Saturday, March 18, 2006

Blogger has been down

For those who have noticed a decrease in posts the last few days, Blogger (Google) has been having some problems lately and it was not possible except for small windows the last few days.


Anti-War Protesters Rally Around World

Yahoo! News
Anti-War Protesters Rally Around World
By PAUL BURKHARDT, Associated Press Writer

Thousands of anti-war protesters took to the streets around the world Saturday, marking the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq with demands that coalition troops leave immediately.

Wael Musfar of the Arab Muslim American Federation addressed a crowd in Times Square from a flatbed truck parked near a recruiting station, which was guarded by police.

"We say enough hypocrisy, enough lies, our soldiers must come home now," Musfar said. Participants chanted, "Stop the U.S. war machine, from Iraq to Korea to the Philippines."

In Washington, a protester wearing a President Bush mask and bearing fake blood on his hands waved to passing automobiles outside Vice President Dick Cheney's residence, where about 200 people demonstrated against the war.

Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler of the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ addressed the crowd, saying the rallies nationwide are a "tapestry of resistance" and that public opinion of the war has shifted.

"Most people believe we aren't crazy anymore," he said.

In Concord, N.H, nearly 300 peace activists marched about a mile from a National Guard Armory to the Statehouse.

"I feel a huge sense of betrayal that I went and risked my life for a lie," said Joseph Turcott, 26, a former Marine who served in the invasion.

Other participants showed up at the rally to support U.S. troops.

[Editor's comment: The previous statement by the writer of this article shows either his misunderstanding or his predjudice toward the war. EVERY person who protests against the war SUPPORTS THE TROOPS.]

"I have friends in Iraq and I just want them to know that I may not be able to support them there, but I can here," said Jose Avila, 36.

At Dudley Square in Boston, a few hundred college-age protesters and baby boomers waved placards that read "Impeach Bush" and "Stop the War."

"It seems like we are fighting a King George in the same way General Washington fought a King George, who was equally imperialistic," said Askia Toure, a poet and activist.

Protester Susan McLucas wore a homemade sign that read: "Bush Lied! 100,000 died!"

"It's a war based on lies," said McLucas, 57. "We are gaining strength. The war is becoming more and more unpopular."

In San Juan, Puerto Rico, demonstrators, including mothers whose children serve in Iraq, carried signs reading "The Iraqi people have a right to live" and "Students for demilitarization." Forty-nine Puerto Ricans soldiers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Protests were also held in Australia, Asia and Europe, but many events were far smaller than organizers had hoped.

In London, police said 15,000 people joined a march from Parliament and Big Ben to a rally in Trafalgar Square. The anniversary last year attracted 45,000 protesters in the city.

Protesters in several cities carried posters showing pictures of President Bush, calling him the "world's No. 1 terrorist." In London, other posters pictured British Prime Minister Tony Blair, saying "Blair must go!"

"We are against this war, both for religious reasons and on a humanitarian basis, too," said Imran Saghir, 25, a Muslim student who attended the London rally.

Britain, the United States' strongest supporter in the Iraq war, has about 8,000 troops in Iraq but plans to pull out 800 of them by May. The British military has reported 103 deaths there.

In Stockholm, Sweden, about 1,000 demonstrators gathered for a rally and march to the U.S. Embassy. One protester was dressed as the hooded figure shown in an iconic photograph from the Abu Ghraib prison. "We do not need Abu Ghraib democracy, or Guantanamo Bay freedom," said Eftikar Hashem Alhusainy, addressing the rally.

In Copenhagen, Denmark, more than 2,000 demonstrators marched from the U.S. Embassy to the British Embassy, demanding that Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen withdraw the 530 Danish troops from southern Iraq.

In Turkey, where opposition to the war is nearly universal and cuts across all political stripes, about 3,000 protesters gathered in Istanbul, police said.

"Murderer USA," read a sign unfurled by a communist in Taksim Square in Istanbul. "USA, go home!" said red-and-black signs carried in Kadikoy on the city's Asian coast.

In Italy, Romano Prodi, the center-left leader who is challenging conservative Premier Silvio Berlusconi in next month's election, said he and his supporters wouldn't join a march in Rome because of a risk of violence.

A group of about 20 people played music and chanted protests outside the U.S. embassy in Mexico City. The majority of the Mexican public has always opposed the occupation.

On Sunday, up to 3,000 protesters were expected in Seoul, South Korea, which has the third-largest contingent of foreign troops in Iraq after the U.S. and Britain. Another rally was planned outside the U.S. Embassy in Malaysia's largest city, Kuala Lumpur.

Britain's defense chief earlier urged demonstrators in London to support the Iraqi people and condemn terrorism.

"When people go on the streets of London today, I do wish just occasionally they would go out in support of the United Nations, the Iraqi people and the Iraqi democrats and condemn terrorists," Defense Secretary John Rid told British Broadcasting Corp. radio during a visit to Iraq.

Members of the Stop the War Coalition, the organizers of the London march, had little sympathy for Reed's remarks.

"Every day you hear of new deaths. Tony Blair has actually made Iraq a worse place for the Iraqi people," said Rose Gentle, whose soldier son Gordon, 19, was killed by a roadside bomb last year in Basra, southern Iraq.

Associated Press Writer Sue Leeman contributed to this report from London.


Blackout Looms for NYC
Blackout Looms for NYC

IT managers in and around New York City are facing a major test of their disaster recovery plans if, as some experts predict, another massive power outage hits the region this summer.

Jon Toigo, chairman of the Data Management Institute, and president of analyst firm Toigo Partners International urged IT managers to prepare for the worst during a speech at a disaster recovery event this morning. Toigo, whose regular column on Byte and Switch has touched on these sorts of emergency preparedness issues, today told attendees, "You're looking at a major possibility for disaster this summer. I have talked to a lot of energy firms and they are concerned about this."

With a particularly hot summer forecast, the power grid will again be stretched to the limit, according to Toigo, who urged users to recall the hard lessons of the 2003 blackout. "If they have separate [backup] facilities, make sure that they are on a separate grid. Putting them over the river in New Jersey may not help."

Local government officials, businesses, and community groups in New York recently highlighted the city's looming power crisis, warning that future blackouts would be unprecedented in their length and severity. Last summer, the New York Independent System Operator, the organization that handles the state's power grid, was forced to take last-minute precautions to avert another major outage, when temperatures in the city skyrocketed.

All that seemed worlds away from the cold, blustery wind buffeting the Times Square hotel where today's meeting was held, but Jeremiah Shrum, senior infrastructure engineer of New York brokerage specialist SciVantage, admitted that that a repeat of 2003 could spell real trouble for users. "If you have your backup too close to your primary location that's a problem," he said, but added that his firm is well prepared. "We will be fine. We have multiple data centers geographically dispersed around the country, and multiple service providers."

But another IT manager from the healthcare sector, who asked not to be named, told Byte and Switch that he is not so sure about his own firm's ability to withstand another major blackout. "If the outage would go beyond 12 hours, that would be a major concern," he said. "I don't think that we have generators or UPS backup that could last for that long."

The executive added that, despite the havoc wrought in 2003, his firm's backup procedures have been held back by cost constraints. "We have a remote backup facility, but not for every application. It's a financial issue."

Mitchell Vallone, business continuity practice manager at accounting firm Marcum & Kliegman, agreed that effective backup comes at a price. "You're always challenged if you go to a different grid because of the cost and complexity," he explained. "You still have to be able to bring it up on the other side."

But Vallone, whose firm has offices in New York City and Long Island, admitted that preparing for another blackout is not his No.1 disaster recovery priority. "I suppose that lightning could strike twice," he said. "But I am more concerned about hurricanes and stuff like that."

The 2003 power outage affected an estimated 40 million people in the northeastern U.S., including some 21 million in the New York City area. Blackout-related financial losses were estimated at $6 billion.

— James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch


Judge Orders Google to turn over all e-mail messages, including deleted ones

Police blotter: Judge orders Gmail disclosure

By Declan McCullagh

What: In a lawsuit brought by the Federal Trade Commission, a subpoena is sent to Google for the complete contents of a Gmail account, including deleted e-mail messages. This is unrelated to the Department of Justice's own subpoena to Google for search terms and excerpts from its search database.

When: U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte in San Francisco ruled on Jan. 31 and March 13.

Outcome: Judge grants subpoena and orders that all e-mail messages, including deleted ones, be divulged.

What happened, according to the court: In November 2003, the Federal Trade Commission sued AmeriDebt and founder Andris Pukke on charges that the company deceived customers about credit counseling and failed to use customers' money to actually pay their creditors.

AmeriDebt settled, but the courts are still trying to uncover the location of Pukke's apparently sizeable assets. (A Washington Post article in September said the IRS is seeking $300 million from Pukke. His attorney at the venerable firm of Jones Day charges a hefty $575 an hour.)

Pukke's missing money has been linked to a Belize developer called Dolphin Development, which counts a fellow named Peter Baker as a shareholder. The court-appointed receiver in the FTC case, Robb Evans & Associates (click here for PDF), sent a subpoena to Google on Nov. 1 asking for the complete contents of Baker's Gmail account.

Baker objected to the subpoena, saying it could disclose confidential information, including attorney-client conversations.

The subpoena asks for not only current e-mail but also deleted e-mail: "All documents concerning all Gmail accounts of Baker...for the period from Jan. 1, 2003, to present, including but not limited to all e-mails and messages stored in all mailboxes, folders, in-boxes, sent items and deleted items, and all links to related Web pages contained in such e-mail messages."

Google's privacy policy says deleted e-mail messages "may remain in our offline backup systems" in perpetuity. It does not guarantee that backups are ever deleted. Baker estimated he may have tens of thousands of e-mail messages in his Gmail account.

In a Jan. 31 ruling, Laporte rejected Baker's request. She said his attorney could withhold "truly protected" information but must "err on the side" of disclosure.

Baker asked the judge to reconsider. On Monday, Laporte reiterated her decision, saying the argument about confidentiality "is baseless" because her earlier order creates an exception for such e-mail messages.
In other news:

* Spyware-killing Vista could take out rivals
* Google wins some, loses some
* Fun and games and old PCs
* Extra: Google's Schmidt clears the air

Excerpt from Laporte's Jan. 31 opinion: "Conspicuously absent from Baker's briefs is any denial that he is linked to the (Gmail) account, Pukke and/or Pukke-controlled entities. On the contrary, Baker relies entirely on formalistic objections and never once attacks the substance of the receiver's theories or facts. And, ironically, while he argues that the receiver has not submitted any admissible evidence to support its contentions, the only evidence Baker submitted are declarations by his attorneys that only support his claim that some documents may be protected by the attorney-client privilege but do not address his other claims about privacy interests."

Excerpt from Laporte's March 13 opinion: "(Baker) argues that being forced to pay his attorneys to screen these documents and to create a privilege log would 'necessarily involve an exorbitant amount of attorney time, resulting in the incurrence of thousands of dollars of attorneys' fees for which Mr. Baker will not be reimbursed...Within five court days of this order, Baker shall immediately turn over all documents to the receiver, withholding only those documents that are shielded from discovery by the attorney-client privilege, or those which are truly protected by a legitimate privacy interest."


Friday, March 17, 2006

Congress rips DHS, DOD for low cybersecurity grades; DHS and DOD pull F's in annual government assessment
Congress rips DHS, DOD for low cybersecurity grades
DHS and DOD pull F's in annual government assessment
News Story by Grant Gross

MARCH 16, 2006 (IDG NEWS SERVICE) - Members of the U.S. Congress today lectured technology executives at two major security agencies for failing cybersecurity scores, with one congresswoman saying she doesn't feel safe because of the problems.

"What's happening at the two most strategic and sensitive agencies?" said U.S. Rep. Diane Watson, commenting on the F grades given to the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense by the House Government Reform Committee. "Is there incompetence? Is there cronyism?

"I don't feel comfortable that my homeland is secure," Watson added during a committee hearing, a day after the committee released the 2005 cybersecurity scores for 24 major U.S. government agencies.

The DHS and DOD both received F grades for 2005, with DOD declining from a D grade in its 2004 score. Six other agencies, including the departments of State and Energy, also received Fs. Seven agencies received grades of A- or better, with the Department of Labor and the Social Security Administration among five agencies receiving A+ grades.

Committee Chairman Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican, said improved cybersecurity at federal agencies is "vital" to national security and the U.S. economy. "When it comes to federal IT policy and information security, it is still difficult to get people -- even members of Congress -- engaged," Davis said. "None of us would accept D+ grades on our children's report cards. We can't accept these either."

Technology executives at both agencies said their size, their widely dispersed employees and their varied missions contributed to a complex and quickly changing IT environment. Both agencies said they've made dramatic improvements in recent months.

The DOD deploys networks on the fly for soldiers and sailors, said Robert Lentz, director of information assurance for DOD. "We have very large and very diverse, dynamic organization deployed worldwide," Lentz said. "Things are changing all the time."

Karen Evans, administrator of the White House Office of Management and Budget's Office of E-Government and Information Technology, agreed that large agencies can have a tougher time complying with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), passed by Congress in 2002. FISMA requires agencies to complete IT inventories, test for security vulnerabilities and develop remediation plans in the event of major attacks or outages.

"It sounds as if you are defending the incompetency of DHS," responded Rep. William Lacy Clay, a Missouri Democrat.

DOD has made several recent improvements, Lentz said. The agency has begun a process to track IT security personnel and security certifications, he said, and it conducted cybersecurity training for 2 million of the 2.6 million DOD military, civilian and contract workers who had access to DOD networks, he said.

DHS, which began operations in March 2003, completed a systems and applications inventory in August, said Scott Charbo, the DHS chief information officer. The agency also rolled out a systems certification and accreditation tool in April, he said. About 26% of its IT equipment was accredited as of late 2005, and that number is now up to 60%, he said.

Davis noted that DHS is a relatively new agency that brought together more than 20 U.S. agencies when it was formed. "This is a work in progress," he said. "This takes years."

Charbo agreed but said his agency needs to do better. "That still doesn't change the fact that ... we're nowhere near where we wanted to be," he said.

Agencies that dropped from their 2004 scores included the Department of Transportation, which fell from an A- to a C-, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which went from a B+ to a D-, and the Department of the Interior, which dropped from a C+ to an F.

The annual scorecards are based on reports submitted to Congress by the different government agencies, as mandated by the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA).

The reports are designed to gauge whether the departments meet federally mandated security standards, but according to one observer, they say very little about the security of the IT systems in those departments.

"You get a very low score if you haven't finished a whole bunch of reports called Certification & Accreditation Reports," said Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS Institute, a computer security training organization in Bethesda, Md. "They're 90% documentation of the system."

"Even the consultants that write these reports have never secured a computer system," he added. "They wouldn't know a secure system if they met it on the street."

Rather than looking at whether agencies are meeting FISMA requirements, the government should adopt scorecards that measure the real-world "readiness" of its computer systems, much as the military reports on the battle readiness of its weapon systems, Paller said.

Robert McMillan of IDG News Service contributed to this story.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Wag the Dog: Change the Subject - Again!

[Editor's note: The Bush Administration has done everything possible to squash and discredit documents that prove that Bush & Co. lied to the world. Now, suddenly, when approval ratings are low and republicans are afraid they may lose the midterm elections, the administration, using the army to do its dirtywork, is about to release over many months cherry-picked document that we are supposed to believe tell the truth and the whole story. Hopefully neither the press nor the American public will fall back to their old ways and be so gullible.]

1st Declassified Iraq Documents Released

By JOHN SOLOMON, Associated Press Writer

The Bush administration Wednesday night released the first declassified documents collected by U.S. intelligence during the Iraq war, showing among other things that Saddam Hussein's regime was monitoring reports that Iraqis and Saudis were heading to Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks to fight U.S. troops.

The documents, the first of thousands expected to be declassified over the next several months, were released via a Pentagon Web site at the direction of National Intelligence Director John Negroponte.

Many were in Arabic — with no English translation — including one the administration said showed that Iraqi intelligence officials suspected al-Qaida members were inside Iraq in 2002.

The Pentagon Web site described that document this way: "2002 Iraqi Intelligence Correspondence concerning the presence of al-Qaida Members in Iraq. Correspondence between IRS members on a suspicion, later confirmed, of the presence of an Al-Qaeda terrorist group. Moreover, it includes photos and names."

The release of the documents, expected to continue for months, is designed to allow lawmakers and the public to investigate what documents from Saddam's regime claimed about such controversial issues as weapons of mass destruction and al-Qaida in the period before the United States invaded Iraq in March 2003.

The Web site cautioned that the U.S. government "has made no determination regarding the authenticity of the documents, validity or factual accuracy of the information contained therein, or the quality of any translations, when available."

A handful of prewar Iraq government documents released Wednesday had been translated into English.

They included one Iraqi intelligence document indicating Saddam's feared Fedayeen paramilitary forces were investigating rumors in the fall of 2001 that as many as 3,000 Iraqis and Saudis were going to fight in Afghanistan after the U.S. invasion.

"In the report on the status of rumors for November of 2001 regarding Fedayeen Saddam in al-Anbar, there is an entry that indicates that there is a group of Iraqi and Saudi Arabians numbering around 3,000 who have gone in an unofficial capacity to Afghanistan and have joined the mujahidin (mujahedeen, or holy warriors) to fight with and aid them in defeating the American Zionist Imperialist attack," the translated document stated.

"After presenting the matter to the Supervisor of Fedayeen Saddam, he ordered that the matter should be looked into for verification of the truth of the rumor," the translation said.

House Intelligence Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., requested the release of millions pages of documents and audio recordings captured during current and previous U.S. military operations in Iraq. Most have sat untranslated for years.

Last weekend, Negroponte agreed to set aside money and establish a system to make the documents available to the media, academics and other researchers.

In a statement, Hoekstra welcomed the chance to answer questions about prewar Iraq. "Whether Saddam Hussein destroyed Iraq's weapons of mass destruction or hid or transferred them, the most important thing is we discover the truth of what was happening in the country prior to the war," he said.


On the Net:

The declassified documents can be accessed at:


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Judge to force Google's hand
Judge to force Google's hand

SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- A federal judge said Tuesday he intends to require Google Inc. to turn over some information to the Department of Justice in its quest to revive a law making it harder for children to see online pornography.

U.S. District Judge James Ware did not immediately say whether the data will include words that users entered into the Internet's leading search engine.

The legal showdown over how much of the Web's vast databases should be shared with the government has pitted the Bush administration against the Mountain View-based company, which resisted a subpoena to turn over any information because of user privacy and trade secret concerns.

The Justice Department downplayed Google's concerns, arguing it doesn't want any personal information nor any data that would undermine the company's thriving business.

A lawyer for the Justice Department told Ware that the government would like to have a random selection of 50,000 Web addresses and 5,000 random search requests from Google, a small fraction of the millions the government originally sought.

The government believes the requested information will help bolster its arguments in a pornography case in Pennsylvania.

The case has focused attention on just how much personal information is stored by popular Web sites like Google -- and the potential for that data to attract the interest of the government and other parties.

Although the Justice Department said it doesn't want any personal information now, the victory would likely encourage far more invasive requests in the future, said University of Connecticut law professor Paul Schiff Berman, who specializes in Internet law.

"The erosion of privacy tends to happen incrementally," Berman said. "While no one intrusion may seem that big, over the course of the next decade or two, you might end up in a place as a society where you never thought you would be."

Google seized on the case to underscore its commitment to privacy rights and differentiate itself from the Internet's other major search engines -- Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp.'s MSN and Time Warner Inc.'s America Online. All three say they complied with the Justice Department's request without revealing their users' personal information.

Cooperating with the government "is a slippery slope and it's a path we shouldn't go down," Google co-founder Sergey Brin told industry analysts earlier this month.

Even as it defied the Bush administration, Google recently bowed to the demands of China's Communist government by agreeing to censor its search results in that country so it would have better access to the world's fastest growing Internet market. Google's China capitulation has been harshly criticized by some of the same people cheering the company's resistance to the Justice Department subpoena.

The Justice Department initially demanded a month of search requests from Google, but subsequently decided a week's worth of requests would be enough. In its legal briefs, the Justice Department indicated it might be willing to narrow its request even further.

Ultimately, the government planned to select a random sample of 1,000 search requests previously made at Google and re-enter them in the search engine, according to a sworn declaration by Philip Stark, a statistics professor at the University of California, Berkeley who is helping the Justice Department in the case.

The government believes the test will show how easily it is to get around filtering software that's supposed to prevent children from seeing sexually explicit material on the Web.

Find this article at:


Feingold Accuses Fellow Democrats of Cowering on Censuring Bush

ABC News
Feingold Accuses Fellow Democrats of Cowering on Censuring Bush
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Wisconsin Sen. Russell Feingold accused fellow Democrats on Tuesday of cowering rather than joining him on trying to censure President Bush over domestic spying.

"Democrats run and hide" when the administration invokes the war on terrorism, Feingold told reporters.

Feingold introduced censure legislation Monday in the Senate but not a single Democrat has embraced it. Several have said they want to see the results of a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation before supporting any punitive legislation.

Republicans dismissed the proposal Tuesday as being more about Feingold's 2008 presidential aspirations than Bush's actions. On and off the Senate floor, they have dared Democrats to vote for the resolution.

"I'm amazed at Democrats ... cowering with this president's numbers so low," Feingold said.

The latest AP-Ipsos poll on Bush, conducted last week, found just 37 percent of the 1,000 people surveyed approving his overall performance, the lowest of his presidency.

Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., tried to hold a vote Monday on Feingold's resolution but was blocked by Democrats. He said Tuesday that Feingold should withdraw the resolution because it has no support.

"If the Democrats continue to say no to voting on their own censure resolution, then they ought to drop it and focus on our foreign policy in a positive way," Frist said in a statement.

Feingold's resolution condemns Bush's "unlawful authorization of wiretaps of Americans within the United States without obtaining the court orders required" by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The only president ever censured by the Senate was Andrew Jackson, in 1834, for removing the nation's money from a private bank in defiance of the Whig-controlled Senate.


Bush Rejected Storm Loans More Than Other Presidents in Last 15 Years

ABC News
Study: Bush Rejected Storm Loans More Than Other Presidents in Last 15 Years
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The White House has rejected hurricane disaster-recovery loans at a higher rate than any other administration in the last 15 years, according to a congressional study by Democrats.

The report, expected to be released Wednesday, said business and home loan approval rates averaged about 60 percent after Hurricane Andrew devastated much of south Florida in 1992. The trend continued through the rest of President George H.W. Bush's administration and into the Clinton administration, according to Democratic members of the House Small Business Committee.

After Hurricane Wilma surged ashore in south Florida last year, the approval rate for low-interest, taxpayer-guaranteed loans by the Small Business Administration had dropped to barely 15 percent. Overall, Democrats said, approval rates for home and business disaster loans since 2004 have averaged about 35 percent.

"This was a monumental disaster, and it requires a monumental response," said New York Rep. Nydia Velazquez, the panel's top Democrat. "That hasn't happened. People are suffering, and it's the SBA's role to provide assistance."

The SBA has tripled its staff over the past year to deal with the series of major Gulf Coast hurricanes. Despite the increase from 1,500 employees to 4,500 the report found the agency's approval rate has continued to drop with each disaster.

SBA officials, who were expected to defend their efforts before the House panel Wednesday, offered several explanations for the sharp drop-off in loan approval rates, including changes to the loan application process.

During previous disasters, officials have said they tallied only applications that stood a chance of approval. A new computerized system, however, counts all applications, whether or not the loan might be approved.

The SBA also has argued that the scope of the devastation caused by three successive Gulf Coast hurricanes and the area's high number of low-income families and business owners have been responsible for higher rejection rates.

In Louisiana, for example, nearly 3 in 5 applicants couldn't meet credit standards, the SBA said. Another 1 in 4 said they couldn't repay the loans, and 1 in 10 didn't make enough money.

Finally, the agency said, it still offered a record $6 billion in low-interest, taxpayer-guaranteed loans to more than 80,000 Gulf Coast home and business owners. Last week, the SBA announced it would extend until April 10 the deadline for victims of Hurricane Katrina and Rita to apply for a physical damage loan.

"SBA has very lenient lending requirements with regard to the disaster loan program," agency spokeswoman Anne Marie Frawley said. "However, it is necessary that the applicant have the ability to repay the loan, based on their pre-hurricane financial standing. It's a balance between making all the loans we can and responsibly using taxpayer dollars."

Rich Carter, a spokesman for Republicans on the House panel, said the agency should be given the benefit of the doubt since the approval rate tends to increase with time. Generally, a large percentage of applications received early in the recovery effort will be rejected, giving an artificially high rejection rate, Carter said.

Velazquez has urged the White House to fire Hector Barreto, head of the small business agency. She acknowledged that early results often show high rejection rates. "But this is what, seven, eight months later?" she asked.

The SBA drew the ire of many lawmakers last month when it announced it was almost out of disaster loan money. Lawmakers gave the green light to the SBA to spend $100 million in early February; later in the month, the Senate approved legislation to provide $712 million for the agency's program, which is expected to keep it afloat through the end of April.

The agency's slowness in responding to the hurricanes and the funding shortfall angered lawmakers on both sides of Capitol Hill. Last month, Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Mary Landrieu, D-La., blasted the SBA for not asking for more disaster loan recovery money until it was almost broke. The two lawmakers have asked the agency to give them a daily accounting of the balance in the loan program.

On the Net:

Small Business Administration:

House Small Business Committee:


Sirhan to Come Up for Parole in California; Hearing for Robert F. Kennedy's Killer Sirhan Sirhan Highlights Governor's Connections

ABC News
Sirhan to Come Up for Parole in California
Hearing for Robert F. Kennedy's Killer Sirhan Sirhan Highlights Governor's Connections
The Associated Press

FRESNO, Calif. - Robert F. Kennedy's assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, comes up for parole again this week in a potential conflict for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is married to RFK's niece.

Sirhan shot Kennedy to death at a Los Angeles hotel in 1968, minutes after the New York senator claimed victory in the California presidential primary. Sirhan received a death sentence, which was commuted to life in prison in 1972 when the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional.

The assassin's parole hearing at Corcoran State Prison on Wednesday the 13th since his conviction and the first since Schwarzenegger's election in 2003 will be heard by two board members, one of whom was appointed by Schwarzenegger.

If the board recommends his release and that is unlikely, experts say the decision of whether to free Sirhan will fall to Schwarzenegger, setting up an unusual dilemma.

"Judges can recuse themselves, but this is not the kind of decision a governor can delegate," said Jack Pitney, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College.

The governor's press office declined to comment, saying it is highly unlikely the decision would fall to Schwarzenegger.

Sirhan's longtime lawyer died last year, and he has not chosen a new attorney.

Sirhan doesn't plan to present his own case, and if he doesn't choose a lawyer the board will make its decision without a public hearing, prison officials said.

Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney David Dahle, who will argue the state's case before the parole board, said there is little chance the decision would fall to the Republican governor. He conceded there is at least the appearance of a conflict.

"Obviously there's an issue. He's married to the Kennedy family," he said. "But he is not a member of the immediate family."

Schwarzenegger's wife is TV journalist Maria Shriver. Her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, was a sister of RFK and President Kennedy.

Schwarzenegger and Shriver are occasional visitors to the Massachusetts home of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, RFK's younger brother. As recently as last year, the California governor participated in a benefit for the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial.


Senate could vote Thursday to hike debt limit

Senate could vote Thursday to hike debt limit

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate could begin debate on Wednesday on legislation to increase U.S. borrowing authority, with a vote on the measure aimed at averting a government default possible on Thursday, congressional officials said.

Sen. Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, sketched out the timetable for the $781 billion increase in the U.S. debt limit. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, said a vote by Thursday was possible "but not set in stone."

The U.S. Treasury Department has warned Congress that in order to avoid default, it needs an increase in its statutory borrowing authority by March 24 at the latest.

The current borrowing limit is $8.18 trillion and Democrats are expected to oppose the $781 billion increase without any roadmap for slowing the rapid runup in U.S. debt.

The House of Representatives initially passed a debt limit increase nearly a year ago as part of a fiscal 2006 budget blueprint. But if the Senate passes any amendments to the measure, it would have to go back to the House for approval.

Conrad said Democrats will offer up to three amendments to the debt limit bill.

One of those would be a Conrad "pay-go" amendment requiring tougher discipline on spending increases or tax cuts as part of the budget process. Under the measure, higher spending on many federal programs or tax cuts would have to be paid for with spending reductions elsewhere or tax increases.

By a 50-50 vote on Tuesday, the Senate rejected this amendment to a separate budget blueprint bill.


Norquist group faces challenge for Abramoff ties

Norquist group faces challenge for Abramoff ties
By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An ethics watchdog asked the U.S. Internal Revenue Service on Tuesday to revoke the tax-exempt status of a conservative group for helping disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff secretly fund an anti-casino campaign that benefited his clients.

Americans for Tax Reform also violated its nonprofit status by taking a cut of the money it handled, said Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW.

"This thing that they did where they basically took in money from tribes, laundered it and skimmed some off the top had nothing to do with their purpose" as an anti-tax organization, CREW executive director Melanie Sloan said.

A spokesman for Americans for Tax Reform declined to comment but said he would have an official reaction later.

Americans for Tax Reform founder Grover Norquist has had a close relationship with Abramoff since the early 1980s, when they were active in the College Republicans.

Abramoff went on to a lucrative lobbying career before pleading in January to fraud charges and admitting that he showered gifts on lawmakers in return for official favors. He is now cooperating in a corruption probe that has implicated several top Republicans, including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Norquist built his nonprofit group into an influential conservative organization that advocates tax cuts and limited government.

E-mail messages released by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee last year show that Abramoff and anti-gambling activist Ralph Reed discussed passing checks through Americans for Tax Reform. Those documents indicate that Norquist's group kept some of the money it handled.

Norquist told the Boston Globe last year that he passed along $1.15 million from an Indian tribe that runs a casino in Mississippi to anti-gambling groups trying to block a casino in Alabama.

Because the contributions were routed through Norquist's group, the anti-gambling activists would not know that they were bankrolled by gambling money.

A Republican political group said it might file an IRS complaint challenging CREW's nonprofit status on the grounds that it behaves in a partisan manner.

"If you look at CREW you see nothing more than a shill for the Democratic Party," said Dan Ronayne, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

CREW has filed complaints against at least 15 Republicans and one Democrat since 2003. The group's report on "The 13 Most Corrupt Members of Congress" features 11 Republicans and two Democrats.

That's because Republicans are in power, Sloan said.

"Nobody's going to pay off a Democrat, because they can't deliver anything," she said.

An IRS spokesman was not available for comment.


Senate intelligence chief urges end to Iraq probe

Senate intelligence chief urges end to Iraq probe
By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chairman of the Senate intelligence committee on Tuesday urged lawmakers to begin wrapping up the second phase of its investigation into U.S. intelligence on prewar Iraq, despite fresh demands from Democrats for further scrutiny.

Sen. Pat Roberts, the Kansas Republican, laid out a schedule for completing four of the investigation's five segments by the end of April and pledged to release much of the findings to the public.

The largest segment of the Phase 2 investigation, which has increasingly become a lightning rod for partisan squabbling, promises to examine whether Bush administration officials exaggerated intelligence on Iraq as they made their public case for war in 2002 and 2003.

"Over the next several weeks, the committee's members will work with staff to write the final products," Roberts said in a statement. "This schedule provides a reasonable time frame for member input as we complete the inquiry."

Aides to Roberts said the chairman released the work schedule in a public bid to counter behind-the-scenes efforts by Democrats to expand the Phase 2 probe.

"The Democrats are saying (the probe) is not developing the answers they want -- the answers they want amount to 'Bush lied' -- so they just want to keep looking," said one aide, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about committee affairs.

Republicans cited a January 13 letter to Roberts from Sen. John Rockefeller of West Virginia, the intelligence panel's ranking Democrat, as evidence that Democrats wanted a broader investigation.

Neither Roberts nor Rockefeller would release the two-page letter.


But a Democratic aide familiar with Phase 2 said the letter asked the committee to interview about 20 senior administration officials, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and sought access to President George W. Bush's daily intelligence briefings on Iraq.

"Nowhere is there any suggestion we need to go into areas of investigation that we haven't already started," he said.

The Rockefeller letter also called on the committee to press ahead with its probe of former U.S. defense policy chief Douglas Feith, whom Democrats accuse of manipulating intelligence to suggest links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the Democratic aide said.

Roberts has put the committee's Feith investigation on hold until the Defense Department inspector general completes its own probe of the former defense official.

"Our goal should be to unite around a thorough, accurate and credible report that answers lingering questions about whether and how intelligence may have been misused," Rockefeller said in a statement.

The first phase of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence probe looked at the quality of intelligence on Iraq and concluded in a scathing 2004 report that grave errors led to prewar U.S. claims that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

WMD were a main justification for Bush's decision to invade Iraq. But no such weapons have been found.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Holy Grail, No More

Holy Grail, No More
Frank Hayes

MARCH 13, 2006 (COMPUTERWORLD) - It's happened again. In late February, another laptop was stolen that reportedly contained tens of thousands of names and Social Security numbers. This time, it was grabbed from the home of a state college employee in Denver; that employee had the data on the laptop in order to write a grant proposal and a master's thesis. As usual, the data was unencrypted, the investigation is ongoing, and there's a howl going up about whether the employee should have taken the data outside of school premises at all.

Funny thing, though. No one involved seems to be raising a more fundamental question: Why exactly did this employee have access to 93,000 student Social Security numbers in the first place?

After all, Social Security numbers are the Holy Grail of the identity thief. They're so widely used as unique identifiers that attaching that one number to a name is all it can take to find out nearly everything else about a potential rip-off victim.

On the other hand, they're not particularly useful for someone who is writing a grant proposal or a master's thesis.

So why was this employee hauling around all that highly sensitive and almost certainly unnecessary information? You know the likely answer: It came with the package.

The data that the employee wanted probably included personal information about students. The names and Social Security numbers weren't necessary for analyzing that information. Most likely, they just happened to be part of the data set.

It's possible the employee was using the Social Security numbers as unique identifiers for each student. But they still weren't necessary; any unique number would have served that purpose.

And that number wouldn't have had any value to identity thieves.

Isn't it time you started seriously protecting this highly sensitive piece of information about students, employees and customers? Not just with encryption or beefed-up authentication or gimmicks like self-destroying data, but with a much more effective technique: not giving out Social Security numbers to people who don't need them.

What a concept, huh?

Most users won't object. They don't need Social Security numbers to interact with you, and they know it. As long as you give them an alternate unique ID, they'll be happy. Some won't even need that.

Other users, who are accustomed to using Social Security numbers routinely, will complain. And there's no need for IT to be unreasonable: If a user has a legitimate need for that particular number, deliver it to them. You don't even have to set a high bar for what you count as legitimate. The goal isn't to give users trouble.

It's to keep trouble away from the people those Social Security numbers belong to.

But it's time to stop treating this information as just another set of numbers. There's no mystery how this mess came to be: It dates from decades back, when Social Security numbers weren't so sensitive and the thick, green-bar reports IT generated weren't so likely to leave the office. Back then, including Social Security numbers really wasn't such a big deal.

Those reports gave way to client/server applications, and then data sets that users could access directly using spreadsheets and carry anywhere in laptops. Rejiggering that data to remove Social Security numbers never seemed like a high-priority project.

Make it a priority now. Identity theft isn't becoming less of a problem. Neither is laptop theft. The next stage is easy to predict: class-action lawsuits that slap a hefty penalty on organizations that let thieves grab personal information.

You can't prevent that, any more than you can prevent laptops from being stolen. But you can keep the damage to a minimum. And a great place to start is to keep Social Security numbers out of the hands of anyone who doesn't need them.

Because you know it'll happen again. And you want to make sure it doesn't happen to you.

Frank Hayes, Computerworld's senior news columnist, has covered IT for more than 20 years. Contact him at


Georgetown Hack May Have Exposed Personal Data

Georgetown Hack May Have Exposed Personal Data
News Story by Jaikumar Vijayan

MARCH 13, 2006 (COMPUTERWORLD) - Georgetown University in Washington has called in the U.S. Secret Service to investigate a server breach that may have exposed confidential information on more than 41,000 individuals.

The breach appears to have been caused by an external hacker and involved a server that managed information on services provided by the District of Columbia Office on Aging, according to a university statement. The breach may have exposed the names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers of people taking part in the agency's programs.

The server was managed by a university researcher under a grant from the Office on Aging.

The breach was discovered Feb. 12 during a routine check of school networks by Georgetown's information security office, said a university spokesman. The compromised server was immediately disconnected from the network, he said.

But because "it took some time to recognize the scope and nature of the exposure," the intrusion was not disclosed to the Office on Aging for almost two weeks, according to the spokesman. Law enforcement officials were then notified on Feb. 27, and the Secret Service took custody of the compromised server for forensic testing the next day.

There is no evidence that the compromised information has been misused, the spokesman said. He said the breach did not affect any of the university's core computer systems containing student financial and admission records.

Damage Control

Georgetown is now notifying people whose information may have been exposed in the incident, the spokesman said. But that task is complicated because the breached server contained records dating back to 1983 on people who may now be deceased.

The university has established a toll-free phone number and a Web site where people can get more information.

In a March 3 e-mail to students and workers, Georgetown CIO David Lambert said the university's security office plans to focus on "enhancing the security of confidential information contained on campus and departmental servers" during the spring and summer. He did not elaborate.

According to a university source familiar with the incident who requested anonymity, the server in question was under the control of an individual who wasn't technically qualified to be a systems administrator. "Because we're a university and fairly open, there are many computing fiefdoms," often run by individuals with grant money, the source said in an e-mail.


Maryland House Votes to Oust Diebold Machines

Maryland House Votes to Oust Diebold Machines
Marc L. Songini

MARCH 13, 2006 (COMPUTERWORLD) - The state of Maryland stands poised to put its entire $95 million investment in Diebold Election Systems Inc. touch-screen e-voting systems on ice because they can't produce paper receipts.

The state House of Delegates last week voted 137-0 to approve a bill prohibiting election officials from using AccuVote-TS touch-screen systems in the 2006 primary and general elections. The legislation calls for the state to lease paper-based optical-scan systems for the 2006 votes. State Delegate Anne Healey estimated the leasing cost at $12.5 million to $16 million for the two elections.

Healey, a Democrat, is the vice chairwoman of the Maryland House Ways and Means Committee, which recommended the passage of the bill. The bill was sent on to the state Senate for a vote after the House action, she said.

No Confidence

Healey said the effort was inspired in part by concerns raised by officials in California and Florida that the Diebold systems have inherent security problems caused by technological and procedural flaws.

"We've been hearing from the public for the last several years that it doesn't have confidence in a system without a paper trail," Healey said. "We need to provide that level of confidence going forward."

If the bill becomes law, the state's Diebold systems will be placed in "abeyance" and the vendor will be required to equip them to provide the necessary paper trail, she said.

Healey said the law would require the vendor to provide a paper trail before the 2008 elections or risk losing its contract to supply machines in the state. The bill also mandates that any leased optical-scan system be equipped to accommodate the needs of handicapped voters, to ensure compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act.

Healey said she expects the Senate to vote on the bill sometime in the next few weeks, before the legislative session ends.

A Diebold spokesman said the company will "work with the state of Maryland, as we always have, to support their elections as they see fit." He noted that Maryland has been using Diebold machines for several years without problems. The state first contracted with Diebold to provide the systems in January 2002.

Maryland is following in the footsteps of several other states in expressing concern over security flaws in the Diebold machines.

Earlier this month, Florida adopted a new set of security procedures for the use of e-voting systems from any supplier.

The implementation of the new procedures in Florida was largely a response to reports issued last month by California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson saying that tests found the Diebold systems vulnerable to external access via hacking or bugs.

Nonetheless, McPherson has granted conditional certification for the Diebold machines in California's elections -- with the proviso that supervisors adhere to new security guidelines when using the gear.


Monday, March 13, 2006

Railroad Loses $116,000 After Responding to E-Mail Pitch
Railroad Loses $116,000 After Responding to E-Mail Pitch
By DONNA HIGGINS, Andrews Publications Staff Writer

Railroad giant CSX Transportation Inc. has lost its bid to collect almost $116,000 from a company whose name appeared in the domain name of an unsolicited e-mail that offered to buy old railcars for scrap.

The mere presence of the company's name as part of the sender's e-mail address is not enough, without more, to establish that the sender had authority to enter into a binding contract on the company's behalf, U.S. District Judge William G. Young in Boston said, noting that the issue appeared to be one of first impression.

"Before delivering goods worth over $115,000 to a stranger, one reasonably should be expected to inquire as to the authority of that person to have made such a deal," the judge said. "Given the anonymity of the Internet, this case illustrates the potential consequences of operating — even in today's fast-paced business world — as CSX did."

CSX filed the breach-of-contract case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts against Recovery Express Inc. and Interstate Demolition & Environmental Corp. IDEC shared office space with Recovery Express, and two of Recovery Express' principals were also active in IDEC, the opinion says.

CSX provides freight rail service in 23 states in the eastern United States and in two Canadian provinces.

As the ruling explained, a CSX employee received an e-mail from Albert Arillotta, who claimed he worked for Recovery Express and used the e-mail address The message — rife with spelling and grammatical errors — claimed Recovery Express was interested in buying old CSX railcars to resell for scrap.

The CSX employee spoke by phone with Arillotta, who eventually showed up at a CSX rail yard and hauled away several railcars. There is no evidence as to where the railcars are now or what happened to them, the opinion notes.

A check from Arillotta for $115,757 bounced, and Recovery Express refused to pay, claiming Arillotta never worked for the company. The judge said Arillotta actually worked for IDEC, and the two companies apparently shared an e-mail system. IDEC is now defunct.

Recovery Express moved for summary judgment, contending that CSX has no grounds for forcing it to pay the bill for the railcars.

Judge Young agreed, saying the outcome of the case boiled down to whether the presence of Recovery Express' name as part of Arillotta's e-mail address was enough by itself to confer "apparent authority" on Arillotta to enter into a contract for Recovery Express.

The judge concluded it did not, and he likened an e-mail address to a business card or corporate stationary, which can create an association between an individual and a company but does not automatically mean the person has any authority to act on the company's behalf.

If the court adopted CSX's argument, the judge said, it would mean "every subordinate employee with a company e-mail address — down to the night watchman — could bind a company to the same contracts as the president. That is not the law."

CSX Transportation Inc. v. Recovery Express Inc., No. 04-12293, 2006 WL 235068 (D. Mass. Feb. 1, 2006).
Computer & Internet Litigation Reporter
Volume 23, Issue 20


Sunday, March 12, 2006

Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil, See No Evil


New Crystal Ball


What's the surprise?


Here we go again!


But Where Can We Find An American Company To Take Over The Ports ???


Sinking Ship


The Forbes 40,000,000
The Forbes 40,000,000
Tony Hendra

The good news: for the fifth consecutive year the poor got poorer! In this - the 24th edition of the Forbes 40,000,000 - the collective net worth of America’s poorest - after being offset against liabilities – plunged from $425 to $113. Weirdly, this happens to be exactly one ten-billionth of the combined net worth - $1.13 trillion - of the Forbes 400.

Surging real estate and oil prices drove down the pathetic individual assets of the Forbes 40,000,000 and added 3 million newbies to the legendary list. Meet a couple of the exploitable nobodies who form the lowest and largest segment of America’s Great Opportunity Pyramid or GOP:

#23,085,889 Garth Hambone, 51. Net worth: $-4,637.02. Education: High-school valedictorian Hambone entered lucrative IBM Selectric division in 70s, was laid off as IBM moved into personal computers in 80s, ended up doing a 7-year jail term in Huntsville Tex. for passing a bum $31 check. Chronically unemployable he makes his home in his 1992 Hyundai, ‘somewhere’ in Sugarland Tex. and owes his negative net worth to outstanding tickets for various traffic violations. Felon Hambone can’t vote but if he could would send his Congressman Tom Delay back to Washington in November because ‘Republicans stand up for America, freedom and white folks’.

#17,996,111. Gloria Estrada 48. Net worth (as of 5:30pm PT 3/13/06), $0.05. Like most of the Forbes 40,000,000, single mom of four Gloria is desperate enough to work 2 and 3 jobs at below-subsistence wages. Gloria last had a full night’s sleep in 1995. She is currently repurposing used duct-tape for her local Wal-Mart, helping boost the stock-price of Walton heirs Alice, Helen, Jim, John and Robson (#4-#8 on Forbes 400; combined net worth $94.0 billion). When she can afford the 5-buck tab Gloria feasts on a pizza and hot bread sticks at her local Little Caesar’s pizza joints. Little Caesar’s products are typical of the food-like cereal combos on which most of the Forbes 40,000,000 subsist; their only nutritional content being the skimpy cheese toppings supplied by newly minted billionaire James Leprino (#258 Forbes 400. Net worth 1.3 billion).

With no unions, no job projection, no contracts, America’s poorest can be fired with impunity and without notice, making them willing to do just about anything to hang on to their pathetic salaries. It doesn’t hurt that for every person with a job, five other members the Forbes 40,000,000 are waiting outside the job-site to grab their jobs if they’re fired, fall sick, are injured or killed. The effects on productivity are stellar; the ever-expanding bottom-lines of the Forbes 400 are being pushed to unprecedented heights by an ever-expanding work-force of meek, cooperative, docile, pliable, low-cost neo-slaves.

Speaking of slavery, some CEOs have been quietly talking about schemes to avoid paying the poorest anything at all for their work. One possibility: finding a way to arrest and incarcerate far greater numbers of the poor than are currently in correctional facilities and then tap the prison population as unpaid workers. One niggling objection: with so many CEOs in the slammer or headed there, they could end up working for un-incarcerated CEOs. Bigger question: would hard-pressed states be willing to underwrite a massive expansion of their prisons? This in turn underlines the wider problem of paying workers nothing. Like slave-owners of old, modern owners would be forced to feed, clothe, house, even provide rudimentary healthcare for their workers if they didn’t want them dying like flies. Studies show that however skimpy these services, they’d cost substantially more than prevailing rock-bottom wages, especially when it’s factored in, that the Forbes 40,000,000’s pathetic incomes are immediately repossessed by various sectors of the Forbes 400, in food and gas bills, rent, clothing, gambling debt, futile sports and entertainment costs and usurious interest rates.

With wages for the lowest headed still lower, patriotic CEOs are also toying with the possibility that jobs exported by such companies as Nike (founder Philip Knight #22 Forbes 400 Net worth $7.4 billion) to rock-bottom Asian and Latin American economies where humans will work for 2 bucks a day, can finally be brought back home again.

The bad news that goes along with all this good news?

There isn’t any.


Gale Norton Resigns

The New York Times
Gale Norton Resigns

Like her mentor, James Watt, the maniacally anti-environmental interior secretary under Ronald Reagan, Gale Norton came to Washington convinced that the pendulum of public policy had swung too far in favor of the protection of America's natural resources at the expense of their commercial exploitation — especially by the oil, natural gas and mining industries.

In this she was little different from the other ideologues whom President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney picked to fill most of the administration's important environmental posts. But as the cheerful, upbeat face of a retrograde public policy, she may have been the most successful of them all.

In public Ms. Norton spoke winningly of what she called her four C's: "cooperation, communication and consultation, all in the service of conservation." But this was little more than comfy language diverting attention from her main agenda, which was to open up Western lands, some of them fragile, to the extractive industries. Perhaps her signature moment was a secret deal in 2003 with Mike Leavitt, then governor of Utah, in which she not only exposed 2.6 million acres of previously protected lands to commercial development but also renounced her statutory authority to recommend additional lands for wilderness protection. There will be no new wilderness under my watch, she seemed to say, but there will be oil and gas.

The agency she leaves behind is not a particularly happy one. Many National Park Service employees oppose her rewrite of the service's management philosophy, a rewrite favoring recreational use over conservation. Biologists at the Fish and Wildlife Service have complained of political interference. Her emasculation of the mining laws pleased few outside the industry. The White House has hacked unmercifully at key departmental programs — including the vital Land and Water Conservation Fund, which Mr. Bush vowed to protect — without audible complaint from the secretary.

Ms. Norton has been an extraordinarily faithful steward of the Bush agenda — but not, we are sad to say, of the lands she was obliged to protect.


Cheney Roasted at Gridiron Club Dinner
Cheney Roasted at Gridiron Club Dinner
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- President Bush headlined the annual Gridiron Club political press roast Saturday night, but Vice President Dick Cheney was the main target of the humor.

Cheney's well-publicized Texas hunting accident last month, drew ridicule from the press corps and all the speakers, including the president.

Bush pointed out that the vice president's full name is Richard B. Cheney.

"B. stands for bulls eye," Bush said to laughter from the hundreds of reporters and officials from the administration and Congress. The press, Bush joked, blew the matter way out of proportion: "Good Lord, you'd thought he shot somebody or something."

Cheney, who sat at the head table, laughed along with most of the jokes.

Bush said that while pundits speculate about whether Cheney or White House political adviser Karl Rove run the government, it's another person who actually pulls the strings. Cheney, Bush said, tells him what to do but Cheney's wife, Lynne, tells the vice president what to do.

"Lynne, I think you're doing a heck of a job. Although I have to say you dropped the ball big time on that Dubai deal," he said, in a joke about the controversial ports deal.

Lynne Cheney was the Republican speaker and opened by saying that because she came late in the program "the hunting jokes have been used."

The Democratic speaker was Illinois Sen. Barack Obama who sang a parody, "If I Only Had McCain."

His song alluded to a recent spat with Sen. John McCain over ethics reform. Obama was the lead Democrat on the issue, which has been a signature cause of the Arizona Republican.

Democrats didn't have an easier time than the Republicans and were mocked for being in disarray over their party's message and strategy, its position on the Iraq war and even whom to field for president in 2008.

"What do we stand for? We don't know. What's our platform? We ain't sure. All we know is Dubya's got it wrong," reporters sang, using a nickname for Bush.

The travails of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California also came in for a ribbing.

"This job is a zoo, I don't have a clue," a reporter sang. But then "Dubya messed up with the ports. I don't know why, but thank you, Dubai."

Bush made his fifth appearance and speech at the white-tie dinner.

Reporters dressed as sick chickens for a bird flu skit, as the Incredible Hulk to poke fun at Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, who likes to wear a Hulk tie while waging fights in the Senate, and as Cheney hidden behind a Darth Vader mask.

Founded in 1885, the invitation-only Gridiron Club is the oldest organization for Washington journalists. It exists only for the annual dinner.

Now in its 121st year, the Gridiron claims to "singe, but never burn."


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Bush shocked by arrest of former adviser

Bush shocked by arrest of former adviser

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — President Bush on Saturday said he was shocked to learn that his former domestic policy adviser was charged with theft for allegedly receiving phony refunds at department stores.

Allen walks with Bush on the White House complex following a meeting of black religious and community leaders Jan. 25.
By J. Scott Applewhite, AP

"I was shocked and my first reaction was one of disappointment, deep disappointment — if it's true — that we were not fully informed," Bush said.

Claude Alexander Allen, 45, was arrested Thursday by police in Montgomery County, Md., for allegedly claiming refunds for more than $5,000 worth of merchandise he did not buy, according to county and federal authorities.

"If the allegations are true, Claude Allen did not tell my chief of staff or legal counsel the truth, and that's deeply disappointing" the president. "If the allegations are true, something went wrong in Claude Allen's life, and that is really sad."

Allen, named as domestic policy adviser in early 2005, resigned abruptly on Feb. 9, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.

Under investigation since at least January for alleged thefts on 25 occasions at Target and Hecht's stores, Allen had told White House chief of staff Andrew Card and White House counsel Harriet Miers there was some confusion with his credit card because he had moved several times. "He assured them that he had done nothing wrong and the matter would be cleared up," press secretary Scott McClellan said late Friday.

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Study warns of lapses by port operators

Study warns of lapses by port operators

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lapses by private port operators, shipping lines or truck drivers could allow terrorists to smuggle weapons of mass destruction into the United States, according to a government review of security at American seaports.

The $75 million, three-year study by the Homeland Security Department included inspections at a New Jersey cargo terminal involved in the dispute over a Dubai company's now-abandoned bid to take over significant operations at six major U.S. ports.

The previously undisclosed results from the study found that cargo containers can be opened secretly during shipment to add or remove items without alerting U.S. authorities, according to government documents marked "sensitive security information" and obtained by The Associated Press.

The study found serious lapses by private companies at foreign and American ports, aboard ships, and on trucks and trains "that would enable unmanifested materials or weapons of mass destruction to be introduced into the supply chain."

The study, expected to be completed this fall, used satellites and experimental monitors to trace roughly 20,000 cargo containers out of the millions arriving each year from Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Most containers are sealed with mechanical bolts that can be cut and replaced or have doors that can be removed by dismantling hinges.

The risks from smuggled weapons are especially worrisome because U.S. authorities largely decide which cargo containers to inspect based on shipping records of what is thought to be inside.

Among the study's findings:

•Safety problems were not limited to overseas ports. A warehouse in Maine was graded less secure than any in Pakistan, Turkey or Brazil. "There is a perception that U.S. facilities benefit from superior security protection measures," the study said. "This mind set may contribute to a misplaced sense of confidence in American business practices."

•No records were kept of "cursory" inspections in Guatemala for containers filled with Starbucks Corp. coffee beans shipped to the West Coast. "Coffee beans were accessible to anyone entering the facility," the study said. It found significant mistakes on manifests and other paperwork. In a statement to the AP, Starbucks said it was reviewing its security procedures.

•Truck drivers in Brazil were permitted to take cargo containers home overnight and park along public streets. Trains in the U.S. stopped in rail yards that did not have fences and were in high-crime areas. A shipping industry adage reflects unease over such practices: "A container at rest is a container at risk."

•Practices at Turkey's Port of Izmir were "totally inadequate by U.S. standards." But, the study noted, "It has been done that way for decades in Turkey."

•Containers could be opened aboard some ships during weekslong voyages to America. "Due to the time involved in transit (and) the fact that most vessel crewmembers are foreigners with limited credentialing and vetting, the containers are vulnerable to intrusion during the ocean voyage," the study said.

•Some governments will not help tighten security because they view terrorism as an American problem. The U.S. said "certain countries," which were not identified, would not cooperate in its security study — "a tangible example of the lack of urgency with which these issues are regarded."

•Security was good at two terminals in Seattle and nearby Tacoma, Wash. The operator in Seattle, SSA Marine, uses cameras and software to track visitors and workers. "We consider ourselves playing an important role in security," said the company's vice president, Bob Waters.

In theory, some nuclear materials inside cargo containers can be detected with special monitors. But such devices have frustrated port officials in New Jersey because bananas, kitty litter and fire detectors — which all emit natural radiation — set off the same alarms more than 100 times every day.

The study applauded efforts to install radiation monitors overseas. "While there is clearly value in nuclear detection at a U.S. port, that is precisely the concern — it is already on U.S. soil," it said.

Finding biological and chemical weapons inside cargo containers is less likely. The study said tests were "labor intensive, time-consuming and costly to use" and produced too many false alarms. "No silver bullet has emerged to render terrorists incapable of introducing WMD into containers," it said.

Sen. Patty Murray, who advocated the study, said: "There are huge holes in our security system that need to be filled." The Washington Democrat said the study "shows us there are major vulnerabilities over who handles cargo, where it's been and whether cargo is on a manifest."

Part of the study tested new tamper-evident locks on containers and tracking devices.

"It's important to figure out what works and what doesn't," said Elaine Dezenski, Homeland Security's acting assistant secretary for policy development. She said the study "gave us a much better view of vulnerabilities." The U.S. is looking for weaknesses across the shipping system to learn where terrorists might strike, she said.

The study, called "Operation Safe Commerce," undercuts arguments that port security in America is an exclusive province of the Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection and is not managed by companies operating shipping terminals.

The theme was an important element in the Bush administration's forceful defense of the deal it originally approved to allow Dubai-owned DP World to handle significant operations at ports in New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.

Bush and senior officials sought to assure lawmakers that safety at ports would not decline.

"I can understand people's consternation because the first thing they heard was that a foreign company would be in charge of our port security when in fact, the Coast Guard and Customs are in charge of our port security," Bush said Feb. 28. "Our duty is to protect America, and we will protect America."

DP World promised on Thursday to transfer fully to an American company its U.S. port operations it acquired when it bought London-based Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co.

It was unclear how such a sale might occur, but the divestiture was expected to involve major operations at the six U.S. ports and affect lesser dockside activities at 16 other ports in this country.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., a leading critic of the Dubai deal, said anyone suggesting that port operators and shipping companies were not involved with security was "living in La-La land."

"You can obviously have stuff in containers that doesn't make it onto manifests, either by design or from the actions of bad actors," Menendez said in an AP interview Friday. "A terminal operator is so involved in the overall security equation of ports."

Parts of the U.S. study examined the safety of containers sent to the same cargo terminal in New Jersey that DP World would have managed jointly and operated with its Denmark-based rival, Maersk Sealand.

Hundreds of pages of study documents obtained by the AP do not list specific security lapses at the New Jersey terminal. The final two cargo containers being tracked under the study were expected to arrive there this week from the Middle East.

But the study broadly described problems in warehouses and other storage areas that raised doubts about the safety of containers brought to New Jersey's port. It cited problems with protective fences and gates, surveillance cameras and emergency plans.

The lengthy study has been beset by problems. Japan refused to allow officials to attach tracking devices to containers destined for the United States. Other tracking devices sometimes failed. Many shipping companies refused to disclose information for competitive reasons.

Some containers in the study were aboard a ship the Coast Guard held 11 miles off New Jersey's coast for security reasons in August 2004. An anonymous e-mail had claimed a container filled with tons of lemons was deliberately contaminated with a biological agent. The lemons were fumigated and burned, but no trace of poison was ever found; the containers also were destroyed.

Parts of the study could not be finished at all. U.S. officials went to Pakistan to inspect how workers in Karachi handle cargo containers. But they canceled plans for a return inspection because of an outbreak of terrorist attacks there.

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Dean criticizes GOP on ports security

Dean criticizes GOP on ports security

WASHINGTON (AP) — The chairman of the Democratic National Committee sought to capitalize Saturday on the recent divide between President Bush and congressional Republicans over ports security, arguing that the GOP has a "pre-9/11 mind-set" on ensuring safety at U.S. entries.

In his party's weekly radio address, Howard Dean trumpeted the Democrats' success in helping to derail a plan for a Dubai-owned company to manage some operations at six U.S. ports.

Bush strongly backed the deal involving the United Arab Emirates-based company, but many lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, opposed having a foreign government oversee operations at ports vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

In a surprise announcement, DP World said Thursday it would transfer terminal operations at six ports to a U.S. entity, sparing Bush a veto showdown with GOP lawmakers.

However, the Financial Times newspaper of London reported Friday that DP World is considering retaining a 49% interest in the port operations. A DP World spokesman said he didn't know whether the report, attributed to a person involved in the deal, was accurate.

"Any of these plans that allow Dubai Ports World to retain any portion of ownership or control over U.S. ports is absolutely unacceptable," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. "If they insist on doing so, we will move our legislation preventing them from owning or controlling any percentage of U.S. port operations."

"America had a great victory this week in the war on terror," Dean said in the radio address. "Key Democratic senators and representatives forced President Bush to give up the idea that six major American ports should be run by a foreign country. Republicans in Congress followed the Democrats' lead to demand the president change the policy."

Bush said Friday he was open to changing how the government reviews such transactions. But, he told a gathering of newspaper executives, "I'm concerned about a broader message this issue could send to our friends and allies around the world, particularly in the Middle East."

"In order to win the war on terror, we have got to strengthen our friendships and relationships with moderate Arab countries in the Middle East," he said.

National security has been Bush's signature issue since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, boosting him to a second term in 2004. In January, White House adviser Karl Rove promised to make the war on terrorism a central campaign issue as Republicans looked to maintain their grip on the House and Senate in the midterm elections.

Rove told the GOP activists: "Republicans have a post-9/11 view of the world. And Democrats have a pre-9/11 view of the world."

In an echo of Rove's approach, Dean said the ports security controversy highlights a different Republican Party.

"Republicans have shown a pre-9/11 mind-set when it comes to closing the gaps in our security at our ports," the Democratic chairman said. "Democrats will continue to fight to secure our ports."

On another issue, Dean assailed Bush for running up the U.S. debt by $3 trillion during his tenure, contending that amounts to another security crisis.

"One of the implications of this increased debt is that increasingly, foreigners are financing this debt, putting the American economy in the hands of foreign debt holders, just like the ports deal would have put port security in the hands of a foreign-owned government," Dean said.

Dean said the Democrats will oppose budgets that deepen the deficit.

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Military shuns many of recruiting age

Military shuns many of recruiting age

WASHINGTON (AP) — Uncle Sam wants YOU, that famous Army recruiting poster says. But does he really?

Not if you're a Ritalin-taking, overweight, Generation Y couch potato — or some combination of the above.

As for that fashionable "body art" that the military still calls a tattoo, having one is grounds for rejection, too.

With U.S. casualties rising in wars overseas and more opportunities in the civilian workforce from an improved U.S. economy, many young people are shunning a career in the armed forces. But recruiting is still a two-way street — and the military, too, doesn't want most people in this prime recruiting age group of 17 to 24.

Of some 32 million Americans now in this group, the Army deems the vast majority too obese, too uneducated, too flawed in some way, according to its estimates for the current budget year.

"As you look at overall population and you start factoring out people, many are not eligible in the first place to apply," said Doug Smith, spokesman for the Army Recruiting Command.

Some experts are skeptical.

Previous Defense Department studies have found that 75% of young people are ineligible for military service, noted Charles Moskos of Northwestern University. While the professor emeritus who specializes in military sociology says it is "a baloney number," he acknowledges he has no figures to counter it.

"Recruiters are looking for reasons other than themselves," said David R. Segal, director of the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland. "So they blame the pool."

The military's figures are estimates, based partly on census numbers. They are part of an elaborate analysis the military does as it struggles each year to compete with colleges and companies for the nation's best and brightest, plan for future needs and maintain diversity.

The Census Bureau estimates that the overall pool of people who would be in the military's prime target age has shrunk as American society ages. There were 1 million fewer 18- to 24-year olds in 2004 than in 2000, the agency says.

The pool shrinks to 13.6 million when only high school graduates and those who score in the upper half on a military service aptitude test are considered. The 30% who are high school dropouts are not the top choice of today's professional, all-volunteer and increasingly high-tech military force.

Other factors include:

•the rising rate of obesity; some 30% of U.S. adults are now considered obese.

•a decline in physical fitness; one-third of teenagers are now believed to be incapable of passing a treadmill test.

•a near-epidemic rise in the use of Ritalin and other stimulants to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Potential recruits are ineligible for military service if they have taken such a drug in the previous year.

Doctors prescribe these drugs to about 2 million children and 1 million adults a month, according to a federal survey. Many more are believed to be using such stimulants recreationally and to stay awake longer to boost academic and physical performance.

Other potential recruits are rejected because they have criminal histories and too many dependents. Subtract 4.4 million from the pool for these people and for the overweight.

Others can be rejected for medical problems, from blindness to asthma. The Army estimate has subtracted 2.6 million for this group.

That leaves 4.3 million fully qualified potential recruits and an estimated 2.3 million more who might qualify if given waivers on some of their problems.

The bottom line: a total 6.6 million potential recruits from all men and women in the 32 million-person age group.

In the budget year that ended last September, 15% of recruits required a waiver in order to be accepted for active duty services? or about 11,000 people of some 73,000 recruited.

Most waivers were for medical problems. Some were for misdemeanors such as public drunkenness, resisting arrest or misdemeanor assault? prompting criticism that the Army is lowering its standards.

This year the Army is trying to recruit 80,000 people; all the services are recruiting about 180,000.

And about the tattoos: They are not supposed to be on your neck, refer to gang membership, be offensive, or in any way conflict with military standards on integrity, respect and team work. The military is increasingly giving waivers for some types of tattoos, officials said.

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Democrats see political port in Dubai storm

Democrats see political port in Dubai storm
By Patricia Wilson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats have seized on the collapse of the Dubai ports deal to buttress their case that George W. Bush is an incompetent president unable to get the job done at home or abroad.

Democratic congressional leaders, who hope to seize control of the Senate and House of Representatives in November elections from Bush's fellow Republicans, are using the political frenzy surrounding the president's support for an Arab company taking over some U.S. port operations as a metaphor for broader deficiencies.

"Forget the compassionate conservative," said Democratic Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, in a reference to Bush's 2000 campaign slogan. "Some of us would settle for just a competent conservative at this point."

From the conduct of the Iraq war to the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina, to warrantless eavesdropping, the chaotic rollout of a new prescription drug benefit for seniors and the handling of the ports deal, Democrats believe Americans are seeing Bush differently and cite the lowest job performance ratings of his presidency as evidence.

"They're saying he's really not up to the job in terms of capability," said Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York. "There's no chief operating officer in the White House. There's not anyone there making sure the government works day to day and they're finally learning that it catches up."

Schumer accused Republicans in Congress of simply rubber-stamping Bush's failures. "It's been utterly amazing to us that an administration that we've seen has been incompetent for so long got away with it," he said.

Other Democrats, including Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid of Nevada have also tried out the incompetence tag. Kerry called the port situation a "case study in the administration's incompetence."

Bush's backing of the Dubai Ports World deal to assume management of six U.S. ports played into Americans' fear of terrorism after the September 11 attacks and left the president and his Republican allies vulnerable on their strongest political issue -- national security.

Democrats were gleeful at the spectacle of congressional Republicans turning on Bush and looking for political cover on a deal that was overwhelmingly opposed by the American public.

"The inclination of the Republican Congress when the president says jump is to say how high," Schumer said. "There is never a scintilla of opposition, that's what was so surprising ... but this one was so big and so deep that even they couldn't go along."

The White House rejected the notion that the Bush administration was short on accomplishments or that Republicans were abandoning the president.

"I think that there's a tendency in this town to try to selectively pick snapshots when the broader reality is that we have a record of results and that we're getting things done for the American people," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

He cited a strong economy, a determined war on terror, renewal of the Patriot Act and an innovative energy plan to wean Americans off foreign oil.

"We are a party that is moving forward on a record of accomplishment, a record of results," McClellan said.

The Republican National Committee fought back with a new Web ad entitled "Find the Leader," featuring clips from Reid and Kerry as well as other Democrats, including Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Joseph Biden of Delaware and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.

"So who is the leader of the Democrat Party?" the spot asks. "No one seems to know."

With Dubai Ports World's pledge to transfer operation of U.S. terminals to an American entity, the White House hopes the controversy is dead. But even some Republicans think it has a shelf life.

"A lot can happen between now and November," said a congressional Republican leadership aide, "but I won't be surprised that on the issue of security a lot of Republicans run on their opposition to the port deal."


Democrat wants Bush censured on eavesdropping

Democrat wants Bush censured on eavesdropping

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congress should censure President George W. Bush for ordering domestic eavesdropping on U.S. citizens without a warrant, a Democratic senator said on Sunday.

Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin told ABC's "This Week" that he intends to push for a resolution that would censure the president for what he considers an unlawful wiretapping program authorized by the White House after the September 11 attacks.

"It's an unusual step," Feingold said of the measure he plans to introduce in the Senate on Monday. "It's a big step. But what the president did by consciously and intentionally violating the Constitution and laws of this country with this illegal wiretapping, has to be answered."

His proposal is unlikely to go far in the Republican-controlled Congress. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee told the same program that Feingold "is just wrong. He is flat wrong. He is dead wrong."

Frist said censuring the president would give U.S. enemies the impression that Bush doesn't have the nation's full support.

[Editor's comment: Guess Frist does not pay attention to the news, which has been reporting for quite some time now that Bush does not have the nation's full support. In fact, he has barely 30-something percent support.]

"The signal that it sends, that there is in any way a lack of support for our commander-in-chief who is leading us with a bold vision in a way that we know is making our homeland safer, is wrong," said Frist.

Rights groups, Democrats and some Republicans have fiercely criticized the Bush administration for the surveillance program.

It allows the National Security Agency to eavesdrop without a warrant on Americans' international phone and e-mail communications in an effort to track down al Qaeda operations.

Critics say the NSA program could violate constitutional protections against unreasonable searches, as well as the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires the government to seek wiretap warrants from a secret court even during times of war.

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has said the president has inherent constitutional powers to conduct warrantless surveillance to detect or prevent an attack.

He also has argued that a resolution passed by Congress after September 11 authorizing the use of military force gave Bush the right to approve the eavesdropping.

Democrats have urged a broad inquiry into the program. But Republicans have blocked that move, agreeing only to expand congressional oversight.


Lawmaker to press for US infrastructure ownership

Lawmaker to press for US infrastructure ownership
By Philip Barbara

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A leading Republican opponent of the collapsed Dubai ports deal said on Sunday that he would press ahead with legislation requiring U.S. ownership of infrastructure deemed critical to homeland security.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, Republican of California, said that under the bill, it would be up to the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security to identify facilities critical to national defense.

"If something defined by the secretary of defense as being critical American infrastructure, we would give a five-year period for divestment by the parent company so you don't have a fire sale," Hunter told the "Fox News Sunday" program.

Hunter was among the Republicans who defied President George W. Bush last week in bitterly opposing the $6.85 billion deal under which Dubai Ports World of the United Arab Emirates acquired the global assets of Britain-based P&O, including management operations of some facilities at six major U.S. ports.

The Dubai firm has since pledged to transfer those facilities to a U.S. entity.

Hunter's legislation would mean that facilities owned by all foreign companies, including those based in longtime allies in Europe, and identified as sensitive to U.S. homeland security might have to be sold to U.S. firms that would then own, operate and manage them.

Companies in France and Germany, Australia and Mexico, for instance, operate U.S. bridges and tunnels, ship terminals and water-purification plants, all of which would be reviewed by for security concerns.

It is unclear how much support Hunter's bill will have in the Republican-controlled Congress, since foreign companies are major investors in U.S. infrastructure.

Sen. John Warner, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee who tried to defuse the ports scandal and broker a compromise, said Congress should forego any legislation restricting overseas acquisitions.

"I do not think Congress should take any more action on this ports issue," said Warner, a Virginia Republican. He said Congress should focus on improving port security and the process of reviewing foreign investments.


Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said that at the very least, Congress would probably change the process under which the port deal was approved by the Bush administration.

The Tennessee Republican said the existing three-decade-old foreign investment review process, known as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), was outdated in a post-September 11 world.

"We will fix it in the United States Senate," he told ABC's "This Week" program. "It lacks full transparency. It does not have any congressional oversight."

U.S. lawmakers have noted that two of the September 11 hijackers came from the UAE, that al Qaeda funding passed through UAE banks, and that a United Nations agency said disgraced Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan used Dubai as a hub for his nuclear black market.

News of the deal prompted a political showdown between Congress and Bush, who had threatened to veto any legislation to block the deal. The showdown was averted by Dubai Ports World's statement that it would transfer operations of the U.S. ports to a U.S. entity.

Capitol Hill critics in both parties said they wanted to see the fine print before backing away from legislation to unwind the contract, noting the company had not said to whom it was selling, or when.


Internet blows CIA agents' cover

Internet blows CIA agents' cover

The Chicago Tribune says it has compiled a list of 2,653 CIA employees, just by searching the internet.

The newspaper said it gathered the information from online services that compile public data, that any fee-paying subscriber can access.

It did not publish the names, at the CIA's request. Many of the agents are believed to be covert. The paper also located two dozen "secret" facilities.

A CIA spokeswoman admitted the internet had scuppered some of its methods.

"Cover is a complex issue that is more complex in the internet age," said Jennifer Dyck.

"There are things that worked previously that no longer work. [CIA Director Porter] Goss is committed to modernising the way the agency does cover in order to protect our officers who are doing dangerous work."

Ms Dyck declined to detail the remedies "since we don't want the bad guys to know what we're fixing".

Terror targets?

The Chicago Tribune article was headlined: "Internet blows CIA cover."

It began: "She is 52 years old, married, grew up in the Kansas City suburbs and now lives in Virginia, in a new three-bedroom house."

It went on to explain that the online service describes the woman in question as a CIA employee who has been assigned to several American embassies in Europe.

The CIA confirmed that she was a covert operative.

The paper also identified facilities in Chicago, northern Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah and Washington state. It said some were heavily guarded, but others appeared outwardly to be private residences.

Asked how so many personal details of CIA employees had found their way into the public domain, a senior US intelligence official told the Tribune "I don't have a great explanation, quite frankly".

Asked about fears that the details might be accessed by terrorist groups, he replied: "I don't know whether al-Qaeda could do this, but the Chinese could."

The disclosure comes as the US justice department continues an investigation into whether members of the Bush administration deliberately exposed the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.

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