm: should medical records go online?

Do no harm: should medical records go online?:
"If congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-Rhode Island) and former congressman Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia) have their way, all U.S. hospitals will have patient records online by 2015. Representative Kennedy will soon introduce a bill to Congress that would create a paperless hospital system at a cost of $5 billion. From a security perspective, of course, this has its relative pros and cons.

Kennedy and Gingrich argue that patients suffer from mistakes as a result of an antiquated paper record system. That's true; life and death decisions are still made without access to relevant patient records that are often locked in a file cabinet down the hall. So, on the surface, the ability for a doctor to instantly call up a patient's medical history from a single database sounds like a good thing. Or does it? "

Monday, July 12, 2004

The New York Times > Scientists Say White House Questioned Their Politics

The New York Times > Washington > Scientists Say White House Questioned Their Politics:
"In a report released yesterday, a scientific advocacy group cited more instances of what it called the Bush administration's manipulation of science to fit its policy goals, including the questioning of nominees to scientific advisory panels about whether they had voted for President Bush.…"

Dr. Kurt Gottfried, an emeritus professor of physics at Cornell University and the chairman of the scientists group, said that the administration's actions could cause researchers to leave the government.

"You can destroy that in a matter of years and then it can take another generation or two to get back to where you were in the first place," Dr. Gottfried said during a conference call with reporters yesterday.

Dr. Gerald T. Keusch said that frustration led him to resign last year from the directorship of the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Keusch said the procedure for appointing members of advisory panels changed markedly with the change of administrations in 2001.

Dr. Keusch, who became director in 1998, said that before Mr. Bush took office, he proposed candidates and if the director of the National Institutes of Heath approved, officials at the Department of Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration invariably signed off on the nomination. But under the Bush administration, he said, Secretary Tommy G. Thompson's office rejected 19 of 26 candidates, including Dr. Torsten Wiesel, a Nobel laureate.

Dr. Keusch said that when he questioned the rejection, he was told that Dr. Wiesel had signed too many statements critical of Mr. Bush.

The New York Times > Final 9/11 Report Is Said to Dismiss Iraq-Qaeda Alliance

The New York Times > Washington > Final 9/11 Report Is Said to Dismiss Iraq-Qaeda Alliance:
"'We don't need to point fingers in our report, because people will be able to judge the facts for themselves,' said John F. Lehman, a Republican commissioner who was Navy secretary in the Reagan administration.

Mr. Lehman has said that he expects the commission's work to result in 'revolutionary' changes in the government's intelligence community. 'The editorializing has shrunk and shrunk and shrunk as the facts before us have expanded and expanded and expanded,' he said.

Timothy J. Roemer, a Democratic commissioner who is a former House member from Indiana, said he expected the final report to be unanimous and to call for 'dynamic and dramatic changes in the intelligence community - changes in tradecraft and also nuts-and-bolts changes.'

The panel's staff created controversy last month with an interim report that largely discounted theories about close ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda, another major justification cited by the Bush administration for invading Iraq.

The staff report found that there was 'no credible evidence that Iraq and Al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States' and that repeated contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda 'do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship.' "

The New York Times > Analysis: Intelligence: Pre-emptive Strategy Meets Reality

The New York Times > Washington > News Analysis: The Intelligence: Bush's Pre-emptive Strategy Meets Some Untidy Reality:
"Even as President Bush turns his doctrine of pre-emptive action against powers threatening the United States into a campaign theme, Washington is using a far more subdued, take-it-slow approach to the dangers of unconventional weapons in Iran and North Korea.

There are many reasons for the yawning gap between Mr. Bush's campaign language and the reality. One of the most important is woven throughout the searing, 511-page critique of the intelligence that led America to war last year, released Friday by the Senate Intelligence Committee."

The report details, in one painful anecdote after another, misjudgments that the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies made as they put together what the committee called an "assumption train" about Iraq's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs. That same train powered Mr. Bush's own justification for a pre-emptive strike against Saddam Hussein, down to his now-discredited argument that the Iraqi leader was developing unmanned aerial vehicles capable dropping biological weapons on American troops in the Mideast, or perhaps even the United States itself.

The sweeping nature of that report is already fueling a new debate over pre-emption, on the campaign trail and among the nations the United States must convince as it builds its case against North Korea and Iran. On Sunday, Senator Pat Roberts, the Republican chairman of the intelligence committee, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that the urgency of those problems meant there was not much time to fix the intelligence community.…

Mr. Bush's aides say other countries are citing Iraq to make the argument that America can never again be sure it is getting it right and thus must back away from the pre-emption doctrine enshrined in Mr. Bush's 2002 "National Security Strategy of the United States."

China has been the most outspoken proponent of this view, suggesting publicly that the administration cannot be trusted when it asserts that North Korea has secretly started up a second nuclear weapons program — one based on enriching uranium. Administration officials say the Chinese are exploiting the Iraq findings for political convenience, because finding a solution to the North Korean problem will be far simpler if the evidence of a uranium program can be ignored.

"It hurts us, there is no question," a senior aide to Mr. Bush conceded on Friday, as the Senate report was published. "We already have the Chinese saying to us, `If you missed this much in Iraq, how are we supposed to believe that the North Koreans are producing nuclear weapons?' It just increases the pressure on us to prove that we are right."

Sunday, July 11, 2004

The New York Times > > Campaign '04 > Bad Intelligence Cost Lives, Kerry and Edwards Say

The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > Bad Iraq Intelligence Cost Lives, Kerry and Edwards Say:
"Senator John Kerry and Senator John Edwards declared on Friday that slipshod intelligence invoked by President Bush to invade Iraq had cost the nation lives, billions of dollars and international prestige, signaling that the Iraq war would be a central issue in their White House campaign.

The presumptive Democratic candidates for president and vice president, in a 30-minute joint interview given after the release of a Senate Intelligence Committee report challenging the prewar Iraq intelligence, said Mr. Bush's policies abroad had probably increased, rather than decreased, the prospects of domestic terrorist attacks. "

And they said the discrediting of much of Mr. Bush's case for going to war had fed cynicism toward government by young Americans, reminiscent of the mistrust of authority that swept the country when Mr. Edwards and Mr. Kerry came of age during the Vietnam War.

"They were wrong and soldiers lost their lives because they were wrong," Mr. Kerry said as Mr. Edwards, in an adjacent seat in the front of their chartered Boeing 757 jet, nodded in agreement. "And America's paying billions of dollars because they were wrong. And allies are not with us because they were wrong."

The New York Times > Senate Panel Describes Long Weakening of Hussein Army

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Panel Describes Long Weakening of Hussein Army:
"The Senate's report on prewar intelligence about Iraq, which asserts that warnings about its illicit weapons were largely unfounded and that its ties to Al Qaeda were tenuous, also undermines another justification for the war: that Saddam Hussein's military posed a threat to regional stability and American interests.

In a detailed discussion of Iraq's prewar military posture, the report cites a long series of intelligence reports in the decade before the war that described a formerly potent army's spiral of decay under the weight of economic sanctions and American military pressure.

The main risk of an attack by Mr. Hussein against the United States and nations in the region was his unpredictability, these reports indicated. The reports found it especially hard to predict what he would do if threatened by the likelihood of American military action. But the Senate Intelligence Committee called this analysis relatively weak."

Saturday, July 10, 2004

The New York Times > Other Services Eyed by Army for Recruiting

The New York Times > Washington > Other Services Eyed by Army for Recruiting:
"In what some military experts see as another sign of how the Army's commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan have strained it, the service for the first time will soon begin aggressively recruiting thousands of sailors and airmen who are otherwise scheduled to leave the Navy and Air Force because of cutbacks.

Under a new program called Operation Blue to Green, the Army plans to offer bonuses of up to $10,000, in some cases, and four weeks of extra training to airmen and sailors willing to trade in their dress-blue uniforms for Army green fatigues. The Army is especially interested in men and women who have jobs that are readily transferable to Army positions, like mechanics and logisticians. "

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

The New York Times > Technology > You've Got Mail (and Court Says Others Can Read It)

The New York Times > Technology > You've Got Mail (and Court Says Others Can Read It):
"When everything is working right, an e-mail message appears to zip instantaneously from the sender to the recipient's inbox. But in reality, most messages make several momentary stops as they are processed by various computers en route to their destination.

Those short stops may make no difference to the users, but they make an enormous difference to the privacy that e-mail is accorded under federal law."

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

The New York Times > Intelligence: C.I.A. Held Back Iraqi Arms Data, Officials Say

The New York Times > Washington > Intelligence: C.I.A. Held Back Iraqi Arms Data, Officials Say:
"The Central Intelligence Agency was told by relatives of Iraqi scientists before the war that Baghdad's programs to develop unconventional weapons had been abandoned, but the C.I.A. failed to give that information to President Bush, even as he publicly warned of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's illicit weapons, according to government officials."

The existence of a secret prewar C.I.A. operation to debrief relatives of Iraqi scientists — and the agency's failure to give their statements to the president and other policymakers — has been uncovered by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The panel has been investigating the government's handling of prewar intelligence on Iraq's unconventional weapons and plans to release a wide-ranging report this week on the first phase of its inquiry. The report is expected to contain a scathing indictment of the C.I.A. and its leaders for failing to recognize that the evidence they had collected did not justify their assessment that Mr. Hussein had illicit weapons.

C.I.A. officials, saying that only a handful of relatives made claims that the weapons programs were dead, play down the significance of the information collected in the secret debriefing operation. That operation is one of a number of significant disclosures by the Senate investigation. The Senate report, intelligence officials say, concludes that the agency and the rest of the intelligence community did a poor job of collecting information about the status of Iraq's weapons programs, and that analysts at the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies did an even worse job of writing reports that accurately reflected the information they had.

Among the many problems that contributed to the committee's harsh assessment of the C.I.A.'s prewar performance were instances in which analysts may have misrepresented information, writing reports that distorted evidence in order to bolster their case that Iraq did have chemical, biological and nuclear programs, according to government officials. The Senate found, for example, that an Iraqi defector who supposedly provided evidence of the existence of a biological weapons program had actually said he did not know of any such program.

The New York Times > Sex and the Supreme Court: Internet Filters Are: [Good] [Bad] [Both]

The New York Times > Week in Review > Sex and the Supreme Court: Internet Filters Are: [Good] [Bad] [Both]:
"ON the surface, the fight over Internet pornography can seem upside down and backward.

In a case decided by the Supreme Court last week, the American Civil Liberties Union had argued that Internet filters are a great way to protect children from pornographic material online. But in a case decided by the Supreme Court last year, the A.C.L.U. argued against a law requiring filters in schools and libraries, and the organization attacked filters in a 1997 paper that said 'rating and blocking proposals may torch free speech on the Internet.'"

The Department of Justice appears to be in the same bind, but in reverse: in this year's case, it argued that filters were not enough to protect children from pornography, while in the library filtering case decided last year, they argued that filters are an effective means of protecting the nation's youth.

The apparent inconsistencies came into focus when the Supreme Court - one player in the online pornography wars that has maintained a consistent stance on filters - handed down its decision in the A.C.L.U.'s challenge to the Child Online Protection Act. That law, which was enacted in 1998, would impose tough criminal penalties on individuals whose Web sites carried material deemed "harmful to minors."

The court sent the case back to the district courts to gather more facts about how filtering technology has changed since the case was first heard, and left in place an injunction blocking enforcement of the law. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, in the majority opinion, wrote approvingly of the increasing abilities of Internet filters to let in useful bits of data and keep out the naughty ones.

The court showed a similar acceptance of the prowess of filters in last year's case when it supported another law, the Children's Internet Protection Act, with its requirements of filters for almost all schools and libraries. The sticking point for civil libertarians - that adults might not be able to gain access to sites that they are legally entitled to see - was not a big problem, the court said, since the law held that adult patrons could ask that the filters be turned off.

But things aren't that simple, said Ann Beeson, who argued this year's case for the A.C.L.U. The central issue, she said is whose finger is on the mouse, the government's or the parent's.

"When a parent installs a filter that keeps a kid from seeing a bunch of sites that may or may not be pornography, that's parenting," she said. "When a government forces all adults and minors to use filters, that's censorship." So it makes sense that the A.C.L.U. would oppose filter requirements in libraries last year, and sing the praises of filters in this year's case.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Intelligence: Capture of Hussein Aides Spurred U.S. Interrogators

The New York Times> Intelligence: Capture of Hussein Aides Spurred U.S. Interrogators:
"Within days after Saddam Hussein's capture last December, the American military jailers at Abu Ghraib prison received an important new batch of prisoners: bodyguards and other loyalists who tended to Mr. Hussein in his final weeks on the run, passing messages to his confederates and shuttling him to safe houses and secret meetings in battered taxis."

According to military intelligence officers and soldiers at the prison, the capture of the bodyguards led to an all-out push for information about close supporters of Mr. Hussein who were suspected of plotting against the American occupation of Iraq.

It would be a race against time before those supporters found other hiding places, so a group of interrogators was given greater latitude to use tactics on the new prisoners that had previously required the signed approval of senior officers, said military intelligence soldiers who asked to remain unidentified for fear of harming their careers.

They said the tactics included sleep and food deprivation, extended isolation and the use of menacing dogs. "It was `Do whatever you have to do, find out where they are and let's get 'em fast,' " said a military intelligence analyst. "We needed to get them before they got away."

While it is not clear whether the intensified intelligence gathering led to mistreatment of prisoners, the disclosure about the loosening of rules after Mr. Hussein's capture adds a new element to the evolving picture of abuses in Abu Ghraib prison.

It also shows the role of a previously unreported military intelligence unit at the prison, known as the special projects team, which was assembled to interrogate Mr. Hussein's loyalists, sometimes for 10 hours at a time.…

The worst known abuses at Abu Ghraib occurred in October and November, before Mr. Hussein's capture, and involved members of the military police who have said their actions were encouraged by officials at the prison.

But the mistreatment of prisoners continued into December, according to Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba of the Army, who investigated abuses at the prison. Several other inquiries are under way to determine the extent of mistreatment and how it occurred at Abu Ghraib and other detention centers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Special Report: Privacy Special Report: Privacy:
"A federal appeals court ruling this week declared that protections under the federal Wiretap Act do not extend to e-mail messages stored on an e-mail provider's computer systems.",1738,1619455,00.asp

The Internet under surveillance 2004, Obstacles to the free flow of information online

Reporters sans frontières - The Internet under surveillance 2004:
"The Internet has a bad reputation. With authoritarian regimes, that's no surprise. It's to be expected the enduring dictatorship in Beijing (and we must call it that, whatever the fans of the Chinese 'economic miracle' think) has set up a big Internet police force. Dozens of Internet users languish in Chinese prisons for imaginary crimes - for looking at banned websites or, even 'worse,' daring to post news online about forbidden topics such as the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and repression in Tibet.

China is unfortunately not the only country where dissident Internet messages are tracked down. In Vietnam and Tunisia, big shots (official or otherwise) are distinctly unenthusiastic about this vast discussion forum and information exchange they have so much trouble controlling.

In this very long list of regimes opposed to freedom, we find habitual human rights violators such as Burma, Ukraine and Belarus but also countries that are places people dream about - tropical holiday destinations beloved of Western tourists. The Maldives, for example, where the other side of the picture postcard is shabby and two Internet users have been sentenced to life imprisonment for criticising a dictatorship in paradise that has been in power for the past 40 years."

This is all very logical. No surprise that Fidel Castro gives orders about the Internet as he does about everything else in Cuba, except of course for those "useful idiots" (as Lenin used to say) - the package tourists with cigars and obliging local girls thrown in.

What's more worrying, at first sight anyway, is the distrust of the Internet among the supposedly solid democracies of Europe and North America. Why the United States, France and the United Kingdom take their place in this report alongside the thugs that are quick to lock up the merest opponent calls for an explanation.

Friday, July 02, 2004

The New York Times > Complete Coverage: A Guide to the Memos on Torture

The New York Times > International > Complete Coverage: A Guide to the Memos on Torture: "
The New York Times, Newsweek, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal have disclosed memorandums that show a pattern in which Bush administration lawyers set about devising arguments to avoid constraints against mistreatment and torture of detainees. Administration officials responded by releasing hundreds of pages of previously classified documents related to the development of a policy on detainees."

Prisoner Abuse: Army Report Criticizes Training and Practices at Prisons >New York Times

The New York Times > Washington > Prisoner Abuse: Army Report Criticizes Training and Practices at Prisons:
"A broad new Army report concludes that serious problems in training, organization and policy regarding military detention operations in Iraq and Afghanistan contributed to the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, senior defense officials said Thursday.

The inquiry, by Lt. Gen. Paul T. Mikolashek, the Army inspector general, criticizes Army policy on detainee operations as a cold-war relic better suited to dealing with Soviet military prisoners on a European battlefield than with insurgents and Islamic jihadists fighting in Iraq, officials said. It cites inadequate training for military jailers and interrogators. And it describes poor leadership, overcrowded cells and poor medical care for Iraqi prisoners."

Taken together, these and many other of the 30 major findings paint a sobering picture of conditions, policies and practices that left the Army ill prepared to hold and question thousands of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib, officials said.

Earlier drafts found no systemic abuse at American-run prisons in Iraq or Afghanistan, and officials said that had not changed in the final report. The report will probably not assign blame to senior American officers in Iraq, defense officials said. That task, officials said, will be left to one or more of the half-dozen other inquiries under way.

General Mikolashek is putting the finishing touches on his report, which the acting Army secretary, Les Brownlee, is expected to make public in the next couple of weeks, officials said. Descriptions of the report's findings were provided by defense officials familiar with its general contents, but the report has not yet been made available to Congress for an independent assessment.

"It's going to be a tough report," said one defense official who has been briefed on the outlines of the report, which is based on a four-month review. "It will show that these various problems helped to create and contribute to an environment that left room for human error and possibly misconduct by soldiers."

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Moore's Public Service

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Moore's Public Service:
"Since it opened, 'Fahrenheit 9/11' has been a hit in both blue and red America, even at theaters close to military bases. Last Saturday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. took his Nascar crew to see it. The film's appeal to working-class Americans, who are the true victims of George Bush's policies, should give pause to its critics, especially the nervous liberals rushing to disassociate themselves from Michael Moore.

There has been much tut-tutting by pundits who complain that the movie, though it has yet to be caught in any major factual errors, uses association and innuendo to create false impressions. Many of these same pundits consider it bad form to make a big fuss about the Bush administration's use of association and innuendo to link the Iraq war to 9/11. Why hold a self-proclaimed polemicist to a higher standard than you hold the president of the United States?

And for all its flaws, 'Fahrenheit 9/11' performs an essential service. It would be a better movie if it didn't promote a few unproven conspiracy theories, but those theories aren't the reason why millions of people who aren't die-hard Bush-haters are flocking to see it. These people see the film to learn true stories they should have heard elsewhere, but didn't."
con·cept: July 2004