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Old 14-11-07, 10:11 AM   #1
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Join Date: May 2001
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Default Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - November 17th, '07

Since 2002

V. VI, Number I

"Certainly 'Southland Tales' has more ideas, visual and intellectual, in a single scene than most American independent films have in their entirety, though that perhaps goes without saying." – Manohla Dargis

"Chaos and anarchy…that's what going on." – Gene Simmons

November 17th, 2007

Net Neutrality Foes Back FCC Investigation into Comcast Traffic Blocking
Nate Anderson

Network neutrality advocates and the industry-funded lobby groups that oppose it in Washington rarely agree on issues, especially when those issues involve network filtering or throttling. That's what makes last week's letter from Hands off the Internet (a telco-backed group opposed to government network neutrality regulations) such a surprise. The group told FCC Chairman Kevin Martin that it supported an FCC investigation into Comcast's alleged BitTorrent blocking.

As increased evidence of Comcast's traffic-shaping measures came to light over the last few weeks, a handful of consumer groups complained to the FCC on November 1. The groups argued that Comcast was violating the four principles found in the FCC's 2005 Internet Policy Statement (PDF). The groups then raised the stakes by calling for a $195,000 Comcast fine for every consumer affected by the problem.

Several of the signatories to that letter are also members of pro-network neutrality group SaveTheInternet.com, and they saw the incident as a perfect counterweight to claims that neutrality isn't necessary because no company has ever violated it. It's also exactly the sort of complaint that one might expect Hands off the Internet to oppose.

Instead, HOTI's letter reiterated the FCC's four principles and called them "the necessary safety net to protect consumers and the openness and freedom of the Internet." The letter went on to say that "the ball is in your court" and that the FCC has a duty to launch an investigation of Comcast in order to see if the company has violated the principles.

What's going on here? Harold Feld, the senior vice president of the Media Access Project, believes that Comcast's tribulations are a goldmine for the telcos, who want to press their advantage. The entire BitTorrent blocking ("delaying" in Comcast-speak) debacle just shows up a basic weakness of cable's current network architecture: bandwidth is shared by all users on a local node.

"Particularly with applications tolerant of minor delays (like downloading static web pages), it was easy for cable operators to share capacity among their subscribers while claiming a very fast always on speed based on the average user load for the system," says Feld, but notes that the system doesn't work well when users start saturating their links by using high-bandwidth applications.

Because P2P apps in particular can lead to consumer complaints from other subscribers on the local node, Comcast has taken to resetting certain types of traffic to keep the load lighter. In Feld's view, this just shows up problem's with cable's network that the DSL and fiber providers (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) are keen to drive home by keeping this issue in the public eye.

Instead of spending tons of cash to upgrade its hybrid fiber-coax (HFC) network to fiber, Comcast cheaped out and instead bought some Sandvine gear to disrupt certain traffic instead.

"Looked at this way, you can see why the telcos (and therefore their sock-puppet HOTI) would be a shade peeved about Comcast's decision to 'manage' their network in such a 'cost effective' but deceptive manner," writes Feld. "Because if Comcast can keep pretending its network is just as good as FIOS when it isn't, and can even lie when asked about it directly by customers, then Verizon just wasted a couple of bazillion dollars and took a two-year stock beating for NOTHING."

With support both from the telcos and consumer groups, the FCC will certainly have to examine the issue. Its four principles haven't yet faced a good test case, and disrupting subscriber traffic in order to keep overall bandwidth down seems like a good one to start with. If Comcast's actions don't end up violating the FCC's four principles, then those four principles seem to mean little. But the FCC probably has little appetite for slapping huge fines on a company like Comcast, either.

Still, even opening up an investigation would be a win for consumers because it would show that the FCC considers itself to have the authority to act on such issues (and an interest in doing so). That alone should keep other ISPs treading cautiously, even without any new legislation. It could also be a win for the telcos, which would far prefer FCC oversight to Congressional laws.

US Internet Control Lead Topic in Rio
Anick Jesdanun

Debate over U.S. control of core Internet systems threatens to overtake an international meeting in Brazil next week that was meant to cover topics including spam, free speech and cheaper access.

The Internet Governance Forum is the result of a compromise world leaders reached at a U.N. summit in Tunisia two years ago. They agreed to let the United States remain in charge.

But they established an annual forum to discuss emerging issues, including whether control of how Internet addresses are assigned — and thus how people use the Internet — should remain with the U.S. government and an American nonprofit.

Many countries complained U.S. dominance wasn't discussed enough during the first forum last year, in Athens. In meetings leading to the second round opening in Rio de Janeiro on Monday, China, Iran, Russia and Brazil, among others, won an opening-day panel devoted to "critical Internet resources."

Some governments are seeking more concrete results, such as a chairman's statement or negotiated agreement on next steps, though U.S. and U.N. leaders cautioned that specific decisions are unlikely and even inappropriate.

"If last year was viewed as a trial run, this year is in a sense a bit more important," said Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa in Canada. "If little comes out of this, I think there will be growing concern that the IGF is little more than a talk shop and a place to meet."

Some governments, particularly in developing countries, sought to strip the United States of its oversight so they could have more say over such policies as domain names in languages other than English.

They failed — at the U.N. World Summit on the Information Society, first in Geneva in 2003, then in Tunis in 2005 — and some worry that attempts to renew the debate in Rio would overshadow the rest of the forum's agenda.

"What will be a shame is a repeat of Tunis pushing out these important issues," said Emily Taylor, director of legal and policy for Nominet, which operates Britain's ".uk" domain. "These were very, very hot issues during the world summit, issues over which people violently disagreed."

The four-day forum, with as many as 2,000 representatives expected from government, business and the civil society, is packed with parallel sessions on network security, fighting child pornography, the cost of access, language diversity, privacy and human rights.

A key theme is how to bring the Internet to the next billion people.

But much of the attention is on domain names, the monikers after the "dot" that are crucial for computers to find Web sites and route e-mail. By controlling the core systems, the United States indirectly influences much of the Internet.

The U.S. government, which funded much of the Internet's early development, retains veto power over the California-based nonprofit it selected in 1998 to oversee domain name policies, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN.

It's not clear how strongly critics of the status quo will push for change. Many recognize that world leaders have committed to holding the forum annually for five years, but they want to see some progress this year before heading to India next year and Egypt in 2009 (Lithuania and Azerbaijan both made bids for the final round in 2010).

"Let's progress slowly but that's not to say go backwards or just spin our wheels," said Hadil da Rocha Vianna, co-chairman of the forum's advisory group and director of science and technology at Brazil's foreign ministry. "So in Rio, the concrete results would be to advance in these debates, deepening themes debated in Athens."

Markus Kummer, the U.N. official who heads the forum's secretariat, said he has tried to temper expectations, stressing that the Tunis document creating the forum "clearly states it's not here to make decisions."

"I don't expect the meetings to change the world and come up with some real, major new decision on the re-architecture of this or that," Kummer said. "But I expect interesting meetings and interesting discussions (to improve) understanding of how the Internet works and what can be done to make it safer."

Kummer said participants are free and encouraged to take what they learn to other venues, such as national legislatures or international, treaty-based bodies where change is possible — including the U.S. Congress and American government agencies because the United States must agree to let go.

U.S. Ambassador David Gross, the State Department's coordinator for international communications and information policy, said participants range from government officials to individuals representing just themselves or millions of people.

"Everyone has an equal opportunity to participate," he said, making the forum "a very poor vehicle for anyone who would seek to come to any consensus, decision-making process."

Nominet's Taylor said success can be defined by the substance in dialogue and the exchange of good practices — not necessarily binding decisions or recommendations.

U.S. and ICANN officials say they welcome any discussions about their role over domain names as long as participants aren't seeking specific action, as they had at the U.N. summit.

"It's fine to have the panel, and it's fine to have the discussions about it," said Theresa Swinehart, ICANN's vice president for global and strategic partnership. "But for the forum to start going into a direction that ends up coming out with recommendations, it would result in becoming four days of negotiating text.

"That would defeat the purpose," she continued. "You lose the entire benefit of information-sharing. People would hold back on what they are saying."


Associated Press Writer Michael Astor in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this story.

Mininova Enters List of 50 Most Popular Sites on the Internet

Today, Mininova reached another milestone by entering the list of 50 most visited websites on the Internet. Together with most other BitTorrent sites, Mininova has experienced some massive growth over the past year, which proves that BitTorrent’s popularity continues to grow.

Making it to the 50 most visited websites on the Internet is impressive, especially if you consider that 9 out of 50 sites are local google domains. Mininova currently ranks 46th, other sites included in the lists are Yahoo!, YouTube, Myspace, Wikipedia and EBay.

To give an impression how big they are, Mininova has well over 3,000,000 visits and 16,500,000 pageviews a day, and this number is still growing. Last month they already broke the 3 billion .torrent download barrier and we will probably see the 4 billionth download pretty soon.

Niek, one of the founders of Mininova, told TorrentFreak that the increase in traffic is facilitated by the new hardware they recently installed. “The faster the site is, the more visitors we get,” he said “However, more visitors make the site slower again, so we have to keep optimizing the site and hardware all the time.”

There is also a downside to this positive news of course. Mininova’s continuing growth is, in part, due to the downtime at Demonoid and the issues TorrentSpy and Isohunt currently have with the MPAA.

Torrent Site is More Popular Than CNN
Theo Valich

Mininova.org more interesting than politics

FROM TIME TO time, a lot of industry experts will start an argument how much Internet traffic comes from Spam e-mails and p2p protocols.

But it is not often that a torrent search engine can overtake prime sites covered with multibillion dollar news organizations, where a single staffer has higher salary than these guys have budget.

The honor of beating one of world's leading news sites goes to staffers from Mininova.org, who overtook CNN.com back in mid-October, but now it seems that ThePirateBay.org is also on the move. Lads from TPB.org just overtook News.com, and are on a way to overtake CNN.com as well.

In order to get the traffic back, Foxnews.com could consider introducing torrent search on its site.

In a small and quick search, we took Mininova.org and ThePirateBay.org and compared them to cnn.com, foxnews.com and news.com, C'Net's very sneaky domain that targets ton of mainstream users and brings them to a ICT-laden website

Alexa.com can have difficulties counting visitors (some sites don't move at all, and yet their stats are up, sites with stats that are up are going down - at least according to the site stat engine), but it is still very interesting to see how a small site run by couple of enthusiasts can easily become a site in Top 50 most visited ones.

It is hardly credible that some corporation would come and buy the site like Mininova, IsoHunt or ThePirateBay.org, but we'll see how things will develop in this arena.

Leading BitTorrent Admins Discuss The Future of BitTorrent

BitTorrent is by far the most popular way to transfer large files over the Internet, but where will it be five years from now? To get some answers to this question TorrentFreak asked the admins of Mininova, The Pirate Bay, IsoHunt and TorrentSpy what they think the future holds for BitTorrent and their websites.

It’s hard to predict the future, especially when it comes to technology. However, that didn’t put us off and we gave it a shot. We asked the people behind the 4 largest BitTorrent sites on the Internet to tell us how they envision the future of BitTorrent.

Despite the differences these four guys sometimes have, they all believe that no other P2P protocol performs better than BitTorrent at the moment. However, there’s no doubt that there will be changes in the future.

“Technology is always evolving and I have little doubt that 5 or 10 years from now we will be using a different protocol” says Justin from TorrentSpy. Peter (aka Brokep) from The Pirate Bay also thinks new protocols will take over eventually. “There will be other alternatives,” he said “Not necessarily ours but others will come.” Niek from mininova has more faith in BitTorrent but expects that the protocol will evolve rapidly, an opinion shared by Gary from IsoHunt.

Most of the admins also predict that mainstream production companies will eventually embrace BitTorrent and P2P and some of them hope to play an active role in the transition from old to new media distribution. Below you can read the full responses to the question I asked them: What do you think the future holds for BitTorrent and your website?

Niek from Mininova

I’m sure that we’ll see quite a few changes in the P2P landscape during the next couple of years.

From a business perspective, I notice that content producers recognize more and more the advantages of P2P distribution models (see e.g. the Pariah Island case). We all know that DRM is close-to-death, and major studios are now rethinking their business models, which is a good thing. We’d like to see Mininova play a major role in this shift, so stay tuned for some related announcements the coming weeks :)

Looking at the technical side of things, I expect that the BitTorrent protocol will evolve rapidly. See for example (audio and video) streaming, which is already possible and supported by several clients. Other interesting developments are BT-capable chips and TOR-like functionality. New protocols (like the one proposed by The Pirate Bay) might arise, but only time will tell whether these will substitute BitTorrent. Personally, I think BitTorrent can go a long way with some extensions and modifications.

Having said that, Mininova’s only focus won’t be BitTorrent: when the “next big thing” arises, we’ll definitely consider backing it.

Justin from TorrentSpy

I don’t really concern myself with the future of BitTorrent the protocol but I do care about peer-to-peer as a technology platform. Technology is always evolving and I have little doubt that 5 or 10 years from now we will be using a different protocol. However I firmly believe that the use of peer-to-peer for everything from data transfer to shared CPU power will take the Internet to the next level.

If we look at TV you will already see this trend. Media use in our society is transitioning from someone else deciding what you want (push) to something that allows what you want, when you want it (pull). Right now you turn the TV on at 8pm to watch your favorite show or skip channels until you stumble across something interesting. The future is a demand system where you can buy and watch an episode the network has “released” any time you want. Tivo is a first step in this direction.

Surprising as it may seem, this can be done pretty easily today, but is tied up in complex licensing schemes, conflicts between producers and distributors, and a wide array of selfish interests. Unfortunately many companies use their power and influence to halt and punish innovations they cannot think of ways to make money with. The monopolies tried to stop the VHS, DVD, and MP3 player, but thankfully failed when they took it to Court. Now Imagine for a second all the amazing products they did manage to squash…

Gary from IsoHunt

With so much momentum of content behind BitTorrent, I don’t see it going away anytime soon. Unless there’s a far superior and open protocol that is superior to BitTorrent in efficiency and convenience, for which BitTorrent is pretty hard to beat, I see we’ll like have new developments by extending the existing BitTorrent protocol. Although Bram Cohen talked about Merkle trees as a major revision in improving BitTorrent, and that didn’t go anywhere (at least not in open source). When BitTorrent Inc. do significant enough closed source changes to the protocol, BitTorrent will fork or new open protocols will rise.

For future of BitTorrent sites and IsoHunt, I’ve always been an advocate of open and public access. The more sites try to go underground, the more reasons the authority think there’s something dark at work and more they will take sites down by force - Oink and other private trackers for example. I’ve been blogging about P2P and its economic sense/legitimate use cases for a while (latest one on independent music), and I believe that’s what will give BitTorrent continued adoption and acceptance as a de-facto protocol and internet standard. It’s like the WWW: if people didn’t use the early web for other purposes than for porn (which was prolific in the web’s early days), the governments might have a different view and regulations on the internet now. It’s not what copyright infringement or “piracy” may be occurring, on P2P, BitTorrent or the internet. It’s what new use cases we nurture that benefits both end users and content producers, that will correct the stigma behind P2P and BitTorrent and accelerate their acceptance. Development on isoHunt and our other sites will for sure be done with this in mind.

Peter aka Brokep from The Pirate Bay

First of all, I don’t think it’s easy to predict the future. But I do think that it’s very important to be very promiscuous when it comes to the protocols we use. BitTorrent is currently the best but this might change. There will be other alternatives, not necessarily ours but others will come.

In five years things are probably very different from today, technology wise and politically. The latter thing is the biggest issue, not the technology. I would foresee that streaming is bigger and the companies still try to frame their users to use their locked down systems, maybe not DRM but rather streamed with their clients (like the BT DNA system) which will contain other copyright protection scams.

AT&T Takes Another Step Towards Filtered Network with Investment in Vobile
Nate Anderson

AT&T announced earlier this year that was planning to introduce content filtering of some sort for all video passing across its network. Exactly what AT&T was thinking remained unclear: would the company truly attempt to reassemble the fragments of peer-to-peer transmissions, then extract video from all sorts of different codecs, then attempt to match it-in real time-to some database of copyrighted works? Would such a thing even be possible?

It's still not clear how AT&T plans to deploy its system, but the company is serious about it. Further evidence of that came today, when a brief Wall Street Journal writeup (subscription) pointed out that the company has just invested in Vobile.

Vobile's core product is a screening technology that it calls "VideoDNA." Like other systems of its kind, VideoDNA develops a unique signature from every frame of video. The signature is meant to be robust enough to survive various transformations and edits, and it can then be used to run matches against incoming content.

Vobile pitches its products as being especially suitable for content tracking and management purposes. Video-sharing sites could deploy the technology to flag user-uploaded content for possible copyright violations. But, as Vobile's site notes, VideoDNA is also quick enough to be deployed on video "when it's transported over a network."

AT&T has yet to publicly pick a winning technology (plenty of other companies are working on similar video identification technology), and it hasn't even revealed the scope of its plans. But the interest in video filtering doesn't appear to have faded after months of time in which executives could ponder the important questions of just how such a system would work and (perhaps more importantly) what customers would think of it.

Based on the complexity of the problem, we suspect that anything initially deployed by AT&T will fall far short of a robust P2P video filter. But should AT&T truly have its eyes on just such a prize, the company would be in a powerful position to impose its own policies on the entire US, since it owns major parts of the Internet backbone. It will also be in a plum position when it comes to dealing with the MPAA and with networks like NBC; both groups have been calling on ISPs to implement exactly this sort of filtering for months.

Vobile, for its part, is also serious about its work. Earlier this month, it added Gideon Yu to company's Board of Directors. Yu is the chief financial officer of Facebook, and also served as the CFO of a little startup called YouTube before it was sold to Google. Yu calls Vobile's tech "a revolutionary step forward for the industry." We may get a chance to find out just how excited consumers are about this revolutionary step forward if AT&T does end up adopting the Vobile VideoDNA tech.

Next Up for Verizon FiOS: Invading Manhattan, Japan-Like Uber-Bandwidth

You might have heard about Verizon's new 20/20 symmetric FiOS—a sweet 20Mbps upstream and down. But 20 ain't 100, and we're damn jealous of the Japanese, so we got on the phone and asked the guys managing Verizon's tubes what's around the bend. The scoop for city dwellers is that we can expect "not too distant" announcements about FiOS availability in Manhattan thanks to ultra-bendable Corning fiber ideal for labyrinthine build-out in apartment high-rises. So, what's the holdup on the Japan- style 100Mbps fiber optic love? Doesn't Verizon have the pipes to supply it? Here are the answers to those questions, and the most important of them all: When is it coming to your house?

Joking aside, one of the biggest threads in comments about FiOS is always, "When will it be available to me?" Right now Verizon's is available to just 9 million households in 16 states, expanding by 3 million a year to cover a full 18 million by 2010. If you're not in an area covered by Verizon's landline phone service now, though, you're out of luck: Verizon doesn't plan on building it outside the current footprint, which is mostly in the Northeast.

For those who already have FiOS and want in on the 20/20 action, availability announcements in areas outside of NY/NJ/CT are coming soon—it makes sense they got it first, given they comprise the only area where the 20Mbps downstream option is the most popular package. (Everywhere else, the most popular packages are in the 5-15Mbps downstream range.)

If you want to know the evolution of super-sick bandwidth, Verizon currently uses the BPON standard, which has limits of 622 Mbps downstream and 155 up per optical line terminal. One of these can serve 32 households. There's no hardware upgrade required to jump to 20/20 service, just a new service profile and a flip of a switch. Of course 32 households couldn't run 20/20 full blast all at once—but according to Brian Whitton, Verizon's Executive Director of Broadband Access Technologies, simultaneous peak usage on that scale is such a remote possibility it's not really an issue. Yet.

Godzilla bandwidth comes into play with GPON, a type of service that can deliver a total pool of 2.4 Gbps down and 1.2Gbps up for the 32 households. Right now Verizon is testing that in Pennsylvania, seeing peak rates of 400Mbps down and sustained rates of 200Mbps. 200Mbps. That's enough to make even the most hardened Tokyo resident jealous with their measly 100Mbps downstream fiber service.

And guess what? "Virtually" every network hub built after January will be GPON-based, says Verizon. It has the network set up for easy upgrading, so to bump current hubs to GPON, technicians just have to swap out the boxes on each end of the fiber cable they've already laid. Not too much of a hassle, in other words. As each current hub hits its bandwidth limit, it too will be updated to super-fast GPON.

Here's the takeaway: The pipes for uber-AZN, droolworthy bandwidth will get here soon, but only if you live within Verizon's wireline network, and only if Verizon sees a demand for the service. Believe it or not, outside geekdom there's not as much demand as you'd think. The numbers for the 50Mbps downstream package they already offer are dwarfed by the cheaper, lower-end ones. So tell your friends to beg Verizon for the ability to download the whole internet in minutes, and maybe, just maybe, they'll respond. They offered the 20/20 service in response to demand, so crying loud and hard just might work.

Terabit-Class Data Pipes Movies in an Instant

Advanced maths brought to bear on fibre-optic speed problem
J. Mark Lytle

When it comes to internet speeds, we've long-since consigned the humble kilobit-class connection to the dustbin, so a mathematics-based breakthrough has us wondering if megabit - and even gigabit-level connections will one day sound as quaintly archaic.

Researchers at Japan's Tohoku University have tweaked existing protocols to enable standard fibre-optic cables to carry data at hundreds of terabits per second. At that speed, full movies could be downloaded almost instantaneously in their hundreds.

QAM made stable

At the heart of the development is a technique already used in some digital TV tuners and wireless data connections called quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM). One glance at the Wikipedia explanation shows that it's no easy science, but the basics of QAM in this scenario require a stable wavelength for data transmission.

As the radio spectrum provides this, QAM-based methods work fine for some wireless protocols, however the nature of the optical spectrum means this has not been the case for fibre-optic cables ... until now.

The university team has solved the stability problem using a special laser that makes it feasible to pipe data down a glass fibre using the QAM method at blistering speeds. Although we shouldn't expect to be choosing from internet connections rated in Tbit/s anytime soon, the development could one day make us look back on ADSL as fondly as we now do our 56K modems.

You're Switching My Apartment to Comcast? I'm Moving Out

Last week the apartment complex I live in near Greenbelt, Maryland, sent a letter stating that starting January 1, 2008, Comcast will be the only Internet service available for residents. That's reason enough for me to move.

You might have heard that Comcast's customer service is so low that the publishers of dictionaries are trying to think up new words to describe it. Abysmal is too kindhearted a way to describe it.

Yes, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) here in the United States recently outlawed apartment complexes entering into single source contracts like this -- which force a particular vendor on apartment residents. But I don't hold out much hope that the FCC is going to come to my rescue.

Which is why I'm looking to form a Verizon FIOS household (or apartment) with a few other community activists. I've posted a message on Craigslist and sent out emails to various email lists I'm on in the Washington DC and Baltimore areas.

More and more of my livelihood is shifting to the Internet, so it only makes sense to run away screaming from Comcast. That way I won't have to take a hammer down to their office or wait around while a Comcast technician falls asleep on a service call.

People, companies will continue treating us poorly until we say stop it. I won't put up with Comcast. I draw the line here.

I love my current apartment and would much rather not move. The letter forcing me to switch to Comcast is tantamount to an eviction notice.

The managers of this apartment complex are otherwise excellent. I have no complaints against them. That they would treat me so poorly as to switch me to Comcast, though? For shame.

Comcast Hit With Class-Action Lawsuit Over Traffic Blocking
Eric Bangeman

Comcast's traffic management practices have landed the cable giant in court. Yesterday, a California resident filed a lawsuit in state court accusing Comcast of breach of contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and violating the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act.

John Hart describes himself as a Comcast customer who has seen performance hits when using "Blocked Applications" targeted by Comcast's traffic management application, Sandvine. In his complaint, Hart says that Comcast severely limits "the speed of certain internet applications such as peer-to-peer file sharing and lotus notes [sic]." Comcast accomplishes this by "transmitting unauthorized hidden messages" to the PCs of those using the applications.

Hart also takes issue with some of Comcast's high-speed advertising. He upgraded his service to the Performance Plus package in order to get faster uploads and downloads, and also to use the "Blocked Applications" referenced in the lawsuit. Comcast, he says, did not adequately disclose its traffic management practices when he signed up for High Speed Internet or when he upgraded.

Some Comcast customers have suspected that the ISP blocks some P2P traffic, but it wasn't until last month that the company was caught in the act. Testing performed by the Associated Press showed conclusively that Comcast was using forged TCP reset packets to block BitTorrent traffic. It then emerged that Comcast's traffic management practices were causing problems for other applications, including groupware client Lotus Notes.

Comcast has steadfastly denied blocking traffic, but its explanations of what exactly it is that the company is doing have been unconvincing. The ISP says that it sometimes "delays" traffic, but that the "delayed" traffic will always eventually make it to its destination. A Comcast spokesperson told me today that, while the company does engage in network management like any other ISP, "we're not blocking anything." As was the case with Threat Level, he referred me to the company's FAQ for more information on what the company does and does not do with P2P traffic.

At the beginning of November, a few public interest groups filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, accusing Comcast of running afoul of the FCC's Internet Policy Statement, and asking the Commission to prevent Comcast from engaging in any future traffic blocking. Hart's complaint also accuses Comcast of violating FCC policy by "impairing" the use of some applications while permitting other applications to operate without hindrance.

Hart is seeking class-action status for the lawsuit, damages, a change in the company's advertising to reflect its traffic-shaping practices, and an injunction barring Comcast from further interference with the "Blocked Applications."

A Comcast spokesperson told Ars that the company has not yet been served with the complaint, and therefore had no comment on the lawsuit.

Vuze Petitions FCC to Restrict Internet Traffic Throttling by ISPs
Daniel Langendorf

Vuze, an application that allows users to search, browse, and download “DVD and HD-quality” video content using the peer-to-peer protocol BitTorrent (WiR-4/14/07), has petitioned the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to restrict Internet traffic throttling by Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

Vuze’s timing is important. John Hart filed suit in a California state court Tuesday against Comcast, which offers ISP services. The suit alleges that Comcast’s secret use of technology to limit peer-to-peer applications such as BitTorrent violates federal computer fraud laws, the contracts users have with Comcast, and anti-fraudulent advertising statutes. Hart wants the court to force Comcast to stop interfering with Internet traffic.

Since it uses the peer-to-peer protocol BitTorrent, Vuze has been keenly aware of Comcast and the “bandwidth shaping” issue. Vuze filed its “Petition for Rulemaking” (PDF) to urge the FCC to adopt regulations limiting Internet traffic throttling, a practice by which ISPs block or slow the speed at which Internet content, including video files, can be uploaded or downloaded.

“Now is the time to embrace the sea changes in entertainment consumption that are occurring,” said Vuze CEO Gilles BianRosa in a release. “The rapid convergence of the entertainment and Internet industries has enabled the delivery of high-quality video, and these throttling tactics represent growing pains as ISPs resist inevitable change.

“We hope our petition will trigger a pubic discussion, but we also need the FCC to act. The industry needs transparency into what ISPs are doing and an environment that fosters innovation in online entertainment.”

At issue is whether “throttling” should be allowed. “Throttling” is often characterized by ISPs as “network management” or “traffic shaping”, which Vuze and others contend interferes with the consumer Internet experience.

If these tactics continue unchecked, Vuze contends, the openness and fairness of the public Internet could be called into question.

In an email to last100, Vuze explained that one of the petition’s aims is to get ISPs, P2P providers, content creators and consumers to contribute to a discussion on the issue and help develop future solutions.

Senators Seek To Slow Down FCC Rule Changes

U.S. Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Trent Lott (R-MS) will introduce legislation today that would impose a 90-day delay on an impending FCC decision about whether to relax the rules governing media ownership. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has said he wants the agency to wrap up its examination of media ownership and reach a decision by December 18, but if this bill passes, that will slow down the process.

"We believe localism and diversity of media ownership is vital in a democracy," Dorgan said. "Our bill recognizes the importance of a wide range of media owners and local content, and requires a process that does not rush past those concerns to open the gates for even more consolidation of media ownership. We believe there is value to local ownership in the media."

"Communities count on getting their local news from their locally-owned television stations and weekly and daily newspapers," added Lott. "They know 'locally-owned' means they're invested in their communities and care about their well-being. If the FCC won't do their job to keep East and West coast media conglomerates from pushing out these local voices, then there is a role for the Congress to play."

The Media Ownership Act of 2007 - co-sponsored by Senators Barack Obama (D-IL), John Kerry (D-MA) and others - would require 90 days for the public to comment on any proposed media ownership rule changes put forward by the FCC. It would also require the FCC to complete a separate proceeding to evaluate how localism is affected by media consolidation. The bill would require that the public have an opportunity to comment on that proceeding during a 90-day period, and it calls for the establishment of an independent panel to examine female and minority ownership. This panel must issue recommendations and the FCC must act on them prior to voting on any proposed ownership rules.

Few Friends for Proposal on Media
Stephen LaBaton

The head of the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday announced the details of his plan to relax the longstanding rule that had prevented a company from owning both a newspaper and a radio or television station in the same city.

But the deregulatory proposal of Kevin J. Martin, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, may actually force some large media conglomerates to shed stations or newspapers.

For 32 years, supporters of the restriction have maintained that it prevents the growth of ever- larger media conglomerates and helps to keep diverse voices on the airwaves.

These critics denounced Mr. Martin’s proposal for containing what they said were loopholes that could lead to widespread consolidation.

At the same time, however, the newspaper industry’s main trade association and an executive at the Tribune Company separately criticized the plan and said it would not go nearly far enough to help them.

While the plan provides a path for Samuel Zell, the Chicago real estate investor, to complete the buyout of the Tribune Company, it also puts some obstacles in the way — most notably a possible delay in completing the deal until after the end of 2007, which would make it significantly more expensive for the buyers, primarily Tribune employees.

In a memo to employees on Tuesday, the head of Tribune suggested that he was dissatisfied, regarding Mr. Martin’s plan as not going far enough. He also said he would seek to have it expanded.

Under the proposal, Tribune will have to sell media companies in Hartford and possibly Chicago.

The head of the News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch, will have to fight for an exemption if he wants to continue to control The New York Post and two television stations — WWOR and WNYW — in the metropolitan area.

Other companies, including Gannett and Media General, would have to seek exemptions if they want to continue to hold newspapers and broadcast stations in smaller markets.

In 1975, the commission adopted a rule that generally restricted a company from owning both a newspaper and a station in the same city. Many companies that already had such holdings at the time, including The New York Times Company, which owns a radio station in Manhattan, were unaffected because of a grandfather clause.

Since then, some companies have received what are supposed to be temporary waivers until new rules are adopted. Most media companies are operating under a waiver, the grandfather clause or both. Those waivers are reviewed any time a station changes hands.

Mr. Martin’s plan would enable a media company to own both a newspaper and either a radio or smaller television station in the nation’s 20 largest markets. If the company owns a TV station, then there must be at least eight independent TV stations and newspapers in the same market.

Unless Congress intervenes, Mr. Martin appears to have the votes at the commission to have the rules adopted next month. But that could pose significant problems for Mr. Zell to complete the buyout of the Tribune Company by the end of the year.

Mr. Zell wants to complete the transaction by Dec. 31 to take advantage of tax rules that could save the newly formed company more than $100 million. In addition, if the deal is not closed by Dec. 31, the $34 a share that shareholders would receive would rise by an additional 8 percent.

Tribune executives have said that their banks need 20 working days after obtaining regulatory approval to line up $4.2 billion in financing to complete the deal. Mr. Martin expects to complete a vote on his plan on Dec. 18.

While Mr. Martin said he did not anticipate granting new long-term waivers to any companies — including Tribune, he said in a telephone call with reporters that a two-week exemption might be possible if he already knew he had the votes to complete the rule making by Dec. 18.

Terry Holt, a spokesman for Mr. Zell, referred all questions about the deal to Gary Weitman, a spokesman at Tribune. Mr. Weitman declined to comment. In an e-mail message to employees, the chief executive, Dennis J. FitzSimons, said Tribune still hoped to close the transaction by the end of the year. He also said that the company would “seek an expansion of cross-ownership relief” beyond what was contained in Mr. Martin’s plan.

Commission officials said that Tribune representatives had been in discussions with officials to try to come up with a way for the commission to provide enough of a signal of its intentions to satisfy the bankers.

But for media deals in the future, it is unclear whether the new rules will make it significantly easier for conglomerates to own both a newspaper and a station in most markets.

In telephone briefings with reporters, Mr. Martin said the commission would consider granting exemptions if other combinations were in the public interest, but that the “presumption would be against them.”

The proposal would require the commission in granting exemptions to consider the level of media concentration and make a finding that the companies involved would increase the amount of local news. It would require a commitment that both the newspaper and the station exercise independent news judgment. Finally, the commission would be obliged to consider the financial condition of the newspaper, and whether the owner was committed to invest significantly in the operations of a paper in distress.

In announcing his plan, Mr. Martin said he sought to strike a compromise that would assist what he said was a financially ailing newspaper industry while trying to be sensitive to concerns about the effects of media consolidation on the quality of news coverage.

“The newspaper industry has faced significant challenges recently and I feel we have to do all we can to ensure we continue to have a vibrant industry,” Mr. Martin said.

His plan was criticized by some lawmakers, who said it would lead to too much consolidation. They have introduced legislation to delay action by the commission.

“The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission has put forward what I’m sure he regards as a reasonable compromise on the issue of media consolidation,” said Senator Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota. “But he has yet to make the case for why any further media consolidation is necessary. Indeed, he is relying on an assumption that newspapers are doomed and that cross-ownership is necessary to save them. I believe this is not the case.”

The plan was also attacked by the Newspaper Association of America, which complained that it was too modest and that Mr. Martin did not go far enough.

“The fundamental issues he raises concerning the vitality of newspapers and assuring that local news remains available to the public in print and in broadcast are not confined to the top 20 markets,” said John F. Sturm, president and chief executive of the trade organization.

It was also challenged in a statement by the two Democrats on the commission, Michael J. Copps and Jonathan S. Adelstein.

The two commissioners said that despite Mr. Martin’s portrayal of the plan as a modest one, the top 20 markets constitute 43 percent of the nation’s households. And they said the plan gave loose guidelines that would permit the commission to grant many exemptions in smaller markets.

“This is not to my mind a modest proposal,” Mr. Copps said. “It is gift-wrapped to look like a modest proposal. It strikes me as immodest and opens the floodgates to a lot of deals.”

But for the Tribune, at least, the rules are likely to lead to some sales of media properties. Tribune owns two TV stations and a newspaper in Hartford, which is not one of the Top 20 markets. It also owns a radio and a television station in Chicago, as well as The Tribune. (The rule, as proposed, lets a company own a newspaper and either a radio or TV station.)

FCC Wants More Info From XM and Sirius

The FCC sent questionnaires to XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio that will provide an indication of areas where the FCC could ask for concessions if the proposed merger of the two satcasters is approved. The request seeks detailed information about many facets of their operations, such as exclusive distribution contracts, programming arrangements and technical aspects, according to the Wall Street Journal. The FCC also wants information on which channels will duplicate each other and could be consolidated, as well as details on interoperable technology to allow programming from both services to work on one radio. Both the FCC and the Justice Department are reviewing the proposed XM-Sirius deal to decide if it should be allowed.

Meanwhile, the two broadcasters have gained additional support for the merger idea from various U.S. Senators and the NASCAR organization. These new endorsements add to those from the League of Rural Voters, NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the National Council of Women's Organizations.

NASCAR filed a statement with the FCC that reads, "We hope that the proposed merger will lead to more flexible programming options for consumers, which will lead to an increase in the number of people that receive NASCAR-related satellite radio programming."

Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) released a statement saying, "Sirius and XM have responded to the market's desire for more choice, and we applaud them for voluntarily offering subscribers new and innovative listening options. We are particularly pleased that they will offer family-friendly options that allow subscribers to block adult programming."

Senator John Ensign (R-NV) added, "This is a great example of how private industry can and will respond to the demands of consumers without the need for government intervention. We hope that other entertainment providers will follow XM-Sirius' lead and offer Americans increased choices and customization."

Sirius, XM Shareholders Give Green Light to Merger
Marguerite Reardon

Shareholders of both Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio separately approved Sirius' $5 billion acquisition of XM on Tuesday.

Now the companies just need approval from the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission before they can make the deal final.

But approval from these agencies is far from guaranteed. The FCC has been examining the deal very closely. Originally, the agency barred satellite radio companies from combining. But the rule could be changed, especially as satellite radio faces more competition from Internet music services, music playing phones and online music stores like Apple's iTunes that allow people to play music on iPods.

Sirius and XM argue that together they could offer consumers more choices and pricing options. The companies each offer packages that include music, talk, sports, and other programming for about $13 per month. If the deal is approved, the companies say they can offer plans starting at around $7 per month.

Some analysts expect the FCC to make a decision on the deal in early December.

musicFIRST Suggests Lower Performance Royalty Rates For Some

Multiple reports say that the musicFIRST coalition is proposing to Congress that certain broadcasters get a break in the suggested performance royalty rates. Flat rates would be applied to "small commercial radio stations," noncommercial stations and college stations.

According to Radio Ink, musicFIRST's proposal would get rid of exemptions and let "small" commercial stations pay a flat, annual royalty rate of $5000, with non-comms and college stations paying out $1000 per year. Stations that are not music formatted, such as Talk stations, would not pay the performance royalty at all. Stations that use some music in their programming would potentially pay a "per program license option" while religious programming would be exempt altogether.

Next Tuesday, November 13, a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing will take place on the proposed performance royalty rates, with Lyle Lovett set to testify in its favor.

Earlier this week, musicFIRST took the NAB to task for the organization's insistence on referring to the performance royalties as a "tax." The organization sent a dictionary to NAB head David Rehr to clarify the definition of a 'tax.'

Prince To Take On The Pirate Bay

Prince, described by some people as one of the most creative and talented musicians, hired the infamous “Web Sheriff” who announced lawsuits against The Pirate Bay in the U.S., France and Sweden. “Way to go on losing all your fans” was the first response of Pirate Bay admin Brokep.

In September we already reported that Prince hired the Web-Sheriff in an attempt to bring down the Pirate Bay. Web Sheriff now gave out some more details on the upcoming legal battles.

The Sheriff is convinced that he has a strong case and told CNET News: “There is no way that they will have any defense because it’s blatant piracy. They’ll either have to come out and fight or just try and ignore it. In that case, we’re going to win a default judgment against them. This could be a ticking time bomb for them. They can’t outrun this. We are very confident.”

Pirate Bay admin Brokep was not impressed by Web Sheriff’s expressed confidence, and told us earlier: “He’s welcome to try and sue us in Sweden, there’s no basis. And it’s so funny that he’s teaming up with the joke of the anti piracy world - Web Sheriff.”

In addition to suing The Pirate Bay, Web Sheriff also told CNET News that he will go after the companies that advertise on the popular BitTorrent tracker and that he will be involved an investigation into The Pirate Bay’s money streams.

This is not the first time the Web Sheriff, also known as John Giacobbi, clashes with The Pirate Bay. Some hilarious email correspondence is still available on The Pirate Bay’s legal threat page.

Prince Releases "Diss" Track On Greedy Fans

Depending on which news source you follow, Prince may or may not be suing three fan Web sites for using his likeness without his permission. As reported earlier this week, those fan sites joined together as "Prince Fans United" and called the alleged legal action against them a violation of freedom of speech. However, a company helping Prince in his copyright issues told Reuters the Purple One is not suing his fans. "This is not about freedom of speech," said John Giacobbi, managing director of Internet policing specialist Web Sheriff. "The current issue is one between Prince's record label and three unofficial Web sites and relates to the use of Prince trademarks and photographs, many of which are Prince's copyright."

But whether legal action is being forged or not, one thing is for sure: Prince has taken out his frustrations musically and recorded a new diss track for the false fans and hangers on. The Funk jam, dubbed "PFUnk," is posted at Princefamsunited.com. "The only reason you say my name is to get your fifteen seconds of fame, nobody’s even sure what you do,” Prince sings. "I don’t care what people may say, I ain’t gonna let it ruin my day.” Toward the end, Prince tells his fans, “I love all y’all, don’t you ever mess with me no more."

So far the fans seem to be enjoying the diss track and are posting positive reviews on message boards. One poster on the Housequake.com board said, “It really is head and shoulders above anything on [Planet Earth] or 3121,” and another noted that it sounds like a Prince B-side from 1987.

Jacko Opens Up As Thriller Turns 25

With December marking the 25th anniversary of Michael Jackson's landmark Thriller album, the reclusive singer actually granted an interview to Ebony magazine in which he talked about his solo career and the state of music and Hip-Hop today. The magazine comes out on Monday, but some excerpts have already been released.

When comparing his debut solo album, Off The Wall, to Thriller, Jackson said it was "a complete transition." "Ever since I was a little boy, I would study composition. And it was Tchaikovsky that influenced me the most," he tells Ebony, according to MTV News. "If you take an album like Nutcracker Suite, every song is a killer, every one. So I said to myself, 'Why can't there be a pop album where every [song is a killer]?'... I do that same process with every song. It's the melody, the melody is the most important. If the melody sounds good in my head, it's usually good when I do it."

The singer is rumored to be working with Kanye West and Will.I.Am on a comeback album, and while he did say, "I'm writing a lot of stuff right now" and "I'm in the studio, like, every day," he didn't reveal when a new album would be coming. He does, however, think that Ne-Yo, Chris Brown and Akon are "wonderful."

"When [Rap] came out, I always felt that it was gonna take more of a melodic structure to make it more universal, 'cause not everybody speaks English, and you are limited to your country," Jackson explained, according to MTV News. "But when you can have a melody, and everybody can hum a melody, then that's when it became France, the Middle East, everywhere! All over the world now, 'cause they put that melodic, linear thread in there. You have to be able to hum it, from the farmer in Ireland to that lady who scrubs toilets in Harlem to anybody who can whistle to a child poppin' their fingers. You have to be able to hum it."

There are no concrete tour plans in Jackson’s future, but he did say he doesn't see himself staying on the road in his old age. "Not the way James Brown did, or Jackie Wilson did, where they just killed themselves," Jackson said. "I wish [Brown] could have slowed down and been more relaxed and enjoyed his hard work."

Radiohead Set In Rainbows Release Date, Dispute ComScore Data

Another day, another slew of news from the Radiohead camp. First off, the band has confirmed that their new album, In Rainbows, will get its CD release via XL Recordings overseas on December 31. The album will also be available on vinyl. "Jigsaw Falling Into Place" will be the official single, with a physical single released in the U.K. on January 14. While ATO/Side One is still the reported frontrunner for In Rainbows' U.S. release, nothing has been officially confirmed yet.

Meanwhile, the band is disputing Tuesday's story that ComScore data found the majority of fans did not pay for In Rainbows via the unique choose-your-own-price option for its download. After ComScore found that under four out of 10 fans who globally downloaded the album opted to pay zero dollars, Radiohead released a statement calling the data "wholly inaccurate."

According to the band's statement, the ComScore report "in no way reflect definitive market intelligence or, indeed, the true success of the project." They added, "the group's representatives would like to remind people that, as the album could only be downloaded from the band's Web site, it is impossible for outside organizations to have accurate figures on sales."

Radiohead has also reportedly revealed the new box set of their earlier material was not their idea. A representative for the band told Pitchforkmedia that the set was conceived by EMI, and they opted not to participate in the project. And in related news, Nielsen Soundscan data shows that since the announcement of In Rainbows last month, sales of Radiohead's catalog have increased. According to Billboard, the Radiohead catalog sold a total of 35.8 percent more copies in the month after the new record's announcement than in the month before. Sales went up 16 percent in the week after In Rainbows was announced, and then 21 percent after the album went on sale.

The New Deal: Band as Brand
Jeff Leeds

IF you surveyed the crowd this summer at the punk-flavored Vans Warped Tour here, thick with unexpected piercings and regrettable tattoos, the Paramore fans were hard to miss. Many were clean-cut young girls sporting the same shaggy orange-and-blonde hairstyle as the one worn by the band’s singer, Hayley Williams, in the music video for this pop-punk band’s hit song, “Misery Business.”

“I just want to be just like her,” said a 12-year-old fan named Christine, who cried while standing in line to get autographs from Ms. Williams, 18, and her band mates. Ms. Williams cupped a hand over her mouth and spun away for a moment for fear of losing her own composure.

Paramore is undeniably ascendant: after three years of tireless runs through clubs and festivals, the band, from Franklin, Tenn., has built a passionate audience that has snapped up more than 350,000 copies of its recent second album, “Riot!,” more than doubling the sales of its debut. And now the band is selling out theaters on its biggest tour to date.

Though its success is in large part due to smart pop songwriting and a fashion-forward frontwoman, music executives and talent managers also cite Paramore as a promising example of a rising new model for developing talent, one in which artists share not just revenue from their album sales but concert, merchandise and other earnings with their label in exchange for more comprehensive career support.

If the concept takes hold, it will alter not only the way music companies make money but the way new talent is groomed, and perhaps even the kind of acts that are offered contracts in the first place.

Commonly known as “multiple rights” or “360” deals, the new pacts emerged in an early iteration with the deal that Robbie Williams, the British pop singer signed with EMI in 2002. They are now used by all the major record labels and even a few independents. Madonna has been the most prominent artist to sign on (her recent $120 million deal with the concert promoter Live Nation allows it to share in her future earnings), but the majority of these new deals are made with unknown acts.

It’s not possible to tabulate the number of acts working under 360 deals, but worldwide, record labels share in the earnings with such diverse acts as Lordi, a Finnish metal band which has its own soft drink and credit card, and Camila, a Mexican pop trio that has been drawing big crowds to its concerts. In the United States, Interscope Records benefits from the marketing spinoffs from the Pussycat Dolls, including a Dolls-theme nightclub in Las Vegas.

“Five or eight years ago an eyebrow would be raised,” said the music producer Josh Abraham, whose recent credits include recordings by Slayer and Pink. “Now it’s everywhere. You can’t talk about what a deal looks like without seeing 360.”

Like many innovations, these deals were born of desperation; after experiencing the financial havoc unleashed by years of slipping CD sales, music companies started viewing the ancillary income from artists as a potential new source of cash. After all, the thinking went, labels invest the most in the risky and expensive process of developing talent, so why shouldn’t they get a bigger share of the talent’s success?

In return for that bigger share, labels might give artists more money up front and in many cases touring subsidies that otherwise would not be offered. More important, perhaps, artists might be allowed more time to develop the chops needed to build a long career. And the label’s ability to crossmarket items like CDs, ring tones, V.I.P. concert packages and merchandise might make for a bigger overall pie.

Not everyone is sold on the concept. Many talent managers view 360s as a thinly veiled money grab and are skeptical that the labels, with their work forces shrinking amid industrywide cost cutting, will deliver on their promises of patience.

“That’s a hard speech for many people to buy into,” said Bruce Flohr, a longtime talent executive who signed the Dave Matthews Band to RCA Records and now works for ATO Records, an independent label. “You can speak to me that you’re going to work a record for 18 months. You’re going to work a record for 18 months when it’s selling 420 copies six months from now? Come on — really?”

Even inexperienced performers may resist sharing their take from the box office, particularly at a time when plunging CD sales have pushed artists to rely even more on their concert earnings.

But record executives argue that such deals could free them from the tyranny of megahits because there would be less pressure to make back the label’s money immediately. In the 1990s the arrival of computerized data from SoundScan, which tracks retail sales, meant the industry had an instant scorecard that tempted companies to push for Hollywood blockbuster-style opening weeks. The demand for quick payoffs persisted, even though a review of the last 15 years of Billboard data shows the albums that immediately seized spots on the upper half of the Billboard Top 200 chart would go on to sell fewer copies, on average, than the releases that slowly worked their way up.

“If we weren’t so mono-focused on the selling of recorded music, we could actually take a really holistic approach to the development of an artist brand,” said Craig Kallman, chairman of Atlantic Records, which signed Paramore, along with Fueled By Ramen Records. “What’s the healthiest decision to be made, not just to sell the CD but to build the artist’s fan base?”

The industry’s hunger for 360 deals might also subtly shift the ways labels view the scouting and cultivation of talent, a process known as A&R, or artist and repertory, development.

Rap acts, for example, might lose out, since their recordings can be expensive to produce and very few become touring successes. On the other hand, rappers can attract lucrative endorsements for products from sneakers to computers to soft drinks; many have started apparel lines. With an eye to a piece of that potential revenue, Atlantic recently signed the Brooklyn rapper Maino to a 360-style pact.

And labels may take a closer look at the progeny of the Grateful Dead: hard-touring jam bands that don’t necessarily sell many CD’s or score radio hits but do draw obsessively loyal fans who gobble up tickets and memorabilia. “We used to look at jam bands as bands that absolutely we shouldn’t sign,” Mr. Kallman said. “Now all of a sudden I’m saying: ‘Guys, you absolutely must find the next hottest jam band. I need the next Phish. Urgently.’”

A somewhat similar blueprint emerged in 2005 when Atlantic and a small partner, the Florida company Fueled By Ramen, signed Paramore with plans to build a brand-name rock band, one that now not only racks up sold-out shows but sells merchandise from flip-flops to tube tops. The band members, who were mostly teenagers when they signed, felt drawn to a comprehensive approach that allowed for slower growth, Ms. Williams said during a recent chat on the band’s tour bus.

The slow work of playing scores of clubs has paid off so far. It took time for Ms. Williams’s marketable girl-power persona to blossom. At first she usually wore a T-shirt and jeans, but after roughly two years of gigs, she had an epiphany.

“We were leaving Glasgow, Scotland, on the way to another city, and I remember saying, ‘I don’t want to wear this kind of stuff anymore, because I kind of feel like a dude,’” she recalled.

As the band developed, Atlantic and Fueled By Ramen underwrote many of its touring expenses, including, early on, the purchase of a van and payments to Ms. Williams’s mother to continue the band members’ high school education on the road, said John Janick, Fueled By Ramen’s top executive.

Paramore’s handlers wanted the band to hone its craft off the industry radar, forgoing the push to get radio play for any singles from the band’s first album, 2005’s “All We Know is Falling.” Instead, Fueled By Ramen tried to drum up support on Web sites like Purevolume.com, where users explore new music. “The band was so young, and they were trying to figure out who they were,” Mr. Janick said.

Paramore’s debut sold more than 140,000 CDs: no flop but far below typical expectations for a band considered a label priority. “We were given all the time in the world, and all the support we could ever ask for, to basically do nothing but play shows,” Ms. Williams said. Without the 360 approach, she said, “I don’t know that we would’ve been given that lenience.”

Though the concept could be applied to anyone, even fleetingly famous pop stars, the real potential of a 360-style pact does not emerge unless an act is popular long enough to attract either loyal fans who reliably buy tickets, or attention from business partners who might help market spinoffs like a fragrance or sneaker line.

“Let’s face it, if you’ve sold 1.5 million albums off one single, and here comes your clothing line, and here comes your personalized phone, you haven’t really built a fan base,” Mr. Flohr of ATO said. “You’ve built fans of songs.”

If 360s mean that labels might practice more patience in developing raw talent, however, they could hardly have picked a worse moment. In the open culture of the Internet fans can render judgment on burgeoning artists almost instantly, long before the musicians have a chance to hone their songs or road-test their performance skills. Indie-rock bands run a gantlet of blogs that might include a round of breathless hype that vaults them to Next-Big-Thing status then a thorough backlash, all before they even release an album.

While most labels now monitor blogs for new acts to sign, many executives insist that, once they commit to developing a new act’s career, they can discount much of the online banter. “It’s not just like, ‘Oh my god, they’re not hip in Williamsburg anymore, so therefore it’s over,’” said Steve Ralbovsky, a longtime A&R executive who signed artists including Kings of Leon at RCA Records and now runs his own unit, Canvasback, at Columbia Records. “You just have to realize there’s a world apart” from the blogosphere.

Mr. Ralbovsky, who has started to discuss 360-style pacts with several artists, said it will take “a couple of years” before anyone can determine whether a group’s ancillary income can offset the continuing slide in album sales. As for Paramore, executives say they still view the band as an investment, and decline to disclose financial details of Atlantic’s arrangement.

Particulars of a 360 deal might differ from label to label, but a recent Atlantic offer to another act provides an example of how one might be structured.

Atlantic’s document offers a conventional cash advance to sign the artist, who would receive a royalty for sales after expenses were recouped. With the release of the artist’s first album, however, the label has an option to pay an additional $200,000 in exchange for 30 percent of the net income from all touring, merchandise, endorsements and fan-club fees.

Atlantic would also have the right to approve the act’s tour schedule, and the salaries of certain tour and merchandise sales employees hired by the artist. But the label also offers the artist a 30 percent cut of the label’s album profits — if any — which represents an improvement from the typical industry royalty of 15 percent.

Mr. Kallman said that if Atlantic engages more artists in such agreements, it will have to devote more resources to a smaller roster and raise the stakes for each album. “Your batting average has to go up,” he said. If new artists don’t become successful, “I’ve doubled and tripled down on everything and I’m still playing to empty houses and not selling records.”

As for Paramore, the band’s chance to develop away from the spotlight of the mainstream marketplace has now ended. With its gathering fame, the band has already confronted a handful of tough decisions about how to maintain its identity. Ms. Williams said she rejected an overture from a shoe company that wanted to feature her — alone — in an ad campaign.

Still, to grow, the band will have to expand its reach. Josh Farro, Paramore’s guitarist, sounded wary. Until now “we didn’t want to get lumped into that whole machine, MTV and all that stuff,” he said. “We felt like it was just too soon. And we’d rather build a solid fan base.”

He added, “We have such crazy fans, and those are the ones that are going to stick with us forever.”

Divorces can be pricey

McCartney Sees Beatles Going Digital Next Year
Gary Graff

As he rolls out a new DVD and expanded edition of his latest album, Paul McCartney is predicting the Beatles' catalog will make its long-awaited arrival in the digital realm next year.

"It's all happening soon," McCartney told Billboard.com. "Most of us are all sort of ready. The whole thing is primed, ready to go -- there's just maybe one little sticking point left, and I think it's being cleared up as we speak, so it shouldn't be too long.

"It's down to fine-tuning, but I'm pretty sure it'll be happening next year, 2008," he said.

As a group, the Beatles rank among the highest-profile holdouts in putting their catalog online, but a recent settlement to a lengthy trademark dispute between Apple and their company, Apple Corps Ltd., was seen as finally clearing the way.

McCartney said any additional delays in bringing the Fab Four' music to the Internet have been due to "contractual" issues as well as deliberate planning by all parties involved.

"You've got to get these things right," he said. "You don't want to do something that's as cool as that and in three years' time you think, 'Oh God, why did we do that?!"

The solo catalogs of all four Beatles have been available for download since October, when the music of George Harrison went digital. Apple has not said when it expects to release the Beatles' catalog, though the market has been expecting it since the trademark settlement in February.

In the meantime, McCartney is giving fans plenty to hear -- and see.

"The McCartney Years" is a three-DVD set that features videos and concert footage from throughout his solo career, including newly recorded McCartney commentary tracks as well as rare and unreleased material.

McCartney said he was initially disinclined to do a video collection -- "It's almost like your memoirs; you want to wait until you're sort of done," he explained -- but was persuaded by director Dick Carruthers and executive production consultant Ray Still.

"They sold me on it," said McCartney, who served as the set's executive producer. "They cleaned up the picture and sound, and I was like, 'Geez, I've never heard it like this. I've never seen it like this,' so I started to get excited."

"The McCartney Years" comes out in tandem with an expanded edition of his latest album, "Memory Almost Full."

The new version features three bonus tracks -- including a rare instrumental called "In Private" -- videos for the singles "Dance Tonight" and "Ever Present Past" -- and a DVD from his June 7, 2007, concert at London's Electric Ballroom.

EMI Labels Sue Online Music Executive Robertson

EMI Group companies sued online music industry executive Michael Robertson for copyright infringement on Friday, some seven years after his former company paid recording firms more than $100 million to settle a similar case.

Several EMI-owned labels and publishers sued Robertson and MP3tunes, which runs the sites Sideload.com and MP3tunes.com, for willful infringement of copyright over the Internet, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

Robertson said in a phone interview from San Diego he had not seen the lawsuit, but that the case appeared to be "retaliatory," as MP3tunes had sued EMI in San Diego in September over a take-down notice the record company sent for Sideload, a search engine for digital music files.

Robertson, 40, is chief executive of MP3tunes and was the founder of MP3.com, which was sued in 2000 by several major recording companies, including some of the plaintiffs in this case, according to the complaint.

MP3.com was later bought by Vivendi's Universal Music Group for $385 million. Universal at the time was the only record company of the five major labels that had sued it to refuse to settle its copyright infringement suit with MP3.com.

"These guys rush off to court and tell the court that I am terrible, and then they end up buying my company," Robertson said. "It is really a shame, because instead of using these technologies to improve their business, they make an enemy of every technology company out there."

In 2003, News.com parent company CNET Networks bought MP3.com. As for MP3tunes, EMI's complaint says that MP3tunes' two Web sites offer an integrated music service, allowing users to listen to music on their computers, obtain copies of songs online, transfer music to their computers and portable devices, and distribute it to others.

Sideload streams music to users, enabling them to listen to a wide array of music on demand, the complaint said. Robertson sold MP3.com and "ultimately started (the newer site, MP3tunes.com) as a vehicle to achieve a comparable infringing purpose," the complaint read. "MP3tunes, however, does not own the music it exploits; nor does MP3tunes have any legal right or authority to use or exploit that music."

RIAA: Jammie Thomas Has "No Basis" to Complain About Damage Award
Eric Bangeman

The RIAA has responded to Jammie Thomas' motion for a new trial or to have the amount of the jury award slashed. In their reply, the record labels argue that since Thomas agreed to the jury instructions and was aware of the possibility of a massive award, she has no basis to challenge the constitutionality of the statutory damages.

After a three-day trial last month, a Duluth, MN, jury found that Thomas willfully infringed on the record labels' copyrights by downloading and distributing 24 copyrighted recordings. Under the provisions of the Copyright Act, they could have awarded the labels anywhere from $750 to $150,000 for each of the songs. They ultimately settled on $9,250 per song for a grand total of $222,000.

In her motion, Thomas argued that the award was unconstitutionally excessive, citing testimony in UMG v. Lindor (a case that the labels call "unrelated" in their response) that the labels only make about 70¢ per song sold online. Thomas instead would like to see damages limited to those that the labels can actually prove, arguing that any award above the labels' actual damages is "purely punitive." At most, statutory damages should be capped at 10 times actual damages.

The RIAA offers a number of reasons why the judge should deny Thomas' motion. The trade group notes that statutory damages need not be tied to actual damages. "Defendant's argument that statutory damages must bear some reasonable relationship to actual damages has been considered, and rejected, by numerous courts," reads the reply. "[A]wards of statutory damages under the Copyright Act that fall within the limits set by Congress are for the jury to determine, whatever the amounts of actual damages (if any)."

During the trial, the RIAA made no attempt to quantify the damages it suffered as a result of Thomas' actions. The labels have said in the past that thousands of jobs have been lost and many groups left unsigned due to economic losses from piracy. Despite that, Sony head of litigation Jennifer Pariser testified the company had never stopped to calculate the actual damages it had suffered. Thomas is also wrong to focus solely on the damages caused by illicit downloading, argues the RIAA. The plaintiffs were also harmed by her "unlawful distribution" of the tracks on KaZaA, although the RIAA presented no evidence that any unlawful distribution took place during the trial.

The jury instructions come into play in the RIAA's response as well. The labels note that Thomas signed off on said instructions and verdict form that enabled the jury to come up with a damage figure up to the $150,000 maximum. As a result, she should not be allowed to argue now that the verdict is "somehow unconstitutionally excessive."

One of those instructions became a point of contention between the RIAA and Thomas. As the instructions were originally written, the RIAA would have had to have shown that Thomas actually transferred songs over KaZaA in order to demonstrate infringement. After the RIAA objected, Judge Michael Davis modified the instructions to say that making the songs available violated the labels' exclusive right of distribution, regardless of whether any transfer took place.

Thomas should be forced to pony up the full $222,000, the labels believe. "Defendant should not now be allowed to shirk her responsibility for her own calculated decisions first to engage in substantial online infringement of Plaintiffs' copyrights and then to try to conceal her infringement," argues the RIAA. "Where, as here, the amount awarded by the jury was less than 10% of what the jury could have awarded, there is no basis for a remittur or a new trial."

It's not known when Judge Davis will rule on Thomas' motion. If the verdict and damage amount stand, Thomas will undoubtedly continue her appeal, likely focusing on distribution question in the jury instructions. In the meantime, she's no doubt hoping that her thong underwear sales make a dent in the judgment.

Major Movie Bust Fine Dwarfed by RIAA Tab
Eric Bangeman

If a woman found to have shared 24 songs over KaZaA was ordered to pay $9,250 for each track, what do you think an appropriate fine for uploading the first copy of The Simpsons Movie to the Internet? According to an Australian magistrate, AUS$1,000, or about US$890.

Jose Duarte, a 21-year-old resident of Sydney, was fined that amount after he pleaded guilty to a single count of distributing copyrighted material earlier today. Duarte was arrested in August after an international investigation spearheaded by Fox, which released the movie, fingered him as the first person to have uploaded The Simpsons Movie.

Duarte recorded the movie on his cell phone on the day of its release in Australia and quickly uploaded it to the Internet. According to his lawyer, Ken Stewart, Duarte actually uploaded it twice, believing he had failed. "It would appear that this young man had the sophistication of a dead fish," Stewart told the AP. "I have sat and spent time with this young man... and I am quite satisfied that he had no idea what he was doing."

Prosecutor Chuan Ng said that Duarte's cap was up for only a few hours, which was enough time for it to be downloaded 3,213 times. Duarte's cap allowed some Simpsons fans in North America and Europe to see the movie before its official release in those regions.

So, $890 for The Simpsons Movie filmed on a cell phone and $9,250 for an MP3 of a Dream Theater tune. One of these penalties seems really out of proportion to the crime, and we'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to figure out which one. If nothing else, the two cases demonstrate the need for clearer, more reasonable penalties for copyright infringement—even in different countries.

New Media: Sue Downloaders? Nah, Just Tap Them for Donations
Mathew Ingram

Downloading movies from the Internet without paying for them is wrong, right?

So the only proper response for a producer would be to wait for the Motion Picture Association of America (or the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association) to sue downloaders and threaten to put them in jail, where they belong.

That's certainly one popular approach and the one the industry has chosen to take more often than not.

However, one independent filmmaker - who discovered his movie was being downloaded by users of file-sharing networks - has reached out to downloaders and asked them to make a donation to cover his costs.

Eric Wilkinson said he realized what was happening after watching the traffic to his website explode, with most of it coming from a file-sharing website. So he decided to try what he called the "Radiohead model," named for the British band that offered its latest album online in return for a donation.

Wilkinson posted a message on his MySpace page, but also took his appeal directly to downloaders at the file-sharing discussion forum - a site called RSLog.com - where he asked for donations to be made to his PayPal account.

The producer even gave downloaders credit for helping to promote his movie, saying their comments on Amazon, IMDB and elsewhere helped to create a buzz around the movie, which is called The Man From Earth. The film became the fifth-most-popular title on IMDB in a matter of weeks.

When some users of RSLog.com expressed skepticism that he was who he said he was, the producer posted a picture of himself on the forum and at his MySpace page. That seemed to convince most of the commenters, several of whom said they had already made donations to Wilkinson's account.

Movie Reviews

Apocalypse Soon: A Mushroom Cloud Doesn’t Stall 2008 Electioneering
Manohla Dargis

“Southland Tales,” Richard Kelly’s funny, audacious, messy and feverishly inspired look at America and its discontents, opens with the very biggest of bangs. The place is Texas, the time is 2005, and a crowd of laughing men, women and children are celebrating the Fourth of July when a mushroom cloud blooms in the sky, igniting World War III. Not long after the smoke clears, Justin Timberlake, playing an Iraq war veteran with a thing for quoting Revelation, ominously intones in voice-over: “This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, not with a whimper but with a bang.”

The lines are borrowed from T. S. Eliot’s post-World War I poem “The Hollow Men” and reverberate through “Southland Tales,” which satirically imagines a wartime landscape unsettlingly close to a modern pessimist’s vision of the day after next. Mr. Kelly has purposely distorted Eliot’s poem, which ends with the whimper, not the bang, and speaks to a ravaged Europe. Now the wasteland is America, where, in the wake of nuclear attack, the Bud Light still flows freely (par-tee!), though not the fossil fuel. Having reinstated the draft to stock its war fronts — in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with Iran, Syria and North Korea — America has gone into lockdown. Somewhere in Venice, Calif., the revolution tick, tick, ticks.

After the big-bang prologue, the story shifts to 2008, when on the eve of a presidential campaign competing interests are jockeying violently for power. Among the sprawling cast of unusual suspects are the “neo-Marxists,” mostly middle-age hippie chicks swinging Tasers and heavy rhetoric; a Republican presidential candidate and his Lady Macbeth of a wife; and a gaggle of totally awesome porn stars in hot pants and lip gloss who preach their own brand of liberation theology on cable television. Skulking on the sidelines is a mystery man with a spit curl who claims to have found a solution to America’s depleted reserves in something called Fluid Karma, which will light up the country by harnessing the ocean’s power.

There’s more stuffed in Mr. Kelly’s crowded fun house, including the linchpin figure, Boxer Santaros, played with lilting delicacy by Dwayne Johnson. After having gone inexplicably missing, Boxer — identified as an actor with ties to the Republican Party — has re-emerged on the grid in Venice, amnesiac and nestled in the arms of an entrepreneurial porn star, Krysta Now, given dignity and melancholic soul by a lovely Sarah Michelle Gellar. Together, Boxer and Krysta (she’s all about now, not later) have written an apocalyptic screenplay that they’re trying to pitch amid the intrigue and noise. Everyone wants a part of Boxer, but all he wants to do is research his role, which he does by riding shotgun with a mysterious cop (Seann William Scott, terrific).

What is “Southland Tales”? It’s a romp, for starters, a genre pastiche, a blast of conscience. It’s also overly plotted and at once too long and too short. It took Stanley Kubrick 102 tidy minutes to blow the world to Kingdom Come in “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” one of Mr. Kelly’s touchstones. (His other influences: “Kiss Me Deadly,” “Double Indemnity,” David Lynch, Fox News, comic books, video games, “Saturday Night Live,” years spent living in Los Angeles.) By contrast, “Southland Tales” clocks in at 2 hours 24 minutes. It sounds padded, but I miss the 19 minutes shorn from it in the aftermath of its disastrous premiere at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.

Being booed at Cannes can be a rite of passage or merely ritualistic, and it’s neither a novel occurrence nor especially notable: Sofia Coppola was booed, as were Antonioni and Bresson. Even so, the critical reaction to “Southland Tales” was harsh and in some instances as ugly as it can get when the wolf pack starts to circle, with one critic actually wondering if its director had ever met another human being. Since then, Mr. Kelly has streamlined the narrative, excising characters and plot threads (blink and you’ll miss a trace of Janeane Garofalo’s redacted performance), added some nifty special effects and secured domestic distribution. The film still sprawls, at times beautifully, at times maddeningly, but its ambition and pleasures remain undiminished.

American cinema is in the grip of a kind of moribund academicism, which helps explain why a fastidiously polished film like “No Country for Old Men” can receive such gushing praise from critics. “Southland Tales” isn’t as smooth and tightly tuned as “No Country,” a film I admire with few reservations. Even so, I would rather watch a young filmmaker like Mr. Kelly reach beyond the obvious, push past his and the audience’s comfort zones, than follow the example of the Coens and elegantly art-direct yet one more murder for your viewing pleasure and mine. Certainly “Southland Tales” has more ideas, visual and intellectual, in a single scene than most American independent films have in their entirety, though that perhaps goes without saying.

Neither disaster nor masterpiece, “Southland Tales” again confirms that Mr. Kelly, who made a startling feature debut with “Donnie Darko,” is one of the bright lights of his filmmaking generation. He doesn’t make it easy to love his new film, which turns and twists and at times threatens to disappear down the rabbit hole of his obsessions. Happily, it never does, which allows you to share in his unabashed joy in filmmaking as well as in his fury about the times. Only an American who loves his country as much as Mr. Kelly does could blow it to smithereens and then piece it together with help from the Rock, Buffy, Mr. Timberlake and a clutch of professional wisenheimers. He does want to give peace a chance, seriously.

“Southland Tales” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Adult language and gun violence.


Opens today nationwide.

Written and directed by Richard Kelly; director of photography, Steven Poster; edited by Sam Bauer; music by Moby; production designer, Alexander Hammond; produced by Sean McKittrick, Bo Hyde, Kendall Morgan and Matthew Rhodes; released by Samuel Goldwyn Pictures. Running time: 144 minutes.

WITH: Dwayne Johnson (Boxer Santaros), Seann William Scott (Roland Taverner/Ronald Taverner), Sarah Michelle Gellar (Krysta Kapowski/Krysta Now), Curtis Armstrong (Dr. Soberin Exx), Joe Campana (Brandt Huntington) and Nora Dunn (Cyndi Pinziki).

After 5 Decades, Still Igniting the Screen

Manohla Dargis

In August 1952 the director of “Monika” began shooting this wistful story of young passion and the autumn that inevitably follows in its wake. It had been a busy year. He had directed one of his own plays and been hired as the director of a theater company. He had shot and finished another film, the 11th in an already complicated career, though it had yet to open. He was supporting two ex-wives and five children from those unions, as well as a third wife and an infant son. Ingmar Bergman had just turned 34.

More than 50 years later, “Monika” arrives in New York again to light up the screen, this time without a trace of impropriety. When the film first opened in America, it played in art houses and grindhouses, raising temperatures as “Summer With Monika” and “Monika: The Story of a Bad Girl.” It’s possible that many viewers (including the young Woody Allen) saw a shortened version that was peddled on the exploitation circuit as “A Picture for Wide Screens and Broad Minds.” (That may explain why this paper didn’t review it.) It’s unclear which “Monika” was seized in 1956 by the Los Angeles vice squad, which declared it indecent. A representative for the theater explained that it was an “art type.” Well, of course.

The reason for all the fuss was a 20-year-old actress named Harriet Andersson, or, more likely, the discreet glimpses of her naked breasts and the charmingly broad expanse of her unclothed rear. This was Ms. Andersson’s first important film role, and she is stunning with and without any clothing. Monika, an impetuous, mercurial and dangerously sentimental wild child, lives in a crowded Stockholm tenement apartment with her family. One afternoon she thrusts herself into the arms of Harry (Lars Ekborg), a shy young stranger slightly her senior. Motherless and seemingly without friends, Harry falls hard for Monika, and she tumbles in turn. When she cries out that she loves him, it’s like a stab to the heart, his and ours.

Swept away, the teenagers quit their jobs and take off in his father’s small motorboat for a summer idyll of long days and sultry nights. She makes coffee wearing nothing but a tiny sweater and enormous white briefs, tiptoeing through the weeds. They sing and dance and dream. She sunbathes on the boat’s deck, her shirt pulled low off her satiny shoulders and under Harry’s (and Bergman’s) appreciative gaze. When the food and the summer run out, the lovers return home, with her belly now gently swollen. As they motor through the city’s waterways, the buildings seem to bear heavily down on them, as foreboding as giants (or adults). The world shifts and settles, as does Monika’s smile, until each turns upside down.

Shot in rich black and white, “Monika” shows a director in absolute control of his medium and its singular expressivity. In the early city scenes Bergman crowds the frame with objects and people, creating a sense of claustrophobia for the lovers and for those of us watching them struggle to find a place of their own. Once they make their escape, the jammed, Cubistic cityscape gives way to pastoral vistas that melt into one another as the shimmering sun dissolves into images of glistening water and a sky as sheltering as it is limitless. In the sky’s boundlessness you intuit the expanse of new love, which Bergman also conveys through breathtaking close-ups of Monika and Harry nuzzling each other’s faces like foals.

The association of female sexuality with the natural order might be hard to take if Bergman didn’t complicate the cliché with such unexpected depth. With her vulgar manners and sudden cruelty, Monika comes across as a difficult, even impossible heroine, which seems very much to Bergman’s point. We can judge her if we so choose, but he refuses, as evident from the justly famous shot in which she looks directly into the camera for about 30 long seconds. In 1958 the young Jean-Luc Godard argued that with this shot Monika “calls on us to witness her disgust at involuntarily choosing hell instead of heaven.” I think Monika is defying us to judge her. She doesn’t belong to the world of domestic banality, and neither did Bergman.

Years later it’s easy to see why French New Wave directors like Godard and Truffaut were stirred by Monika’s purposeful stare. The shot thrills even now, so much so that I gasped while watching the beautiful new print that will be shown at the IFC Center. I had seen the film before on battered VHS, and Monika’s look certainly registers even in diminished shadow form. Yet the small, pale face that floated like an apparition on my television set has nothing in common with the monumental head that loomed down from the movie screen, devouring both the mise en scène and my attention. One head seems decorative, shrunken in size and feeling; the other communicates an epic of emotion, a fierce will, resistance.

Monika’s showdown with the lens — and with us — comes near the close of the film, long after summer has passed, and the camera has caressed her image again and again. She is seated at a table, having pushed the burning tip of her cigarette against the unlighted cigarette clenched in the mouth of the man opposite her. There’s something crude and forceful about the gesture and its transparent sexual suggestiveness. You can’t imagine her waiting for a man to light her up, as Paul Henreid does with Bette Davis in “Now, Voyager.” But Monika, who pulls her lovers into her bed without hesitation or shame, was a new woman for a cinematic practice that even today carries the shock and delight of the new.

Digital Actors in ‘Beowulf’ Are Just Uncanny
David F. Gallagher

When John Markoff wrote about the Contour digital special-effects system last year, he noted that it would be judged by its ability to help animators cross the “uncanny valley.” That is the no man’s land where artificial humans look both realistic and unrealistic at the same time, giving them a creepy vibe.

Contour’s big test comes on Friday with the arrival of “Beowulf,” a big-budget computer-animated version of the ancient tale, directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring the Contour-captured faces of Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich and other stars. I got an early look at the 3D Imax version last night. When it was over, I felt relieved to be back in the company of uncreepy flesh-and-blood humans again.

I’ll leave the full review up to others; having met Steve Perlman, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur behind the Contour system, I was most interested in seeing how well it performed. The movie definitely pushes digital acting far beyond anything I’ve seen before — but it looks as if the last few yards of the journey toward convincing realism are going to be the really hard part.

It’s kind of perfect that Mr. Malkovich deigned to be digitized for this movie. In “Being John Malkovich,” a possessed John Malkovich ditches acting and becomes a world-famous puppeteer, manipulating a life-sized Malkovich marionette in a complex dance and getting standing ovations. But his audiences are always aware that there are strings attached. In the same way, it’s impossible to watch “Beowulf” without sensing that the “actors” are being pushed around by invisible forces, not living and breathing on their own. (For glimpses of this, check out the trailers.)

The movie’s animation is otherwise so sophisticated that it is hard to pin down just what is missing. Perhaps we have spent so much time looking at our fellow humans that we can detect a problem with something as subtle as the physics of a muscle contracting, just a fraction of a second before it pulls the lips into a smile. Contour is designed to capture the full shape of a face by picking up light reflecting from phosphorescent paint. But, judging from “Beowulf” at least, it is leaving something out. People who are meant to be enraged, or who are at risk of plummeting to their deaths, just look a little out of sorts.

The moviemakers have such confidence in their technique that they let closeups of our hero Beowulf’s face linger on the giant Imax screen for long moments, allowing viewers to admire every hair in his 3-D digital stubble. Grendel, the putrefying monster played by Crispin Glover, is only slightly scarier.

Italian Musician Uncovers Hidden Music in Da Vinci's 'Last Supper'

It's a new Da Vinci code, but this time it could be for real.

A laptop screen shows musical notes encoded in Leonardo Da Vinci's "Last Supper."

An Italian musician and computer technician claims to have uncovered musical notes encoded in Leonardo Da Vinci's "Last Supper," raising the possibility that the Renaissance genius might have left behind a somber composition to accompany the scene depicted in the 15th-century wall painting.

"It sounds like a requiem," Giovanni Maria Pala said. "It's like a soundtrack that emphasizes the passion of Jesus."

Painted from 1494 to 1498 in Milan's Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, the "Last Supper" vividly depicts a key moment in the Gospel narrative: Jesus' last meal with the 12 Apostles before his arrest and crucifixion, and the shock of Christ's followers as they learn that one of them is about to betray him.

Pala, a 45-year-old musician who lives near the southern Italian city of Lecce, began studying Leonardo's painting in 2003, after hearing on a news program that researchers believed the artist and inventor had hidden a musical composition in the work.

"Afterward, I didn't hear anything more about it," he said in an interview with The Associated Press. "As a musician, I wanted to dig deeper."

In a book released Friday in Italy, Pala explains how he took elements of the painting that have symbolic value in Christian theology and interpreted them as musical clues.

Pala first saw that by drawing the five lines of a musical staff across the painting, the loaves of bread on the table as well as the hands of Jesus and the Apostles could each represent a musical note.

This fit the relation in Christian symbolism between the bread, representing the body of Christ, and the hands, which are used to bless the food, he said. But the notes made no sense musically until Pala realized that the score had to be read from right to left, following Leonardo's particular writing style.

In his book -- "La Musica Celata" ("The Hidden Music") -- Pala also describes how he found what he says are other clues in the painting that reveal the slow rhythm of the composition and the duration of each note.

The result is a 40-second "hymn to God" that Pala said sounds best on a pipe organ, the instrument most commonly used in Leonardo's time for spiritual music. A short segment taken from a CD of the piece contained a Bach-like passage played on the organ. The tempo was almost painfully slow but musical.

Alessandro Vezzosi, a Leonardo expert and the director of a museum dedicated to the artist in his hometown of Vinci, said he had not seen Pala's research but that the musician's hypothesis "is plausible."

Vezzosi said previous research has indicated the hands of the Apostles in the painting can be substituted with the notes of a Gregorian chant, though so far no one had tried to work in the bread loaves.

"There's always a risk of seeing something that is not there, but it's certain that the spaces [in the painting] are divided harmonically," he told the AP. "Where you have harmonic proportions, you can find music."

Vezzosi also noted that though Leonardo was more noted for his paintings, sculptures and visionary inventions, he was also a musician. Da Vinci played the lyre and designed various instruments. His writings include some musical riddles, which must be read from right to left.

Reinterpretations of the "Last Supper" have popped up ever since "The Da Vinci Code" fascinated readers and movie-goers with suggestions that one of the apostles sitting on Jesus' right is Mary Magdalene, that the two had a child and that their bloodline continues.

Pala stressed that his discovery does not reveal any supposed dark secrets of the Catholic Church or of Leonardo, but instead shows the artist in a light far removed from the conspiratorial descriptions found in fiction.

"A new figure emerges -- he wasn't a heretic like some believe," Pala said. "What emerges is a man who believes, a man who really believes in God."

Japan's Melody Roads Play Music as You Drive
Bobbie Johnson

Motorists used to listening to the radio or their favourite tunes on CDs may have a new way to entertain themselves, after engineers in Japan developed a musical road surface.

A team from the Hokkaido Industrial Research Institute has built a number of "melody roads", which use cars as tuning forks to play music as they travel.

The concept works by using grooves, which are cut at very specific intervals in the road surface. Just as travelling over small speed bumps or road markings can emit a rumbling tone throughout a vehicle, the melody road uses the spaces between to create different notes.

Depending on how far apart the grooves are, a car moving over them will produce a series of high or low notes, enabling cunning designers to create a distinct tune.

Patent documents for the design describe it as notches "formed in a road surface so as to play a desired melody without producing simple sound or rhythm and reproduce melody-like tones".

There are three musical strips in central and northern Japan - one of which plays the tune of a Japanese pop song. Notice of an impending musical interlude, which lasts for about 30 seconds, is highlighted by coloured musical notes painted on to the road. According to reports, the system was the brainchild of Shizuo Shinoda, who accidentally scraped some markings into a road with a bulldozer before driving over them and realising that they helped to produce a variety of tones.

The designs were refined by engineers at the institute in Sapporo. The team has previously worked on new technologies including the use of infra-red light to detect dangerous road surfaces.

But motorists expecting to create their own hard rock soundtrack could find themselves struggling to live the dream. Not only is the optimal speed for achieving melody road playback a mere 28mph, but locals say it is not always easy get the intended sound.

"You need to keep the car windows closed to hear well," wrote one Japanese blogger. "Driving too fast will sound like playing fast forward, while driving around 12mph has a slow-motion effect, making you almost car sick."

Politics Trumps Policy as Copyright Bill Approaches
Michael Geist

The annual Canadian Music Week celebration in Toronto is still several months away, but last week Ottawa staged its own version of the event. Two federal departments - Statistics Canada and Industry Canada - released bombshell studies that could influence forthcoming copyright reforms since they contradict the conventional wisdom about the economic state of the recording industry and the impact of Internet file sharing.

The Statistics Canada report on the state of the Canadian music industry was a long time in coming - it had been two years since the last release of its economic analysis that found an industry barely treading water. Notwithstanding the ongoing doom and gloom from industry associations, Statistics Canada now paints a much different picture.

According to Statscan, "Canada's sound recording and music publishing industries turned a relatively healthy profit in 2005, despite the worldwide decline in record sales and increased competition from other forms of entertainment." The recording industry experienced seven percent profitability - up from 0.1 percent in 2003 - with global restructuring, lowered costs, and digital distribution cited as the primary reasons for the profit increase.

The news was also very good for Canadian artists. Their sales increased by 3.3 percent and now account for 21 percent of total Canadian music sales. Even more noteworthy, Canadian artists continued to release more music - an increase of 8.8 percent, while foreign artists dropped by 5.6 percent. In other words, while the Canadian Recording Industry Association was giving dire speeches in 2005 claiming that Canadian artists could not find labels to invest in them, the data shows that the market for Canadian artists was growing with more releases and more revenues.

If the Statscan data comes as a surprise, the Industry Canada study will positively shock. Working with Decima Research as well as Birgitte Andersen and Marion Frenz, two economists at the University of London, the department surveyed more than 2,000 Canadians on their music purchasing habits in an effort to identify the impact of Internet file sharing on music sales.

The industry has long claimed that file sharing is the primary culprit behind declining sales, yet the survey, the first ever to employ representative microeconomic data, found that the opposite is true. According to the data there is “a strong positive relationship between peer-to-peer file sharing and CD purchasing. That is, among Canadians actually engaged in it, P2P file sharing increases CD purchases."

Moreover, when viewed in the aggregate (ie. the entire Canadian population), there is no direct relationship between P2P file sharing and CD purchases in Canada. According to the study's authors, "we find no direct evidence to suggest that the net effect of P2P file sharing on CD purchasing is either positive or negative for Canada as a whole."

While critics scoffed that the results did not "seem remotely plausible," the study is consistent with a 2004 Harvard study that examined the issue. Moreover, the authors may have underestimated the positive economic impact, since Internet file sharing is compensated in Canada by a private copying levy that has generated more than $200 million in revenues for the industry and its artists.

With independent data now confirming that the Canadian music industry is thriving and that Internet file sharing is not responsible for the declining sales at some record companies, these studies highlight the government's mounting challenge as it works to fulfill its Speech from the Throne commitment to introduce copyright reform in the current Parliamentary session.

Simply stated, prioritizing reforms that target the music industry in a bill that is expected within weeks will run counter to the government's own research analysis and open the door to a lengthy list of angry stakeholders. Indeed, sandwiched between the two reports, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters openly declared war last week against CRIA, characterizing its latest demands as "egregious and abusive."

They join many other groups frustrated with a copyright reform process that seemingly places politics before policy and fiction above fact. With opposition likely to come from broadcasters, education groups, consumers, privacy commissioners, and the technology community, copyright could emerge as an issue where the Liberals and Conservatives sing a different tune.

Democrats: Colleges Must Police Copyright, or Else
Declan McCullagh

New federal legislation says universities must agree to provide not just deterrents but also "alternatives" to peer-to-peer piracy, such as paying monthly subscription fees to the music industry for their students, on penalty of losing all financial aid for their students.

The U.S. House of Representatives bill (PDF), which was introduced late Friday by top Democratic politicians, could give the movie and music industries a new revenue stream by pressuring schools into signing up for monthly subscription services such as Ruckus and Napster. Ruckus is advertising-supported, and Napster charges a monthly fee per student.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) applauded the proposal, which is embedded in a 747-page spending and financial aid bill. "We very much support the language in the bill, which requires universities to provide evidence that they have a plan for implementing a technology to address illegal file sharing," said Angela Martinez, a spokeswoman for the MPAA.

According to the bill, if universities did not agree to test "technology-based deterrents to prevent such illegal activity," all of their students--even ones who don't own a computer--would lose federal financial aid.

The prospect of losing a combined total of nearly $100 billion a year in federal financial aid, coupled with the possibility of overzealous copyright-bots limiting the sharing of legitimate content, has alarmed university officials.

"Such an extraordinarily inappropriate and punitive outcome would result in all students on that campus losing their federal financial aid--including Pell grants and student loans that are essential to their ability to attend college, advance their education, and acquire the skills necessary to compete in the 21st-century economy," a letter from university officials to Congress written on Wednesday said. "Lower-income students, those most in need of federal financial aid, would be harmed most under the entertainment industry's proposal."

The letter was signed by the chancellor of the University of Maryland system, the president of Stanford University, the general counsel of Yale University, and the president of Penn State.

They stress that the "higher education community recognizes the seriousness of the problem of illegal peer-to-peer file sharing and has long been committed to working with the entertainment industry to find a workable solution to the problem." In addition, the letter says that colleges and universities are responsible for "only a small fraction of illegal file sharing."

The MPAA says the university presidents are overreacting. An MPAA representative sent CNET News.com a list of campuses that have begun filtering files transferred on their networks, including the University of Florida (Red Lambda technology); the University of Utah (network monitoring and Audible Magic); and Ohio's Wittenberg University (Audible Magic).

For each school taking such steps, the MPAA says, copyright complaints dramatically decreased, in some cases going from 50 a month to none.

The MPAA's Martinez did warn that the consequences of violating the proposed rules would be stiff: "Because it is added to the current reporting requirements that universities already have through the Secretary of Education, it would have the same penalties for noncompliance as any of the others requirements under current law."

Neither the Recording Industry Association of America nor the Association of American Universities was available for comment on Friday.

Expanding on an earlier anti-P2P plan

The two Democratic politicians behind Friday's bill are Reps. George Miller from California and Ruben Hinojosa of Texas. Miller is chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee and Hinojosa is chairman of the higher education subcommittee.

They said in a press release that the legislation, called the College Opportunity and Affordability Act, or COAA, will be voted on by the full committee next week.

The peer-to-peer sections of COAA appear to be a revision of an amendment originally proposed over the summer by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to his chamber's sweeping higher education reauthorization bill.

Groups like the American Association of Universities and Educause attacked Reid's proposal at the time, saying it was incredibly worrisome because it would have yanked federal grants and loans from students who attend schools that don't do enough to prevent illegal file sharing.

The old language over the summer required schools to develop "a plan for implementing a technology-based deterrent to prevent the illegal downloading or peer-to-peer distribution of intellectual property." The new language requires "a plan for offering alternatives to illegal downloading or peer-to-peer distribution of intellectual property as well as a plan to explore technology-based deterrents to prevent such illegal activity."

Reid's bill also would have required the Secretary of Education to devise a list of the 25 schools with the highest levels of illegal peer-to-peer file sharing, based on entertainment industry statistics. That's not in the new COAA legislation.

On the Senate side, after universities raised a fuss, the contentious amendment was eventually diluted to a requirement that higher education institutions merely advise their students, in writing, of the legal consequences of "unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material" and what steps the school was taking to combat such activities.

Anti-P2P College Bill Advances in House
Anne Broache

The U.S. House of Representatives has taken a step toward approving a Hollywood-backed spending bill requiring universities to consider offering "alternatives" and "technology-based deterrents" to illegal peer-to-peer file sharing.

In the House Education and Labor Committee's mammoth College Opportunity and Affordability Act (PDF) lies a tiny section, which dictates universities that participate in federal financial aid programs "shall" devise plans for "alternative" offerings to unlawful downloading, such as subscription-based services, or "technology-based deterrents to prevent such illegal activity." The committee unanimously approved the bill Thursday.

Supporters and opponents of the proposal disagree, however, on what the penalty would be for failure to comply with the new rules. The proposed requirements would be added to a section of existing federal law dealing with federal financial aid.

Some university representatives and fair-use advocates worry that schools run the risk of losing aid for their students if they fail to come up with the required plans.

"The language in the bill appears to be clear that failure to carry out the mandates would make an institution ineligible for participation in at least some part of Title IV (which deals with federal financial aid programs)," Steven Worona, director of policy and networking programs for the group Educause, said in a telephone interview Thursday.

Worona acknowledged that "there does appear to be a great deal of confusion with respect to what penalties would be involved in not carrying out the mandates in this bill." Still, Educause, which represents college and university network operators, continues to "strongly oppose these mandates," he said.

House committee aides respond that failure to craft those antipiracy plans would not imperil financial aid awards. A fact sheet distributed by the committee this week attempts to dispel "myths" that it argues are being circulated by "supporters of intellectual property theft."

"The provisions do ask colleges, to the extent practicable, to develop plans for offering students alternative legal ways to file share, as well as plans to prevent file sharing, but this would not be included in the financial aid program participation agreements colleges enter into with the U.S. Department of Education," committee spokeswoman Rachel Racusen told CNET News.com in an e-mail after Thursday's vote. "Contrary to what critics are saying, these provisions would not put students or colleges at risk for losing financial aid."

Nor would the bill strip away financial aid if schools fail to stop piracy on their campuses, to sign up for "legal" subscription media services like Ruckus.com and Napster for their student body, to report student violations, or to implement any specific antipiracy policies, Racusen said.

The only piracy-related information that schools would have to provide to their students and employees in conjunction with their financial aid agreements is a description of "the policies and procedures related to the illegal downloading and distribution of copyrighted materials," Racusen said.

If institutions fail to heed the new rules, it would be up to the Department of Education to decide the consequences, a committee aide said. For related reporting requirements, such as school safety plans, that has typically involved simply keeping after universities to provide the mandated information, the aide added.

That reporting requirement was also the core of an amendment offered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and approved this summer as part of his chamber's counterpart higher education bill. University representatives have called that provision a "reasonable compromise."

But in an earlier draft of that amendment, Reid also wanted to require the Secretary of Education to devise a list of the 25 schools with the highest levels of illegal peer-to-peer file sharing, based on entertainment industry statistics. For those 25 institutions, their financial aid would have been conditioned on devising "a plan for implementing a technology-based deterrent to prevent the illegal downloading or peer-to-peer distribution of intellectual property," according to university groups that opposed the measure.

That means the House provision, by expanding that requirement to all schools, not just the 25 on the watch-list, is seemingly broader than the original Senate amendment, according to Educause's Worona. After an outcry from universities, Reid ultimately scrapped that idea.

Opponents question fairness, privacy issues

The Association of American Universities wrote a letter to House committee leaders last week urging them not to revive that idea in their own forthcoming higher education bill. The letter was signed by the chancellor of the University of Maryland system, the president of Stanford University, the general counsel of Yale University, and the president of Pennsylvania State University.

"Such an extraordinarily inappropriate and punitive outcome would result in all students on that campus losing their federal financial aid--including Pell grants and student loans that are essential to their ability to attend college, advance their education, and acquire the skills necessary to compete in the 21st-century economy," they wrote last week. "Lower-income students, those most in need of federal financial aid, would be harmed most under the entertainment industry's proposal."

An AAU spokesman said Thursday that his organization still has concerns about the final provision in the approved House bill but declined to elaborate, indicating the group is prioritizing other areas of the bill that cause schools greater heartburn.

Other opponents of the antipiracy provisions argue that merely requiring such a plan from universities at all, regardless of the penalties involved, is misguided. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, for instance, argued that pressuring schools to strike deals with content providers could indirectly raise the cost of students' tuition, as schools will inevitably pass the costs of legal download services on to students in some fashion.

Another concern from opponents is the possibility of privacy invasions brought on by the technology-based deterrents schools would be encouraged--albeit not explicitly required--to adopt. In addition to the "plan" requirement, one section of the bill would offer voluntary grants over the next five years for schools, in partnership with outside organizations, to use toward efforts to concoct effective, reasonably priced antipiracy technology tools. Opponents argue those tools amount to spying on students' network activities.

Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, a group that advocates for preservation of fair-use rights, said she doesn't buy the committee's arguments that no penalties will arise if universities don't develop antipiracy plans.

"If it had no teeth, (the Motion Picture Association of America) would be criticizing it," she said in a telephone interview.

The MPAA, for its part, has heartily endorsed the provisions, with CEO Dan Glickman saying in a statement upon the bill's introduction: "We are pleased to see that Congress is taking this step to help keep our economy strong by protecting copyrighted material on college campuses."

RIAA College Litigations Getting A Bumpy Ride

The RIAA's juggernaut against colleges, started in February of this year, seems to be having a bumpier and bumpier ride. The normal game is to call for a subpoena, to get the name and address of the students or staff who might have used a certain IP address. The normal game seems to be getting disrupted here and there.

A Virginia judge threw the RIAA's motion out the window, saying that it was not entitled to such discovery, in a case against students at the College of William & Mary. A New Mexico judge denied the application on the ground that there was no reason for it to be so secretive, in a case involving University of New Mexico students. He ultimately required the RIAA to serve a full set of all of the underlying papers, for each "John Doe" named, and to give the students 40 days in which to review the papers with counsel, and make a motion to quash if they chose to do so.

In a stunning development, the Attorney General of the State of Oregon made a motion to quash the RIAA's subpoena on behalf of the University of Oregon, on grounds which are fully applicable to every case the RIAA has brought to date: the lack of scientific validity to the RIAA's "identification" evidence. The motion is pending as of this writing. Students have themselves made motions to vacate the RIAA's ex parte orders and/or quash subpoenas in over half a dozen cases. Much combat remains, but the RIAA's campaign is no longer a hot knife cutting through butter on the nation's campuses.

Access Copyright Sues Staples/Business Depot for Copyright Infringement

Access Copyright, which represents almost 9,000 Canadian writers and publishers, is suing retailer Staples/The Business Depot for copyright infringement, claiming $10 million in damages over unauthorized photocopying by store customers.

The publishing organization said Thursday its lawsuit contains the largest claim to arise from copyright infringement of published works in Canada.

"Staples/Business Depot is a sizable, for-profit organization that has built part of its business through a lucrative service that exploits the published works of authors, photographers and publishers," Access Copyright said in a release.

"Companies that photocopy illegally are effectively taking money directly out of the pockets of creators and publishers who depend on book sales and copyright royalties for their livelihood."

Companies that profit from illegal photocopying "are undermining the work of others," said Maureen Cavan, executive director of Access Copyright. "Staples/Business Depot is no different from those organizations that profit from illegally downloading copyright protected music or the unauthorized sharing of videos and published works on the Internet."

Access Copyright said it has been investigating Staples/Business Depot since 1998 in response to concerns raised by creators and publishers.

"Despite repeated attempts by Access Copyright to reach a settlement and come to an amicable resolution, Staples/Business Depot has made no perceivable changes to their business practices."

Montreal Police Charge Man with Trying to Pirate Film

A Quebec man has been charged for attempting to make a pirated copy of the new movie “Dan in Real Life.”

The 23-year-old man was caught last month while allegedly trying to record the movie in an east-end movie theatre, the TQS television network is reporting.

He is believed to be among the first people in Quebec arrested under a new anti-camcording law aimed at stopping movie piracy, introduced earlier this year.

The man reportedly handed over all his material after being caught, which included a device to post the films directly onto the Internet.

If convicted under the new law, the man could face up to two years in jail.

OiNK Launches Legal Defense Fund

Last month the popular private BitTorrent tracker OiNK was effectively shut down in a joint effort by Dutch and British law enforcement. OiNK admin Alan Ellis who was arrested during the raid now launched a legal defense fund to cover the legal costs and asks former OiNK members to help him out.

Alan has put a message on his reclaimed domain where he writes: “A PayPal account has been setup for those of you wishing to give a gift to help cover legal costs, if or when they arise. Although the account is not in my name (it can’t be), it is someone I trust.”

The donations will be used to cover the legal costs Alan is likely to make. If for some reason the money isn’t needed it will be donated to an animal charity (pigs?). The official OiNK fundraiser is hosted at saveoink.com, and unlike the scams we have seen before, it is totally legit.

OiNK was considered by many to be the best BitTorrent music tracker the world has ever seen. With 180,000 members it was without a doubt one of the most popular private BitTorrent trackers. Although most of its members found a new home by now, there is little doubt that it will be very hard to equal the success of OiNK

At this point it is still unclear what the charges against Alan will be, more details on this will come out next month. We will keep you updated of course.

Infringus maximus!

Rowling Gets Injunction Against Harry Potter Lexicon
Nate Anderson

J.K. Rowling is suing the publisher of the Harry Potter Lexicon, which began life as a popular Potter blog, and wants a court to rule that she has the sole right to profit from the "descriptions, character details, and plot points" of the Potter tales. Now, a federal judge has issued an injunction against RDR Books to prevent them from completing the typesetting, selling the books, or even marketing it on Amazon.com.

The case has been percolating for a few weeks now, but the injunction last week makes this a good time to take a look at what's going on here. Steve Vander Ark, the lead author of the online Lexicon, wants to publish his material in book form. Warner Bros. and Rowling, who are jointly suing Vander Ark's publisher, call this a "willful and blatant violation of Plaintiffs' respective intellectual property rights," this despite the fact that Rowling has publicly praised the site in the past. The plaintiffs are under the apparent conviction that the material on the web site is fine, but that when put into a book, it becomes a copyright violation. Much of this has to do with money.

"There is a big difference between the innumerable Harry Potter fan sites' latitude to discuss the Harry Potter Works in the context of free, ephemeral web sites and unilaterally repackaging those sites for sale in an effort to cash and monetarily on Ms. Rowling's creative works in contravention of her wishes and rights," says the federal complaint, filed late last month in New York. Rowling, it turns out, has long wanted to produce her own companion book to the popular children's series and donate the money to charity. She believes that the Lexicon would eliminate much of the demand for her product (because past titles with "J.K. Rowling" on the cover have sold so poorly).

The complaint repeatedly stresses that Rowling has not "authorized" such a work, though whether such authorization is even necessary will certainly be one of the key points in the case. The Lexicon is stuffed with plot summaries, maps, and the sort of minutely detailed timelines you'd expect from such an endeavor. It's a huge treasure trove of information of Harry Potter characters and the world they inhabit.

This sort of thing is par for the course when it comes to popular series; both Narnia and Middle-Earth have a number of such guides, and the more-common CliffsNotes include exactly this sort of material for even recent books like Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses. Why it's a major copyright violation in this case isn't clear; the complaint sometimes suggests that it contains large passages lifted verbatim from the books, but at other times seems to be saying that simple plot summaries and collections of fictional facts are out of bounds (and it quotes a federal decision finding that detailed plot summaries of Twin Peaks episodes were copyright infringement).

Playground sparring

The complaint itself is a bit juvenile. There are repeated nonfactual statements sprinkled liberally throughout, such as the fact that RDR Books once "replied cursorily" and that the plaintiffs were "patiently waiting." This sort of thing grows quickly tiresome, but can also prove hilarious. Case in point: upon learning that the book would be essentially a "print version" of the online Lexicon, Warner Bros. asked for a copy of the web site... on paper. RDR Books replied "rudely," saying, "If you do not know how to print that material please ask one of your people to show you how." It's a valid point.

There's plenty of this playground sparring to go around. RDR Books at one point responded to Warner Bros. lawyers by claiming that the Harry Potter filmmakers had used a copyrighted Lexicon-produced timeline. Warner calls this "a complete fabrication."

Despite all the unpleasantness, Vander Ark still signs recent news posts, "still Jo's man, through and through." "There is a crazy part of me that believes that if she and I could just sit down and chat about this, we could get it all sorted out and put this miserable incident behind us," he wrote on November 10.

Unlikely. In a recent entry on her own site, Rowling complained, "It is not reasonable, or legal, for anybody, fan or otherwise, to take an author's hard work, re-organize their characters and plots, and sell them for their own commercial gain. However much an individual claims to love somebody else's work, it does not become theirs to sell." That in itself is a highly suspect claim. The weirdest thing of all is that similar items to the Lexicon have already been on the market for years.

Actually, I take it back; that's not the weirdest thing of all. That honor is reserved for the Lexicon itself, which certainly takes liberal advantage of fair use to print hundreds of little snippets from the Harry Potter books. But try to copy one line from the site for purposes of commentary and criticism, and you're met with the dialog box, "copyright 2001-2006 The Harry Potter Lexicon." Nice. (Note to the Lexicon's designers: disabling the right mouse click does not actually disable the ability to copy.)

William Patry, Google's senior copyright counsel, has looked into the case a bit. His conclusion? "I haven't spent a lot of time on the site and so don't know if there is other material that might be infringing, but I don't see how a list of spells with this type of commentary is anything other than fair use." Patry also notes that one of the cases cited by the plaintiffs in support of their position actually was "of a very different sort" from the current conflict.

So now a judge gets to work it out, possibly most Muggle-ish solution to this magical dispute that anyone could have imagined.

Martha Settles Dispute with Neighbors

The dispute between Martha Stewart and some of her neighbors over her bid to trademark the name of their village has been resolved with a compromise: Katonah furniture, OK; Katonah paint, no way.

Stewart's company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., has agreed to seek a "Katonah" trademark only for furniture, mirrors, pillows and chair cushions. Those opposing the trademark have agreed not to challenge that application.

Stewart's Katonah furniture line is already for sale but not yet trademarked.

Stewart agreed to drop trademark applications for additional products, "such as hardware, paint, lighting and home textiles," according to a statement issued by Stewart's company, the Katonah Village Improvement Society and two Katonah stores.

Some residents of the tony hamlet in Westchester County, where Stewart has a 153-acre estate, objected to her using the name Katonah for commercial purposes and feared the trademark would harm existing businesses. Some American Indians had also objected, because the village, 40 miles north of New York City, is named for a 17th-century chief.

Bill Tisherman, who was vice president of the Village Improvement Society when the complaint was lodged, said Wednesday, "Martha Stewart caved. That's my opinion. She gave up a huge chunk of what she was looking for and that's good for the future of this town."

Stewart's company would not comment beyond the statement, which was dated Nov. 2.

Stewart had said she was honoring Katonah's heritage by using the name. In the statement, all parties expressed "mutual appreciation" for the town. Stewart said the trademark would not interfere with the use of the name Katonah by others - such as Katonah Paint and Hardware and Katonah Architectural Hardware, the stores that challenged her - and said she "has never challenged the right of Katonah-based businesses to use their town's name in their company names."

Stewart pledged to challenge use of the name only if "a product (like furniture) were branded with the name 'Katonah' in a way that infringed the company's trademark rights, which could cause confusion for consumers."

In the interest of full disclosure, I went to boarding school in Katonah…and didn’t like it - Jack.

Web Spending Hits New Record in Third Quarter

U.S. Internet advertising revenue rose 25 percent in the third quarter to about $5.2 billion, a new record, according to data released on Monday.

The report by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PricewaterhouseCoopers showed that online advertising revenue has hit new highs in each of the first three quarters of 2007.

Revenue for the first nine months of 2007 totaled $15.2 billion, up nearly 26 percent from the $12.1 billion recorded during the first nine months of 2006, the report said.
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"The continued robust growth of the industry indicates that marketers increasingly understand and appreciate the benefits of interactive advertising," IAB Chief Executive Randall Rothenberg said in a statement. "Marketers large and small have come to accept digital media as the fulcrum of any marketing strategy."

The boom in online advertising has driven media and technology companies to build up their online advertising businesses, partly through acquisitions.

Among recent deals, Google agreed to pay $3.1 billion for ad-serving and tracking company DoubleClick, while Microsoft bought online marketer Aquantive for $6 billion.

Google Hits European Hurdle on DoubleClick Deal
Victoria Shannon

European Commission competition authorities refused today to approve Google’s $3.1 billion purchase of DoubleClick, the Internet advertising company, and ordered an in-depth review amid opposition from rivals, publishers and consumer groups.

The commission, which rules on antitrust issues for the 27 countries in the European Union, said the merger raised competition concerns and required a more thorough review of its impact on the Internet advertising business.

The inquiry is one of very few major business challenges that Google, the world’s dominant Internet search engine and a star stock market performer, has encountered in its nine-year history. The company makes the bulk of its money by selling ad space next to search results, while DoubleClick, a privately held company, places banner ads on Web sites and sells analysis of who sees them.

“We are obviously disappointed,” Eric E. Schmidt, chief executive of Google, said in a statement. Saying the company would work with the commission, he added, “We seek to avoid further delays that might put us at a disadvantage in competing fully against Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL and others whose acquisitions in the highly competitive online advertising market have already been approved.”

The rivals that Mr. Schmidt named, as well as conventional advertising companies like Publicis in France, have been snapping up Internet media specialists over the last year. Microsoft purchased aQuantive for $6 billion in August after it failed to close a deal of its own for DoubleClick.

But they are well behind where Google is in the market now. By some estimates, Google on its own controls 70 percent to 80 percent of the paid-search advertising market. The addition of DoubleClick would give it the lead in graphical ad placement as well, rivals say. The commission said today that its initial investigation “indicated that the proposed merger would raise competition concerns in the markets for intermediation and ad serving in online advertising.”

In Washington, the Federal Trade Commission has yet to rule on the merger.

Officials say the agency is actively working on the case but they have not indicated when a decision might come. Regulators in Australia and Brazil have approved the deal.

The move in Brussels started the clock on a more exhaustive market analysis that will last until March, with a decision now due April 2, a year after Google first announced its intention to buy DoubleClick.

Google already had given the commission what some people termed “concessions.” As the first deadline for the European decision approached late last month, Google made some assurances about the future relationship of the two businesses, promising to “keep certain DoubleClick business practices unchanged,” according to a statement by Julia Holtz, Google’s London-based competition counsel.

The European Commission then gave itself another 10 days, which ended today, to collect and evaluate detailed information from customers in the Internet advertising market.

Yahoo, which had made the commission well aware of its objections, welcomed the probe in a statment today. Toby Coppel, managing director of Yahoo Europe, said it will provide “the thorough examination of the proposed merger that Yahoo believes is needed.”

In Brussels, many of the mounting objections filed to the commission in recent weeks centered on privacy issues, rather than questions about how a Google-DoubleClick merger would affect competition. A commission spokesman said that by law the commission inquiry could not make an antitrust decision on anything but the market impact.

BEUC, the umbrella group of European consumer organizations, as early as July had complained to the commission that the DoubleClick takeover would damage privacy rights and limit Internet content. Others joining BEUC included the European Publishers Council and the World Federation of Advertisers.

In Washington, as well, privacy questions have overshadowed competition issues. Last week, a group of congressional Republicans — normally the party associated with keeping government interference with companies to a minimum — called for a new hearing on the acquisition.

“Google is an information colossus already, but add on DoubleClick’s marketing power and you produce a single commercial entity that can know more about you and me than nearly everybody but Mom and the I.R.S.,” said Representative Joe Barton, Republican of Texas. “It looks like the old saw, ‘I know where you live,’ is only the start. They’ll know where we go, who and what we see, and what we buy, too. And they’ll know it forever.”

At a privacy conference last month, the F.T.C. commissioner, Jon Leibowitz, said Internet advertisers had so far not provided adequate self-regulation on privacy issues. “In practice, they often leave a lot to be desired,” he said.

The dominance of Google, which is based in Mountain View, Calif., reaches well beyond the United States, where it handled 57 percent of all Internet searches in September, according to ComScore, an Internet research company. In September, Google sites were the most visited sites in Britain, France and Germany, ComScore said.

In the United States alone, Internet advertising revenue rose 25 percent in the third quarter to about $5.2 billion, according to a report by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers this week.

Revenue for the first nine months of the year was $15.2 billion, up nearly 26 percent from a year earlier, the report said.

Everyone Wants to Be Taking Pictures
Mireya Navarro

ON a slim-pickings afternoon at the Ivy on Robertson Boulevard last week, a small cluster of paparazzi gathered in front of the restaurant to photograph Phoebe Price. As the little-known actress posed on the sidewalk as if it were the red carpet, the group behind the cameras made for a more interesting picture — it included several photographers from photo agencies, a moonlighting Spanish-speaking cook and a tourist from Northern California who stood front and center snapping away with a one-use camera from Walgreens.

Not long after Ms. Price had left, another shift of agency photographers and amateurs were trolling the street, including a couple of teenage boys and Claudia Leverett, 32, a college student. She had recently turned occasional paparazzo by a chance encounter last July with Dustin Hoffman leaving the Ivy as Kimberly Stewart entered. Ms. Leverett joined the fray and sent the pictures to two paparazzi agencies on a lark.

“I made $780 for 13 pictures in not even 10 minutes of work,” said Ms. Leverett, who has since devoted her weekends and free afternoons to waiting near the Ivy and other celebrity hangouts with an old-fashioned 35-millimeter film camera.

Los Angeles has always been a celebrity photographer’s evergreen. But the explosive demand for celebrity pictures has led to an equally explosive growth in the number of celebrity chasers. The term paparazzi increasingly encompasses not only the photo agency photographer and the TMZ videographer, but also a teenager with a camera, an opportunist with a cellphone and even the waiter who once tipped photographers to celebrity sightings. This mix has intensified an already aggressive atmosphere and altered the ecosystem for both paparazzi predator and celebrity prey.

In the two years since prosecutors in Los Angeles threatened to file felony conspiracy charges against photographers engaging in dangerous tactics, and started monitoring them more closely, complaints of egregious illegal conduct, like assault, trespassing and reckless driving, by paparazzi have decreased, said William Hodgman, the head deputy of Los Angeles County district attorney’s target crime division. But now, Mr. Hodgman said, celebrities are followed by more celebrity news media and what some photographers call “people paparazzi,” which has reignited the pursuit. “The celebrities don’t feel any safer,” he said.

Even Barbara Walters, an unusual target by her own account, got a taste of the Hollywood-style media attention during a visit last month, when photographers would not stop snapping pictures as she left the Ivy; TMZ later used videos of the encounter to lampoon her on its new television show. On her show, “The View,” Ms. Walters called TMZ “mean” and “vicious.”

Some publicists say their clients find video cameras the most disconcerting. Comings and going are captured and posted not only on TMZ, X17 Online and other Web sites but also on the free-for-all anarchy of YouTube.

“One thing is a still photo of somebody looking out of sorts coming out of a bar,” said Annett Wolf of Wolf-Kasteler & Associates, a publicist who represents clients like Michelle Pfeiffer and Debra Messing. “Seeing a moving picture is much more jarring. And they keep running it over and over.”

As photographers new and old jostle, crucial rules of conduct seem to have gone out the window.

Mr. Hodgman said the competition has led to several assault prosecutions involving photographers attacking one another. Harvey Levin, managing editor of TMZ, which posts pictures and videos from its staff and from freelancers, said working conditions have reached “a dangerous level” because of the inexperience of many photographers.

Mr. Levin cited an incident in which the usually paparazzi-friendly actor Pierce Brosnan physically tangled with a photographer in Malibu, Calif., a few weeks ago while out with his son and two of the boy’s friends. Mr. Levin said the photographer departed from standard practice by talking directly to the children.

“There are some unwritten rules,” he said. “You don’t engage the children. You just don’t do this.”

Blair Berk, a criminal defense lawyer who represents many A-listers, said she noticed that children are now often the target, which she says makes any interaction more volatile.

“When you cross the line of threatening family members, that is intolerable,” she said.

Many celebrities court the attention. Britney Spears even has photographers give her directions and pump her gas. (Last week she drove over the foot of a photographer who was trailing her.) Gary Morgan, chief executive of Splash News, a paparazzi agency, has little sympathy for harassment complaints from the famous. “When a celebrity is going from the C-list to the A-list, they set up the pictures,” he said. “But as soon as they achieve A-list status, they become artists who don’t want publicity.”

And the truly private avoid certain restaurants and clubs.

Fraser Ross, whose four Kitson stores are near the Ivy restaurant, said even on Robertson Boulevard, stars can avoid the press by coming to the area in the morning when the camera hordes are thin because many photographers have worked the clubs until late.

In the morning, he promised, “You can walk down Robertson in a bikini eating French fries, and you wouldn’t be photographed.”

Still, the paparazzi crowd is the reason celebrities like Brad Pitt, Renée Zellweger, Scarlett Johansson and Josh Hartnett have cited for moving, and Ms. Berk and some publicists say the exodus continues. Some actors have chosen the Santa Barbara area, others have gone as far Utah and Montana. For most, though, the only other choice, for work-related reasons, is New York, where traffic and crowds make the chase more daunting for photographers. Yet it may not offer much of a respite.

“NEW YORK unfortunately is becoming more difficult,” said Natalie Portman, who lives in Manhattan, at the premiere of “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.” “I know people hate hearing us complain about it, but New York isn’t what it used to be for anonymity, unfortunately.”

In any case, Los Angeles remains the location of choice for the hunt. Mr. Morgan of Splash News said of the 1,500 photos sent daily by his agency, 70 to 80 percent are shot in the area. “The weather is bright and sunny, and the pictures look better in magazines,” he said. “You don’t want to see a picture of Madonna under an umbrella in London. They want to see her jogging.”

The corps of opportunistic paparazzi is likely to expand as long as the demand is there. For the last two years, Splash News has enticed these photographers to a site — peoplepaparazzi.com — that offers 60 percent of the profit. The check could be as high as $150,000 for a picture of Ms. Spears’s first wedding (although most photographs bought through the site run $50 to $250, Mr. Morgan said).

Not even big money is enough for Ms. Leverett, the collegian-photographer. She said the business is too cutthroat for her to make it a full-time job. For instance, she refuses to follow celebrities from their homes.

What she really wants, she said, is “to produce drama series like ‘E.R.’ ”

Paula Schwartz contributed reporting.

Newspapers and Ads: Missed Delivery
Elinor Mills

When I was buying my car a few years ago, the first place I turned for information was Kelley Blue Book online.

When I moved a few months ago, I located free boxes on Craigslist. And if I were looking for a job, I would search on Monster.com.

It never occurred to me to look in the local newspaper classified advertisements. And if I were looking to buy a house, I'd go straight to real estate Web sites that have photos, maps and all sorts of details you'd never get in a newspaper ad.

If I'm any indication of the average person (and I like to think I am), no one should be surprised that newspapers are struggling and that newspaper alliances springing up to tackle online ads have that whiff of desperation.

As much as I like my local newspaper, I worry it has already lost the battle for online classified ads. I also have to wonder: why didn't its management see this coming somewhere in the late-1990s, like so many other people did? Actually, a bunch of newspapers did try back then, but that project failed. Hard to imagine why the new ones will succeed.

"I think that ship has sailed," said Michael Cassidy, chief executive and president of online ad network Undertone Networks. "Those dollars are gone. The classifieds game is over for them today."

Members of a newspaper consortium started last year by Yahoo are talking to Gannett and the Tribune Co., which have a separate such effort in the works. That would seem to undermine the Yahoo effort, possibly indicating its members aren't all that happy with the pace or scope of the Yahoo effort.

Ad spending on the Internet is rising steadily while newspaper ad spending is declining. Research firm eMarketer projects that U.S. online ad spending will grow 26.8 percent this year, while newspaper ad spending is projected to drop 4.6 percent this year, according to a Jack Myers Media Business Report.

Online revenue growth at newspaper sites was below 30 percent in 2006 and is expected to fall to 22 percent this year. For the first time, newspapers aren't maintaining share in total Internet ad growth, according to the The State of the News Media 2007 annual report. According to the report, written by the Project for Excellence in Journalism and Rick Edmonds of The Poynter Institute, "Newspapers have a tough time making the case that their business is headed in the right direction."

"You could argue that they are a little late to the party," said Edmonds, media business analyst at The Poynter Institute. "This year's (newspaper advertising) results have been even worse than the year before."

The fact is that people use the Web differently from the way they used traditional media. I still read The San Francisco Chronicle online, but mostly for local news and features. For this reason, display advertising is relatively strong on newspaper sites, Edmonds said.

But when I want to buy something, I go elsewhere--Zillow for real estate information; Amazon.com for books; Autobytel.com for auto prices; and Craigslist for just about anything else.

Newspaper execs realize this is happening.

Changing mindset

"In many newspaper markets, we have to change the way that we've been accustomed to thinking. Which is: 'there is only one newspaper in town,'" said Charlie Diederich, director of marketing and advertising for the Newspaper Association of America. "We might be seen as competing against a real estate Web site that has the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) data on it. It's a big change in the way we approach our world."

Some newspaper companies have been investing in the vertical sites. For instance, Gannett and other newspaper companies own stakes in classifieds Web sites like CareerBuilder.com, Cars.com and Apartments.com.

"We saw some of the changes that were happening in the industry quite a while ago," said Tara Connell, vice president of corporate communications at Gannett. "We've been responding to--I wouldn't call it competition, so much as a shift in the use of media by people. We've said consistently that we recognize people are shifting their habits and going to multiple platforms, and it's our vision and mission to get there."

Yahoo's consortium with Hearst, MediaNews, Cox and other newspaper companies was formed to sell job listings through Yahoo's classified job site, HotJobs. The deal has since been expanded to more than 20 publisher partners representing about 400 daily newspapers. Local salespeople at the member newspapers can sell local ad inventory on Yahoo, and Yahoo national salespeople can sell national sales onto local newspaper sites. Yahoo is also integrating some local newspaper content on its sites. On Friday, Yahoo announced the newest newspaper partner, the New York Daily News.

Separately, Gannett and Tribune, which are not members of Yahoo's consortium, are talking to other publishers, some of whom are in Yahoo's group, about forming another online advertising network. The Chicago Tribune first reported the effort on Tuesday.

Why the need for a second organization? Connell of Gannett confirmed that talks were going on but declined to comment beyond that. A Tribune representative did not return a call seeking comment.

Executives from Cox and MediaNews said talks with Gannett and Tribune were very preliminary and that the two efforts would not necessarily compete or overlap.

"The discussions are directed to putting together a national buy for newspapers online. (Whereas) the products we're dealing with on Yahoo are specialized," Dean Singleton, chairman and chief executive of MediaNews, told CNET News.com. "They wouldn't conflict."

"We would be able to sell (on) all the newspaper sites participating, across the entire country," said Leon Levitt, vice president of Cox Digital Media. "Newspapers are the No. 1 local site in virtually every market in the U.S., according to ComScore. The opportunity to sell ads on that is powerful."

But banding together may not fix things when you have companies that are traditionally slow-moving and risk-averse. And this isn't the first go-around at this for the newspaper industry.

Cox, Gannett, Hearst, Knight Ridder, The Times Mirror, Tribune, The Washington Post and Advance Publications formed a joint venture with the grandiose name of "New Century Network" in 1995 to support local newspapers in their online services, share content and establish an ad network across their sites. The venture was shuttered in 1998 because of lack of significant return on investment and an inability for members to agree on a common business plan, InternetNews.com reported at the time.

"It was a good idea 12 years ago. To do it today is not such a good idea when there are so many ad networks that have built up relationships with ad agencies," said Cassidy of Undertone Networks. "The biggest challenge (for newspapers) is going to be how to work amongst themselves."

"The culture in the newspapers is the real culprit. There is inertia," said Greg Sterling, principal of Sterling Market Intelligence. "I don't necessarily think it's too late for them, but the challenge always with newspapers is execution."

Writers Strike Could Mean Big Changes in Advertising
Paul Thomasch

The Hollywood screenwriters strike is less than a week old, but already concerns are spreading that a long walk-out could drastically change the face of television advertising.

The $70 billion television advertising industry is still considered the best way to promote brands and products, despite the buzz over advertising in digital media like cell phones and video games.

A prolonged strike by screenwriters, however, could lead to big changes. Audience ratings are likely to slip without new TV shows to watch, and as viewers move elsewhere, so too will advertisers.

"I don't know how long it will take, but viewers will start to go to other places, and we as advertisers have to follow them," said Lisa Herdman, vice president of network programming at RPA, an advertising and media buying agency. "Whether we will go back to TV is another question altogether."

In many ways, experts say, the strike could not have come at a worse time for the television industry, given how much competition it faces for audiences and advertisers from the Web, iPods and every other sort of digital media.

"Marketers have more alternatives than ever before on how and where to spend their money," said Brad Adgate, director of research at Horizon Media, an independent media services company. "There's more than the 30-second TV spot. There are opportunities out there and dollars are going to follow the eyeballs."

He added: "While television still remains the entertaining center of your living room, there is some concern that the longer this strike stretches out people's habits will change."

The Writers Guild of America went on strike on November 5 after the collapse of talks with the major film and television studios, halting nearly 20 years of labor peace in Hollywood.

At issue are writers' demands for a greater share of revenue from the Internet, widely seen as a key future distribution channel for most entertainment.

Audience Competition

Even before the strike, TV ratings were falling this season. Viewer numbers are down nearly 10 percent from a year ago and, moreover, the fall TV season has started without a major breakout hit from ABC, NBC, CBS or FOX.

"If this strike wasn't happening, we would be spending this time talking about the ratings and what are we going to do about them," RPA's Herdman said.

Chances that any of the new shows will catch fire become far smaller should a strike force networks to replace today's programs with reruns or unscripted content like news magazines or reality shows.

"The fact that so many new prime-time shows are struggling to find an audience, and now you're going to take them off the air for who-knows-how-long, the odds are that even the audiences they generated for the last several weeks are just not going to come back," said Jack Myers, a media industry veteran and editor of JackMyers.com.

Most prime-time scripted comedies and dramas are likely to shut down production later this month if the strike is not settled. At the moment, the impact is mainly being felt by talk shows like NBC's "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and CBS's "Late Show With David Letterman."

Few are willing to predict how long the work stoppage will last, but a strike by the Writers Guild in 1988 lasted for 22 weeks, delaying the start of the fall TV season that year and costing the industry an estimated $500 million.

"If it goes past Thanksgiving, we're looking well into the first quarter before there is a resolution," Myers said. "It's unlikely they are going to solve between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Positions harden, plus there are no obvious solutions."

The worst-case scenario would see the strike dragging out well into the spring, the season when the industry prepares for the upfront market, in which networks present their new programming schedules to advertisers and affiliates.

Around $9 billion of prime-time commercial deals are sold by the major networks in the weeks after the presentations.

"The networks would need to make a choice as to whether they wanted to present the schedule without pilots, in many cases without concepts, heavily weighted toward returning and reality programming, and with an inability to estimate ratings for the ad community," Myers said.

Under that scenario, "I think there is a very good chance the upfronts would be canceled," he added.

ABC is owned by Walt Disney Co., CBS is owned by CBS Corp, Fox is owned by News Corp and NBC is majority owned by General Electric.

(Editing by Gary Hill)

Screenwriters Grab for a Half-Eaten Pie
Michael Cieply

As Hollywood digs in for a second week of a strike, the screenwriters might want to send a few angry picketers over to Will Smith’s place. Or Steven Spielberg’s.

And maybe the studio executives should think about joining them on the line. As it turns out, the pot of money that the producers and writers are fighting over may have already been pocketed by the entertainment industry’s biggest talent.

That is the conclusion of a surprisingly bleak new assessment of financial dynamics in the movie industry titled “Do Movies Make Money?” The researchers’ answer: not any more.

The report, prepared by the research company Global Media Intelligence in association with its partner Merrill Lynch, concludes that much of the income — past and future — that studios and writers have been fighting about has already gone to the biggest stars, directors and producers in the form of ballooning participation deals. A participation is a share in the gross revenue, not the profit, of a movie.

Through the twists and turns of contemporary deal-making, major studios in theory give away as much as 25 percent of a film’s receipts under such arrangements. The actual take is lower, because of certain adjustments. (This is Hollywood, after all.) But a Hanks, Cruise or Carrey whose movie brings $600 million back to the studio from all sources might easily wind up with a $20 million salary, and an additional $50 million on the back end, while an A-list director and producer could take in tens of millions more.

Industrywide, the tab for participation arrangements piled up to $3 billion or more last year, by the research company’s reckoning, helping push the business of making films, which was somewhat profitable a few years ago, into a loss.

Roger R. Smith, a former film executive who worked more than six months on the report, said the effect of participations is huge, because “they can easily be paid out on money-losing pictures.”

For the study, Mr. Smith and his team examined all films distributed in recent years by the six major studios, plus DreamWorks, which was independent before its acquisition by Paramount Pictures. It included movies from the primary studio operations, along with the bigger movies from specialty film units like Warner Independent Pictures. And not all of the films are completely owned by the studios, as some have equity investors.

The study estimated that all such releases last year would yield a combined loss of $1.9 billion after collecting the revenue from an entire first cycle of sales to domestic theaters, foreign theaters, home video, pay television and every other source of income.

Total sales for last year’s slate, the company figures, will ultimately be about $23.7 billion, down about 4.6 percent from 2004. Total costs, meanwhile, rose to $25.6 billion, up 13.2 percent.

As he began working up the numbers last spring, Mr. Smith, who is the executive editor and motion picture analyst for Global Media Intelligence, a unit of the London-based Screen Digest, anticipated a harsh response from the studio owners. But with writers on the warpath for a larger share of what they see as expanding corporate profits, Mr. Smith said he was now braced for skepticism from the labor side.

In fact, neither side should be cheered by figures that describe an industry that has increasingly doled out its wealth to star performers and filmmakers, at the expense of almost everyone else.

(The workings of the theatrical movie business contrast sharply with the economics of television. There, superstar writer-producers like John Wells of “E. R.” or Marc Cherry of “Desperate Housewives” are among those who get the biggest take.)

Part of the bad news for the film industry came from a sharp decline in foreign DVD sales. Those dropped 15.5 percent in the period, while domestic DVD sales fell at half that rate.

But the real killer was the growth in participations. Their precise amount is difficult to reckon, because deals vary and details are seldom disclosed publicly. But Global Media noted that at Disney — unusual in that its financial reports break out annual outlays for participations and residuals — the figure had grown at a compound annual rate of 37.6 percent for the last five years, to $554 million. If the other companies are spending at a similar rate, said the researchers, they are paying out shares worth $3 billion, while piling up an almost $2 billion loss on their new films.

A relatively small part of that goes to the guilds in the form of residuals, the contractual payments that writers get when their work reappears in various media — and which the writers are insisting be increased for media of the future.

According to a report from the Writers Guild of America West, which represents the lion’s share of Hollywood writers, movie residuals were just $121.3 million in 2006, a mere drop in the $3 billion bucket.

A big star, by contrast, can easily make $70 million or more from a single hit, if he or she enjoys a so-called first dollar gross deal.

There is a marketplace justice to such arrangements. Unlike the much-derided “net profit” deals granted weaker players — those points seldom get paid, because there is always some studio charge in the way — gross participations give valuable talent a real share of the action.

“Profit participations are negotiated between a willing buyer and a willing seller,” said Steven Blume, chief operating officer of Content Partners, a Los Angeles company that buys participations in return for cash. The terms, he noted, can change with every movie, making them more flexible than residuals, which become locked into long-term master contracts with the guilds.

But, from the studio point of view, this sort of payment is a bit like having a mortgage that doesn’t amortize. “These participations are paid in perpetuity,” Mr. Blume said.

And therein lie new problems for studios that may have gotten too comfortable with such payouts in the last decade or so.

According to Global Media Intelligence, studios a few years ago could count on rising DVD sales to lift their properties into profitability in a five-year first trip through the marketplace. Then, fully paid for, the movies would provide a smaller but near-endless stream of income from library sales over the decades.

Now, however, those same releases are joining the library with multibillion-dollar losses in tow — and they continue to be weighed down by gross participations that never stop.

Even Disney’s strong corporate performance in the last year does not necessarily bode well. The company’s studio unit, which was profitable for the year, had essentially flat revenue, at about $7.5 billion. Despite a huge hit in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” much profit, company executives said, came from the mining of its library with clever ploys like the “Little Mermaid” Platinum Release DVD, which sold nine million units without the burden of star participations.

Once it is understood that the biggest stars and directors can rake in dollars even from money-losing movies, it becomes easier to understand why companies dug in their heels when asked to make richer residual payments on media of the future than they offered on home video of the past. These would trigger higher payments to other guilds, and would probably create pressure from lawyers and agents in search of still fatter participation deals for their star clients.

It is also not hard to see why the situation is especially galling for movie writers, who typically do not share in the most lucrative gross deals. When it comes to finding more money, some of the stars and filmmakers who have joined them on the picket lines may be able to say where it could come from.

Hollywood Workers Fret as Strike Enters Week 2
Carolyn Giardina

Caterer Kim Thorpe helped serve a Thanksgiving lunchon the set of "How I Met Your Mother" Friday. It was the last day of production on the CBS comedy before shutting down because of the Writers Guild of America strike, which enters its second week Monday.

"People would come up to us and say this would probably be their only Thanksgiving dinner if this doesn't get resolved," she said. "I'm a single mom, and my son -- I don't know how I'm going to pay his tuition next month."

The strike casualties among the show's crew include camera operators, assistants, grips, electricians, hair and makeup artists and many more. And then there are the extras.

"We use a lot of extras each week, and these people barely make it," Thorpe said. "What are they going to do? It's so unbelievably painful to think about the size of this. Thousands and thousands of us have lost our jobs this week. The lady I buy my donuts from -- she has two kids in college. It a huge loss of income."

Upwards of 80,000 people in Hollywood are face the prospect of scripted series going dark one by one as they run out of scripts from striking writers.

Mortgage payments, health benefits, pensions, tuition and families are top of mind. There also is the realization that some will be forced to leave the business, and it's unlikely they will return.

Of those affected in production, some are filing for unemployment and others are looking for work in commercials or indie films, making these areas more crowded.

Things could get worse if the commercial production business slows down as some predict, with ad agencies growing hesitant to invest in spots that would air during reruns.

Few in the below-the-line community were willing to talk about the residuals issues at the heart of the strike.

One source in production senses some sympathy toward the writers. But another commented: "People don't like to express their opinions. It's Hollywood. They just would like to work."

One week into the writers strike, its ripple effect already is reaching television postproduction.

"We are feeling the beginning of it now," one source said. "For those doing post for television, the strongest impact will be felt in December."

Others are more optimistic, saying that they might have enough work until the end of the year.

Many post businesses remain busy in such other areas as commercials, indie film and studio mastering. But if the strike is prolonged, downsizing will be on the horizon.

"It's a sad situation; we are planning how we will respond and how quickly we have to start letting employees go," one executive said.

Robert Solomon, the president of Ascent Media Creative Services, a cluster of postproduction video and sound facilities, said his company is "going to be hard-pressed to have to think about letting people go" but has no plans of doing so in the near term.
"I'll fight like crazy to try to avoid (layoffs)," he said. "We continue to remain positive that people will persevere to find suitable solutions to their issues and we can get this back on track so that we don't do any permanent damage to either the overall industry for producing entertainment content or the post industry specifically."

But for those already affected by the strike, things look bleak.

"I'm not sleeping," Thorpe said. "I'm on the computer, looking for some sign of hope."

She recently made a T-shirt to wear to a WGA rally. It reads: "Getting back to the table is not a sign of weakness; it's a sign of compassion."

"They've got to get back to the table," she said. "Until they go there, there is no hope."

Writers’ Strike Opens New Window on Hollywood
Jennifer Steinhauer

David D’Orsa, who last week passed his days among the stars, says he may soon be serving up lattes. Leonard Dick told his children they need to get better at turning out the lights. Meredith Buyrucu will go to San Diego this weekend to eat in her mother’s kitchen, “which is kind of embarrassing,” she said, “since I’m 40 years old.”

When the Hollywood writers’ strike pulled back the curtain on the world of television, what Americans saw was not a cashmere-wrapped actress alighting from her Escalade, but rather a bunch of middle-aged writers in ill-fitting red T-shirts standing on a picket line on Pico Boulevard.

With the strike deep into Week 2, thousands of union writers are unemployed until further notice, and dozens of assistants, food stylists, electricians, makeup artists, landscapers and thousands of other “below the line” workers in the industry are finding that their work is drying up, too, punching a psychic wound through large swaths of Los Angeles.

“It is a major topic around town,” said Beth Holley, the office administrator at Global Effects Inc., a prop shop in North Hollywood. “I don’t think there are very many people who have not been affected directly or know someone affected.”

The city’s most defining industry, representing roughly 7 percent of its economy, has always operated with ample doses of smoke and mirrors. Elaborate marketing campaigns promote shows everyone knows will be canceled after a few episodes; unaffordable BMWs are leased by junior agents to save face at the Grill; actresses with eating disorders are given malteds to carry around on sets for waiting paparazzi. Much of what is said and done in Hollywood is meant to give the impression of solidity.

But in reality, one tug on a card can make an entire production implode, rendering scores of people instantly unemployed. Many are middle-class laborers who populate the San Fernando Valley and other neighborhoods outside the glamorous canyons that most Americans associate with show business.

Mr. Dick, a writer on “House” on Fox, said that wherever he goes in his red strike shirt — his daughter’s basketball game, for example — another writer approaches to commiserate. “You realize this really is a company town,” Mr. Dick said.

Producers who are usually absentee parents for the bulk of the fall season are now padding around the house, when they are not on a strike line. Writers with newly minted union cards wonder if they will ever get beyond their first jobs. Low level assistants have found themselves instantly out of work and desperate.

The Writers Guild of America West has a $13 million fund that will provide loans to “members who face financial hardship because their income is demonstrably affected” by the strike.

“I’ve got big N.Y.U. loans and health insurance that I have to pay for,” said Kimberly Mercado, who recently got her first writing job on the Fox show “New Amsterdam” and leased an Audi A4 to celebrate. “That was my big excitement,” Ms. Mercado said, adding that she hoped she would not have to give up the car.

The strike, which has been the talk of coffee shops and playgrounds, is something of a metaphor for the broader labor force of Los Angeles, a place of enormous geographical and class division. It has pit studio executives against writers — the bulk of whom are paid far less than high-profile strikers like Larry David — and writers against some trade professionals, whose feelings about the strike are ambivalent at best.

“Our people are middle-class workers,” said Ed Brown, a business agent at the local trade union that represents 6,000 crafts people. “These are not the people that people see at Hollywood insider parties. We are the collateral damage.”

Mr. D’Orsa, an assistant to the executive producers of the FX show “The Riches,” said he would soon be headed to Starbucks, résumé in hand.

Getbackinthatroom.blogspot .com is keeping a running tally of industry workers who have been laid off — almost 250 as of Thursday afternoon.

“I am unemployed thanks to both sides not wanting to lose face,” said Ms. Buyrucu, a costumer on “Grey’s Anatomy” on ABC. “Yes, they have families, too, but they’re making the choice. We don’t have a choice.”

And yet for as dominant a role as the entertainment industry may play in the minds of Americans, and as prevalent as the red shirts of strikers are on the Westside of Los Angeles, the ebb and flow of the broader life of the city is undisturbed.

“It is tough to energize people to come up for middle-class and upper-middle-class people,” said Fernando J. Guerra, director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University. “Hollywood has always considered itself in L.A. but not part of L.A. They consider themselves a national industry.”

The WGA Strike and the Death of Television

This WGA strike sucks, to be sure. If it goes on for more than three months (which is looking increasingly likely), pilot season won't happen, no new shows will be created, no new seasons will come back, and we'll be stuck with the dregs of reality TV for a full year. Yep, that means no last season of Battlestar Galactica, no new season of Lost, and no new episodes of The Office. It's no small thing, and not just because you'll be inconvenienced by marathons of Overweight Celebrity Chili Cook-Off Island or whatever the networks will throw up when they run out of new programming.

TV is not disappearing anytime soon, but clearly, it's going to be replaced by either the internet or some TV/internet hybrid. Like the music industry, the TV industry realizes that their tried-and-true business model is about to be useless, and it's lashing out in panic. Unlike the music industry, who stupidly attacked its fans, the TV industry is attacking its own creative source: writers. But the WGA wouldn't be striking if this wasn't important. We talked to both sides to get at the root of the trouble.

Eric Appel, who's written for Crank Yankers and The Andy Milonakis Show and consulted for MTVs Human Giant, told me:
"New media is where television is going. In a few years cable is just gonna be the internet. And unlike TiVo where you can skip the advertisements, in [new, network-run] streaming players you're forced to sit through the ads. The networks are making money on that, and the studios don't want to give writers any of it."

Imagine if the recording industry decided that the internet was merely a way to promote CDs and that no songs sold online counted when paying musicians. Their argument would be that people were just checking out those songs and might go buy the CD later, at which point the artist would get paid. This is essentially the argument the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) is making.

Here's what a spokesperson told me:
"New media has proven to be an effective and cost-effective promotional and marketing tool for both films and television but there is not enough marketplace data to judge its true potential, ultimate impact on traditional media or viability as a business."
Basically, they claim they don't make any money off the internet so there's nothing to share with the writers, and since "each new month brings new ways to produce, distribute and consume media and entertainment" they don't want to agree to give writers any new media residuals.

As it stands, writers get a small percentage of revenue if a show is successful and reruns often, which is why Jerry Seinfeld drives a gold-plated flying car between his mansions in the Hamptons and Dubai. At the moment, they aren't paid any residuals for new media distribution, despite the fact that online content delivery is the future.

The problem with this logic is that if new media really didn't bring in any money, there wouldn't be a problem. The writers are asking for a percentage of profits from new media — a percentage of nothing is nothing, after all.

So what this battle basically boils down to is the producers trying to move away from a residuals system, one in which writers are paid once for their work and get nothing for creating huge hits. It'll make them a whole lot more money and writers a whole lot less. And it's not just the livelihood of writers at stake; this same issue is going to come up with actors and directors as well in the near future. It's a battle for how business will be done in TV's new age, and one that will affect the entertainment that all of us consume for the foreseeable future.

TV Shows See Strike as a Second Chance
Bill Carter

In the television business the grim reality of the writers’ strike has set in, with the prospect of a long shutdown of scripted shows growing stronger by the day.

But in what seems to be growing consensus among executives at the television networks, the strike could contain a faint glimmer of good news for one group of shows: struggling, barely surviving prime-time series.

“The strike definitely could be a good thing for some marginal shows,” said Preston Beckman, the executive in charge of scheduling for the Fox network. That theory was seconded by executives at the other networks and at several studios, most of whom asked for and were granted anonymity because of a code of silence about strike issues that is in place at the big production companies.

Very soon the networks will begin running low on original scripted episodes of shows. Any new episode will become an increasingly valuable commodity. No network is going to waste bought-and-paid-for episodes. So the marginal shows will stay on until their episodes run out, which, in most cases, will mean sometime between now and the end of January.

The executives pointed to specific shows that might have been facing cancellation or at least trips to the hiatus shelf in previous television seasons. Now, thanks to the strike, these shows will surely get to run their full complement of episodes — and perhaps win a shot at coming back next year.

In this group are first-season series like “Journeyman” and “Life” on NBC, “K-ville” and “Back to You” on Fox, “Big Shots” and “Carpoolers” on ABC and “Cane” on CBS.

Some holdover shows may also be affected for the better. Those possibilities include “Friday Night Lights” on NBC, “Men in Trees” on ABC, “’Til Death” on Fox and “Shark” on CBS.

In other seasons some shows like these, which have teetered on the ratings fence, might have been temporarily shelved or yanked off the air. Now, as Mr. Beckman noted, “they’re just going to be allowed to play out.” And as another senior network program executive put it, “We’re going to get a little extra look at some of these shows, and maybe they’ll help themselves.”

A show like “Friday Night Lights,” for instance, with its high critical praise and low ratings, could get a chance to break through in January, when it is likely to be among the few fall series with some new episodes left; the show started production early and managed to complete 15 episodes before the strike.

In general shows with self-contained stories may be deemed more viable because they have a better chance to do well in repeats. CBS’s schedule has so many crime dramas that repeat well, like “CSI” and “NCIS,” that it may be better off during the strike than its competitors.

ABC’s regular lineup meanwhile is dominated by serialized shows like “Desperate Housewives” that do not repeat well. But that could benefit the one new crime drama ABC owns, “Women’s Murder Club.” ABC could move that show off Friday, where its ratings have been marginal (it has a tryout tonight at 10), and see different results because most viewers haven’t seen the episodes in first run.

In January the series that had been held in reserve will get their shots on the air, usually in limited runs. These include shows like “Lost” and “Cashmere Mafia” on ABC, “The Sarah Connor Chronicles” on Fox and “Jericho” on CBS. And some of these shows could do better than they would have otherwise, because by the time they get on, they would not have to face original episodes of shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “House.”

Instead they will be facing either repeats or substitute programming like newsmagazines or reality shows. They could benefit from the weakened competition, or from being placed adjacent to hit reality shows like “American Idol” on Fox and “Dancing With the Stars” on ABC, leading them to stand out even more. For just this reason Fox is planning to insert episodes of “Back to You” after “Idol” in March.

“Some of these shows might do much better than they would have without the strike,” one senior network executive said.

Several network executives pointed out that the downside of the strike is still far greater than any tiny upside. As some marginal shows find a hope for new life, some incipient hit shows could see their early hopes squashed. New shows that have been building momentum, like “Samantha Who?” on ABC, “The Big Bang Theory” on CBS and “Chuck” on NBC, could get forgotten over months off the air while the audience moves on to other entertainment choices.

The biggest challenge for programmers may come if the strike continues long into the new year. Then development for next year’s shows will be severely affected because pilots for a new fall season may never get made.

Many drama scripts have already been turned in, but those almost always get worked on many more times before a pilot is commissioned. Comedies, few of which are ordered this early, are even more works in constant progress, so the strike could mean few or no new comedy pilots will get into finished shape.

That would leave networks in the position of having to put together a future lineup based on whatever spare parts seem to work this winter and a lot of shows that have not produced new episodes in a long time. Again, the result could be consideration for shows that otherwise might have looked replaceable.

“We may renew some series just because we know what we have with them, and we have no idea what else we’ll have,” one network executive said. “If we thought the show was being well produced and showed at least some promise, my guess is we would bring it back.”

Web Videos Stealing TV Viewers, and Marketers
Stuart Elliott

WHY are fewer viewers watching the new fall television series? Perhaps because they are too busy watching video online.

As broadband service becomes more available at home, the growing prevalence of video programming on the Internet is catching the attention of consumers — not to mention marketers and media companies.

“Video has been liberated” from the TV set, Beth Comstock, president for integrated media at NBC Universal, said last week at a panel at the Ad:Tech conference in New York.

“If you’re in the video business,” she added, referring to companies like her employer, the NBC Universal division of General Electric, “it’s exciting to see where it’s going.”

One direction online video is going is toward the creation of scripted episodic shows that are made expressly for Web sites. Many online video programs, sometimes called Webisodes, emulate television in one respect in that they are released at the same time each day or week.

But there is a difference between online and on the air: the alphabet soup of names for TV networks (e.g., ABC, CBS, ESPN) is replaced on the Internet with madcap monikers intended to be more memorable: Blame Society, Blip.TV, Crackle, Funny or Die, Heavy, My Damn Channel and Viropop, among others.

Another difference is that shows made for the Internet are usually much briefer than their TV counterparts, on the theory that few computer users are willing to sit at their monitors for 30 or 60 minutes at a time.

“We know people’s attention spans online are short,” said Mark Karlan, media strategist at Lowe Worldwide in New York, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies, who is seeking online video advertising opportunities for the milk mustache campaign sponsored by the Milk Processor Education Program.

“Video has become a much larger part of our online strategy in the past year or so,” Mr. Karlan said, for reasons that include the chance to achieve “wide audience reach” with some programs while aiming others at audience segments like teenagers.

Examples of online video programming include “The Burg,” about the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg, which can be watched at theburg.tv; “Meth Minute 39,” a cartoon series, found on channelfrederator.com, a Web site that is part of Next New Networks; and “Roommates,” the first original Web series on MySpace, which is owned by the News Corporation.

The popularity of online video is beginning to draw familiar names. For instance, the producers Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick of “Thirtysomething” fame are creating “Quarterlife,” which can be watched on its own Web site (quarterlife.com) or on myspace.com. Tom Green, the former MTV personality, is now the host of “Tom Green Live” on ManiaTV.com and tomgreen.com.

And comic actors like Michael Cera and Bob Odenkirk are involved in video ventures like “Clark and Michael,” found at clarkandmichael.com, and “Derek and Simon,” available at superdeluxe.com respectively.

“The proliferation, even in the last six or eight months, is where we see our chance, where we see opportunity,” said Craig Atkinson, digital director in Chicago of the OMD media agency, part of the Omnicom Group.

For one client, McDonald’s, Mr. Atkinson and Michael Solomon, associate director for strategy at OMD Chicago, worked with an online video network in New York, Broadband Enterprises, on the sponsorship of a Web series, “The Fantastic Two.”

The weekly episodes follow the hapless friends, Charly and Mitch, and their fantasy football league. There are guest appearances by William Perry, known as the Refrigerator when he played for the Chicago Bears in the 1980s. Here, he is called Fridgie Bear, a riff on the Huggy Bear character portrayed by Antonio Fargas in the ’70s TV series “Starsky and Hutch.”

There are also guest appearances on “The Fantastic Two” by McDonald’s products like Dollar Menu items, which are integrated into plot lines in the manner that, say, Nissan cars are written into the plot lines of episodes of the NBC series “Heroes.”

“This is unique for us in the level of integration,” said Anja Carroll, director for United States media at the McDonald’s Corporation in Oak Brook, Ill.

Besides the products in the episodes, there are humorous touches like animated characters overlaid on screen proclaiming, “Shameless product placement” when McDonald’s food items appear.

“For this target audience, we’re fine with” the tongue-in-cheek tone, Ms. Carroll said, referring to the men ages 18 to 24 who McDonald’s hopes will watch “The Fantastic Two” on a network of more than 400 Web sites assembled by Broadband Enterprises. (The episodes can also be watched on thefantastictwo.com.)

Mr. Karlan at Lowe has arranged with Broadband Enterprises for the milk campaign to be integrated into episodes of “Hollywood Fast Lane,” a series in the vein of syndicated TV shows like “Access Hollywood.”

No, the host of “Hollywood Fast Lane,” Shandi Finnessey, will not be sporting a mock milk mustache the way celebrities do in the print ads that Lowe creates. Rather, “a part of her sign-off might be suggesting that milk is a healthy alternative drink to have while you’re watching movies or a DVD,” Mr. Karlan said.

Broadband Enterprises is hardly alone in bringing branded entertainment to online video. The series “Roommates” on MySpace features the Ford Focus. And the Volvo C30 appears in episodes of an online series, “Mr. Robinson’s Driving School,” at drivingschool.msn.com.

The integration of products into plot lines “is critical to these deals,” said Matthew Wasserlauf, chief executive at Broadband Enterprises.

Even so, he acknowledged, “there’s certainly going to be a learning curve” as branded entertainment arrives online.

For instance, the tactic seems better suited for online video aimed at younger consumers, Mr. Wasserlauf said, because “that audience has become more savvy and recognizes that we’re saying to them: ‘You know how this works. Let’s have some fun.’ ”

There is speculation that the strike by the Writers Guild of America, which is affecting production of TV series, may further fuel the rise of online video.

However, Steve Sternberg, executive vice president for audience analysis at Magna Global in New York, a media agency that is part of Interpublic, predicted in a report this week that “viewers will still be in front of the set and ready to watch television programming when regular broadcast schedules resume.”

There are, though, casualties of the strike. TV Guide magazine said it would cancel a ceremony and a broadcast of its first Online Video Awards. The winners will instead be announced — where else? — online, at tvguide.com, on Nov. 26.


The Writers’ Strike, Explained

Sure, it may seem complicted, and with all these highly paid slackers up against even higher paid slackers, it’s no wonder we’re so confused. But the in the battle royale between the media flaks who write the stuff and the media flaks who ah, execute it, there is this simple fact. Ka-ching.

The Daily Show’s Jason Roth explains.

NBC Direct Launched, Download Shows for Free
Jonathan Schlaffer

It’s here, and it’s no joke. NBC has launched NBC Direct where most shows can be watched online and some shows are available for full episode downloads. This comes after NBC decided to pull out of iTunes.

NBC Direct beta is currently only available to residents of the United States and only works with Internet Explorer 6 or 7 on Windows XP or Vista, for the moment so once again, Firefox and Mac users will be left out.

Mac and Linux support should roll out some time in early 2008.

As of right now, only shows from the current season are available to watch and there aren’t that many to choose from if you want to download a full episode to your computer. Shows available for download include the previous episodes of Bionic Woman, Friday Night Lights, 30 Rock and The Office and even more are available for online viewing but not download. It’s almost certain that further selections will be added in the future.

It should come as no surprise that videos will only play on the computer that it was originally downloaded to and cannot be shared.

This is certainly a very exciting service and here’s hoping it will remain free when it moves out of beta. I for one, am already hooked on it (and it’s only been out for a day).

High-Quality YouTube Videos Coming Soon
Rafe Needleman

YouTube co-founder Steve Chen, speaking at the NewTeeVee Live conference today, confirmed that high-quality YouTube video streams are coming soon. Although YouTube's goal, he said, is to make the site's vast library of content available to everyone, and that requires a fairly low-bitrate stream, the service is testing a player that detects the speed of the viewer's Net connection and serves up higher-quality video if viewers want it.

Why wouldn't they? Because the need to buffer the video before it starts playing will change the experience. Hence the experiment, rather than just a rapid rollout of this technology. On stage, he said the current resolution of YouTube videos has been "good enough" for the site untill now.

Chen told me he expects that high-quality YouTube videos will be available to everyone within three months.

Chen also confirmed that in YouTube's internal archive, all video is stored at the native resolution in which it was sent. However, he said, a large portion of YouTube videos are pretty poor quality to begin with--320x240. Streaming them in high-quality mode isn't going to help much.

Broadcasters Woo 'Lost Generation' in Deal with Social Networking Site Bebo

• Media Online television clips will target younger viewers
• 'Revolutionary' battle for millions of users

Owen Gibson

The UK's biggest social networking site yesterday announced partnerships with a string of broadcasters, including the BBC, Channel 4, Sky, ITN and CBS, in a move hailed as one of the most significant yet in marrying old and new media.

Traditional broadcasters hope that distributing and marketing their programmes to Bebo's 40 million users will help them reconnect with the so-called "lost TV generation" of 13 to 24-year-olds who make up the social networking site's core audience.

It will allow Bebo users to collect and curate clips from BBC programmes such as Doctor Who and EastEnders, behind-the-scenes MTV footage, ITN entertainment news and a host of other items within their own "Personal Video Profile", displaying them on their homepage and sharing them with friends.

In future, broadcasters are also likely to use Bebo to premiere programmes before they are shown on television in an attempt to build up an early following.

One of their biggest challenges is to cut through the noise of competing channels and get viewers to sample their programmes.

Bebo's president, Joanna Shields, said the announcement marked a new phase for social networking sites.

"We're revolutionising the way media companies can reach audiences online ... particularly the hard-to-reach youth demographic," she said.

As well as welcoming the world's biggest media companies, she said the new platform would be open to niche broadcasters, giving them an opportunity to reach Bebo's millions of users.

A fierce battle is taking place for the eyeballs of elusive younger consumers, who are increasingly turning their backs on traditional media. Advertisers are terrified of no longer being able to reach young audiences, while broadcasters and other traditional media owners are seeing mass audiences eroded.

Bebo, which unveiled a new look yesterday, also vowed to collaborate with broadcasters and independent producers to create more interactive drama and entertainment shows developed especially for the web, following its recent hit Kate Modern.

It claims to be the most popular social networking site in Britain, with 10.9 million users spending an average of 35 to 40 minutes a day on it. Globally, it is third to rivals MySpace, which rose to prominence in the UK thanks to its role in breaking several big music artists, and Facebook, which has an older user base and has been embraced by office workers around the world.

Bebo was founded in 2005 by British-born web entrepreneur Michael Birch with his wife, Xochi, and has steadfastly refused a number of offers to sell to established media players.

The BBC and Channel 4 will initially use the Bebo network to promote their shows using short clips. Because it allows them to embed their own "media players" within the website, they are also likely to show full-length programmes in future.

Andy Duncan, chief executive of Channel 4, said it was "the start of an exciting partnership and the launch pad for future innovations around new formats and existing successful shows". The broadcaster has already enjoyed some success by heavily promoting youth drama Skins through MySpace.

Shields, a former Google executive, said one of the key differences with Bebo's offering to broadcasters was that it was not attempting to make any money from their content.

Instead, broadcasters retain control of the rights and can use their own technology, showing their own advertisements around their clips.

The power of online video was first demonstrated by the explosion in popularity of video-sharing site YouTube, much of which was driven by traditional broadcasts being made available illegally, as well as from user-generated content.

While some broadcasters, including the BBC, have done deals with the Google-owned YouTube to feature their shows on their own branded channels, others, including Viacom and the Premier League, have threatened it with legal action.

Broadcasters have for some time been working on how to deliver on-demand programming over the internet and mobile devices.

The BBC has launched a public trial of its long-mooted iPlayer, which offers any programme from the last seven days, while ITV and Channel 4 also offer similar catch-up services. Apple offers paid-for downloads of TV shows through iTunes, while NBC and News Corp recently launched a video site in the US.

The BBC director general, Mark Thompson, has made reconnecting with younger viewers a main plank of his Creative Future plan designed to maintain support for the licence fee in an age of digital choice.

But broadcasters have only recently turned their attention to spreading their programmes throughout the web. Web 2.0 logic dictates that broadcasters will stand a better chance of continuing to reach mass audiences if they are able to scatter clips, programmes and other background material throughout the web to users who will no longer head for "destination sites" to watch it.

To this end, media companies have been engaged in a desperate race to sign deals with new TV-over-the-internet platforms such as Joost, while at the same time policing the web for pirate content.

Shields likened the typical Bebo profile to a teenager's bedroom. It became an extension of their personality by hosting pictures and notes from friends and displaying their favourite bands and TV shows, she said.

She predicted the new deals would help mark it out from its rivals, describing Facebook as a functional BlackBerry equivalent and Bebo as a multimedia iPod Touch.

Computer screened

Bebo and other websites are now commissioning their own shows. Attempts at interactive online dramas are nothing new - US series The Spot was made in 1995 - but the popularity and marketing power of Bebo has arguably made them viable for the first time. Kate Modern, a thriller starring Ralf Little made by the team behind US YouTube phenomenon LonelyGirl 115, was watched 25m times in three months and allowed Bebo users to interact with the characters. It also featured sponsorship deals, such as one with Warner Music to put its act The Days into the storyline, and product placement of the kind that is banned on television. It will be followed by drama Sofia's Diary, made by Sony, and The Gap Year, an Endemol "interactive online reality drama", following six contestants travelling the globe.

Online Video Bad for Network TV, Good for Network Web Sites
Nate Anderson

Web video (both authorized and otherwise) is exploding in popularity, but is it simply drawing viewers away from the TV? Or are people watching more content then ever? That's a question tackled by University of Pennsylvania business school prof Joel Waldfogel in a recent paper (PDF, still in draft and recently mentioned on the Freakonomics blog). His study, though it has some major caveats, indicates that the availability of popular television shows on the web does in fact depress television viewing. It's a result that might make network admen weep, except that the decrease in TV viewing has a flip side: web viewers spend more total time watching network-owned properties.

Waldfogel surveyed 287 students at Penn about their TV-watching habits. The thinking was that tech-savvy students would be an excellent population for getting a sense of how web distribution of content will change the future of TV. (Also, students are widely available, and generally fill out surveys in return for M&Ms or beer money.) This is not, and was not intended to be, a wide-ranging statement about the general population.

Waldfogel asked the students to write down the TV series they had watched for the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons, along with whether such viewing was on 1) television, 2) authorized web sites, or 3) unauthorized sites, including BitTorrent. (Note that self-reporting opens the survey results to inaccuracies.) Waldfogel then crunched the numbers and found a huge spike in categories two and three between the two seasons of responses. This is exactly what he expected, since YouTube surged to popularity at this time and the networks began making streaming versions of shows available from their own websites in mid-2006. In the first season he measured, 72 percent of all shows watched were on a television. By the second season, this had fallen dramatically to only 55 percent.

So students are migrating to the web; what's the result? We might imagine that the web would simply replace the television and the network would see no net gain or loss from moving shows online, but that's not what Waldfogel found. Instead, television time dropped but web time increased even more. The net result was that students in the survey spent an average of 1.5 more hours per week on network properties (TV channels plus authorized web sites).

Waldfogel's idea is that making TV shows more easily available to students (in essence, turning them into on-demand programming) actually stimulates more total content consumption by making viewers aware of more shows. Unauthorized clips, such as some of the network clips found at YouTube and other sites, may have the same effect. While a TV show that aired each week during a student's night class might never even be seen, the web offers that student a chance to see the show, get hooked, and start tuning in on a weekly basis. Whether that happens through a TV or over the web should be irrelevant to broadcasters, who can show ads in both places.

This is a small sample (and one based on surveys rather than observation) of students at a single large public university—hardly a definitive statement about how Americans will respond as more shows find their way online. Still, it's an intriguing first step for such research, and it suggests that tech-savvy users who can find a bit more time in their weekly schedules for watching content on a screen will be willing to do just that as networks make it easier for them to find and keep up with new shows.

The Fonda Factor
Abby Ellin

IF Debbie Hollingshead hadn’t fallen in love with Cathe Friedrich’s hairdo — a soft, feathered pixie cut evocative of Dorothy Hamill — her life would not be what it is today.

After stumbling across a photograph of Ms. Friedrich in a fitness magazine in 1999, Ms. Hollingshead showed the picture to her stylist and asked him to replicate it. Later, she logged on to Ms. Friedrich’s Web site, Cathe.com, to see the woman behind the hair: a hard-bodied mother of two, who has been a video fitness star for more than two decades. Ms. Hollingshead bought a DVD, and that was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

“I get a better workout with Cathe than I’ve gotten anyplace else,” said Ms. Hollingshead, 54, an aerobics teacher in Uniontown, Ohio. “She’s incredible.”

Incredible. Awesome. Amazing. These are just some of the adjectives grown women use to describe the fitness instructors who motivate them while they exercise at home. Despite the easy availability of group fitness classes and online workouts, many women over 35 prefer to exercise in private, with an instructor who can guide them past the burn of a deep lunge. Their fearless leaders are not perky 22-year-olds with dewy faces, but women in their 40s. In this world, the real stars are less pretty young thing and more yummy mummy.

Among them is Ms. Friedrich, 43, the aerobics boot-camp-and-kickboxing queen who has released more than 80 videos and DVDs since 1989 and has taught on FitTV, part of the Discovery network, three hours a day for the last four years. And Jari Love, 42, whose abs look as if they could deflect an oncoming bus and whose weight-training videos inspire an international following.

And, of course, the peppy “Walking Woman,” Leslie Sansone, 45, whose devoted power-walkers have even taken to following her around the supermarket. Her “Walk Away Your Waistline” was No. 6 in sales earlier this month at Collage Video, a fitness video clearinghouse in Minneapolis whose rankings have become an industry yardstick. (Ms. Love’s “Get Ripped and Chiseled” is No. 1, and Ms. Friedrich’s “4-Day Split” is No. 2).

“Leslie had a way of touching me through her video that was incredible,” said Kathy Halderman, 39, an administrative assistant and waitress in Liberty Township, Ohio, who credits Ms. Sansone with the 250 pounds she lost over four years. “I began to cry during the first workout not just because it hurt physically, but she was touching my soul and making me feel like I had a purpose and everything she was doing I could do.”

The video fitness world has evolved since a soufflé-haired Jane Fonda in leg warmers released her first VHS in 1982. It is no longer enough to merely look good in spandex (though that’s clearly a requirement), so today’s video fitness stars are selling the idea that their bodies look buff despite their having given birth multiple times. That age has not withered them. That exercise — not plastic surgery or Botox — has given them that youthful glow. (Ms. Love, Ms. Sansone and Ms. Friedrich all insist that they have had no plastic surgery on their faces or bodies). And that their workout plan is the key.

Many of their acolytes are busy women who not only find it more efficient to exercise at home, but more comfortable. Lorrayne Schaeffer, 41, a computer engineer in San Diego, exercises only at home, and only with Ms. Friedrich. “I feel intimidated at a gym,” she said. “At home I can do it on my own time not have to compete for the equipment — just me and Cathe and the crew.”

According to Jill Ross, director of product acquisition at Collage Video, 8.5 million fitness DVDs were sold in the United States from July 2006 through June 2007; the average home video user is about 45, and most instructors don’t hit their stride with viewers until around age 37. “You need a certain commanding presence,” she said. “If Oprah was 22, would she be fun to watch?” (Incidentally, Ms. Ross said, brunet video stars generally are more popular than blond ones, because they are perceived as more serious.)

Many of those making popular DVDs, like Kathy Smith, now 55, and Denise Austin, 50, witnessed the birth of the fitness industry. “Back then, the industry was so young, and so were the people in it,” said Carol Scott, the president of ECA World Fitness, an industry organization that offers training and workshops for fitness professionals. “What’s happened is that the same people are still doing it.” Exercise video producers are having difficulty finding new talent, she said: “In years prior, there weren’t a lot of big chains, there were exercise studios. They mentored the instructors. It doesn’t really exist on the same level anymore.”

Whatever their experience, older video stars appeal to consumers on a visceral level. “If you’re down in your basement every morning following someone,” said Denise Brodey, the editor in chief of Fitness magazine, “you like the idea that they look like you.”

Or how you’d like to look, anyway. Jari Love is a walking — and sculpturing and toning — billboard for what women covet and has found success despite her blindingly blond hair. (For the record, the color comes from a bottle.) A former model, actress and singer, and now the mother of two, Ms. Love entered the video arena at 38, after teaching strength training and aerobics for almost 20 years at a fitness club in Calgary, Alberta, that she is a partner in.

Since the release of the first weight-training DVD, “Get Ripped!” in 2005, she has developed a wide following. Jeffrey Fergason, president of Razor Digital Entertainment, which distributes Ms. Love’s videos, said the four titles have sold more than 250,000 copies. Ms. Love, who said she once weighed 165 pounds, has nary a centimeter of fat on her 5-foot-7, 122-pound body.

This inspires consumers. “Young girls already have that nice tight figure,” said Nash Cajee, 33, a yoga teacher in Vancouver, British Columbia, who owns Ms. Love’s “Get Ripped!” weight-training series. “They don’t have a lot of cellulite or saddlebags. But Jari’s 10 years older than me.” The fact that she’s 42, Ms. Cajee said, “and has a way better body than I do — a body that I would only dream of having — that’s incredible in itself.”

Thanks to the Internet, video fitness devotees have a place to congregate, on sites like www.videofitness.com, to extol the virtues of their favorite teachers. Some fans even meet in person. Ms. Friedrich, who said she has sold more than a million DVDs since releasing her first one 18 years ago, has held five gatherings since 1998 (she calls them “road trips”) in her Glassboro, N.J., studio, where women from as far away as Uganda congregate to exercise with her in the flesh. The most recent road trip, in August, sold out in three minutes, attracting 105 women.

“It’s a testament of what a super awesome person and instructor she is,” said Ms. Schaeffer, the computer engineer, who has attended most of the road trips.

Other women swear by Leslie Sansone. Since releasing her first video in 1980, Ms. Sansone, a mother of three in New Castle, Pa., has made over 90 titles. According to her site, lesliesansone.com, her business is worth $200 million.

She is often stopped by fans in airports and on the street, and sometimes sneaks around the supermarket so she isn’t followed. Her biggest selling point is her “real woman” status, she said. “I didn’t go into the industry by saying, ‘Feel my rock hard abs, feel my muscles,’” Ms. Sansone said. “I’m allowed to age. I don’t believe people expect me to be perfect.”

Catherine Saint Louis contributed reporting

Bring the Real World Home
Roger Cohen

In the gym at the NATO base in Kabul, U.S. soldiers hit the treadmills every morning and gaze at TV screens broadcasting Al Jazeera’s English news channel. When Osama bin Laden makes news, as he did recently with a statement about Iraq, America’s finest work out beneath the solemn gaze of their most wanted enemy.

This sounds like a scene from Donald Rumsfeld’s private hell. The former secretary of defense dismissed Al Jazeera as a “mouthpiece of Al Qaeda.” He once called the network, which is based in and owned by Qatar, “vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable.”

In an indication of what the Bush administration thinks of Al Jazeera journalism (and habeas corpus), it has locked up one of the network’s cameramen, Sami al-Hajj, in Guantánamo Bay for more than five years without charging him.

The choice of viewing at the NATO gym is a lot wiser than Rumsfeld’s choice of words or the terrible treatment of Hajj. America, and not just its front-line soldiers, needs to watch Al Jazeera to understand how the world has changed. Any other course amounts to self-destructive blindness.

The first change that must be grasped is America’s diminished ability to influence people. Global access to information now amounts to an immense à la carte menu. Networks escape control. To hundreds of millions of people accessing information for the first time, from central China to Kenya’s Rift Valley, the United States can easily look exclusive and less relevant to their future.

The second essential change is the erosion of American power. Samantha Power, the author and Harvard professor, calls this “the core fact of recent years.”

America’s hard power — its military — is compromised by intractable counterinsurgency wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Its economy is strained; witness the ever feebler dollar. Its soft power — the resonance of the American idea — has been hurt by a loss of legitimacy (Hajj languishing) and by incompetence (Iraq).

The third essential change is the solidification of anti-Americanism as a political idea. Jihadist Islamism is the most violent expression of this, but its agents benefit from swimming in a sea of less murderous resentments.

In response to all this, America can say to heck with an ungrateful world. It can mutter about third, even fourth, world wars. Therein lies a downward spiral. Or it can try to grasp the new, multinetworked world as it is.

To this world Al Jazeera English offers a useful primer. The network can be tendentious — bin Laden’s face up there for several minutes — in stomach-turning ways. But, over all, its striving for balanced reporting from a distinct perspective seems genuine.

A year after its launch, it reaches 100 million households worldwide. Its focus is on “reporting from the political south to the political north,” as Nigel Parsons, its managing director, put it. The world it presents, more from the impact than the launch point of U.S. missiles, is one that must be understood.

Yet, the network has been sidelined in the United States. Representative Jim Moran, a Democrat from Virginia, told me: “There’s definitely an attitude here that these guys are the enemy. But in the Mideast, Asia and Europe they have a credibility the U.S. desperately needs.”

Moran met recently with Al Jazeera English executives seeking to extend the service’s Lilliputian reach here. Right now, you can watch it in Toledo, Ohio, through Buckeye Cablesystem, which reaches 147,000 homes.

Or, if you’re in Burlington, Vt., a municipal cable service offers the network to about 1,000 homes. Washington Cable, in the capital, reaches half that. Better options are YouTube or GlobeCast satellite distribution.

These are slim pickings. Al Jazeera English is far more accessible in Israel. Allan Block, the chairman of Block Communications, which owns Buckeye, told me: “It’s a good channel. Sir David Frost and David Marash are not terrorists. The attempt to blackball it is neo-McCarthyism.”

Block, like other cable providers, got protest letters from Accuracy in Media, a conservative watchdog. Cliff Kincaid, its editor, cites the case of Tayseer Allouni, a former Afghanistan correspondent jailed in Spain for Al Qaeda links. This is evidence, he suggests, that “cable providers shouldn’t give them access.”

Most cable companies have bowed to the pressure while denying politics influenced their decisions. “It just comes down to channel capacity and other programming options,” Jenni Moyer, a Comcast spokeswoman, told me.

Nonsense, says Representative Moran, blaming “political winds plus a risk-averse corporate structure.”

These political winds hurt America. Counterinsurgency has been called armed social science. To win, you must understand the world you’re in.

Comparative courses in how Al Jazeera, CNN, the BBC and U.S. networks portray the Iraq war and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be taught in all U.S. high schools and colleges. Al Jazeera English should be widely available.

Cable Ruling May Provide Opportunities For Google, Startups
Duncan Riley

The FCC may move to open up access to cable television on the basis that the big cable companies are too dominant, according to the NY Times.

The move would lower the cost of entry to new content providers and forcibly provide access where this has been denied previously. There is also the possibility that the FCC may force cable providers to unbundle channels, allowing consumers to pick and choose which channels they want as opposed to the current bundled channel practice.

Without knowing exactly what the final ruling will look like, anything that provides improved choice to consumers is a good thing; it’s also a good thing for Google and content focused startups.

In Google’s case, its TV advertising product, currently being trialled by Sky in the United Kingdom, could well have a range of new potential customers looking for innovative advertising solutions. Many of the existing players have rebuffed Google’s overtures, new players may not.

A long shot, depending on the extent of the FCC ruling, is Google taking part in the content provision side itself. Consider that a site like YouTube is a conduit to the provision of content in the same way that a cable station is, and Google is already well versed in negotiating content distribution deals with major providers. Google has the time, money, and growing technical experience to provide a cable television station or two, all naturally supported by Google TV ads. It’s a stretch, and perhaps a more likely scenario is that we might see Google partner with someone else (be it in a full partnership or minority investment) but either way it’s an opportunity someone in Google will at least look at. Consider this: Google is trying to buy mobile spectrum to increase the reach of their mobile advertising product, a couple of cable channels is a much cheaper and more manageable proposition then being a mobile operator.

Lower access costs to cable networks also provide opportunities for content creating startups. We’ve already seen Podshow on TiVo; any similar content creator, either alone or in conjunction with others, will always look at ways to broaden their distribution in an attempt to maximize viewing numbers. The internet may be the first choice for many when it comes to accessing content, but there is still a very sizable cable audience in the United States, one that may be receptive to innovative channels run by startups that have previously been net only players.

CBS Offers Midtown Manhattan Free Wireless Internet Access
Allen Stern

Some awesome news out of Manhattan today. CBS Corporation has announced today that it will "light up" midtown Manhattan with the creation of the "CBS Mobile Zone," a wireless high-speed network enabling New Yorkers with Wi-Fi-enabled cell phones, laptops or other devices to access the Internet for free, and make voice over internet (VOI) calls.

The zone will be from Times Square to Central Park South and from 6th Avenue to 8th Avenue and is a test in partnership with the MTA.

You might be asking what CBS gets out of the deal - ad impressions! New Yorkers who access the "CBS Mobile Zone," will be greeted by an ad-supported homepage that includes hyperlocal content such as breaking local and national news, sports highlights, weather reports, music discovery, wallpapers, ringtones, maps, a social network and the ability to search for nearby restaurants, shops and entertainment complete with geographically- targeted community reviews. Citi and Salesgenie.com(TM) have signed on to be early sponsors of the Wi-Fi HotZone.

"This is another example of how the assets of CBS Outdoor are enhanced by new technologies," said Wally Kelly, Chairman and CEO of CBS Outdoor. "What better way to show we are committed to turning our Outdoor assets
into next-generation interactive platforms than providing free Wi-Fi service in what is arguably the busiest stretch of real estate in the world. This offering will allow us to evaluate the prospect of applying Wi-Fi capabilities across our Outdoor properties globally."

They are also giving routers to local businesses in the Mobile Zone to enhance the signals. I wonder what the signal will be like on New Year's Eve! Just how many connections can this system handle was not disclosed.

Many of the companies covered on CN are included in the Homepage including: Tropos, BIG, Fon, Ning, Goowy, Veoh, Yelp, 1020, Aptilo and Can-Do Entertainment.

Very exciting news - I will do my best to test the system over the coming weeks and report back.

Brazil Hopes to Expand Broadband to Entire Country in 3 Years

Latin America's largest nation hopes to expand broadband Internet access across nearly its whole expanse in the next three years, Brazil's communications minister said.

Helio Costa, speaking late Tuesday at a U.N. forum on governing the Internet, said the project could cost $1.7 billion. Much of the cost would cover laying new fiber optic telephone lines.

"If we manage to get an agreement with the companies to substitute lines, we could cover 80 percent of the national territory," Costa told reporters.

The government also plans to use the infrastructure of state-owned oil and electricity companies, the communications ministry said in a statement.

"The only people left out will be a few communities in the interior of the country," Costa said.

Brazil has more than 32 million regular Internet users, the most in South America, its census department said this year, but most of Brazil's 182 million residents don't have access to broadband.

Guilty as charged

Wi-Fi Piggybacking Widespread

Sophos has revealed new research into the use of other people's Wi-Fi networks to piggyback onto the internet without payment. The research shows that 54 percent of computer users have admitted breaking the law, by using someone else's wireless internet access without permission.

According to Sophos, many internet-enabled homes fail to properly secure their wireless connection properly with passwords and encryption, allowing freeloading passers-by and neighbours to steal internet access rather than paying an internet service provider (ISP) for their own. In addition, while businesses often have security measures in place to protect the Wi-Fi networks within their offices from attack, Sophos experts note that remote users working from home could prove to be a weak link in corporate defences.

Stealing Wi-Fi internet access may feel like a victimless crime, but it deprives ISPs of revenue. Furthermore, if you've hopped onto your next door neighbours' wireless broadband connection to illegally download movies and music from the net, chances are that you are also slowing down their internet access and impacting on their download limit. For this reason, most ISPs put a clause in their contracts ordering users not to share access with neighbours - but it's very hard for them to enforce this.

Survey results
Have you ever used someone else's Wi-Fi connection without their permission?

Yes 54%
No 46%

Sophos online survey, 560 respondents, 31 October - 6 November 2007.
Sophos recommends that home owners and businesses alike set up their networks with security in mind, ensuring that strong encryption is in place to prevent hackers from eavesdropping on communications and potentially stealing usernames, passwords and other confidential information.

5 Cool Wireless Research Projects Worth Checking Out
Bob Brown

Wireless is one of the hottest research areas among academics, who are looking at ways to make networks faster, less expensive and more energy-efficient. Here’s a whirlwind tour of some of the more intriguing projects underway at schools and labs across the United States (some of which are being presented at the HotNets IV conference being held in Atlanta next week.

A better way to do municipal wireless

The meltdown of some high-profile municipal Wi-Fi projects has the industry wondering what the alternative to bringing widespread wireless access to cities might be. Researchers from the University of Cambridge in the U.K. and MIT say the secret to success might lie in exploiting the dense network of Wi-Fi access points already rampant in many cities.

In a paper titled “Architecting Citywide Ubiquitous Wi-Fi Access,” the researchers introduce the idea of convincing current and future Wi-Fi hosts to grant access to legitimate guests whose traffic would be tunneled securely though the network and without hampering the host with any responsibility for it. “We offer this as an economically viable alternative to investing millions in new infrastructure,” the researchers write.

“We argue that citywide ubiquitous Wi-Fi access can be architected at near-zero cost because the network infrastructure is already in place: A majority of city dwellers have a broadband connection and a personal Wi-Fi AP at home,” the paper states. The researchers propose creating a cooperative of trusted Wi-Fi access points that could include implementation of gateways and servers to ensure security.

Treating wireless networks differently from wired

The debate about going with a wired or wireless network remains in full swing (See “Wireless LANs vs. Wired LANs: One of Networking’s 50 Greatest Arguments"), but a perhaps lesser-known debate is whether to use old-fashioned wired network technologies to support wireless networks or to come up with new architectures suited specifically for wireless. MIT researchers Sachin Katti and Dina Katabi (we’ve tracked her wireless-boosting efforts in the past) support the latter in research outlined in a paper issued in September titled “MIXIT: The Network Meets the Wireless Channel.”

The researchers claim their approach can boost throughput by four times over state-of-the-art opportunistic routing schemes, which are prone to dropping whole packets if even a few bits come through incorrectly. They say these opportunistic routing schemes work fine in wired networks, but not wireless ones. “MIXIT increases network throughput by building on the inherent characteristics of the wireless medium; it embraces wireless broadcast and exploits both space and time diversities,” the paper states.

Seeking more energy-efficient sensor networks

A trio of University of California at Berkeley researchers say there is beauty in procrastination -- as in networked sensors that wait as long as they can to send data back to the program or person who needs access to it. But such delays won’t gratify users of all sensor networks, such as those relying on polled and schedule protocols.

In a paper titled “Procrastination Might Lead to a Longer and More Useful Life” the researchers acknowledge that loads of attention has been paid to making wireless sensor networks more energy efficient through improved operating systems, storage and communication. Their research focuses on ways to reduce synchronization costs and on exploiting the batching of data, as well as compression, without adversely affecting system users. While they find there could be some benefits to delayed communications, they also discovered challenges, such as figuring out how to establish routing schemes on the fly once sensors are waked up.

DARPA’s adaptive battlefield wireless plan

A new Department of Defense project is trying to use cutting-edge wireless research to create a tactical radio network that can adapt to keep soldiers linked with one another on the battlefield.

Project WAND (for Wireless Adaptive Network Development) will exploit commercial radio components rather than custom ones, and use a variety of software techniques and algorithms, many of them only just now emerging in mature form. These $500 walkie-talkie-size radios will form large-scale, peer-to-peer ad hoc networks, which can shift frequencies, sidestep interference and handle a range of events that today completely disrupt wireless communications.

WAND is an attempt to create low-cost radios with intelligent network software that does several things to make communications more pervasive, more efficient and more reliable in the battlefield. Read more about this project here.

Security architecture emerges for first responders

Princeton University researchers say they have come up with a new way to transmit crucial rescue information securely to first responders to such situations as natural disasters and terrorist attacks.

The new architecture supports what Princeton electrical engineering professor Ruby Lee calls "transient trust" – that is, the ability to swap sensitive data, such as floor plans of a building or personal medical information, securely on an as-needed basis. A paper called "Hardware-rooted Trust for Secure Key Management and Transient Trust" has been authored by ex-HP computer architect Lee (who leads the Princeton Architecture Lab for Multimedia and Security [PALMS]) and graduate student Jeffrey Dwoskin. The paper describes outfitting such devices as the handheld computers used by first responders with elements dubbed a "device root key" and a "storage root hash" to enable temporary access to information.

10 Things We Hate About Laptops
Valerie Rice

Damaged. Lost. Stolen. Too big, too small. Insecure and unreliable. And just plain annoying. If you're in IT, there's just not much to like about laptops.

To be sure, portable computers have changed the way business operates, so much so that we literally cannot imagine a work life without them. That said, IT professionals, whether they're dealing with accident-prone users or keeping the network secure, say laptops are nothing short of a support nightmare.

Some cope by outsourcing support altogether (see To outsource or not at the end of this article); others by rigidly adhering to standards and trying not to personally take the hate mail they receive from disgruntled end users.

Either way, IT executives have a lot to say on the subject of laptops, nearly none of it good.

And that's ironic, or maybe just tough luck, because sales of laptops in the business sector are growing 20% a quarter, while sales of desktop computers are declining sharply, according to IDC in Framingham, Mass.

By this time next year, IDC says, shipments of business laptops will have surpassed that of desktops, and the gap will continue to widen. This year alone, laptop sales in the U.S. are expected to hit 31.7 million units.

IT has to support those 31.7 million machines, quickly and efficiently, whether the units are ensconced at a Starbucks or being dragged around remotest Africa, or even when the machine is run over by a train and sliced in half. (See When bad things happen to good laptops on the next page for more horror stories.)

But we didn't say IT had to like it.

Here we present, in no particular order, the top 10 things IT professionals absolutely hate about laptops. (And yes, we did have to edit down a very long list.)

1. Battery life still bombs.

Battery life has long been the Achilles heel of laptops, and even though battery life in newer models can now top four hours, it's not enough for mobile users and the IT pros who service them. Not nearly.

"I love my laptop, couldn't live without it, but I really hate it, too," says Dr. Joshua Lee, medical director of information services at the University of California at San Diego Medical Center in La Jolla, Calif. "Battery, battery, battery ... it is such a pain."

Lee, who is both a practicing physician and an IT director, means that literally. He oversees a team of 50-plus laptop-carrying doctors who sometimes are forced to stop a patient exam and go search for an AC adapter cord so they can continue making notes on the patient's records. "There's the hunting for the plug, then the unplugging and wrapping up of the cord ... it just feels weird to be doing all that in front of a patient," Lee says.

And, of course, there's always the chance that it's the wrong cord. Though the UCSD Medical Center primarily uses Dell laptops and desktops, other organizations aren't as standardized on a single brand. For example, at the Kansas Department of Transportation in Topeka, when laptops hit the road, it's not always with the right AC adapter. "Why can't power cords just be standardized?" asks a frustrated Sue Swartzman, data center manager. "Why do they even have those things? There has to be a better solution."

2. Laptops get banged up and broken.

The No. 1 place laptops get damaged is on airplanes, according to our highly informal survey of support managers. That guy in front stretches out, jams the tray table down and smashes the nice new laptop in the process.

"A lot of these laptops are assembled in China, and let's face it, they are flimsy," says Long Le, IT director at Atlas Air Inc., a large international air freight company in Purchase, N.Y.

Le oversees 300 laptops traveling to the far-flung reaches of Asia, South America and Europe. Not all of those laptops travel business class, so he sees a lot of broken hinges from tray-table mishaps, as well as cracked screens and cases and parts that just decide to fall off.

But not even business-class travelers are immune. At Harvard Business School in Boston, certain unnamed campus leaders and senior managers sometimes forget and check their laptops in their luggage, which makes CIO Stephen Laster crazy. "Laptops are way too fragile for that," he says, recalling more than a few cracked cases and screens.

But Laster doesn't stop there. With more than 3,000 laptops under his watchful eye, he's well aware the delicate machines are simply not suited for life in the real world. There are dangers everywhere: the spilled can of Diet Coke (particularly common at Harvard) or the venti latte (ditto) as well as everyday dangers like the drop into a puddle or the threat of children, who play with mom and dad's laptop a bit too roughly, and poof, there goes the door to the CD drive.

Imagine the potential dangers in the Manatee County Schools in Bradenton, Fla., where they've given each child a laptop of his own. While Tina Barrios, supervisor of instructional technology, says she's thrilled how well the rollout of nearly 10,000 Apple Inc. laptops has been received by her pint-size customers, she admits it's taken work to educate them on how to handle their new computing tools.

Of course, there have been a few problems. "The laptops seem to get tripped over a lot," she says, and then there are those few that have been dropped out of cars or trucks. It's not always a pretty outcome; luckily, she says, support is in-house. (For more on support issues, see To outsource or not.)

3. They're tough to fix, and they die young.

Laptops last, on average, three to four years as compared to the healthier four to five years of the average desktop, according to IDC. Even worse, anecdotal evidence indicates many truly mobile laptops never make it past the two-to-three-year mark.

Not only do laptops live shorter (and more difficult) lives than desktops, they definitely go down fighting -- which is to say they give IT departments a much harder time when it comes to upgrades and repairs.

Today's laptops are built just like today's cars, says Matthew Archibald, senior director of global information security and risk management at Applied Materials Inc. in Santa Clara, Calif. Buy a new car, and the owner's manual will tell you to change the timing belt at 50,000 miles, he explains. If you don't do it, the timing belt will go -- at exactly 51,000 miles. It's a kind of built-in obsolescence, Archibald says, and he sees the exact same scenario with laptops.

"As the cost of laptops has come down, the parts -- from drives to boards -- last a certain length of time and that's it," he says. "Add to that the fact that they're tougher to work on, take more expertise and create potentially a lot longer downtime to fix if they have to be shipped to a service center, they're very frustrating."

Applied Materials, which has gone almost completely mobile, has more than 12,000 laptops deployed. Archibald likes to do a technology refresh every two to three years on laptops, but in recent years, it's much closer to two years "because the hardware starts to fail."

Motherboards are often the first thing to go, hard drives may need to be updated, and smaller things like the screen hinges or the locking switch fail, too. But Archibald employs a hard and fast rule: If it costs more than $300 to refresh, it's time for a new machine.

4. They get lost.

Bob Vesely has a simple reason why he hates laptops: They're easy to lose.

Luckily for Vesely, IT manager at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, the number of laptops he oversees is small, around 40 or so. But Vesely nevertheless tries to guard them zealously, because in his organization, a lost laptop affects more than one user.

Once zoo staffers retire a laptop, it's sent to wildlife researchers in Papua New Guinea and other places. The zoo benefits from that research, so it's a win-win situation, assuming the machines don't get lost. Vesely most often sees laptops getting lost during business trips, he says.

When bad things happen to good laptops

At Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, laptops have been frozen solid (a liquid crystal display is a liquid, after all), recovered from the bottom of a creek bed (along with the car it was stolen from) and sliced in half when a train suddenly rolled back a few feet, right over the laptop balanced on the tracks.

At Atlas Air, tech support once took a call from a road warrior who was driving, computing and talking on the phone at the same time ... the call ended with a loud crash.

And our favorite, from an outraged Applied Materials user's actual e-mail:

"Were you aware that at my current salary of roughly $90/hour, the requirement to log in/unlock my laptop computer more than five to eight times a day, including mistyping, takes up to 20 minutes per day, 2.9 hours per week (I work 7 days a week), 145 hours per year (I take 2 weeks off for vacation).

"So, in effect, the security requirements for my laptop are costing the company more than $13,000 per year. When you multiply this for even 2,000 laptop users, your 'need for protection' is costing the company more than $26,000,000 a year. Can't we just turn it off and save the company money?"

Kind of gives new meaning to the phrase, "You do the math," doesn't it?

"Lost" has a whole different meaning at Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), a 32,000-mile railroad route stretching between 28 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. At the railway, based in Fort Worth, Texas, consulting systems engineer Brad Hanson can have a tough time finding the company's laptops to upgrade them.

Because his tens of thousands of users are moving around constantly, finding their laptops when they need to be upgraded is like an elaborate Easter egg hunt, he says, where the eggs are always changing position.

5. They're difficult to secure, digitally and physically ...

Whether they're being hacked while using an insecure public Wi-Fi connection or being stolen from the airport men's room, laptops are vulnerable to theft in ways their deskbound cousins never are.

Applied Materials' Archibald says the threat of digital intrusion keeps him up at night, though thus far his company hasn't experienced any breaches directly.

Like many other IT managers, he's well aware that someone can physically look over the shoulder of a laptop user at a coffee shop or on the airplane, easily getting a gander at his password or a spreadsheet with next year's corporate financials neatly displayed.

And he knows that public Wi-Fi networks can be compromised in numerous ways, from false network-identification schemes (where users appear to be logging onto one network but are in actuality logged onto a different network), to insufficiently secure authentication pages, where data like network passwords can be captured and reused, to intercepted transmissions, a problem for users who don't use encryption while on the road.

BNSF has been lucky, too. Given the far-flung nature of the railway business, relatively few laptops have been stolen, Hanson says, but it does happen. One of the most recent incidents: A car was stolen with a company laptop inside. Both car and computer were recovered from the bottom of a pond (with the laptop data amazingly intact, if soggy).

Though Hanson is quick to point out that his company doesn't have any more laptops stolen than any other firm doing similar remote business, the railway does takes the theft risk to laptops seriously, recently giving all its users a detailed list of warnings and tips designed to help cut down on this particular type of loss.

6. ... and security precautions make users nuts.

It all comes down this plaintive cry: "Why can't I connect?" Or perhaps the better question is, why isn't it easier to connect? Between passwords, screen locks, complicated procedures to log onto virtual private networks and the risk of getting booted off an "insecure" Wi-Fi connection, well, it's not always easy for users to get online just anywhere.

And that's as it should be, says Greg Fay, chief information security officer for the State of Iowa, who admits he gets lots of practice trying to justify this stance. Although Iowa is not guarding trade secrets, "there is always something we're doing that we wouldn't like the media to know about until it's ready to go."

To address these security concerns, the State of Iowa is just a few months away from implementing a statewide standard -- a preboot, full-disk encryption for every laptop -- that it hopes will beef up security. But Fay doesn't think that will solve the issue of his users wanting to log on at Starbucks, a desire he tries to squelch as much as possible. Even with the full-disk encryption, an open Wi-Fi network still isn't guaranteed safe, he feels, and his users "just don't seem to understand that."

Users are in denial, agrees Applied Materials' Archibald, who quotes from a recent user e-mail that asked, "We're not building nuclear bombs here, why do I have to type in so many passwords?"

Many users don't understand that data in transit needs to be protected, unlike data at rest, Fay says, and they really don't want to understand it. They just want to be able to do what they want.

"To make our lives easier, we want a technology solution to security problems, not a user one," Fay says, meaning he's more than ready to stop wrangling with users about what they can and can't do on their laptops while out in public. A technology solution, one that would take the onus off the users (and presumably, off the IT call center) would be the way to go.

7. Wi-Fi is still the Wild, Wild West.

The challenge of configuring laptops for wireless connectivity, and keeping them up to date, is probably the single biggest nightmare IT professionals face daily, they say.

IT must decide which air cards to use, and if they're going to employ encryption or set up a VPN, and if so, for which employees and under what circumstances. Should the company support mom and pop providers for its users on the road, or only big, trusted carriers? What about employees with their own routers and networks in a home-office environment? The questions go on and on, as do the support issues, IT managers say.

And it's made worse by the fact that most users are clueless, says Vince Kellen, vice president of information services at DePaul University in Chicago. "Wireless overwhelms nontechnical people," he says flatly. "There are literally 20 to 30 different topics related to the choices we make about technology and upgrading, and the users just can't grasp the complexity."

So not only is he trying to stay ahead of the Wi-Fi curve, he's often making the case -- to do the right thing to stay secure -- to a user community that is at best confused and at worst completely uninterested.

BNSF's Hanson knows exactly what Kellen is talking about. "Wireless is the biggest nightmare we have right now," he says. "The technology changes all the time and we just can't keep up."

His particular pet peeve is air cards, where, he says, the standards take so long to settle and become "commercial" that by the time they do, they're obsolete, leaving him stuck with a long-term contract to purchase cards that no longer do the job. "The connection managers can't keep up, and then the cards don't work," Hanson explains. But to streamline support, the company has to standardize on something. Can someone say catch-22?

8. Laptops spawn a new breed of uber-entitled user.

Fay really hates the fact that his users watch TV. Those glossy ads of people effortlessly using laptops in a diner, or on a mountaintop or while driving, all give his users ideas. Bad ideas. Ideas that make them expect that they can be online anywhere and everywhere.

"Television [ads] make everything [seem] so easy and apparently so secure. We are constantly fighting that tide," he says. The problem, he explains, is that the very nature of mobile computing has given users the expectation that they ought to be able to work when and where they want to, regardless of what's involved in supporting them.

They want their instant connection and they want it now, and when the IT call center can't give it to them, well, watch out.

"I get e-mails constantly from people saying they can't get online at a friend's house, so they can't pick their football draft in their football pool, so I'm getting in the way of their personal life and I need to fix this situation immediately," Applied Materials' Archibald says. "I get beat up by users every single day who want to be able to do whatever they want, and have us support it."

When support staffers aren't struggling to get remote users online for their own personal needs, they're fending off users who want -- nay, demand -- that their laptops boot up instantly and stay on no matter what, no boot-up passwords and no screen locks, thank you very much. "Users tell me regularly 'the damn screen lock is killing my productivity,'" Archibald says.

9. They're too big or too small.

Laptops are either too large -- which causes users to complain about lugging all that extra weight around -- or they're too small, which means no one can type on them. Finding a happy medium seems to elude many IT organizations.

Harvard Business School offers both standard and three-quarter-size laptops, but CIO Laster says his users are willing to trade weight for a larger screen and keyboard. "Most people just hate those three-quarter-size machines," he says.

At the KDOT, Swartzman says she hears a lot of complaints she really can't do much about. Her users hate the touch pads, but don't want to bring an external mouse along. A fully featured laptop with a usable keyboard is too heavy, users say. Or they like a laptop's weight, but then the screen's too small. In other words, laptops "just aren't ergonomically friendly, and they're never the right size," she says of her 600 to 700 deployed units. "It's frustrating."

And even when they are the right size, well, that size might be too big to actually handle safely. At DePaul, Kellen says the "big" laptops are back in vogue -- a lot of his users want the larger screens for media viewing -- but the bigger they are, the more likely they are to get dropped, he says. And unfortunately, that isn't an isolated event on his campus.

And then there's the matter of actually being able to do anything with the keyboard at hand. Among IT professionals, there are two universal laptop truths: not everyone has slender fingers, and most people can't actually type. Add those up and you get "fat hand syndrome."

"Many of my users hate the keyboard layout on 17-in. laptops or smaller," KDOT's Swartzman says. "They've got fat fingers."

UCSD's Lee agrees, and thinks it's worse for some people than others. "On behalf of my orthopedic surgeon colleagues, can I just ask for a larger keyboard? They have big fingers and can't type. Small keyboards are a nightmare for us."

10. Software performance just ain't the same.

Users want all the power, speed, connectivity and full-bodied applications of a desktop machine, all packed into a unit that's effortlessly portable with long battery life.

The reality, though? Big applications just don't work as well on a laptop. Sure, your standard-issue laptop can chomp along nicely on a complex inventory spreadsheet or a 275-slide PowerPoint presentation. The problem comes when users want to multitask between the two, say when creating a presentation. Even the fastest notebook processor and cache memory bog down under that demand, support managers say.

When that happens, IT folks have to listen to the complaints and try to come up with a workable solution. Add on top of that the negative effects of memory-hogging antivirus software, points out DePaul's Kellen, and you have yourself one significant drag on laptop software performance.

Software drivers are another area of frustration for both users and support staff. On the road, laptop users can encounter a dizzying array of network connections, multimedia display ins/outs, and peripherals options -- not to mention the moldy five-year-old technology used in hotel "business centers."

That means IT managers need to equip their road machines with a comprehensive suite of drivers -- after, of course, defining what's "comprehensive" for which users -- and then keeping those drivers up to date.

As Applied Materials' Archibald says, "If it moves, you have to keep track of it, brand it, fix it and change it."

With drivers -- as with laptop computing in general -- there are always a lot of moving parts to keep track of.
http://computerworld.com/action/arti...tsrc =hm_list

Intel Launches New Chips with Smaller Circuits
Scott Hillis

Intel Corp, the world's biggest microchip maker, unveiled fast new processors on Sunday made with new techniques that can etch circuitry nearly 200 times smaller than a red blood cell.

The chips are the first in the world to be mass-produced with a 45-nanometer process, about one-third smaller than current 65-nanometer technology. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter.

"Across all segments we're increasing performance and increasing energy efficiency," said Tom Kilroy, general manager of Intel's enterprise group.

Known by the project name Penryn, the chips hold little in the way of fundamental design advances but are an important step in continuing the industry's track record of delivering chips that get smaller and faster every two years or so.

They use a new kind of transistor -- the basic building block of microchips -- that Intel unveiled earlier this year in what was hailed as one of the industry's biggest advances in four decades.

Penryn is the "tick" in Intel's "tick-tock" strategy of shrinking an existing chip design to a smaller size, then following up the next year with an all-new blueprint, known as a microarchitecture.

"They are taking a successful product and making it smaller, and in the process of making it smaller, it gets faster," said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst of consultant Insight 64.

Brookwood said he reckoned the new chips, to be sold under Intel's Xeon and Core 2 brands, would be able to run most software up to 15 percent faster.

The 45 nanometer shift is also important to Intel because it means the company can make more chips from a single platter of silicon, boosting productivity and helping recoup investment on factories, which cost about $3 billion to build.

The company expects to make the majority of its processors on 45 nanometer by the middle of 2008, mirroring the progress of its 65 nanometer products, Kilroy said.

"We feel this tick-tock model is on track and our cadences allow us to ramp pretty fast," Kilroy said.

It cements Intel's manufacturing lead over rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc, which only started making chips on 65 nanometers earlier this year but plans to try to roll out 45 nanometer technology in 2008.

Intel will initially sell a dozen versions of the chips for server computers that power corporate networks, with prices ranging from $177 to $1,279. A version for high-end consumers such as gaming enthusiasts will sell for $999.

BitMicro Unveils 1.6TB Solid State Disk Drive

The Altima 4GB FC SSD is expected to begin in Q1 2008 with volumes shipping in Q2 2008
Chris Mellor

BitMicro has announced a flash memory-based solid state drive (SSD) with wide-ranging capacities of up to 1.6TB.

The drive, which comes in a 3.5-in. format and supports 4Gbit/sec. Fibre Channel connectivity, could take on a core element of the hard disk drive market, which uses the same format.

SSDs access data in microseconds, instead of the millliseconds that traditional hard drives use to retrieve data. The BitMicro E-Disk Altima 4Gb FC delivers more than 55,000 I/O operations per second (IOPS) and has a sustained data transfer rate over 230MB/sec. By comparison, a fast hard drive for example will run at around 300 IOPS.

BitMicro said its new line of SSDs range in storage capacity from 16GB to 1.6TB. The company Web site says it can reach the maximum capacity of 640GB in a 1-in. format, so two and a half 1-in. units would be needed to achieve a 1.6TB capacity.

The company said it has also developed two ASICs to boost SSD performance. The Enhanced Datamover and Storage Accelerator (EDSA) flash I/O controller supports large blocks of flash, enabling capacities to rise to the terabyte level.

EDSA works with the Logical Unifier of Extensive Transfer Arrays (LUNETA) ASIC, an interface controller designed to orchestrate massively parallel and multiblock I/O operations on large arrays of flash devices.

Competing products include Texas Memory Systems Inc.'s RamSan 500, a flash SSD with a dynamic RAM cache. That drive achieves up to 400,000 IOPS. Dutch company Attorn's HyperDrive 4 is a DRAM-based SSD that runs at 44,000 IOPS. Theoretically, DRAM should be faster than flash, but BitMicro's ASICS have made their flash faster.

Jeff Janukowicz, SSD research manager at IDC, said that some segments of the enterprise storage market require very high performance and reliability. "Increasingly, data centers will look to SSDs to satisfy these requirements," he said. "IDC expects worldwide enterprise SSD revenues to grow by 76% annually from 2006 to 2011."

Sampling for the Altima 4Gb FC SSD is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2008, with volumes shipping in the second quarter. No pricing information was released.

Some industry sources, such as FSC's chief technology officer, Joseph Reger, said that products such as BitMicro's could cause significant data center adoption of SSDs by 2010.

Google Options Put Masseuse in Crowd of Multimillionaires
Katie Hafner

Bonnie Brown was fresh from a nasty divorce in 1999, living with her sister and uncertain of her future. On a lark, she answered an ad for an in-house masseuse at Google, then a Silicon Valley start-up with 40 employees. She was offered the part-time job, which started out at $450 a week but included a pile of Google stock options that she figured might never be worth a penny.

After five years of kneading engineers’ backs, Ms. Brown retired, cashing in most of her stock options, which were worth millions of dollars. To her delight, the shares she held onto have continued to balloon in value.

“I’m happy I saved enough stock for a rainy day, and lately it’s been pouring,” said Ms. Brown, 52, who now lives in a 3,000-square-foot house in Nevada, gets her own massages at least once a week and has a private Pilates instructor. She has traveled the world to oversee a charitable foundation she started with her Google wealth and has written a book, still unpublished, “Giigle: How I Got Lucky Massaging Google.”

When Google’s stock topped $700 a share last week before dropping back to $664 on Friday, outside shareholders were not the only ones smiling. According to documents filed on Wednesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Google employees and former employees are holding options they can cash in worth about $2.1 billion. In addition, current employees are sitting on stock and unvested options, or options they cannot immediately cash in, that together have a value of about $4.1 billion.

Although no one keeps an official count of Google millionaires, it is estimated that 1,000 people each have more than $5 million worth of Google shares from stock grants and stock options.

One founder, Larry Page, has stock worth $20 billion. The other, Sergey Brin, has slightly less, $19.6 billion, according to Equilar, an executive compensation research firm in Redwood Shores, Calif. Three Google senior vice presidents — David Drummond, the chief legal officer; Shona Brown, who runs business operations; and Jonathan Rosenberg, who oversees product management — together are holding $160 million worth of Google stock and options.

“This is a very rare phenomenon when one company so quickly becomes worth so much money,” said Peter Hero, senior adviser to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which works with individuals and corporations to support charitable organizations in the region. “During the boom times, there were lots of companies whose employees made a lot of money fast, like Yahoo and Netscape. But the scale didn’t approach Google.”

Indeed, Google has seemed to exist in its own microclimate, with its shares climbing even as other technology stocks have been buffeted by investor skittishness. The stock touched an all-time high of $747.24 on Tuesday before falling more than $83 a share during the week to close at $663.97 on Friday. But even after that sell-off, the stock has risen more than 44 percent, or $203 a share, this year.

The days are long gone when people like Ms. Brown were handed thousands of Google options with the exercise price, or the pre-determined price that employees would pay to buy the stock, set in pennies. Nearly half of the 16,000 employees now at Google have been there for a year or less, and their options have an average exercise price of more than $500. But those who started at the company a year ago, or even three months ago, are seeing their options soar in value.

Several Google employees interviewed for this article say they do not watch the dizzying climb of the company’s shares. When it comes to awareness of the stock price, they say, Google is different from other large high-tech companies where they have worked, like Microsoft, where the day’s stock price is a fixture on many people’s computer screens.

At Google, the sensibility is more nuanced, they say. “It isn’t considered ‘Googley’ to check the stock price,” said an engineer, using the Google jargon for what is acceptable in the company’s culture. As a result, there is a bold insistence, at least on the surface, that the stock price does not matter, said the engineer, who did not want to be named because it is considered unseemingly to discuss the price.

Others admit that, when gathered around the espresso machine it is hard to avoid the topic of their sudden windfalls.

“It’s very clear that people are taking nicer vacations,” said one Google engineer, who asked not to be identified because it is also not Googley to talk about personal fortunes made at the company. “And one of the guys who works for me but has been there longer showed up at work in a really, really nice new car.”

The rise in Google’s stock is affecting the deepest reaches of the company. The number of options granted to new employees at Google usually depends on the position and the salary level at which the employee is hired, and the value is usually based on the price of the stock at the start of employment.

The average options grant for a new Google employee — or “Noogler” — who started in November 2006 was 685 shares at a price of roughly $475 a share. They also would have received, on average, 230 shares of stock outright that will vest over a number of years.

The Nooglers might not be talking about second homes in Aspen or personal jets, but they are talking about down payments on a first home, new cars and kitchen renovations. Internal online discussion groups about personal finance are closely read.

Google, like many Silicon Valley companies, gives each of its new employees stock options, as well as a smaller number of shares of Google stock, as a recruiting incentive.

The idea of employment at a place with such a high stock price is appealing, but it can also make the company less attractive to a new hire. Jordan Moncharmont, 21, a senior at Stanford University who was given stock options after he started working at Facebook part time, said Google’s high stock price can be a disincentive to a prospective hire as it translates to a high exercise price for options. “You’d have to spend a boatload of cash to exercise your options,” he said.

Mr. Moncharmont said he did not join Facebook to get rich, though he knows his Facebook options could make him wealthy someday.

When Ms. Brown left Google, the stock price had merely doubled from its initial offering price of $85. So Ms. Brown is glad she ignored the advice of her financial advisers and held onto a cache of stock.

As the stock continues to defy gravity, Ms. Brown, whose foundation has its assets in Google stock, can be more generous with her charity. “It seems that every time I give some away, it just keeps filling up again,” she said. “It’s like an overflowing pot.”

The wealth generated by options is giving a lot of people like Ms. Brown the freedom to leave and do whatever they like.

Ron Garret, an engineer who was Google’s 104th employee, worked there for a little more than a year, leaving in 2001. When he eventually sold all his stock, he became a venture capitalist and a philanthropist. He has also become a documentary filmmaker and is currently chronicling homelessness in Santa Monica, Calif.

“The stock price rise doesn’t affect me at all,” he said, “except just gazing at it in wonderment.”

Will Success, or All That Money From Google, Spoil Firefox?
Noam Cohen

Only a couple of years ago, Firefox was the little browser that could — an open-source program created by thousands of contributors around the world without the benefit of a giant company like Microsoft to finance it.

Since then, Firefox, which has prospered under the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation, has grown to be the largest rival to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, with 15 to 20 percent of the browser market worldwide and higher percentages in Europe and among technology devotees. It is the most popular alternative browser since Netscape, with about three times as many users as Apple’s Safari.

Part of Firefox’s appeal was its origins as a nonprofit venture, a people-powered revolution involving the most basic Internet technology, the Web browser. Also, because the core code was open, Firefox could tap into developers’ creativity; they are encouraged to soup up the browser, whether by blocking ads from commercial Web sites, a popular add-on, or by creating “skins” to customize the browser’s appearance.

But in trying to build on this success, the Mozilla Foundation has come to resemble an investor-backed Silicon Valley start-up more than a scrappy collaborative underdog. Siobhan O’Mahony, an assistant professor at the School of Management of the University of California, Davis, calls Mozilla “the first corporate open-source project.”

The foundation has used a for-profit subsidiary, the Mozilla Corporation, to collect tens of millions of dollars in royalties from search engine companies that want prominent placement on the browser. And by collecting that money as a war chest to compete against giants like Microsoft and Apple, the foundation has, at least temporarily, moved away from the typical activities of a nonprofit organization.

“The Mozilla community has been a bit hybrid in terms of integrating public and private investment all along — its history is fairly unique in this respect,” Professor O’Mahony said.

So far, the many contributors to Firefox seem pleased with its financial success. The bigger question is what Mozilla will do with all its money.

According to Mozilla’s 2006 financial records, which were recently released, the foundation had $74 million in assets, the bulk invested in mutual funds and the like, and last year it collected $66 million in revenue. Eighty-five percent of that revenue came from a single source — Google, which has a royalty contract with Firefox.

Despite that ample revenue, the Mozilla Foundation gave away less than $100,000 in grants (according to the audited statement), or $285,000 (according to Mozilla itself), in 2006. In the same year, it paid the corporation’s chief executive, Mitchell Baker, more than $500,000 in salary and benefits. (She is also chairwoman of the foundation.)

Ms. Baker, a lawyer who has worked for Silicon Valley companies since the mid-1990s, said her compensation “is yet another example of Mozilla as a hybrid,” adding that it made her “a poor stepchild, not even,” compared to the leaders of other equally influential Silicon Valley companies.

Ms. Baker says it was the community, not Google’s money, that made Firefox a player in the field. “Mozilla is successful because we have this giant set of people who care about it,” she said. “The fundamental infrastructure piece that keeps Mozilla independent from even a single source of income like Google is the diverse set of people.”

She added: “No amount of money would have allowed us to be as successful as we are.” Then, referring to Microsoft, she said, “We cannot outspend them.”

The rise of Firefox can be seen as an extension of the Netscape-Microsoft battle of the mid-1990s. After Microsoft largely wrested control of the market, Netscape decided in 1998 to release its code to the public, and immediately developers took up the challenge.

By 2003, AOL, which had acquired Netscape, released the browser code to the newly created Mozilla Foundation, and by November 2004, the first version of Firefox was released. At the time, it was promoted as pursuing the goals of being user-friendly, able to work on different operating systems and more secure. The corporation was created in 2005.

The browser’s other, unstated advantage, shared with other open-source projects, was A.B.M: Anybody but Microsoft.

“Firefox is able to tap many different audiences. Not everyone cares about keeping Web standards open, but a significant part of the contributing population fears that if Firefox loses share, then Web standards could become the purview of Microsoft alone,” Professor O’Mahony wrote in an e-mail message.

Dean Hachamovitch, Microsoft’s general manager for Internet Explorer, noted that the market still showed a marked preference for Explorer, but he did concede that Microsoft, for structural reasons, could not show the enthusiasm Firefox developers have.

“We are much more reserved about thinking out loud as we make the browser better,” he said. “I can go through and talk about all the innovations we have made, but we don’t talk about them until they are done. People make very important decisions based on what Microsoft says; we have a responsibility about what we say out loud.”

Looming over Mozilla’s future, however, is its close connection with Google, which has been writing most of the checks that finance the Firefox project through its royalty contract.

When the connection with Google was revealed more than a year ago, the question on popular tech Web sites like Slashdot.org was whether Mozilla was acting as a proxy in Google’s larger war with Microsoft and others.

The foundation went so far as to directly address the issue, writing recently, “We do not vet our initiatives with Google,” and adding that it made sure that Google “understood the separation between a search relationship and the rest of our activities.”

Yet lately, the concern among Firefox users and developers about the Mozilla-Google relationship focuses more on what would happen if Google were to walk away, create its own browser or back another, like Safari. This discussion of life after Google represents an unexpected twist: the fear is that instead of being a proxy for Google, Mozilla may have become dangerously reliant on it.

Wladimir Palant, a longtime contributor to Firefox and developer of the popular Adblock Plus add-on that removes ads from Web pages, said he was pleased that the foundation had so much money saved up. And while he rattled off a number of priorities that he was glad the foundation had been pursuing, including improving the infrastructure and hiring more staff, he said No. 1 was, “Save some of the money for later.”

He said, “This will keep them independent of market tendencies and companies like Google.” If Google were to make an unreasonable demand, he said, “Mozilla will still have enough time to look for alternative money sources.”

Ms. Baker said that while she tried “to stay away from” that kind of speculation, “I take the view that we are doing something fundamentally important, and as that becomes clear, there could be other entrants.” She added: “Google is on everyone’s mind, but it could come from China, who knows?”

A Google spokeswoman would not comment on any of the issues raised by the Google-Mozilla relationship, but issued a statement: “Mozilla is a valued business partner because many users utilize Firefox to access Google products and services. We will continue to work with a variety of technology providers, including Mozilla, to ensure our mutual users have the best experience possible with our products and services.”

To an outside observer like Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia who focuses on the Internet, the alliance still makes a lot of sense.

“We’re living in a cold war between open and closed systems, and Google is happy to lend support to entities that it sees as allies,” he said.

While acknowledging that he does not know the secret terms of their contract, he said, by way of analogy, “No one is surprised that Turkey would get aid from the U.S. during the cold war.”

Mozilla Still Flummoxed by Firefox' Appetite for Memory
Ed Moltzen

Anyone who uses Firefox on Windows knows the browser has an almost insatiable appetite for memory, and it's not unheard of for PCs to allocate a half GB or more of memory just to the browser alone.

Mozilla continues to deny that Firefox leaks much memory, but Christopher Blizzard, a member of Mozilla's board, says fixing the issue is a priority - - especially now that the browser developers are seeking to plow directly into the mobile space.

Writes Blizzard:

As Mozilla starts down the path to running in the mobile space we are spending time looking at memory pressure issues more closely. . . (I)t sounds like the early data suggests that Mozilla really doesn't leak that much memory at all. But it does thrash the allocator pretty hard and that's what causes the perception of memory leaks.

Blizzard refers to findings of developer Stuart Parmenter, which contains more information about memory and browser use than you'd probably ever want to know. Parmenter attributes the problem to "memory fragmentation." Whatever it is, it can cause a PC to grind to such slow performance that sometimes it's just easier to "X" out of Firefox or reboot altogether.

Now, imagine that happening on a smart phone, and getting in the way of your ability to make or receive phone calls. This is just one of the many challenges Mozilla and its developers face as they try to move from the PC to the handheld arena.

"Over the next few months it will be very interesting to see what happens with both memory usage and perceived performance especially as we connect those numbers to a successful mobile strategy," Blizzard writes.

Cellphone Straitjacket Is Inspiring a Rebellion
Laura M. Holson

First come the grumblings, then the torches and pitchforks.

Consumers have never been happy about their cellphone carriers and the services they provide — or refuse to provide. But they also have hardly the means to do anything, except switch from one carrier to the next.

But a rebellion is brewing in the communications industry that is expected to pit wireless carriers, including AT&T and Verizon Wireless, against Silicon Valley powerhouses like Google. The tussle might undermine the control incumbent companies have over mobile phone consumers by giving them a few weapons to strike back.

The first salvo came last summer with the release of the Apple iPhone, which, with its easy-to-use features, redefined how mainstream consumers view hand-held devices. Last week, Google generated fanfare when it announced plans for the Open Handset Alliance, a consortium of companies working to turn mobile phones into hand-held computers that can offer a variety of applications and services.

In addition, federal regulators are moving to create a more open national wireless network when it auctions off spectrum licenses in January that would allow bidders to build a network free from carrier constraint.

At the heart of the tension between the different camps is whether the wireless network should be open, much like the Internet is today, or remain under the watchful control of companies like AT&T and Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone. Carriers, who paid billions of dollars to build their networks, are unwilling to open them.

For others, change can’t happen soon enough. As such the alliances and partnerships struck now are likely to shape the industry over the next five years.

“It is the battle of the overdogs,” said Tom Wheeler, a venture capitalist and former chief of the CTIA, a trade group for the wireless industry. “They are all jostling back and forth to be leaders of the next generation. The question is, how do I position myself? It is a territorial battle.”

Indeed, the rift has spilled into public view. At CTIA’s Wireless I.T. and Entertainment conference in San Francisco last month, a woman attending a panel discussion with representatives from AT&T, Verizon and Sprint Nextel, stood at a microphone wagging her finger and chiding them for being too controlling, as several others in the audience whispered and nodded in agreement. The next day, at a panel on social networking, executives griped that software developers would not prosper unless phone companies were less greedy.

“Definitely there is hostility,” said David Weiden, a partner at Khosla Ventures in Menlo Park who has previously worked at McCaw Cellular, Netscape and AOL. “There are enough catalysts for change now, and it is already happening.”

But the question many are asking is why the tension now, in contrast to, say, six months ago? The catalysts are threefold, said Mr. Weiden: the proliferation of new technologically advanced mobile phones, greater bandwidth and increased competition. But mainstream consumers too are being conditioned to expect more, particularly after the debut of the iPhone which offers easy-to-use Web browsing, Wi-Fi capabilities and high-quality video.

Indeed, Shahid Khan, a partner at the IBB Consulting Group in Princeton Junction, N.J., said he believes wireless networks will go the way of the Internet, where closed communities like AOL once dominated, then later morphed into hybrids. Now services like AOL co-exist, albeit in a less powerful state, alongside open networks.

“The industry is really at an inflection point,” said Mr. Khan.

Roger Entner, a senior vice president for communications at IAG Research, said telephone companies have to do a better job communicating with consumers who are accustomed to unfettered access on the Web.

“The carriers have done a pretty poor job in portraying their position and reasoning to the public,” Mr. Entner said. By contrast, venture capitalists and technologists are better at whipping up interest in sexy new technologies. “Silicon Valley has done a good job in telling the world what a wonderful nirvana the Internet is,” he said. “But 90 percent of the sites aren’t profitable.”

Telephone company executives know they are in a tricky spot. Ralph de la Vega, the president and chief executive officer of AT&T Mobility, said he does not sense tension in the industry. Instead, he politely called it “change.”

But he agreed that AT&T and others could better explain that companies like his are more open than most people think. In particular, he said, there are six operating systems currently available on AT&T mobile phones, as well as a variety of music services and e-mail options.

It should be noted, he said, that AT&T backed the iPhone. And Mr. de la Vega did not rule out the notion that his company would one day be part of Google’s alliance. “It is one of several operating systems we could use down the road,” he said. “We are still looking at what it means. If we think it’s something our customers want, we will be part of any alliance.”

Indeed, wireless carriers are circumspect. When a Verizon executive at the CTIA conference was asked by a reporter what he thought of the calls for openness, he said, “If I talk to you and someone sees me, I’ll get fired.” (He asked not to be named, fearing reprisals from colleagues.) Last week, Verizon executives were not available for comment because they were traveling.

Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School, said the relationship between software developers, carriers and handset makers can only change because the way that consumers relate to their phones is changing too.

“On a personal level, the phone feels more like property,” said Mr. Wu. “Once you start to make it yours, you feel like you have more rights to it. It will have a huge effect if you don’t feel free to do what they want.”

His view is that now that entrants like Apple and Google are in the game, companies like AT&T and Verizon are going to have to adjust. “Little companies are not going to change industry practices,” said Mr. Wu. That happens, he said, “when you have big, powerful players with a different ideology.”

Not surprising, he and others are focusing on what will happen with the auction of the 700-megahertz wireless band by the federal government in January. Last summer, Google said it would offer at least $4.6 billion for a stake if certain conditions for the auction were met. Some were, but Google has not said whether it would actually join the bidding.

There has been a lot of speculation about what other companies will step forward before the end of the year. Cable companies, software makers, even media companies, are among those weighing their options, industry executives said. “If Google doesn’t get it, what does it do?” asked Mr. Wheeler. “And if it does get it, what does Microsoft do? It’s a game of musical chairs. When the music stops, everyone wants to be near a chair.”

Mr. de la Vega said, though, that there is a big difference between buying a license and running a network. And few companies aside from AT&T and others have the expertise. Added Mr. Entner, “An open network is really awesome if you don’t have to operate it.”

Google Has Even Bigger Plans for Mobile Phones
Kevin J. Delaney and Amol Sharma

Google Inc. made a big splash last week with its new software for cellphones. But that's far from the limit of the Internet giant's wireless ambitions -- which could include running its own mobile network.

The company is gearing up to make a serious run at buying wireless spectrum, a chunk of the airwaves that can be used to provide mobile phone and Internet services, in a Federal Communications Commission auction in January. Google is prepared to bid on its own without any partners, say people familiar with the matter. It is working out a plan to finance its bid, which could run $4.6 billion or higher, that would rely on its own cash and possibly some borrowed money.A


Google's wireless initiatives could eventually lead to a national network.
• Developed Android software for mobile phones.
• Made Google applications -- including email, chat and mapping -- available on cellphones.
• Sells advertisements for certain Web sites accessed by cellphone.
• Enables users to do Web and business searches with cellphone browsers, by text message or with a call.
• Is testing an advanced wireless network at Google headquarters.
• Operates a free Wi-Fi network in Mountain View, Calif.
• Expected to bid for wireless spectrum in a January FCC auction.

Google, meanwhile, already is running a test version of an advanced wireless network at its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters, gaining operating experience that could come in handy if it wins the spectrum and decides to run a full-scale national mobile carrier, according to people familiar with the matter.

The behind-the-scenes moves illustrate just how serious the Internet giant is about trying to reshape the wireless world. Its push could potentially expand the availability and decrease the cost of high-speed mobile Internet access to consumers and broaden the wireless applications they can use.

At the same time, Google's wireless projects could take it far from its core expertise, at a big potential cost in money and management attention. They could also antagonize telecom carriers, some of whom have relationships with the company, and other Google partners, who might view the wireless push as a competitive threat. It remains possible that last-minute developments could alter Google's strategy between now and a Dec. 3 FCC deadline for declaring an intent to bid.

A Google spokesman said in a statement that the company would reveal any plans to participate in the auction by then. "In the meantime, we are making all the necessary preparations to become an applicant to bid," he said. "Our goal is to make sure that American consumers have more choices in an open and competitive wireless world," the spokesman added.

The company has said it wants to make mobile networks more open, so that consumers can use any Internet service and application and move their handsets between carriers without onerous restrictions. That's one impetus behind the Android software for mobile phones that Google announced Nov. 5, alongside a group of industry partners including Taiwan's HTC Corp., a handset maker, and Deutsche Telekom AG's T-Mobile, a wireless carrier.

Google also views open wireless networks as key to sidestep any telephone and cable company efforts to make it difficult for consumers to access Google services, or to charge Google to deliver the services to consumers over their Internet connections. Carriers such as Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC, say they guard their networks closely to provide high-quality phone and Internet service and protect consumers from security breaches and invasions of privacy.

Behind the scenes, Google also is eyeing financial opportunities, as revenue for U.S. wireless carriers hit $95 billion last year, the research firm Yankee Group estimates. Google could reap subscriber fees if it controlled an operator, and experiment with models such as a one-time licensing fee for consumers to use its network and no monthly access charges. Company executives have said that cellular handsets or services could eventually be subsidized by revenue from advertising consumers view on their cellphones.

Google may square off at the auction against large U.S. wireless carriers such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless that are looking for more spectrum, which is necessary to expand their own broadband Internet offerings and power services such as mobile TV.

Some carriers have privately expressed skepticism about Google's ambitions, saying it is vastly underestimating the challenges of operating a network, providing customer service and gaining traction as a new entrant in a crowded wireless market. Still, there is a fear among carriers that "because it's Google, because of the power of their brand and because they understand networks really well, it might work," said Blair Levin, a telecom analyst with Stifel Nicolaus & Co. and former chief of staff at the FCC.

The FCC issues licenses to use portions of the airwaves for wireless networks and radio and television broadcasters. The frequencies on the block early next year are among the most valuable that have ever been auctioned. One reason is that they carry well over long distances, potentially requiring fewer transmission towers to cover large areas.

Google is focused mainly on bidding on what has been designated as the "C" block, a slice of the 700 megahertz spectrum. It is also considering other blocks of spectrum available as well, though they would provide only regional coverage or come with other limitations. Google has hired game-theory specialists to help plot its auction strategy, say people familiar with the matter.

Sean Maloney, an executive vice president at chip maker Intel Corp., argues that the frequencies on auction could hasten the spread of high-speed Internet access to rural areas and others who can't easily get it. "Seven-hundred megahertz is a national treasure," he says. The government is expected to turn over use of the spectrum to the winning bidders by early 2009.

Though it has made no firm public commitment about the coming auction, Chief Executive Eric Schmidt has said Google probably would bid. Last month, he told journalists the company was considering joining with partners on a bid, but that it "won't make that decision until the very last minute as more information comes along."

Several people familiar with the matter said that the company believes that it would lose goodwill in Washington, if it didn't bid, given that it won changes to the auction rules that will force the winner of one block of spectrum to open its network to any mobile device or software application. One of the people familiar with the matter said Google is "going for it" and expects to bid on its own despite interest by potential strategic partners in each investing $1 billion or more in a joint bid effort.

The complexity of the possible bidding scenarios and auction outcomes has led Google executives to believe they would benefit from the flexibility of bidding alone. They were also concerned about alienating allies by selecting some and not others as bid partners, say the people familiar with the matter.

In addition, Google discovered Wall Street was enthusiastic about the company's ability to raise any needed cash, lessening the pressure to bring in others. Google currently plans to consider whether to bring on partners after the outcome of the auction is known.

Meanwhile, back at its headquarters, Google is already operating an advanced high-speed wireless network under a test license from the FCC, according to people familiar with the matter. The company has erected transmission towers on its campus for the network. Prototype mobile handsets powered by the Android software are currently running on it.

Experience with the technology could aid the company in operating a full-fledged carrier, one of the options it's considering. Google is betting it could potentially build and operate a wireless network faster and cheaper than traditional operators.

In that event, the company could try new wireless technology approaches. Google this year invested in a closely held United Kingdom company called Ubiquisys Ltd. that makes a technology called femtocell, which allows mobile phones in poor-coverage areas to use home Internet connections to make calls and transfer data. Such technology could potentially be harnessed as part of any Google wireless infrastructure.

If Google is successful in the spectrum auction, other possibilities on the table include leasing spectrum to partners. The company has separately had discussions about potentially investing alongside other parties in Clearwire Corp., which is trying to build a nationwide high-speed wireless network, say people familiar with the matter. Such talks with Google aren't currently at an advanced stage, they say.

ABI Research senior analyst Nadine Manjaro believes it's more likely that Google would form a partnership with an existing wireless network operator than try to build one on its own. "They have no experience in running a network, and it's not something simple to do," she says. Ms. Manjaro estimates the cost of building a national network on the spectrum available at $3 billion or more.

Don Clark contributed to this article.

Disney to Enter Japan Cellphone Market in Spring

Walt Disney Co, the No.2 U.S. entertainment company, said on Monday it plans to enter the Japanese mobile phone market early next year using local carrier Softbank Corp's network.

Disney, which plans to halt its U.S.-based mobile phone service at the end of the year, is betting on the popularity of its Tokyo resort to help it gain share in the world's biggest market of third-generation phones.

Disney would use Japan's No. 3 mobile phone carrier Softbank's for its mobile service and sell its phones at Softbank's 2,464 stores in Japan, the two firms said in a release.

Disney, whose U.S. mobile phones allow parents to track a child's location, took a $30 million charge last year when it shut down another phone service, Mobile ESPN, which it ran on space rented on Sprint Nextel Corp's network.

The tie-up with Disney would secure Softbank stable revenues from leasing unused basebands, but Disney's entrance into Japan increases competition in an already-saturated mobile market.

Initial costs of building base stations have prevented many would-be entrants into Japan's mobile phone market, dominated by NTT DoCoMo Inc, No. 2 KDDI Corp and Softbank. Disney would be the first company to launch mobile phones in Japan by renting space from a carrier.

In Japan, carmakers and telecom ventures have used carriers' networks, but the basebands have been used to enable car navigation or PC data transmission.

(Reporting by Mayumi Negishi and Noriyuki Hirata; Editing by Malcolm Whittaker)

Off Goes the Power Current Started by Thomas Edison
Jennifer 8. Lee

Today, Con Edison will end 125 years of direct current electricity service that began when Thomas Edison opened his Pearl Street power station on Sept. 4, 1882. Con Ed will now only provide alternating current, in a final, vestigial triumph by Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse, Mr. Edison’s rivals who were the main proponents of alternating current in the AC/DC debates of the turn of the 20th century.

The last snip of Con Ed’s direct current system will take place at 10 East 40th Street, near the Mid-Manhattan Library. That building, like the thousands of other direct current users that have been transitioned over the last several years, now has a converter installed on the premises that can take alternating electricity from the Con Ed power grid and adapt it on premises. Until now, Con Edison had been converting alternating to direct current for the customers who needed it — old buildings on the Upper East Side and Upper West Side that used direct current for their elevators for example. The subway, which has its own converters, also provides direct current through its third rail, in large part because direct current electricity was the dominant system in New York City when the subway first developed out of the early trolley cars.

Despite the clear advantage of alternating current — it can be transmitted long distances far more economically than direct current — direct current has taken decades to phase out of Manhattan because the early backbone of New York’s electricity grid was built by Mr. Edison’s company, which had a running head start in the first decade before Mr. Tesla and Mr. Westinghouse demonstrated the potential of alternating current with the Niagara Falls power project. (Among the customers of Thomas Edison’s Pearl Street power plant on that first day was The New York Times, which observed that to turn on its lights in the building, “no matches were needed.”)

But direct current clearly became uneconomical, as the short distances that it could be transmitted would have required a power station every mile or less, according to Joe Cunningham, an engineering historian. Thus alternating current in New York began in the outskirts — Queens, Bronx, Upper Manhattan and the suburbs.

The direct current conversion in Lower Manhattan started in 1928, and an engineer then predicted that it would take 45 years, according to Mr. Cunningham. “An optimistic prediction since we still have it now,” he said.

The man who is cutting the link today at 10 East 40th Street is Fred Simms, a 52-year veteran of the company. Why him?

“He’s our closest link to Thomas Edison,” joked Bob McGee, a Con Ed spokesman.
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Outrage, Bile, Hardcore Punk ... and a Sensible Lost-and-Found
Kelefa Sanneh

“This next song is about the people who want to control our bodies,” said the singer known as Pink Eyes, adding, “This next song is about the police.”

Pause. No music.

“And it would start, if we were a professional band.”

Pink Eyes is the lead roarer in a ferocious band from Toronto. What band? Well, the name won’t be printed in these pages, not unless an American president, or someone similar, says it by mistake. Suffice it to say that this is an unruly hardcore punk band with a name to match. (You can find out more at the official Web site, lookingforgold.blogspot.com.)

On Saturday night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, Pink Eyes and his band mates provided plenty of mayhem, although the crowd wanted more. “That’s, like, an hour set, people,” he said, incredulous, when impatient fans tried to coax the band back with a complicated combination of cheering and booing.

Someone voiced a preference for songs over speeches. Pink Eyes grew even more incredulous. “Less talking? They’re seriously gone,” he said, referring to the bassist and the drummer, and the three guitarists who sort of sounded like one, only louder. “I’m by myself.”

This band has spent about half a dozen years playing do-it-yourself shows, releasing seven-inch vinyl singles, giving interviews to fanzines and exploring radical political and social theory. Acting more or less like a 1980s hardcore band, in other words, but without seeming like a nostalgia act. And while Pink Eyes’ exhortatory roar, like the quick and dirty chord changes, sometimes evokes old hardcore acts like Poison Idea, the band also has a digressive streak

That streak explains not only “Year of the Pig,” a great and confounding 18-minute leviathan released this year, but also “Hidden World” (Jade Tree), the band’s 2006 double album, which is full of short, sharp rants lengthened by long, squally instrumental sections.

“Baiting the Public,” from that album, sounded more than ever like a riot starter at Saturday’s show. It begins, “I want to smash your house/I want to scratch your car,” and Pink Eyes made this declaration while removing his pants and rearranging his boxer shorts in ways that many other similarly unsvelte lead singers might not.

There was something farcical about the show (it began with flashing strobe lights, a woman in a bikini and lots of cameras; someone was making an independent movie), and Pink Eyes kept apologizing for it. “A little shaky tonight, I’m not gonna lie,” he said.

He also found time to hold forth on corner-store fried chicken (apparently there are side effects), the club’s high balcony (he promised a record to anyone who jumped off it) and the exchange rate. (“We want to support your American peso with our strong Canadian dollar,” he said.)

All night long fans climbed the stage and sometimes climbed the singer, who didn’t seem to mind or even, sometimes, notice. At one point someone threw a plastic trash can into the pit, where it rattled around contentedly. And at night’s end the bassist, who calls herself Mustard Gas, finally came back to the stage to help coordinate the lost-and-found. There was a stray shoe, a stray hat, some stray keys.

Great fun, then, but this band isn’t just having fun. The members are clearly, if complicatedly, committed to an underground punk scene that’s still not dead, despite many pronouncements. And in the lyrics, as in the music, punk-rock bile is only a starting point.

“Crusades,” which inspired a hearty shout-along, seems at various times like an attack on fundamentalism, a tribute to sustainable agriculture, an ambivalent ode to revolutionary passion and a vocabulary lesson. (“Ruderal”?) There’s something inspiring about hearing Pink Eyes shout, “I will rot on the ground!” You can picture him, reeking and undead, just like punk.

Too Much Information? Ignore It
Alex Williams

AS one of Silicon Valley’s most respected entrepreneurs, Marc Andreessen is something of a connoisseur of what he calls “productivity porn,” or techniques to maximize personal productivity.

But in recent months, Mr. Andreessen — a founder of Netscape Communications and more recently Ning, which allows users to create their own social networks — has become enthralled with an unlikely purveyor: Timothy Ferriss, a boyish first-time motivational author from Long Island whose curriculum vitae includes stints as a competitive kickboxer and tango champion.

Mr. Ferriss’s business lessons, focused on cutting out useless information, have been culled from his six years running a modest sports nutrition company that sells, mostly over the Internet, supplements used by athletes to increase reaction speed and muscle power. Mr. Andreessen, a luminary in technology circles, does not seem to care.

“Tim basically takes all of the time management and personal productivity theories of the last 20 to 30 years and pushes them to 11, to paraphrase ‘Spinal Tap,’” Mr. Andreessen explained in an e-mail message. In Silicon Valley, Mr. Andreessen is not alone in his enthusiasm for Mr. Ferriss.

After reading Mr. Ferriss’s recent best seller, “The 4-Hour Workweek” (Crown), Jason Hoffman, a founder of Joyent, which designs Web-based software for small businesses, urged his employees to cut out the instant-messaging and swear off multitasking. From now on, he told them, severely restrict e-mail use and conduct business the old-fashioned way, by telephone.

“All of a sudden,” Mr. Hoffman said of the results, “their evenings are free. All of a sudden Monday doesn’t feel so overwhelming.”

Last spring, Jason DeFillippo, a founder of Metroblogging Global Blog Network — a company that oversees more than 700 city-specific blogs — heard Mr. Ferriss extol his “low information diet” to a crowd of high-tech devotees at a tech conference this spring. Before the speech was finished, Mr. DeFillippo, who lives in San Francisco, had ordered his book on Amazon. Soon after reading it, he embarked on a crash diet of his own. His nasty addiction to RSS feeds is now a thing of the past, he said.

“It’s hard to describe,” said Mr. DeFillippo, 36, “but life was suddenly just more peaceful.”

Mr. Ferriss, 30, has never run a technology company. He never made millions on an initial public offering. Rather, Mr. Ferriss, who now lives in San Jose, Calif., comes off more like a half-pipe snowboarder than a traditional lacquer-haired motivational guru.

Nevertheless, without appearing on Oprah Winfrey’s show or doing a book tour, Mr. Ferriss has seen his book quickly become a best seller, largely on the strength of blog chatter in the tech community. Subsequently, he has become a pet guru of Silicon Valley, precisely by preaching apostasy in the land of shiny gadgets: just pull the plug. Crawl out from beneath the reams of data. Stand firm against the torrent of information.

HIS methods include practicing “selective ignorance” — tuning out pointless communiqués, random Twitters, and even world affairs (Mr. Ferriss says he gets most of his news by asking waiters). Work crisis? Pay someone else to worry about it — ideally in Bangalore. On a bet, Mr. Ferriss even hired low-paid, high-skilled workers abroad to find him dates online. (It worked.)

Once the e-clutter is cleared away, he argues, there will be plenty of time to scuba dive the Blue Hole in Belize, just as he does.

Or at least fantasize about it.

The technology community, after all, shares a great desire for escapism, said Fabio Rosati, the chief executive of Elance in Mountain View, Calif., which provides outsourcing for professionals and small businesses and now features Mr. Ferriss giving an unpaid video testimonial on the company’s Web site. This is why everyone is working 14-hour days in the first place: to strike it rich and cash out.

But Mr. Ferriss is selling the alluring promise that you don’t have to wait for the monster, and perhaps mythical, initial public offering.

As Mr. Rosati said: “Silicon Valley is unique in that there is a deep entrepreneurial spirit and a highly ambitious workforce, but they’re always thinking, ‘Gee, if I could only squeeze an extra hour out of the day, I could actually go on that bike ride, I could actually go surfing.’ Tim is evangelizing that lifestyle.”

Not that everyone in the Bay Area is sold. Po Bronson, author of “The Nudist on the Late Shift: And Other True Tales of Silicon Valley” (Random House, 1999), agreed that Mr. Ferriss’s book had made a mark in the tech world. “You can’t seem to go two hours without someone mentioning it,” he said.

Still, Mr. Bronson said he didn’t know anyone who had actually read it, much less abandoned a cubicle to study yabusame (horseback archery) in Japan, as Mr. Ferriss did last month. What has really turned heads is not the specific ideas, Mr. Bronson speculated, but its provocative title. In Silicon Valley, the promise of a lifestyle revolution — or hyperbole to that effect — will always find an audience.

“It’s not saying the ‘20-Hour Workweek,’” Mr. Bronson explained. “That would be something that lots of people can live. It’s 40 hours a week versus four. It’s very important in the tech world that consequences are exponential, not geometrical.”

Like most motivational gurus, Mr. Ferriss gives readers a dramatic back-story filled with recollections of the grim days in which he was lost in the wilderness — or at least the Internet cafes of Florence, Italy, working 10-hour days on his supplements company in 2003 instead of enjoying what was supposed to be a vacation. Following the predictable arc, he then offers his road-to-Damascus story of enlightenment, wherein he rebounds out of a work-induced nervous breakdown with a vow to eliminate everything that was standing in the way of happiness — starting with his Treo.

“BlackBerrys and e-mail aren’t inherently bad,” he said. “It’s just like medicine: it’s the dose that makes the poison.”

Putting his beliefs into action, he said, he set about dumping all the clients who involved more work than they were worth. He reduced and outsourced his staff, from 250 eventually down to fewer than 15, and instructed underlings to deal with all but the biggest emergencies themselves.

Most fundamentally, Mr. Ferriss turned ruthless against e-mail. He hired personal assistants in India and the Philippines to sort through and respond to most of it, and ignore the rest. Even today, he said, he typically checks e-mail messages only once a day, at 2 p.m., and only sees those few urgent ones his outsourced assistants forward to him. (He is, however, very quick to respond to media requests, in this reporter’s experience.)

With all the time left over, he said, he has lived the life that most postpone until retirement. In the last two months alone, he said, he has traveled to Scotland, Sardinia, Vienna and Bratislava, as well as Japan, all while technically “running” a company that he claims kicks off a high five-figure personal income every month.

It’s this have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too tale that has made even the jaded tech establishment take notice.

Robert Scoble, who writes the influential tech blog Scobleizer, praised Tim Ferriss’s approach, as just another techie trying to dig out from under the information rubble.

“Our lives are just getting busier, the world is starting to throw more stuff at us,” he said. “Five years ago it was still pretty rare to have relatives sending you IMs. No one had Flickr feeds or Twitter. YouTube, Facebook and MySpace didn’t exist.”

Unsurprisingly, some Tim Ferriss acolytes found that sticking to his information crash diet brought a shock to the system.

Ryan Carson, 30, who runs technology conferences around the world from his headquarters in Bath, England, said that since reading “The 4-Hour Workweek,” “it can take me two or three days to get back to people on e-mail.”

“People will get a little angry,” he admitted.

More strikingly, Mr. Carson shifted his company, Carsonified, to a four-day workweek after hearing Mr. Ferriss speak at the South by Southwest media and technology conference in Austin, Tex., in March.

“I just thought, who made these rules you have to work five days a week?” Mr. Carson said. His employees now churn out five days’ worth of work in four, in part because of reduced distractions. (You can believe that they are now Ferriss fans, too, he said.)

Critics might argue that Mr. Ferriss is hardly the first self-improvement guru to preach the clutter-free life. Indeed, it’s possibly the most overused self-help trope.

Even his admirers, like Mr. Andreessen, scoff at the idea that anyone in Silicon Valley — least of all the busy Mr. Ferriss — could ever realistically slash office face time by a factor of 10 or more.

Indeed, Mr. Ferriss makes little pretense of practicing what he preaches, at least if you count self-promotion as “work.”

LAST Monday alone, Mr. Ferriss — who has served as a guest lecturer on high-tech entrepreneurship at his alma mater, Princeton, for several years — spoke at Harvard Business School, followed by an afternoon doing an interview about his book, then finally another talk in front of 130 students at M.I.T. Mr. Ferriss, ever stimulated by yerba mate tea, was still there, hashing out personal-productivity theories over beers with Sloan School of Management graduate students at 11 p.m. on Monday night. All this, while recovering from jet lag after a flight from Japan, where he had taped a pilot for a television show — part self-help, part adventure travel — developed for the History Channel.

“If your definition of work is something primarily financially driven that you would like to do less of, like with my company, I spend far less than four hours a week on it,” he said.

All that other stuff — lecturing at the corporate campuses of Google and PayPal, blogging incessantly on his www.fourhourworkweek.com — that’s, well, “evangelizing,” he said.

Which is not to say he plans to become an Anthony Robbins for the geek set, touring relentlessly and hawking DVDs on late-night infomercials.

“I’d be much better off putting my time into three or four really good blog posts,” he said.

But, of course. That would take much less work.

Sensitive Guantánamo Bay Manual Leaked Through Wiki Site
Ryan Singel

A never-before-seen military manual detailing the day-to-day operations of the U.S. military's Guantánamo Bay detention facility has been leaked to the web, affording a rare inside glimpse into the institution where the United States has imprisoned hundreds of suspected terrorists since 2002.

The 238-page document, "Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures," is dated March 28, 2003. It is unclassified, but designated "For Official Use Only." It hit the web last Wednesday on Wikileaks.org.

The disclosure highlights the internet's usefulness to whistle-blowers in anonymously propagating documents the government and others would rather conceal. The Pentagon has been resisting -- since October 2003 -- a Freedom of Information Act request from the American Civil Liberties Union seeking the very same document.

Anonymous open-government activists created Wikileaks in January, hoping to turn it into a clearinghouse for such disclosures. The site uses a Wikipedia-like system to enlist the public in authenticating and analyzing the documents it publishes.

The Camp Delta document includes schematics of the camp, detailed checklists of what "comfort items" such as extra toilet paper can be given to detainees as rewards, six pages of instructions on how to process new detainees, instructions on how to psychologically manipulate prisoners, and rules for dealing with hunger strikes.

"What strikes me is the level of detail for handling all kind of situations, from admission to barbers and burials," says Jamil Dakwar, advocacy director of the ACLU's Human Rights program. Dakwar was in Guantánamo last week for a military-commission hearing.

The Pentagon did not reply to a request for comment on the document.

Dakwar sees hints of Abu Ghraib in a section instructing guards to use dogs to intimidate prisoners. He also raises concerns over a section on the International Committee of the Red Cross, or ICRC, which indicates that some prisoners were hidden from Red Cross representatives.

The manual shows how the military coded each prisoner according to the level of access the Red Cross would have. The four levels are:

• No Access
• Visual Access -- ICRC can only look at a prisoner's physical condition.
• Restricted Access -- ICRC representatives can only ask short questions about the prisoner's health.
• Unrestricted Access

The No Access level troubles Dakwar.

"That actually raises a lot of concerns about the administration's genuineness in terms of allowing ICRC full access, as was promised to the world," Dakwar says. "They are the only organization that has access to the detainees, and this raises a lot of questions."

The ICRC does not make public reports about the conditions in prisons and gulags around the world, but instead meets privately with governments to persuade them to change their policies.

The manual also includes instructions on how to use military dogs to intimidate prisoners.

"MWD (Military Working Dogs) will walk 'Main Street' in Camp Delta during shifts to demonstrate physical presence to detainees," reads a directive in the "Psychological Deterrence" section. "MWD will not be walked through the blocks unless directed by the (Joint Detention Operations Group)."

The document was signed by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller. According to media reports, Miller introduced harsh interrogation methods to Guantánamo, such as shackling detainees into stress positions and using guard dogs to exploit what the former head commander in Iraq Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez referred to as "Arab fear of dogs."

Miller visited Iraq in 2003 to share the Guantánamo methods. Soon after that visit, the infamous Abu Ghraib photos were taken.

President Bush said in 2006 he wanted to close the Guantánamo Bay prison camp. The military is prosecuting some detainees under military-commission rules set by Congress, and trying to repatriate hundreds of others.

My Network, My Cause
Alan Krauss

IN 2003, as Howard Dean’s presidential bid surged, the Internet was hailed as a decisive new factor in electoral politics. In 2007, the explosive growth of online social networks seems poised to drive a similar upheaval in the world of philanthropy.

A flood of new ventures — like Bill Clinton’s MyCommitment.org and Dollars for Darfur, an initiative by two high-school students — aim to use Web-based communities to raise money for charitable causes.

So far, the amounts raised online are relatively tiny. But they are increasing rapidly, paralleling the expansion of social networks themselves. The research firm Datamonitor estimates that by the end of this year sites like Facebook and MySpace will have more than 230 million members.

Until recently, philanthropic groups could accomplish little online beyond highlighting problems and trumpeting goals and programs, said Allison Fine, a senior fellow at Demos, a policy research group in New York, and the author of “Momentum: Igniting Change in the Connected Age.”

“Web 1.0 was a broadcast phenomenon; the Clinton Global Initiative would have just told us what it was doing,” Ms. Fine said. “Now, in this new interactive world, it’s a two-way conversation.”

MyCommitment.org, which was introduced in September, aims to forge connections among people who make commitments of time or money to political or social causes and want to encourage friends, online and off, to do the same.

“Giving is something that we can all do, but too often people don’t know where or how to give,” Mr. Clinton said by e-mail. “MyCommitment.org is a portal that inspires people to give and makes it easy to do so.” More than 750 people around the world responded in its first month.

“The commitments range from working with students to foster intercultural dialogue to an 8- and 6-year-old brother and sister team who have pledged to raise more than $200,000 to help blind children in India,” Mr. Clinton said.

Dollars for Darfur began after Nick Anderson, a high-school senior in Mount Hermon, Mass., visited South Africa on a school trip last year and became interested in the humanitarian crisis. He and a classmate, Ana Slavin, decided to use the Web to raise awareness among other students and money for the cause.

“We were using these social networks every day,” Mr. Anderson said. “It was a big part of our lives. And we knew there were millions of other teenagers checking them two or three times a day, too.” Their campaign, now part of the Save Darfur Coalition, an umbrella group of national religious organizations, raised $306,000 during the last school year.

Mr. Anderson, who is now a youth ambassador for Oxfam America, visited the Abu Shouk refugee camp in Darfur this summer. A second Dollars for Darfur drive, aiming to raise $375,000, is under way.

SaveDarfur.org is one of the top draws at the Causes on Facebook Project, added to Facebook, the social networking site, when it was opened to outside software developers in May. Causes allows Facebook users to set up Web pages to promote charitable or other activist goals. Perhaps more important, Causes pages can be used to solicit and keep track of donations.

In its first five months, Causes was downloaded by 6.3 million of Facebook’s 51 million users, with another 75,000 or so registering daily, said Sean Parker, 27, who developed it.

While some 25,000 causes have been created and $600,000 raised, Mr. Parker said, his priority was to demonstrate the platform’s potential. “We want to help charities raise money,” he said. “But at this point we’re focusing on making people realize the power of the tool.”

Mr. Parker, a founder of the early file-sharing service Napster, said sites like Causes offered philanthropists a new way to build momentum because they take social pressures into cyberspace. “Your Facebook profile is seen by many more people every day than you are,” he said.

Social networking also gives charities a chance to lessen their reliance on big donors, a trend that began 30 years ago. “In that sort of world, young people are left out of the equation,” Mr. Parker said. “If you can engage them, you can engage a much larger population.”

Engagement is helped by the fact that people go online to get news and information, especially “at times of crisis,” said Susan P. Crawford, a visiting professor at the University of Michigan Law School and an expert on Internet law and technology. “And just as people rush to the Web to get news about crises, they rush to the Web to help out.”

Ms. Crawford said that sites like Causes allow people to voice support, make a donation and encourage others to join in, all with a few clicks.

While agreeing that the Web offers a sense of immediacy “that very few if any other fund-raising strategies provide,” Timothy L. Seiler, director of the Fund Raising School at Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy, said it would be a mistake to assume that the Web has “revolutionized” philanthropy. Since the Web’s early days, he added, “what we’ve seen is that the reality has never matched what people perceived to be the potential.”

About a third of the nonprofit groups surveyed recently by the Center on Philanthropy reported success with Internet fund-raising, about double the rate in 2000. But 24 percent of those that received donations online said the average gift was under $10. A recent survey of 103 organizations by The Chronicle of Philanthropy also put the trend in perspective, suggesting that online gifts totaled less than 1 percent of donations.

Raising money online, meanwhile, raises sticky questions, especially for larger charities. “Trust issues are still a big factor,” said Michael Schreiber, chief technical officer at United Way of America, which this year expects to raise about $400 million (out of $4.1 billion) through various online channels but is undecided about whether to undertake a Facebook-style social networking initiative.

“You really have to understand how your donors will feel about it,” Mr. Schreiber said, “and how you are going to make sure that you’re stewarding the information and transactions in a way that everybody is comfortable with. I don’t believe the sector is there yet.”

Matthew Hale, an assistant professor at Seton Hall University who studies the interaction of the news media and the nonprofit sector, drew a parallel with another Web phenomenon. “No one could touch Howard Dean online, yet he still lost,” he said. “This is an important trend, and one that is clearly going to continue to grow. But it is not going to wipe away the ways that philanthropy has happened for hundreds of years.”

Still, no one is denying that the Internet has provoked new thinking.

“It was really the teenagers across the country that did most of the work for us,” said Mr. Anderson. “People need a forum to get involved.”

New York's Slap to the Facebook
Bennett Haselton

There are three questions that any politician attacking social networking sites, should have to answer, in order to be specific about what they want. First, what kind of contact do they think the social networking sites should prohibit between adults and minors? All politicians agree on prohibiting sexual solicitation, but that's a non-issue since that's already against the law. So are they asking the sites to block adults and minors from messaging each other at all? Or only "flirtatious" messages, or only requests to meet in person? Some of these answers are more ridiculous than others, but let them pick one. Second, if the site does try to monitor for inappropriate contact between adults and minors, is there any practical way to stop someone from falsely signing up as a minor? Third, if someone's account is cancelled for inappropriate behavior, what good does that do when they can just create another one? (Cuomo's office declined to respond to these questions, referring me only to their press releases. Facebook did not respond to requests for comment.)

Complaining about the futility of Internet regulation is about as hard as complaining about media coverage of Paris Hilton. But in this case, it's not merely that the laws wouldn't do any good, it's that I can't see how the political grandstanding could even plausibly lead up to any laws, even stupid ones.

Facebook's big concession in their settlement with Cuomo was that they would respond faster to complaints sent to abuse@facebook.com about inappropriate contact. (Previously, the AG's office had sent test complaints to the abuse@facebook.com address saying things like, "My 13 YEAR OLD received this extremely inappropriate message from a local NYC man. Please take action IMMEDIATEL!" (sic), and received no response.) But what constitutes "abuse"? Facebook's Terms of Service do not mention contact between adults and minors except to say that you may not "solicit personal information from anyone under 18" (as written, this prohibition would apply to everyone, and not just adults). Does that mean you can send flirtatious messages to an underage user as long as you don't ask for contact information (which you wouldn't need to do anyway, if it's posted on their profile and they add you to their friends list)? For that matter, does that mean if you're 18 and you ask a 17-year-old Facebook user for her phone number, you're breaking the rules? (Or, wait, this applies even if you yourself are 17 as well!) Of course there's nothing new about terms of service agreements which are vaguely written and haphazardly enforced, or playing parlor games about how the terms would be absurd if taken literally. But when a government office is threatening to bring charges and possibly push for new laws unless Facebook agrees to enforce its own Terms of Service, then it's fair game to ask exactly what rules the AG's office is asking Facebook to make people follow.

What if Facebook blocked adults from contacting minors at all? Before, I would have assumed that Facebook would respond to this suggestion by saying that it was too draconian, that nobody had ever seriously tried to outlaw all contact between minors and adults on the Internet, etc. But Facebook's Chief Privacy Officer appeared at one point to endorse this policy as reasonable, by saying that, well, they did block adults from messaging minors on the site, even though they didn't. Cuomo's letter pointed out that any Facebook user can message any other user, and they still can. (I asked Facebook if their Chief Privacy Officer was misquoted in the article, but they didn't respond.) So leaving aside the question of whether Facebook should try to stop adults from messaging minors, would it even be possible? Of course you could block registered adult users from messaging registered underage users. But since any adult who planned on doing something suspicious would probably do it from a "throwaway" account instead of their real one, the question is whether you could screen people from creating "throwaway" accounts pretending to be minors -- sort of the opposite of adult credit-card verification for porn sites. (My suggestion: Make the person answer a question like, 'The way to impress a girl in high school is with (a) looks; (b) intelligence; (c) sense of humor; or (d) "confidence"'. From listening to most adults, you'd think they have no clue about the correct answer to this, except for the ones who also add, 'What do you mean, "in high school"?')

Facebook's current screening system is that anyone who registers as a high school student (and if you're under 18, you have to register as a high school or college student -- homeschoolers and dropouts are out of luck unless they lie about their age), has to be confirmed by an existing student at that school, by sending them a friend request and having them confirm that you are friends. (Your account still works before you're confirmed, but you blocked from certain things that only high school accounts can do, such as browse for other members of that high school.) This is another recent change that Facebook made that was not listed in their settlement agreement -- previously, the Attorney General had documented that anybody under 18 could sign up and join a high school network, but now, you can't do this without getting another student to confirm you.

However, this can be circumvented as well. I'm not endorsing the following trick for any mischief-making, but I think it's sufficiently obvious that there's no reason not to point it out: (1) create a profile of a non-overweight girl and sign up as a member of a high school network, pending confirmation; (2) search for several boys in that network and send them friend requests; and (3) wait for at least one of them to confirm you back, which they will probably do, without even being sure if they actually know you or not. Voila, you've got your "high school student" account. Then you can presumably use that account as a foothold to approve other accounts, for example if you're a male and you want to create a fake high schooler profile as an actual guy, assuming you only want to pretend to be a teenager, not a female, because it's not like you're not some kind of weirdo.

Facebook could conceivably require real-world verification for anyone who signed up as a minor -- confirmation from their school, for example. But this would be competitive suicide for any site whose main draw is that everybody wants to go there because everybody else is already there, so they need signups to be as easy as possible. Even if Congress passed a law draconion enough that it required all social networking sites to do this, Facebook could just re-incorporate overseas (for a billion dollars, wouldn't you move to Canada, Mark?), or else a foreign competitor could take over the teen-social-networking market by offering signups without cumbersome verifications. What would Congress do then, pass a law requiring ISPs to block access to overseas social-networking sites? They couldn't even do that with child pornography.

Finally, if Facebook does cancel your account, you can always sign up for a new one instantly with a new e-mail address. Losing your Facebook account might be a harsh punishment for someone who had built up an extensive network of contacts around their profile. But I'll bet that any adult with a network of friends on Facebook, built around a profile that gives their real name and employer, is probably using a secondary profile with a lot less information on it if they're writing to 13-year-old girls. A dispensable secondary account like that can easily be replaced, so Facebook responding to abuse reports by closing people's accounts is just playing whack-a-mole. An arrest can stop someone permanently, but you can only arrest someone if they've actually broken the law, like sending an unambiguous sexual solicitation to an underage user.

So there's really nothing that Facebook or any other social-networking site could do to prevent adults from signing up as minors, to prevent adults and minors from messaging each other, or to keep abusers from creating new accounts. Occasionally, they are able to make some minor concessions that a politician can take credit for -- in July, the attorney general of Connecticut alerted Facebook to three sex offenders who had profiles on the site, which Facebook duly removed. Did the sex offenders then sign up for new profiles? Are most sex offenders on Facebook smart enough not to sign up under their real names? Story doesn't say. That's one reason I could never make it as a regular reporter, because you're not allowed to insert your own voice into the story even to point out the crashingly obvious.

But basically, the major issues that politicians keep bringing up about social networking sites, are unsolvable. For a politician, of course, this is the best of both worlds -- they can rail against social networking sites forever, knowing that the "problems" will never go away.

This is usually the point at which the writer inserts an obligatory note that the real solution is to sit down and talk to your kids. Well, yes and no. I think first you should be as informed as possible about what the various risks are, not just for online activity but for all of life's experiences, and then sit down and talk. You could even do the research together and make a Family Fun Night out of it! (Sound of teenagers groaning and fumbling for their iPods.) For openers: one study found that in one year in the U.S., "Law enforcement at all levels made an estimated 2,577 arrests for Internet sex crimes against minors", and only 39% of those were for crimes against real, identifible minors (excluding arrests for To Catch A Predator-style sting operations). On the other hand, the National Transportation Safety Board reports that every year, about 3.4 million people are injured and 41,000 are killed in auto accidents in the U.S. Even this rough comparison would seem to suggest that until you've talked to your kid about every last detail you can think of regarding car safety, that's a better use of time than talking about Facebook. Perhaps you think it's an apples-and-oranges comparison because the sex crimes statistic counts only arrests, not actual incidents. But then the question is whether a true apples-to-apples comparison has ever been done, or how you could do one. The point is that there is some objective truth about the relative risks, and if you read even just one study comparing them, you're better informed than 90% of the people out there, including most parents. You want to be the cool Mom? You don't have to let your kids do everything, just have reasons for stuff!

My promise to my own future kids is that I won't ever make the mistake of thinking that just because I paid for their room and board for a few years, that makes me better informed about the various risks factors of different activities. I will probably be better informed than my kids, for a long while anyway, but that won't be why. And I hope we can teach them so much that before long they'll be better informed than most people, including most of their friends' parents. Then my wife will teach them to be polite enough not to point this out to their friends' parents, but with half their genes coming from me I wouldn't bet on it.

Mother: Hoax on MySpace Triggered Daughter's Suicide
Betsy Taylor

Megan Meier thought she had made a new friend in cyberspace when a cute teenage boy named Josh contacted her on MySpace and began exchanging messages with her.

Megan, a 13-year-old who suffered from depression and attention deficit disorder, corresponded with Josh for more than a month before he abruptly ended their friendship, telling her he had heard she was cruel.

The next day Megan committed suicide. Her family learned later that Josh never actually existed; he was created by members of a neighborhood family that included a former friend of Megan's.

Now Megan's parents hope the people who made the fraudulent profile on the social networking Web site will be prosecuted, and they are seeking legal changes to safeguard children on the Internet.

The girl's mother, Tina Meier, said she doesn't think anyone involved intended for her daughter to kill herself.

"But when adults are involved and continue to screw with a 13-year-old, with or without mental problems, it is absolutely vile," she told the Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis, which first reported on the case.

Tina Meier said law enforcement officials told her the case did not fit into any law. But sheriff's officials have not closed the case and pledged to consider new evidence if it emerges.

Megan Meier hanged herself in her bedroom on Oct. 16, 2006, and died the next day. She was described as a "bubbly, goofy" girl who loved spending time with her friends, watching movies and fishing with her dad.

Megan had been on medication, but had been upbeat before her death, her mother said, after striking up a relationship on MySpace with Josh Evans about six weeks before her death.

Josh told her he was born in Florida and had recently moved to the nearby community of O'Fallon. He said he was homeschooled, and didn't yet have a phone number in the area to give her.

Megan's parents said she received a message from him on Oct. 15 of last year, essentially saying he didn't want to be her friend anymore, that he had heard she wasn't nice to her friends.

The next day, as Megan's mother headed out the door to take another daughter to the orthodontist, she knew Megan was upset about Internet messages. She asked Megan to log off. Users on MySpace must be at least 14, though Megan was not when she opened her account. A MySpace spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment.

Someone using Josh's account was sending cruel messages. Then, Megan called her mother, saying electronic bulletins were being posted about her, saying things like, "Megan Meier is a slut. Megan Meier is fat."

Megan's mother, who monitored her daughter's online communications, returned home and said she was shocked at the vulgar language her own daughter was sending. She told her daughter how upset she was about it.

Megan ran upstairs, and her father, Ron, tried to tell her everything would be fine. About 20 minutes later, she was found in her bedroom. She died the next day.

Her father said he found a message the next day from Josh, which he said law enforcement authorities have not been able to retrieve. It told the girl she was a bad person and the world would be better without her, he has said.

Another parent, who learned of the MySpace account from her own daughter who had access to the Josh profile, told Megan's parents about the hoax in a counselor's office about six weeks after Megan died. That's when they learned Josh was imaginary, they said.

The woman who created the fake profile has not been charged with a crime. She allegedly told the St. Charles County Sheriff's Department she created Josh's profile because she wanted to gain Megan's confidence to know what Megan was saying about her own child online.

The mother from down the street told police that she, her daughter and another person all typed and monitored the communication between the fictitious boy and Megan.

A person who answered the door at the family's house told an Associated Press reporter on Friday afternoon that they had been advised not to comment.

Megan's parents had been storing a foosball table for the family that created the MySpace character. Six weeks after Megan's death, they learned the other family had created the profile and responded by destroying the foosball table, dumping it on the neighbors' driveway and encouraging them to move away.

Megan's parents are now separated and plan to divorce.

Aldermen in Dardenne Prairie, a community of about 7,000 residents about 35 miles from St. Louis, have proposed a new ordinance related to child endangerment and Internet harassment. It could come before city leaders on Wednesday.

"Is this enough?" Mayor Pam Fogarty said Friday. "No, not by any stretch of the imagination, but it's something, and you have to start somewhere."

China Confirms Toys Had Toxic Substance

China's safety watchdog confirmed Saturday that toy beads recalled in the United States and Australia after sickening children contain a substance that can turn into the ''date-rape'' drug after ingested.

The toys, coated with the industrial chemical 1,4-butanediol, were made by the Wangqi Product Factory in Shenzhen, a city just over the border from Hong Kong, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine said in a statement.

When ingested, the chemical metabolizes into the ''date-rape'' drug gamma hydroxy butyrate, also known as GHB, which can cause breathing problems, loss of consciousness, seizures, drowsiness, coma and death.

Millions of units of the popular toys, which are sold as Aqua Dots in the United States and as Bindeez in Australia, were recalled in those countries as well as Britain, Malaysia, Singapore and elsewhere this past week after children began falling sick from swallowing the toy's bead-like parts.

The recall is the latest in a slew of product quality scandals that has tarnished China's image as an exporter of reliable goods. The government has tried to shore up the country's reputation by increasing inspections, selectively punishing companies and launching a publicity campaign to boost quality.

The toys are manufactured for Australia-based Moose Enterprises, and production was outsourced to Wangqi by a Hong Kong agent, the safety watchdog said. It did not identify the Hong Kong company.

''The Shenzhen factory started to produce the bead toys after its trial products provided to the agent received no objection,'' the state-run Xinhua News Agency said.

At least nine children in the U.S. and three in Australia have fallen sick.

A man identifying himself as Mr. Liang who answered the phone at Wangqi confirmed the company made toys but said he did not know if the toys were the same ones in the recalls. Liang said the company's managers were not available to comment.

The Chinese government has already suspended exports of the toys, the safety watchdog said.

The watchdog said it asked the United States for information on the medical problems the children suffered because of the toys so that it can carry out more tests.

Companies worldwide have increasingly outsourced manufacturing, often choosing Chinese factories for their cost and quality. But heated competition among factories and the rising cost of labor, land and fuel have sometimes put pressure on profits, causing some producers to cut corners.

In the latest case, the Aqua Dots or Bindeez were supposed to have been coated with nontoxic 1,5-pentanediol, a chemical commonly used in computer printer ink. But that chemical generally sells for three or four times the price of the toxic compound found on the tainted toys, 1,4-butanediol.

Truck Driver in Texas Kills all the Websites You Really Use

Remember the power mishap in July that brought down 365 Main, the San Francisco datacenter? A similar incident took place today at the Dallas datacenter of Rackspace, a San Antonio, Texas-based firm which serves several local Web outfits. Unlike the July outage, which killed all the websites we waste time with -- LiveJournal, Craigslist, and so on -- this one took out some sites which really mattered. Laughing Squid, Scott Beale's popular Web-hosting company, went down, taking a long list of customers with it, and 37signals, the maker of Web-based software, went out -- a serious matter, since 37signals actually charges for using its software. So what exactly happened at Rackspace?

Like 365 Main, Rackspace was hit by a utility power outage on Sunday. Unlike 365 Main, Rackspace saw its generators kick in, and all was well. This evening, however, a truck drove into a power transformer, causing it to explode. Rackspace techs described this in an email to customers, with admirable sangfroid, as leading to "additional power issues." Further word from Rackspace is that the chillers that keep the servers cool lost power when the transformer blew. An unknown number of servers were taken offline to prevent damage from excessive heat. Currently, the chillers are back online and Rackspace techs are in the process of bringing all the affected customers back online.

Interestingly, as Scott Beale of Laughing Squid points out, "Rackspace does not have a status page or blog." Beale, who's using a status blog to keep his customers informed, later noted that Rackspace does have a "customer portal" -- I guess that counts as a blog -- which they eventually updated late tonight.

Man Cited for Porn on Wheels
Deanna Boyd

This X-rated movie was moving, Fort Worth police say.


Monday morning, a 24-year-old Irving man was cited after a Fort Worth police officer spotted porn playing inside the man’s car.

The officer was conducting extra patrol at a club at in the 100 block of S. Main Street, south of downtown, when he saw the car drive by, then park near the club, said Lt. Dean Sullivan, police spokesman.

According to a police report, a 10-inch screen pointed toward the rear of the vehicle showed “multiple people, naked, having sexual intercourse.”

As the driver began to drive off, the officer pulled him over. Inside the man’s car, the officer spotted an open beer.

The driver, Cameron Walker, was issued several misdemeanor citations, including for obscene display or distribution, not having a driver’s license and for the open container of alcohol.

Porn Filters' Costs Tallied

$285,000 to install at S.J. libraries, plus yearly outlays
John Woolfolk

Filtering pornographic Web sites out of San Jose's public library computers would cost the city more than $200,000 a year and would face legal and technical hurdles at the heavily used main downtown branch.

Those were the conclusions of the city attorney and library director after reviewing Councilman Pete Constant's proposal to reconsider Internet filtering at the libraries.

A City Council committee Wednesday ordered continued research on filtering and agreed to consider in January whether to schedule a council vote on it.

The council in 1997 rejected filtering on grounds that the technology was too crude to distinguish between the prurient and legitimate information protected by free-speech rights. Five people who spoke before the committee Wednesday said those concerns remain and questioned the need to revisit the policy.

Ernest Guzman, a former library commissioner, said he's taken his daughter to city libraries for 10 years and never encountered problems.

"If it isn't broken, you don't need to fix it," Guzman said.

But Mayor Chuck Reed said that, like Constant, he's troubled that "you've got thousands of kids with access to those computers" where there's nothing to block out pornography.

According to City Attorney Rick Doyle, the city's unique joint operating agreement with San Jose State University for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. main library at Fourth and San Fernando streets may limit filtering there.

King library's 2.6 million visitors accounted for more than a third of the 7.6 million people who visited all 19 city libraries over the past year.

The King library is also where police records indicate most complaints about viewing pornography have originated. University police, who primarily patrol that library, reported 26 complaints this year of lewd behavior involving computer use, 17 of which led to arrests or citations. By contrast, San Jose police reported just six cases of sex-related offenses at all city libraries since 2005.

The joint operating agreement prohibits the city from restricting university users' access to library collections and from requiring university staff to enforce city regulations. Doyle said the city would need university cooperation in implementing filters.

University spokeswoman Pat Lopes Harris said SJSU has not taken a position on the proposed policy.

"We understand the issues that are being raised; we take safety very seriously," Harris said. "But we also take our joint operating agreement seriously."

Library director Jane Light said it would cost cash-strapped San Jose $285,000 to implement library computer filtering and $265,000 a year to maintain it. Most of that cost - $210,000 - would come from adding staff seven days a week to handle requests to unblock legitimate Internet sites, as Constant has suggested.

The remaining costs would be for computer hardware, software and annual licensing fees plus staff training, Light said. Filtering would make the city eligible for additional federal funding of about $30,000 to $35,000 a year to offset some of those costs.

Report: Singapore Bans Microsoft's Video Game for Sex Scene

Singapore has banned a Microsoft video game that contains a scene showing a human woman and an alien woman kissing and caressing each other, a local newspaper reported Thursday. The Straits Times said Mass Effect, a highly anticipated futuristic-space adventure game from Microsoft, was banned by Singapore's Media Development Authority. In October, Singapore's parliament decided to keep a ban on sex between men, and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the city-state should keep its conservative values and not allow special rights for homosexuals.

Singapore is the only country to have banned the game, so far, and Mass Effect is the first Microsoft video game to be banned in the city-state, The Straits Times said. The move has caused an outcry among local and international gamers, who said the decision was too strict, the newspaper said. The report said Singapore has in the past banned at least two other video games: Sony's God Of War II, for nudity, and unlisted Top Cow Productions' The Darkness, for excessive violence and religiously offensive expletives.

Sex Offender's Beheading a 'Thrill Kill;' Teens Arrested
Lance Murray

Michigan authorities now say they have two teenagers in custody in connection with the decapitation slaying of a registered sex offender.

Fox News is reporting that police are calling Wednesday's slaying of 26-year-old Daniel Gene-Vincent Sorensen a "thrill kill."

The suspects are Jean-Pierre Orlewicz, 17, and Alexander James Letkemann, 18. They will be arraigned today, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy says.

"Any time anyone kills just because they want to — and that's what the evidence seems to suggest here — is bone-chilling. Why anybody would want to do that, especially being 17 years old, it makes us think and ask a lot of questions about our society," Worthy told reporters at a press conference.

Worthy said that Sorensen, who was registered sex offender in Illinois, was repeatedly stabbed and his head sawed off before his body was set on fire. His body was found Thursday morning and a head was discovered Saturday about five miles away in in Dearborn Heights. The medical examiner is trying to determine if it is Sorensen's head.

14 Year Old BitTorrent Hacker Threatens to Sue What.cd Users

Users of OiNK-replacement What.cd, are receiving emails from what appears to be the RIAA. In it are threats that users must either stop their ‘criminal acts of piracy’ or have charges pressed against them. But is it the RIAA? Rival Waffles.fm? No, it’s a 14 yr old script kiddie out for revenge, says What.cd

Users of What.cd were in for more than a little shock today. Members of one of the OiNK replacement sites started receiving worrying emails from the music file-sharers arch nemesis - the mighty RIAA.

The email reads:

Date: 12 Nov 2007 11:35:46 +0100
Message-ID: <2007111XXXXXXX.XXXXX.qmail@bitient.org>
Subject: Music Piracy
From: piracy@riaa.org
Reply-To: piracy@riaa.org
X-Originating-IP: []
X-Originating-Email: [piracy@riaa.org]
X-Mailer: Internet Mail Service

Dear registered user of the site What.cd,

We have recently been investigating the activities of the users of the site http://www.what.cd/ and we have found that this site exists for the sole purpose of music piracy.

Pirating music is a criminal offence and we believe it should be obvious to you that the results outweigh the benefits - hard working artists won’t be rewarded for their work and will stop producing music, ultimately leading to a severely reduced selection of music both in the shops and for download.

The RIAA had hoped that the disabling by the police of the large illegal music site, Oink.cd, would stop a lot of people from engaging in piracy, as they don’t want to be seen as criminals. However, this appears to not be the case, as two large new sites have sprung up in its place.

This email is the final warning to all of you who were members of Oink.cd and are current members of What.cd. If we find you to be committing any more criminal acts of piracy then we will have to press charges against you, as representatives of the major record companies of

Yours Faithfully,

Worrying, especially as the IP address in the email seems to indicate it really is from the RIAA. Visitors to the What.cd site were then greeted with this message:

This week has been terrible. After we did two code audits and fixed our security issues, our wonderful attackers couldn’t get in (yay!), so they turned to brute force. After having been hit by several port scans and a rather fearsome DDoS attack (traffic reaching almost 80 megabits per second (note: that’s 10 megabytes per second)) our server pretty much went to hell. After an extended downtime (ending a couple hours ago) during which we tweaked firewall settings, etc., we decided that it was safe enough to bring the site back up.

Pretty much immediately after the site came back up we had someone trying to brute force our (well passworded) ssh accounts (they’ve now met the hot burny side of the firewall).

What have we learned from all this? That there is a person or a group of people somewhere that wants us to disappear. We originally thought that the attacks were by bored kids, but whoever was behind the DDoS appears to be much more serious than that. We aren’t going to publicly speculate on who is behind the attacks - we’ll leave that to you guys.

Despite these attacks, we are still up and running, and we hope to stay this way for a very long time. We have plans for this site, and we aren’t going to flush them down the drain just because some people don’t like what we’re doing. The first of our plans involves a very cool freeleech plan, but we’re going to wait until we’re sure the tracker’s relatively stable for that. For the time being, we’re keeping freeleech on until further notice.
But what about the emails? Is the RIAA really sending them out? If not, then who is and how did they get the What.cd user database? What.cd think they have the answer in a post on their site, replicated on this Pastebin page.

Other sites are already publishing the information above and a quick Google search does indeed reveal some interesting details. Apparently, the person held responsible for the hacking and the RIAA email is only 14 year old and not as much as a threat some believed him to be. The alleged hacker’s date of birth, his hometown, hobbies and much more are detailed on Google.

Before today, he probably enjoyed telling the world about himself on social networking sites too.

He’s also mentioned on this Pastebin page full of haxor code - along with what.cd.

The youth of today….what’s the world coming to?

Update: It appears someone claiming to be ‘biscuit’ offered the database for sale and even threatened to send it to the RIAA. After deciding that he should keep it - for later ‘blackmail’ purposes he hopefully considered this link and realized it’s not worth it, deleted the database and forgot all about it.

Update: biscuit wrote that he’s not responsible for the hacking and claims that the bash log is doctored.

Dear Torrentfreak: I Was NOT the One Responsible for the Hacking of What.cd

Everyone who knows me online and in real life knows that I am a thorough supporter of torrent sites and would never wish to do damage to one of them.

I watched in horror as What.cd was sabotaged, first getting redirected to nimp.org, and then I saw the RIAA message.

Then at 11pm, 2 days ago, I got this email, from Noah, who is the owner of the server I host on, and until today I'd thought that he also was pro-p2p.

Someone with access to the box was responsible for the What.cd? MySQL injections. That pretty much isolates you since you are probably the only one with enough knowledge to know how to 'root the box. I really hope it wasn't you, but the fact that I've got authentication failures for su from your user doesn't really help the fact.
I had definitely not tried to 'root the box' any time recently. And on my normal user level ssh account, I didn't have any access to the What.cd files on the server. So I just ignored the email and let life carry on. But now I knew that it was someone with ssh access to the server, probably needing root, and I started to think, hmm...

Today at 10:30am, I had a day off school, and so I was just chilling at my computer, watching a film while idling in various IRC channels. Then some people began to post about emails from the RIAA in #what.cd, then I got one shortly after.

People in the channel immediately decided it was fake, as in the email headers it had "Return-Path: <riaa@bitient.org>". Bitient.org is the hostname of Noah's server, and this made me start to suspect Noah even more, as only he, being the only one with root, could create a shell account called 'riaa' and send emails from it. I didn't say anything yet, I thought I'd let it stew, and maybe Noah had a good reason for doing all this, or maybe his server had been hacked by a third party, maybe even the RIAA.

Then after having a powercut for 3 hours at home I came back on IRC. I did a CTCP on the #what.cd channel, as being a curious guy, I wanted to find out what IRC clients everyone was using.

'What' posts on the frontpage of What.cd: "Sending version requests to everyone in a channel is the sort of thing script kiddies looking for someone to hack would do."

That's funny, because I've never heard of any modern IRC clients having vulnerabilities in the CTCP protocol that could be exploited. And even if they could, the What.cd IRCd hides users' IP addresses, so I'd have had no way of trying to exploit them.

Soon after, in #home on the IRCd on bitient.org, WhatMan came in and said "P3T3R and biscuitaway: You guys are so fucked." Said a load more stuff then: "<WhatMan> Fuck you." Then "* *** You are permanently banned from irc.bitient.org (motherfucker) Email irc@bitient.org for more information."

So, apparently now Noah had lied to the What.cd admins about me doing it as well.

By now I was 100% sure that Noah had done all this exploitation. I don't know for sure why but I have an idea. The reason he left What.cd as an admin was because he'd plastered his personal information all over his domains' whois info, and had used his real name and address when signing up with his leaseweb server. Apparently he hadn't thought about it when he started what.cd, but then it hit him that if what.cd suffered the same fate as OiNK, he could end up in trouble with the law. As a 14 year old, spoilt, Jewish kid living in Canada, which is cracking down a lot on p2p recently, he couldn't face it, and left What.cd. But apparently this wasn't enough. He wanted to destroy the site's reputation once and for all. But he didn't want to be held responsible.
Instead of just deleting the files, or anything like that, which he could have done with root, he tried to make it look like a SQL injection vulnerability, by just messing with the What.cd database.

Pretty smart thing to do, I realised. But there's one problem. The What.cd admins realised that it wasn't actually a SQL injection. They realised it was being done by PhpMyAdmin. Which Noah had access to, using the Plesk control panel on his server.

Then he must have created an account called 'riaa' on the server - as I said earlier, the root user is the only one who can do this on Linux. With the database dump he'd taken using phpMyAdmin, he must have sent out all the fake emails from 'the RIAA' using the mail program on his server.

He then tried to lay the blame on me, as I'm the only person who hosts on his server that he deems capable of doing such a thing.

Then WhatMan, one of What.cd's admins somehow deduced that it was P3T3R, my brother, in conjuction with me. He's been outspoken against What.cd from the start, thinking they were 'invading the server', as he has an account on Noah's server too, and that all the admins were retards. So somehow it's all over the internet that a '14 year old hacker' took down What.cd. Which is complete bollocks. Especially since P3T3R is 13.

So, to conclude:
His name is Xxxx Xxxxxxxxx.
He is 14 years old.
His phone number seems to be +1.XXXXXXXXX
He lives in Xxxxxx, Xxxxxx.
So go flame him. And leave me and my family alone.



Malware-Pushing Web Sites on the Rise, Say Researchers: 66,000 and Counting
Jacqui Cheng

The number of malware-infected web sites has risen to 66,000 so far this month and continues to rise, despite the fact that the malicious application is detectable by most antivirus products on the market. A major culprit for all this malware is a malicious script from yl18.net. According to Mark Hofman at the SANS Internet Storm Center, the number of sites infected by the script has more than doubled.

In fact, Hofman believes that this is the same script from a mass Super Bowl-related infection earlier this year that hit some 200,000 web sites. He did a bit of digging and found that the infection from February used some of the same servers this time around, including 137wg.com and Zj5173.com. The older script used SQL injection to deface the site and force executable downloads upon visitors, and SANS is seeing the same pattern of activity this time around.

It's not just small sites that have been affected by malware, either. Indian news site and content portal IndiaTimes began to force malware upon visitors over the weekend, much of which is not yet detected by antivirus software, ScanSafe security researcher Mary Landesman wrote on the company's blog. "The choice of initial vulnerabilities suggests the Metasploit Framework may have been used to carry out the attacks. Successful exploit results in a massive download of malware and assorted other files," she said. "We counted 434 before we finally pulled the plug (figuratively and literally speaking)."

ScanSafe notes in its Threat Center advisory that the malware "may be may be intended to create sites used to attack others."

Landesman is careful to point out that even savvy Internet users who are careful about their activities could be hit by these infections. As usual, users are urged to be careful of sites that push downloads of any kind without permission and to keep safe, clean backups of their data. You do back up regularly, don't you?

Bureau Warns on Tainted Discs

FOCUSED ATTACK: Large-capacity hard disks often used by government agencies were found to contain Trojan horse viruses, Investigation Bureau officials warned
Yang Kuo-wen, Lin Ching-chuan and Rich Chang

Portable hard discs sold locally and produced by US disk-drive manufacturer Seagate Technology have been found to carry Trojan horse viruses that automatically upload to Beijing Web sites anything the computer user saves on the hard disc, the Investigation Bureau said.

Around 1,800 of the portable Maxtor hard discs, produced in Thailand, carried two Trojan horse viruses: autorun.inf and ghost.pif, the bureau under the Ministry of Justice said.

The tainted portable hard disc uploads any information saved on the computer automatically and without the owner's knowledge to www.nice8.org and www.we168.org, the bureau said.

The affected hard discs are Maxtor Basics 500G discs.

The bureau said that hard discs with such a large capacity are usually used by government agencies to store databases and other information.

Sensitive information may have already been intercepted by Beijing through the two Web sites, the bureau said.

The bureau said that the method of attack was unusual, adding that it suspected Chinese authorities were involved.

In recent years, the Chinese government has run an aggressive spying program relying on information technology and the Internet, the bureau said.

The bureau said this was the first time it had found that Trojan horse viruses had been placed on hard discs before they even reach the market.

The bureau said that it had instructed the product's Taiwanese distributor, Xander International, to remove the products from shelves immediately.

The bureau said that it first received complaints from consumers last month, saying they had detected Trojan horse viruses on brand new hard discs purchased in Taiwan.

Agents began examining hard discs on the market and found the viruses linked to the two Web sites.

Anyone who has purchased this kind of hard disc should return it to the place of purchase, the bureau said.

The distributor told the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister newspaper) that the company had sold 1,800 tainted discs to stores last month.

It said it had pulled 1,500 discs from shelves, while the remaining 300 had been sold by the stores to consumers.

Seagate's Asian Pacific branch said it was looking into the matter.

Firefox Security Threat - Google is Vulnerable

A Malicious exploit has been discovered in Firefox that would allow a Hacker to use a Malicious JAR file to get access to your Google Account and all your confidential information.

Firefox is falling into some serious trouble over the past few months, with more and more security exploits being discovered and being exploited. The latest threat involves the usage of a malicious JAR file. The flaw is still in the wild and the problem persists with the websites of Major Internet companies that includes Google. Beford.org has found a way to use the JAR exploit to get details of Google Accounts using a Malicious JAR file specially crafted to take advantage of the exploit.

Well I’m going to refrain myself from writing about the Exploit. I have tested this exploit on my own spare Google Account, and I can confirm that this works. Its better be to safe because I’m not sure when exactly is Google and Mozilla planning to patch up the security holes. I suggest you download the NoScript addon for Firefox. Right now NoScript seems to be the only solution. If you are wondering what NoScript is, then here is what its developer has to say about it :

It allows JavaScript, Java and other executable content to run only from trusted domains of your choice, e.g. your home-banking web site, and guards the “trust boundaries” against cross-site scripting attacks (XSS). Such a preemptive approach prevents exploitation of security vulnerabilities (known and even unknown!) with no loss of functionality…

The other way to stay safe would be to visit sites that you trust and not download anything that looks suspicious. Given the vastness of the Internet, however careful you are, this can be still a threat. Keep yourself signed out of all Accounts until this is patched. But do remember to stay safe.

This exploit was known to Mozilla for quite sometime and hasn’t still patched it. Given that this vulnerability affects both Google and Firefox lets see who gets this patched first.

Via GNUCitizen and Bedford

Microsoft Exec Calls XP Hack 'Frightening'
Tom Espiner

A Microsoft executive calls the ease with which two British e-crime specialists managed to hack into a Windows XP computer as both "enlightening and frightening."

The demonstration took place Monday at an event sponsored by Get Safe Online--a joint initiative of the U.K. government and industry. At the event, which was aimed at heightening security awareness among small businesses, two members of the U.K. government intelligence group Serious Organized Crime Agency connected a machine running Windows XP with Service Pack 1 to an unsecured wireless network. The machine was running no antivirus, firewall, or anti-spyware software and contained a sample target file of passwords to be stolen.

The SOCA officials wished to remain anonymous. One of them, "Mick," remained behind a screen while carrying out the hack into the unpatched computer of a fellow officer, "Andy."

"It's easy to connect to an unsecured wireless network," said Mick. "You could equate Andy with being in his bedroom, while I'm scanning for networks outside in my car. If I ordered or viewed illegal materials, it would come back to Andy."

Mick used a common, open-source exploit-finding tool he had downloaded from the Internet. SOCA asked ZDNet UK not to divulge the name of the tool.

"You can download attack tools from the Internet, and even script kiddies can use this one," said Mick.

Mick found the IP address of his own computer by using the XP Wireless Network Connection Status dialog box. He deduced the IP address of Andy's computer by typing different numerically adjacent addresses in that IP range into the attack tool, then scanning the addresses to see if they belonged to a vulnerable machine.

Using a different attack tool, he produced a security report detailing the vulnerabilities found on the system. Mick decided to exploit one of them. Using the attack tool, Mick built a piece of malware in MS-DOS, giving it a payload that would exploit the flaw within a couple of minutes.

Getting onto the unsecured wireless network, pinging possible IP addresses of other computers on the network, finding Andy's unpatched computer, scanning open ports for vulnerabilities, using the attack tool to build an exploit, and using the malware to get into the XP command shell took six minutes.

"If you were in (a cafe with Wi-Fi access), your coffee wouldn't even have cooled down yet," said Sharon Lemon, deputy director of SOCA's e-crime unit.

Mick then went into the My Documents folder and, using a trivial transfer protocol, transferred the document containing passwords to his own computer. The whole process took 11 minutes.

A SOCA representative said that the demonstration was "purely to point out that, if a system hasn't had patches, it's a relatively simple matter to hack into it." SOCA stopped short of recommending small businesses move to Vista; a SOCA representative said that applying Service Pack 2 to XP, with all the patches applied, and running a secured wireless network is "perfectly sensible way to do it."

Nick McGrath, head of platform strategy for Microsoft U.K., was surprised by the incident.

"In the demonstration we saw, it was both enlightening and frightening to witness the seeming ease of the attack on the (Windows) computer," said McGrath. "But the computer was new, not updated, and not patched."

McGrath said that having anti-spyware installed was not as important as having the software updated. He added that Microsoft works closely with original equipment manufacturers to encourage the preloading of antivirus and anti-spyware on a 30-day trial basis. McGrath also said that Service Pack 2 for XP had a firewall and that Vista was not as "accessible to the average hacker" due to "operating system components."

Tom Espiner of ZDNet UK reported from London.

Half a Million Database Servers 'Have no Firewall'

Major security risk is enough to sustain another mass worm outbreak
Robert McMillan

There are nearly half a million database servers exposed on the Internet, without firewall protection according to UK-based security researcher David Litchfield.

Litchfield took a look at just over 1 million randomly generated Internet Protocol [IP] addresses, checking them to see if he could access them on the IP ports reserved for Microsoft SQL Server or Oracle's database.

He found 157 SQL servers and 53 Oracle servers. Litchfield then relied on known estimates of the number of systems on the Internet to arrive at his conclusion: "There are approximately 368,000 Microsoft SQl Servers... and about 124,000 Oracle database servers directly accessible on the Internet," he wrote in his report, due to be made public next week.

This is not the first time that Litchfield, managing director of NGSSoftware, has conducted this type of research. Two years ago, he released his first Database Exposure Survey, estimating that there were about 350,000 Microsoft and Oracle databases exposed.

This 2007 version of the Database Exposure Survey is set to be published Monday on Litchfield's Databasesecurity.com Web site. IDG News was given a preliminary copy of the findings.

With no firewall, databases are exposed to hackers, putting corporate data at risk. Litchfield said that, given the amount of press generated by corporate data breaches over the past two years, it's amazing to find that there are more databases exposed than ever before.

"It's terrible," he said in an interview. "We all run around like headless chickens following these data breach headlines... organisations out there really don't care. Why are all these sites hanging out there without the protection of a firewall?"

This year's Oracle tally is actually down from Litchfield's 2005 estimate, which counted 140,000 Oracle systems. That same study placed the SQL server total at 210,000.

The security researcher wasn't sure why Oracle's numbers had declined while Microsoft's had risen. "Microsoft's technology is certainly easier to install. Maybe the increase in SQL server numbers is simply a function of that," he said.

In the 2005 survey, Litchfield found an even larger number of the open-source MySQL databases outside of the firewall. The 2007 survey does not count MySQL, however.

There was one other disturbing finding in Litchfield's 2007 survey: Many of these unprotected databases are also unpatched. In fact, 4% of the SQL Server databases Litchfield found were still vulnerable to the flaw that was exploited by 2003's widespread SQL Slammer worm. "People aren't protecting themselves with firewalls and the patch levels are atrocious," he said.

About 82 percent of the SQL Servers were running older SQL Server 2000 software, and less than half of those had the product's latest Service Pack updates installed. On the Oracle side, 13% of the servers were running older versions of the database that no longer receive patches. These Oracle 9.0 and earlier databases are known to have security vulnerabilities, Litchfield said.

Litchfield, who wrote the proof of concept code that was eventually used by Slammer, said that this many unsecured databases is enough to sustain another worm outbreak. "There's certainly potential there," he said. "So the question is what's the likelihood? [That's] much more difficult to answer."

Apple Admits to ‘Misleading’ Leopard Firewall Settings
Ryan Naraine

Apple has fessed up to at least three serious design weaknesses in the new application-based firewall that ships with Mac OS X Leopard.

The acknowledgment from Cupertino comes less than a month after independent researchers threw cold water on Apple’s claim that Leopard’s firewall can block all incoming connections.

In an advisory accompanying the Mac OS X v10.5.1 update, Apple admitted that the “Block all incoming connections” setting for the firewall is misleading.

“The ‘Block all incoming connections’ setting for the Application Firewall allows any process running as user “root” (UID 0) to receive incoming connections, and also allows mDNSResponder to receive connections. This could result in the unexpected exposure of network services,” Apple said.

With the fix, the firewall will more accurately describe the option as “Allow only essential services”, and by limiting the processes permitted to receive incoming connections under this setting to a small fixed set of system services, Apple said

Two other Application Firewall flaws are addressed:

CVE-2007-4703: The “Set access for specific services and applications” setting for the Application Firewall allows any process running as user “root” (UID 0) to receive incoming connections, even if its executable is specifically added to the list of programs and its entry in the list is marked as “Block incoming connections”. This could result in the unexpected exposure of network services.

CVE-2007-4704: When the Application Firewall settings are changed, a running process started by launchd will not be affected until it is restarted. A user might expect changes to take effect immediately and so leave their system exposed to network access.
The Leopard firewall patch comes less than 24 hours after Apple shipped a monster update to cover at least 41 Mac OS X and Safari for Windows (beta) vulnerabilities.

The Hack of the Year
Patrick Gray

In August, Swedish hacker Dan Egerstad gained access to sensitive embassy, NGO and corporate email accounts. Were they captured from the clutches of hackers? Or were they being used by spies? Patrick Gray investigates the most sensational hack of 2007.

IT WASN'T supposed to be this easy. Swedish hacker Dan Egerstad had infiltrated a global communications network carrying the often-sensitive emails of scores of embassies scattered throughout the world. It had taken him just minutes, using tools freely available for download on the internet.

He says he broke no laws.

In time, Egerstad gained access to 1000 high-value email accounts. He would later post 100 sets of sensitive email logins and passwords on the internet for criminals, spies or just curious teenagers to use to snoop on inter-governmental, NGO and high-value corporate email.

The question on everybody's lips was: how did he do it? The answer came more than a week later and was somewhat anti-climactic. The 22-year-old Swedish security consultant had merely installed free, open-source software - called Tor - on five computers in data centres around the globe and monitored it. Ironically, Tor is designed to prevent intelligence agencies, corporations and computer hackers from determining the virtual - and physical - location of the people who use it.

"Tor is like having caller ID blocking for your internet address," says Shava Nerad, development director with the Tor Project. "All it does is hide where you're communicating from."

Tor was developed by the US Navy to allow personnel to conceal their locations from websites and online services they would access while overseas. By downloading the simple software, personnel could hide the internet protocol address of their computers - the tell-tale number that allows website operators or intelligence services to determine a user's location.

Eventually the navy realised it must take Tor beyond the armed forces. "The problem is, if you make Tor a tool that's only used by the military . . . by using Tor you're advertising that you're military," Nerad says.

So Tor was cast into the public domain. It is now maintained and distributed by a registered charity as an open-source tool that anyone can freely download and install. Hundreds of thousands of internet users have installed Tor, according to the project's website.

Mostly it is workers who want to browse pornographic websites anonymously. "If you analyse the traffic, it's just porn," Egerstad told Next by phone from Sweden. "It's kind of sad."

However, Dmitri Vitaliev, a Russian-born, Australian-educated computer security professional who lives in Canada, says Tor is a vital tool in the fight for democracy. Vitaliev trains human-rights campaigners on how to stay safe when online in oppressive regimes. "It's incredibly important," he said in a Skype chat from the unrecognised state of Transnistria, a breakaway region in Moldova where he's assisting a local group working to stop the trafficking of women. "Anonymity is a high advantage in countries that perform targeted surveillance on activists."

It's also used to bypass website censorship in more than 20 countries that censor political and human rights sites, he says.

Tor works by connecting its users' internet requests, randomly, to volunteer-run Tor network nodes. Anyone can run a Tor node, which relays the user's traffic through other nodes as encrypted data that can't be intercepted.

When the user's data reaches the edge of the Tor network, after bouncing through several nodes, it pops out the other side as unencrypted, readable data. Egerstad was able to get his mitts on sensitive information by running an exit node and monitoring the traffic that passed through it.

The problem, says Vitaliev, is some Tor users assume their data is protected from end to end. "As in pretty much any other internet technology, its vulnerabilities are not well understood by those who use it (and) need it most," he says.

The discovery that sensitive, government emails were passing through Tor exit nodes as unencrypted, readable data was only mildly surprising to Egerstad. It made sense - because Tor documentation mentions "encryption", many users assume they're safe from all snooping, he says.

"People think they're protected just because they use Tor. Not only do they think it's encrypted, but they also think 'no one can find me'," Egerstad says. "But if you've configured your computer wrong, which probably more than 50 per cent of the people using Tor have, you can still find the person (on) the other side."

Initially it seemed that government, embassy, NGO and corporate staffers were using Tor but had misconfigured their systems, allowing Egerstad to sniff sensitive information off the wire. After Egerstad posted the passwords, blame for the embarrassing breach was initially placed on the owners of the passwords he had intercepted.

However, Egerstad now believes the victims of his experiment may not have been using Tor. It's quite possible he stumbled on an underground intelligence gathering exercise, carried out by parties unknown.

"The whole point of the story that has been forgotten, and I haven't said much about it, (is that) many of these accounts had been compromised," he says. "The logins I caught were not legit users but actual hackers who'd been reading these accounts."

In other words, the people using Tor to access embassy email accounts may not have been embassy staff at all. Egerstad says they were computer hackers using Tor to hide their origins from their victims.

The cloaking nature of Tor is appealing in the extreme to computer hackers of all persuasions - criminal, recreational and government sponsored.

If it weren't for the "last-hop" exit node issue Egerstad exposed in such a spectacular way, parties unknown would still be rifling the inboxes of embassies belonging to dozens of countries. Diplomatic memos, sensitive emails and the itineraries of government staffers were all up for grabs.

After a couple of months sniffing and capturing information, Egerstad was faced with a moral dilemma: what to do with all the intercepted passwords and emails.

If he turned his findings over to the Swedish authorities, his experiment might be used by his country's intelligence services to continue monitoring the compromised accounts. That was a little too close to espionage for his liking.

So Egerstad set about notifying the affected governments. He approached a few, but the only one to respond was Iran. "They wanted to know everything I knew," he says. "That's the only response I got, except a couple of calls from the Swedish security police, but that was pretty much all the response I got from any authority."

Frustrated by the lack of a response, Egerstad's next step caused high anxiety for government staffers - and perhaps intelligence services - across the globe. He posted 100 email log-ins and passwords on his blog, DEranged Security. "I just ended up (saying) 'Screw it, I'm just going to put it online and see what happens'."

The news hit the internet like a tonne of bricks, despite some initial scepticism. The email logins were quickly and officially acknowledged by some countries as genuine, while others were independently verified.

US-based security consultant - and Tor user - Sam Stover says he has mixed feelings about Egerstad's actions. "People all of a sudden (said) 'maybe Tor isn't the silver bullet that we thought it was'," Stover says. "However, I'm not sure I condone the mechanism by which that sort of information had to be exposed in order to do that."

Stover admits that he, too, once set up a Tor exit node. "It's pretty easy . . . I set it up once real quick just to make sure that I could see other people's traffic and, sure enough, you can," he says. "(But) I'm not interested in that sort of intelligence gathering."

While there's no direct evidence, it's possible Egerstad's actions shut down an active intelligence-gathering exercise. Wired.com journalist Kim Zetter blogged the claims of an Indian Express reporter that he was able to access the email account for the Indian ambassador in China and download a transcript of a meeting between the Chinese foreign minister and an Indian official. In addition to hackers using Tor to hide their origins, it's plausible that intelligence services had set up rogue exit nodes to sniff data from the Tor network.

"Domestic, or international . . . if you want to do intelligence gathering, there's definitely data to be had there," says Stover. "(When using Tor) you have no idea if some guy in China is watching all your traffic, or some guy in Germany, or a guy in Illinois. You don't know."

Egerstad is circumspect about the possible subversion of Tor by intelligence agencies. "If you actually look in to where these Tor nodes are hosted and how big they are, some of these nodes cost thousands of dollars each month just to host because they're using lots of bandwidth, they're heavy-duty servers and so on," Egerstad says. "Who would pay for this and be anonymous?"

While Stover regards Tor as a useful tool, he says its value is greatly overestimated by those who promote and use it. "I would not use or recommend the tool to hide from people between you and your endpoint. It's really purely a tool to hide from the endpoint," he says.

As a trained security professional, Stover has the nous to understand its limitations, he says. Most people don't.

The lesson remains but the data Egerstad captured is gone, the Swedish hacker insists. He's now focusing on his career as a freelance security consultant. "I deleted everything I had because the information I had was belonging to so many countries that no single person should have this information so I actually deleted it and the hard drives are long gone," he says.

Patrick Gray's interviews with Dan Egerstad and Sam Stover can be heard in his podcast from http://ITRadio.com.au/security.

Police Swoop on 'Hacker of the Year'
Asher Moses

The Swedish hacker who perpetrated the so-called hack of the year has been arrested in a dramatic raid on his apartment, during which he was taken in for questioning and several of his computers confiscated.

Dan Egerstad, a security consultant, intercepted data carried over a global communications network used by embassies around the world in August and gained access to 1000 sensitive email accounts. They contained confidential diplomatic memos and other sensitive government emails.

Details of the hack were reported on this site on Tuesday.

After informing the governments involved of their security failings and receiving no response, Egerstad published 100 of the email accounts, including login details and passwords, on his website for anyone curious enough to have a look. The site, derangedsecurity.com, has since been taken offline.

The hack required little more than tools freely available on the internet, and Egerstad maintains he broke no laws. In fact, he is confident the email accounts he gained access to were already compromised by other hackers, so his efforts in fact prevented them from continuing their spying.

Egerstad was soon back to his regular routine but, on Monday morning, his apartment, located 650 kilometres from Stockholm, was raided by four agents from Swedish National Crime (which Egerstad calls "our FBI") and Swedish Security Police ("our CIA").

About 9am Egerstad walked downstairs to move his car when he was accosted by the officers in a scene "taken out of a bad movie", he said in an email interview.

"I got a couple of police IDs in my face while told that they are taking me in for questioning," he said.

But not before the agents, who had staked out his house in undercover blue and grey Saabs ("something that screams cop to every person in Sweden from miles away"), searched his apartment and confiscated computers, CDs and portable hard drives.

"They broke my wardrobe, short cutted my electricity, pulled out my speakers, phone and other cables having nothing to do with this and been touching my bookkeeping, which they have no right to do," he said.

While questioning Egerstad at the station, the police "played every trick in the book, good cop, bad cop and crazy mysterious guy in the corner not wanting to tell his name and just staring at me".

"Well, if they want to try to manipulate, I can play that game too. [i] gave every known body signal there is telling of lies ... covered my mouth, scratched my elbow, looked away and so on."

Egerstad said the police also accused him of theft because he had eight PlayStation 2 consoles in his apartment. He said he owns a company that "handles consoles".

Egerstad was released and no charges have been laid against him, but the police are in the process of investigating the matter and nothing has been ruled out.

Linus Larsson, a reporter for Computer Sweden magazine whom Egerstad called after the ordeal, said in a phone interview he had confirmed with Swedish police that the raid took place.

"We don't know exactly what they [police] are doing now but they took his hard drives and his computers, and according to him the interrogation went on for about 2 hours and he was then released but he did not get his equipment back," Larsson said.

Egerstad said his lawyer was looking into whether the Swedish police had broken the law by making several "unnecessary actions".

"They aren't giving me any information on who filed the report but said that they have been exchanging information with other countries."

He said he hadn't heard anything from police since the raid but he did not expect to receive the seized equipment back for months, even years.

"[I'm] losing money and trust in my company and even if i'm never charged I will not get any compensation it looks like."

The raid occurred around the same time a feature article on Egerstad's hack appeared in the Next IT section in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, but it is unlikely the story sparked the raid.

Patrick Gray, who wrote the article, has published a detailed audio interview with Egerstad, which took place before the raid, on his website ( http://itradio.com.au/security/).

Hacker Pleads Guilty to Creating Botnets

A hacker in California admits distributing malware that let him steal usernames and passwords for Paypal accounts.
Nancy Gohring

A hacker has pleaded guilty to infecting hundreds of thousands of computers with malware in order to steal money from Paypal accounts. He could spend 60 years in prison and face a US$1.75 million fine.

John Schiefer, 26, admitted that he and some associates developed malware that allowed them to create botnet armies of as many as 250,000 computers. Schiefer was able to collect information sent from the infected computers, including usernames and passwords for Paypal accounts. He and his associates were then able to make purchases using the Paypal accounts. They also shared the password information with others.

This is the first prosecution of a hacker for this type of activity, according to the United States Attorney's Office for the Central District of California. The Federal Bureau of Investigation pursued the case.

Schiefer says he also found Paypal usernames and passwords using malware that could access usernames filed in a secure storage area on the computers. The malware would send that information to Schiefer, who used it to access the accounts.

Schiefer also acknowledged fraudulently earning more than $19,000 from a Dutch Internet advertising agency that hired him as a consultant. He was supposed to install the company's programs on computers after receiving consent from computer owners. Instead, he and his associates installed it on 150,000 computers that were infected with his malware.

Schiefer is scheduled to appear in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Nov. 28 and be arraigned on Dec. 3.

Bluetooth Tracking

In Sept 2007 I plugged in a 100-meter USB bluetooth adaptor and I noticed names of phones/devices with bluetooth in the area popping up on my computer screen. This was when the idea to set up a network of scanners around my towm (Apeldoorn, the Netherlands) to track people was born.

I then set up 4 locations with a little USB bluetooth stick in each location to collect data. There has to be an internet connection at those locations. Therefore I am using locations where my family and friends live. They 'lend' me the space and the bandwidth. To keep the budget low I am using Capio's (Windows CE powered terminals). By reprogramming the Disk on Chip module inside I could run Linux (DSL) on the device and script it. The data collected would be sent to and processed in a central database (running MySQL). The end-result is what you will see on these pages.

The amount of data collected from just those 4 locations was impressive. Within a month after I set the network up, I registered over 15,000 unique mobile-phones,carkits, pda's, navigation systems and many other devices. The matches of phones/devices with bluetooth between locations were obvious. Some phones that were picked up by the sensor in the city center were also picked up by the sensor in other locations. Some of these matches were only minutes apart. Therefore I could even calculate the approximate speed of someone moving from one location to another.

Whenever someone turns on the visible mode on his bluetooth phone/device, it could in theory be picked up by one of the sensors in the network. The sensor usually picks up the MAC id of the phone/device (a unique heximal code) and sometimes, the broadcast name. This name can be changed by the user. So far, some interesting names have been picked up by my sensors. Some people even used the broadcast name as a statement.

The challenge in this project is the amount of data collected. My database server can be lightning fast but at times, e.g. during the day, the same query takes very long.

I am still looking for locations to expand my project. The ideal location would be a busy area like shopping malls, railway stations, etc. This location should have an internet connection and a 220v electricity. If you want to volunteer a location, please contact me.

AT&T to Sell Equipment to Monitor Workplaces
Janet Morrissey

AT&T plans to introduce a nationwide program today that gives owners of small- and medium-size businesses some of the same tools big security companies offer for monitoring employees, customers and operations from remote locations.

Under AT&T’s Remote Monitor program, a business owner could install adjustable cameras, door sensors and other gadgets at up to five different company locations across the country.

Using a Java-enabled mobile device or a personal computer connected to the Internet, the owner would be able to view any of the images in real time, control room lighting and track equipment temperatures remotely. All the images are recorded on digital video, which can be viewed for up to 30 days.

“It is Big Brother, but in this day and age, you need these type of tools” for theft protection, weeding out false accident claims and other risks, said Beaux Roby, owner of a chain of five Mama’s Café restaurants and two banquet halls in Texas. Mr. Roby has been using the system for nine weeks as part of a pilot program. “You have fraudulent claims from customers that trip and fall and things like that,” he said.

Aside from helping to verify insurance claims, the system can detect break-ins, alert an owner if a boiler breaks down and monitor employees who “are just sitting around on the clock not doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” Mr. Roby said. In one instance, he said, a worker seen operating a meat slicer without wearing protective gloves was reprimanded.

The program from AT&T, the only phone company to offer a remote monitoring system to businesses, expands a residential initiative that began in late 2006 that offered limited remote monitoring and captured still pictures from a home. For businesses, digital video monitoring at multiple sites is added. “It’s a unique and affordable option for a small business that wants to keep in touch with various locations,” said Steve Loop, executive director for business development at AT&T. “It saves them a lot of time in their day from having to physically go to all of their locations.”

Equipment costs range from $199 for a fixed camera starter kit in a single location to $349 for multiple cameras including ones that will pan or tilt. Monthly monitoring charges range from $9.95 for a single location to $39.95 for five locations.

AT&T’s main competitors in this field, ADT and Digital Witness, charge higher prices and do not offer sensors to control lighting or to monitor temperatures.

The AT&T system is not foolproof, however. As a Web-based service, it is vulnerable to the loss of a broadband connection. If the system fails, the monitor would lose the ability to view locations remotely. “This is not positioned as a security service,” Mr. Loop said.

ADT and Digital Witness’s equipment and services, while more costly than AT&T’s, are able to continue monitoring a business even if a broadband connection fails.

House Rejects Immunity for Phone Companies in Spy Suits
Anne Broache

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to permit lawsuits that allege the illicit cooperation of telephone and Internet companies with government spy programs.

By a 227-189 vote largely along party lines on Thursday night, politicians approved the Democrat-backed Restore Act. The action, however, promptly renewed veto vows from the White House, which said the proposal "would dangerously weaken our ability to protect the nation from foreign threats."

Congressional Democrats who endorsed the bill disagreed. "Today's bill helps restore the balance between security and liberty," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes, a Texas Democrat, said in a statement after the vote.

The legislation is partially an outgrowth of still-unresolved allegations that U.S. telecommunications companies provided assistance to the National Security Agency's surveillance programs in violation of federal laws since--and possibly even before--the September 11, 2001, terror attacks. The Bush administration has requested that Congress approve legislation granting retroactive legal immunity to any telecommunications company that aided government spying.

Democratic leaders deny that their bill will make it harder to spy on foreign terrorists, but Republican leaders claim that the bill contains enough loopholes to require a warrant for eavesdropping on Osama bin Laden and other foreign terrorists.

"The bill gives terrorists overseas more rights under the law, than individuals inside the U.S.," said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), a ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. "That is simply absurd."

Supporters of the House bill say it allows intelligence agents to continue to snoop on foreigners without a warrant and to obtain "basket warrants" for surveilling foreign terrorist organizations.

At the same time, supporters say, the bill will provide additional safeguards for Americans' privacy and more oversight over the shadowy court that's charged with approving eavesdropping requests when one end of the communications belongs to a U.S. person.

The legislation is part of an update to the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, that the Bush administration argues is necessary to make intelligence gathering more efficient amid changing technologies.

Now focus will shift to the Senate, where a new battle over the immunity issue is likely to heat up soon.

The House vote arrived just hours after the Senate Judiciary Committee approved its own spy law rewrite but punted on the issue of whether to approve retroactive immunity for companies with access to electronic communications.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has already approved a different version of that legislation, containing a sweeping provision that would crush all pending lawsuits alleging illegal spying by companies like AT&T and Verizon Communications, as well as any future suits or state utility commission investigations.

The White House has already made it clear it vastly prefers the Senate Intelligence Committee version, but critics say that one gives the executive branch too much unchecked authority to eavesdrop, without a court order, on communications between Americans and people "reasonably believed to be outside the United States."

Both the Senate and House are attempting to craft a more permanent replacement to a Bush administration-backed temporary law called the Protect America Act, which hurriedly passed in Congress in August with what civil-liberties advocates and most Democrats said were insufficient privacy safeguards for Americans. Set to expire in early February, it currently immunizes companies that have cooperated with any government wiretapping regimes since the law was passed.

The existing law, however, does not grant immunity to companies that may have cooperated in the past. The Bush administration has been threatening to veto any bill that does not contain that retroactive protection.

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), one of the Restore Act's authors, said the politicians "cannot even begin to consider this request" until they receive administration documents, which they say they requested 10 months ago, describing the telephone companies' activities in more depth.

Definition Changing for People's Privacy
Pamela Hess

As Congress debates new rules for government eavesdropping, a top intelligence official says it is time that people in the United States changed their definition of privacy.

Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguard people's private communications and financial information.

Kerr's comments come as Congress is taking a second look at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Lawmakers hastily changed the 1978 law last summer to allow the government to eavesdrop inside the United States without court permission, so long as one end of the conversation was reasonably believed to be located outside the U.S.

The original law required a court order for any surveillance conducted on U.S. soil, to protect Americans' privacy. The White House argued that the law was obstructing intelligence gathering because, as technology has changed, a growing amount of foreign communications passes through U.S.-based channels.

The most contentious issue in the new legislation is whether to shield telecommunications companies from civil lawsuits for allegedly giving the government access to people's private e-mails and phone calls without a FISA court order between 2001 and 2007.

Some lawmakers, including members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, appear reluctant to grant immunity. Suits might be the only way to determine how far the government has burrowed into people's privacy without court permission.

The committee is expected to decide this week whether its version of the bill will protect telecommunications companies. About 40 wiretapping suits are pending.

The central witness in a California lawsuit against AT&T says the government is vacuuming up billions of e-mails and phone calls as they pass through an AT&T switching station in San Francisco.

Mark Klein, a retired AT&T technician, helped connect a device in 2003 that he says diverted and copied onto a government supercomputer every call, e-mail, and Internet site access on AT&T lines.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed the class-action suit, claims there are as many as 20 such sites in the U.S.

The White House has promised to veto any bill that does not grant immunity from suits such as this one.

Congressional leaders hope to finish the bill by Thanksgiving. It would replace the FISA update enacted in August that privacy groups and civil libertarians say allows the government to read Americans' e-mails and listen to their phone calls without court oversight.

Kerr said at an October intelligence conference in San Antonio that he finds concerns that the government may be listening in odd when people are ``perfectly willing for a green-card holder at an (Internet service provider) who may or may have not have been an illegal entrant to the United States to handle their data.''

He noted that government employees face up to five years in prison and $100,000 in fines if convicted of misusing private information.

Millions of people in this country - particularly young people - already have surrendered anonymity to social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook, and to Internet commerce. These sites reveal to the public, government and corporations what was once closely guarded information, like personal statistics and credit card numbers.

``Those two generations younger than we are have a very different idea of what is essential privacy, what they would wish to protect about their lives and affairs. And so, it's not for us to inflict one size fits all,'' said Kerr, 68. ``Protecting anonymity isn't a fight that can be won. Anyone that's typed in their name on Google understands that.''

``Our job now is to engage in a productive debate, which focuses on privacy as a component of appropriate levels of security and public safety,'' Kerr said. ``I think all of us have to really take stock of what we already are willing to give up, in terms of anonymity, but (also) what safeguards we want in place to be sure that giving that doesn't empty our bank account or do something equally bad elsewhere.''

Kurt Opsahl, a senior staff lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocacy group that defends online free speech, privacy and intellectual property rights, said Kerr's argument ignores both privacy laws and American history.

``Anonymity has been important since the Federalist Papers were written under pseudonyms,'' Opsahl said. ``The government has tremendous power: the police power, the ability to arrest, to detain, to take away rights. Tying together that someone has spoken out on an issue with their identity is a far more dangerous thing if it is the government that is trying to tie it together.''

Opsahl also said Kerr ignores the distinction between sacrificing protection from an intrusive government and voluntarily disclosing information in exchange for a service.

``There is something fundamentally different from the government having information about you than private parties,'' he said. ``We shouldn't have to give people the choice between taking advantage of modern communication tools and sacrificing their privacy.''

``It's just another 'trust us, we're the government,''' he said.

In DNA Era, New Worries About Prejudice
Amy Harmon

When scientists first decoded the human genome in 2000, they were quick to portray it as proof of humankind’s remarkable similarity. The DNA of any two people, they emphasized, is at least 99 percent identical.

But new research is exploring the remaining fraction to explain differences between people of different continental origins.

Scientists, for instance, have recently identified small changes in DNA that account for the pale skin of Europeans, the tendency of Asians to sweat less and West Africans’ resistance to certain diseases.

At the same time, genetic information is slipping out of the laboratory and into everyday life, carrying with it the inescapable message that people of different races have different DNA. Ancestry tests tell customers what percentage of their genes are from Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas. The heart-disease drug BiDil is marketed exclusively to African-Americans, who seem genetically predisposed to respond to it. Jews are offered prenatal tests for genetic disorders rarely found in other ethnic groups.

Such developments are providing some of the first tangible benefits of the genetic revolution. Yet some social critics fear they may also be giving long-discredited racial prejudices a new potency. The notion that race is more than skin deep, they fear, could undermine principles of equal treatment and opportunity that have relied on the presumption that we are all fundamentally equal.

“We are living through an era of the ascendance of biology, and we have to be very careful,” said Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. “We will all be walking a fine line between using biology and allowing it to be abused.”

Certain superficial traits like skin pigmentation have long been presumed to be genetic. But the ability to pinpoint their DNA source makes the link between genes and race more palpable. And on mainstream blogs, in college classrooms and among the growing community of ancestry test-takers, it is prompting the question of whether more profound differences may also be attributed to DNA.

Nonscientists are already beginning to stitch together highly speculative conclusions about the historically charged subject of race and intelligence from the new biological data. Last month, a blogger in Manhattan described a recently published study that linked several snippets of DNA to high I.Q. An online genetic database used by medical researchers, he told readers, showed that two of the snippets were found more often in Europeans and Asians than in Africans.

No matter that the link between I.Q. and those particular bits of DNA was unconfirmed, or that other high I.Q. snippets are more common in Africans, or that hundreds or thousands of others may also affect intelligence, or that their combined influence might be dwarfed by environmental factors. Just the existence of such genetic differences between races, proclaimed the author of the Half Sigma blog, a 40-year-old software developer, means “the egalitarian theory,” that all races are equal, “is proven false.”

Though few of the bits of human genetic code that vary between individuals have yet to be tied to physical or behavioral traits, scientists have found that roughly 10 percent of them are more common in certain continental groups and can be used to distinguish people of different races. They say that studying the differences, which arose during the tens of thousands of years that human populations evolved on separate continents after their ancestors dispersed from humanity’s birthplace in East Africa, is crucial to mapping the genetic basis for disease.

But many geneticists, wary of fueling discrimination and worried that speaking openly about race could endanger support for their research, are loath to discuss the social implications of their findings. Still, some acknowledge that as their data and methods are extended to nonmedical traits, the field is at what one leading researcher recently called “a very delicate time, and a dangerous time.”

“There are clear differences between people of different continental ancestries,” said Marcus W. Feldman, a professor of biological sciences at Stanford University. “It’s not there yet for things like I.Q., but I can see it coming. And it has the potential to spark a new era of racism if we do not start explaining it better.”

Dr. Feldman said any finding on intelligence was likely to be exceedingly hard to pin down. But given that some may emerge, he said he wanted to create “ready response teams” of geneticists to put such socially fraught discoveries in perspective.

The authority that DNA has earned through its use in freeing falsely convicted inmates, preventing disease and reconstructing family ties leads people to wrongly elevate genetics over other explanations for differences between groups.

“I’ve spent the last 10 years of my life researching how much genetic variability there is between populations,” said Dr. David Altshuler, director of the Program in Medical and Population Genetics at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass. “But living in America, it is so clear that the economic and social and educational differences have so much more influence than genes. People just somehow fixate on genetics, even if the influence is very small.”

But on the Half Sigma blog and elsewhere, the conversation is already flashing forward to what might happen if genetically encoded racial differences in socially desirable — or undesirable — traits are identified.

“If I were to believe the ‘facts’ in this post, what should I do?” one reader responded on Half Sigma. “Should I advocate discrimination against blacks because they are less smart? Should I not hire them to my company because odds are I could find a smarter white person? Stop trying to prove that one group of people are genetically inferior to your group. Just stop.”

Renata McGriff, 52, a health care consultant who had been encouraging black clients to volunteer genetic information to scientists, said she and other African-Americans have lately been discussing “opting out of genetic research until it’s clear we’re not going to use science to validate prejudices.”

“I don’t want the children in my family to be born thinking they are less than someone else based on their DNA,” added Ms. McGriff, of Manhattan.

Such discussions are among thousands that followed the geneticist James D. Watson’s assertion last month that Africans are innately less intelligent than other races. Dr. Watson, a Nobel Prize winner, subsequently apologized and quit his post at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island.

But the incident has added to uneasiness about whether society is prepared to handle the consequences of science that may eventually reveal appreciable differences between races in the genes that influence socially important traits.

New genetic information, some liberal critics say, could become the latest rallying point for a conservative political camp that objects to social policies like affirmative action, as happened with “The Bell Curve,” the controversial 1994 book that examined the relationship between race and I.Q.

Yet even some self-described liberals argue that accepting that there may be genetic differences between races is important in preparing to address them politically.

“Let’s say the genetic data says we’ll have to spend two times as much for every black child to close the achievement gap,” said Jason Malloy, 28, an artist in Madison, Wis., who wrote a defense of Dr. Watson for the widely read science blog Gene Expression. Society, he said, would need to consider how individuals “can be given educational and occupational opportunities that work best for their unique talents and limitations.”

Others hope that the genetic data may overturn preconceived notions of racial superiority by, for example, showing that Africans are innately more intelligent than other groups. But either way, the increased outpouring of conversation on the normally taboo subject of race and genetics has prompted some to suggest that innate differences should be accepted but, at some level, ignored.

“Regardless of any such genetic variation, it is our moral duty to treat all as equal before God and before the law,” Perry Clark, 44, wrote on a New York Times blog. It is not necessary, argued Dr. Clark, a retired neonatologist in Leawood, Kan., who is white, to maintain the pretense that inborn racial differences do not exist.

“When was the last time a nonblack sprinter won the Olympic 100 meters?” he asked.

“To say that such differences aren’t real,” Dr. Clark later said in an interview, “is to stick your head in the sand and go blah blah blah blah blah until the band marches by.”

Race, many sociologists and anthropologists have argued for decades, is a social invention historically used to justify prejudice and persecution. But when Samuel M. Richards gave his students at Pennsylvania State University genetic ancestry tests to establish the imprecision of socially constructed racial categories, he found the exercise reinforced them instead.

One white-skinned student, told she was 9 percent West African, went to a Kwanzaa celebration, for instance, but would not dream of going to an Asian cultural event because her DNA did not match, Dr. Richards said. Preconceived notions of race seemed all the more authentic when quantified by DNA.

“Before, it was, ‘I’m white because I have white skin and grew up in white culture,’ ” Dr. Richards said. “Now it’s, ‘I really know I’m white, so white is this big neon sign hanging over my head.’ It’s like, oh, no, come on. That wasn’t the point.”

Fifty States Face Voting Machine Lawsuits; “Uncounted” Documents DRE Issues
Christine Anne Piesyk

Business as usual will not be the norm over the next 48 hours as Secretaries of State in all fifty states will each receive subpoenas in the National Clean Election lawsuit, according to an announcement made Monday night by activist Bernie Ellis at the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville. There is still time, Ellis said, to require a paper trail for the 2008 election.

The announcement was made in a panel discussion following the sold out Nashville premiere of the David Earnhardt film, Uncounted [The Movie], which ended with a standing ovation for its writer/director. The documentary film addressed the issue of voting machine error/failure, the need for a paper trail of votes, the political and business ties between government officials and manufacturers of these DRE (Direct Recording Electronic) voting machines, and the ease of tampering with such machine and “flipping” votes that are electronically counted.

“I cannot think of anything more important than to save the core of our democracy — the vote! — David Earnhardt

The film also reviewed extensive cases of mechanical errors, lost votes, voters turned away from polls, incomplete ballots and the installation of uncertified software into voting machine reported from across the nation.

“The lawsuit aims to establish that all computer systems (or other systems) which hide the ballots from the people for even a short period of time before the count is accomplished and the results are posted – are unconstitutional…

“The lawsuit argues persuasively … that the use of computer and machine election systems violate each citizen’s right to vote, as defined at least twice by the Supreme Court of the United States. ”

– Jim Condit Jr., NetworkAmerica.

The lawsuit is aimed at prohibiting the use of all types of vote counting machines, and requiring hand-counting of all primary and general election ballots in full view of the public. The lawsuit has raised significant constitutional questions challenging the generally accepted practices of state election officials of relying on “black box” voting machines to record and count the votes at each polling station, and allow tallying of votes by election officials outside the view of the general public. In many cases, states have officially authorized voting “systems” that leave virtually no paper trail from which to audit the vote. [We The People Foundation].

Ellis said that regardless of what voters are being told, there is still time to pass legislation that would mandate voter verifiable paper ballots in 2008. The Tennessee Voter Confidence Act of 2007 [Senate Bill 1363/House Bill 1256], sponsored by Senator Joe Haynes and Rep. Gary Moore, mandates a paper trail.

“Today in Tennessee, 93 of our 95 counties use nonverifiable, paperless touch-screen voting machines . In 2006, over one in every six Tennessee counties reported problems with this equipment. Our state is not alone, but (sadly) it is now one of the worst states for voting security and accountability in this nation.” — Bernie Ellis

What began as lawsuits in ten keys states including Iowa, Ohio, New York and Florida has burgeoned into a nationwide effort. Earnhardt’s film, which was ignored by corporate media during this world premiere, exposes the vulnerability in current technology of voting machines, or at least, the lack of oversight in acquiring and using them without hacking, flipping or under/overcounting votes, and other problems. Earnhardt asked why, when it is so easy to get a printed receipt from anything from an ATM machine to the drive-through register at a Krispy Kreme, it should be so difficult to get a verifiable voting machine receipt.

The lawsuit seeks an Order from the Court prohibiting the use of all voting machines and to force election officials to instead utilize paper ballots and to count and total all votes by hand, always in full view of the public. Plaintiffs from all fifty states have signed on to the lawsuit.

In the question and answer period following the screening, an Iraq veteran said he had pledged to protect his country “from all enemies foreign and domestic” and viewed the issues of voting machines as a domestic threat to voters across the country.

Most at NYU Say their Vote has a Price
Lily Quateman

Two-thirds say they'll do it for a year's tuition. And for a few, even an iPod touch will do.

That's what NYU students said they'd take in exchange for their right to vote in the next presidential election, a recent survey by an NYU journalism class found.

Only 20 percent said they'd exchange their vote for an iPod touch.

But 66 percent said they'd forfeit their vote for a free ride to NYU. And half said they'd give up the right to vote forever for $1 million.

But they also overwhelmingly lauded the importance of voting.

Ninety percent of the students who said they'd give up their vote for the money also said they consider voting "very important" or "somewhat important"; only 10 percent said it was "not important."

Also, 70.5 percent said they believe that one vote can make a difference — including 70 percent of the students who said they'd give up their vote for free tuition.

The class — "Foundations of Journalism," taught by journalism department chairwoman Brooke Kroeger — polled more than 3,000 undergraduates between Oct. 24 and 26 to assess student attitudes toward voting.

"The part that I find amazing is that so many folks think one vote can make a difference," Sociology Department Chairman Dalton Conley said. He added, "If we take them at their word, then perhaps they really think votes matter, and that's why someone might pay a year's tuition to buy theirs."

Sixty percent of the students who said they'd give up their vote for tuition also described their families' income as upper-middle or high.

Their reasons for giving up their votes varied.

"At the moment, no candidate who truly represents my political beliefs has a chance of winning a presidential election," one male junior studying film and television at the Tisch School of the Arts wrote on the survey.

"It is very easy to convince myself that my vote is not essential," wrote a female CAS sophomore. "After all, I'm from New York, which will always be a blue state."

Other students wrote that they were disgusted by the thought.

"I would be reversing history — a lot of people fought so that every citizen could be enfranchised," said a female in her second year at the Stern School of Business.

One CAS junior went even further, writing that "anyone who'd sell his lifelong right to vote should be deported."

Study Compares States’ Math and Science Scores With Other Countries’
Sam Dillon

American students even in low-performing states like Alabama do better on math and science tests than students in most foreign countries, including Italy and Norway, according to a new study released yesterday. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that students in Singapore and several other Asian countries significantly outperform American students, even those in high-achieving states like Massachusetts, the study found.

“In this case, the bad news trumps the good because our Asian economic competitors are winning the race to prepare students in math and science,” said the study’s author, Gary W. Phillips, chief scientist at the American Institutes of Research, a nonprofit independent scientific research firm.

The study equated standardized test scores of eighth-grade students in each of the 50 states with those of their peers in 45 countries. Experts said it was the first such effort to link standardized test scores, state by state, with scores from other nations.

Gage Kingsbury, the chief research and development officer at the Northwest Evaluation Association, a group in Oregon that carries out testing in 2,700 school districts, praised the study’s methodology but said “a flock of difficulties” made it hazardous to compare test results from one country to another and from one state to another. “Kids don’t start school at the same age in different countries,” he said. “Not all kids are in school in grade eight, and the percentage differs from country to country.”

Because of such differences, Dr. Kingsbury said, it would be a mistake to infer too much about the relative rigor of the educational systems across the states and nations in the study based merely on test score differences.

The scores for students in the United States came from tests administered by the federal Department of Education in most states in 2005 and 2007. For foreign students, the scores came from math and science tests administered worldwide in 2003, as part of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, known as the Timss.

Concern that science and math achievement was not keeping pace with the nation’s economic competitors had been building even before the most recent Timss survey, in which the highest-performing nations were Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan. American students lagged far behind those nations, but earned scores that were comparable to peers in European nations like Slovakia and Estonia, and were well above countries like Egypt, Chile and Saudi Arabia.

The Timss survey gives each country a metric by which to compare its educational attainment with other nations’. The nationwide American test, known as the National Assessments of Educational Progress, allows policy makers in each state to compare their students’ results with those in other states.

The new study used statistical linking to compare scores on the national assessment, state by state, with other nations’ scores on the Timss. Dr. Phillips, who from 1999 to 2002 led the agency of the Department of Education that administers the national assessment, likened the methodology to what economists do when they convert international currencies into dollars to compare poverty levels across various countries, for instance.

On the most recent national assessment, the highest-performing state in math was Massachusetts, and in science, North Dakota. The new study shows that average math achievement in Massachusetts was lower than in the leading Asian nations and in Belgium, but higher than in 40 other countries, including Australia, Russia, England and Israel.

Mississippi was the lowest-performing state in both math and science. In math, Mississippi students’ achievement was comparable to those of peers in Bulgaria and Moldova, and in science, to those in Norway and Romania.

In math, New Jersey, Connecticut and New York students were roughly equivalent with each other and with their peers in Australia, the Netherlands and Hungary.

The study’s contribution is the high-level perspective it offers on the nation’s education system, a bit the way a satellite image highlights the nation’s topography, said Thomas Toch, a co-director of Education Sector, an independent policy group.

“It shows we’re not doing as badly as some say,” Mr. Toch said. “We’re in the top half of the table, and a number of states are outperforming the majority of the nations in the study. But our performance in math and science lags behind that of the front-running Asian nations.”

Gene Simmons: College Kids Killed Music Biz

Gene Simmons is a busy man. The legendary KISS founder fills his time with a variety of projects. There's filming for "Gene Simmons Family Jewels," the reality show entering its third season on A&E. And there's an animated show on Nickelodeon called "My Dad the Rock Star."

Simmons is writing his third book -- "Ladies of the Night," a "personal and historical overview" on the profession of prostitution -- coming this spring via his own publishing company, Simmons Books. He also has Simmons Comics, with three comic book series based on characters he's created. The list goes on.

Simmons recently chatted with Billboard about KISS and the music industry.

You've Got The Third Series Of The Kissology DVD Coming Out Next Month. Is There Much More We Can Expect Coming?

There'll be 10. No one -- and that includes the Beatles and Elvis -- can touch our (KISS') merchandising and licensing. Nobody. Outside of the music world, it's only Disney and Lucas. But in the music world, they can't shine our shoes.

Any Touring Plans?

We'll tour a few dates next year. We don't have anything to prove to anybody or do press to convince anybody we're important. We're doing KISS festivals around the Indy car racing series. Simmons Abramson Marketing (his business partnership with entertainment industry veteran Richard Abramson) markets and brands Indy cars. I came up with the I Am Indy brand, by the way. They go on the night before. We'll do 15 dates or so. We'll also go to Australia and New Zealand and maybe to four to six shows -- but nothing comprehensive until we feel like it.

It Has Been Nine Years Since We've Seen A New KISS Album. Any Plans To Get Back Into The Studio?

The record industry is in such a mess. I called for what it was when college kids first started download music for free -- that they were crooks. I told every record label I spoke with that they just lit the fuse to their own bomb that was going to explode from under them and put them on the street.

There is nothing in me that wants to go in there and do new music. How are you going to deliver it? How are you going to get paid for it if people can just get it for free? I will be putting out a Gene Simmons box set called "Monster" -- a collection of 150 unreleased songs. KISS will have another box set of unreleased music in the next year.

The record industry doesn't have a f---ing clue how to make money. It's only their fault for letting foxes get into the henhouse and then wondering why there's no eggs or chickens. Every little college kid, every freshly-scrubbed little kid's face should have been sued off the face of the earth. They should have taken their houses and cars and nipped it right there in the beginning. Those kids are putting 100,000 to a million people out of work. How can you pick on them? They've got freckles. That's a crook. He may as well be wearing a bandit's mask.

Doesn't affect me. But imagine being a new band with dreams of getting on stage and putting out your own record. Forget it.

But Some Artists Like Radiohead And Trent Reznor Are Trying To Find A New Business MODEL.

That doesn't count. You can't pick on one person as an exception. And that's not a business model that works. I open a store and say "Come on in and pay whatever you want." Are you on f---ing crack? Do you really believe that's a business model that works?

So What If Music Just Becomes Free And Artists Make Their Living Off Of Touring And Merchandise?

Well therein lies the most stupid mistake anybody can make. The most important part is the music. Without that, why would you care? Even the idea that you're considering giving the music away for free makes it easier to give it away for free. The only reason why gold is expensive is because we all agree that it is. There's no real use for it, except we all agree and abide by the idea that gold costs a certain amount per ounce. As soon as you give people the choice to deviate from it, you have chaos and anarchy. And that's what going on.

Judge Orders RIAA to Show Cause in DC Case

The RIAA's "bumpy ride" in its "ex parte" litigation campaign against college students just got a whole lot bumpier. After reading the motion to quash filed by a George Washington University student, the Judge took it upon herself to issue an order to show cause. The order now requires the plaintiffs to show cause, no later than November 29th, why the ex parte order she'd signed at the RIAA's request should not be vacated. She's also requested information showing why her ruling should not be applicable not only to John Doe #3, but to all the other John Does as well. p2pnet called this a "potentially huge setback" for the recording companies.

Allard: The Failures of the Zune and the Record Labels
Saul Hansell

I posted a few excerpts from my conversation earlier this week with J Allard of Microsoft about the company’s grand plans and its ideas about cellphones.

What about Zune itself, the music player that Mr. Allard oversees? The technology press dismissed the first generation, introduced a year ago, as a non-event. The second generation, which hit the market this week, is getting mixed reviews.

Before I met with Mr. Allard, I spoke with Chris Stephenson, the head of marketing for Zune. He was in his own way convincing that Zune hadn’t been a total flop. The first line sold 1.2 million, making it No. 2 to Apple. That is a distant No. 2, as Apple has about three-quarters of the market — that is, if you define the category as music players with hard drives. In North America, Apple had a share of 75 percent in the category to Microsoft’s 15 percent.

Of course, smaller players with flash memory account for three-quarters of the roughly 40 million music players to be sold this year. So earlier this week Microsoft added cheaper Flash Zunes to its line. And Mr. Stephenson said the company hopes to displace Sandisk as the second-ranked vendor of MP3 players next year.

“Fifteen percent [market share] would be great for us,” he said.

When I spoke to Mr. Allard, he was up front about Microsoft’s slow start. But he defended the approach of “fail fast” and learn. And in typical Microsoft fashion, he talked about the first generations of Zune as early moves in a long-term strategy. (That Xbox actually has become successful, unlike many recent Microsoft efforts, bolsters his credibility on this somewhat.)

And he was equally frank about the idea that the main ways that Microsoft sells music — on behalf of the major record labels — don’t really work in today’s world. He said he expects much music to be free, probably accompanied by advertising. He didn’t have much to say about what sort of advertising, but figuring that out is now a priority in light of Microsoft’s $6 billion acquisition of aQuantive, an online ad firm.

Here are some of his comments related to the Zune and the music industry.
The less-than-enthusiastic response to the first generation of Zunes was an important learning experience.

I’m a big believer in failing fast… If we skipped last year, we would have never come out with the product we did this year… We learned that because of the shortfalls in the PC client [software], the device was less useful… People hated that there was no podcasts, that they couldn’t fill their cultural cache [the Zune] with the stuff that was meaningful to them.

We would not have added Wi-Fi sync [a feature that adds music to the Zune over a wireless network]. That’s not a very sexy feature to demo. If you are out for a run, your girl comes home and rips 5 new CDs on the PC upstairs. You come back home, dock your device and make some risotto. When you go out for a run the next day, the CDs magically appear. That’s cool. The confidence that NPR is always going to be there. That’s cool.
For tracks purchased, digital rights management systems (of which Microsoft is the leading provider) have failed for consumers.

People are unhappy with DRM download-to-own. If I buy a track with DRM and it has fewer rights than the CD, that is where people get their nose out of joint. There is no art, no track information, no liner notes. I can’t sell it for four bucks to buy a burrito if I’m hungry. [The Zune marketplace sells tracks in MP3 format for labels that allow it.]
Music subscription services are very promising. But the music labels have hurt them, imposing too many restrictions. (Microsoft’s Zune Pass service costs $15 a month to load any of 3 million songs onto the Zune Player).

It is easy to get subscriptions right, if we could reinvent rights. If we had full rights to every piece of music recorded since the beginning of time, and we could choose what to do with it, we could build a dynamite service….

It would be free and available on every device…. There would be advertising. Or it would be a loss leader to a higher value proposition.
Record labels are simply going to have to change what business they are in.

The music industry is very healthy. The record industry is the problem. The notion that the only way to monetize artist creation is 10 songs that come out every 18 months, in a package called an album — the classic record model — isn’t what it used to be. [Musicians can profit from] reality shows. Fashion. Maybe I release five or six tracks and the rest comes in a paid subscription, that is basically a fan club…. Most labels are going to become management companies [making money from booking concerts, etc. rather than selling CDs.] There will be a lot of pain.

Exploded iPod Encased in Glass, and Still Works!

I love exploded diagrams of objects where you see every piece of the thing. I had the idea to try and make a real life version of one, and picked my iPod to be the victim. The catch was, I wanted it to work even in its exploded form.

It's actually a resin, not glass. I also embedded the internals of the dock on the bottom. That's how I can control it, charge it, and listen to it (and why there are lego support legs for the photos.). The bubbles happened during a mistake on my last pour, but a lot of people have now told me they like the serendipitous addition.

Warner Music Chief has Epiphany, Praises Apple
Slash Lane

Warner Music boss Edgar Bronfman this week conceded that the music industry is partly to blame for the proliferation of illegal music sharing and -- in an apparent change of heart -- suggested that his peers in the mobile industry could learn a lot from Apple.

Speaking at the GSMA Mobile Asia Congress in Macau this week, Bronfman warned mobile operators against making the same mistake that the music industry made.

"We used to fool ourselves," he said. "We used to think our content was perfect just exactly as it was. We expected our business would remain blissfully unaffected even as the world of interactivity, constant connection and file sharing was exploding. And of course we were wrong. How were we wrong? By standing still or moving at a glacial pace, we inadvertently went to war with consumers by denying them what they wanted and could otherwise find and as a result of course, consumers won."

MacUser, which reported on Bronfman's comments, said the executive told mobile operators they presently face the same risk, as fewer than 10 percent of cell phone owners buy music on their phones, and the majority of those who do are only buying ringtones.

"The sad truth is that most of what consumers are being offered today on the mobile platform is boring, banal and basic," he said. "People want a more interesting form of mobile music content. They want it to be easy to buy with a single click - yes, a single click, not a dozen. And they want access to it, quickly and easily, wherever they are. 24/7. Any player in the mobile value chain who thinks they can provide less than a great experience for consumers and remain competitive is fooling themselves."

Bronfman, who had criticized Apple in the past over its iTunes pricing model and revenue share demands, even went as far as to suggest that operators follow the Cupertino-based company's lead in simplicity and catering to the demands of consumers.

"For years now, Warner Music has been offering a choice to consumers at Apple's iTunes Store the option to purchase something more than just single tracks, which constitute the mainstay of that store's sales," he continued. "By packaging a full album into a bundle of music with ringtones, videos and other combinations and variation we found products that consumers demonstrably valued and were willing to purchase at premium prices. And guess what? We've sold tons of them. And with Apple's co-operation to make discovering, accessing and purchasing these products even more seamless and intuitive, we'll be offering many, many more of these products going forward."

The Warner Music chief went on to praise Apple for its "beautifully designed" iPhone which includes "brilliantly written software." It has a "spectacular user interface" that "throws all the accepted notions about pricing, billing platforms and brand loyalty right out the window," he said.

First 6 Takes on Zune 80 (Verdict: Better Than iPod Classic?)

The $249 Zune 80 is Microsoft's latest attempt to kick the iPod in the nuts, praying to crack Jobs' titanium-diamond alloy cup through Wi-Fi features and a touch of divine intervention. CNET, Wired, Dean Takahashi, PCWorld and YahooTech struck first with reviews on the new device. Their verdicts? The cup has not yet been breeched, but Microsoft is making very solid improvements on the brand.

We'll just come out and say it: The 80GB Zune trumps the iPod Classic...For the same $250 price as the 80GB iPod classic, the new Zune 80GB offers a much larger screen, FM radio, wireless player-to-player sharing, Wi-Fi syncing with your PC, and a rear panel that can be customized with some cool artwork--for free. Simply put, Apple is no longer the leader in the realm of hard drive-based players. While the Zune 80GB and the iPod classic are both outstanding devices, the Zune has more features--and it's more fun.

The 80GB Zune cuts a much slimmer figure than its bricklike older brother. Measuring 4.3 inches high by 2.4 inches wide by 0.5 inch deep, Microsoft shaved some considerable bulk off the Zune's thickness, while nearly tripling its capacity...we believe the latest crop of Zunes should finally take hold as a true iPod alternative. (83/100)

All of the new Zunes are built around a rounded touch-sensitive control that also doubles as a clickable d-pad-style controler, much like the Click Wheel on Apple's iPods. Flick your thumb up or down the pad repeatedly, and you begin to build up momentum while scrolling through long lists. At any time, you can tap to stop the scrolling, though it will eventually come to stop naturally. In my experience, it's a very fun way to navigate through a music collection, even in a long view of artists on the 80GB player...All in all, the 80GB Zune is a decent choice as an 80GB MP3 player. (no score at this time)

Video performance is very good, with the screen size really helping...Battery life didn't meet the published specs of 20 hours for music and 4 hours for video with the Wi-Fi turned off. My rundown test on music was 18 hours, and video was 3.5 hours, which is, you know, fine.... Would I recommend the Zune? Yeah, I think I would. If you're not invested in the iPod/iTunes ecosystem, it's the most polished competitor I've used to date. Especially if you're looking for a subscription service, the integration of player and service just crushes everyone else. (6/10)

...the most innovative new feature on the Zune: wireless syncing. Setup was a piece of cake: you just connect the Zune to your PC via USB, fire up the Zune software, and enable wireless syncing under the Settings menu. If your system is already connected to a wireless network, those settings are transferred to the Zune automatically—no need to key in the access point name or password...automatic syncing only works when the Zune is plugged into its charging dock. Overall, I thought wireless syncing worked pretty seamlessly, and I loved being able to sync new songs and playlists over the air (why can't the iPhone or the iPod Touch do this?)

Dean Takahashi
The Zune Marketplace website looks better than iTunes because it feels less like a spreadsheet. It still uses the MTV Urge back-end but is completely redesigned.... All of these things represent improvements that allow Microsoft to claim that it is going its own way. Clearly, they aren't copying Apple...At this rate of improvement, Microsoft will be a contender. But it has a long way to go before it keeps Steve Jobs up at night.

- Zune fans should be happy with the improvements, but even more, that the big new features are software based and free for everyone.

The Weekend Techie's Holiday Gift Guide
Buzz McClain

Special to the Star-Telegram
You think you get a lot of catalogs this time of year? You should see MY stack. And I actually turn the pages. Here, in this special edition of the Weekend Techie, I share some of the newest and nuttiest things I've discovered that might help you with your holiday shopping list, or at least inspire some comfort-zone pushing of your own.

All of these items are just a few mouse clicks and credit-card charges away.

The Selk'bag

This is one of those "why didn't I think of that" head-slapping products that make you ponder exactly how many uses -- fanciful and practical -- the thing might have. Chilean graphic designer Rodrigo Alonso Schramm has made a sleeping bag YOU WEAR LIKE PAJAMAS! Just like any sleeping bag, it's a nylon shell filled with poly fiber -- boasting a minus-8.4 Celsius rating -- but it's also netted with a web of belts and zippers that custom-fit it to your arms, legs and torso. There are vents in case you get a bit warm. Camping, sleepovers, waiting in line for Halo IV ... Small, medium and large in yellow or green for a mere $180. There's no U.S. distributor yet, but try www.pebble27.com, or www.lazyboneuk.com.

Now & Zen Bamboo Digital Alarm Clock

This is one for the spouse with the obnoxious alarm clock -- the one that gets YOUR day off to a needlessly nerve-jarring start. There's a hand-tuned acoustic chime -- not an electronic buzzer -- that wakes you up with a 10-minute series of chime strikes. The sustainable bamboo box is elegant; the digital clock inside is mellow. Two models, $99.90 and $109.95; now-zen.com.

The Bevy by mophie

It's a protective case for that teeny, tiny second-generation 1 GB iPod Shuffle, and while it keeps the player safe, it also is a key chain. And it sprouts its own ear buds. But wait! That's not all. It's also a bottle opener! $15; www.mophie.com

Lego Monster Dino

The folks at Lego never quit. Now comes this three-in-one dinosaur that operates by remote control. There are two motors you build in, and the thing walks and roars when you activate the control. Some assembly required -- duh. $89.99; see lego.com for a store locator.

The Vectrix

The expression "whatever blows your hair back" describes this sleek, sexy 462-pound set of citywise wheels to a T (though we strongly suggest a helmet in this case). Not only does it go from zero to 50 in 6.8 seconds, you don't take it to the gas station for refueling. Instead, you plug it into a standard 110-volt outlet for two to three hours. As good as you'll feel about saving cash at the pump, you'll feel even better knowing this maxi-scooter (it tops out at 62 mph even though it looks like a racer) is a zero-emissions vehicle. We hope you haven't sent that letter to Santa yet. $11,000; see myvectrix.com for a preview.

Concerto Table

Designers Demain Repucci and Nick Lovegrove have created a table that tricks the eye as well as the ear. At first blush the sleek 6-foot-long poplar and steel table appears to be a baby grand piano, and until you put chairs around it, the illusion is convincing. But it's also an iPod docking station, and an elegant one at that, with two hidden 50-watt speakers and a remote control. It also has a hidden drawer for cutlery and the center leaf props up for the full piano effect. Bright white or black high-gloss enamel. $14,000; lovegroverepucci.com.

NRG Phoenix Fury Potato Chips

This is all you need to know about these: caffeinated snack food! Finally, salty snacks that keep your head in the game and not on the sofa pillow. Taurine, caffeine and B vitamins -- and potato, don't forget potato -- is served up in spicy hot bits. $29.70 for a box of 30 1.75-ounce bags; www.nrgsnax.com.

Breath Palette Toothpaste

You asked for it, you got it. Well, maybe you didn't ask for it, but Santa Claus thinks you might like this anyway. It's an elegantly presented box of 32 flavors of sugar- and alcohol-free toothpaste. Did you ever think you'd brush your teeth with Kyoto Style Tea toothpaste? Or L'Espresso? Or -- what were they thinking? -- Indian curry? Don't worry: We're assured the taste is a fleeting fragrance that gives the impression of the flavor before providing a menthol finish. That would be worth the money right there. There's also a line of Breath Palette Water mouthwash. Combo boxes of five start at $21.99; breathpalette.com.

Lighted Knitting Needles

Is there someone on your holiday gift list who is always complaining about not being able to knit, crochet or use scissors in the dark? No? No matter, the KnitLite, CrochetLite and ScissorLite line of craft tools illuminated with LED lights is pretty clever, not to mention handy. Batteries included. Prices range from $5.99 to $19.99; www.knitlite .com.

The Komfort Pets Carrier

You know how hot it gets in these parts in, oh, about March? How would you like to be covered in fur and toted around in the Texas heat? Of course you wouldn't, and neither would your dog. Which is why Komfort came up with this climate-controlled pet carrier. The carrier automatically changes interior temperature that complements the natural body temperature regulation of the dog. The crate works off a 110-volt outlet with a 12-volt DC converter, or by means of the power outlet in your car, truck, boat or plane. Several sizes and colors, including camouflage for hunting. Up to $399; komfortpets.com

'GALLOP!': A Scanimation picture book

You know those newspapers in the Harry Potter movies, the ones in which the photographs move on the printed paper? Well, don't look now, but that technology is here. The new children's book Gallop! uses "Scanimation" artwork to help tell the story; when you turn the page the pictures remain in continuous, multiphase motion. A turtle swims up the page. A butterfly flutters. And the titular horse gallops. Magic? Check it out and see. $12.95; www.workman.com.


This is all you need to know about Sumseeds: Caffeinated sunflower seeds. Never nod off in the dugout again with these potent bits of taurine, lysine and ginseng on roasted sunflower seeds. From $4.95 for 3.5 ounces to $29.95 for a 12-pack; sumseeds .com.
Zilopop, aka Smellkiller

This is the gift for that coworker who has everything -- including bad breath! This stainless steel lollipop is activated when it comes in contact with saliva, at which point some sort of molecular transformation takes place and your breath is neutralized. It comes with an attractive -- or at least, handy -- neck lanyard. $13; frielingmall.frieling.com

Mark-My-Time Digital Bookmark

Does everything have to be digital? Even bookmarks? This one not only keeps your child's place in her book but it also records how much time she's spent reading, using a countdown timer with an alarm; there's a cumulative timer that tracks daily reading time. $8.95; mark-my-time.com.

The Plastic Surgeon

Just about everything comes encased in a tear-resistant, hard-bodied clamshell case. Those dangerous things develop sharp edges when you try to rip them open with scissors and they can ruin Christmas morning. Now comes the Plastic Surgeon (which gets props for having a clever name): The tool, made with surgical-grade stainless steel, is designed to open the hardest clamshells in one easy motion. Tellingly, it comes in -- yes -- a clamshell package. $8.95; plasticsurgeonopener .com

Top 10 P2P File Sharing Softwares

1. µTorrent is an efficient BitTorrent client, designed for Windows. It needs as little CPU, memory and space as possible and offers good functionality that advanced clients expect. It has most of the features present in other BitTorrent clients. There are various icon, toolbar graphic and status icon replacements available.

2. StrongDC++ is a free client for sharing in Direct Connect network. It is based on CZDC++ and has partial file sharing, download/upload speed limiter, safe segmented downloading and other interesting features. StrongDC++ is an Open Source so you can download a source code and modify it.

3. eMule is one of the biggest p2p file sharing clients around the world. It is based on the eDonkey2000 network but offers more features than the standard client. eMule is easy to configure, but also, with many options and controls, good for the advanced user. Thanks to its open source policy many developers are able to contribute to the project, making the network more efficient with each release.

4. LimeWire is a free file sharing Gnutella client for Windows, Mac, OSX, Linux. It allows you to search for multiple files at the same time and it is compatible with all major platforms and running over the Gnutella network. LimeWire is a fast, easy-to-use and open source code, so is freely available to the public.

5. Soulseek is an ad-free, spyware-free, just plain free file sharing application. It is good p2p software for finding non-mainstream music. It was created by a former Napster programmer, Nir Arbel. It's virtual rooms allow you to meet people with the same interests, share information, and chat, so it is a great way to make new friends.

6. Azureus implements the BitTorrent protocol using java language. It comes with many features for both beginners and advanced users. Multiple torrent downloads, upload and download speed limiting, advanced seeding rules, only uses one port for all the torrents, and others. Azureus has many useful plugins and supported languages.

7. Shareaza is a multi-network peer-to-peer (p2p) file sharing client supporting Gnutella2, Gnutella, eDonkey2000 (eMule), HTTP, FTP and BitTorrent protocols. It has the ability to simultaneously download parts of the same file from multiple networks. Shareaza is the most sophisticated file sharing system you will find on the network.

8. Ares is a free open source file sharing program that enables users to share any digital file. It has powerful library organizer, built-in audio/video player, filesharing chat rooms. Ares automatically finds more sources and downloads files from many users at once.

9. BitComet is a BitTorrent client, which is powerful, fast and very easy-to-use. It supports simultaneous downloads, download queuing, selected downloads inside a torrent package, fast-resume, speed limits, port mapping, peer exchange and IP filtering. BitComet available in 43 different languages and the current preview release comes bundled with the BitComet FLV Player.

10. KCeasy is a windows p2p free and open source file sharing software which uses giFT. Its plugins allow giFT to support different kinds of file sharing networks. KCeasy is giving you all the files on Gnutella, Ares and OpenFT. KCeasy works only on windows but there are similar programs for other platforms.

Retroshare V0.3.52a

Retroshare V0.3.52a: Improvements:

New improved search system.
New Translations.
Fixed Bugs in UPnP
Can now remove Shared Directories.
Attached the 'Recommend to' Context Menus.
New Timestamps in Chats / Messages.
Notification of Offline Peer in Chats.
Example Games (not networked yet)
Updated About Text.



What’s on Tonight? Just Tape it Off the Internet
Mike Butcher

Paul Cleghorn sent a ripple of sniggers through the crowd.

At an NMK event called Aggregators and Upsetters, the Tape It Off The Internet co-founder was amusing those assembled with what appeared to be a ‘laid-back designer’ attitude to the labyrinthine world of file-sharing and commercial downloading that is filling out the “edge” of the Internet with video content today. “We’ll work it out,” he said casually.

But despite appearances, his thesis was deadly serious. TV’s ad-funded model, he believed, meant that the transition to online was going to be a different kettle of fish to the bloodbath that had met the music industry when it refused to address online.

When we meet last week, deep in the bowels of London’s Adam Street club, he repeated that view: “TV has always been an ad-funded medium so we’re looking at helping that exist online. TIOTI will be a lab to test that theory and test out new ideas.”

And it looks like he’s is going to get every opportunity to do so. Since being written up in the mainstream press recently, TIOTI has seen a wave of sign-ups to its beta phase. So many in fact, that Paul woke up to find over 1,000 emails in his in-box after Telewest went down for a day at his house.

It seems TIOTI’s aim to be the first TV-based “social media aggregator” may prove more popular than that convoluted name suggests. Already it seems to be tapping into a pent-up desire among users to share and discover TV shows, employing several Web 2.0 techniques like tagging and user ratings.

The back-story to all this will touch a familiar chord with anyone who has watched TV and realised how the global release schedule of shows is anathema to the new Internet economy. The 33 year-old Cleghorn was inspired to start work on TIOTI when he became frustrated that the US drama The West Wing took so long to be aired in the UK. He rightly surmised that instead of going though the legal hassle of hosting the actual video, a good way to start would be to simply pull feeds from BitTorrent search engines, Apple’s iTunes Store and the burgeoning range of downloadable TV sources.

He designed the site a year ago when BitTorrent was the main source of online TV. However, as he says, “This year has been a complete turnaround and the TV networks and rights owners are now realising the long tail of TV can be something you can make money out of. TV is such a wasteful industry and they are realising the costs of entry in terms of offering content online are now so low that they can easily release the shows. Which validates Chris Anderson’s Long tail theory right there.”

TIOTI started as a development blog, which talked about information architecture in terms of tagging versus monolithic directories. After a while the site was turned into a holding page with a sign-up email field and the company was founded in 2005.

But real work began in March this year with a team of developers in the Ukraine (”The best mix of European sensibilities and the price is better” says Cleghorn). Everything to date has been done on a “sweat equity” basis. In the all-important realm of funding, TIOTI is currently negotiating with more than one unnamed potential investor with a view to securing funding for marketing and the next stage of development.

Cleghorn has co-founded the company - which is a US entity - with a Seattle-based colleague, Marc Colando, whom he met in London during the heady days of the Razorfish web agency.

Cleghorn only quit his day job at Aggregator.tv last month to concentrate on TIOTI. Prior to TIOTI, he ran the design agency Neuromantics, and before this held senior design positions at Poke, Razorfish, BT Research Labs and Xerox.

But he has “form” in the area of aggregation. With over 10 years experience in visual design, information architecture and design strategy Cleghorn has worked on projects related to the aggregation field with Aggregator.tv, Nokia, the BBC, Orange and Vodafone. (Aggregator.tv is a high quality video-on-demand service that is soon to launch a new Russian TV service online called Moe.tv)

Colando formerly ran Interactive Planet Inc that developed sites and intranets for clients including Bank of America, The Coca-Cola Company, Earthlink, Equifax, Kodak, The US Marine Corps and Vodafone.

As far as the source it tracks, the three main commercial areas TIOTI searches are iTunes, AOL video and Amazon’s Unbox service. Despite the fact that Amazon and Unbox don’t produce workable RSS feeds, TIOTI has written software - ‘smarter screen scrapes‘ independent of the page’s design - to pull into the information it needs.

At the heart of TIOTI is its svelte black interface - it’s notable that Cleghorn is much more designer than coder - and a social experience, which has an iPod-like ease of use. (Ironically, Cleghorn’s nick-name is ‘Paul Pod’ - although this pre-dates the ubiquitous MP3 player).

The TIOTI backend is built on the Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) Spring framework, and uses open source products like Apache Tomcat and MySQL. The tools available include TV guides and episode data, which enable users to write and edit reviews and pull RSS feeds out of their preferences to keep track of the shows they want.

“The advantage of a niche social site is that people are passionate about it, they want to get involved in adding more to it. Right now we have a little meta data but testers have told us they want us to add more to the shows, such as links about the show to Wikipedia, official TV Guides, pulling collaborative content from places like Fickr etc. or linked to fan fiction sites,” says Cleghorn.

The main user home page displays recommendations, with the right hand area destined to become prime real estate for rich media advertising. “Video adverts here should make more contextual sense than being on a flat newspaper page” says Cleghorn, revealing that their baseline revenue targets involve the juicy rich media ads currently commanding rates as high as £35/cpm.

TIOTI will also make recommendations to users based on what they rate. Each show and episode can be recommended to other users, rated, discussed with others, and - a little like surfing ‘friends of friends’ networks in social network sites - it’s possible to see what shows other users rate.

The TIOTI front-end uses AJAX to make the user experience slicker. All of the show and episode data is editable via a WiKi-style editing engine and the systems spits out a large variety of RSS feeds. User discussion boards and on-site user-to-user messaging are also active features.

There are also some interesting ways to pull content out of the site. For instance, a user could use the Open Source Democracy Player, which has an RSS reader, a BitTorrent client and VLC player. One could then paste feed from TIOTI into Democracy Player as a new channel and watch it download shows automatically, even an entire season. Cleghorn lets slip that they are even talking to Apple about integrating the site with iTunes.

Currently being beta tested by over 2,000 beta users, with 12,000 lined-up to invite in, TIOTI also links to new DVD releases from retailers like Amazon. It is indexing over 1,600 TV shows and almost 90,000 episodes right now. However, Cleghorn indicated that there was “no reason” why it could not also point to the DVD rental firms such as Blockbuster, LoveFilm and ScreenSelect.

Indeed, he sees no reason why TIOTI could actually one day play the shows themselves via the site. “A good example is the BBC whose mission is to deliver shows to as many people in the right way, such as on geography, so it shouldn’t be a big deal,” says Cleghorn.

He thinks TIOTI is a step up from simple time-shifting TV via a recorder, and also goes beyond video-on-demand. Since by aggregating feeds from a variety of TV guides and download sources it effectively does the “remote flipping” for the user: “Like TiVo for the internet if you like,” he says.

Co-founder Colando believes that because the market for TV is becoming more segmented as content owners try to coral their TV shows into their own sites, TIOTI has a good opportunity to aggregate all the schedules, release dates and download sources under one brand.

“Do I need to know viacom makes a particular show?” explains Cleghorn. “Add in the additional retailers like Amazon Unbox, iTunes, AOL, upcoming outlets like Google Video/YouTube, Brightcove… each with technological and geographical restrictions and you start to get a pretty sliced up marketplace.”

It would appear he has a point. A look at potential competitors reveals that other sites may do some of what TIOTI does, but not all of it. YouTube, while aggregating user generated content, is fast becoming a desert for professionally produced TV shows as legal action pulls a lot of content away. And TV shows on the Apple store remain languishing in the low numbers while the studios work out what to do next.

Says Cleghorn: “Lots of people are doing parts of what we are doing but so far no-one has joined all the dots we have”. Cheekily he adds: “In the big picture the Radio Times [the leading UK-based TV guide] should be doing this but they are not, so we’ll do it for them and sell them a white label license!”

More seriously he adds: “We think we can do the social space better and offer better tools for user generated content about and around TV shows too.” He does however admit that they are “keeping an eye on the Venice project“, the P2P TV project floated by the former founders of Skype.

Possibly the most contentious aspect of what TIOTI does is alert users to new shows they can download from BitTorrent or other file-sharing systems. Cleghorn’s answer to this is that they “don’t see BitTorrent being in there a great deal longer. We are being as careful as possible. We are based in the US and signed up the DMC safe harbour agreement and we don’t host any of the BitTorrent streams, just point to them. We are two steps removed from the torrent.”

Cleghorn is confident that the ‘napsterisation’ of TV won’t actually come to pass: “What happened to music won’t happen to TV as the music industry was slow and in denial, and characterised us all as thieves from day one. TV is moving faster and being more open minded. TV has always been ad-supported too, so they are less worried where the shows appear so long as they are paid somehow.”

He believes, given that about 80 percent of what people want is just 20 percent of the content, the big TV networks will make sure that the legal aspects of pointing to illegal BitTorrent sites will be sorted out quickly. However, this may sound like wishful thinking and there is still plenty of money to be made by lawyers, as the newly acquired YouTube has found.

But, much like another dotcom founder with long hair associated with video, YouTube’s Chad Hurley, the normally reserved Cleghorn is quite clear about the goal for TIOTI.

With a ‘half-joking’ smile and a hint of that Blackpool-born accent, he says: “We’re trying to take over the world here.”

Flickr Hits Two Billion Photo Uploads
Kristen Nicole

Two billion photo uploads on Flickr. That’s a lot of f****n’ photos. You’ll be glad to know that Flickr staffers have spent the past weeks placing bets on the exact date and time for passing the milestone, which went down sometime on Sunday.

So the user who made that fateful move to upload the photo that has gone down in history? yukesmooks (this would be a very inopportune time to have a bad username). And for all that hard work, she didn’t even get a prize. Booooo! Even Revver and Stardoll gave away prizes to users that have helped them reach their milestones.

So what would have made this magical moment even more hilarious?

If yukesmooks were a first time user. It’d be like that non-helpful husband that finally goes to the grocery store and gets 3 tons of confetti dumped on him for being the 1 millionth customer.

If the photo were anything but what it is. For instance, a really blurry picture that never should have been uploaded to begin with. Or one of those really annoying close ups of someone’s eyeball, that so many photographers seem to think is intriguing.

Reinventing the Wheel: A Buddhist Response to the Information Age
Jeffrey Barlow

Reinventing the Wheel: A Buddhist Response to the Information Age
Hershock, Peter D.
Albany, State University of New York Press, 1999.

The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture
Keen, Andrew.
New York, Doubleday, 2007.

At the Berglund Center for Internet Studies we value thoughtful criticisms of the Internet as much or more than the more frequently encountered breathless appreciations of it. In this essay we wish to examine not only two works offering very different critiques of the Internet, but to better understand the current nature of critical views themselves. We think something important has changed in the last several years. Criticisms of the Internet necessarily must now largely come from inside it, rather than from outside it—a distinction we attempt to clarify below.

The two books considered here are each very critical. The inside view, Andrew Keen's The Cult of the Amateur, is rather lightweight and we treat it here as an example of a traditional approach: "The cultural sky is falling, and it is all the fault of the Internet!"

The second, Peter D. Hershock's Reinventing the Wheel is much more complex, fundamentally an outsider's view in that it criticizes not only the Internet, but the very Western culture which has led to it.

It would be very difficult to conceive of any possible circumstance, other than a review essay such as this one, which might bring these two works together for one audience. The two authors' definitions of technology are so different as to cause a reader to wonder if they are looking at even the same general subject area, but the works share a critical view of the status quo.

Andrew Keen [1] has been a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and is now a frequent writer and event speaker on the topic of the Internet, usually from a highly critical viewpoint. This particular work focuses, if one can stretch the meaning of "focus" to include such a discursive and repetitive approach as it utilizes, upon Web 2.0.

The concept of Web 2.0 has grown so broad in the several years since it was first introduced [2] that it has become correspondingly elusive. Keen never bothers to define it. Tim O'Reilly defines it from a business perspective as:

• Services, not packaged software, with cost-effective scalability
• Control over unique, hard-to-recreate data sources that get richer as more people use them
• Trusting users as co-developers
• Harnessing collective intelligence
• Leveraging the long tail through customer self-service
• Software above the level of a single device
• Lightweight user interfaces, development models, AND business models" [3]

Web 2.0 is as much an approach to the creation and use of Internet content as it is a restricted set of applications. Web 2.0 content depends primarily upon a distributed model for both the creation and housing of electronic information and applications. Simply put, closely related content usually has multiple authors and may be distributed across multiple sites.

In Keen's analysis, Wikipedia is the quintessential Web 2.0 project, involving as it does a widely distributed group of contributors with all the attendant evils of questionable information, anonymity and, "...killing the traditional information business..." [4]

As the title suggests, the chief gripe of the author is that "The Cult of the Amateur" is destroying both culture and economy. Although the title also suggests that the work is going to deal primarily with Web 2.0, it quickly becomes a compost pile of familiar rants about the Internet, including even yet again blaming it for the destruction of that sacred artifact, the book.

However, the crimes of the Internet continue to mount and now include, in Keen's estimation, the destruction of network television, music, advertising, newspapers, the movies, and the creation of "...an infestation of anonymous sexual predators and pedophiles." [5]

One of the many delicious ironies of this work is that the author so frequently practices that which he condemns. Perhaps his major criticism of the Internet is that it empowers millions of users, described at one point as "not quite monkeys" [6] to publish. These writers, of course, lack all the values, credentials, and proper approaches of traditional purveyors of high culture. They don't even have editors! Hence, presumably, they might produce passages such as Keen's own: "The result? The decline of the quality and reliability of the information we receive, thereby distorting, if not outrightly corrupting, our national civic conversation." [7]

The reason for discussing this work here is not to belabor Mr. Keen—he needs no assistance in that regard—but to gauge the level to which criticism of the Internet currently has fallen. The work is a pastiche of familiar diatribes, aimed at all those who worry about change. This book does, however, finally identify the agent responsible for the decline of Western Man—The Internet.

The work might have had the value of at least functioning as a sort of one-man Wikipedia of Internet criticism, but it lacks real notes and rarely cites any of the many thoughtful authorities who have distinguished themselves as critics of the Internet. The work is simply stitched together with breathless rhetorical questions such as "What happens, you might ask, when ignorance meets egoism meets bad taste meets mob rule?" We answer: Andrew Keen's The Cult of the Amateur!

We regret that for works on recent criticism of the Internet we are reduced to discussing this one. In defense of our choice, we observe that the book is on most bookstore shelves dealing with the Internet and that the author is tirelessly promoting it, over the Internet itself, of course.

However, we utilize the work to make a larger point: criticism of the Internet now comes increasingly from, in effect, inside the Internet itself. That is, the impact of the Internet is so pervasive that we now cannot approach it from outside. We must use electronic sources, Internet enabled applications, even thoughts and metaphors conditioned if not created by the impact of the Internet. It has become us.

The reasons why this change has occurred and are inevitable are exhaustively laid out in Peter D. Hershock's work, Reinventing the Wheel. Hershock is both a practicing Buddhist and an authoritative scholar of Buddhism, working at the East West Center in Honolulu associated with the University of Hawaii, at the time this work was written in 1996. [8]

This is not an easy book. If the value of Keen's work is depreciated by slapdash writing and organization, Hershock's is somewhat vitiated by his architectonic thoughtfulness. The book requires mindful effort to get through.

But the effort is worthwhile. Reinventing the Wheel presents a thorough criticism of the "Information Age," including, of course, the Internet.

Many might find it surprising that such an ancient philosophy as Buddhism has anything fresh to say about cyberculture or the Internet. [9] However, at the Berglund Center we held a summer symposium in 2002. Among the topics covered were religion and the Internet. We found, to our surprise, that at that time Buddhist institutional sites were probably the most numerous on the Internet as opposed to Christian church sites, Jewish synagogue sites, or those of other religions. As the Internet developed, this ratio changed significantly. [10]

There are many reasons why Buddhists find the Internet attractive. As Hershock points out, the nature of Buddhism is to stress connectivity and relatedness. Too, the distinction between Buddhism as philosophy and as religion may be important here. In the West in particular, there are certainly far more practitioners of Buddhist ethics than there are religious practitioners and the Internet is probably their most useful study source. True religious believers, lacking local temples, may find the Internet a critical tool for developing and understanding their beliefs. [11]

Hershock himself is clearly an extremely intellectual sort of Buddhist, practicing a form of Chinese Chan (transmitted via a Korean teacher in his case), known more familiarly in the West as Zen, from its Japanese form.

Hershock would probably reject any separation between "practice" and "belief," but it might be useful for us to ground ourselves in the elemental teachings of Buddhism as widely accepted. The central teachings are the Four Noble (or Holy) Truths:

• All existence is unsatisfactory and filled with suffering.
• The root of suffering can be defined as a craving or clinging to the wrong things; searching to find stability in a shifting world is the wrong way.
• It is possible to find an end to suffering.
• The Noble Eightfold Path is the way to finding the solution to suffering and bringing it to an end. [12]

The Eightfold Path is divided into three basic categories as follows [13]:


1. Right view
2. Right intention

Ethical conduct

3. Right speech
4. Right action
5. Right livelihood

Mental discipline

6. Right effort
7. Right mindfulness
8. Right concentration

These teachings are the essence of Buddhist belief—life is painful, because we crave both things and pleasurable states; we can end this pain, by certain practices and beliefs described above as the Eightfold Path.

While important to an understanding of Buddhism, the above information is only tangentially important to reading Hershock. Part of his skill in explaining a very alien and unfamiliar tradition of Buddhism, lies in his ability to abstract from the above important points, and to relate them to the daily life of a modern Western audience.

Hershock can relate to us, and can bring us to relate to Buddhism, however, he markedly disapproves of our modern daily life. He believes that the Western tradition has diverged from human practices and beliefs, particularly in the modern era of the Information Age.

Hershock believes that the technology itself is inherently not "right". It grows out of and reflects Western culture, which is, in his analysis, a culture emphasizing control and distancing between users. We should be "connected" not to electronic others, but to all of creation, to all sentient beings. The Information Age is reinforcing a commoditized culture that destroys the essence of our humanity. To quote him at length:
...I want to argue that the rapid spread of high-tech media is adversely related to the ideal of cultural diversity, not because of their explicit content or the varied intentions directing their use, but rather because of the way in which they tacitly reconfigure our awareness as such. Used ubiquitously enough, the media and the technologies on which they depend "invisibly" alter the structure of personhood in ways that erode the differences on which viable cultural diversity—and so harmony—finally depend. [14]

Hershock's condemnation is thoroughgoing. It would be hard to isolate any element of the technologically enabled life that is not ultimately destructive, in his view, of key human values and institutions. Take any of the usual hopeful bromides about the benefits of technology and you will find a passage, or several pages, or an entire chapter in Hershock's work that convincingly disproves them.

For example, does the Internet facilitate democracy? No, Grasshopper, see Chapter 8 wherein it is shown that the media restricts and controls all promise of democracy and rather facilitates a sort of corporate "colonization of consciousness" [15] of individual attention and energy that ultimately precludes meaningful democracy.

Has the information age given us more access to information, thus freeing our consciousness and increasing diversity of thought and opportunity? No, the more technology a given society can deploy, the more highly structured its economic classes and the greater the disparity there is in the distribution of wealth, and therefore of opportunity. The more technology, worldwide, the more poverty.

Hershock's definition of technology is key to his analysis, and somewhat idiosyncratic:

In the vernacular, technologies are not things. To the contrary, technologies have much the same status as the cultural, political, or economic institutions that so definitively shape our day-to-day lives....a technology is a way of making things happen. In this sense, technologies are perhaps best seen as practices. [16]

Distinguishing technology from what it is not might further illuminate this very complex definition: technology is not a tool or tools. A tool is "something we control directly". But technology becomes an end, perhaps in Hershock's schema, a "desire" in and of itself.

Those familiar with Western critical social thought might see Hershock's as just another thinly veiled Marxist discussion of alienation; it is not. Marx, as a card-carrying member of the Western intellectual tradition, necessarily comes in for his own lambasting, at great length and again in highly organized and convincing argumentation. [17]

Neither does Hershock see the corporatization of the Internet as a simple "us" vs. "them" conflict, but rather a result of "our" wants. The problem is a direct consequence of technology itself.

What is to be done? Hershock bundles the usual criticisms of technology—and specifically of the Internet—into two groups.

The first is the school of "monkey-wrenching"&mdah;a romantic refusal to use computers, cell-phones, etc., sometimes extending even to a Luddite attack upon them. Obviously this school—which we might, with Hershock, typify also as the Unibomber approach—is now seldom encountered outside of certain high-security federal institutions. This, of course, furthers our argument here that criticism increasingly comes from inside the Internet, not from outside it.

Also from inside is the second school comes what Hershock calls the "Greening" position. This school argues for better laws, more purposive use, more education, increased parental guidance—the 95 Theses of the Internet Reformation.

The problem with this second school, Hershock argues, is that in attacking the failures of the Information Age with the concentration and intensity necessary to reform it, we wind up in a sense worshipping it, and thus becoming part of the problem itself. That way, Hershock believes, ultimately lays terrorism. [18

With Hershock, if we have followed his criticisms we may well accept them; they are thoughtful and thought provoking. We come away from Reinventing the Wheel with a better understanding of the Internet and the Information Age in which it is embedded. But we want a solution. If we cannot blow it up or reform it, what can we do?

Hershock tells us to walk away and meditate until we have changed our desires—to make an axiological adjustment. This is, of course, the only possible Buddhist answer. But while Buddhism may come to many of us as a fresh new solution, this particular form of Buddhism has been criticized from within the tradition itself.

An early Buddhist critique of this meditative approach to axiological reform was to point out that it is only suitable for those who can somehow live substantially outside the world—perhaps in a meditative environment such as a temple, perhaps in a high degree of self-imposed social isolation—perhaps like Hershock and myself, in a professor's office.

That major criticism resulted historically in the development of new schools of Buddhism which were truly religious in that they permitted believers to call upon (via activities and attitudes fairly described as "worship" rather than meditation) successful practitioners who chose to linger in a spiritual sense in the world and lend assistance to the less able. These "saints" then, assist the rest of us, if properly called upon.

It seems to me, that as valuable as Hershock's criticism is, his solution, too, is outside the real world, and in a world which so very few of us can reach that it is no more than a tantalizing and perhaps temporary refuge from our endless desires, electronically enabled or otherwise.

In short, meditation doesn't answer e-mail, though I it might well make us happier while doing so. A Zen master might well tell us, "When e-mailing, just e-mail." Doubtless this would improve our email as well as our orientation toward the noisy world in which we necessarily live.

Read together, these two works, as different as they are, amply support one point: Henceforth, criticisms of the Internet will necessarily come from inside it.

The first author under review here, Andrew Keen, may stand on muddy ground, but his criticism is recognizably from what the second author, Peter D. Hershock, typifies as the Greening School-reform the monstrous thing or lose Western culture! We may disagree with Keen's criticisms but we recognize them and can argue with them on the basis of commonly held assumptions and evidence.

But Hershock, the ultimate outsider, shows us the fate of truly axiological critiques—critiques that take on the Internet not in some limited shortcoming, but confront its very existence head-on. The problem in launching one's barbs from outside the Internet, however persuasive they may be, is that the critic still needs a place to stand. And there is now no place to stand that does not necessarily recognize the Internet as inextricably woven into and through world culture, economy and daily life.

There are, of course, many who do not enjoy these "benefits" and Hershock ably shows the dark side of this particular form of progress, but for better or worse, the questions that can now be asked about the Internet are largely reduced to how to improve and extend it.

An Artist’s Famous Smile: What Lies Behind It?
Richard Bernstein

Your first reaction upon meeting Yue Minjun might be, yes, it is indeed he! The face with the enigmatic, jaw-breaking grin, perhaps the most recognizable image in contemporary Chinese painting, is a self-portrait.

“Yes, it’s me,” Mr. Yue said in a recent interview, and he smiled, though in a gentler, less face-splitting fashion than the man in his paintings — the one who drifts Zelig-like past various familiar backgrounds making a sardonic, or perhaps ironically despairing, comment on the passing scene.

Mr. Yue, 45, was in New York in October for the opening of an exhibition of his paintings and sculptures that continues through Jan. 6 at the Queens Museum of Art. The show, “Yue Minjun and the Symbolic Smile,” is the first American museum exhibition of Mr. Yue’s work and further evidence of his remarkable rise in the superheated field of Chinese contemporary art.

A few years ago, Mr. Yue was eking out a precarious existence in one of Beijing’s artist colonies, trying to figure out a way to weave China’s tumultuous experience into his works. Now, largely on the strength of that signature grin, he has achieved stardom internationally.

Most conspicuously, one of his paintings, “Execution” (1995), a satirical Pop Art-like version of Manet’s “Execution of Maximilian” that was inspired by the 1989 crackdown in Tiananmen Square, sold for $5.9 million last month at an auction at Sotheby’s in London. It was a record sum for a contemporary Chinese painting. For Mr. Yue, the huge sums suddenly commanded by his works — “The Pope” (1997), depicting him as a prelate, went for $4.3 million in June — have involved a readjustment.

“I never thought about this in the past,” he said. “What was important to me was the creation part of painting. But it seems that something has changed. Maybe it’s the way money is becoming more important in society.”

He is not always comfortable with how his work is analyzed. The mesmerizing enigma of that reddish face painted over and over again, with the wide laugh and the eyes tightly shut from the hilarious strain, is subject to a multitude of interpretations. One Chinese art critic has identified the artist as a member of what he calls the school of “cynical realism,” though Mr. Yue doesn’t feel that he belongs to a school or movement and he doesn’t think he’s cynical.

“I’m actually trying to make sense of the world,” he said. “There’s nothing cynical or absurd in what I do.”

Mr. Yue was born in 1962 in the far northern Heilongjiang Province of China and as a child moved to Beijing with his parents. He studied oil painting at the Hebei Normal University and graduated in 1989, when China was rocked by student-led demonstrations and their suppression on Tiananmen Square in June of that year.

“My mood changed at that time,” he said. “I was very down. I realized the gap between reality and the ideal, and I wanted to create my own artistic definition, whereby there could be a meeting with social life and the social environment.”

“The first step,” he added, “was to create a style to express my feelings accurately, starting with something that I knew really well —myself.” That was the first step toward forging what has become the image that has now made him famous. The second step was to devise the laugh, which, he said, was inspired by a painting he saw by another Chinese artist, Geng Jianyi, in which a smile is deformed to mean the opposite of what it normally means.

“So I developed this painting where you see someone laughing,” he said. “At first you think he’s happy, but when you look more carefully, there’s something else there.”

“A smile,” Mr. Yue said, “doesn’t necessarily mean happiness; it could be something else.”

The smile has been variously interpreted as a sort of joke at the absurdity of it all, or the illusion of happiness in lives inevitably heading toward extinction.

Karen Smith, a Beijing expert on Chinese art, suggests that Mr. Yue’s grin is a mask for real feelings of helplessness.

“In China there’s a long history of the smile,” Mr. Yue said. “There is the Maitreya Buddha who can tell the future and whose facial expression is a laugh. Normally there’s an inscription saying that you should be optimistic and laugh in the face of reality.”

“There were also paintings during the Cultural Revolution period, those Soviet-style posters showing happy people laughing,” he continued. “But what’s interesting is that normally what you see in those posters is the opposite of reality.”

Mr. Yue said his smile was in a way a parody of those posters. But, since it’s a self-portrait, it’s also necessarily a parody of himself, he added.

“I’m not laughing at anybody else, because once you laugh at others, you’ll run into trouble, and can create obstacles,” he said. “This is the way to do it if you want to make a parody of the things that are behind the image.”

The real reason he paints himself is that it gives him a greater margin for freedom of expression, he explained.

The work at the Queens Museum ranges from a grouping of 20 life-size terra cotta soldiers, grinning versions of the famous statues unearthed years ago at the tomb of China’s first emperor, to a painting of a laughing version of himself holding another self-image aloft in front of the Statue of Liberty.

There is also a series called “Hats,” in which Mr. Yue has painted himself in all sorts of headgear, from an American football helmet to a peaked cap of a soldier in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, with that unvarying laugh on his face.

“It’s not a denial of reality but a questioning of it,” Mr. Yue said of his work in general. “And that laugh — anybody who’s gone through Chinese recent experience would understand it.”

“Yue Minjun and the Symbolic Smile” continues through Jan. 6 at the Queens Museum of Art, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park; (718) 592-9700, queensmuseum.org.

Mac Claims More Japan OS Sales than Windows

Microsoft's has taken a bruising in the Japanese marketplace just as Apple's Mac OS X Leopard was released, according to a new report by the country's Business Computer News. The publication notes that while sales of Mac OS X increased dramatically between September and October, climbing from a rate of 15.5 percent year-over-year to 60.5 percent, Microsoft suffered from the reverse effect. Sales growth of Windows plummeted from 75.3 percent to 28.7 percent. The sudden switch provided Apple with about 53.9 of the total OS-only marketshare in Japan during October -- a breakthrough for the company, BCN says.

Although the results are expected to cool in the wake of Leopard's release, the reversal highlights several factors that provide Mac users a stronger incentive to upgrade outside of their normal computer replacement schedule than for Windows users, the report says. Microsoft is charging more for Vista in Japan, offering the upgrade-only Vista Home Premium package for 19,600 Yen ($179) and 30,300 Yen ($276) for a full version; The Week in Review is edited and published by Jack Spratts. Apple's full standard OS sells for 14,700 Yen ($134). Pricing for the Mac version is also less intimidating and includes just a single version compared to the several full and upgrade copies of Vista buyers encounter in the store when updating their systems. Less stringent minimum requirements for Leopard compared to Vista upon their respective launches are also said to improve the appeal of the Mac OS.

This validates Apple's strategy of releasing OS updates at shorter intervals and generates "muzzle velocity" for the Mac's adoption in Japan, BCN says. The publication also notes the sharp increase is more than 10 points stronger than the growth in Mac OS X sales triggered by the release of Tiger in April 2005 and that Apple sold 2 million copies of Leopard in its first weekend on sale versus multiple weeks to reach the same threshold for the earlier software.

Japan has frequently been cited as one of the most difficult markets to breach in the world today, with a rapid decline in overall computer sales forcing Hitachi out of the market entirely and numerous other PC vendors turning to alternate computer designs such as Sharp's Internet AQUOS. Apple has posted modest gains in shipments of Macs to the country but has seen its revenue decline as customers opt for lower-cost systems.

Ex-Publisher Says News Corp. Official Wanted Her to Lie to Protect Giuliani
Russ Buettner

Judith Regan, the book publisher who was fired by the News Corporation last year, asserts in a lawsuit filed today that a senior executive at the media conglomerate encouraged her to mislead federal investigators about her relationship with Bernard B. Kerik during his bid to become homeland security secretary in late 2004.

The lawsuit asserts that the News Corporation executive wanted to protect the presidential aspirations of former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Kerik’s mentor, who had appointed him New York City police commissioner and had recommended him for the federal post.

Ms. Regan makes the charge at the start of a 70-page filing that seeks $100 million in damages for what she says was a campaign to smear and discredit her by her bosses at HarperCollins and its parent company, the News Corporation, after her project to publish a book with O.J. Simpson was abandoned amid a storm of protest.

In the civil complaint filed in state court in Manhattan, Ms. Regan says the company has long sought to promote Mr. Giuliani’s ambitions. But the lawsuit does not elaborate on that charge, or identify the executive who she alleged pressured her to mislead investigators, nor does it offer details or evidence to back up her claim.

Ms. Regan had an affair with Mr. Kerik, who is married, beginning in the spring of 2001, when her imprint, Regan Books, began work on his memoir, “The Lost Son.” In December 2004, after the relationship had ended and shortly after Mr. Kerik’s homeland security nomination fell apart, newspapers reported that the two had carried on the affair at an apartment near Ground Zero that had been donated as a respite for rescue and recovery workers.

Mr. Kerik, who in 2004 said he withdrew his nomination because of problems with his hiring of a nanny, was indicted last week on federal tax fraud and other charges.

“Defendants were well aware that Regan had a personal relationship with Kerik,” the complaint says. “In fact, a senior executive in the News Corporation organization told Regan that he believed she had information about Kerik that, if disclosed, would harm Giuliani’s presidential campaign. This executive advised Regan to lie to, and to withhold information from, investigators concerning Kerik.”

Officials of the News Corporation were asked in a telephone call for comment on the lawsuit, but had yet to issue a statement.

One of Ms. Regan’s lawyers, Brian C. Kerr of the firm Dreier L.L.P., said she possesses evidence to support her claim that she was advised to lie to federal investigators who were vetting Mr. Kerik. But Mr. Kerr declined to discuss the nature of the evidence.

“We’re fully confident that the evidence will show that Judith Regan was the victim of a vicious smear campaign engineered by News Corp. and HarperCollins,” Mr. Kerr said.

The News Corporation controls a vast array of media outlets worldwide, including Twentieth Century Fox, the New York Post and the Fox News Channel, where Ms. Regan once hosted a talk show.

Judge Orders White House to Hold E – Mails

A federal judge Monday ordered the White House to preserve copies of all its e-mails, a move that Bush administration lawyers had argued strongly against.

U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy directed the Executive Office of the President to safeguard the material in response to two lawsuits that seek to determine whether the White House has destroyed e-mails in violation of federal law.

In response, the White House said it has been taking steps to preserve copies of all e-mails and will continue to do so. The administration is seeking dismissal of the lawsuits brought by two private groups, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the National Security Archive.

The organizations allege the disappearance of 5 million White House e-mails. The court order issued by Kennedy, an appointee of President Clinton, is directed at maintaining backup tapes which contain copies of White House e-mails.

The Federal Records Act details strict standards prohibiting the destruction of government documents including electronic messages, unless first approved by the archivist of the United States.

Justice Department lawyers had urged the courts to accept a proposed White House declaration promising to preserve all backup tapes.

''The judge decided that wasn't enough,'' said Anne Weismann, an attorney for CREW, which has gone to court over secrecy issues involving the Bush administration and has pursued ethical issues involving Republicans on Capitol Hill.

The judge's order ''should stop any future destruction of e-mails, but the White House stopped archiving its e-mail in 2003 and we don't know if some backup tapes for those e-mails were already taped over before we went to court. It's a mystery,'' said Meredith Fuchs, a lawyer for the National Security Archive.

CREW and the National Security Archive are seeking to force the White House to immediately explain in court what happened to its e-mail, an issue that first surfaced nearly two years ago in the leak probe of administration officials who disclosed Valerie Plame's CIA identity to reporters.

Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald revealed early in 2006 that relevant e-mails could be missing because of an archiving problem at the White House.

The White House has provided little public information about the matter, saying that some e-mails may not have been automatically archived on a computer server for the Executive Office of the President and that the e-mails may have been preserved on backup tapes.

The White House has said that its Office of Administration is looking into whether there are e-mails that were not automatically archived and that if there is a problem, the necessary steps will be taken to address it.

Kennedy issued the order following recommendations to do so by a federal magistrate who held a hearing on the matter.

''We will study the court's order and the magistrate's recommendations,'' said White House spokesman Scott Stanzel. ''However, the Office of Administration has been taking steps to maintain and preserve backup tapes for the official e-mail system. We have provided assurances to the plaintiffs and to the court that these steps were being taken. We will continue preserving the tapes in compliance with the court's order.''

Hushmail Turns Out to be Anything But
Iain Thomson

A court document in a drug smuggling case has shown that the private email service Hushmail has been cooperating with police in handing over user emails..

Hushmail claims to offer unreadable email as it uses PGP encryption technology and a company specific key management system that it says will ensure only the sender and recipient can read the emails. However it seems the Canadian company has been divulging keys to the American authorities.

The document describes the tracking of an anabolic steroid manufacturer who was being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The document alleges that the majority of those engaged in the trade in anabolic steroids use Hushmail to communicate.

The DEA agents received three CDs of decrypted emails which contained decrypted emails for the targets of the investigation that had been decrypted as part of a mutual legal assistance treaty between the United States and Canada.

The news will be embarrassing to the company, which has made much of its ability to ensure that emails are not read by the authorise, including the FBI's Carnivore email monitoring software.

"Hushmail's security cannot be broken or weakened by this government sponsored snooping software," the company states.

"The only way to decrypt or unscramble Hush messages is by using your passphrase when you open up your Hushmail account. Carnivore cannot decrypt your mail, and is therefore, powerless against messages sent between Hush users."

Your privacy is an illusion

Gun Owner Says Facebook Gave Employer Access to Her Private Profile

Last month we told you that Facebook employees can see your profile even if it is private. Now we hear that they are willing to share your private profile with your boss. All he has to do is ask. A poster on the AR-15 Forums, a firearms-enthusiast website, says her bosses asked Facebook for permission to see her profile -- which is normally set to private for everyone but her friends -- through something called Administrators Access. (That may be the same internal feature, also known as "super," we wrote about earlier.)

Facebook's privacy policy has this to say:

We may be required to disclose user information pursuant to lawful requests, such as subpoenas or court orders, or in compliance with applicable laws. We do not reveal information until we have a good faith belief that an information request by law enforcement or private litigants meets applicable legal standards. Additionally, we may share account or other information when we believe it is necessary to comply with law, to protect our interests or property, to prevent fraud or other illegal activity perpetrated through the Facebook service or using the Facebook name, or to prevent imminent bodily harm. This may include sharing information with other companies, lawyers, agents or government agencies.

The poster had pictures of himself with his firearms -- which, though legal and taken on the employee's own time, the company was concerned about. Perhaps Facebook was trying to "prevent imminent bodily harm?"

Think Facebook might be helping your employer out with a glimpse of your private profile? Drop us a line.

C.I.A. Officer Pleads Guilty to Illegal Searches on Government Computers
Philip Shenon

A Lebanese-born C.I.A. officer who had previously worked as an F.B.I. agent pleaded guilty today to charges that she illegally sought classified information from government computers about the radical Islamic group Hezbollah.

The defendant, Nada Nadim Prouty, who also confessed that she had obtained American citizenship fraudulently, faces up to 16 years in prison under the plea agreement, which appeared to expose grave flaws in the methods used by both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct background checks on its investigators.

Court papers do not say specifically why Ms. Prouty, 37, sought information about Hezbollah, the militant group based in southern Lebanon, from the F.B.I.’s computer case files in June 2003, the month she left the bureau to join the C.I.A.

There is no allegation in the documents that she passed information on to Hezbollah or any other extremist group.

The plea agreement noted, however, that Ms. Prouty’s sister and brother-in-law attended a fundraising event in Lebanon in August 2002 at which the keynote speaker was Sheikh Muhammed Hussein Fadlallah, the spiritual leader of Hezbollah. Sheikh Fadallah has been designated by the United States government as a terrorist leader.

The plea agreement said that Ms. Prouty specifically went searching in 2003 for computerized case files maintained by the F.B.I.’s Detroit field office in an investigation that centered on Hezbollah although she “was not assigned to work on Hezbollah cases as part of her F.B.I. duties and she was not authorized by her supervisor, the case agent assigned to the case or anybody else to access information about the investigation in question.”

The C.I.A. would not describe Ms. Prouty’s duties at the agency, apart from describing her as a “mid-level” employee, nor would the agency say if she traveled abroad as part of her duties or had been considered undercover.

Government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of the investigation with reporters, said Ms. Prouty was an “operations” officer at the C.I.A., meaning she was involved in some way in basic espionage work at the agency, not as an analyst or translator.

As part of the plea agreement, she agreed to resign from the C.I.A. and give up any claim to American citizenship.

“It is fitting that she now stands to lose both her citizenship and her liberty,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth L. Wainstein said in an announcing the guilty plea, which was entered in federal district court in Detroit.

Mr. Wainstein, who runs the Justice Department’s national security division, said that Ms. Proudy “engaged in a pattern of deceit to secure U.S. citizenship, to gain employment in the intelligence community and to obtain and exploit her access to sensitive counterterrorism intelligence.”

She pleaded guilty to one count each of criminal conspiracy, which has a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine; unauthorized computer access, which has a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine, and naturalization fraud, which has a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In her plea agreement, Ms. Proudy, who lived mostly recently in Vienna, Va., close to C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Va., acknowledged that her crimes began shortly after she entered the United States from Lebanon in June 1989 on a one-year student visa.

She acknowledged that after overstaying her visa, she had offered money to an unemployed American man to marry her in 1990, which allowed her to remain in the United States as his wife, although the couple never lived together.

She then submitted a series of false and forged documents to obtain American citizenship, which she was granted in 1994. She obtained a divorce the next year and worked in a series of jobs, including as a waitress and hostess in a chain of restaurants in the Detroit area owned by her brother-in-law, Talal Khalil Chahine, who is a fugitive from federal charges in Michigan of tax evasion in a scheme to funnel millions of dollars from his business to people in Lebanon.

In 1997, she was hired as a special agent of the F.B.I., which has been under pressure for years to hire more agents and other employees who speak Arabic for terrorism investigations. She was assigned to the bureau’s Washington D.C. field office, given a security clearance and placed in “an extraterritorial squad investigating crimes against U.S. persons overseas,” the Justice Department said in a statement to reporters.

Ms. Prouty acknowledged two sets of illegal computer searches at the F.B.I. The first, in September 2002, involved case files that contained her name, her sister’s name or her brother-in-law’s name. The second, in June 2003, involved files from the national-security investigation of Hezbollah that was being conducted in Detroit, which has one of the nation’s largest Arabic-speaking communities.

The court papers say that Ms. Prouty’s crimes first became known to the F.B.I. in December 2005 and have been under investigation for nearly two years. The documents suggest that she came under scrutiny as part of an investigation of her brother-in-law, Mr. Chahine.

Government Broke Data Protection Laws

Privacy watchdog rules that UK government departments failed to adequately protect the security of online visa applications
Bobbie Johnson

A security breach that affected thousands of online applications for British visas was the result of the government's failure to adhere to data protection laws, a privacy watchdog ruled yesterday.

The Information Commissioner's Office said the government had broken the terms of the Data Protection Act by failing to properly protect visa applications made over the internet using its UKvisas website.

The breach was detected in May, when it emerged that applications made through the site - run jointly by the Foreign Office and the Home Office and outsourced to an Indian company called VFS - were not secure from intruders.

VFS had been alerted to the problems in December 2005 by a member of the public who was concerned that he could access the details of other visa applicants. But it was not until an investigation by Channel 4 News earlier this year that VFS and the Foreign Office admitted the security breach.

The investigation revealed that at least 50,000 applications to the British High Commission in India had been affected.

"Piecemeal" approach to privacy

A full inquiry by the Information Commissioner found that the Foreign Office had showed "inadequate central control of the moves to outsourcing" and that officials had a "piecemeal" approach to privacy.

"Sound security needs to be woven into the business and cannot be simply bolted on as an extra," said the report. "The earlier contracts paid insufficient attention to the requirements of the Data Protection Act and to basic IT security."

As well as its head offices in Mumbai, VFS also administered the UKvisas website through operations in Russia and Nigeria - two of the world's worst hotspots for internet crime.

As a result of the ruling, the Foreign Office has agreed to a full review of its operations and will end its contract with VFS.

"Organisations have a duty to keep our personal information secure," said Mick Gorrill, assistant commissioner at the Information Commissioner's Office. "If they fail to take this responsibility seriously, they not only leave individuals vulnerable to identity theft, but risk losing confidence and trust."

Britain Wants Net Companies to Fight Terror

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown wants Internet companies to help stifle online terrorist propaganda, he told lawmakers Wednesday, as officials say they plan to meet leading service providers to find ways of putting a lid on extremist content.
But the providers argue they already do all they can to fight illegal terrorist material online, and experts say even powerful filters cannot block determined users from getting their message out.

"Fundamentally, it's a losing proposition," said Ian Brown, a research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, noting that even countries such as China and Myanmar have had trouble with their online censorship efforts.

The prime minister's proposal comes as the European Union considers ways to sanction Web sites that display terror propaganda or recruit for terrorist groups.

Addressing lawmakers, the prime minister said Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was "inviting the largest global technology and Internet companies to work together to ensure that our best technical expertise is galvanized to counter online incitement to hatred."

The Home Office said it would meet leading British Internet service providers to examine ways of curbing online propaganda, but said Brown's plan had not yet been considered in detail. Not clear, for instance, was whether the plan would require new laws or different ways of enforcing existing regulations.

British law already forbids the publication of statements likely to be seen as encouraging terrorism or the dissemination of terrorist material, such as bomb-making information, according to the Internet Watch Foundation, an EU-funded body that works with the British government to monitor and remove illegal online content.

Under so-called "notice and take down" procedures, authorities, companies and individuals can demand that Internet service providers remove content considered to be unlawful. That includes child pornography, as well libelous, obscene or terrorist material, the group said.

Although the removal of child pornography is relatively uncontroversial, service providers have expressed unhappiness at having to shut down their customers' sites over, for example, allegations of libel, where guilt is difficult to determine at a glance. They are unlikely to welcome similar demands over material that allegedly glorifies terrorism.

Besides taking down their own customers' sites, service providers also might be pressured to block ones hosted abroad. The government might draw up a list of banned sites, similar to one the Internet Watch Foundation has maintained since 2004 and updates twice daily to block Britons from visiting child pornography sites hosted overseas.

Another method might be to persuade search engines like Google Inc. or Yahoo Inc. to filter out prohibited content from their search results, or manage their searches so that the words "bomb," "al-Qaeda," or "video" did not lead users to terrorist-related sites.

But both these measures would do little to deter the computer-literate youth being targeted by al-Qaeda, Ian Brown said. He noted that users could still swap terror-related content through file-sharing networks, discussion forums, or access material through sophisticated proxy servers and programs that allow users to browse the Net anonymously.

Efforts to use Internet service providers to police online content amounted to a "censorship proposal" and was bound to be problematic, said John Gage, vice-president and chief researcher for Sun Microsystems Inc.

"It's one of these things that's going to be very difficult to implement," he said.

Stopping Cars with Radiation

A beam of microwave energy could stop vehicles in their tracks.
Brittany Sauser

Researchers at Eureka Aerospace are turning a fictional concept from the movie 2 Fast 2 Furious into reality: they're creating an electromagnetic system that can quickly bring a vehicle to a stop. The system, which can be attached to an automobile or aircraft carrier, sends out pulses of microwave radiation to disable the microprocessors that control the central engine functions in a car. Such a device could be used by law enforcement to stop fleeing and noncooperative vehicles at security checkpoints, or as perimeter protection for military bases, communication centers, and oil platforms in the open seas.

The system has been tested on a variety of stationary vehicles and could be ready for deployment in automobiles within 18 months, says James Tatoian, the chief executive officer of Eureka Aerospace and the project's leader.

To bring an opposing vehicle to a halt, the 200-pound device is attached to the roof of a car. The car's alternator serves as the system's power source, whose direct-current (DC) power feeds into a power supply. This generates a stream of 50-nanosecond-duration pulses of energy. These pulses are amplified to 640 kilovolts using a 16-stage Marx generator.

The 640 kilovolts of DC power are then converted into microwaves using an oscillator that consists of a pair of coupled transmission lines and several spark-gap switches. Finally, a specially designed antenna beams the microwave energy toward an opposing vehicle through a part of the car, such as the windshield, window, grill, or spacing between the hood and main body, that is not made of metal. (Metal acts as a shield against microwave energy.)

The radiated microwave energy will upset or damage the vehicle's electronic systems, particularly the microprocessors that control important engine functions, such as the ignition control, the fuel injector, and the fuel-pump control. However, electronic control modules were not built into most cars until 1972, hence the system will not work on automobiles made before that year.

The concept of disabling vehicles' electronic system with microwaves was first tested in 1997 by the U.S. Army using bulky and heavy military equipment. But the Eureka Aerospace system is only six to eight feet long (antennae included) and not quite three feet wide. "It is much more efficient and compact than anything previously used in military vehicles," says Tatoian.

The device's peak power output is two gigawatts, although the average power emitted in a single shot is about 100 watts. Each radiated pulse lasts about 50 nanoseconds. All the test cars' engines were shut off using a single pulse at a distance of approximately 15 meters, making the total energy output 100 joules, says Tatoian. His company is currently developing a more compact high-power microwave pulse system with the goal of disabling engines at ranges from as far away as 200 meters.

"I have no doubt that if you set up a microprocessor and get a high-powered, well-focused beam of energy on [a car], you can disrupt its operation," says Peter Fisher, a professor of physics and the division head in particle and nuclear experimental physics at MIT. But to be able to deploy such a system safely will take some work, he says.

Imagine if a police officer is in a high-speed chase near a shopping mall and turns on one of these systems to stop the perpetrator: a lot of elevators have microprocessor controls, so if the officer is pointing the device in the direction of the mall, he or she could end up trapping 12 people in an elevator, says Fisher. Many other electronic systems, such as an automated teller machine or a security system, could also be disrupted.

Furthermore, Fisher cautions that, while the system may seem like an easier and more efficient solution than spike strips, it could still cause a huge accident if a car is disabled and a driver loses steering control. The system could pose a safety concern as well: radiation can burn human skin, and microwaves have long been suspected of being a cancer-causing agent.

At the moment, the most practical application for the system would be in the U.S. Army or Marine Corp, for perimeter protection of areas that are generally remote, says Fisher. Initial funding for the project came from the U.S. Marine Corp, but now Eureka Aerospace is looking to other governmental agencies for financial support as the company continues to work to make the device smaller, lighter, and more efficient. (Tatoian says that details regarding future work with the military are confidential.)

'Stealth' Antenna Made Of Gas, Impervious To Jamming

A new antenna made of plasma (a gas heated to the point that the electrons are ripped free of atoms and molecules) works just like conventional metal antennas, except that it vanishes when you turn it off.

That's important on the battlefield and in other applications where antennas need to be kept out of sight. In addition, unlike metal antennas, the electrical characteristics of a plasma antenna can be rapidly adjusted to counteract signal jamming attempts.

Plasma antennas behave much like solid metal antennas because electrons flow freely in the hot gas, just as they do in metal conductors. But plasmas only exist when the gasses they're made of are very hot. The moment the energy source heating a plasma antenna is shut off, the plasma turns back into a plain old (non conductive) gas. As far as radio signals and antenna detectors go, the antenna effectively disappears when the plasma cools down.

The antenna design being presented at next week's APS Division of Plasma Physics meeting in Orlando consists of gas-filled tubes reminiscent of neon bulbs. The physicists presenting the design propose that an array of many small plasma elements could lead to a highly versatile antenna that could be reconfigured simply by turning on or off various elements.

Microbes Churn Out Hydrogen at Record Rate
Press release

In new table-top reactor, bacteria from wastewater produce abundant, clean hydrogen from cellulose, or even vinegar, and a little electricity

By adding a few modifications to their successful wastewater fuel cell, researchers have coaxed common bacteria to produce hydrogen in a new, efficient way.

Bruce Logan and colleagues at Penn State University had already shown success at using microbes to produce electricity. Now, using starter material that could theoretically be sourced from a salad bar, the researchers have coaxed those same microbes to generate hydrogen.

By tweaking their design, improving conditions for the bacteria, and adding a small jolt of electricity, they increased the hydrogen yield to a new record for this type of system.

"We achieved the highest hydrogen yields ever obtained with this approach from different sources of organic matter, such as yields of 91 percent using vinegar (acetic acid) and 68 percent using cellulose," said Logan.

In certain configurations, nearly all of the hydrogen contained in the molecules of source material converted to useable hydrogen gas, an efficiency that could eventually open the door to bacterial hydrogen production on a larger scale.

Logan and lead author Shaoan Cheng announced their results in the Nov. 12, 2007, online version of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Bruce Logan is a clear leader in this area of research on sustainable energy," said Bruce Hamilton, NSF director of the environmental sustainability program at NSF and the officer overseeing Logan's research grant. "Advances in sustainable energy capabilities are of paramount importance to our nation's security and economic well-being. We have been supporting his cutting-edge research on microbial fuel cells for a number of years and it is wonderful to see the outstanding results that he continues to produce."

Other systems produce hydrogen on a larger scale, but few if any match the new system for energy efficiency.

Even with the small amount of electricity applied, the hydrogen ultimately provides more energy as a fuel than the electricity needed to drive the reactor. Incorporating all energy inputs and outputs, the overall efficiency of the vinegar-fueled system is better than 80 percent, far better than the efficiency for generation of the leading alternative fuel, ethanol.

Even most electrolysis techniques, methods to extract hydrogen from water using electricity, pale in comparison to the new method.

"We can do that by using the bacteria to efficiently extract energy from the organic matter," said Logan. By perfecting the environment for the bacteria to do what they already do in nature, the new approach can be three to ten times more efficient than standard electrolysis.

Additional information about the new technology and how it works can be found in the Penn State press release at http://www.psu.edu/ur/2007/biohydrogen.htm.

You Say Fake Ads, They Say Satire
Andrew Adam Newman

“CALLING all Roys or Troys or Leroys,” began an ad posted to Craigslist in October. A photo of a heart-shaped tattoo with “Roy” inside accompanied the ad, which continued: “I was with a Roy before but it didn’t last as long as my tattoo. Getting the tattoo removed is not something I want to do, plus I’m so accustomed to bellowing it (Roy) out in bed.” The writer said she was seeking a new Roy, or anyone whose name could be inked around the word, Scrabble-style.

It was signed Dynah, but actually written by Johnna Gattinella, a 31-year-old writer in Santa Rosa, Calif. Ms. Gattinella is working on a book called “My Year on Craigslist” that will include her fake ads and the often earnest responses.

“A lot of men took the photo of the tattoo and put it in Photoshop and then altered it with their names or different variations and e-mailed it back,” said Ms. Gattinella, who hasn’t shopped the book to publishers yet.

The tattoo, by the way, is real, as is her husband, Roy.

Across the country, aspiring writers are using Craigslist not just as a place to offload their futons, but as a pixeled writing workshop where they test their stabs at social satire on some of the more than 30 million visitors that the site draws each month. Their personal ads ostensibly seek a soul mate, but what they’re really looking for is an audience.

Some, like Ms. Gattinella, are working on a book, while others are just trying out material. Some find Internet fame when popular blogs link to the ads.

“One of the motives is they are trying to start something viral that takes off,” said Peggy Wang, an editor at Buzzfeed, a trend-tracking site that recently linked to several fake Craigslist ads.

Blog-worthy ads tend to fall into three categories: outlandish yet grounded by an internal logic and clearly true; probably fake, but funny; so absurd only a naif would believe them. The best fake-ad writers telegraph the parody but never wink.

Some ads defy forensics. In September, bloggers were agog over a New York Craigslist posting in which a 25-year-old woman who described herself as “spectacularly beautiful” sought a husband who earned at least $500,000 a year. The author, dubbed “the gold digger,” has never come forward.

Craigslist is “a fun place to look when you should be doing something else,” said Debbie Newman, an editor at the gossip blog Jossip who trawls Craigslist for offbeat ads. “If you’re a talented writer and maybe a frustrated one working somewhere like a law firm that limits your day-to-day creativity, you take your opportunities where you can find them.”

Craigslist has advantages over other soapboxes. “You can set up your own blog, but people are not necessarily going to go there,” said Jim Buckmaster, the chief executive of Craigslist. “If you haven’t established an audience, you can do worse than Craigslist.”

Scott Den Herder, a freelance writer, was moving from California to New York in March but could not find an apartment share on Craigslist. What he did find were roommate-seekers’ ads that could be persnickety, even hostile. So Mr. Den Herder, 30, posted a series of fake roommate ads, one of them seeking someone who would “let me perform hypnosis on you liberally.”

One respondent asked, “Would the hypnosis deter me from attending work regularly or affect me in any negative way?” Another wondered, “Are you a licensed therapist or are you learning hypnosis by a trained medical professional or is this something you’re teaching yourself?”

Mr. Den Herder, who now lives in Arlington, Va., has queried literary agents with a book proposal about the ads and their responses, but has had no replies.

Craigslist prohibits ads that are “false or misinformative,” but Mr. Buckmaster said that as long as they were not afoul of other standards, such as being pornographic or defamatory, spoofers have nothing to fear. Still, he said, many fake ads are removed when users flag them.

“For one good satire,” he said, “there tend to be 10 bad ones that get flagged down because, face it, they’re not funny.”

Kate McDade, a 30-year-old student at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, said she was gleeful that her latest ad — she has written about 20 in the last two years — is currently featured in the “Best of Craigslist” section, the site’s equivalent of being published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Posted in the personals category, the ad reads in part: “Due to shortages in men in the Greater Portland Area, the following categories of unforgivable lowlifes have been promoted to ‘potential relationship material’ for me.”

The list of 44 descriptors includes “Liars,” “Cheaters,” “Daily pot smokers,” “Dirty, smelly coffee shop poets,” “Men old enough to be my Dad,” “My Dad,” “The dental-hygienically challenged,” and “Your dumb friend, age 37, who still plays video games after work.”

As a single mother, Ms. McDade said that she was largely satirizing herself and the dearth of suitable men. When people respond to her ads, often men in on the joke who laud her wit, she never replies. “I wouldn’t look for someone on Craigslist,” she said.

Brett Michael Dykes, whose fake ads and their responses have been popular features of his blog, Cajun Boy in the City (cajunboyinthecity.blogspot.com), usually posts in the “Missed Connections” category. (Many suspected Mr. Dykes wrote the “gold digger” ad, but he insists he didn’t.)

He posted an ad in April from the perspective of a woman to the “skinny boy on the L train in manhattan this morning” and went on to describe the quintessential hipster (“your jeans were tight but sagged just enough to expose the waistband of your knickers,” “slightly androgynous, you looked upset about something, often staring into nothingness, perhaps contemplating infinity, kafka, or both”). The ad writer, meanwhile, came across as attractive but conceited, claiming that “every other guy on the L was checking me out.” Responses poured in, as they did for another ad whose presumed writer also described herself as attractive but made racist remarks.

“When you break it down, guys are just really pathetic,” said Mr. Dykes, 35, who lives in Manhattan.

The most buzz Mr. Dykes generated was with a September post, from the perspective of a male who offered sexual favors to anyone for tickets to a Genesis reunion concert at Giants Stadium. Web sites, including Gawker, New York Magazine’s Daily Intelligencer, and Buzzfeed, linked to the ad. Jossip even ran an interview with Mr. Dykes.

A San Francisco comedy troupe, Kasper Hauser, first posted fake ads to Craigslist two years ago and now posts them directly onto its parody sight, Khraigslist (www.kasperhauser.com/khmc). One with the heading “Into Meeting New People” follows with the message, “But I am a dancer and busy with dental school and gardening, so you know what, forget it.” Another heading, “One half of twin stroller,” continues with the message “Will saw off Tony’s seat — we are only keeping one of the twins.”

“It’s like an Advent calendar of humor,” said John Reichmuth, 37, a member of the troupe. “There’s an outside wrapping and then there’s an inside that can be set up and punch-lined.”

Among those who appreciate the parody site is Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, who once linked to it from his personal blog.

Ms. Gattinella, for one, is glad that Craigslist insiders are not upset.

“I don’t want to forever be banned from Craigslist,” she said. “That would be terrible. I still have an old lawn mower I need to get rid of.”

Fake Prada Fuels Senegal's Muslim Brotherhood
Nick Tattersall

For Senegalese street sellers from Manhattan to the Vatican, selling fake Prada purses and Chinese-made Gucci sunglasses is as much a question of religious devotion as of making a quick buck.

Many traders are members of the Mouride brotherhood, a branch of African Sufi Islam which has become Senegal's most influential religious, political and economic force.

A unique mix of militant capitalism and moderate Islam, its central doctrine of hard work as a means to paradise has led thousands to leave Senegal's sunny shores with one goal -- to earn money and send it back to the holy city of Touba.

"Work and don't complain much. That's the only doctrine they have," said Moustapha Diao, 53, a Mouride born in Touba who now lives in Harlem, the heart of New York's Senegalese community.

Diao used to peddle goods on Manhattan streets at a mark-up after buying them cheaply in Chinatown.

"The only network they have is workaholic," he said.

Remittances from Mourides abroad have helped the brotherhood grow exponentially since it was founded in the 1880s by Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba, a Muslim mystic, poet and pacifist sent into exile by French colonial authorities who feared his influence.

Known as "little Mecca", the holy city of Touba has grown from a tiny village into the hub of a global network of small businessmen whose trading acumen means the latest gadgets are available in Senegal as quickly as anywhere in the world.

"My conviction is that if it weren't for Ahmadou Bamba, I wouldn't have all this," said Djily Diop, 22, among fridges, televisions and satellite receivers in his shop in Touba.

School Of Hard Knocks

Diop had wanted to finish school and maybe go to university. But in a country with tens of thousands of graduates unable to find work, his parents encouraged him to go to a Daara, a Koranic school run by a Marabout or religious teacher.

Unemployment is so high that many young Senegalese have risked their lives taking unseaworthy, overcrowded fishing boats to Spain's Canary Islands in the hope of finding work in Europe.

"My classmates went to university for three years and now they are unemployed. My parents knew (a Daara) was the best route," Diop said, dressed in gold-coloured robes.

His access to the Mouride network has enabled him to set up a business and will support him wherever he travels.

"If I go to New York, even if it is someone who does not know me, when I say I am a Mouride he will take me as his brother and share with me," he said.

"What we have in common -- the Marabout -- is more important than family ties, community ties, even the fact we are from the same country."

Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba's teachings -- notably "pray as if you will die tomorrow and work as if you will live forever" -- are learned from an early age by many of his followers.

In the peanut fields around Touba, given by the state to the brotherhood's current caliph Serigne Saliou Mbacke, children as young as 10 tend the crops, part of a Daara education based on hard physical labour as well as religious texts.

"I learned never to get angry. There were people who beat me but it taught me to be strong," said Cheikh Beye, a Daara-educated trader who sells goods sent by his brother from Dubai and China. "Mourides want to succeed whatever the cost."

Powerful But Tolerant

The brotherhood dominates life in much of Senegal.

Homages like "Djeuredjef Serigne Saliou" -- thank you Serigne Saliou -- are painted all over brightly coloured buses and taxis. Bedroom walls and pendants carry images of the movement's Marabouts.

Some critics argue the Mourides' reverence for Bamba and the Marabouts eclipses their respect for the Prophet Mohammad, one of the pillars of Islam, and say the brotherhood has become too powerful a political force in Senegal.

Bamba's followers emphasize the tolerant nature of his teachings. They say support from Mouride leaders helped keep independence president Leopold Sedar Senghor, a Christian in a predominantly Muslim country, in power.

They regard their readiness to engage other cultures as central to the brotherhood's global success.

"Here, we do not know this fierce form of Islam in which you have to kill others because they do not believe the same as you, because they are Christian or Jew," said Cheikh Bethio, one of the most influential of the movement's living Marabouts.

"That is why it hurts us when the West confuses Islam and terrorism," he told Reuters as his followers knelt around him in a courtyard near Touba, his brand new Hummer off-roader parked in the shade of a tamarind tree.

(Additional reporting by Edith Honan in New York and Silvia Aloisi in Rome; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Sara Ledwith)

Jihadist e-Bomb Fails to Explode on November 11, Experts Doubt Claim
Nate Anderson

A purported worldwide cyber-Jihad was supposed to take place on November 11, but the date has passed without any apparent attacks. Security experts are skeptical that such a threat, even if acted upon, could do much real damage to the Internet.

The cyber-Jihad story gained legs when the military intelligence site DEBKAfile announced that its "counter-terror sources" had picked up an Arabic message from Al Qaeda on October 29. The messages announced an "Electronic Jihad" that would target "Western, Jewish, Israeli, Muslim apostate and Shiite websites" beginning November 11. That's a pretty big target list, and security experts were skeptical of the claim from the start.

On November 5, SANS (SysAdmin, Audit, Network, Security) Institute's Johannes Ullrich argued that the proposed attack would not be a serious problem. He pointed out that "the site calling for it has tried to do so before without success," that November 11 is the first day of Carnival and a day for hoaxes, and that "even if something is going to happen, I doubt it will be more than a lame DoS attack."

In fact, even the lame DoS attack failed to materialize. Marcus Sachs, the SANS Internet Storm Center Director, said yesterday that no cyber-Jihad was apparent, and he asked to hear from any "terrorists hanging out here reading this diary."

Sachs went on to dismiss the whole idea of such an attack, saying that the "odds of a terrorist group 'terrorizing' the Internet with cyber-bullets and e-bombs are about as small as the odds of the Morse Code coming back as a primary means of communication. It's not zero, but it's also not much more than zero."

Sadly, no terrorists contacted Sachs to talk about what had (or had not) happened. Perhaps cyber-Jihadists just aren't that hot with dates? Or perhaps they realized that disrupting their own best communications and fundraising channel wasn't such a bright idea.

When it comes to Internet threats, current criminal botnets and even spammers pose more of a threat to sites and security researchers than do unsubstantiated tales of cyber-Jihad (though holy war makes for much better headlines).

Report Puts Hidden War Costs at $1.6T
Jeannine Aversa

The economic costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are estimated to total $1.6 trillion -- roughly double the amount the White House has requested thus far, according to a new report by Democrats on Congress' Joint Economic Committee.

The report, released Tuesday, attempted to put a price tag on the two conflicts, including ''hidden'' costs such as interest payments on the money borrowed to pay for the wars, lost investment, the expense of long-term health care for injured veterans and the cost of oil market disruptions.

The $1.6 trillion figure, for the period from 2002 to 2008, translates into a cost of $20,900 for a family of four, the report said. The Bush administration has requested $804 billion for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined, the report stated.

For the Iraq war only, total economic costs were estimated at $1.3 trillion for the period from 2002 to 2008. That would cost a family of four $16,500, the report said.

Future economic costs would be even greater. The report estimated that both wars would cost $3.5 trillion between 2003 and 2017. Under that scenario, it would cost a family of four $46,400, the report said.

The report, from the committee's Democratic majority, was not vetted with Republican members. Democratic leaders in Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., seized on the report to criticize Bush's war strategy. The White House countered that the report was politically motivated.

''This report was put out by Democrats on Capitol Hill. This committee is known for being partisan and political. They did not consult or cooperate with the Republicans on the committee. And so I think it is an attempt to muddy the waters on what has been some positive developments being reported out of Iraq,'' said White House press secretary Dana Perino. ''I haven't seen the report, but it's obvious the motivations behind it.''

The report comes as the House and Senate planned to vote this week on another effort by Democrats to set a deadline for withdrawing troops from Iraq as a condition for providing another $50 billion for the war.

Reid said the report ''is another reminder of how President Bush's stubborn refusal to change course in Iraq and congressional Republicans' willingness to rubber stamp his failed strategy -- has real consequences at home for all Americans.''

Perino, while acknowledging the dangers in Iraq, defended Bush's stance.

''Obviously it remains a dangerous situation in Iraq. But the reduction in violence, the increased economic capacity of the country, as well as, hopefully, some continued political reconciliation that is moving from the bottom up, is a positive trend and one that we -- well, it's positive and we hope it is a trend that will take hold,'' Perino said.

Israel Klein, spokesman for the Joint Economic Committee, took issue with the White House's characterization of the panel's report.

''Instead of dealing with the substance of this report, the White House is once again trying to deflect attention away from the blistering costs of this war in Iraq,'' Klein said. ''This report uses the nonpartisan CBO (Congressional Budget Office) budget estimates and was prepared by the JEC's professional economists using the same process this committee has always used, regardless of which party is in the majority.''

However, the committee's top-ranking Republican members -- Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Rep. Jim Saxton of New Jersey -- called on the Democratic leadership to ''withdraw this defective report.'' A joint statement from the two Republican lawmakers said the report is a ''thinly veiled exercise in political hyperbole masquerading as academic research.''

White House Budget Director Jim Nussle accused Democrats of ''trying to distort reality for political gain.''

Oil prices have surged since the start of the war, from about $37 a barrel to well over $90 a barrel in recent weeks, the report said. ''Consistent disruptions from the war have affected oil prices,'' although the Iraq war is not responsible for all of the increase in oil prices, the report said.

Still, the report estimated that high oil prices have hit U.S. consumers in the pocket, transferring ''approximately $124 billion from U.S. oil consumers to foreign (oil) producers'' from 2003 to 2008, the report said.

High oil prices can slow overall economic growth if that chills spending and investment by consumers and businesses. At the same time, high oil prices can spread inflation throughout the economy if companies decide to boost the prices of many other goods and services.

Meanwhile, ''the sum of interest paid on Iraq-related debt from 2003 to 2017 will total over $550 billion,'' the report said. The government has to make interest payments on the money it borrows to finance the national debt, which recently hit $9 trillion for the first time.

The report was obtained by The Associated Press before its release. An earlier draft of the report, which also had been obtained by The AP, had put the economic cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars slightly lower, at $1.5 trillion.

''What this report makes crystal clear,'' said Joint Economic Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., ''is that the cost to our country in lives lost and dollars spent is tragically unacceptable.'' Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., the panel's vice chair, said of the Iraq war: ''By every measure, this war has cost Americans far too much.''

Dodd Revs Up Partisan Rhetoric

Senator hopes to break into conscience of voters
Peter Urban

Chris Dodd's voice echoed through the near empty Senate chamber as he launched an attack on President Bush with C-SPAN cameras rolling on a recent Friday morning.

In rat-a-tat fashion, Dodd laid waste to a slew of Bush's policies that have been vilified by liberal Democrats who deeply oppose the Iraq war: the scandal at Abu Ghraib "¦ Guantanamo Bay "¦ secret prisons run by the CIA "¦ warrantless wiretapping "¦ torture "¦ the list goes on.

"No more trampling our Constitution. No more excusing those who violate the rule of law. These are our principles. They have been around at least since the Magna Carta. They are enduring. What they are not is temporary. And what we do not do in a time where our country is at risk is abandon them," the Connecticut Democrat boomed.

The speech, restating his opposition to granting immunity to telecommunications companies that may have illegally assisted the National Security Agency wiretap without warrants, was ostensibly directed at his colleagues already on their ways home for the weekend.

In reality, it was a made-for-YouTube moment designed to feed a surge of support that Dodd's presidential candidacy has garnered among Netroots progressives, who helped fuel Howard Dean's 2004 presidential bid.

In Iowa and New Hampshire, Dodd has revved up such partisan rhetoric, hoping to break into the conscience of voters in the early primary states who have focused instead on New York Sen. Hillary

Clinton, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama or former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.

On Capitol Hill, Dodd has taken a different path and has directed his efforts at building bipartisan support for his legislative policies rather than alienating Senate Republicans with partisan bomb throwing.

Campaigning and legislating are two different animals, according to Gary Rose, a professor of politics at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield.

"There is such a different set of values at work," he said. "In the realm of governing, there has to be an element of collegiality and bipartisan support. But when you run for president, you can conduct yourself as a strident liberal vehemently opposed to the Republican Party as Dodd has done. It is a different set of circumstances and requirements."

Scott McLean, a professor of politics at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, said voters have grown weary of the Bush administration and partisan backbiting, which is why Dodd can press both buttons.

"The Senate is distancing itself from Bush, so I don't think there necessarily a contradiction in attacking the president and working with Republican senators," he said.

In Iowa and New Hampshire, where Dodd is concentrating his presidential efforts, he can "hammer away at Bush without seeming partisan" because the majority of voters are not happy with the direction the president has taken the country, McLean said.

On Capitol Hill, Dodd has touted a string of legislative successes.

Earlier this month, the Senate voted to extended benefits provided under his landmark Family and Medical Leave Act that allows families of wounded military personnel to take up to six months of unpaid leave. Dodd co-wrote the provision with Clinton and had the support of Republican Sens. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Pat Roberts of Kansas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Obama also signed onto it.

The Senate also approved a resolution co-sponsored by Dodd and Sen.

John Ensign, R-Nevada, to promote after-school programs. The two co-chair the Senate's Afterschool Caucus, which now has 35 members.

And, the Senate Banking Committee last month approved three bills with near unanimity: The Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007, the Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act of 2007, and the Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act of 2007.

Dodd thanked Republican Sens. Richard Shelby of Alabama, Mel Martinez of Florida and Sam Brownback of Kansas for their help in refining the Sudan bill. He also thanked Republican Jim Bunning of Kentucky for his work on the flood insurance bill.

Dodd is serving his fifth term in the Senate and is well aware of the need to work across party lines in order to accomplish anything -- particularly when the chamber is nearly evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. The minority party can block passage of most bills -- using their filibuster threat -- with only 41 votes, and there are 49 Republicans now seated in the Senate.

Dodd has authored 23 bills this year with Republican co-sponsors. In all, 30 of his Republican colleagues have signed onto at least one piece of his legislation. In turn, Dodd has co-sponsored 39 GOP bills authored by 22 of his Republican colleagues.

Clinton has Republican co-sponsors on 31 bills and has co-sponsored 47 Republican bills. Biden has authored 15 bills with Republican co-sponsors and has co-sponsored 27 GOP bills. Obama has Republican co-sponsors on 14 bills and co-sponsored 39 GOP bills.
Michael Lewan, a lobbyist for Brown Rudnick and former chief of staff for Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, is not surprised that veteran lawmakers like Dodd, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden or Clinton are reaching out to Republicans to get things done.

"I think it is the smart thing to do and frankly what the American people want," he said. "Just because you are a Democrat or Republican or because you are running against them doesn't mean you shouldn't find areas of agreement."

Attracting co-sponsors to legislation is serious business in the Senate. It can make or break your chances for success, he said. A co-sponsor who sits on a committee of interest can lead to a public hearing and potentially a mark up of the bill. Having bipartisan support can also signal leadership that there is enough support to bring the issue to a floor vote.

"They absolutely look for co-sponsors. Frankly, lobbyist also go out and recruit for them," he said.

Dodd always strives for consensus on Capitol Hill, Lewan said.

"He is a master of the legislative process, not just because he is smart and works hard, but because he understands the business of building alliances on the left and right," Lewan said.

On the campaign trail, Lewan said that Dodd understands he needs to reach out to liberal activists that participate heavily in party primaries.

"A very aggressive left wing of the Democratic Party has developed today because of the situation in Iraq; exemplified by the Netroots movement -- the same people who caused so much aggravation for Joe Lieberman. And, they are making themselves known to Democratic presidential candidates," he said.

McLean is not surprised that Republicans colleagues are teaming up with their Democratic counterparts even as they run for president.

However, he does not see that changing the tone on the campaign trail --particularly for Clinton.

Clinton's outreach efforts will not quiet the GOP drumbeat that she would only exacerbate the partisan gridlock in Washington, he said.

"They need to whip up their base, and I don't think they care if it is accurate or not," McLean said. "Republicans are going to attack her and make her the most polarizing issue."

Clinton understands the gamesmanship but also knows that she must build a record of cooperation to convince Democratic voters that she can work with Republicans despite their rhetoric.

As to why so many Senate Republicans co-sponsor her legislation rather than shun her, McLean said they must not have gotten the memo from the Republican National Committee.

For his part, Dodd does not shy away on the campaign trail from pointing to his bipartisan efforts.

Asked recently by seniors in New Hampshire how he would heal a divided nation, Dodd ran off a half-dozen bills he co-sponsored with conservative Republicans and said he would host a dinner soon after his inauguration that would include prominent Republicans and Democrats as guests, according to an Associated Press report.

"I'm not going spend a couple of years getting to know these people," he said. "We trust each other, we disagree, we agree, we've argued, we've fought with each other on things. But we've also come to terms, and I think that's the kind of leadership we need right now."

Yahoo Settles with Chinese Writers
Sarah Lai Stirland

Yahoo on Tuesday settled a lawsuit filed in the United States by two mainland Chinese writers who were imprisoned after the technology company handed over their private account information to Chinese law enforcement authorities.

Terms of the settlement weren't disclosed. But a source at Yahoo said the company has been "working with the families, and we're working with them to provide them with financial, humanitarian and legal assistance."

Yahoo has also agreed to establish a global human rights fund to provide "humanitarian relief" to support dissidents and their families. The source said that details still have to be worked out.

"After meeting with the families, it was clear to me what we had to do to make this right for them, for Yahoo! and for the future," said Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang in a statement. "Yahoo! was founded on the idea that the free exchange of information can fundamentally change how people lead their lives, conduct their business and interact with their governments."

"We are committed to making sure our actions match our values around the world. That's why we are also working to establish a Human Rights Fund to provide humanitarian and legal aid to dissidents who have been imprisoned for expressing their views online," he said.

Yahoo also agreed in a court filing to pay the attorneys' fees for the plaintiffs.

Yahoo said nothing, however, about the future provision of e-mail services to users in China. Its competitor Google has decided not to host e-mail or blogging services for users within the jurisdiction of mainland Chinese authorities.

The settlement comes after lawmakers blasted Yang and Yahoo's top lawyer Michael Callahan last week in a congressional hearing over how Yahoo has handled the entire chain of events surrounding the arrests.

"It took a tongue-lashing from Congress before these high-tech titans did the right thing and coughed up some concrete assistance for the family of a journalist whom Yahoo had helped to send to jail," said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos in a statement issued Tuesday. "In my view, today's settlement is long overdue."

The two writers are engineer Wang Xiaoning and business journalist Shi Tao. They're both still currently serving 10 year prison terms for their online activities. Wang wrote tracts in e-mail messages calling for democratic reforms and posted them to a Yahoo group, and Shi e-mailed a Communist party communique about press coverage of some returning Chinese pro-democracy activists to an overseas non-profit.

The Chinese authorities jailed Wang for "incitement to subvert state power," and Shi was imprisoned for leaking state secrets.

The writers' lawyer Morton Sklar of the World Organization for Human Rights hinted on Tuesday that one of the terms of the settlement was that Yahoo would continue to lobby the Chinese government to release his clients. He said that the terms covered many of the issues discussed in the hearing.

"There is certainly the need to do something to get the individuals out of prison as soon as possible," he said.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey said that the settlement doesn't obviate the need for his proposed bill, which would among other things make it illegal for US tech companies to divulge identifying user information to repressive regimes, and allow affected parties to bring civil suits against such companies in the United States.

"As a nation, we have a responsibility to continue to push for the release of these human rights leaders and pass the Global Online Freedom Act to prevent this egregious human rights abuse from happening to others," said Smith in a statement. "Much like the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, my legislation will make certain that US companies are not compelled to comply with local Secret Police or any other unlawful policies when operating in foreign markets."

Yahoo is working "pro-actively" with lawmakers on the bill, said the Yahoo source. They added that Yahoo supports the "overall objectives" of the bill, but that there are still provisions in it that would effectively ban the company from doing business in China.

Lantos said in his statement Tuesday that as far as he was concerned, the settlement isn't the end of the issue.

“Yahoo! Inc. and other U.S.-based Internet companies need to work harder to ensure that they resist any attempts by authoritarian regimes to make them complicit in cracking down on free speech – otherwise, they simply should not do business in those markets," he said.

Yahoo is working with other US technology companies, academics and human-rights groups to craft a "code of conduct" to protect freedom of expression online.

Separately, the government-run China Daily reported Monday that Chinese officials are trying to track all the journalists "allowed" to work in China during the Olympic Games next year. The story says that the Chinese government has already compiled a database of 8,000 "overseas reporters," and is currently building another one that will contain information on an additional 20,000 foreign reporters who are expected to be in China during the games. The story says that the databases are being built so that the authorities can crack down on "bogus reporters."

Yahoo China Appeals 'Deep Link' Ruling
Steve McClure

Yahoo China this week launched an appeal against an April 24 ruling by the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People's Court that found Yahoo China parent company, Beijing-based Alibaba, guilty of copyright violation due to the portal's practice of providing "deep links" to Web sites offering unauthorized content such as mp3 downloads, lyrics and ringtones.

Eleven separate claims were brought against Yahoo China in January by IFPI local and international record companies, who presented evidence of widespread infringement of their copyrights.

The court ordered Yahoo China to pay 200,000 yuan ($27,200) in damages to the labels and to delete the links to the free-download Web sites.

"It is incredible that the music industry should have to defend its rights in a Chinese court against a company in which an American corporate icon has such a large stake," said IFPI chairman/CEO John Kennedy in a statement. "Yahoo is one of the best-known international brands on the Internet, which runs its own legitimate music services all over the world, including in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Yet in mainland China, Yahoo is investing in and profiting from the widespread breach of intellectual-property rights."

Yahoo China could not be reached for comment at press time.

Chinese Spying Is a Threat, Panel Says

Report also cites outsourcing by weapons makers
David Cho and Ariana Eunjung Cha

Spying by China in the United States is the biggest threat to keeping American technology secrets, a bipartisan government panel concluded in a report released yesterday.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission also said that advances by the Chinese military are catching U.S. intelligence officials by surprise and that the Defense Department may be inadvertently outsourcing the manufacturing of key weapons and military equipment to factories in China.

The report, the panel's fifth, noted that China appears to be reversing its move toward free markets by setting up state-owned enterprises to maintain control over 12 key industries, including oil, telecommunications, shipping, automobiles, steel and information technology.

The commission also urged Congress to work with China to reduce its pollution, which is responsible for significant amounts of smog over the western United States, according to new studies quoted by the report. China is scheduled to build 562 coal-fired plants over the next five years and may have already replaced the United States as the largest greenhouse-gas producer in the world, the report said.

The panel, which was created by Congress in 2001 and has six members appointed by Democrats and six by Republicans, has been criticized for taking a hawkish stance on China in its annual reports. In the one released yesterday, it made 42 recommendations to Congress, and several of them raised questions about whether the Defense Department has been lax in overseeing the production of sensitive military technologies and gathering intelligence on the Chinese military.

The Pentagon is increasingly buying planes, weapons and military vehicles from private contractors that outsource the manufacturing to plants in China and elsewhere in Asia, the report said. But when questioned by the commission, defense officials admitted that they do not have the ability to track where the components of military equipment are made.

"As weaponry gets more and more sophisticated . . . I think well find ourselves more vulnerable for parts that are being manufactured by an adversary. It's really something the Pentagon needs to look at seriously," said commission member William A. Reinsch, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, which promotes free trade on behalf of businesses. Members said that the commission had never before delved so deeply into national security issues.

The report said China's military advances "have surprised U.S. defense and intelligence officials, and raised questions about the quality of our assessments of China's military capabilities."

In January, the Chinese military successfully blew up an old weather satellite. Some analysts said that was a signal that it could take out U.S. military satellites if a conflict broke out in the Taiwan Strait. China has also made attempts to blind U.S. spy satellites with lasers and is building a fleet of diesel-powered submarines that could sneak up on aircraft carriers.

Jia Qingguo, vice dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University, said he thinks the conclusions in the report are "exaggerations."

"When talking about spying technologies, the U.S. is second to no other," Jia said. "It's is true and fair to say that the speed of the modernization of China's national defense technology has been really fast, but it still lags substantially behind the United States."

Jia said China has given no indication that it wants a military confrontation with the United States. "As long as the United States doesn't want to invade China, China should not be a threat to the United States," he said.

Shen Dingli, a professor at Fudan University in Shanghai who focuses on China-U.S. relations, said that if U.S. companies that outsource sensitive technology to China "are afraid we will take their technology, they don't have to let us work on it."

"When companies come to China for outsourcing, it is them asking for favors, not the opposite," Shen said. "But then they turn around and say we are bad."

Responding to the report, Defense Department spokesman Stewart Upton said: "We are closely watching China's military modernization. China's lack of transparency regarding its military modernization raises uncertainty -- for the U.S. and for others -- regarding its strategic intent, and causes hedging against the unknown."

"These are not just unilateral concerns, these are concerns voiced by China's neighbors, others in the region," Upton said. "All of us are looking for a China that emphasizes transparency over opacity, substance over symbolism, and implementation over negotiation."

In the past, the U.S.-China review commission has come under fire for its criticism of China. C. Fred Bergsten, director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, who has testified before the commission, said its annual reports tend to be "reflexively critical of China."

"The commission is primarily concerned about the threats and the risk of China and probably does not give enough weight to the potential benefits and opportunities that arise for the U.S. from the rapidly rising China power," Bergsten said

The panel has also been criticized by its members. Reinsch has refused to support two previous reports because he disagreed with their harsh rhetoric and stances.

However, Reinsch said, the current report got unanimous support, largely because it is more objective and supported cooperative efforts on pollution issues even as it criticized China for its trade surplus with the United States.

"This year we are more boring," Reinsch said, "but the result is a more balanced and more thoughtful report."

Cha reported from Shanghai.

Did NSA Put a Secret Backdoor in New Encryption Standard?
Bruce Schneier

Random numbers are critical for cryptography: for encryption keys, random authentication challenges, initialization vectors, nonces, key-agreement schemes, generating prime numbers and so on. Break the random-number generator, and most of the time you break the entire security system. Which is why you should worry about a new random-number standard that includes an algorithm that is slow, badly designed and just might contain a backdoor for the National Security Agency.

Generating random numbers isn't easy, and researchers have discovered lots of problems and attacks over the years. A recent paper found a flaw in the Windows 2000 random-number generator. Another paper found flaws in the Linux random-number generator. Back in 1996, an early version of SSL was broken because of flaws in its random-number generator. With John Kelsey and Niels Ferguson in 1999, I co-authored Yarrow, a random-number generator based on our own cryptanalysis work. I improved this design four years later -- and renamed it Fortuna -- in the book Practical Cryptography, which I co-authored with Ferguson.

The U.S. government released a new official standard for random-number generators this year, and it will likely be followed by software and hardware developers around the world. Called NIST Special Publication 800-90 (.pdf), the 130-page document contains four different approved techniques, called DRBGs, or "Deterministic Random Bit Generators." All four are based on existing cryptographic primitives. One is based on hash functions, one on HMAC, one on block ciphers and one on elliptic curves. It's smart cryptographic design to use only a few well-trusted cryptographic primitives, so building a random-number generator out of existing parts is a good thing.

But one of those generators -- the one based on elliptic curves -- is not like the others. Called Dual_EC_DRBG, not only is it a mouthful to say, it's also three orders of magnitude slower than its peers. It's in the standard only because it's been championed by the NSA, which first proposed it years ago in a related standardization project at the American National Standards Institute.

The NSA has always been intimately involved in U.S. cryptography standards -- it is, after all, expert in making and breaking secret codes. So the agency's participation in the NIST (the U.S. Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology) standard is not sinister in itself. It's only when you look under the hood at the NSA's contribution that questions arise.

Problems with Dual_EC_DRBG were first described in early 2006. The math is complicated, but the general point is that the random numbers it produces have a small bias. The problem isn't large enough to make the algorithm unusable -- and Appendix E of the NIST standard describes an optional work-around to avoid the issue -- but it's cause for concern. Cryptographers are a conservative bunch: We don't like to use algorithms that have even a whiff of a problem.

But today there's an even bigger stink brewing around Dual_EC_DRBG. In an informal presentation (.pdf) at the CRYPTO 2007 conference in August, Dan Shumow and Niels Ferguson showed that the algorithm contains a weakness that can only be described a backdoor.

This is how it works: There are a bunch of constants -- fixed numbers -- in the standard used to define the algorithm's elliptic curve. These constants are listed in Appendix A of the NIST publication, but nowhere is it explained where they came from.

What Shumow and Ferguson showed is that these numbers have a relationship with a second, secret set of numbers that can act as a kind of skeleton key. If you know the secret numbers, you can predict the output of the random-number generator after collecting just 32 bytes of its output. To put that in real terms, you only need to monitor one TLS internet encryption connection in order to crack the security of that protocol. If you know the secret numbers, you can completely break any instantiation of Dual_EC_DRBG.

The researchers don't know what the secret numbers are. But because of the way the algorithm works, the person who produced the constants might know; he had the mathematical opportunity to produce the constants and the secret numbers in tandem.

Of course, we have no way of knowing whether the NSA knows the secret numbers that break Dual_EC-DRBG. We have no way of knowing whether an NSA employee working on his own came up with the constants -- and has the secret numbers. We don't know if someone from NIST, or someone in the ANSI working group, has them. Maybe nobody does.

We don't know where the constants came from in the first place. We only know that whoever came up with them could have the key to this backdoor. And we know there's no way for NIST -- or anyone else -- to prove otherwise.

This is scary stuff indeed.

Even if no one knows the secret numbers, the fact that the backdoor is present makes Dual_EC_DRBG very fragile. If someone were to solve just one instance of the algorithm's elliptic-curve problem, he would effectively have the keys to the kingdom. He could then use it for whatever nefarious purpose he wanted. Or he could publish his result, and render every implementation of the random-number generator completely insecure.

It's possible to implement Dual_EC_DRBG in such a way as to protect it against this backdoor, by generating new constants with another secure random-number generator and then publishing the seed. This method is even in the NIST document, in Appendix A. But the procedure is optional, and my guess is that most implementations of the Dual_EC_DRBG won't bother.

If this story leaves you confused, join the club. I don't understand why the NSA was so insistent about including Dual_EC_DRBG in the standard. It makes no sense as a trap door: It's public, and rather obvious. It makes no sense from an engineering perspective: It's too slow for anyone to willingly use it. And it makes no sense from a backwards-compatibility perspective: Swapping one random-number generator for another is easy.

My recommendation, if you're in need of a random-number generator, is not to use Dual_EC_DRBG under any circumstances. If you have to use something in SP 800-90, use CTR_DRBG or Hash_DRBG.

In the meantime, both NIST and the NSA have some explaining to do.

Animal Rights Activist Hit with RIPA Key Decrypt Demand
John Leyden

An animal rights activist has been ordered to hand over her encryption keys to the authorities.

Section Three of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) came into force at the start in October 2007, seven years after the original legislation passed through parliament. Intended primarily to deal with terror suspects, it allows police to demand encryption keys or provide a clear text transcript of encrypted text.

Failure to comply can result in up to two years imprisonment for cases not involving national security, or five years for terrorism offences and the like. Orders can be made to turn over data months or even years old.

The contentious measure, introduced (http://security.homeoffice.gov.uk/ri...ic-information) after years of consultation, was sold to Parliament as a necessary tool for law enforcement in the fight against organised crime and terrorism.

But an animal rights activist is one of the first people at the receiving end of a notice to give up encryption keys. Her computer was seized by police in May, and she has been given 12 days to hand over a pass-phrase to unlock encrypted data held on the drive - or face the consequences.

The woman, who claims to have not used encryption, relates her experiences in an anonymous posting (http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2007/11/385589.html) on Indymedia (http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/static/about_us.html).

"Now apparently they have found some encrypted files on my computer (which was stolen by police thugs in May this year) which they think they have 'reasonable suspicion' to pry into using the excuse of 'preventing or detecting a crime'," she writes.

"Now I have been 'invited' (how nice, will there be tea and biccies?) to reveal my keys to the police so they can look at these files. If I do not comply and tell them to keep their great big hooters out of my private affairs I could be charged under RIPA."

The woman says that any encrypted data put on the PC must have been put there by somebody else.

"Funny thing is PGP and I never got on together I confess that I am far too dense for such a complex (well to me anyway) programme. Therefore in a so-called democracy I am being threatened with prison simply because I cannot access encrypted files on my computer."

She argues that even if she had used encryption she'd be disinclined to hand over her pass phrase. "The police are my enemy, I know that they have given information about me to Huntingdon Life Sciences (as well as hospitalising me)," she writes. "Would I really want them to see and then pass around private communications with my solicitors which could be used against me at a later date in the civil courts, medical records, embarrassing poetry which was never meant to be read by anyone else, soppy love letters or indeed personal financial transactions?"

Indymedia reports that similar demands have been served against other animal rights activists, a point we have not been able to verify.

The woman was issued a notice by the Crown Prosecution Service, and not (as might be expected) the police. According to the code of conduct (http://security.homeoffice.gov.uk/ri...c-information), the authorities would normally ask a suspect to put the files into intelligible form, though how this would work when a PC is being held by the police is far from clear.

It's unclear if the woman was given an official Section 49 notice or simply "invited" to hand over the data voluntarily as part of a bluff by the authorities.

Richard Clayton, a security researcher at Cambridge University and long-time contributor to UK security policy working groups, said (http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/pi...er/082429.html) that only the police are authorised to issue Section 49 notices. "What seems to have happened is that the CPS (who couldn't issue a notice anyway) have written asking the person to volunteer their key," he adds.

"Should they refuse this polite request, they are being threatened with the subsequent issuing of a notice, which might or might not require the key to be produced (it might of course just require the putting into an intelligible form of the data)."

Clayton expressed concern that the incident illustrates possible holes in the long-delayed code of practice. "It would clearly be desirable to seek NTAC (http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/pipermail/ukcrypto/2002-March/057923.html)'s views before approaching suspects with requests for keys (rather than requests to put into an intelligible form) - lest the authorities give the impression that they know rather less about the rules (and the operation of encryption systems) than everyone else," he said.

Critical of Digg = Be Censored by Digg?

So an interested thing happened last night. I had posted a blog entry about how annoyed I was with the quality and type of ads that Digg has been showing over the last couple of weeks. And sent it off to Digg

I didn't really mean for it to go anywhere, I was just venting. But I guess others had gotten tired of the annoying video ads, so it ended up getting voted up. It entered the front page, and was on the "top in 24 hours" in 2 hours.

By 5 PM EST it was in the #1 spot on the Top 10 in All Topics, and by 11 PM it was in the #2 spot for "top in 24 hours", and rising fast.

Around 11:45 PM it was removed.

So, my question is, why? I would guess it had either been buried by users, or Digg itself removed it.

It very well COULD have been buried - a lot of the comments seemed to be thinking the point of the post was about having to look at ads (and from there, pointing on there are ad blockers that could be used). That wasn't the point.

I've been using various forms of Ad blockers for a long time, so am aware of them. I happen to be on a new install and had not gotten around to installing Adblocker (something I did a hour after the first post, as I was really really tired of watching that $@!#$ girl every time I brought up Digg).

The point was the low quality of ads on Digg, almost NSWF, and very distracting. A lot of people want to support the site through ads so don’t install blockers; some don't have a clue about ad blockers (or are using IE). And some can't control what they can install on their machine ('cause they are at work, or are using a public machine or someone else’s machine).

Considering how many people DID support what I was saying, and after seeing the continuing Diggs (I was watching it on Stack), I do have to wondered how a post like that could all of a sudden been buried? It would have probably hit the number 1 spot for 24 hours.

So was it buried or censored by Digg? Did someone at Digg not like the amount of slams they were getting on their partners poor choice of Ads? I realize this is a touchy subject, as the site is getting 100% of their revenue via ads, and they don't want to piss those people off (and as I said before, I SUPPORT Digg using ads – I just would like less intrusive, SFW ads, you know?)

Anyway. I don't really care that much, just thought it was interesting. I haven't had anything I've submitted go up like that before; it was cool, and then disappointing to just have it removed. I really HOPE it wasn't Digg that censored my opinion - if so, then the site has a lot more to worry about then the lousy selection of ads they are running!

Russia Casts A Selective Net in Piracy Crackdown

Political Bias Alleged In Pursuit of Groups Using Illicit Software
Peter Finn

The newspaper Novaya Gazeta, one of the last outposts of critical journalism in Russia, suspended publication of its regional edition in the southern city of Samara on Monday after prosecutors opened a criminal case against its editor, alleging that his publication used unlicensed software.

The case is part of a larger assault on independent news media, advocacy organizations and political activists, according to government critics. But it is one that is specifically tailored to deflect foreign criticism.

In multiple police raids against such groups, authorities are ostensibly targeting the alleged use of counterfeit software. Western governments and companies have long urged action against the widespread piracy in Russia.

"Our law enforcement finally realized that computers are very important tools for their opponents, and they have decided to take away these tools by doing something close to the West's agenda," said Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama research institute in Moscow. "I suppose you could say it's very clever."

In the past 10 months, police in at least five Russian cities have raided the offices of media outlets, political parties and private advocacy groups and seized computers allegedly containing illegal software, paralyzing the work of the organizations. Often, authorities demand that employees submit to questioning and order them not to leave town until legal action is completed.

According to some estimates, the piracy rate for all kinds of intellectual property in Russia is as high as 80 percent. The International Intellectual Property Alliance, a U.S. coalition of rights holders, estimates that its members suffered piracy losses of $2 billion in Russia in 2006, according to a letter the coalition recently sent to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The organization said that progress in enforcing intellectual property rights in Russia has been "insufficient."

Most of the Russian groups targeted by the authorities deny buying counterfeit software or say they used it only unwittingly. They charge that with authorities doing little to challenge the rampant piracy in Russia, including illicit production of disks in defense facilities and other agencies, the raids on their own offices amount to selective enforcement of the law.

"This is not a campaign against piracy, it's a campaign against dissent," said Vitaly Yaroshevsky, a deputy editor of Novaya Gazeta in Moscow, who is in charge of the newspaper's regional editions. "The authorities want to destroy an opposition newspaper. It doesn't matter if we send more computers to Samara. It doesn't matter if we show we bought computers legally. It will change nothing." The paper says it believes its software is legal.

Russian officials declined to comment on the piracy cases Tuesday, but police and prosecutors had previously told Russian news media that the raids are simply part of a broader crackdown on illegal software and other forms of piracy.

Police have raided businesses that play no political role, but without the sustained effort directed toward groups that are critical of the Kremlin.

"It's cynical, but it's also very difficult for us to say anything," said one Western observer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly on the subject.

Most of those accused of using unlicensed software appear to have some connection, sometimes quite tentative, to the opposition coalition called Other Russia, which is led by Garry Kasparov, the chess grandmaster and fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin.

Police in Samara, for instance, first raided Golos, a private group that monitors elections, in May, just before Kasparov's organization held what it called the March of Dissent to coincide with a Russian-European Union summit in the city. Ludmila Kuzmina, the head of Golos, said police showed up in her office 90 minutes after she made a statement on the Echo Moskvy radio station saying that she supported the march.

Police seized the group's computers and opened an investigation into the alleged use of unlicensed software. Kuzmina had to sign documents agreeing not to leave the city until the investigation, which is still continuing, is completed.

"The quality of our work is suffering," Kuzmina said. "I am under pressure all the time. They call me for interrogations. All I do is deal with the police."

Also in May, police in the city of Tula seized a computer at the offices of one of Kasparov's coalition partners at the time, former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov. Private groups and a Novaya Gazeta office in the central Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod were also raided and accused of using illegal software before a March of Dissent in that city in August.

Advocacy groups have been accused of the offense in the cities of Volgograd and Syktyvkar, according to Pavel Chikov, head of Agora, a coalition of Russian private groups. "They have suddenly decided it's a great tactic," Chikov said. "They can stop all the activities of a group at a key moment, before a march or during the election period."

Last month, police in Samara raided another news media organization, the Internet outlet 63.ru, which had a reputation for reporting that was critical of the government. Five desktop and two notebook computers were taken for "expert evaluation," 63.ru said.

The offices of the Samara Novaya Gazeta, a weekly, were first raided by Interior Ministry investigators before Kasparov's rally in May. Police seized financial documents, as well as computers. The paper was one of the few media outlets that had planned to cover the march, according to its editor in chief in Samara, Sergey Kurt-Adzhiyev. Moreover, the editor said, his daughter, Anastasia, 21, was one of the local organizers of the march.

The paper had continued to publish since May but Kurt-Adzhiyev said that in the past two months, investigators also began pressuring its distributors and advertisers. Last Thursday, police seized the last of the newspaper's computers in Samara.

"They visited all organizations and companies with which I work and told them to terminate all cooperation," said Kurt-Adzhiyev, 50, who is now barred from leaving Samara. "They told them if they didn't agree, they would have problems. I even lost my own personal computer. It became impossible for us to go on."

Kurt-Adzhiyev said the paper would now attempt to sell its Moscow edition in Samara, but he said he worried that local newsstands would be reluctant to carry it.

Meanwhile, according to Tatyana Lokshina, head of Demos, a Moscow-based human rights group, activist groups across the country are hastily checking the legality of their software. "Most people are trying to put things in order," she said.

SPECIAL NOTICE: (11/08/07)
TO: Listeners of Rush Limbaugh on Thursday, November 8, 2007
FROM: Roy W. Spencer

Yesterday (11/7/07), a "research study" was circulating on the internet which claimed to have found the "real" reason for global warming. Even though the hoax was quite elaborate, and the paper looked genuine, a little digging revealed that the authors, research center, and even the scientific journal the study was publishebd in, did not exist. I sent an e-mail to Rush about the issue regarding the hoax, with a copy of the "research study". Unfortunately, my very brief note to Rush was not very clear, and he thought that I was calling global warming a hoax, rather than the study. Even though Rush has told me not to worry about it, and that "the buck stops here" with him, I just wanted to apologize to everyone for this misunderstanding, as I feel that better wording on my part would have prevented this from happening.

-Roy W. Spencer


Display of Anti-Bush Sign Has Competitive Bridge World in an Uproar

Stephanie Strom

In the genteel world of bridge, disputes are usually handled quietly and rarely involve issues of national policy. But in a fight reminiscent of the brouhaha over an anti-Bush statement by Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks in 2003, a team of women who represented the United States at the world bridge championships in Shanghai last month is facing sanctions, including a yearlong ban from competition, for a spur-of-the-moment protest.

At issue is a crudely lettered sign, scribbled on the back of a menu, that was held up at an awards dinner and read, “We did not vote for Bush.”

By e-mail, angry bridge players have accused the women of “treason” and “sedition.”

“This isn’t a free-speech issue,” said Jan Martel, president of the United States Bridge Federation, the nonprofit group that selects teams for international tournaments. “There isn’t any question that private organizations can control the speech of people who represent them.”

Not so, said Danny Kleinman, a professional bridge player, teacher and columnist. “If the U.S.B.F. wants to impose conditions of membership that involve curtailment of free speech, then it cannot claim to represent our country in international competition,” he said by e-mail.

Ms. Martel said the action by the team, which had won the Venice Cup, the women’s title, at the Shanghai event, could cost the federation corporate sponsors.

The players have been stunned by the reaction to what they saw as a spontaneous gesture, “a moment of levity,” said Gail Greenberg, the team’s nonplaying captain and winner of 11 world championships.

“What we were trying to say, not to Americans but to our friends from other countries, was that we understand that they are questioning and critical of what our country is doing these days, and we want you to know that we, too, are critical,” Ms. Greenberg said, stressing that she was speaking for herself and not her six teammates.

The controversy has gone global, with the French team offering support for its American counterparts.

“By trying to address these issues in a nonviolent, nonthreatening and lighthearted manner,” the French team wrote in by e-mail to the federation’s board and others, “you were doing only what women of the world have always tried to do when opposing the folly of men who have lost their perspective of reality.”

The proposed sanctions would hurt the team’s playing members financially. “I earn my living from bridge, and a substantial part of that from being hired to compete in high-level competitions,” Debbie Rosenberg, a team member, said. “So being barred would directly affect much of my ability to earn a living.”

A hearing is scheduled this month in San Francisco, where thousands of players will be gathered for the Fall North American Bridge Championships. It will determine whether displaying the sign constitutes conduct unbecoming a federation member.

Three players— Hansa Narasimhan, JoAnna Stansby and Jill Meyers — have expressed regret that the action offended some people. The federation has proposed a settlement to Ms. Greenberg and the three other players, Jill Levin, Irina Levitina and Ms. Rosenberg, who have not made any mollifying statements.

It calls for a one-year suspension from federation events, including the World Bridge Olympiad next year in Beijing; a one-year probation after that suspension; 200 hours of community service “that furthers the interests of organized bridge”; and an apology drafted by the federation’s lawyer.

It would also require them to write a statement telling “who broached the idea of displaying the sign, when the idea was adopted, etc.”

Alan Falk, a lawyer for the federation, wrote the four team members on Nov. 6, “I am instructed to press for greater sanction against anyone who rejects this compromise offer.”

Ms. Greenberg said she decided to put up the sign in response to questions from players from other countries about American interrogation techniques, the war in Iraq and other foreign policy issues.

“There was a lot of anti-Bush feeling, questioning of our Iraq policy and about torture,” Ms. Greenberg said. “I can’t tell you it was an overwhelming amount, but there were several specific comments, and there wasn’t the same warmth you usually feel at these events.”

Ms. Rosenberg said the team members intended the sign as a personal statement that demonstrated American values and noted that it was held up at the same time some team members were singing along to “The Star-Spangled Banner” and waving small American flags.

“Freedom to express dissent against our leaders has traditionally been a core American value,” she wrote by e-mail. “Unfortunately, the Bush brand of patriotism, where criticizing Bush means you are a traitor, seems to have penetrated a significant minority of U.S. bridge players.”

Through a spokesman, the other team members declined to discuss the matter. Ms. Narasimhan, Ms. Stansby and Ms. Meyers have been offered a different settlement agreement, but Ms. Martel declined to discuss it in detail.

Many of those offended by the sign do not consider the expressions of regret sufficient. “I think an apology is kind of specious,” said Jim Kirkham, who has played in several bridge championships. “It’s not that I don’t forgive them, but I still think they should be punished.”

Mr. Kirkham sits on the board of the American Contract Bridge League, which accounts for a substantial portion of the federation’s financing, Ms. Martel said, and has submitted a proposal that would cut the league’s support for the federation, one of two such proposals pending.

Robert S. Wolff, one of the country’s pre-eminent bridge players, who has served as an executive and board member of several bridge organizations, said that he understood that the women might have had a legal right to do what they did but that they had offended many people.

“While I believe in the right to free speech, to me that doesn’t give anyone the right to criticize one’s leader at a foreign venue in a totally nonpolitical event,” he wrote by e-mail.

David L. Anderson, a bridge player who supports the team, said it was common to see players at international tournaments sporting buttons bearing the date “1-20-09,” when George W. Bush will hand off to a new president, as well as buttons reading “Support Our Troops.”

“They don’t go after those people,” Mr. Anderson said.

Until next week,

- js.

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