This is why I boycott the music industry

The New York Times has a report out that should have shocked me, but it didn't. The RIAA and music industry bigwigs are depraved beyond all reason. I am not entirely sure that they even realize that consumer rights exist. Indeed, there is a large quantity of evidence to suggest that they don't.

The Times article details some of the "technical measures" the recording industry is taking to prevent users of KaZaa and Morpheus from downloading their product. The most benign method is "spoofing," whereby the record companies post bogus media files all over the network so that no one can get a legit copy. It is also the least effective. Just from ... umm ... friends of mine, I know that KaZaa Lite has lists of authenticated media files and trusted sources, which lets you detour around anyone with a fake copy. Besides, when Madonna tried to do it with the release of her new album, the hacking community let it be known that dirty tricks have a way of coming back around.

When Madonna released "spoofed" versions of songs from her new album on music sharing networks to frustrate pirates, her own Web site was hacked into the next day and real copies of her album were made available by hackers on her site.

The record industry cannot declare war on consumers and expect to win. They will lose. Nevertheless, that isn't keeping them from pulling out some serious guns, and, in my opinion, crossing legal red lines.
A more malicious program, dubbed "freeze," locks up a computer system for a certain duration — minutes or possibly even hours — risking the loss of data that was unsaved if the computer is restarted. It also displays a warning about downloading pirated music. Another program under development, called "silence," scans a computer's hard drive for pirated music files and attempts to delete them. One of the executives briefed on the silence program said that it did not work properly and was being reworked because it was deleting legitimate music files, too.

Other approaches that are being tested include launching an attack on personal Internet connections, often called "interdiction," to prevent a person from using a network while attempting to download pirated music or offer it to others.

This thing which the Times refers to as "interdiction" is more commonly referred to as hacking, which is a crime (a felony, to be more precise). The strange thing is that they expect people to allow the law to be rewritten so that they can launch virii and hack attacks legally.
The industry has tried to seek legislative support for aggressive measures. Representative Howard L. Berman, Democrat of California, introduced a bill last fall that would have limited the liability of copyright owners for using tougher technical counterpiracy tactics to protect their works online. But the bill was roundly criticized by privacy advocates. "There was such an immediate attack that you couldn't get a rational dialogue going," said Cary Sherman, president of the recording industry association. He said that while his organization often briefs recording companies on legal issues related to what he calls "self help" measures, "the companies deal with this stuff on their own."

All doomsday prophecies to the contrary, record companies will always exist. The question is which ones will continue to exist. The guys on top seem to think they deserve to be there forever, but the way the world works is that the predator eventually becomes prey. Especially, if you go around picking fights. I'm sorry, but the music industry simply isn't acting like they want my money. Fine. They aren't getting it.

I was just at Matt Welch's excellent blog (I knew someone was missing from my blogroll), where he passed on a link to a program that generates poetry from the contents of a website. I decided to try it out on this blog, and here are a couple of masterpieces that popped out. (And Bruce Wexler says poetry is dead? "The Marines reported that you could orgasm." 'Nuff said.)

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Qui a Tue Daniel Pearl?

Laila Lalami is talking about a new book from France on the murder of Daniel Pearl. Supposedly Pearl was killed because he was getting too close to a Pakistan-Al Qaeda nuke transfer plot.
All he wants is a little understanding

Andrew Sullivan is whining about how much nasty mail he's getting over his comments on Dubya's speech.
Like Glenn Reynolds, I'm besieged by people who think I'm wrong about the tone of Bush's campaign speech last night. Fair enough. It's a subjective judgment call, and I certainly respect those who took it otherwise. But what amazes me is the vituperative tone, and how many then accuse me of being anti-war, anti-Bush and anti-American. Me? Are politics so polarized that you have to either engage in hagiography or hatred of our leaders? Is there nothing permissible in between?

"Me?" The righteous indignation act is tired, Sully. Was he as generous during the war in Iraq to people like Josh Marshall and others, as he expects people to be to him now that it's over? Does he forget the "Sontag Awards" and the "Fifth Column Watch"? Maybe he's been writing a different blog than I've been reading, but he has hardly been in the vanguard of giving the benefit of the doubt to semi-hawk critics and middle-of-the-road types (unless he is defining his own politics to be middle-of-the-road).

My prescription: grow a thicker skin.

Igor Serebryany Pleads Guilty to Stealing Documents from DirecTV

The Chicago Maroon is reporting that Igor Serebryany, a University of Chicago student, has pleaded guilty to charges of stealing trade secrets on DirecTV's access card technology. He gained access to the information through his uncle, Peker Mikhaie, who worked for Uniscribe, a document imaging company. The documents in question were highly sensitive and did not even exist as hard copies until they were turned over to the Jones, Day, Reavis, and Pogue law firm in anticipation of discovery proceedings in a civil court case DirecTV was engaged in with NDS, an Israeli company that helped develop the smart card technology.

Due to security issues, they set up a document copying and processing room inside the law firm's headquarters, instead of sending the documents out to a third party. Uniscribe was the company they turned to for that, and when the workload started getting unmanageable they brought in Serebryany to help do some of the grunt work. He copied some of the scanned documents onto a CD, which he spirited inside of the case for a music album (The Doors' LA Woman, to be precise). He then used the computer at his Hollywood apartment to FTP the info to some satellite hackers he found through Google.

The quotes that the Maroon attribute to Serebryany sound like some hostage with a gun to his head being forced to read a statement. He was definitely parroting a lawyer, or else he was scared shitless by the whole affair. Now he has to pay $150,000 in fines as part of his plea agreement. The money quote comes from Serebryany himself, "I did something stupid--plain and simple."

An Interesting Admission If True

(via LGF comments) An LGFer, and apparently an Israeli, by the name of Michael claims on his blog that he called the International Solidarity Movement impersonating a loony peace activist and got them to say some interesting things. Now like I pointed out, this is coming via LGF comments, and this guy admits that he didn't record the conversation or take notes, so take this with however many grains of salt you like.
[ISM] "Financial aid would be very much welcomed, and we're always open for volunteers"

[Michael] "If we send you money, can I be sure it reaches the resistance and helps conduct glorious acts like the ones we've seen in Tel Aviv? I don't want to invest in some organization that wouldn't fight the Jews" I pushed harder. He had to realize this was a prank. He had too. He can't possibly be dumb enough to fall for that, can he?

[ISM] "We do not officially endorse acts of violence"

[Michael]A ray of light? Could it be we were all wrong about ISM? I was quickly proven wrong, as the guy on the other side continued:

[ISM]"But I can guarantee you that your money will reach the right hands in our struggle"

[Michael]"Stop being diplomatic with me, I want to know if my money reaches the brave martyrs who sacrifice their lives to free Palestine from the Jews."

[ISM]"I'm not supposed to speak about it..."

[Michael]"This is a very simple question. Yes or No?"



More on Looting of Iraqi Uranium

(via MEMRI) Last Sunday, Al Jazeera aired interviews with two Iraqi scientists employed by the Iraqi Nuclear Energy Authority. One of them, Hamid Al-Bahali, a nuclear engineer, related a story about the looting of uranium at Al Tuwaitha (the Washington Post previously reported on this). Here is some of MEMRI's translation
Tons of uranium known as yellow cakes were stored in barrels. This was a phase in the production of uranium from crude components. There were also other by-products from processing these materials. There were tens of tons of radioactive waste. They were stored in barrels and their radioactivity was not high as long as they were under supervision.

When order was disrupted, simple citizens - sorry to say - did not have containers to store drinking water, so they stole those barrels, each one containing 400 kilos of radioactive uranium. Some of them dumped the powder on the ground in very large quantities, and others took the contaminated barrels to their homes, and the barrels appeared in various areas. They stored water in them, and had every intention of drinking from them or [using] the barrels to sell milk.

I visited some homes and measured radioactivity; I saw with my own eyes in one of the homes a contaminated barrel used to store tomatoes for eating. In other barrels they stored cooking utensils and other household utensils for everyday use, not knowing that some of them were contaminated. When they realized that these components were radioactive, they dumped some of them in the river or the sewer system. We found radioactive materials in homes, in beds, and in clothing. I saw a ten-year old girl, who had a yellow cake [disc] hanging from the button of her shirt.

Roland Foster Memo to HHS: April 11, 2003

I am currently engaged in a back and forth with Foster, which really hasn't gone anywhere so far. He answers e-mail quick, but his comments are generally squishy and fail to address key issues. This is understandable in some respects, since he says that he was busy working on the Global AIDS bill that was passed today. He has not given me permission to publish the correspondence (he hasn't denied it either, all he did was quip about how he didn't think anyone wanted to hear what he has to say). Some of my impressions of him are better than they were before we started up a conversation, others are less so. Nevertheless, here is the promised 11 April memo to HHS regarding a controversial AIDS prevention program in San Francisco. Overall, this one is more rational than the other, and I can at least kinda see where he is coming from here (even if I disagree). Still he seems somewhat single-minded. I don't have any personal experience with the Stop AIDS Project, so I can't really say much about the memo. Any readers with relevant knowledge should send me an email. If I hear anything good, I'll post it.
The Subcommittee is concerned that research funded by the National Institute for Health's National Institute for Mental Health is being misread and manipulated and contributing to the misuse of limited federal resources intended for HIV/AIDS care and prevention.

The research, "The Mpowerment Project: A Community-Level HIV Prevention Intervention for Young Gay Men," was conducted by the Centers for AIDS Prevention Studies (CAPS) and the Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. The grant number is MH46816 and the center grant number is MH42459.

The stated objective of this research was to examine "community level programs to prevent infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)." Yet, this study-which claims to examine the effectiveness of a program intended to prevent HIV-does not examine, report or include the HIV infection status of the participants. It is, therefore, impossible to determine if the program examined was actually effective in preventing HIV. Rather than examining the HIV status of the participants, the authors focused on the participants age, race, dating status, education level, enjoyment of 'unsafe' sex and condom usage. The authors concede "this study relied on self-reported behavior."

While self-reported behavior can sometimes be useful and interesting, it is often exaggerated and unreliable as the research subjects may give the answers to researchers that they believe they are expected to provide rather than the truth.

It seems quite peculiar that a federally funded HIV prevention study would rely entirely on self reported behaviors (that may or may not have prevented HIV) and not examine whether or not HIV was actually prevented. There would be no way of knowing whether these behaviors or the program that promoted them were effective unless the HIV status of the research participants was routinely evaluated. This, of course, was either overlooked by the researchers and those who approved the study for federal funding, or intentionally ignored.

The conclusions of this research was community-level HIV prevention programs "effectively led to HIV risk reduction" and "to reach risk-taking young gay men, HIV prevention activities must be embedded in social activities and community life." This may indeed be the case (even though the data in this study is insufficient to determine if HIV was indeed prevented by participation in these activities). These conclusions have, however, been and continue to be manipulated to rationalize the misuse of federal AIDS funding under the guise of HIV prevention. These HIV "prevention" activities include, but are not limited to, erotic writing classes, zoo trips, great sex workshops, pointers on where to have anonymous sex in public places, masturbation instructions, 'fisting' forums, and tips of how to negotiate sex with prostitutes. These programs are all being funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The particular group misusing federal funds for these activities is the Stop AIDS Project of San Francisco. You will note on the Stop AIDS Project's website () under "Does HIV Prevention Work?," the NIH funded study is cited to rationalize these programs:

"Community-level programs can reach large numbers of people and can therefore be cost-effective. The MPowerment Project promoted a norm of safer sex among young gay men through a variety of social, outreach and small group activities designed and run by young men themselves. They found that young men engaging in unsafe sex who were unlikely to attend workshops were more likely to be reached through outreach activities such as dances, movie nights, picnics, gay rap groups, and volleyball games."

At the same time that these HIV 'prevention' programs are being conducted in San Francisco by the Stop AIDS Project with nearly $700,000 annually provided by the CDC, HIV rates in the city are on the rise along with rates of other STDs including syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia. This would indicate that these programs that Stop AIDS Project claims are effective based on NIH research are not indeed effective. But then again, HIV and STD rates were never evaluated or considered when the NIH research concluded the effectiveness of HIV prevention programs.

The Subcommittee would strongly recommend that all current and future research funded or supported by NIH on HIV prevention programs considers HIV status in addition to self-reported behaviors and acquisition of other STDs. This seems to be a reasonable requirement to ensure scientific accuracy when validating the effectiveness of a program and to prevent further manipulation of research that leads to the abuse of federal AIDS funds. If research on the effectiveness of HIV prevention programs does not evaluate whether HIV infection occurred among those participating, after all, how is it possible to conclude that HIV was indeed prevented? The opposite could, in fact, be the case. It would be impossible to determine without actually collecting this vital scientific data.

In addition to this request to include more sufficient, measurable data in studies, the Subcommittee would appreciate written responses to the following:

(1) Does the NIH concur that the conclusions reached by this NIMH-funded survey support the claim that picnics, volley ball games, erotic writing classes, zoo trips, great sex workshops, pointers on where to how to have anonymous sex in public places, masturbation instructions, 'fisting' forums, and tips of how to negotiate sex with prostitutes are effective HIV prevention programs?

(2) Does the NIH believe that self reported behavior is sufficient in and of itself to conclusively prove effectiveness or does NIH believe that credible scientific studies that evaluate programs intended to prevent HIV should include rates of HIV seroconversion and STD infection of those participating in the study?

(3) Could NIH also provide the Subcommittee with a chart listing all NIH funded research conducted over the past 5 years as well as ongoing studies that evaluate HIV prevention, indicating whether each research project is evaluating: (a) self-reported behaviors; (b) measurable outcomes including HIV and other STD infection rates; or (c) both self-reported behaviors and measurable data including HIV and STD rates.

Thank you for your assistance with this request.


Palace Intrigue

(via TAPPED) John Kaplan from The Hill is dishing out some dirt on how Newt Gingrich and some Bushies collaborated on the Colin Powell hit Newt delivered at an AEI event. As Kaplan reveals, Gingrich read from a script, which is out of character for him. TAPPED points out that Gingrich is now getting the cold shoulder from the echo chamber. Was the real target Gingrich? Only time will tell...
Letter to Foster

I decided to send a letter to Roland Foster (look below for one of his memos, look ahead to the vista for the next). Any reply I get from him will, naturally, be published in its entirety.

I am writing you in regards to a memo you authored that was sent to NIH on 13 March on the subject of funding for sex worker studies. First of all, I am interested in what, if any, official response to the inquiry has come from NIH. Second, I have a specific question about a claim you made in the article. The memo contains the following passage:

"The Tuskegee experiment was dehumanizing and laden with racism. The San Francisco study examining Asian women is based upon a similar, unethical, racist, dehumanizing concept. Another similar NIH project in Miami, that received nearly $600,000 in federal funds last year, includes African-Americans and Latinas."

My query regards the last sentence.

According to the abstract of the research proposal:

"The sample includes African-Americans, white-Anglos, and Latinas _in proportion to their estimated representation in the active Miami sex worker population._"

Don't you think your statement that the project "includes African-Americans and Latinas," and is by implication racist, is somewhat misleading in that it ignores the fact that whites are fully represented as well?

Thanks in advance for any response you may have.

Additionally, I am curious about an incident that occurred a couple of years ago. Apparently, Sexually Transmitted Disease Control Unit Chief Dr. Jeffrey Klausner made a statement to the effect that certain people who could not control their HIV-conducive behavior should be "quarantined." I have heard it said that you sent a letter to Klausner asking him if he needed federal funds for said quarantine. Is this claim true? If you could send me a copy of the letter you sent Klausner (assuming you sent one) that would be helpful in clearing the matter up.

Again, thank you for your time and patience. I know you are a busy man, and I appreciate any comments you may have.


Yuri Guri

So is Hitchens really going Neo-conservative?

After giving Nation the middle-finger, I just figured Hitchens wanted to escape the admittedly loony atmosphere over there, but lately I've been thinking that he really is realigning himself politically. Don't get me wrong, Hitchens' prose is sparkling, and I would read him even if he were expounding on the virtues of William Buckley (assuming such a thing exists). Still, he is clearly becoming a darling to some on the right. David Brooks was apparently busy making the pages of Why Orwell Matters stick together while writing this review. Not to mention the fact that Hitch published a couple of columns in the Wall Street Journal, one on France, another on the virtues of the Right. From the first graf of that latter article
When viewed from any objective standpoint to its immediate left, the American conservative movement manifests one distinct symptom of well-being. It is fairly conspicuously schismatic, and it possesses the confidence to rehearse its differences in public. (One can see the corollary of this point by examining the state of the liberal left, which is overanxious to present a facade of spurious "unity," and meager in its reluctance to concede anything that might redound to the credit of the president.)

Hitchens' comment on the Left probably has an element of truth, but it is noteworthy that he is laying this rap down on one of the most monolithic editorial pages extant.

Even so, none of this really meant that Hitchens was anything but independent. So when I read this article by Hitch on Malcolm Muggeridge at the Weekly Standard, I found it a bit odd. Here you have Hitchens doing his thing on religion, and the Standard is letting him. They must like him a lot.

And then there is this

No serious person is without contradictions. The test lies in the willingness or ability to recognize and confront them. Wolfe's biography suggests that Muggeridge was sometimes opaque to himself and sometimes not. But the book is clear on one thing. Those of us who had thought that the man came to religion only late in life, after years of exhausting debauchery, were quite mistaken. I once contributed some doggerel to the New Statesman, expressing the received opinion about Muggeridge: In my youth, quoth the sage, as he tossed his grey locks, / I behaved just as any young pup. / But now I am old I appear on the box-- / And tell others to give it all up.

The time has come to take back those lines. Wolfe establishes that Muggeridge had a sort of epiphany as a very young man, being overwhelmed by a rural sunset which "in its all-embracing beauty conveyed a oneness" and deciding "that to identify oneself with the spirit animating it and giving it meaning, contained the promise of ecstasy." This trope recurs in an undergraduate study that Muggeridge did at Cambridge, based on the "Evidences of Christianity" by the early-nineteenth-century natural philosopher William Paley. The result may be no more than the Argument from Design writ large, but there's no reason to doubt Muggeridge's sincerity about it.

Am I hallucinating, or did Hitchens (an evangelical atheist if there ever was one) just give the benefit of the doubt to Malcolm Muggeridge? Wow.
Is this for real?

Roger Ailes passes along this link to Geraldo Rivera's blog. The man is a horrible writer, and puts everything in capital letters (to be sure, I'm no great shakes either). The question I have is whether anyone has followed this up to see if it's for real or not? It seems real, but it could easily be a fake. If it is a fake there is someone out there who can do a damn good Geraldo.

Here is the whois

greg hart (greg.hart@foxnews.com)
1211 6th ave
new york, NY 10036
+1 212 3013371

Do Japanese Men Jerk Off Too Much?
(via Bomis Babe Report) I know I probably shouldn't be spending time at a site like Bomis, but all the wasted deep thinking moments are now repaid for. This article "Porno overload leaves Japanese jerkers drained dry" which Bomis links to, is one of the silliest and most credulous things written by a human.
Dr. Nakai, a counselor based in the Tokyo entertainment district of Ikebukuro, says he's seen the problem of ejaculation failure develop among large numbers of young men over the past few years.

One of his patients outlines the problem.

"I'm 22. I lost my virginity at 20. Even then it took me about 30 minutes of grinding before I could orgasm. I thought it was perhaps because I wasn't used to having sex," he tells Tokudane Saizensen.

"But since about half a year after the first time, I have never been able to perform until the very end if I am still connected. When I insert it, it's just a mass of warmth. I hardly feel a thing."

This problem pricking at men's hearts is largely blamed on the proliferation of adult movies within Japanese society.

It seems the more men indulge in self-flagellation while watching erotic movies are dulling not only their physical sensations, but their minds as well when it comes around to the real thing and they're unable to grab hold of the situation in the manner they normally would.

Because they're so used to being the lone gun, when it comes down to the climactic situation they can't shoot -- no matter how many times they pull on the trigger.

Got that? I guess it stands to reason that if you jerk off 5 times a day, every day, you'll become a stud. Naturally, this point didn't escape the writer.
Some, however, see a positive side effect to being unable to ejaculate.

"An inability to climax basically turns you into a human vibrator," one observer tells Tokudane Saizensen. "You wouldn't be able to keep the girls away if they knew about it."

Personally, this sounds like it belongs in the Onion. I can't believe an actual newspaper published this. Maybe something gets lost in the translation?
Young vs. Freund

Michael Young and Charles Freund, both from Reason and both incredibly insightful, are going head-to-head on Young's blog over the issue of whether or not the fall of Saddam will usher in a wave of liberalism in the Arab world. Young, a Lebanese journalist who has a column at The Daily Star, is in the skeptical corner. Freund, a semi-neocon and easily one of the most erudite libertarian commentators around, has high hopes for the future. Who's right? Personally, I think that Young is right, but I hope that Freund is right.

Here is the first graf from Freund's opening punch

Proprietor Young has graciously (or perhaps insidiously) invited me to exchange ideas about the potential revival of Arab liberalism in the wake of the Iraq war. As I argued on Reason Online Arab liberals have an opportunity to challenge the failed, inadequate, and self-defeating Pan-Arabist worldview with a competing liberal narrative, and are already doing so. Since I first wrote, citing a few examples, many other long-stifled liberals have joined their chorus. I'll be drawing on their work as this exchange develops.

And here is Young's opener
Like all proprietors I demand rent, and Chuck (in the previous posting) is merely paying his way. However, I build on the housing metaphor to say that having lived in the Middle East for most of my life, I’m more skeptical than he about the plumbing. When Pan-Arabism turns to sand, I’ll be there, with Chuck, applauding, as I will when my fellow Arabs understand that the collapse of a tyranny in Iraq somehow liberated them--if only they knew how to take advantage of it.



Tim Noah, over at Slate, points out a gem from ultra-neocon Mikey Ledeen. It goes something like this
The French have always been with us when the stakes were high. … If we had a serious policy to remove Saddam's evil regime, they would be the first to join with us. In such matters the French are deadly serious, perhaps the last serious nation left in Europe.

Abu Mazen has no intention of declaring war on the Hamas

Ha'aretz is reporting that Military Intelligence and Shabak are now in consensus that Abu Mazen has no intention of fighting terror, but instead plans on negotiating with Islamic Jihad and Hamas. One senior officer is quoted saying
At most, the PA will reach an agreement with them not to commit attacks between 2 and 4 in the afternoon.

Roland Foster: A Disturbing Character Indeed

About a week ago I read a post over at Charles Murtaugh's blog about an article in the New York Times, about NIH applications being vetted by socially conservative politicos. As Murtaugh had pointed out previously, the Times article was light on fact, heavy on innuendo. This led him, reasonably, to the conclusion that it was probably an inflated story. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

An article in Science by Jocelyn Kaiser added some flesh to the story, revealing two memos that had been sent by Roland Foster, a congressional staffer for the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources. One of the memos, sent on 31 March of this year, demanded a litany of information from NIH, including the names of the scientists on the study panel which approved the NIH grants, as well as the score given to the application. Here is Kaiser's account

A few weeks after HHS's call, NIH told the university that several agencies planned a site visit to discuss Nemoto's grants. That step was "very unusual," according to UCSF grants and contracts manager Joan Kaiser, who says normally such questions are addressed by phone or in correspondence. In late March, four officials from NIH and SAMHSA spent 2 days at UCSF asking about procedures and going "all over San Francisco" to hear scientific talks by Nemoto's team, Kaiser says. She says that UCSF officials "haven't heard back" but assume the grants were in compliance.

UCSF officials thought no more of it until they learned last week about a memo from the House of Representatives to NIH. The 13 March e-mail memo, from staffer Roland Foster of the House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources chaired by Representative Mark Souder (R-IN), raised concerns about two NIH- funded studies of sex workers--Nemoto's and another led by a researcher in Miami. The memo, which HHS routinely forwarded to NIH director Elias Zerhouni, argues that by attempting to protect the health of sex workers, the studies "seek to legitimize the commercial sexual exploitation of women." This runs counter to a February directive from President George W. Bush to reduce international sex trafficking, the letter claims.

Foster's memo asks for detailed information about the two grants, including the names of study section members who approved them and the scores they gave. It also requests information on all NIH studies of prostitutes over the past decade. HHS is now asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to list studies it funds of sex workers, a CDC spokesperson says. Foster says he played "no role" in the UCSF site visit but is "interested in what may be found."

(Just for clarification, Foster did not ask for information on the individual scores given by reviewers, but only for the overall grade given the grant application.)

My interest was piqued, so I decided to send an email to Kaiser and ask her for a copy of Foster's memos in order to determine the facts for myself. She was very helpful. She responded promptly and forwarded both memos to me (I wonder if it would have worked out that way if I had sent an email to the Times?). I had mentioned the WaPo article Murtaugh dug up, and asked her if she thought Foster was a loose cannon. Her response was: "Yes, I think he is a loose cannon." Just the way I like it, straight and to the point. Now, to the memos...

First up, the March 13 memo, a 700+ word ramble whose consistent message seemed to be something along the lines of: Science + Prostitutes = Bad. I will highlight a few of the sections I find most interesting, and then comment on them. Here it is:

The Bush administration has vowed to combat sex trafficking, what it called a fast-growing "modern-day form of slavery" in which foreign women and children are lured with false pretenses into the U.S. for prostitution. President Bush issued a directive to crack down on the sex trade during an international summit hosted by the State Department and the War Against Trafficking Alliance, the first such conference on the topic in the U.S. As many as 4 million people worldwide, half of whom may be children, are victims of the sex trade. Estimates are that 50,000 to 75,000 of those children are brought into the United States each year.

The Subcommittee strongly supports President Bush's efforts and is gravely concerned about efforts at the National Institutes of Health that contradict the President's mission and instead seek to legitimize the commercial sexual exploitation of women.

One particular program the NIH is funding (with over $640,000 last year alone) in San Francisco seeks to "promote protective work environments" and "protective behaviors" for "commercial sex workers" from Asia. By so doing, the NIH is, in effect, advancing the sex trade as a legitimate form of commerce that simply needs to be made "safer."

The fact is, prostitution is not, and never will be "safe." Women and children of the sex trade are sexually exploited, molested, raped, physically and emotionally abused and exposed to life threatening sexually transmitted diseases. These STDs include HIV and HPV, which causes cervical cancer and is not prevented by condom use.

Women and children being exploited by the sex trade are victims that need liberation, not research to make their exploitation "safer." It is dehumanizing to even call these victims "commercial sex workers" as the NIH does in its abstract. Any U.S. government funding examining the sex trade should explore ways to end this barbaric, dehumanizing and illegal activity. The NIH research does just the opposite by seeking ways to make it more "protective," and therefore more acceptable. It is unacceptable under any conditions.

The behaviors being examined by the NIH are immoral and illegal, as they should be, in the United States. Knowledge of such illegal exploitation should be reported to the appropriate legal authorities for investigation and prosecution. The NIH and its collaborator on this project, are instead, providing legitimacy and financial support to the continuation of the sex trade.

This study suffers from the same dearth of scientific ethics that the U.S. Public Health Service demonstrated when it funded the notorious Tuskegee experiment in which African Americans with syphilis where observed for decades but never notified that they were infected or given treatment that was available to cure the disease. The Tuskegee experiment was dehumanizing and laden with racism. The San Francisco study examining Asian women is based upon a similar, unethical, racist, dehumanizing concept. Another similar NIH project in Miami, that received nearly $600,000 in federal funds last year, includes African-Americans and Latinas.

It is abominable that the U.S. federal government, in the name of scientific research, is funding efforts to legitimize the commercial sexual exploitation of Latinas and Asian and African American women.

U.S. Secretary of State Powell explained that under the "Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000," President Bush had, "directed all relevant United States agencies to combine forces to eradicate trafficking and help rehabilitate its victims." The Subcommittee assumes that this White House directive applies to NIH.

Please provide the Subcommittee with the following information:

(1) Ethical reviews, if any, that NIH conducted for the San Francisco and Miami studies.

(2) The name(s) of the NIH employee(s) who approved funding for the San Francisco and Miami studies, including the names of the individuals on the panels that reviewed the studies applications.

(3) A list of all efforts, if any, by the NIH and collaborators on these studies to notify law enforcement of illegal activities being conducted that were observed or witnessed.

(4) The ages of all of the women observed in these studies.

(5) The score given to each study by the review panels.

(6) A full listing (including funding amounts) of all NIH funded studies over the past decade involving commercially sexually exploited women, including prostitutes or "commercial sex workers."

(7) A detailed explanation by NIH outlining how these studies to create "protective" environments for "commercial sex"-costing over $1 million last year alone-- support the President's directive for all federal agencies to join together to "eradicate trafficking and help rehabilitate its victims."

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

To kick it off, there is Foster's claim that researching methods of reducing the spread of AIDS among hookers automatically legitimates the sex trade. This is spurious. It clearly isn't the duty of researchers to enforce the law, or write policy. That is the job of the police, and the people who apparently employ Mr. Foster. That's not to say that there are not cases where researchers have a duty to inform law enforcement, clearly there are, but unless they actually witness a crime happening they should not feel obligated to narc on their subjects. Sometimes there is a fine line, but I do not think it is fair to say that these people are "legitimizing" what is going on. Doubtless, some of them abhor it no less than Foster. Besides, I don't see Foster prowling the streets "liberating" sex victims on his time off. Maybe he goes under the name Clark Kent when he deals with that account.

Foster's equivalence between Tuskegee and research geared towards preventing the spread of HIV among prostitutes is absurd. I won't even deign to comment on that. I will, however, address one of the claims he makes about the University of Delaware study in Miami. I will reproduce Foster's comment here

The Tuskegee experiment was dehumanizing and laden with racism. The San Francisco study examining Asian women is based upon a similar, unethical, racist, dehumanizing concept. Another similar NIH project in Miami, that received nearly $600,000 in federal funds last year, includes African-Americans and Latinas.

Technically, this last sentence isn't false, but it is certainly misleading. Foster was nice enough to append the abstracts of both proposals to the end of the memo. So when we read the abstract for the Miami study what do we find?
The sample includes African-Americans, white-Anglos, and Latinas in proportion to their estimated representation in the active Miami sex worker population.

So the racism is where? It seems clear that they went out of their way to ensure that the sample properly reflected the racial breakdown of the Miami prostitution scene. Does Foster have a better way of doing things? If so, let's hear it.

Coming Soon (no pun intended): Memo #2.


Rigged for Positives?

I was reading the daily boilerplate from AP provocatively headlined "U.S. Said to Find Iraq Nerve Gas Evidence" on the New York Times site, and my eyes skimmed over a rather interesting paragraph. My brain didn't even process it at first, but then I went back and reread it.
Initial tests by Army equipment are designed to favor a positive reading, erring on the side of caution to protect soldiers. Further, more sophisticated tests will be necessary to determine whether the find is evidence of an illegal weapons program.

Force protection is certainly a reasonable concern, but I haven't seen very many dispatches (actually I haven't seen any) that directly mention the fact that the "initial test" equipment is rigged for positives. It certainly explains all of the false alarms that have been coming out of Iraq. I just don't know why it was stuffed 8 paragraphs into an AP report over a month after the beginning of the war. Isn't this important data that the media should be passing along with all of the various chemical discovery reports?
State keeps reprocessing admission under wraps

In a potentially explosive revelation, the Washington Post is rolling with a story that the North Koreans revealed that they had begun reprocessing fuel rods to the State Department in a 31 March meeting at the UN, and that State kept the information from Defense for more than two weeks.
Meanwhile, the reprocessing claim has ignited another battle within the administration, which is deeply split over its North Korea policy, officials said yesterday. North Korea first told State Department officials in March it had begun reprocessing the fuel rods, but the information was kept from officials in other parts of the government, officials said.

The disclosure, first reported Friday night by Reuters, has angered officials who prefer to take a hard-edged approach to North Korea. They charge that some elements of the State Department purposely did not report the claim to senior officials in the Defense Department and the National Security Council in order to avoid rupturing the Beijing talks before they began.

The announcement by North Korean officials to a pair of State Department officials that Pyongyang had begun reprocessing occurred during a meeting on March 31 at the United Nations, known as the "New York channel" for communications between Washington and Pyongyang. The purpose of the meeting was to make sure North Korea was serious about attending trilateral talks in China.

"I think heads will roll over this," one administration official said yesterday. He said prompt disclosure of this claim would have allowed the intelligence community to step up surveillance of the North Korean nuclear facilities. "North Korea for the first time ever officially communicated to the U.S. government that they were reprocessing. That that information was not shared is very disturbing," he said, adding that it possibly weakened the U.S. negotiating position at the talks.

The spokesman for State, Richard Boucher, offered this tepid response
Information was shared appropriately with other agencies of the U.S. government at senior levels -- not every agency and not every person, but appropriately

This could put Powell in a very compromising situation, especially since there are already people calling for his blood in connection to the diplomatic failures at the UN on the Iraq issue. That said, this could be bigger than just State, since Boucher claims that the intelligence agencies were in on the loop too. This just piles on top of all the other reports of a not-so-cold war between State and Defense (or more accurately Powell vs. Rumsfeld), such as Woodward's Bush at War, which is just a long gossip column on State/Defense hatred. Personally, I think this kind of thing is silly. Everyone is on the same side, so stop trying to score points in internicene battle and do your fucking job. Jebus Cripes...
Salon on Shakira

Hillary Frey, a writer who has prior to now escaped my attention, has a wonderful article on Salon talking about Shakira's new commercials for Pepsi. The money quote is this one

When the camera stares down the short grocery aisle to find live Shakira striking a pose worthy of Elvis, I was had. And when she gets body to body with the clerk and smiles in the most mischievous way, it's clear she's in on the joke. Who cares about the fucking Pepsi? These 30 seconds are owned by Shakira.

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