Archive for May, 2005

Boltons Vote Postponement sours Cooperation

Thursday, May 26th, 2005

In a move that seemed to sour recent cooperation between Democratic and Republican representatives, the Democrats caused the postponement of final voting on the nomination of John Bolton for U.N. Ambassador.

Before they are willing to give an up or down vote, Senate Democrats demanded more information about Bolton while contending that Bush had stiff-armed the Senate about classified information on Bolton’s tenure, who is currently the State Department’s arms control chief.

The final Bolton vote now will not take place until at least June, after the Memorial Day recess. Today’s vote of 56-42 was just four votes shy of the 60 votes needed to move for an immediate final vote on Bolton’s confirmation.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., was hoping that today’s vote would end nearly three months of delays and investigation. However, the vote now raises questions on President Bush’s ability to win confirmation of his more ideological appointees.

“John Bolton,” Frist said, “…certainly sounds like a filibuster. It quacks like a filibuster.”

However, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware said that Democrats do not want to put off an up-or-down vote indefinately.

“We are willing to vote 10 minutes after we get back in session, if in fact they provide the information,” Biden said.

Today’s dramatic roll call demonstrated that most senators still seem to enjoy a bit of partisan confrontation, despite the recent compromise forged just days ago in a bitter dispute over judicial nominees. Frist said that the Bolton issue had soured the air of cooperation.

Steroid Legislation Set for House Committee

Wednesday, May 25th, 2005

New legislation set to be presented before House committee Thursday would set new drug-testing policy for professional sports. The NFL, NBA, NHL, and Major League Baseball would have to test each of its athletes five times a year, with severe penalties for those who pop positive: Two year ban for a first offense and a lifetime ban for a second offense.

Representative Tom Davis, the Chairman of the Government Reform Committee which has held hearings on anabolic steroid use, along with Senator John McCain introduced the new bill, based on the Olympic model.

However, the NFL says it did not have the opportunity to comment on the new bill. Joe Browne, NFL spokesman, said Wednesday, “Unlike the Olympics, we play every year, not every four years.”

Paul Tagliabue, NFL Commissioner, said he hadn’t even seen the bill, but that the league is not planning to change its policy to avoid the new legislation.

A House Commerce and energy subcommittee approved changes to a different bill on Wednesday, which calls for two tests instead of just one per athlete per year. This bill, called the Drug Free Sports Act, was introduced last month by Cliff Stearns, the Florida Republican who also chairs the subcommittee.

If that bill should pass, it would affect the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball. The Commerce Secretary would then be permitted to change the list of banned drugs per sport, and should a player prove that he didn’t know the substance was illegal, the penalties could be reduced.

Representative Edward Markey of Massachusettes, suggested an amendment to the Stearn’s bill that would have allowed a more lenient “three strikes” clause. The penalties would be half-season for a first offense, full-season suspension for a second, and lifetime ban for a third, and Stearn seemed to be accepting of this idea.

“Markey’s idea of ‘three strikes and you’re out’ is a good approach,” Stearns said. “We might want to have it vary, depending upon sports.”

Currently, the penalties for steriod use are a 10-day ban in Major League Baseball, four games in the NFL and five games in the NBA. The NHL doesn’t yet test its athletes, but that may be changing soon dependant upon the outcome of the House vote.

House Drops Limitation on Women in Combat Bill

Wednesday, May 25th, 2005

California’s Republican Duncan Hunter and other members of Congress Wednesay decided to drop a bill that would have limited the role of women in combat situations.

The provision, which was included in a defense spending bill, would have solidified a 1994 Pentagon policy that bans women from combat and combat related fields in the armed forces.

“This puts Congress in a position where we have enought time to evaluate a policy change and react to that policy change,” said Hunter, Republican Chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

Hunter’s new proposal allows the Pentagon to continue to decide what positions women can serve in as long as Congress is allowed a 60 day heads up.

Critics from both parties as well as the United States Army had expressed concern that the earlier provision would not only have caused confusion among commanders and soldiers, but would have also hurt recriutment and retainment of women as well as slowed the military’s ability to make battlefield staffing choices.

The only female veteran in Congress, Rep. Heather Wilson, along with bipartisan members of Congrees, was to offer an amendment that would have removed the provision from the bill altogether. However, she dropped her amendment once she spoke with Hunter.

“This was unnecessary and unhelpful,” Wilson said. “There will be no restrictions in statute for how the Army can assign women in the military.”

According to policy, women are not allowed in infantry, armor artilery or special forces units. However, as long as Congress is notified beforehand, armed services can open some positions to women in combat areas.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld openly opposed putting the new policy into law, convincing Hunter to compromise.

The overall bill, which sets the spending and defense policy for the next year, was on the Senate floor Wednesday, however a vote was not expected until Thursday.

New SpyWare Holding Computer users to Ransome

Tuesday, May 24th, 2005

Ransom Ware Coming To A Computer Near You.
Apparently computer users have something new to worry about in the form of what’s fast becoming known as “ransom ware.”

Hackers have found a way to lock up documents on your computer, then will demand money to hand over the key code. In one recent attack, an unidentified corporate customer of San Diego’s Websense Inc. found encrypted files including important spreadsheets, pictures and other documents along with a ransom note.

The note left an email address, and the attacker used that address to demand $200 for the digital key code to unlock the encrypted files.

Joe Stewart, a researcher at Chicago’s Lurhq Corp., studied the ransom ware. “This seems fully malicious,” he said. While he did manage to unlock the infected computer files without having to pay the ransom, there is a worry that future versions of this software will be more difficult to overcome. Hackers commonly learn not to repeat the mistakes of earlier versions when revising, and the evolution of the software becomes increasingly difficult to crack.Related source.Network Detection Intrusion(NIDS)

This just adds to the list of tiring and frustrating attacks that many internet users must face on a daily basis. Viruses, worms, spyware and phishing attacks now are just the tip of an ever-growing iceberg.

While the FBI thinks this is just an isolated scheme, there is no knowing how many people have been affected thus far. The latest cases have resulted from visiting vandalized internet websites using a vulnerable browser. The resulting lock of up to 15 kinds of files is heralded by a note. When the email address in that note is contacted, the hacker demands $200 for the key code which unlocks the newly encrypted files.

The site has been shut down, and there hasn’t been a widespread report of ransom ware. And because bank transactions are easily traced, the hacker’s greed could be his downfall.

“You’ve got to send the money somewhere,” Stewart said. “…It’s far easier to trace than an email account.”