Saturday, July 01, 2006

Hell Yes: Bikers Defy Officials, Rally in Hollister Anyways

Bikers cruise through downtown Hollister, Calif., Saturday, July 1, 2006. City officials decided to call off the yearly bike rally which has taken place in the town since the 1940s. Thousands of bikers have turned out to the event this year despite the ban.
Image source: Boston Blobe / AP / Marcio Jose Sanchez

An AP newswire article by Justin M. Norton, via The Boston Globe, reports that:

Thousands of bikers roared into the town made famous by Marlon Brando's 1953 film "The Wild One" on Saturday, defying a city council decision to cancel one of the country's most celebrated motorcycle rallies.

The bikers cruised Hollister's streets on personalized choppers, racing bikes and tricked-out Harley Davidsons. One man rode with his goggle-sporting dog in a sidecar.

Dozens of police officers, many from other cities, patrolled the streets. Bars were packed before noon.

"We're the taxpayers. We're not hoodlums," said Jack Stout, 51, of Gilroy, who has logged more than 40,000 miles on his 2003 Harley Davidson Superglide and plans to come annually even if the event isn't officially sanctioned.

More here.

2 July 1980: Lawnchair Larry Takes Flight


Via Wikipedia.

Lawrence Richard Walters, nicknamed Lawnchair Larry or the Lawn Chair Pilot, (April 19, 1949 – October 6, 1993) took flight on July 2, 1982 in a homemade aircraft, dubbed Inspiration I, that he had fashioned out of a Sears patio chair and 45 helium-filled weather balloons. He rose to an altitude of 16,000 feet (3 miles) and floated from his point of origin in San Pedro, California into federal airspace near Long Beach airport. Although the account of his flight was widely reported in newspapers, it is often mistaken as an urban legend.

Walters and his girlfriend, Carol Van Deusen, purchased 45 four-foot weather balloons and helium tanks at California Toy Time Balloons. To avoid suspicion, they used a forged requisition from his employer, FilmFair Studios, saying the balloons were for a television commercial shoot. Walters then attached the balloons to his lawnchair, filled them with helium, donned a parachute, and strapped himself to the chair with a pellet gun, a CB radio, sandwiches, soft drinks, and a camera. After that, things did not work out as he had planned. When his friends cut the cord that had tied his lawnchair to his jeep, Walters' lawnchair, which was planned to rise 100 feet above the ground, quickly rose to a height of about 16,000 feet (4,876 m); fearing that he might get himself into even deeper trouble, he did not dare shoot any balloons, instead drifting over Long Beach and crossing the primary approach corridor of Long Beach airport.

After spending about two hours in the sky, though, he came to the conclusion that he would have to shoot a few balloons after all; doing so caused him to descend slowly again, until the balloon's dangling cables got caught in a power line, causing a black out in a Long Beach neighbourhood for 20 minutes, but also allowing Walters to climb down to the ground again.

He was immediately arrested by waiting members of the LAPD; when asked why he had done it by a reporter, Walters replied "a man can't just sit around". He was later fined US$4,000 by the Federal Aviation Administration for violations of the Federal Aviation Act, including operating a "civil aircraft for which there is not currently in effect an airworthiness certificate" and operating an aircraft within an airport traffic area "without establishing and maintaining two-way communications with the control tower". Walters appealed, and the fine was reduced to US$1,500.

Walters also received the top prize from the Bonehead Club of Dallas for his adventure, as well as invitations to The Tonight Show and Late Night with David Letterman and an honourable mention in 1982's Darwin Awards. His lawn-chair balloon was also featured in an episode of Mythbusters.

More here.

Hat-tip to my son, Adam -- thanks for pointing it out. :-)

Seven Players Step Up with Wireless Plans for Silicon Valley

Jessie Seyfer writes in The Mercury News:

Seven bidders stepped up Friday with proposals for bringing affordable wireless Internet access to all 1,500 square miles of Silicon Valley -- a costly, technically challenging task.

Among the companies that met Friday's deadline for proposals were Mountain View's MetroFi, which has already built networks across other areas of the Bay Area and San Jose's Cisco Systems, which was represented in two different bids, one with the Oregon-based wireless network company VeriLAN and another with IBM and the San Francisco non-profit group SeaKay.

More here.

UK Internet Users: You're Next

David Smith writes in The Observer (UK):

Analysts say it is too early to know how such a change in the US would affect Britain, although anyone who does business there or visits an American website might be affected. In the longer term they predict that BT and other service providers could follow the example of their US counterparts by seeking to create a two-tier network for the UK.

David Tansley, a technology specialist at the UK consulting firm Deloitte, said: 'The question is, how do you marshall a finite resource where demand exceeds supply? Do you just keep adding lanes to the motorway or do you look for a way of disincentivising some of the motorists? Unless you can defy the laws of physics, you have to consider a congestion charge. I think BT will do the same as the American telecoms companies.'

More here.

California Tracked Protesters in the Name of Security

Peter Nicholas writes in The Los Angeles Times:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office in charge of protecting California against terrorism has tracked demonstrations staged by political and antiwar groups, a practice that senior law enforcement officials say is an abuse of civil liberties.

The Times obtained reports prepared for the state Office of Homeland Security in recent months that contain details on the whereabouts and purpose of a number of political demonstrations throughout California.

The source of the information is listed in some cases as federal law enforcement agencies, including the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, an investigative arm of the U.S. Homeland Security department.

More here.

Weather Forces Shuttle Launch Delay

Alan Boyle writes for MSNBC:

Threatening clouds near the launch pad forced a 24-hour postponement of Saturday's scheduled launch of the space shuttle Discovery.

Discovery's seven astronauts were in their seats for their scheduled 3:48 p.m. ET departure for the international space station, but Florida's changeable weather frustrated the mission's first launch attempt. Anvil clouds, which could spark lightning during the launch, persisted within 23 miles of NASA's Kennedy Space Center, in violation of launch rules.

The prime time for Sunday's launch opportunity comes at 3:26 p.m. ET. However, forecasters said they expected the weather outlook to worsen for Sunday and Monday. This month's launch window extends until July 19 — and if NASA misses this window, it will have to wait until late August to try again.

More here.

Red Cross Laptop with Donor Information Stolen

This data breach disclosure comes on the heels of another recent Red Cross incident in the Missouri-Illinois Region where donors were warned that personal information about them could have been stolen earlier this year by a former employee.

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

A laptop containing personal information from thousands of blood donors — including Social Security numbers and medical information — was stolen from a local office of the American Red Cross, but officials said the information was encrypted.

The data included matching names and birth dates of donors from Texas and Oklahoma, as well as donors’ sexual and disease histories.

“We haven’t viewed this as a security breach at this point,” Darren Irby, spokesman for the national American Red Cross office, told The Dallas Morning News for its Saturday editions.

More here.

Satire: Picture of the Day

Microsoft Ends Support for Windows 98, ME

Brian Krebs writes in The Washington Post:

More than 70 million Windows users will no longer be eligible for software security updates under a Microsoft Corp. policy to take effect July 11, hastening the demise of several older versions of the computer operating system.

Microsoft will end support for Windows 98, Windows 98 Special Edition (SE) and Windows Millennium Edition (ME). That means users of those versions will no longer have the protection of software fixes issued by Microsoft, potentially leaving them exposed to attack when hackers exploit previously unknown flaws in the operating systems.

Microsoft had planned to stop supporting the older versions in January 2004, but it extended support to give customers and businesses more time to upgrade to newer versions of Windows.

More here.

Attacks on Free Press: Journalists and 'Leakers' Feeling the Heat

Click for larger image.

An AP newswire article by Charles J. Hanley, via The Boston Globe, reports that:

Headline by headline, a trickle of news leaks on Iraq and the antiterror campaign has grown into a steady stream of revelations, and from Pennsylvania Avenue to Downing Street, Copenhagen to Canberra, governments are responding with pressure and prosecutions.

The latest target is The New York Times. But the unfolding story begins as far back as 2003, when British weapons expert David Kelly was "outed" as the source of a story casting doubt on his government's arguments for invading Iraq, and he committed suicide.

And it will roll on this fall, when Danish journalists face trial for reporting their government knew there was no evidence of banned weapons in Iraq.

In London's Central Criminal Court, too, accused leakers will be in the dock this fall, for allegedly disclosing President Bush talked of bombing al-Jazeera, the Arab television station. The British government threatens to prosecute newspapers that write any more about that leaked document.

Media advocates are alarmed at what they see as a mounting assault on press freedom in country after country, arguing it is potentially chilling the pursuit of truth as U.S. and European leaders pursue wars on terror and in Iraq.

More here.

Friday, June 30, 2006

1 July 1963: ZIP Codes are Introduced in the U.S.


Mr. ZIP promoted the use of ZIP codes for the USPS during the 1960s and 1970s.
Image source: Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia.

A ZIP code is the postal code used by the United States Postal Service (USPS), which always writes ZIP with capital letters. ZIP is an acronym for the Zoning Improvement Plan but was also meant to suggest that mail travels more efficiently (and therefore faster) when senders use it.

The basic format consists of five numerical digits. An extended ZIP+4 code includes the five digits of the ZIP code, a hyphen and then four more digits, which allow a piece of mail to be directed to a more precise location than by the ZIP code alone. ZIP Code was originally registered as a trademark by the U.S. Postal Service but its registration has since expired.

On July 1, 1963, non-mandatory ZIP codes were announced for the whole country. Robert Moon, an employee of the post office, is considered the father of the ZIP code. He submitted his proposal in 1944 while working as a postal inspector.

The post office only gives credit to Moon for the first three digits of the ZIP code, which describe the region of the country. In most cases, the last two digits coincide with the older postal zone number...

More here.

Feds Taking Longer to Answer FOIA Requests

An AP newswire article by Michael J. Sniffen, via The Boston Globe, reports that:

Citizens, groups and corporations are putting in fewer requests for information from the federal government, but it's taking longer to get an answer and they get turned down more often, a study reported Friday.

In a study of 13 Cabinet departments and nine agencies, the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government found that the number of unprocessed requests rose from 104,225 at the end of fiscal 2004 to 148,603 at the end of fiscal 2005 on Sept. 30, 2005.

Meantime, the number of requests that were processed between 2004 and 2005 dropped from 522,817 to 477,937. As a result, unprocessed requests rose from 20 percent of the total processed to 31 percent.

More here.

Toon: The Bush Administration's View of a Free Press

Click for larger image.

Arrests Made in '05 LexisNexis Data Breach

Brian Krebs writes in The Washington Post:

Federal authorities last week arrested five men in connection with a 2005 database breach at LexisNexis Group that the database giant said led to the theft of personal records on more than 310,000 individuals.

Some of the accused individuals, who range in age from 19 to 24, were also involved in the theft last year of revealing photos and other information from hotel heiress Paris Hilton's cell phone, and in using stolen or illegally created accounts at LexisNexis subsidiaries to look up Social Security numbers and other personal information on dozens of other Hollywood celebrities.

More here.

ICM Registry Probes U.S. Government Interference

Kieren McCarthy writes on The Register:

The company behind the unsuccessful .xxx bid has filed a third freedom of information act (FOIA) request against the US Department of Commerce in its ongoing bid to discover what pressure was exerted by the US government on internet organisation ICANN to turn the top-level domain down.

The new FOIA request from ICM Registry, dated 28 June, asks for copies of communication between the DoC and internet naming authority IANA shortly after the DoC sent a letter to ICANN outlining its concerns for the .xxx domain, which was to be used to host internet pornography.

ICM Registry CEO Stuart Lawley suspects that a request by the DoC to IANA requiring it to change the style and format of its official reports may have been inspired by an effort to block the .xxx domain thanks to political pressure exerted by right-wing Christian groups in the US.

More here.

Computer Error Sends Healthcare Termination Notices

A UPI newswire article, via, reports that:

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is blaming its computer system for an error that resulted in 11,000 people receiving healthcare termination notices.

Current and retired employees of the East Baton Rouge Parish Schools System were sent letters telling them that their healthcare insurance coverage would end June 30, the Baton Rouge (La.) Advocate reported Friday.

Superintendent Charlotte Placide said the error arose because the school system is ending its current dental insurance plan and moving to a new plan in July.

When Blue Cross printed letters about the dental insurance change, it also printed letters telling employees their regular medical coverage was ending, the newspaper said.

More here.

Google Watch: Is Google Going Dark on Fiber?

Mark Sullivan writes on Light Reading:

Google, which once seemed as though it was emerging as a competitive threat to network operators, is now believed to be taking a different view of building its own fiber-based backbone network.

Rumors abound that Google is rethinking the businesses it wants to emphasize, and running its own fiber-fed nationwide network doesn't appear to be on the top of its "things-to-do" list.

One well-placed source in the equipment community says the company is choosing to lease long-haul network capacity from existing carriers, instead of lighting up dark fiber coast-to-coast.

More here.

EarthLink Inks Resale Agreements with DirecTV, AOL

Joni Morse writes on RCR Wireless News:

EarthLink Inc. launched its municipal Wi-Fi network in Anaheim with considerable fanfare, but the company also quietly inked deals to resell Internet access on its muni Wi-Fi networks to DirecTV and AOL.

EarthLink said the agreements are in line with the company’s “commitment to open access,” and said it also plans to partner with local Internet service providers wanting to provide Wi-Fi service in their markets.

More here.

AT&T Privacy Policy Overreaches, Lawyers Say

Robert Lemos writes on SecurityFocus:

A recent change to AT&T's privacy policy for broadband and video users is overbroad and likely will leave the courts or Congress to decide whether the company's practices are standard or sinister, legal experts said this week.

The policy change, which comes as the telecommunications giant is defending itself in court against multiple lawsuit stemming from its alleged cooperation with a surveillance program conducted by the National Security Agency, states that "while your Account Information may be personal to you, these records constitute business records that are owned by AT&T."

The language, if accepted by consumers and supported by the courts, could redraw the current lines in the battle between privacy advocates and companies that retain significant data on their customers, said Charles Kennedy, an attorney specializing in privacy law and Of Counsel at Morrison & Foerster.

More here. Offers to Sell Your Soul

Marshall Kirkpatrick writes on TechCrunch:

Ted Murphy, CEO of advertising firm Mindcomet, has launched a new service called You guessed it, it’s a marketplace for companies to connect with bloggers who are willing to blog about a product - for a price. The companies can set guidelines for their requests such as whether a picture must be included and whether they will only pay for positive blog coverage.

There does not appear to be any requirement that the payment for coverage be disclosed. There is a requirement that must approve your post before you are paid. Wow.

More here.

USA Today Backs Off Phone Record Story

Frank Ahrens writes in The Washington Post:

USA Today has backed off some elements of a blockbuster May 11 story in which it reported that several telecommunication companies were handing over customer phone call records to the National Security Agency.

The May article named AT&T, Verizon Communications Corp. and BellSouth Corp. as cooperating with the NSA in compiling an unprecedented database of domestic phone call records. Though the NSA was not listening to calls, the spy agency was scouring the phone records to search for ties to terrorism, the paper said.

More here.

Online Message Board Fights for Anonymity in Oklahoma

Via The EFF.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) yesterday filed to block an Oklahoma school superintendent's attempt to unmask the identities of a local website's operator and all registered users.

The superintendent has sued Internet users who criticized him on the website's message board. In its motion to quash, EFF argues that the plaintiff's overbroad subpoena seeking to identify the site's operator and users violates First Amendment protections for anonymous speech and association.

More here.

Tom Ridge joins Iridium Satellite board

David Hubler writes on

Tom Ridge, former secretary of the Homeland Security Department and two-term governor of Pennsylvania, has joined the board of directors at Iridium Satellite, a provider of global satellite voice and data solutions.

More here.

3Com To Cut 250 Jobs

Jennifer Hagendorf Follett writes on

3Com Wednesday reported a narrowed fourth-quarter loss and unveiled a restructuring plan that will result in 250 job cuts.

The restructuring hits 3Com's Secure, Converged Networking (SCN) operating segment and does not impact the vendor's Huawei-3Com joint venture or its TippingPoint security business, said Scott Murray, president and CEO of 3Com, Marlborough, Mass., during a conference call. Instead, 3Com plans to add headcount to those latter two groups, he said.

The 250 full-time job losses will primarily come in the sales and marketing organizations of 3Com's SCN business, resulting in a reduction of SCN's headcount by about 15 percent.

More here.

City Attorney Sues Over Web Site Comments

An AP newswire article, via, reports that:

A city attorney is suing the creator of a Web site that lets women dish dirt on men they claim have wronged them, saying they made defamatory statements about him.

Attorney Todd J. Hollis sued because he contends two Pittsburgh-area women and other anonymous users posted items about him on in which they claim he is unfaithful, among other things, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Thursday.

Hollis filed the suit Thursday in Allegheny County against Tasha C. Joseph of Miami, who created the site, which bills itself as a "cost-effective weapon in the war on cheating men."

Joseph, 33, a former columnist for the Miami Herald, said any man can post a rebuttal on the site.

More here.

Sen. John Kerry Guest Blogs on Net Neutrality Fighht


The following is a guest blog for by Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.).

Yesterday in the Senate Commerce Committee I warned that those of us who believe in net neutrality will block legislation that doesn’t get the job done.

It looks like that’s the fight we’re going to have.

The Commerce Committee voted on net neutrality and it failed on an 11-11 tie. This vote was a gift to cable and telephone companies, and a slap in the face of every Internet user and consumer.

It will not stand.

More here.

Internap Expands NYC, Boston Data Centers

Via UPI.

Internap Network Services is expanding its data centers to handle growing broadband demand in the northeastern United States.

The company said Friday the expansion to its New York and Boston centers would be completed around the end of the year.

The buildout is in response to market trends such as the migration to new high-capacity blade servers, which requires larger amounts of the computing and network infrastructure that is housed in secure and climate-controlled data centers.

More here.

Quote of the Day: Scott Adams

"I was delighted to learn that American politicians are trying to make it illegal to burn the American flag. That can only mean that my dedicated public servants have finally solved the problems of crime, drugs, war, poverty, terrorism, healthcare, immigration, and the mystery of why our children are such idiots compared to Norwegians. Evidently those issues are now under control. I was starting to worry that Congress was wasting my tax dollars doing stupid shit."

- Scott Adams, Blogger, and Creator of "Dilbert"

The Colbert Report: The NY Times Wants You and Your Family Dead!

Image source:

Satire at it's finest.

Via Crooks and Liars.

Colbert takes on the fury that the right wing has unleashed over Bill Keller and the NY Times.

He sums up the story quite easily.


Defence Tech: Ja! German Robot Spies By Satellite

Image source: Defense Tech

Via Defense Tech.

Check it out, frauleins: The German Federal Armed Forces are experimenting with a prototype, satellite-controlled robot that can go on recon missions, while its human operator hangs out in Berlin.

The satellite link, which can transmit video at 2 Mbps and receive control channel data up to 128 Kbps, makes the RoboScout something of an oddball in the unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) world. As Peter J. Brown notes in the latest issue of Via Satellite magazine, satellite signals are easy to lose in the urban canyons and forested areas where UGVs are likely to operate. Plus, the uneven ground can cause the 'bots to tilt by 20 or 30 degrees in one direction or another -- which means locking onto a satellite gets even trickier. Most robot-makers go for radio-control, instead.

More here.

Gapingvoid: Everybody Dies

Via Enjoy!

Failure in Due Diligence: Guardian (UK) Finds Afghan Witnesses U.S. Couldn't

Declan Walsh writes on The Guardian (UK):

The US government said it could not find the men that Guantánamo detainee Abdullah Mujahid believes could help set him free. The Guardian found them in three days

Two years ago the US military invited Mr Mujahid, a former Afghan police commander accused of plotting against the United States, to prove his innocence before a special military tribunal. As was his right, Mr Mujahid called four witnesses from Afghanistan.

But months later the tribunal president returned with bad news: the witnesses could not be found. Mr Mujahid's hopes sank and he was returned to the wire-mesh cell where he remains today.

The Guardian searched for Mr Mujahid's witnesses and found them within three days. One was working for President Hamid Karzai. Another was teaching at a leading American college. The third was living in Kabul. The fourth, it turned out, was dead. Each witness said he had never been approached by the Americans to testify in Mr Mujahid's hearing.

More here.

ICANN Marrakech Wrap-Up

Kieren McCarthy writes over on his blog:

What was the upshot of this week-long meeting in Morocco? Well, the general bottom-up consensus was that not much had happened. Except really it had. And the feeling was that it had been a very amiable meeting. Which, in a deeper sense, it hadn’t.

The reality is that ICANN Marrakech has, albeit pleasantly, lived under the shadow of the US government’s MoU renewal. What really is shameful is that there wasn’t a single public meeting in which this vitally important contract was discussed. Instead, we have had a semi-official, parallel and secret ICANN process instituted to discuss the matter, and a long series of constituencies pondering how best to deal with it, which will most likely contribute little or nothing to the final result.

More here.

CSC Ends Exploration of Possible Sale

Via The Los Angeles Times.

Computer Sciences Corp. said Thursday that its directors authorized the repurchase of nearly one-fifth of its common stock, ending the company's process to explore a possible sale of the business or other "strategic alternative."

The El Segundo-based company also said the Securities and Exchange Commission had made an informal request for information related to its stock option grants and option practices.

More here.

Australia: Telstra Threatens to Scrap $2.2B Broadband Network

Dan Nystedt writes on InfoWorld:

The head of Australia's largest telecommunications company has threatened to scrap an A$3 billion (US$2.2 billion) national high-speed, fixed-line broadband network.

Telstra Corp. had proposed to build a next generation fiber-to-the-node (FTTN) wireline network to cover Australia's five major cities initially, then extend it to smaller towns later. But government regulations could require the company to allow its rivals to use the network free or at low rates, something the company won't stand for.

More here.

UK: Police Use Technology to Identify Football Hooligans

Tom Young writes on Computing:

As England’s World Cup quarter-final match with Portugal approaches, UK police are turning to innovative technology to help in the fight against hooliganism.

A Portable Passport Reader is being used at Luton, Gatwick and Heathrow airports, and at Dover and Waterloo international terminals to try and identify known football hooligans and stop them from leaving the country.

Some 3,500 known football hooligans were issued with banning orders before the World Cup which required them to hand in their passports, but some 200 offenders failed to do so.

More here.

France Passes 'iTunes Law'

An AP newswire article by Laurence Frost and Nathalie Schuck, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

French lawmakers approved in a final vote Friday a controversial law that threatens to break open the exclusive music format behind the Apple iPod.

Both the Senate and the National Assembly, France's lower house, voted in favor of the online copyright bill, which some analysts say could cause Apple Computer Inc. to pull its iTunes music store and iPod players from France.

The vote was the final legislative step before the bill becomes law — barring the success of a last-ditch constitutional challenge filed last week by the opposition Socialists.

More here.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

30 June 1905: Einstein Publishes 'On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies'


Einstein, in 1905, when he wrote the "Annus Mirabilis Papers"
Image source: Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia.

The Annus Mirabilis Papers (from Annus mirabilis, Latin for 'extraordinary year') are the papers of Albert Einstein published in the "Annalen der Physik" journal in 1905. The four articles contributed a large portion of the foundation for modern physics.

Einstein's third paper that year was called "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies" ("Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper", published on June 30, 1905). In this paper, Einstein was able to reconcile Maxwell's equations for electricity and magnetism with the laws of mechanics, by introducing major changes to mechanics close to the speed of light. This later became known as Einstein's Special theory of relativity.

The paper makes no reference to any works that may have led to its development, and mentions the name of one other scientist only, Lorentz. While developing this paper, Einstein wrote to Mileva about "our work on relative motion", and this has led some to ask whether Mileva played a part in its development (as well as the other papers). This paper introduced a theory of time, distance, mass and energy that was consistent with electromagnetism, but omitted the force of gravity.

At the time, it was known that Maxwell's equations, when applied to moving bodies, led to asymmetries, and that it had not been possible to discover any motion of the Earth relative to the 'light medium'.

Einstein put forward two postulates to explain these observations. First, he applied the classic principle of relativity, which stated that the laws of physics remained the same for any frame of reference, to the laws of electrodynamics and optics as well as mechanics. In the second postulate, Einstein proposed that the speed of light remained constant in all inertial frames of reference, independent of the state of motion of the emitting body.

More here.

Verizon Sues Maryland County Over Cable License

Jeremy Pelofsky writes for Reuters:

Verizon Communications Inc. filed a lawsuit on Thursday to invalidate a Maryland county's licensing process to offer subscription television service, arguing it was illegally delaying its expansion plans.

In what the No. 2 U.S. telephone company described as its first lawsuit of this kind, Verizon argued Montgomery County's franchising process violated U.S. antitrust and communications laws as well as free speech rights under the Constitution.

More here.

It's Official: Sen. Ted Stevens Has No Idea How The Internet Works


And this is the guy spear-heading the new telecom reform legislation?

You've got to read/hear this to believe it.

Ryan Singel writes over on 27B Stroke 6:

The Senate Commerce Committee deadlocked 11 to 11 on an amendment inserting some very basic net neutrality provisions into a moving telecommunications bill. The provisions didn't prohibit an ISP from handling VOIP faster than emails, but would have made it illegal to handle its own VOIP packets faster than a competitor's.

Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) explained why he voted against the amendment and gave an amazing primer on how the internet works.

I'm simply... dumbfounded.

More here.

Bono Asked to Aid Copy-Protection Fight Against DRM

An AP newswire article by May Wong, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

He's bent the ear of world leaders on social causes. He's a Nobel Peace Prize nominee. He's a rock star. But could the lead singer of U2 also become a front man for a grass-roots campaign seeking to change how the music industry does business?

The Free Software Foundation hopes so.

The Boston-based advocacy group launched an online petition Thursday asking Bono to take a stand with them against copy-protection technologies that they say unnecessarily restrict consumers' rights to freely use the music and art they've purchased.

Digital rights management technology is commonly used by companies such as Apple Computer Inc. or Microsoft Corp. to support the companies' own business strategies and satisfy the music industry's concerns about unfettered distribution of songs over the Internet.

More here.

Broadband Providers Decry Net-Wiretapping Rules

Anne Broache writes on C|Net News:

Complying with a recent expansion of federal wiretapping requirements to broadband networks could be challenging for smaller providers, especially wireless carriers, industry representatives said Thursday.

Discussion about how to comply with the May 17, 2007 deadline by which most broadband and voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) providers must re-engineer their networks took center stage during a panel session at a conference here hosted by the Wireless Communications Association International (WCA).

More here.

Co-Founder of ShadowCrew ID Theft Web Site Sentenced

An AP newswire article, via ABC News, reports that:

The co-founder of a Web site that investigators claimed was one of the largest online centers for trafficking in stolen identity information and credit cards was sentenced Thursday to two years and eight months in prison.

The sentence for Andrew Mantovani was the longest of the five imposed to date involving the site which had about 4,000 members who dealt with at least 1.5 million stolen credit card numbers and caused more than $4 million in losses, federal prosecutors said.

Mantovani, 24, of Scottsdale, Ariz., was also fined $5,000 by U.S. District Judge William J. Martini.

Mantovani was among 21 people arrested around the nation in October 2004 after federal agents gained control of the site during a yearlong undercover investigation by the Secret Service and other agencies. He and 17 others have pleaded guilty. Several people were also arrested overseas.

More here.

EMC to Buy RSA Security for Nearly $2.1 Billion

An AP newswire article by Mark Jewell, via The Boston Globe, reports that:

Data storage provider EMC Corp. on Thursday said it agreed to buy RSA Security Inc. in an all-cash deal totaling nearly $2.1 billion that will give EMC RSA's encryption software and computer authentication products.

EMC will pay $28 for each share of RSA Security, whose shares closed up 18 percent at $22.88 on the Nasdaq on Thursday after the company confirmed it was in talks with unidentified parties interested in buying the firm.

Hopkinton-based EMC and Bedford-based RSA Security said in a joint news release that they expect to complete the deal either in the third quarter or early in the fourth quarter, subject to regulatory approvals and other closing conditions.

EMC, the largest provider of data storage systems for business customers, is far larger than RSA, with nearly $10 billion in revenue last year to RSA's $310 million. EMC's stock has languished in recent years as the company has made a string of acquisitions to expand from storage hardware into more lucrative services and software to help manage data and keep it secure.

More here.

U.S. Lawmakers: Two Other VA Data Breaches

Holy smokes.

Grant Gross writes on InfoWorld:

U.S. lawmakers said Thursday they have learned of two more data breaches at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) even as the agency announced that law enforcement agencies had recovered stolen computer hardware containing the personal information of millions of U.S. military veterans.

The House of Representatives Veterans Affairs Committee has learned of a May 5 incident in which a data tape disappeared from a VA facility in Indianapolis, Indiana, and a 2005 incident in which a VA laptop was stored in the trunk of a car that was stolen in Minneapolis, Minnesota, said Representative Steve Buyer, chairman of the committee.

Also on Thursday, Pedro Cadenas Jr., the VA's chief information security officer (CISO), submitted his resignation. Cadenas, at the VA since 2002, had also served as acting deputy chief information officer (CIO) at the VA in recent months.

More here.

Jordanian on Trial for Allegedly Using Brad Pitt's Picture on Fake ID

Image source: CBS News / AP

An AP newswire article, via, reports that:

A Jordanian salesman who tried to use an identity card with Brad Pitt's photo was on trial in the Emirates, a newspaper reported Thursday.

The 29-year-old salesman allegedly forged the card with the Hollywood actor's picture and an Arabic name in an attempt to steal more than $22,000 left unclaimed at an exchange house where his brother worked as a teller, according to a report in the daily Gulf News.

The man, who told police he did not know who Brad Pitt was, said in court Wednesday that he downloaded the photo from the Internet, the newspaper reported. Police were reportedly alerted by an informant.

Dubai's public prosecutors charged the man with forgery and embezzlement. A spokesman for the prosecutor's office was not immediately able to comment on the trial.

More here.

Broadcast & Audio Flags Could Conflict With Fair Use

Jessica Taylor writes for UPI:

New radio technologies have music industry and radio officials at odds over fair use of audio and video digital transmissions.

The implementation of audio and video flags to block unauthorized distribution and replication could be one solution, experts testified Tuesday before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. However, opponents of the flags say they would still block even legal use of music by consumers.

More here.

AT&T to Manage Army Network Center in Kuwait

One cannot help but wonder if AT&T received any favorable consideration when awarded this contract due to it's complicity in assisting the NSA in conducting domestic surveillance?

Bob Brewin writes on

AT&T Government Solutions won a $22.7 million contract to help staff and manage a Theater Network Operations and Security Center in Kuwait. The center will support military commands in Asia and Africa, the company said.

The center will serve as the Army’s link to the Global Information Grid (GIG), a worldwide Defense Department network that the Defense Information Systems Agency operates, AT&T said.

The company will provide expertise in wide-area network security, operations and information assurance to ITT Industries, the prime contractor for the center, an AT&T spokesman said. The contract does not call for the provision of circuits, the spokesman added.

The AT&T spokesman said he could not provide other details on the contract and referred calls to ITT.

More here.

New Hampshire Man Charged After Videotaping Police

This sounds like a classic case of abuse of power.

Andrew Wolfe writes in the Nashua Telegraph:

A city man is charged with violating state wiretap laws by recording a detective on his home security camera, while the detective was investigating the man’s sons.

Michael Gannon, 49, of 26 Morgan St., was arrested Tuesday night, after he brought a video to the police station to try to file a complaint against Detective Andrew Karlis, according to Gannon’s wife, Janet Gannon, and police reports filed in Nashua District Court.

Police instead arrested Gannon, charging him with two felony counts of violating state eavesdropping and wiretap law by using an electronic device to record Karlis without the detective’s consent.

More here.

Microsoft to Cut 148 Sales Jobs in U.S.

An AP newswire article by Allison Linn, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

Microsoft Corp. is cutting 148 total U.S. sales jobs, as part of efforts to be more efficient, the company said Thursday.

Microsoft spokesman Lou Gellos said the software company is eliminating 214 sales jobs but adding another 66 in the reorganization. Employees whose jobs are being eliminated will have the option to apply for the new positions, Gellos said.

More here.

Colorado Sheriffs Wardriving to Warn of Cyber Security

Ward Lucas writes on

The [Doulas County, Colorado] Sheriff's Department says it's going to start warning computer users that their networks may be vulnerable to hackers.

It may be one of the first law enforcement agencies in the country to do so.

Wireless computer equipment and home computer networks are everywhere these days. Almost all new computers sold are used by consumers to network in one way or another to other computers.

However, that wireless capability may be making those computers vulnerable to hackers.

"If someone is driving by on the street they could easily use your internet access to commit a crime, whether it's fraudulent credit card transactions or surfing child porn or something else," said Brian Radamacher, a member of the Douglas County Sheriff's Special Investigations Unit.

More here.

Anti-Spyware Coalition Releases Updated Documents

Via The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT).

The Anti-Spyware Coalition (ASC) today released updates of two major documents -- the seminal spyware definitions and the risk-model description -- as part of an ongoing effort to ensure that the tools available in the fight against spyware keep pace with evolving technology.

The definitions and risk modeling description were the first two major documents released by the ASC, a coalition coordinated by CDT and made up of leading anti-spyware companies, public interest advocates and academics working to combat the unwanted software flooding computers worldwide. As is the case with all ASC publications, the definitions and risk modeling description are living documents, designed to grow and change in response to technological developments.

More here.

Anaheim Launches Wi-Fi Network

Ed Oswald writes over on BetaNews:

The city of Anaheim officially launched its wireless network on Thursday In cooperation with EarthLink. The ISP has announced two plans for usage, including occasional use and continuous access plans.

To support the Anaheim network and other Wi-Fi projects around the country, EarthLink has added a Wi-Fi option to its line of products, which include a modem, along with eight e-mail accounts and the company's malware protection tools. That package will cost $21.95 USD per month.

For those who plan to only use the Wi-Fi network occasionally, EarthLink introduced various occasional usage plans, from a one-hour pass retailing for $3.95 USD to a $15.95 USD three-day pass. Additional providers will also be able to offer their services on the network through third-party deals.

More here.

Toon: In Good Company

Click for larger image.

DHS Set to Release Final National Infrastructure Protection Plan

Via Homeland Security Watch.

ICIS news quoted Robert Stephan, assistant secretary for infrastructure protection at the Department of Homeland Security, as saying the department has completed work on a comprehensive national infrastructure protection plan (NIPP) and will meet its end-of-June deadline for publication.

Prompted by the September 2001 terrorist attacks, the infrastructure protection plan is designed to assess the threat against and vulnerability of 17 major industries, including chemicals manufacturing. It also is designed to assess the possible consequences of a terrorist attack against key national resources such as pipelines, rail traffic, the electric power grid and others.

More here.

Is Microsoft About to Release a Windows 'Kill Switch'?

Ed Bott writes on ZDnet:

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my serious objections to Microsoft’s latest salvo in the war against unauthorized copies of Windows. Two Windows Genuine Advantage components are being pushed onto users’ machines with insufficient notification and inadequate quality control, and the result is a big mess.

Guess what? WGA might be on the verge of getting even messier. In fact, one report claims WGA is about to become a Windows “kill switch” – and when I asked Microsoft for an on-the-record response, they refused to deny it.

More here.

Hunting for Hussein's Fiber-Optic Cable While Bringing VoIP to Iraq

Ellen Messmer writes on NetworkWorld:

Amid roadside bombs from insurgents, the U.S. military has rolled out a satellite-based network for the Iraqi police that uses VoIP phones and Microsoft servers more reminiscent of an office in Boise than in Baghdad.

The VSAT-based network features a combined 150 pounds of satellite antenna from Proactive Communications, switches from 3Com and Netgear, and Cisco VoIP phones that are loaded onto a truck with modems, computers, and APC uninterruptible power supplies. Once that's all neatly tucked into a special casing, it is then driven out to locations where Iraqi police establish a post.

The VSAT network, with the VoIP phones, was the fastest way to get a network up and running after the toppling of Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, by Coalition forces almost three years ago. But there are plans to enlarge the IC2 Network [Iraqi Command and Control Network] once the fiber-optic lines Hussein hid in the ground are fully located.

More here.

UK Ruling Leaves Terror Policy in Shreds

Hannah K. Strange writes for UPI:

The British government's anti-terror policy has been plunged into disarray by a court ruling that control orders used to restrict the movements of terror suspects are incompatible with human rights law.

Wednesday's judgment prompted a warning from a senior Labor parliamentarian that the country was heading for a constitutional crisis as judges battled with the elected parliament.

More here.

Hacker Breaks In To Nebraska Child Support System

An AP newswire news brief, via KTIV News Channel 4 in Souix City, Iowa, reports that:

Nebraska state officials say a hacker broke into the child-support computer system run by the Nebraska Treasurer's Office.

Treasurer Ron Ross announced the breach Thursday. He says the hacker may have obtained names, Social Security numbers and other information of 300,000 people and 9,000 employers.

The system helps collect and disperse child-support payments. The hacker got into a back-up computer server Wednesday morning for about 40 minutes and launched a virus, which Ross said was immediately removed.

Ross says he does not believe any information was downloaded, but that the State Patrol has launched a computer forensic investigation of the incident.

More here.

Update: A more detailed AP article can be found here.

Despite Record Profits, Exxon Mobil Refuses To Pay Up on Valdez Ruling

Astrid Hill reports on ABC News' "The Blotter":

Seventeen years after the Exxon Valdez spill dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into the pristine waters of Prince William Sound, Alaska, Exxon Mobil has yet to pay $4.5 billion in punitive damages ordered by a court.

A federal court ordered Exxon Mobil Corp. to pay $4.5 billion to Alaskan fishing communities affected by the 1989 spill. But Exxon continues to fight the order, claiming the $3.5 billion paid in initial cleanup efforts and compensation is sufficient.

Alaskans say the devastation continues. Herring and salmon remain scarce, and people have lost their livelihoods. Fishing communities remain devastated.

More here.

User Friendly: GNU'D


Click for larger image.

China Vows to Step Up Control Over Internet Content

An AFP newswire article, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

China's Internet minders have vowed to step up controls of Internet content, especially in the most active areas of blogs, bulletin boards and search engines, state media have said.

"As more and more illegal and unhealthy information spread through blogs and search engines, we will take effective measures to put the BBS (bulletin board service), blogs and search engines under control," Xinhua news agency quoted Cai Wu, a government spokesman as saying Thursday.

China was taking steps to make registration mandatory on millions of blog sites and BBSs, or sites where Internet users can converse online, Cai said.

More here.

Lawsuit Calls Microsoft's WGA Anti-Piracy Tool 'Spyware'

Todd Bishop writes in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

A computer user is suing Microsoft Corp. over the company's Windows Genuine Advantage anti-piracy tool, alleging that it violates laws against spyware.

The suit by Los Angeles resident Brian Johnson, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Seattle, seeks class-action status for claims that Microsoft didn't adequately disclose details of the tool when it was delivered to PC users through the company's Automatic Update system.

More here.

Stolen VA Laptop Recovered

An AP newswire article, via CNN, reports that:

The government has recovered the stolen laptop computer containing sensitive data for up to 26.5 million veterans and military personnel, Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson announced Thursday.

Nicholson also said there have been no reports of identity theft since the May 3 burglary at the Maryland home of an agency employee.

"There is reason to be optimistic," he told reporters just before the start of another in a series of hearings Congress has had on one of the worst breaches of information security.

"It's a very positive note in this very tragic incident," Nicholson said.

More here.

U.S NIH Credit Union Hit by ID Theft Scheme

Mary Mosquera write on

The National Institutes of Health Federal Credit Union is investigating with law enforcement the identity theft of some of its 41,000 members. The credit union sent out a notice of the identity theft scheme last week.

The credit union is aware of how the data theft was committed but did not provide details.

“Very few members were affected, but we elected to notify the entire membership so they could get a credit report," said CEO Lindsay Alexander.

The credit union provides a Member Security Response program in the event that a member becomes a victim of identity theft, including credit monitoring, fraud alerts placed on credit bureau files, a 3-in-1 credit report covering the three major credit bureaus, and systematic notification to credit bureaus, creditors and collectors and government agencies.

More here.

Gapingvoid: Marketing Dork

Via Enjoy!

Greek Phone Tapping Probe Offers Clues on Culprits

Alkman Granitsas writes for Reuters:

Greek investigators looking into a phone tapping scandal that rocked the government this year said they found enough evidence that could lead to the culprits, according to a report seen by Reuters on Thursday.

In February, the government revealed a massive phone tapping operation that eavesdropped on more than 100 politicians and ministers, including Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, for more than a year before and after the 2004 Olympic Games.

No perpetrators have been identified but a probe by the state Communications Privacy Protection Authority (ADAE) has focused its investigations on Vodafone Greece, whose telephone network was used to shadow mobile phonecalls of Greek leaders.

More here.

Sprint Plans to Acquire Additional Spectrum

Carmen Nobel writes on Light Reading:

Sprint Nextel Corp. plans to acquire additional spectrum in the 2.5GHz band in order to give the company a nationwide footprint, according to company officials attending the Wireless Communications Association International (WCA) conference here this week. But the company remains mysterious on its service plans for the spectrum.

As a condition of approving the recent merger between Sprint and Nextel, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has required the merged company to begin offering services in the 2.5GHz band to at least 15 million Americans by 2009 and to 15 million more by 2011, or risk losing rights to the spectrum.

More here.

Off Topic: SCOTUS Rules Bush Overstepped Authority on Guantanamo Trials

Chickens, home, roost. You get the idea.


The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that President Bush overstepped his authority in creating military war crimes trials for Guantanamo Bay detainees, a rebuke to the administration and its aggressive anti-terror policies.

The case, one of the most significant involving presidential war powers cases since World War II, was brought by Guantanamo prisoner Salim Ahmed Hamdan, who was a driver for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush established special war crimes tribunals for trying prisoners held at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

More here.

Sen. Wyden to Block Telecom Bill Without Net Neutrality


U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has placed a “hold” on major telecommunications legislation recently approved by the Senate Commerce Committee until clear language is included in the legislation that prevents discrimination in Internet access.

Immediately following the Commerce Committee’s vote against a Net Neutrality amendment, Senator Wyden marched onto the floor of the Senate to demand that the legislation include stronger safeguards against phone and cable company discrimination.

“The major telecommunications legislation reported today by the Senate Commerce Committee is badly flawed,” Wyden told the Senate [...]

More here.

Symantec May Owe the IRS $1 Billion

Dan Nystedt writes on InfoWorld:

Antivirus software maker Symantec may owe the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as much as $1 billion in back taxes and penalties, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The IRS is seeking over $757 million in back taxes from a company Symantec acquired last year, Veritas Software, as well as $303 million in penalties, the report says.

At the heart of the dispute is the way Veritas shared fees and other costs with an Irish subsidiary. The IRS argues that Veritas lowered its U.S. tax bill by crediting its U.S. business with too much of certain technology development costs, while charging the Irish subsidiary licensing fees that were too low.

More here.

Researcher Details, MSN Security Holes

Robert McMillan writes on InfoWorld:

Frustrated with what he calls a lack of response from Microsoft and, a security researcher has gone public with details of flaws on the two companies' Web sites.

The flaws could be used by attackers to steal "cookie" data files that would allow them to access and MSN accounts, or to display a fake login page that could be used in phishing attacks, according to Yash Kadakia, the independent security researcher who discovered the flaws.

Although the cross-site scripting flaws he discovered are generally considered to be low-risk problems, Kadakia's attack involves a technique called CRLF (Carriage Return Line Feed) injection, which can be used in a more serious and widespread attack, he said.

Kadakia said he first notified Microsoft of the problem about a year ago. But he said he was not taken seriously until late last week, when he posted screen shots of the flaw being exploited on his Web site.

More here.

Sale of RSA Security Said to Be Near

Andrew Ross Sorkin and John Markoff write in The New York Times:

RSA Security, a pioneering digital security company, quietly put itself up for sale several months ago and is now near a deal with EMC or at least one other bidder, people involved in the auction process said last night.

A deal, possibly worth more than $1.8 billion, could be reached in a few days, these people said. The company has a market value of $1.46 billion.

RSA's board is expected to meet before the weekend to review final bids, these people said. They cautioned, however, that it remained possible that RSA could still decide against a sale.

It could not be learned last night who was competing against EMC, the data storage giant.

More here.

Bruce Schneier: It's the Economy, Stupid

Bruce Schneier writes on Wired News:

[...] economics has a lot to teach computer security. We generally think of computer security as a problem of technology, but often systems fail because of misplaced economic incentives: The people who could protect a system are not the ones who suffer the costs of failure.

When you start looking, economic considerations are everywhere in computer security. Hospitals' medical-records systems provide comprehensive billing-management features for the administrators who specify them, but are not so good at protecting patients' privacy. Automated teller machines suffered from fraud in countries like the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, where poor regulation left banks without sufficient incentive to secure their systems, and allowed them to pass the cost of fraud along to their customers. And one reason the internet is insecure is that liability for attacks is so diffuse.

In all of these examples, the economic considerations of security are more important than the technical considerations.

More here.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

29 June 2000: Vandals Break into the Tombs of Lynyrd Skynyrd's Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines


Ronnie Van Zant, Leon Tsilis, Ed King, Artimus Pyle, Leon Wilkeson, Gary Rossington, Billy Powell. Taken in Miami in 1975. From the personal collection of Leon Tsilis.
Image source: The Artimus Pyle Band website

Via VH1 News.

Vandals broke into tombs containing the remains of Lynyrd Skynyrd singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Steve Gaines early Thursday morning in Orange Park, Fla., about 12 miles south of Jacksonville, officials said.

"It doesn't appear that they actually took anything off the site, but some major damage was done," Clay County Sheriff's Department spokesperson Mary Justino said. "This goes way beyond fan worship or adoration. This is a criminal act that goes way beyond even a normal vandalism."

The private Jacksonville Memory Gardens cemetery stands beside a mall, where a man told police he had heard strange noises coming from the cemetery. Justino said that when police arrived on the scene around 3 a.m. Thursday, the two above-ground marble memorials had been smashed and broken into from behind. Van Zant's casket had been removed from its tomb but did not appear to have been opened. A plastic bag containing Gaines' ashes had been removed from a metal urn and had been torn, but only a tiny fraction — 1 percent, according to Justino — was spilled.

The gravesite is on the border of mall and cemetery property, an elaborate memorial of marble set off from the rest of the cemetery, with park benches, hedges and a large magnolia tree. The site also includes the grave of Cassie Gaines, Steve Gaines' sister, who was a backup singer with the band.

All three, along with personal manager Dean Kilpatrick, were killed when the band's plane crashed during a flight from Greenville, S.C., to Baton Rouge, La., in October 1977. Guitarists Gary Rossington and Allen Collins, keyboardist Billy Powell and bassist Leon Wilkeson survived the crash but were seriously injured. Collins died of pneumonia in 1990.

More here.

Yahoo! Settles 'Click Fraud' Lawsuit

An AP newswire article by Michael Liedtke, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

Yahoo Inc. will consider refunding money to thousands of advertisers dating back to January 2004 and pay $4.95 million in attorney fees to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging the Internet powerhouse has been profiting from bogus sales referrals generated through a sham known as "click fraud."

The agreement, given preliminary approval Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder in Los Angeles, doesn't limit Yahoo's liability — one of several contrasts to a settlement reached in March by online search engine leader Google Inc. to resolve a class-action lawsuit over the same issue.

More here.

Nigerian 419'er Convinced to Carve Replica Commodore 64

I'm not so sure I actually believe this story, given the source, but it's fun to think that it might indeed be true.

Via Boing Boing.

The 419Eater website chronicles the incredible story of a guy who baits "Nigerian Letter" scammers by telling them he has no time to help them free their dead relatives' seized assets because he is so busy sending out $150,000 scholarships for talented carvings to display in his galleries.

He actually convinces a 419 scammer to produce a detailed replica of a Commodore 64 computer with the lure of a big cash payout -- then blows him off with a twist ending worthy of The Big Con.

More here.

Senate Deals Blow to Net Neutrality

I've always said we have the best government money can buy.

Declan McCullagh and Anne Broache write on C|Net News:

A U.S. Senate panel narrowly rejected strict Net neutrality rules on Wednesday, dealing a grave setback to companies like eBay, Google and that had made enacting them a top political priority this year.

By an 11-11 tie, the Senate Commerce Committee failed to approve a Democrat-backed amendment that would have ensured all Internet traffic is treated the same no matter what its "source" or "destination" might be. A majority was needed for the amendment to succeed.

This vote complicates Internet companies' efforts to convince Congress of the desirability of extensive new regulations, especially after the House of Representatives definitively rejected the concept in a 269-152 vote on June 8.

More here.

Verizon Wireless to Ease Policy on Early Termination Fees

An AP newswire article by Bruce Meyerson, via ABC News, reports that:

Targeting a top gripe by cell phone users and breaking ranks again with its industry, Verizon Wireless plans to prorate the fee it charges subscribers who break a contract so they only pay an amount proportional to the time left on their agreements.

The change in the early termination fee will be implemented this fall for all new customers and any Verizon Wireless subscribers who sign a new contract, the company announced Wednesday in tandem with a speech by CEO Denny Strigl at an industry conference.

The company, owned jointly by Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC, also said it was addressing another customer frustration by enabling existing subscribers to upgrade to a new handset at the same steep discounts being offered to lure new customers.

More here.

DoE CIO Outlines Security Plans

Michael Hardy writes on

Tom Pyke, chief information officer at the Energy Department, launched a security revitalization program there when he took the position in November 2005. Today that program is making strides in locking intruders out of the department's systems, he told an audience at a luncheon hosted by Input.

DOE has been in the spotlight recently because of a successful attack in which cyberthieves stole personal data on about 1,500 contract and agency employees. That incident happened in July 2005, Pyke said, but it was not reported to agency leaders until recently. The revitalization project was not connected to that theft, he added.

The thieves used an old-fashioned "social engineering" attack, sending an e-mail message with malicious code in an attachment. An employee clicked on the attachment, executing software that set up a "back door" for the thieves to access the network of the National Nuclear Security Agency, a semi-autonomous organization within DOE.

More here.