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Red Herring sleeps with the fishes

"New Economy" magazine Red Herring is no more. According to this AP story, the March 2003 issue will be its last. Link Discuss

Online gallery of leaflets dropped on Iraq by US military

Online gallery of infowar leaflets dropped on Iraq by US forces during the past few months. This one (apparently aimed at Iraqi cable repair technicians) says, "Military fiber optic cables are tools used by Saddam and his regime to suppress the Iraqi people. Military fiber optic cables have been targeted for destruction. Repairing them places your life at risk."

"Unsubscribe" instructions are not included. Link Discuss (thanks, Steve)

Delta to launch new database-backed federal air travel security system

Color me orange. AP is reporting that Delta airlines will launch a government-developed air security system in March to check detailed background information and assign a personal threat level to each traveler that buys a ticket for a commercial flight. The system will be launched at three undisclosed airports, and widespread implementation throughout the US could be in place by the end of 2003.
Transportation officials say a contractor will be picked soon to build the nationwide computer system, which will check such things as credit reports and bank account activity and compare passenger names with those on government watch lists.

Civil liberties groups and activists are objecting to the plan, seeing the potential for unconstitutional invasions of privacy and for database mix-ups that could lead to innocent people being branded security risks."This system threatens to create a permanent blacklisted underclass of Americans who cannot travel freely," said Katie Corrigan, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union. There also is concern that the government is developing the system without revealing how information will be gathered and how long it will be kept.

Link Discuss

Appeals court won't reconsider ban on Pledge of Allegiance "under God"

A federal appeals court has rejected the Bush administration's request to reconsider a recent decision that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional because it contains the phrase "under God."
[from the NYT story:] The ruling means the case could go to the Supreme Court. In Washington, a Justice Department spokesman said no decision has been made about whether to appeal the ruling there. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it would not accept any other petitions to reconsider last June's ruling by a three-judge panel that the pledge is unconstitutional when recited in public classrooms. Ruling on a lawsuit brought by Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow, the court panel decided 2-1 that Newdow's daughter should not be subjected to the words ``under God'' at her public school. The court said the phrase was an endorsement of God, and the Constitution forbids public schools or other governmental entities from endorsing religion.

[from the Reuters item:] "We may not -- we must not -- allow public sentiment or outcry to guide our decisions," Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote in concurring with the opinion. "It is particularly important that we understand the nature of our obligations and the strength of our constitutional principles in times of national crisis... It is then that our freedoms and our liberties are in the greatest peril."

Link to NYT story, link to Reuters story, Discuss

Liveblogging from the DRM conference

The Berkeley DRM conference is in full swing, and a number of livebloggers are on the floor, so if you couldn't make it (like me!), you can at least get a number of running accounts as they go down. Check out this Mindjack entry where legendary cypherpunk Lucky Green does battle with a MSFT DRM evangelist, then go read Dan Gillmor's excellent-as-always liveblog of the show. Discuss (Thanks, Bryan!)

AOL France targets P2P file-swappers

The French paper Le Monde reports that AOL France has started to help the recording industry identify peer-to-peer fileswappers among its subscribers. The French privacy office (La Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertes) is reportedly concerned. article (in French), Discuss , (via pho)

Web Zen: Artsy Zen

(1) manifesto
(2) photographs
(3) vinyl
(4) sound
(5) sand
(6) matches
(7) tapestry
(8) conceptual
(9) criticism yikes! That link appears to be a ripoff of this website, (Thanks, Philip).

Link Discuss (Thanks, Frank!)

How the late Mr. Rogers, fair use hero, saved the VCR

Aside from being a decent and compassionate human being, Fred Rogers was also a champion of fair use. From the website of the Home Recording Rights Coalition:
In [the Sony Betamax] ruling that home time-shift recording of television programming for private use was not copyright infringement, the Supreme Court relied on testimony from television producers who did not object to such home recording. One of the most prominent witnesses on this issue was Fred Rogers.

The Supreme Court wrote: "Second is the testimony of Fred Rogers, president of the corporation that produces and owns the copyright on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. The program is carried by more public television stations than any other program. Its audience numbers over 3,000,000 families a day. He testified that he had absolutely no objection to home taping for noncommercial use and expressed the opinion that it is a real service to families to be able to record children's programs and to show them at appropriate times. "

(Excerpt from Mr. Rogers' trial testimony: ) "Some public stations, as well as commercial stations, program the 'Neighborhood' at hours when some children cannot use it. . . . I have always felt that with the advent of all of this new technology that allows people to tape the 'Neighborhood' off-the-air, and I'm speaking for the 'Neighborhood' because that's what I produce, that they then become much more active in the programming of their family's television life. Very frankly, I am opposed to people being programmed by others. My whole approach in broadcasting has always been 'You are an important person just the way you are. You can make healthy decisions.' Maybe I'm going on too long, but I just feel that anything that allows a person to be more active in the control of his or her life, in a healthy way, is important."

We'll miss you, Mr. Rogers. Link, Discuss, (Thanks, Seth!)

Weird confluence of Orthodox Judiasm and proprietary software in London

Yoz reports on the efforts of London's Orthodox Jews to erect an eruv, a symbolic shelter that allows the Orthodox to carry things around on the Sabbath (you aren't supposed to carry things outside of your home on the Sabbath, an eruv symbolically extends your home's boundary to cover your neighborhood). Unfortunately, the eruv-masters have decided to use a proprietary software hack to warn those who rely on the eruv about failures:
Thing is, those wires and poles are fragile, so the eruv has to be checked every week. If there's a problem, the whole community has to be alerted so that we don't end up using an eruv that isn't there. This is where the website comes in - in the top-left corner of the front page you'll see a traffic light image and some text that indicates (this week anyway) that the eruv is up and running.

What's that? You can't see it? Ah. That'll be because you're using Mozilla. Or Safari. Or a phone browser. Or anything that isn't MSIE. Or you're running MSIE with Javascript turned off. Or you're a disabled person using a browser with extra accessability features, and now you're really annoyed because the main recipients of the benefits of the eruv are, of course, disabled people. The silliest thing here is that the web page seems to be dynamically-generated anyway (or, at least, hand-edited at least once a week)

The part I don't get: if you're not supposed to operate a computer on the Sabbath, how are the Orthodox meant to load the webpage before venturing out of doors with parcels? Link Discuss

First face-transplant to be performed

A severely burned Irish girl will likely be the first recipient of a face-transplant.
Once a board of ethics, headed by Falklands War veteran Simon Weston has given the go-ahead, Lena will receive the face of a dead donor, removing her own severely burned face...

The surgery involves "degloving" the donor's face from a four-hour-old corpse, severing the top layer of skin and then grafting it onto the recipient's face.

Link Discuss (Thanks, Heath!)

Email questionnaires are not interviews

Richard Koman has posted a long interview with me on the O'Reilly network, mostly about the novel, but wide-ranging, and my favorite thus far of all the interviews that have appeared online.

I think there's a reason that this interview is so good: Richard did it in person, interactively. I get a lot of requests for email "interviews" that consist of five or ten essay questions (generally questions that I've already answered in various FAQs). I hate doing these things, and avoid them whereever possible. For starters, if I wanted to write ten short essays, I'd just pitch that to your editor -- I'm a freelance writer, after all, so writing a bunch of essays that appear under your byline and that you get paid for doesn't make a lot of sense.

But there's a much better reason that email interviews don't work. The ten essay questions are set in stone. No matter how I answer question one, question two will be the same. I've conducted a fair number of interviews for magazines and newspapers, and while preparing a list of questions is a good idea, it's a poor interview indeed that consists solely of the questions you start with. An interview is a conversation -- ten questions is a questionnaire.

I appreciate that email interviews are easier on the interviewer -- for starters, you don't have to transcribe a phone or in-person conversation. But email interviews are much harder on the subject, who doesn't get to collaborate with the interviewer on his answers, and has to struggle to sound interesting all on his own (not to mention, the interviewer doesn't have to do any transcribing, but the subject has to do a lot of typing).

But the recording industry has a story of, "We do two really important roles. One is to make music available and the other is to compensate artists." But one of the things we know is that 80 percent of all of the music ever released isn't for sale anywhere in the world. And another thing we know is that 97 percent of the artists signed to a recording contract earn less than $600 per year off of it. So Napster doesn't have a better track record at compensating artists, but it sure as shit had a better track record of making music available.

Napster filled a niche that the music industry was actually incapable of filling for legal and organizational reasons. I've had very earnest conversations with recording industry executives who told me it took forever to get the clearances to put 100 tracks online. Napster put 100 tracks online in the first eight seconds of its existence. So whatever happens, I can't believe that the hundreds of millions of people around the world currently enjoying filesharing--not just filesharers, but the people who get CDs from filesharers--those people aren't going to willingly say, "Yes, let's take the lion's share of our shared musical heritage and throw it away again, put it back in the vault for another 30 years until we can figure out how to make it available--minus whatever disappears between now and then because all known copies of it are destroyed." That isn't a possible outcome to the current struggle. There are lots of other possible outcomes, like serious damage to the rights to build general-purpose tools and so on, which I'm very concerned about. But I'm not concerned that the solution to this will involve throwing that music back in the vault.

Link Discuss

Copyright Office posts anti-circumvention comments

The Copyright Office has posted the reply comments it received from hundreds of Americans, petitioning it to carve out exemptions to the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA, which makes it illegal to circumvent an access control system (like the region-coding on DVDs), even if the end-result (watching a movie offered for sale abroad) is legal. These are terriffic reading, and enumerate all the ways that Hollywood's favorite statute has abridged the freedoms of everyday Americans. Link Discuss (Thanks, Seth!)

Ipsos-Reid sez P2P doesn't hurt record sales

Ipsos-Reid has just completed a comprehensive study of music downloading, a study whose results put a lie to the recording industry's claims that P2P filesharing nets are harming their business. Check out this interview with an Ipsos-Reid research director:
* Over 50% of teenagers download music.

* About two-thirds of teenage boys download music

* Surprisingly, teenagers are the most receptive demographic toward the concept of paying for online services.

* Surprisingly, downloaders appear to buy more CDs

Link Discuss (Thanks, Jim!)

Venezuela's clocks losing 150 seconds/day

Venezuela's slide into chaos has destabilized the nation's power infrastructure, creating erratic, underpowered electric current. As a result, the nation's electric clocks are losing 150 seconds/day.
"EVERYTHING THAT HAS to do with time-keeping has slowed down. If it's an electric clock, it’s running slow," said Miguel Lara, general manager of the national power grid.

"Your computer isn’t affected. Your television isn't affected. No other devices ... just clocks," he added.

Link Discuss (via /.)

Nader on patent suckitude

Short, fiery interview from Ralph Nader about the disgusting state of the US Patent System:
Name one genius inventor who has gotten rich from a software patent. There must be some, but the system mostly benefits a handful of businesspeople and lawyers who don't write code. Look at British Telecom. It took years before BT's patent lawyers "discovered" the company had invented hypertext linking. Now General Electric claims it invented the JPEG file format. If GE is so smart, why did it take so many years to figure out it invented such a popular technology? Which genius inventors get rich on such claims?
Link Discuss