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web posted April 23, 2001

Nathaniel Branden to host Laissez Faire Books author's board

Laissez Faire Books is pleased to announce that on May 9th through 15th, Nathaniel Branden will be hosting its Author's Board and will be discussing his book The Psychology of Self-Esteem.

The board is located at: http://www.laissezfairebooks.com/cgi-local/dcforum/dcboard.cgi?az=list&forum=DCForumID10&conf=DCConfID1

Firms sponsor communist holiday

Happy birthday, Great Leader! Brought to you by Heineken. Our passion is your perfect beer. And by Fila. Outfits a little easier, a little quicker.

For the first time on April 15, communist North Korea marked its biggest national holiday -- the birthday of late national founder Kim Il Sung -- with the help of sponsorship from Western companies.

About 500 North Korean runners and 50 from nearly two dozen other countries including the United States raced along the wide boulevards of the capital, Pyongyang, in a marathon that was coordinated by ISL, a Swiss-based sports marketing firm. Some wore corporate logos.

North Korea's state-run media made no mention of the foreign companies' role in the race, which started and ended in the monolithic, 70,000-seat Kim Il Sung stadium.

"It is sponsored by the (North Korean) Athletic Association on the principle of the International Amateur Athletic Federation," reported KCNA, North Korea's foreign news outlet.

North Korea's decision to allow foreign companies to get involved in an event held in honor of its revered late president, known as Great Leader, contradicted its espousal of a philosophy of self-reliance, called "juche," as well as longtime condemnation of Western capitalism.

However, the move was in line with the isolated nation's efforts last year to engage South Korea, launch diplomatic ties with European and other nations and adopt what North Korean leader Kim Jong Il termed "new thinking."

Kim Jong Il, who took power after his father, Kim Il Sung, died in 1994 at age 82, appeared enthusiastic about China's economic reform model during a trip there in January. But there is little evidence that he has taken steps to fundamentally reform his devastated economy, a policy that could threaten his totalitarian control over North Korea's 22 million people.

Some foreign companies do business in North Korea, but the rewards are slim. Poor infrastructure, the lack of legal safeguards and the uncertain political situation on the Korean peninsula make it a risky prospect.

The inter-Korean reconciliation process has come to a virtual standstill, apparently because North Korea is furious over President Bush's tough talk about the communist country.

Even so, the companies hope to establish a foothold that could eventually benefit them should the market open.

"We thought it was a good opportunity to make some money," said ISL representative Morgan Chenneour. "We're not in the politics game, we're in the business game. There's a potential there. The market itself is small, but the interest is high."

Other sponsors of the marathon were Dutch beer maker Heineken; Italy's Fila Sports SpA; DatActivity.com, a Swiss data processing company; and Britain's Financial Times newspaper.

Western products such as Fila sportswear and Heineken beer are currently available only in a handful of stores for the elite and foreign residents and are beyond the financial means of the vast majority of the population.

Nevertheless, the sponsors got their message out to the spectators lining the route, with runners wearing T-shirts with Fila logos. The Financial Times sent some staff members to participate in the run with clothing that bore the company logo. Heineken was scheduled to sponsor a beer party for the contestants.

Prize money awaited the winners, including $3,000 for North Korean Kim Jung Won, who finished the men's race in two hours, 11 minutes and eight seconds. Jong Yong Ok, also from North Korea, was awarded $2,000 after winning the women's contest in two hours, 28 minutes and 32 seconds.

As for the foreign athletes, a statement from the Swiss sponsor gave them advice on matters ranging from what to say to what to eat. Kimchi, a fiery cabbage served at all meals at their hotel, was not recommended for the marathoners.

The Pyongyang race began in 1981 and was held annually until 1992 as part of the birthday celebrations. After skipping it for seven years, apparently for economic reasons, the North revived it last year with about a dozen foreign runners taking part.

The most renowned North Korean long-distance runner is Jung Sung Ok, who won the women's marathon at the 1999 World Championships in Seville, Spain, and returned home to a tumultuous welcome. She attributed her victory to the guidance of Kim Jong Il, also known as Great Leader, who commands a personality cult almost as rigorous as the one enjoyed by his father.

April 15, known in North Korea as "Sun's Day," was the culmination of several days of commemorative events that marked Kim Il Sung's birthday, including art and theater shows, seminars, and the laying of floral baskets at a 66-foot-high, bronze statue of the late leader that overlooks Pyongyang.

Streisand wants all Democrat TV channel

Songstress and movie star Barbra Streisand wants to create a Democrats-only cable television channel to get things back to the The Way We Were in the Clinton years.

Barbra StreisandThe channel, according to US News & World Report, would ban Republican talking heads so Streisand and her fellow Dems wouldn't have to watch what they consider the right-leaning pundits who contribute to other channels.

A left-leaning channel would fit in nicely with the strategy to fight the Bush presidency the Funny Girl laid out in a highly publicized memo she recently sent out to the Democratic Party.

"You need to speak on TV, on radio and in the newspapers about the election and keep hammering home about the legislative favors Bush is granting his corporate supporters," she wrote in the widely publicized letter.

"The public is being fooled by Bush," she added. "They are not sufficiently informed to protect their own self-interests."

But don't wear out your thumb clicking on the remote in search of Babs-TV. One insider inadvertantly compared the political assessment of the idea to the 1987 movie she produced and starred in.

"Everybody told her it was nuts," one source told the magazine.

This news came even as the heroine of Prince of Tides has redoubled her efforts to try to stop what she sees as a tide of GOP power washing in in the wake of the Florida election deadlock.

In her Southern California home recently, the Brooklyn native hosted a summit of leading Democrats in which she hectored her fellow party members for not doing more to win back Congress, the hearts of the American people and, of course, The Main Event coming in 2004.

"Some of you seem paralyzed, demoralized and depressed," the star of Yentl told the audience, reading from her memo.

"We should have one goal, and that's to win back the House, Senate and Presidency," she went on. "Unless we win, we'll be consistently on the defensive with our fingers holding the dyke [sic] against the Republican revolution. We should draw attention to the differences in our parties, hold accountable those currently in power and make them pay for their actions on Election Day. This is not a time to be weak."

Babs's kaffeeklatsch was a veritable who's who of the politically active heavy hitters in Hollywood: Warren Beatty, once rumored to be mulling a presidential run, attended with wife Annette Bening; producer Norman Lear rubbed elbows with House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt.

Then Streisand demonstrated that, while she may have forsworn any more live appearances, she can still summon up the sass that made Walter Matthau pay attention in Hello Dolly! While her feelings for Republicans are well known, she made it clear that plenty of Democrats had earned her wrath as well, including Bush tax-cut supporter Sen. Zell Miller, of Georgia; the eight Democrats who voted in Attorney General John Ashcroft; and any Democrats who abandoned her friend Bill Clinton during his travails.

"Just being nice doesn't work," Streisand exhorted. "Let's act now and fight before it's too late! I know you can do it."

Report: Federal Web sites violate privacy rules

More than 60 federal Web sites violate U.S. privacy rules by using unauthorized software to track the browsing and buying habits of Internet users, according to a congressional report.

The number could go much higher, cautioned U.S. senators who ordered an audit of government Web sites to determine the scope of the problem. The finding was taken from 16 agency reviews, one third of the audits in progress.

The preliminary report, released April 16, found that 64 federal Web sites used unsanctioned electronic "cookies," or files that covertly monitor the browsing habits of Internet users.

The Clinton Administration restricted the use of such information collecting practices last summer. Sen. Fred Thompson, chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, released the report.

"The federal government should be setting the standard for privacy protection in the digital age," the Tennessee Republican said.

Among the findings in the report: the National Aeronautics and Space Administration did not know how many Web sites it operates, so investigators could not determine how many NASA sites might use the tracking software.

And a contractor managing a General Services Administration Web site was granted ownership of information gathered about Internet users visiting the site.

Cookies can make browsing more convenient by allowing sites to distinguish user preferences. But electronic freedom activists have been critical of the devices, saying they intrude on privacy because they track the kinds of Web sites frequented by a particular computer.

The U.S. Mint uses the software to operate an online shopping cart that is similar to what can be found on many e-commerce sites.

The departments of Education, Treasury, Energy, Interior and Transportation used unauthorized cookies, as did NASA and the General Services Administration, the report said.

It did not estimate how many people visited the sites during the audit, which occurred late last year and early this year.

The company Jupiter Media Metrix, which tracks Internet usage, said government sites are popular. The company estimates that 3.5 million Internet users went to NASA's Web site in March, and 2.2 million people visited the Education Department's site.

Ari Schwartz, senior policy analyst for the Center for Democracy and Technology, which follows privacy issues, called the report troubling.

"Generally when we think about privacy and the government, we want to make sure that the government is transparent and does protect privacy over and above the rest of the Internet and the rest of the private and nonprofit sector," Schwartz said.

His organization was among several that signed a letter Monday urging the Bush administration to fill quickly a post created by President Clinton that heads an office to keep tabs on agencies and ensure that they adhere to privacy policies.

Congress ordered all agency inspectors general to investigate the use of cookies after the General Accounting Office reported in October that about a dozen agency Web sites were using the software, even though a Clinton administration memorandum in June restricted the practice.

The only acceptable use of cookies is in case of compelling need and with the approval of the agency head. In those instances, Web sites must inform Internet users of the practice.

Contractors operating Web sites for government agencies also must abide by the policy.

The White House referred questions to the Office of Management and Budget, where spokesman Chris Ullman said the Clinton-era policy remains in effect.

"Privacy issues are of great importance to the president," Ullman said.

Because 11 Energy Department Web sites used the unauthorized files, Inspector General Gregory Friedman said the department "cannot provide reasonable assurance" that the privacy of Web site visitors would be protected.

General Services Administration Inspector General William Barton reported a contractor managed business operations of an agency site that used the tracking files. He said the agreement gave the contractor ownership of any information gathered about Internet users who visited the site.

Of agencies surveyed, the Transportation Department was most likely to use the tracking files, according to the report. It had them on 23 Web pages, but the devices have since been removed, according to John Meche, the agency's deputy assistant inspector general.

He said cookies were inadvertently added to agency sites when Web pages were reconfigured. "Protecting Web privacy is an ongoing challenge because Web sites are constantly revised or reconfigured," Meche said in his report.

Tax day is a marvelous thing, Utah Issues declares

Tax day is a wonderful day because that is when we give lots of our money to the federal government and they do marvelous things with our hard-earned cash.

Post office employee Gaylene Kurz takes tax returns from drivers
Post office employee Gaylene Kurz takes tax returns from drivers

It was the heartfelt message delivered April 16 by Utah Issues Center for Poverty Research and Action. The group handed out gold-colored "Tokens of Appreciation" to folks walking into the main post office to beat the deadline for filing returns. Utah Issues executive director Bill Crim knew how strangely his group's message might strike the frazzled minds of many tax-weary citizens.

"But that's why we're out here today — to say we understand no one loves paying taxes, but the other side of the coin is that voluntary paying of taxes is the foundation of our civilized society," Crim said.

"Our message is that government isn't bad. For example, it pays for a postal service that reaches even the dustiest back roads, provides clean water we take for granted coming out of the tap and funds an educational system that helps maintain a free society.

"Our taxes help poor and disabled men, women and children. We believe that is a sound investment in our nation's future."

However, just across the parking lot was a group that could not agree less with Utah Issues.

"What we should do is abolish the income tax altogether because it's an unnecessary and unconstitutional method of paying for governmental services," said Jim Dexter, Taylorsville, state chairman of the Libertarian Party, brandishing a "Wave If You Hate Taxes" sign.

"We've had lots and lots of waves," Dexter said, handing out a handbill made to look like a $1 million bill. "The federal government spends $1 million every five seconds — it's been about $20 million since I started talking to you."

He said the U.S. Constitution only enumerated 16 taxation powers, "including defending our borders and coining money. Everything else can and should be funded by customs and excise taxes, just like the country did for hundreds of years before it came up with an income tax to keep our money 'in case they needed it,' as a 'convenience to us.'

"They've been keeping it ever since, and that is dead wrong."

FBI's e-mail surveillance getting boost

Senior Justice Department officials are recommending that the FBI be allowed to continue using a controversial e-mail snooping tool against suspected criminals--with some new safeguards aimed at answering privacy concerns.

Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft met privately with FBI Director Louis J. Freeh on April 18 for a briefing on the "Carnivore" surveillance program, and he is expected to announce a decision within the next few weeks on a thorny issue that pits law enforcement demands against privacy interests.

Ashcroft, regarded as a strong defender of privacy rights from his days in the Senate, inherited the controversy from former Atty. Gen. Janet Reno after it was disclosed last year that the FBI had begun using the electronic surveillance program to track the computer activities of suspects in a small number of criminal and national security investigations

The FBI program, dubbed "Carnivore" because it can quickly get to "the meat" of a database, is capable of searching millions of e-mails per second under federal wiretap authority. But privacy advocates, civil libertarians and congressional critics say that, because the program is installed directly into a service provider's network, authorities can abuse it by eavesdropping on the activities of all the system users.

Reno brought in an outside group last year to do a technical review of the program and also created an in-house review committee made up of senior personnel from the Justice Department and the FBI to assess the findings.

The Justice Department review team, in a report delivered to Ashcroft several weeks ago but not yet made public, concluded that Carnivore has several shortcomings but, overall, plays a vital role in helping investigators track the activities of criminal suspects, sources said.

In delivering its report to Ashcroft, the task force unanimously affirmed all the recommendations of the outside review, which was completed by the Illinois Institute of Technology's Research Institute. Several bigger-name institutions turned down the job, complaining it would not be a truly independent review because of restrictions on how it could be conducted.

Among the key proposals before Ashcroft, the official said, are: tightening the audit trail to determine which FBI personnel are using the surveillance program "so people don't get sloppy and slip into unauthorized use"; more clearly defining what e-mail material and computer data can legitimately be reviewed by investigators; and developing a more up-to-date legal framework to match the rapid advance of technological law enforcement tools.

The findings will likely disappoint privacy advocates, who have been anxiously awaiting the final Justice Department report on the issue.

Carnivore has become so notorious that the FBI is planning to change the name of the program, using a blander, numeric designation because the old flesh-eating moniker has taken on such a negative connotation.

Many Gore office e-mails won't be recovered. Yes, we're surprised as well

It will be impossible to restore much of the White House e-mail traffic in the office of former Vice President Gore, despite a yearlong effort in which technical experts recovered 3 million missing messages from computer tapes, recently filed court papers reveal.

The latest twist in one of the long-running controversies of the Clinton administration was disclosed in a computer contractor's three-page declaration filed in a lawsuit in federal court.

Because of a computer glitch that wasn't publicly revealed until the final year of Clinton's presidency, the White House never reviewed many of its computer messages to see if they should be turned over in criminal probes and congressional inquiries of campaign fund-raising, the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Whitewater and other matters.

The April 6 declaration by a technician from Vistronix Corp. says that due to unspecified problems the computer contractor could not extract e-mails from 189 computer backup tapes.

Sixty-three of the "problem" tapes -- fully a third of them -- were from Gore's office.

The 189 tapes represented only 5 percent of all the tapes used in reconstructing e-mails in the past year.

The Justice Department campaign fund-raising task force, which launched an investigation of possible obstruction in connection with the missing e-mails last year, declined to comment on the status of the probe.

The court papers also showed that the universe of messages that was never properly archived and therefore was never searched to see if they were relevant to various investigations is far more vast than the Clinton administration ever suggested.

The reconstructed database "currently includes 3,075,513 unique non-duplicative e-mails, out of more than 2.9 billion processed from the relevant tape population," the declaration states.

Computer contractors did recover many of the messages from Gore's office and a batch of them was turned over to investigators last year at the Justice Department when contractors were only partly through the reconstruction.

The Gore campaign released those e-mails publicly, saying they contained "nothing of significance," while the Bush campaign said the messages called Gore's credibility into question in regard to campaign fund raising. Some of the messages related to Gore's attendance at a fund-raising event at a Buddhist temple in California. Gore said he didn't realize the event was a fund-raiser.

The e-mails created by hundreds of staffers at the Clinton White House are in the custody of the National Archives, and the White House Office of Administration in the Bush administration is overseeing the effort to reconstruct the material.

The contractor's declaration was filed in a case brought by Judicial Watch, which sued the Clinton administration repeatedly on a variety of issues. The e-mail issue arose in the group's class-action lawsuit over the Clinton White House's gathering of FBI background files of appointees from the Reagan and Bush administrations.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said the government so far has turned over just one e-mail in the group's lawsuit.

U.S. gives tourist visa to ex-Taiwan president

The United States has issued a tourist visa to former Taiwan President Lee Teng-Hui, a State Department spokesman said on April 20, in a move that was likely to anger China as Washington tries to negotiate the return of a downed spy plane from its territory.

Lee Teng-Hui"We consider him to be a private individual. Travel by private persons between Taiwan and the United States is a normal part of our unofficial relationship," State Department spokesman Philip Reeker told reporters. A U.S. official said Lee planned to travel on April 30 to May 6.

Reeker said Lee's office had submitted an application and the American Institute in Taiwan, which represents U.S. interests there, adjudicated it according to U.S. regulations. "Based upon these guidelines they issued a tourist visa to Mr. Lee," he added.

A Chinese Embassy spokesman said Beijing was strongly opposed to Lee's plans to visit Cornell University, where he studied in the 1960s. China views Taiwan as a renegade province and reserves the right to use force if talks on reunification drag on indefinitely.

Lee, 78, is vilified by China for trying to break Taiwan out of diplomatic isolation during his rule.

Police, anarchists clash near Americas Summit site

Protest groups stormed into the security zone ringing Quebec City's Summit of the Americas on April 20, tearing down fences and hurling rocks at riot police, who responded with tear gas and baton charges.

The clashes, involving small groups of black-clad anarchists, took place blocks from the conference center where leaders from 34 countries were scheduled to starting the three-day summit later on Friday to discuss trade and democracy.

They were the first serious incidents in a weekend which anti-globalization activists have vowed to turn into a rerun of protests which disrupted trade talks in Seattle in 1999.

Peaceful protests started with a march late in the morning well to the north of the area sealed off by police.

The demonstrations gathered momentum as activists, divided into groups of red, yellow and green according to their readiness to get into trouble, neared the perimeter fence, a 10-foot chain link fence embedded in concrete blocks snaking round the center of historic Quebec City.

Violence broke out in mid-afternoon, when small groups of anarchists from the red group tore down a dozen sections of the fence and stormed briefly into the security zone.

Police replaced the fence with a human wall of officers wearing riot gear and raced in reinforcements.

Eyewitnesses said both police and demonstrators used tear gas, but it was not clear whether the protesters were simply throwing back canisters fired by the police.

Strong winds blowing toward the police made life easier for the demonstrators, many of whom were wearing black clothes and masks or motor cycle helmets.

The vast bulk of demonstrators argue that free trade, one of the goals of the three-day summit of leaders of 34 countries in the Americas, hurts the poor and the environment.

Some demonstrators waved red flags and a flag of communist-ruled Cuba, the only country in the region excluded from the summit.

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