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old dude, all hair, swell new teeth

31 January 2006

mystery surrounding Tom Cruise; also, sound made by blowing wetly and hard on forearm

Tom Cruise
(Agence-Vleeptron Presse photo)

[VLEEPTRON MEDIA & AUTO INSURANCE ADVISORY: Cleveland, Ohio may be nothing to write home to Mom about -- it also ranks high on the Galactic Boring Cities list which Vleeptron is trying to compile -- but The Plain Dealer is an ancient and very highly regarded daily newspaper with a tradition of top-drawer and award-winning national political coverage.

State Farm and Farmers are two well-known USA automobile insurance companies. The JayCees are the Junior Chamber of Commerce, a social and service organization of businessmen and businesswomen under the age of 40. The JayCees are superbly depicted in the remarkably hysterical movie "Smile" (re-zapped into DVD) with Bruce Dern and Barbara Feldon, featuring a very rare and brilliant dramatic role by the choreographer/dancer Michael Kidd.

The United Way is a huge annual charity fund-raising campaign usually run by community business leaders.]


The Plain Dealer (Cleveland Ohio USA)
Tuesday 31 January 2006

Couch jumper
in contention
for 3 Razzies

Chuck Yarborough
Plain Dealer Columnist

Tom Cruise's name is absent from the list of contend ers during this award- show sea son. But fear not, Gentle Reader. I believe he soon will have some new hard ware for his mantel. Cruise has been nominated for three Razzies. The awards - named after that wonderful whoopee-cushion sound we all learned to make as children - are the anti-Oscars, designed to acknowledge Hollyweird's worst efforts. Cruise is up for worst actor for "War of the Worlds." Sure, he's facing some tough competition - Will Ferrell for "Bewitched" and "Kicking and Screaming," Jamie Kennedy for "Son of the Mask," the Rock for "Doom" and Rob Schneider for the horrific sequel "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo." But his biggest battle will be in the brand-new Most Tiresome Tabloid Figure category. Five people are nominated and two of them are Tom Cruise (once for the couch-jumping rant on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and once for his PDAs with fiancee Katie Holmes). Holmes herself is nominated for Worst Supporting Actress for her lackluster performance in "Batman Begins." Check out for a complete list. But don't do it on a full stomach.

From ear to there:

Kevin Federline came this close to big trouble from Big Mama, aka Britney Spears.


This column gleans from wire and Internet reports.

Contact this Plain Dealer columnist:

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^, 216-999-4534


SUBJECT: origin of Razzies, & can you help me out with this Cruise thing?

Dear Chuck Yarborough,

Stop the presses. I think "Razzie" isn't the sound of the Whoopie Cushion, but rather a Raspberry is the (similar) sound made by sealing your wet lips on your forearm and blowing hard.

A few weeks ago my wife treated us to a NetFlix evening with Mr. Cruise in "War of the Worlds."

I haven't done a very good job over the years of keeping up with Mr. Cruise's oeuvre, but I was stunned -- exactly the way I was stunned by the anesthesia during my colonoscopy -- by how vapid and uninteresting a movie star he is. While Martians in giant Death Ray Terror Bots devastated New Jersey and the Northeast, and Cruise and his children's lives hung by a slender thread, all I wanted to do was make popcorn in the kitchen and visit the bathroom.

Color me totally clueless about why he is A Big Hollywood Superstar. (Color me almost as clueless most of the time about why Spielberg is A Big Hollywood Superdirector. There's "Empire of the Sun," and help me out here, what else?)

Kubrick proved it is possible to wrap a reasonably interesting 90 minutes around this dead flounder, but a lot of that might be attributable to hundreds of naked rich people and supermodels having a forbidden masked orgy that the dead fish managed to sneak into; "Eyes Wide Shut" might have been equally fascinating if that had been PeeWee Herman under the mask and seeing ob/gyn patients. Under Kubrick's direction, Cruise gave new meaning to the word Adequate.

To coin a phrase: The guys today that women prize today are all silly gigolos. I just don't get this Cruise thing. My wife is responsible for validating movie and TV Young Hunks, but even she lapsed into deep snoring during the noisiest parts of "War of the Worlds." I think he would be excellent as the manager of a medium-size State Farm franchise and president of the local JayCees, an aggressive and well-liked leader in the annual United Way campaign.

Well, anyway, if you can help me out here, perhaps with a Cruise Must-See Filmography, I'd be grateful. 'Cause I really just don't get it. Are people renting Cruise's movies as sleep aids? Do women by the gazillions dream of getting lucky with Tom Cruise?


Bob Merkin

Welcome to Vleeptron! Passport & Visa, please. Retina Scan, News, Weather & Sports

(featured LIVE recently on BBC World Service!!!)


Mr. Merkin:

thanks for writing. I think if Cruise were to manage a state farm agency and head up a local JayCees, i would be A) exceedingly grateful that my coverage is provided by Farmers; and B) inquire about openings at the Kiwanis.

Seriously, well reasoned rant. Can't disagree with you at all.

Except that if you sit on it correction [ * ], a whoopee cushion DOES make that sound. But it's entirely acceptable to make it by pursing your lips and expectorating noisily, or by doing same to your forearm!



[ * ] a typo, he meant "... if you sit on it correctly ...". I made a typo once, in 1989, I think.

there is no such thing as bad publicity

San Jose Mercury-News (California USA)
Monday 30 January 2006

Take-Two shares rebound
after report of buyout talks

NEW YORK (Dow Jones/AP) -- Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. shares rebounded Monday after a published report said the game publisher has been in talks with several buyout firms over the past week.

In afternoon trading, Take-Two shares climbed $1.11, or 7.6 percent, to $15.80 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

The report comes after the stock fell 26 percent over four trading days last week.

Wednesday, New York-based Take-Two, the maker of the popular "Grand Theft Auto" series, filed a document with securities regulators that contained a resignation letter from board member Barbara Kaczynski, who said she had concerns about the company's management.

Friday, the Los Angeles city attorney filed a lawsuit over the inclusion of a sex scene in one of the company's games.

A phone call to the New York company wasn't immediately returned.

One Wall Street analyst, commenting on Saturday's New York Post report, which cited unnamed sources, wrote in a note to clients that the company could be a potential buyout target, most likely for a private buyout firm.

But other analysts said the prospects of the company being acquired are slim, given the lawsuit and the possibility of an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, a concern also raised by Kaczynski.

Citigroup analyst Elizabeth Osur, who rates Take-Two stock at "neutral," wrote that the company has a huge amount of asset value that could be unleashed in a break-up. The analyst values the company's assets at closer to $25 to $30 a share.

But the company's risk profile makes a public buyer unlikely, she said.

"We think a public company buyer is unlikely given the bad press surrounding many of Take Two's franchises, but a private buyer could find the assets appealing," wrote Osur.

Osur pegs the value of Take-Two's Rockstar Games studio, which publishes "Grand Theft Auto," between $1.4 billion, or $19 a share, and $1.6 billion, or $23 a share, depending on how frequently management publishes titles based on the Grand Theft Auto franchise.

- 30 -

30 January 2006

Flee for your lives, after a great dinner at a really cool new place


About six months ago, an Internet Relay Chat pal of mine, Lolllllllllllllllllllllla, returned to Israel, where she's a university student, after a visit to see her family back home in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She typed something like this:

[Lollllllllllllllllllla] I was scared the whole time I was in BA. It's crazy there, crime, violence.
[Lollllllllllllllllllla] now I feel safe again. I'm so glad to be back in Israel.

Either I was on another planet, or somebody had put LSD in my hot chocolate, or somebody had put LSD in her hot chocolate, or something. She was not describing Planet Earth 2005 as I generally comprehended it, and I flatter myself that I generally comprehend it pretty thoroughly and clearly.

Well, I think I Do pay close attention to Earth (except The Black Hole of NL, whose lingo I still only dimly comprehend -- they could be having a big Cannibalism Fiesta three blocks away and I wouldn't know it).

But add to this the notion that Safety is an entirely subjective, individual perception -- Safe You Are If You Think You Are -- then indeed, for a uni-age woman in 2005, Haifa is a heck of a lot Safer than BA. Because she says that's how she feels, and she was authentically relieved to be back in one of Israel's largest cities.

Headlines filter to try to grab our attention (an unread story is a worthless story, the reporter shouldn't have bothered and wasted everybody's time) by their Coefficient of Horror k(H) . No matter how sophisticated and educated we are, Flying Severed Human Limbs always grabs us more forcefully than G8 Sub-Ministers planning an economic summit.

Until these rags are entirely produced automatically, dispensing with Human Beings entirely, depending instead exclusively on Software, Editors are going to put the Flying Severed Human Limbs on Page 1, and the summit goes low on Page 8.

When things run smoothly, they are Boring. When everything is exploding klabooey and sirens fill the air for blocks, women are wailing, and the governor declares a state of emergency and suspends all civil liberties, this is Not Boring. Not Boring is what sells the newspapers and television infonewsical programming and the occasional forays radio makes into disseminating the news, sports and weather. The selling of these things is what sets the rates the Advertising Department can charge for carrying your entity's Ad in the newspaper. The shareholders prosper. Explosions and machine-gunnings are better for prosperity than multinational agreements regarding cheese imports and exports.

But let's face it, when newspapers were erratic enough to employ me in the editor's slot, I just liked The Loud Stuff. I'm by nature a very Jaded sort of person. I don't like to get so Jaded that I have to meet a lot of Government Officials, but I like Jaded. And Depraved a little. Sordid is a flavor I'm very fond of. And these are the Spices and Seasonings with which Chef Bob would cook up the evening's edition of the newspaper. This is the way I preferred to Dress Earth each evening for a few hundred thousand readers. Others may have preferred something more elegant and tasteful, but I had a penchant for

Have you heard?
It's in the stars --
Next July we collide with Mars!

-- Cole Porter, "What a Swell Party"

and I just knew so many of the readers felt the way I did. I particularly liked arranging it all to suggest that Nothing Makes Any Sense Whatsover. I preferred to send a more Hopeless, Dire World out into the Honor Boxes, shake up the folks, get 'em thinkin.

In an old metal-font shop, the largest headline font possible -- maybe 96 point -- is called Second Coming type, reserved for Eisenhower climbing out of the grave and playing nine holes of golf, or First Contact.

Couple of weeks ago PatfromCH asked if the USA still has the DEFCON crisis-emergency-catastrophe-paranoia national military Cold War Worry Level.

No, since 1988, the Air Force is out of that business and has handed the responsibility of scaring the living shit out of everybody to media editors, particularly those who like Severed Limbs and understand their fundamental profit-oriented mission.

How much would you pay for a Boring Newspaper? And you would pay this much for a Boring Newspaper why, exactly?

So back here in NorthAm it can seem as if Israel and Palestine and the Middle East are violent, dangerous and scary regions.

But this is Reality Filtered Through The Brains of Newspaper and Televison Editors.

Here's what's REALLY happening in the Middle East. Right Now.

And it sounds DELICIOUS! And NOT BORING!

(Portuguese down there too.)

We start with Haaretz's links to other Things happening in the Middle East. (Like The Thing.) But apparently Israelis can get around to dealing with that after dinner at the new Sushi restaurant. I would so much hope that Lebanese can also attend to their Crises after a lovely and entertaining seafood dinner overlooking the Mediterranean. I hope Druse all over the region are Eating Really Well tonight, with Valet Parking.

Are we expected to Hate, Suffer, Fear, Torment and Kill Each Other, AND eat crappy food??? AND not have any Fun? Must the great chefs be exiled, and leave the region with crappy food? Who ordered that?

Everybody have fun tonight!
Everybody have fun tonight!
Everybody Wang Chung tonight!
Everybody Wang Chung tonight!

-- Wang Chung, "Everybody Have Fun Tonight"


Haaretz ("The Land")
big daily national newspaper, Israel
Tuesday 31 January 2006
Shvat 2, 5766 [Hebrew Lunar Calendar]
Israel Time: 03:09 (EST+7)

Today Online
What makes Islam so easy to hate?
Responses: 351
Spielberg: Jewish 'fundamentalists' are angry with me
Responses: 135
Netanyahu compares Hamas win to rise of Hitler
Responses: 222
We cannot wait another 25 years
Responses: 95

More Headlines
02:20 Settlers complete Hebron wholesale market eviction
02:39 Amona settlers vandalize military jeep, stone guard position
00:22 Hamas rejects Quartet's calls to disarm and recognize Israel
21:44 U.S. Evangelists to boost Israel support in wake of Hamas win
02:53 Abbas in Jordan in diplomatic bid following Hamas win
23:40 'Trojan Horse' developers may strike plea bargain with state
01:05 Holocaust center in honor of Wiesenthal to be built in Vienna
00:41 Petition bids to bar transferring funds from Kadima to Likud
23:24 MK Ben-Eliezer quits committee amid growing Labor campaign chaos

Sushi with Samantha
in Tel Aviv

by Michal Palti

Is Israel on the verge of becoming a culinary superpower? Or do Israelis perhaps follow trends and "check out a new restaurant" once a month or year? Judging by the restaurants scheduled to open in the coming year, mainly in the center of the country, but in outlying areas as well, both answers are affirmative. The owners of popular restaurants are trying to repeat their success, experienced chefs are looking for a new arena in which to exercise their talents and foreign chains want to invest in Israel, perhaps because the reputation of the awakening industry has reached culinary centers overseas.

In most cases, the average investment needed to open a new restaurant numbers in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, which is used to train cooks, buy kitchen equipment, plan interior design, supply the food, et al. While restaurant managers and chefs may refuse to reveal the exact sum, only in exceptional cases is the investment any higher.

According to the managers, the chefs and the owners, most of the restaurants will offer a full menu (appetizer, main course and dessert) at a price of NIS 150 per diner.

Most of the new restaurants will be situated in commercial centers, and will cater specifically to a crowd that eats lunch outside of the office: Most of the investors want "to play it safe," rather than invent any new arenas for culinary activity. Evening meals are almost always added value, according to the current investors' statement of intentions. The Herzliya Pituah area has never been more popular, but Ramat Hahayal is not doing badly, either.

The following restaurants will open in the coming year and are in various stages of preparation and renovation:

* Sushi Samba. At the end of March, the fifth branch of the Sushi Samba chain will open on Habarzel Street in Ramat Hahayal in Tel Aviv. Branches of this chain are located in New York (on Park Avenue and Seventh Avenue), Miami and Chicago. Nitzan Raz, the chain's chef, says that the branches specialize in a combination of Japanese dishes with Peruvian and Brazilian touches. The Israeli branch will attempt to disseminate some of the glitter of the Manhattan branches in Ramat Hahayal - Sushi Samba is known as the favorite restaurant of Samatha from "Sex and the City," although it should be noted that New Yorkers change their food trends even faster than frenetic Israelis.

The local branch will seat 140, and will include a dining area, cafe and bar-lounge. The design motifs will resemble those in the chain's American restaurants: a large, prominent space, full of colored squares. The designers are the architectural firm of Baranovitch Kronnenberg (who also designed Chimichanga and Zozobara). Steven Lovell, who is in charge of operations, says that at the entrance to the restaurant there will also be a large sake refrigerator, about four meters in size, "the likes of which has not yet been seen in Israel."

Raz adds that "the Japanese chef who works in the New York restaurants is coming to Israel to train workers. We think that there is a great awakening in Israel in the food industry, and consider opening in Israel a challenge." He says that a local group will invest in the Israeli restaurant, and the place has been undergoing renovations for about a year.

27 Habarzel Street, Ramat Hahayal, Tel Aviv

* Isadora. Chef Haim Cohen is the adviser, kitchen organizer and composer of the wine list at the Isadora restaurant, which will open in Rishon Letzion's new City Hall. The owners of the restaurant are the Gindi family, contractors who have planned many projects in the city, and who, according to Cohen, "decided that Rishon Letzion deserves an excellent restaurant, too." Architect Ilan Pivko plans orange chandeliers and a dominant black interior for the restaurant's interior.

"I'm putting together a menu that I like," says Cohen. "Mediterranean, with local ingredients. The food will be tasty and not overly decorative." Cohen is passing along the menu to chef Ram Antabi, who will be the acting kitchen manager, and says that he has brought a staff that worked with him at Keren to prepare the kitchen, put together the pastry menu and design the wine list.

Hacarmel Street corner Zadal, the new City Hall building, Rishon Letzion

* Pique. The Turkish chain is opening its first branch in Israel early in February, in the wake of the successful branches in Athens, Dubai and Moscow. The restaurant will offer Turkish food, which is based on cooking in a tabun and a coal grill, under the direction of the chain's chef, Orhan Tekin, who is training Turkish and local workers.

Ron Mechanik, the restaurant's manager, worked as a waiter and a cook at Roshfeld, and after the restaurant closed, he worked with him privately, until a group of investors led by Turkish-Israeli businessman Menashe Carmon asked him to manage the new place.

"The trend of Turkish cuisine is catching on now all over the world, like all ethnic cuisine," says Mechanik. "This is traditional Turkish cooking that has been adapted to a restaurant."

Pique will seat 450 and another 80 in the summer. The design of the restaurant "in a warm and dramatic atmosphere" is being planned by architect Nir Portal, who also designed the Aroma Cafe chain.

"The Turks have wanted to open a restaurant here for a long time," explains Mechanik. "They believe in the Israeli market and its openness to types of cooking and food, and Turkish cuisine is familiar to part of the population here, too."

11 Shenkar Street, Herzliya Pituah

* Meat and Wine. A chain of meat restaurants with branches in Australia, South Africa and Dubai is opening a restaurant in Israel in mid-March, and will at once be opening branches in Bahrain and in Beirut later in the year. The specialty of the chain is grilled steaks, and according to Lawrence Thorpe, who is responsible for operations, and who is now in Israel, "The branch in Herzliya will be a kosher one, although those who enter it won't feel any difference between this branch and any other meat restaurant."

The Israeli chef is Ilan Niv, who will adapt the menu to Israeli cuisine, including salads and appetizers. The owner of the Israeli branch is London businessman Carl Lindy, who will soon come to live in Raanana. The restaurant will have 200 seats and will be designed by architect Gadi Halperin.

16 Shenkar Street, Herzliya Pituah

* Ad HaEtzem. Another branch of the veteran Herzliya restaurant will be opening at the beginning of March in the Airport City compound near the Ben Gurion International Airport. According to owner Yoram Yerezin, "We are catering to the residents of Shoham, Modiin and Savion." He says the menu will be identical to that in the Herzliya Pituah branch. Brothers Ari and Yoram Yerezin are the owners, together with other partners, in the restaurants Ad HaEtzem, Zozobara and Chimichanga, as well as the Reviva and Celia Cafe.

Ari Yerezin also plans soon to open a high quality chef restaurant, in which he will be the chef. The restaurant will open in the Ramat Hasharon area, but its final location has yet to be determined.

Airport City compound, near Ben Gurion International Airport

* Chapra and Ornitos. Two different restaurants belonging to chef Avi Conforti. It is only typical that if Israeli chefs open another restaurant or branch, the active Conforti will open two. The chef responsible for the menu at Chimichanga, Moses and Zozobara will launch the Chapra restaurant between July and September as a sister restaurant to Zozobara - followed immediately by Ornitos.

The location of the restaurants has not yet been decided, and it will be somewhere between Kiryat Atidim and the area around Chimichanga - the area of the Cinerama and Yigal Allon Street. "Chapra will be the quieter sister of Zozobara," says Conforti. "It will be designed in black and white, will serve a healthy but stir-fried and Asian menu, and will seat about 100."

The Ornitos restaurant, on the other hand, will serve Spanish and Portuguese dishes cooked in stone and iron ovens. The menu will include main courses of meat cooked in a unique process, and according to Conforti, "it will be possible to eat dishes shared by the entire table, it will be social eating." The first courses in the restaurant will be Latin, Spanish and Chilean.

* Yonatan Roshfeld's restaurant. According to chef Roshfeld, he will open a new restaurant by the end of this year, but "it's still to early to give exact details." According to an advertisement in the magazine Al Hashulhan, and rumors in the restaurant business, the new restaurant will open in Beit Gibor in Tel Aviv, next to the Dan Panorama Hotel. The restaurant will have an area of 400 square meters, and there is still no opening date. Before it became the site of the future restaurant, the place was supposed to host the competition "A Chef is Born," a Channel 10 reality show. The program did not pan out, and the owners then contacted Roshfeld. The Roshfeld restaurant at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center (TAPAC) closed about two and a half years ago. It was funded by businessman Adam Schneeweiss, and since its closing Roshfeld has been his household chef as well.

b Spaghettim. The chain will open a new branch in the city of Aix en Provence on the French Riviera, and another three branches: on Hillel Street in Jerusalem (a branch that was closed and will reopen), on the promenade in Bat Yam and in Ramat Yishai in the north. The branch on the French Riviera will open this coming April, and according to Dror Nehushtan, one of the owners, it will cover an area of 220 square meters and will be adapted to the Riviera: "The raw materials will be local and will be integrated into the menu, which will absorb many outside influences."

b Tati. The cafe-bakery and bistro will open another branch whose location has not yet been decided, in Ramat Hen or in Kiryat Ono. Today there is a Cafe Tati on Derekh Hashalom in Givatyaim, beneath the Channel 10 building, and alongside it, there is a bread store and pastry shop of baker Noam Babila. According to the owners, Anat Zermati and Vanessa Rakin, they are interested in providing the residents of the cities adjacent to Tel Aviv with a top of the line cafe and bistro, so that "they won't have to confront the traffic jams and parking problems day and night, and will go out for entertainment near their place of residence." The new spot's menu will resemble that of the existing cafe-bistro.

b Kohinoor. A kosher Indian restaurant belonging to chef Rina Pushkarna, which will open in April in Herzliya Pituah in the area of the public auction house, near Pushkarna's Tandoori restaurant which operates there. According to Pushkarna, "there is a large clientele that wants to eat kosher Indian food. This restaurant will be my second restaurant to serve a menu for the kosher community, the first restaurant operates in Jerusalem in the lobby of the Grand Plaza Hotel, and is very well received." The restaurant in Herzliya Pituah will seat 200 and will be designed in a spirit similar to that of the Jerusalem restaurant. Pushkarna adds that soon she will begin proceedings to open a kosher Indian restaurant abroad.

b Aluma Bakfar. This coming April, a sister restaurant to Aluma in Kfar Tarshiha will open in Ramot Naftali, on the road to Maalot. According to chef Tal Ze'evi, Aluma Bakfar will open in a complex of five bed and breakfast rooms in a wooden structure imported from Canada, and in the center area there will be a boutique restaurant. The site overlooks the Hula Valley and the Hermon. The restaurant will be furnished with antique furniture imported from England by owners, Ilan and Alfa Peri. According to Zeevi, "The restaurant will be similar in spirit to the restaurant in Tarshiha. My background and that of the owner, Alfa, is classical French, and we are including elements of Galilee cuisine - special herbs and vegetables." The restaurant will seat 30, and will have a lounge bar and a large selection of mezes (appetizers).

© Copyright 2006 Haaretz. All rights reserved

i'm sorry i'm not at my desk right now, please leave your name and number and i'll get back to you

A U.S. Department of Interior
Fish and Wildlife Service airboat pilot
in Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana.
"Navigating the bayous, flooded bottomland
hardwood areas, swamps, and coastal estuaries
at Southern refuges ... often requires an airboat."
(From the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website.
Need an
airboat? Just click their site,
they got plenty,
and the folks who drive 'em.)

The U.S. Department of the Interior has, among many mandates, responsibility for America's vast national parks, wildlife, and fish and game resources. One of its subagencies, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, with its authority to license casinos on Native-American reservations, has plunged Interior into the middle of the Jack Abramoff lobbying and government corruption scandal.

What we got here is a big-ass Hurricane coming, a federal agency with tons of highly trained women and men, many of them federal law-enforcement officers, special-terrain and wilderness vehicles, offering their rescue services to Mighty Mike Brown's FEMA.

And being put on hold, or transferred to somebody's voice mail. "Hello, this is ***** *******, I'm sorry I'm not at my desk right now, please leave your name and number and I'll get back to you."


CNN / Cable News Network
Monday 30 January 2006

FEMA failed to accept
Katrina help,
documents say

Homeland Security:
'Of course' not all assets were used

by Jeanne Meserve
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Federal emergency officials failed to accept offers of possibly life-saving aid from the Department of Interior immediately after Hurricane Katrina, according to documents obtained by CNN.

The Interior Department offered the Federal Emergency Management Agency the use of personnel who were experienced in water rescues and also offered boats, helicopters, heavy equipment and rooms, the documents say.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairwoman of a Senate committee with jurisdiction over the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA, said the additional resources may have saved lives. (Watch how FEMA brushed off offers of help -- 2:14)

"It is indeed possible that there was additional suffering and maybe even loss of life that might not have occurred if these assets had been deployed," Collins said.

Her panel, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is set to hold hearings Monday looking into the search-and-rescue response to Katrina.

A spokesman for Homeland Security, which includes FEMA, says the Bush administration is examining how to better utilize federal and other resources in catastrophes.

But, he observed, "Were there federal assets that were not used in Katrina? Of course."

The Interior Department offered FEMA 500 rooms, 119 pieces of heavy equipment, 300 dump trucks and other vehicles, 300 boats, 11 aircraft and 400 law enforcement officers, according to a questionnaire answered by a department official.

Interior law enforcement officers included special agents and refuge officers from the department's Fish and Wildlife Service.

"Although we attempted to provide these assets, we were unable to efficiently integrate and deploy these resources," an Interior Department official wrote the Senate committee investigating the government's response to Katrina.

Collins said she is particularly concerned by the fact that the offer of help was from the federal government.

"Now, you might be able to understand if it came from outside government," she said. "But this is another federal agency, an agency that was offering trained personnel and exactly the assets that the federal government needed to assist in the search-and-rescue operations."

Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, the committee's senior Democrat, says in a draft statement for Monday's hearing that "the greatest honor we can pay those who risked their lives in the aftermath of Katrina would be to make sure that the heroes of the next catastrophe ... are given the proper equipment and the clear plan they need to succeed ..."

According to government officials, 1,322 people died from Katrina, all but 15 of the deaths occurring in Louisiana and Mississippi.

The Senate committee released e-mails that document FEMA's decision to ground its search-and-rescue teams three days after Katrina because of security concerns.

Before then, the Interior Department had offered FEMA hundreds of law enforcement officers trained in search-and-rescue, emergency medical services and evacuation, according to the documents.

"The Department of the Interior was not called upon to assist until late September," the Interior official writes.

A FEMA document provided to the Senate committee indicates that many of the Interior Department's resources, which included transportation, communications and engineering, were never integrated into FEMA's planning for a catastrophic hurricane. That planning was still incomplete August 29, when Katrina roared ashore.

CNN's Mike Ahlers contributed to this report.

yadda yadda boy was i surprised gosh that Hamas thing we had no idea color me Surprised

U.S. Department of State

Remarks En Route to London, United Kingdom

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
En Route to London, United Kingdom
January 29, 2006

SECRETARY RICE: Good morning, everybody. I know this must seem like an odd trip; we're going to one place staying two nights and coming back. I know, it's strange for me, too. It feels like going to New York and back. But I hope it will be a very good trip in any case.

I'm very much looking forward to this trip, first and foremost for the international community to renew its partnership with Afghanistan. There will be an important conference on Tuesday where the international community will enter into a compact with Afghanistan for the next phase of Afghanistan's development. It's awfully important that we just think back to where this country was four years ago, where the Taliban had destroyed it, where it really had very little hope for the future, where it was a terrorist haven; now has been through elections under the Bonn process and has elected not only a president but a parliament. And so this is a good time for the international community to renew its partnership and I'm very -- we're all very grateful to Prime Minister Blair for hosting this conference.

It's also the case that NATO has made a substantial new commitment. NATO will have at the end of this cycle about 12,000 forces, part of the ISAF force, the International Security Assistance Force. The number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams continues to grow and in one case Britain and Canada are moving and, likey with Dutch support, into the south of the country, allowing the United States to concentrate more on counterterrorist operations.

So there is really very good support for Afghanistan. It's not that Afghanistan doesn't have a lot of problems. It does. It's an infrastructure that needs significant investment. Obviously, the narcotics problem continues to be a problem, but President Karzai has been very vocal with the Afghan people about the need to make certain that the poppy growing is not just illegal but also, in a normative sense, illegitimate in the eyes of the Afghan people.

So it will be a chance to celebrate Afghans' progress, make a commitment to the next round of Afghan development and, on Tuesday, the United States will make a significant new contribution to Afghan development.

So with that, I'm happy to take any questions.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, can you tell us why you think people in your office were so caught off guard by Hamas' strong showing, and did you express any displeasure that that was the case?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't know anyone who wasn't caught off guard by Hamas' strong showing. Some say that Hamas itself was caught off guard by its very strong showing. But I think it speaks to the volatility in polling and in that kind of analysis in a place where there are -- where it's a very transitional and volatile political environment. I think what was probably underestimated was the depth of resentment of the last, really, decade of the corruption and the old guard and the like.

But certainly I've asked why nobody saw it coming and I hope that we will take a hard look, because it does say something about perhaps not having had a good enough pulse on the Palestinian population, as opposed to elites in Ramallah and the like. Now, to be sure, it's hard -- with the security situation it's hard to get people around -- but I've been long concerned and one of the things that I said in the repositioning was that we probably needed to get more people into places like Jerusalem, into places like Ramallah, so that we could have a better pulse. But sure, I'm concerned about it and we'll try to get an analysis of what we might have known better. But I want to emphasize, I don't think we were alone in being surprised.

QUESTION: If you don't mind, may I follow? Do you think, looking back, that it might have been a mistake not to press the Palestinian leadership harder on what the U.S. clearly wanted, which was to disarm anyone associated with Hamas, to disarm Hamas or get a commitment, some kind of legislative commitment, to lawful behavior?

And second, might it also -- I mean, there are now some Israelis and Palestinians who are saying that toward the elections some thought was given to postponing the election again. Do you think that would have changed anything?

SECRETARY RICE: On the second question, Steve, our constant discussions with Abu Mazen suggested that he wanted to go ahead with the elections and go ahead with them on time. We had to support that. And I just don't understand the argument that it somehow would have gotten better the longer it went on. What became clear, I think, from this is that you had a lot of pent-up frustration, a lot of pent-up anger, and I don't think that was going to dissipate in four or five or six months. And so you ask yourself, "Are you going to then support a policy of denying the Palestinians elections that had been promised to them at a certain point in time because people were fearful of the outcome?" And I just don't think you can support democracy and then say, well, we have to do this because of the outcome.

We did focus on and we're concerned about security and whether that was a concern with elections being held at the time. As it turned out, the security situation did not turn out to be a problem in terms of voting. I mean, people said there would be great violence on the day. The Palestinians are really to be congratulated for the fact that they carried this out peacefully.

In terms of what we and the international community might have pressed the Palestinians to do in terms of Hamas, I do think that there was a strong view that -- and you can read multiple, multiple statements from the United States that the roadmap required the disarmament of militias. It was also the case that we all pressed very hard for greater reform, greater transparency, the unraveling of some of the corruption.

And I just want to say a word about Abu Mazen and some of his team. They had a long history of corruption to deal with and they really did begin to make some important changes. If you look at the confidence that was there in the Finance Ministry, for instance, they made some changes. And so those changes were perhaps not made in time to present a Fatah that was truly a reformed Fatah, but I think we shouldn't overlook some of the very good things that Abu Mazen and his team did do. So yes, we pressed those things.

Now, in terms of the Palestinian strategy, their view was that they had to get through elections, they had to have a new electoral law -- I'm sorry, a new set of laws, including electoral laws, which would then give a basis for the disarmament of militias. But one way or another, if there is going to be a Palestinian government that can deal with the international community, it's going to have to be a Palestinian government that has one authority and one gun. That still remains the case. And the interesting question is going to be how Hamas now, having been given a mandate to deliver on the aspirations of its people, how it's going to do that. And I think the issue of disarmament of militias is going to be even more salient now, not less salient.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, as you know, the financial condition of the Palestinian Authority is terrible. I'm wondering how you plan to balance the potential chaos that could ensue if the U.S. and Europe were to cut off aid against your desire not to aid Hamas or to fund them in any way.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, we are going to have extensive discussions in the Quartet about the way forward. But the United States is not prepared to fund an organization that advocates the destruction of Israel, that advocates violence and that refuses its obligations under the roadmap to which everyone is committed. We do understand that the Palestinian people may have some humanitarian needs and I think we will have to look at that on a kind of case-by-case basis in terms of humanitarian needs, but we are going to review all of our assistance programs, but the bedrock principle here is we can't have funding for an organization that holds those views just because it is in government.

I do think that it is important that Hamas now will have to confront the implications of its covenants if it wishes to govern and so that becomes a primary consideration in anything that we do. And I have to say that there has been a pretty consistent voice in the international community about confronting that covenant, and it's not just coming from the Western states; it's also coming from within the region.

Just one final point on it. The question of what happens in this interim period before Hamas takes power, because of course they have to form a government, there's a procedure for forming a government and I don't know precisely when they will form a government, I think we'll have to look at what obligations are already there to Abu Mazen and his caretaker government as opposed to what happens once they have a new government.

QUESTION: What's going to be the response if others try to move in to fill the funding breach? For instance, Iran or Saudi -- well, I guess it would depend on who it would be. But if it were Syria or Iran?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we would sincerely hope that people would take the implications of a Palestinian government that would be cut off from assistance and not try and fill that gap. But let me just remind you what we are talking about. We're talking about assistance from the international financial institutions. We're talking about the United Nations assistance. We're talking about European assistance. We're talking about Asian assistance. We're talking about considerable assistance from the region and we're talking about American assistance. This is a pretty big gap.

The budget of the Palestinian Authority is about $1.6 billion, but I think that doesn't speak to how intertwined the Palestinian economy is with its neighbors, including with Israel.

QUESTION: And just to clarify one thing you said a moment ago, when you're talking about the responsibilities to Abu Mazen, you're talking about financial pledges we've already made? And will you be encouraging any of the European governments or any of those other counterparts you just mentioned to essentially follow the U.S. suit and not fund Hamas?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think the Europeans have been pretty clear. First of all, the Europeans also list Hamas as a terrorist organization. The European Union does. And the implications of supporting a peace process on the one hand, and which we are all parts of the Quartet, and on the other hand supporting the activities of a partner in that set of negotiations that doesn't even recognize the existence of the other partner, it just doesn't work.

And so I think, you know, as I said, we're going to take this one step at a time. This has just happened. We are going to look at what the obligations are to this caretaker government. I think it's important to do that. It's also important to look at humanitarian circumstances -- and I don't mean economic circumstances. I mean that there are humanitarian issues that certainly we'll want to look at. But the principle has got to be very clear that there are responsibilities of governing, there are obligations that the Palestinian Authority undertook. The Oslo agreement which, after all, is the governing agreement that created all of these institutions and allowed these elections, has certain obligations with it, and Hamas can't have it both ways.

QUESTION: I have so many things. The Oslo agreements, picking up on what you just said, also said that violent groups weren't going to be allowed to participate in the elections, and two weeks before the elections two senior officials, David Welch and Elliott Abrams, went to Israel to force Israel to let Hamas participate in Jerusalem, or to work that out. I wonder if you can reflect on that decision.

And separately, will the United States work with, say like they do in Lebanon, a prime minister that is not officially Hamas but somebody else?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, Prime Minister Senora is a reformer who doesn't have any connection to Hezbollah, so let's be very clear what we're doing in Lebanon. This is a reformist government that happens to have a single Hezbollah Minister for Transportation. So I don't think that what may happen in the territories and what is going on in Lebanon is comparable. We also in Lebanon are operating under Resolution 1559, which does expect the disarmament of militias within the Lebanese context.

As to the decision to let Hamas participate, we've all said this is a transitional period in Palestinian politics, from the politics of Yasser Arafat's Fatah to a more democratic future for the Palestinian people. The Palestinians themselves believed that it was important to allow as broad a group of Palestinians, including Hamas, to participate in these elections. The international community was very clear that it was -- its expectation that that participation would be with an understanding that you can not have one violent -- one foot in violence and one foot in terror. Just look back at the Quartet statement of September and I think you'll see this.

We're also operating under the roadmap, which requires disarmament of militias. So I think the expectation here is very clear. Abu Mazen said to me in his telephone call, our very first telephone call, that he did not regret giving the Palestinian people an opportunity to exercise their democratic franchise and to do it on time and with the broadest possible representation. And I think that's right. I think that the outcome here, we will have to see, but we have to stand for democratic principles. And one important democratic principle is people get their right to vote, and the Palestinians have.

Another is that when you govern, you govern to meet people's aspirations. And the Palestinian people have an aspiration for peace. We know that. And there is a road to peace and Hamas now has an obligation to look at that as well.

QUESTION: The Israeli Government has appealed to all Western governments to boycott any Hamas government. Would you go that far to boycott them completely? And under what conditions would you be prepared to deal with Hamas apart from all of the regular ones that are outlined in the Quartet statement?

SECRETARY RICE: Hamas is a terrorist group and our policies have not changed on that. And you know, people say, "Will you deal with them?" Under conditions in which Hamas doesn't recognize Israel, advocates violence and refuses to be a responsible party in the peace process and refuses to take on the obligations the Palestinians have taken on, there isn't much to talk about. And so I think the real issue here is that there are some choices before Hamas.

And I just wanted to say one other thing about the situation. You know, the Palestinian people are also a people who have been known throughout the Middle East for their tolerance for their multi-religiosity, for their contact with the outside world, for, you know, many groups living together in harmony. And that's a very strong ethic in the Palestinian people and in the Palestinian territories, and it's also one that ought to be respected by their new leaders.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Secretary. A number of us in the press cabin are doing double duty in the sense that we are -- we may have been covering Iran but now we're doing Iran and the Hamas issue, so I wonder if you'll indulge me to the extent of having one question on each subject, please.


QUESTION: I fight the good fight on behalf of all of us back here.

Both you and Assistant Secretary McCormack in recent days have been interpreting the Palestinian vote almost with a social scientist's bent. You've been telling us that this vote reflects this deep desire for change amongst the Palestinians and certainly a rejection of corruption. And in fact, Sean, I believe, said that that was at the top of their list.

You've also talked about the fact that there was very volatile polling data here. And I wonder why it's not an equally valid interpretation of this outcome to suggest that perhaps it is Hamas platform about Israel and its sworn commitment to the destruction of Israel which was what engendered this outcome and this particular vote. Why is that an invalid interpretation?

SECRETARY RICE: I'd start by looking at how often Hamas led their campaigns with that point as opposed to corruption. Hamas seemed to know what people were interested in. Really, James, go back, look at how often Hamas started with, "We will bring the destruction of Israel if we are elected," as opposed to, "We will change and reform this corrupt system. We're not corrupt. We've been giving social services. We've had good mayors." Just look at Hamas’ platform.

Second question?

QUESTION: Since you're giving me a second question, I won't burden you with a follow-up to that one. But it's not as if Hamas’ intentions toward Israel were overshadowed by their corruption rhetoric; correct?

SECRETARY RICE: I don't think there's any doubt that people know what Hamas’ covenant is. I'm just saying to you that this is a situation in which I think people wanted a change and, in effect, they had two options and they took the option for change. Now, perhaps Palestinian people want their children to be suicide bombers and that's the great desire of large numbers of the Palestinian population. I don't believe it. And Hamas is going to have to deal with the deep desire of the Palestinian people for a normal life. And a normal life is only going to come in the context of a two-state solution, of a reasonable relationship with Israel and with engagement with the international system of the kind that can bring that normal life.

QUESTION: On Hamas. You said the European Union considers it a terrorist organization, but the Europeans see Hamas in a very different light. There's all these suggestions that it could be more like Sinn Fein, IRA. And I wonder, you know, what do you think can be done to moderate Hamas’ views others than this threat of pulling out aid?

And if I could have one quickly on Iran. Is the sudden interest in the Russian proposal delaying your efforts at getting this IAEA vote?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the Russian proposal has been on the table for quite some time and it's interesting that the Iranians have been evincing greater interest in it the closer we get to a vote to go to the Security Council, and I think that says something about how really interested the Iranians are in the Russian proposal. And even so, the Iranians made clear that they thought the proposal was "inadequate." So no, I don't think it matters in that regard.

We would be very pleased to see the Iranians take the Russian proposal. But the Russian proposal is structured to prevent enrichment and reprocessing on Iranian territory. That's really the crux of this issue. And so until there is that change, I don't think anything has changed.

As to European attitudes toward Hamas, you know, I would just point you to the multiple statements of European leaders, including the European Union though Javier Solana this week of what is expected of Hamas if they are to engage the international system. And it's not -- I want to quarrel a little bit with the word a "threat" to take away. There's a certain reality here, a certain practicality, and that practicality is that the support of the international community is behind a two-state solution, behind a homeland for the Palestinians and a homeland for the Israelis. It is behind an end to violence and an end to terror and it is behind the dismantlement of militias. And so support would go to those who support those policies. And I think it's just -- you know, that's the whole matter. And so I think the course is pretty clear and we'll see what happens, but there are now certain realities of governing but there are also certain obligations to the Palestinian people.

QUESTION: Many of my questions have been asked, but would you have a specific strategy for this Quartet meeting and will you be trying to create some kind of a political quarantine of the Hamas government? I mean, we've seen relative degrees of willingness to talk to these people. Would you like to see a unified position come out?

SECRETARY RICE: I think we have a unified position that came out in the Quartet statement. I haven't seen a lot of evidence of people rushing to talk to Hamas. You know, the question to me is, "Do we stay true to the principles that have been guiding the international consensus about Middle East peace?" And that consensus is very clear. We've all been working on the basis of that consensus and I would expect that we want -- let me just back up and say no one would be happier than to the see the Palestinian people be able to have a road to statehood and to do it with a government in which they had trust and in which there was transparency and all of those things. That would be the very best possible outcome. The question right now is in its governing role -- and it will have a governing role -- will Hamas be prepared to have that outcome for the Palestinian people.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, do you really hope Hamas can renounce violence? And if they did renounce their beliefs, you are not afraid it would be only words and they could keep financing bombings in Israel?

SECRETARY RICE: That's a good question. And if you notice, the renunciation of violence is always accompanied by the fact that you can only have one authority and one gun and that you need to disarm militias as well. This is a huge transition. There is a huge transition going on in the Middle East as a whole and in its parts.

And the outcomes that we're seeing in any number of places, I will be the first to say have a sense of kind of unpredictability about them. That's the nature of big, historic change. It's simply the way it is. When things get set off in motion to wipe away old structures and wipe away old ideas, you get sometimes unpredictable outcomes. When that happens, it's the responsibility and the role of particularly the United States but the international community more broadly to stay very firmly planted in principles and to make certain that everything that you are doing relates to that set of principles so that you don't start flagging one way and another.

We have with our European partners, Russian partner and the UN forged a very strong consensus about the way forward. After the Gaza withdrawal, with the support for the end of -- for the roadmap. We have a set of road markers out there. And I think what we will be talking about today is, yes, there are significantly changed circumstances but we all believe that those are still the right markers, still the right principles, and we're going to adhere to them.

QUESTION: Just very quickly, you -- everybody is interested in this issue of getting everybody on the same page when it comes to the money, and when we asked you about money earlier you made a point of telling us not to forget there's also money from international organizations, some countries in Asia and Middle Eastern governments. Are you already working on that front to get those people on board as well? What kind of progress have you made?

SECRETARY RICE: Of course we're working with everyone and I just think that anyone who is devoted to trying to bring Middle East peace between two states has an obligation now to make certain that anybody that is going to be supported is going to have that same (inaudible).

I have seen nothing to suggest that people are not on the same page. I think that in a sense the Quartet, which is the international body -- because it's not just the United States and Europe, it's also the UN, it's also Russia -- I think we will -- this will continue to evolve as a set of statements. But our view is that for full engagement with the international community, for real engagement with the international community, for meaningful engagement with the international community and for support for its programs, a Palestinian government has to be devoted to peace. It cannot be devoted to violence.

QUESTION: Jonathan Landay, taking Warren Strobel's place with Knight-Ridder. What I'd like to go back to is the question of Iran and the Russian proposal. First of all, the Russian proposals calls for -- there's some confusion in the American position. The President has said we support it. You've said you support it. And yet the other day, Under Secretary Burns said the United States opposes any part of the uranium fuel cycle being on Iranian territory. And yet, under the Russian proposal, the Iranians would be allowed to continue operating their uranium -- the gas hexafluoride plant in Isfahan. So I don't understand where you are.

Just very quickly, second follow-up. Are you even going to bother talking about this proposal when you meet tomorrow night in that it seems that you're focused solely on the vote at the IAEA?

SECRETARY RICE: We've had extensive discussions with the Russians about their proposal, by the way, well before they went down this road with the Iranians.

There is a question of enrichment and reprocessing and there's a question of conversion of UF4 to UF6. Those are different parts of the fuel cycle. We do not think that the permanent storage of large amounts of UF6 on Iranian territory is a good idea either, but there are lots of ideas about what might happen to it, that it might be converted and transferred out of the country, or so forth and so on.

The real focus here has been on the enrichment and reprocessing piece, which is the piece of the fuel cycle that gives you the technological capability to be able to spin centrifuges and thereby move toward a nuclear weapon. And the Russian proposal does not anticipate enriching and reprocessing on Iranian soil. In fact, the joint venture with Iran does not anticipate Iranian access to the technologies concerning enrichment and reprocessing.

So this I know at times can sound a bit complicated, but I actually think the Russian proposal, which by the way is a sort of in many ways evolution of the way that they structured the Bushehr reactor with a fuel take-back provision, continues to show that the Russians do not believe that enriching and reprocessing on Iranian soil is a good idea.

And the Iranians, whenever this comes up, they want to talk about their rights to do it. The question isn't a question of rights. It's a question of having lost the faith of the international community that they can be trusted with any part of the fuel cycle.

Released on January 30, 2006

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ye Day of Judgment (30 January 2006) arriveth

The cameras of Agence-Vleeptron Presse
weren't allowed in the Manhattan federal
courtroom when the hacker was sentenced,
but A-VP has visually re-created the scene
for you. This is the view through
A-VP's Convicted Guy Cam.

Top Tech News
Monday 30 January 2006

Microsoft Hacker Jailed
for Two Years

A U.S. judge sentenced a convicted hacker known as "illwill" to two years in prison for selling the software blueprint for Microsoft's closely guarded Windows programs.

William Genovese Jr, 29, pleaded guilty last year to one count of unlawful distribution of trade secrets for putting Microsoft's source code for its Windows 4.0 and Windows 2000 programs on his Web site and selling it.

He received a paltry $40 for selling the code to Microsoft investigators.

"I screwed up," Genovese said in court.

Genovese has 12 prior criminal convictions, including three computer-related crimes and a sexual abuse conviction, a government attorney told the hearing in federal court in Manhattan.

U.S. District Judge William Pauley said Genovese's criminal background was the most disturbing he has encountered during his seven years as a judge.

"Genovese is a predator who has morphed through various phases of criminal activity and in the last few years has descended into the world of the Internet and is well on his way to being a cyber predator," Pauley said.

The Connecticut man also received three years supervised release, with numerous conditions.

Source code is the intellectual property and lifeblood of any software company since it is the basic language used to create software programs.

Microsoft learned on February 12, 2004 that portions of the code were released on the Internet.

That day, Genovese offered the source code for sale on his Web site.

© 2006 AAP Information Services . All rights reserved.
© 2006 Top Tech News. All rights reserved.


30 August 2005

by Dawn Kawamoto
Staff Writer, CNET

A Connecticut man has pleaded guilty in federal court to selling Microsoft source code over the Internet.

William P. Genovese Jr., 28, of Meriden, Conn., entered his plea Monday in a Manhattan federal court to charges that he unlawfully sold and attempted to sell portions of Microsoft's source code for Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000, according to a statement by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

According to federal prosecutors, Genovese initially found the source code in February last year, after another party misappropriated the code and distributed it over the Internet without Microsoft's authorization. The defendant, who went under the alias of "illwill" and "," then posted the code to his site and offered it for sale.

An investigator for Microsoft and an undercover FBI agent were able to download copies of the stolen source code and send an electronic payment to Genovese between February and July of last year.

Genovese was charged with one count of unlawfully distributing a trade secret. He is expected to be sentenced this fall.

Although the U.S. criminal code allows a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for this type of crime, the U.S. Attorney General's office is recommending a sentence of between 10 to 30 months, said Sean Hecker, Genovese's attorney.

Hecker added that it is up to the judge to determine whether he will accept the sentencing guideline the parties worked out under the plea agreement.

"Mr. Genovese was anxious to put this case behind him," Hecker said. "He is working full time at his father's business ... and is eager to be a productive member of society."

Hecker added that Genovese does not know the identity of the party who initially misappropriated Microsoft's source code.

Microsoft is not alone in finding its source code leaked and then offered for sale. Last year, a group calling itself the Source Code Club offered to sell older versions of Enterasys Network's Dragon intrusion-detection system source code for $16,000 and Napster's client and server software code for $10,000. In a later pitch, the SCC offered Cisco Pix 6.3.1 source code for $24,000.

29 January 2006

there's a war on, this is what Hillary Clinton does with her time in the U.S. Senate

Coffins of American uniform personnel
killed in Iraq and Afghanistan arrive
at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.
(Russ Kick's Memory Hole.)

News Release from the office of
U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (New York)
December 16, 2005

Senators Clinton, Lieberman and Bayh
Introduce Federal Legislation
to Protect Children
From Inappropriate Video Games

Click here to view the video of Senator Clinton's remarks

Washington, DC -- With just over a week left in the holiday gift shopping season, Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton, Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh, joined by parents, advocates and experts, introduced legislation designed to prohibit the sale of inappropriate video games to children. In unveiling the bill, the Senators underscored that video game content is getting increasingly violent and sexually explicit, yet young people are able to purchase these games with relative ease and parents are struggling to keep up with being informed about the content. The Senators emphasized that their legislation will put teeth in the enforcement of video game ratings, helping parents protect their children from inappropriate content. They were joined in making the announcement by April DeLaney, Director of the Washington Office for Common Sense Media; Norman Rosenberg, President and CEO of Parents Action for Children and Dr. Michael Rich, Director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children's Hospital in Boston and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, in a show of support for the legislation.

"The holiday season is a particularly important time to raise awareness of this issue. Video games are hot holiday items, and there are certainly wonderful games that help our children learn and increase hand and eye coordination. However, there are also games that are just not appropriate for our nation’s youth," said Senator Clinton. "This bill will help empower parents by making sure their kids can’t walk into a store and buy a video game that has graphic, violent and pornographic content."

"The content of many cutting edge games is becoming more and more vivid, violent, and offensive to our most basic values," Lieberman said. "We are not interested in censoring videos meant for adult entertainment but we do want to ensure that these videos are not purchased by minors. Our bill will help accomplish this by imposing fines on those retailers that sell M-rated games to minors, putting purchasing power back in the hands of watchful parents."

"Many parents are being stretched thin trying to provide a good life for their children while protecting them from a coarsening culture," Senator Bayh said. "Our legislation will give parents a hand by requiring retailers to abide by the ratings that are meant to keep children from purchasing violent video games."

The Clinton-Lieberman-Bayh bill, the Family Entertainment Protection Act, prohibits any business from selling or renting a Mature, Adults-Only, or Ratings Pending game to a person who is younger than seventeen. On-site store managers would be subject to a fine of $1,000 or 100 hours of community service for the first offense; $5,000 or 500 hours of community service for each subsequent offense. The bill also requires an annual, independent analysis of game ratings and requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to conduct an investigation to determine whether hidden content like in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is a pervasive problem and take appropriate action. In addition, the bill will help ensure that consumers have a mechanism to file complaints with the FTC and that the FTC will report these complaints to Congress. Finally, the bill authorizes the FTC to conduct an annual, random audit of retailers to monitor enforcement and report the findings to Congress.

Senator Clinton was motivated to take action on this issue when it was revealed in July that Rockstar Games had embedded illicit sexual content in the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. This game had received a Mature rating from the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB), which was unaware of the embedded content. When the content was revealed, Senator Clinton called on the FTC to investigate the source of the content and announced that she would work to develop legislation to address this problem. Senator Lieberman wrote to Rockstar games asking them to come clean on whether the material was embedded in the game. Rockstar Games subsequently recalled the game.

Representative Joe Baca (CA), who has introduced legislation in the House to improve the video game ratings system, praised Senator Clinton for her involvement in this issue. "I applaud Senator Clinton for introducing this legislation, and I look forward to working with her to help parents protect their children from exposure to inappropriate and harmful images."

Illinois, Michigan, and California have all passed state laws to prohibit the sale of violent video games to minors.

The following is a summary of the Clinton-Lieberman-Bayh legislation.
Summary of The Family Entertainment Protection Act SENATORS CLINTON-LIEBERMAN-BAYH

Consider the following scenario: You have been captured by a demented film-maker who drops you into a gang-infested slum. While the gangs think they are hunting you, they don’t know the real plot: that you are hunting them, while the director records each act of murder on film. Since you are outnumbered and could easily be mobbed, you cannot just jump in and fight everyone. Rather, you must be silent and patient, tracking your prey so that you can strike from behind. You strangle a villain with a sharp wire, and a finely-rendered mist of blood sprays from his severed carotid artery." -- First Person Account of Manhunt from Time Magazine, 2003

Video game content is getting more and more violent and sexually explicit, yet young people are able to purchase these games with relative ease. In its 2005, 10th Annual MediaWise Video and Computer Game Report Card, The National Institute on Media and the Family found that retailers were more lenient in their selling practices this year compared to last. Boys as young as nine were able to purchase Mature-rated games 42 percent of the time. At the same time, a majority of parents are feeling increasingly victimized by a culture of violence that makes it difficult to protect their children against influences they find to be inappropriate. This bill would help empower parents by putting them back in the driver’s seat. It would ensure that children can’t buy games the video game industry itself has determined to be inappropriate for them.

I. Prohibition on Selling Mature and Adults Only video games to minors

The centerpiece of this bill is a prohibition against any business for selling or renting a Mature, Adults-Only, or Ratings Pending game to a person who is younger than seventeen. On-site store managers would be subject to a fine of $1,000 or 100 hours of community service for the first offense; $5,000 or 500 hours of community service for each subsequent offense. This provision is not aimed at punishing retailers who act in good faith to enforce the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) system. That’s why retailers would have an affirmative defense if they were shown an identification they believed to be valid or have a system in place to display and enforce the ESRB system. Similar prohibitions have become law in the last several months in California, Michigan, and Illinois.

II. Annual Analysis of the Ratings System

Since the bill relies on the video game industry to continue rating the appropriateness of games for minors, this bill requires an annual, independent analysis of game ratings. This analysis will help ensure that the ESRB ratings system accurately reflects the content in each game and that the ratings system does not change significantly over time.

III. Authority for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to Investigate Misleading Ratings

Part of the genesis of this bill was the revelation that the makers of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas had included, through embedded code that was discovered and made accessible to the public, sexually explicit content inconsistent with the game’s Mature rating. This bill requires the FTC to conduct an investigation to determine whether what happened with GTA: San Andreas is a pervasive problem. It also includes a Sense of Congress that the Commission shall take appropriate action if it determines that there is a pervasive problem.

IV. Authority to Register Complaints

This bill requires the Bureau of Consumer Protection (BCP) of the FTC to ensure that consumers can file complaints if they find content to be misleading or deceptive and requires the BCP to report on the number of such complaints to Congress.

V. Annual Retailer Audit

This bill authorizes the FTC to conduct an annual, random audit of retailers -- sometimes referred to as a secret shopper survey -- to determine how easy it is for young people to purchase Mature and Adults Only video games and report the findings to Congress.

[end news release]

Rockstar's new game Bully

BBC News
10 August 2005

Bully 'unsuitable theme'
for game

Campaigners say school bullies
leave long-lasting scars

A computer game called Bully in which players apparently hurt other pupils in a school has been condemned by anti-bullying campaigners.

A screenshot from the game depicts one student kicking a classmate while another looks on.

Liz Carnell, director of Bullying Online, said she was concerned younger viewers would access the game.

But the maker of Bully, Rockstar, said the game was still a "work in progress" and it was too early to judge it.


Ms Carnell told the BBC News website: "Bullying is not a suitable theme for a game. It diminishes the suffering of victims.

"And such games give the impression that these types of experiences are normal. We are very concerned that they have an effect on young people."

Ms Carnell said it was impossible to underestimate the effects of bullying, and that people suffered the effects well into adulthood.

"We are contacted by up to four children a day who are suicidal, and many many more who have suffered injuries and trauma.

"I've had dozens of complaints from people who find this game offensive," Liz Carnell added.

"But I've also had dozens of hate e-mails, some of which have been very abusive.

"I think this demonstrates the type of person this game is targeted at."

Rockstar Games has said it does not yet have a synopsis for the game, but gaming magazines have reported that Bully features a pupil at a school for juvenile offenders who assaults both other pupils and teachers.

Screenshots released by the company show a pupil outside a school called Bullworth Academy, and inside kicking another pupil.

Mature enough?

A Rockstar spokesman said its video game should be judged in the same way as any other work of fiction.

"We take the problem of violence in school very seriously and support groups trying to address it," he said.

"But we have different views on art and entertainment. People should not judge what is work in progress.

"The theme is not the only aspect of Rockstar's games -- they have been consistently praised for their strategies and the experiences they offer players."

He added that Rockstar hoped to have a constructive dialogue about the game with anti-bullying charities once it was finished.

A spokeswoman also reportedly told Bullying Online that the game's content would be no worse than the Just William series, Richmal Crompton's tales about a mischievous young schoolboy which was turned into a teatime television drama.

Rockstar has invited Bullying Online to New York to see the game for themselves.

Last week youth group Peaceaholics staged a protest outside the company's headquarters there in protest at plans to release Bully.

Rockstar is also behind the Grand Theft Auto games.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas received an adults-only rating (18+) in the US after a fan of the game created a patch which unlocked explicit sexual content.

Recent research has suggested parents tend not to heed age certifications on video games.

The study carried out by the UK gaming industry found many parents thought their children were mature enough not to be influenced by the content of the games, and parents tended to view them as a guide to the content rather than a prohibition.

A spokeswoman for the [UK] Department for Culture, Media and Sport said she could not comment on individual games.

She said all games classified either as suitable for over-15s or over-18s by the maker of the game were then considered by the British Board of Film Classification for certification.

Symbols indicating content suitable for over-15s or 18s have recently been doubled in size, and the gaming industry decided voluntarily to introduce written warnings of adult content on the game box.

"We know that parents don't necessarily expect games to be violent by nature of the fact that they are games, so it's useful to have an explanation on the box," the spokeswoman said.

But Ms Carnell said all the evidence showed under-age game users were able to access unsuitable games.

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