Friday, September 21, 2001

Click2Flicks Story Directory

This site has the "stories behind the movies". I was looking for the story behind the movie Bagger Vance, and found it here. There might be a better like this out there.
Bush's Speech Halts Rangers-Flyers

The neat thing about this story is that it sounds so genuine. The fans and players and coaches really did care about seeing the speech more than playing the game. Pretty impressive for a bunch of Canadians and Czechs!

Thursday, September 20, 2001

Best Hoax Busting Resources (cont.)

OK, I admit it, I have kind of an obsession for debunking internet hoaxes. It just steams me to see otherwise reasonable and intelligent people so easily fooled by an e-mail with bad spelling sent from someone you've never heard of before.

Anyway, here's a list of good references when you want to find out if something is accurate or not. (Let me save you some time -- if it's in an e-mail it's not true.)
The Wingdings Prophecies - Netlore Archive

I just got this hoax e-mailed to me today. As I suspected it's all true...except the flight number (which is kind of an important detail).
America: The Good Neighbor (Tribute from a Canadian) - Netlore Archive

Here's the scoop on the Canadian commentator's quotes about America that are making the rounds. The quote is 28 years old, but still fits fairly well.
Click your favorite team to donate Campbell's Chunky soup

Campbell's is giving away a can of soup to the city of your favorite NFL team for each time you click (up to once a day). Fun way to get help for the needy in your team's city.

Wednesday, September 19, 2001

Has anyone seen the article on ABC.com about the songs that a radio conglomerate is recommending that its member stations not play? The list of banned songs is quite extensive and, quite frankly, I don't see what is offensive about many of these songs. I don't know how to create a fancy link like Ryan does, but here is the web address:

ABC.COM - radio station publishes list of "offensive" songs

This article really concerns me for two reasons: 1) Freedoms (such as freedom of speech) are the very things we as Americans are supposed to be fighting for. What does it say when we go banning songs just because they mention death? Granted, we are talking about private, self-censorship and not government censorship. I'm just concerned about the trend. (Side note: While I find Bill Maher's statements offensive, I certainly don't think he should be censored. If we, as citizens, are offended we simply turn the television off when P.I. comes on.) 2) I'm worried that we are over-sensitive about the situation in New York. First, we cancelled all sports. Then, our comedians decided that it was inappropriate to make jokes on their late night shows a week after the incident. Now, our radio stations are pulling every song that could remotely invoke remembrances of what happened last Tuesday. While I certainly grieve with all of those families effected by the WTC disaster, I don't think it is disrespectful for me to watch a baseball game or listen to "Jump" by Van Halen.
ABC Entertainment - Newsstory World Trade Center Edited Out of Pacino Film

This is very low-importance, but I wondered what impact the attack might have on films and TV shows with scenes of Manhattan.
HoustonChronicle.com

Wow, I don't know what to say about this. I guess my feeling is summed up by the quote in the article. Bill Maher's freedom of speech is gurananteed by the constitution. But his right to host a show is not.
Slate: TERRORIST ATTACK

Here's a big archive of editorial cartoons related to the WTC attacks.
Terrorists Thought They Were Safe in Uganda - Full Text: Jun. '96 Military History Feature

It's kind of nice to remember some successes in dealing with terrorists. This Military History article recalls the details of the famous Israeli raid on Entebbe.

Tuesday, September 18, 2001

CNN.com - 'New war' to be fought with unprecedented secrecy - September 17, 2001

This is the first time I've seen the military account for the "CNN effect" so much in their planning. The theory is that terrorists rely on the news media to give them info about what the U.S. is doing (unlike an advanced nation, which would have their own intelligence sources). So by banning the typical war correspondents from reporting on U.S. troops, you can keep the terrorists in the dark.

Monday, September 17, 2001

Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy: Bad TV

This isn't that timely, but is interesting. Fox had a TV show last year "proving" that the Apollo moon landing never happened. This web site is extremely detailed in its de-bunking of that show's claims.
Urban Legends Reference Pages: Nostradamus World Trade Center hoax

I just love the people that send e-mail hoaxes. They see thousands of people die in a tragedy and think "Hey, here's an opportunity." In my book, this ranks right up there with the people who call in bomb threats to a prayer vigil.

WSJ: Various approaches to fighting terrorism

In the weeks and months ahead, as the shock waves from last week's horrific attacks continue to shake the world, one of the difficult questions will be this: how can terrorism be thwarted? Political and military approaches, obviously, will be brought to bear. But technology will be at issue too. Technology is a tool, and all tools will be scrutinized for their potential to defend lives.

Two separate threads will emerge. The first will be the deployment of technologies that can be used actively to promote security by identifying aggressors. The second will be the denial of technologies that could conceivably assist attacks to those who might use them.

Each of these technologies will raise difficult questions. Will they work? Or will high-tech gadgetry distract us from other, more effective tools? How much will it cost? How will shaken Americans struggle to balance privacy against security? And finally, how will decisions about these technologies change the trappings and routines of everyday life? Here is a primer on some of the technologies you can expect to hear more about.

CARNIVORE. The ability to intercept communications has always been a key resource for law-enforcement and intelligence agencies. The rise of the Internet, with e-mail, instant messages and more, has opened up gigantic pipelines for all to use, including criminals. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has sought to ensure that it can monitor these communications with the Internet equivalent of phone taps. When news of the FBI's system, dubbed Carnivore, broke last year, it caused a sensation.

To use Carnivore, the FBI places a special computer at the site of an Internet service provider. The device monitors data flowing through the ISP, looking for traffic to and from a subject under surveillance. When it sees such traffic, Carnivore can record it, depending upon the type of warrant that has been issued. The device can conduct a more limited "pen" trace, in which e-mail addresses only are captured (the equivalent of monitoring which number someone calls without actually listening in) or a full trace that saves the contents of all traffic.

The controversy over Carnivore stems from the fact that the Internet doesn't work the same way as the phone system. Phone conversations are "switched," meaning that a direct connection is made between two parties. Internet communication is broken up into tiny packets, meaning that the pieces of many conversations are intermingled -- and that pulling a suspect's data from that stream requires, at some level, inspecting the data of many other people as well.

ENCRYPTION. This is the flip side of the Carnivore technology. An ordinary personal computer has enough power to encrypt messages with codes considered effectively unbreakable. Which means that officials attempting to monitor a suspect's online communications might come up with nothing but gibberish.

The most widely used online code systems rely on public-key encryption. A user distributes a public key that others can use to send the user a message, which can only be decoded with the user's private key. Law-enforcement officials have long advocated that this software be regulated to require some kind of "back door" that could be used to read a criminal's encrypted e-mail or files. Critics have said that would endanger privacy, and by weakening codes for legitimate uses, expose the Internet infrastructure to attacks by hackers -- even as criminals turned to sources outside the U.S. for software without the back doors.

ENHANCED 911. The cellular telephone network can be used to pinpoint a user's location. To help direct police, fire and ambulance teams when needed, the Federal Communications Commission has required that wireless companies implement Enhanced 911, or E911, and incorporate the ability to fix a caller's physical location to within 100 yards or so. But phone companies have been dragging their feet. In addition to assisting emergency-response efforts, the technology could conceivably be used to track movements of criminals using cellphones. But with cellphone use so widespread, this technology, too, has raised fears about privacy.

FACE RECOGNITION. It was big news earlier this year when Tampa, Fla., police used a high-tech system to scan faces in the crowd at the Super Bowl in case any suspected terrorists had made it inside. Some advocate using this approach to scan airport lobbies and check passengers' images against databases of suspected terrorists.

Visionics is among the companies that makes these systems. It works by isolating faces in photographs, then identifying key facial structures to create a faceprint that can be compared against those in a database. It's an approach with huge potential, but one that could spur intensive monitoring of all public spaces. "In public, our reasonable expectation of privacy does not exist," argues Joseph Atick, Visionics' CEO. A naturalized U.S. citizen, he advocates using the technology in all sorts of ways. "I would take tapes of celebrations in Afghanistan and keep an eye on those who are celebrating," he says. "One of those people may be asking for a visa into the United States."

REMOTE SEARCHES. X-ray devices that can see through clothing to find weapons are now on the market. These could replace traditional metal detectors, giving people passing through them the virtual equivalent of a pat-down search. But work is underway to expand such capabilities even further. Earlier this year the National Institute of Standards and Technology reported that one of its labs was working on a system that could surreptitiously scan through clothing at a distance. In an example, NIST suggested that police could scan a crowd of demonstrators by driving an unmarked van with the equipment nearby.

DECENTRALIZATION. This isn't a specific technology, but instead an approach that proved its effectiveness last week. The Internet is decentralized, and online communications held up well, in contrast to phone systems that had important nodes damaged or overwhelmed in the attacks. Making our own way out of lower Manhattan Tuesday morning, my wife and I were able to use my BlackBerry pager to e-mail friends and family that we were safe, and scores of others did the same.

Urban areas are by definition centralized. Many companies based in cities have long since dispersed their computer systems, moving critical back-room systems to suburban areas. Will the new specter of terrorism prompt them to do the same with people?
The Counterterrorist Myth

Developing good intel in Afghanistan might not be as easy as you think. It's incredible to me to think that all the time we were supporting the Mujaddin against the Soviets that we didn't develop any contacts or gain intelligence about their operating procedures.