Thursday, May 17, 2007

Gonzalels Proposes Copyright Thought Crime Bill

Gonzales proposes new crime:
‘Attempted’ copyright infringement

by CNET.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is pressing the U.S. Congress to enact a sweeping intellectual property bill that would increase criminal penalties for copyright infringement, including “attempts” to commit piracy.

“To meet the global challenges of IP crime, our criminal laws must be kept updated,” Gonzales said during a speech before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington on Monday.

The Bush administration is throwing its support behind a proposal called the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2007, which is likely to receive the enthusiastic support of the movie and music industries and would represent the most dramatic rewrite of copyright law since a 2005 measure dealing with pre-release piracy.

Here’s our podcast on the topic.

The IPPA would, for instance:

* Criminalize “attempting” to infringe copyright. Federal law currently punishes not-for-profit copyright infringement with between 1 and 10 years in prison, but there has to be actual infringement that takes place. The IPPA would eliminate that requirement. (The Justice Department’s summary of the legislation says: “It is a general tenet of the criminal law that those who attempt to commit a crime but do not complete it are as morally culpable as those who succeed in doing so.”)

* Create a new crime of life imprisonment for using pirated software. Anyone using counterfeit products who “recklessly causes or attempts to cause death” can be imprisoned for life. During a conference call, Justice Department officials gave the example of a hospital using pirated software instead of paying for it.

* Permit more wiretaps for piracy investigations. Wiretaps would be authorized for investigations of Americans who are “attempting” to infringe copyrights.

* Allow computers to be seized more readily. Specifically, property such as a PC “intended to be used in any manner” to commit a copyright crime would be subject to forfeiture, including civil asset forfeiture. Civil asset forfeiture has become popular among police agencies in drug cases as a way to gain additional revenue, and is problematic and controversial.

* Increase penalties for violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s anti-circumvention regulations. Currently criminal violations are currently punished by jail times of up to 10 years and fines of up to $1 million. The IPPA would add forfeiture penalties too.

* Add penalties for “intended” copyright crimes. Currently certain copyright crimes require someone to commit the “distribution, including by electronic means, during any 180-day period, of at least 10 copies” valued at over $2,500. The IPPA would insert a new prohibition: actions that were “intended to consist of” distribution.

* Require Homeland Security to alert the Recording Industry Association of America. That would happen when compact discs with “unauthorized fixations of the sounds or sounds and images of a live musical performance” are attempted to be imported. Neither the Motion Picture Association of America nor the Business Software Alliance (nor any other copyright holder such as photographers, playwrights, or news organizations, for that matter) would qualify for this kind of special treatment.

A representative of the Motion Picture Association of America told us: “We appreciate the department’s commitment to intellectual property protection and look forward to working with both the department and Congress as the process moves ahead.”

What’s still unclear is the kind of reception this legislation might encounter on Capitol Hill. Gonzales may not be terribly popular, but Democrats do tend to be more closely aligned with Hollywood and the recording industry than the GOP. (A few years ago, Republicans even savaged fellow conservatives for allying themselves too closely with copyright holders.)

A spokeswoman for Rep. Howard Berman, the California Democrat who heads the House Judiciary subcommittee that focuses on intellectual property, said the congressman is reviewing proposals from the attorney general and from others. The aide said the Hollywood politician plans to introduce his own intellectual property enforcement bill later this year but said his office is not prepared to discuss any details yet.

One key Republican was less guarded. “We are reviewing (the attorney general’s) proposal. Any plan to stop IP theft will benefit the economy and the American worker,” said Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, who’s the top Republican on the House Judiciary committee. “I applaud the attorney general for recognizing the need to protect intellectual property.”

Still, it’s too early to tell what might happen. A similar copyright bill that Smith, the RIAA, and the Software and Information Industry Association announced with fanfare last April never went anywhere.’s Anne Broache contributed to this report

Media Channel - source

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Saving Canada's Forests for the World

Scientists plead for protection of forests
Canada's broad swath of boreal timber, one of Earth's largest carbon storehouses, is said to be at risk

From Monday's Globe and Mail

May 14, 2007 at 4:18 AM EDT

OTTAWA — Canada will be urged today by more than 1,500 scientists from more than 50 countries to strengthen protection of the increasingly threatened boreal forest, a key component in the planet's battle with climate change.

Only 10 per cent of the forest is currently protected and the spread of logging, mining and oil and gas operations into Canada's large northern forest is putting at risk the largest carbon storehouse on Earth, the scientists state in the letter obtained by The Globe and Mail. The letter will be released today.

Countries with tropical rain forests such as Brazil have long faced international pressure from conservationists, but Canada's forest is in many ways just as important to the planet, said scientist Terry Root of Stanford University, who signed the letter and has also authored several reports as a member of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

"People think, 'Oh, the tropical forests are so exotic and have all these crazy-looking species that we've never seen,'" she said. But Dr. Root and the other scientists note the boreal forest has millions of birds, wetlands that filter water, and a large ecosystem of predators and prey such as wolves and caribou. "The boreal forest is a very, very important place," she said.

With the possibility that climate change could wipe out the habitat of huge numbers of species, protecting Canada's large boreal forest could provide plants and animals with a sanctuary to withstand the climate-change storm until humans reduce emissions to earlier levels, she said.

The letter comes as key debates are taking place in Canada that will impact the forest. The expansion of Alberta's oil sands is an issue, but so are other measures that are considered to be of environmental benefit, such as the expansion of hydro power.

The push to reduce dependence on coal-fired power plants, particularly in Ontario, has led to a renewed interest in large hydro electricity imports from Manitoba, Quebec and Labrador. Provincial officials have been meeting with industry leaders to discuss the merits of a major new power grid that would share hydro power between provinces. While hydro power produces few greenhouse-gas emissions, the power lines and hydro dams raise concerns about loss of animal habitat.

The scientists' letter points out that forests absorb and store carbon dioxide, playing a key role in the fight against climate change. Global warming concerns are based on predictions that human-made emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are trapping heat in the Earth's atmosphere.

The boreal forest, a green band primarily made up of coniferous trees, stretches from Alaska to Newfoundland and from the northern tundra to a varying southern edge that touches Lake Superior and Lake Huron.

"We are concerned that current conservation planning efforts are insufficient to sustain the ecological integrity of Canada's Boreal region, one of the most intact ecosystems left in the world," the letter states. "Specifically, the amount of land in protected status within the Canadian Boreal, now at under 10 per cent, is inadequate and must be markedly increased."

Tenet Agrees to Cooperate

Tenet Agrees to Cooperate with

Congressional Investigation Into Niger Fraud
Monday 14 May 2007

Former CIA Director George Tenet has agreed to cooperate with a House investigation into the White House's fraudulent pre-war claim that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger for a nuclear weapon. That assertion - the infamous "16 words" in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union address - was a critical part of the administration's case for war.

In a new statement, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) announced that Tenet will provide a deposition on the issue and testify before the committee on June 19:

Today Chairman Henry A. Waxman announced that the Oversight Committee will postpone the hearing with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from May 15, 2007, to June 19, 2007. The hearing is being postponed to allow former CIA Director George Tenet to testify with Secretary Rice and to accommodate Secretary Rice's travel schedule.
Mr. Tenet has agreed to cooperate with the Committee's inquiry into whether the White House overstated Iraq's efforts to obtain uranium from Africa and its nuclear threat in making the case for war. Mr. Tenet has agreed to provide a deposition to the Committee prior to the hearing.

Under Tenet, the CIA had debunked the claims about uranium and Niger months before the '03 State of the Union. The CIA "even demanded it be taken out of two previous presidential speeches." Tenet now says the 16 words made it into the State of the Union because he delegated the review of that speech to his deputies.

Tenet has been far more willing to discuss the Niger claims than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Waxman has been forced to subpoena Rice to appear at the hearing along with Tenet, and thus far Rice maintains she will not comply, claiming she has already answered Waxman's questions "in full." Also, last month, the State Department refused to allow intelligence analyst Simon Dodge to be interviewed by House investigators; weeks before the '03 State of the Union, Simon examined the documents supposedly from Niger and determined they were "probably a hoax" and "clearly a forgery."

Read the full oversight committee statement below:
Rice Testimony Postponed
Tenet to Cooperate in Committee Investigation
Monday 14 May 2007

Washington, DC - Today Chairman Henry A. Waxman announced that the Oversight Committee will postpone the hearing with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from May 15, 2007, to June 19, 2007. The hearing is being postponed to allow former CIA Director George Tenet to testify with Secretary Rice and to accommodate Secretary Rice's travel schedule.

Mr. Tenet has agreed to cooperate with the Committee's inquiry into whether the White House overstated Iraq's efforts to obtain uranium from Africa and its nuclear threat in making the case for war. Mr. Tenet has agreed to provide a deposition to the Committee prior to the hearing.

The Committee also sent a letter to Stephen Hadley, the National Security Advisor, requesting his voluntary appearance at a deposition. Mr. Hadley was the Deputy National Security Advisor and Secretary Rice was the National Security Advisor when the President relied on evidence, which turned out to be false, about Iraq's efforts to obtain uranium in his 2003 State of the Union address.

Secretary Rice refused repeated requests by Chairman Waxman to testify voluntarily before the Committee, leading the Committee to issue a subpoena for her appearance. Chairman Waxman continues to expect that she will comply with the congressional subpoena.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Time to Leave

The governments of Afghanistan and Iraq have indicated quite clearly that they want the United States to leave their countries. In Afghanistan, NATO cannot defeat the Taliban, and only makes matters worse by the indiscriminate killing of civilians.

Time to Get Out
of Afghanistan and Iraq

by Patrick Seale

Afghanistan will be high on the agenda when NATO secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer visits President George W. Bush at his Texas ranch on May 20-21. The message de Hoop Scheffer has to convey is sombre: NATO is losing the war against the Taliban. A fundamental policy review is urgently needed.

The most important new development is that the Afghans themselves, sickened by war and mounting civilian casualties, want the United States and other foreign troops to leave. As President Hamid Karzai himself admitted, Afghan patience with foreign troops is "wearing thin" five years after the U.S. invasion. "It is difficult for us to continue to tolerate civilian casualties," he said at a press conference earlier this month.

On May 8, the Senate in Kabul approved a bill that called for negotiations with the Taliban, a ceasefire, and a date for the withdrawal of foreign troops. The proposed legislation demands that foreign forces should not engage the Taliban unless they are themselves attacked or have first consulted with the Afghan army, police and government.

The bill reflects a growing popular rebellion against heavy-handed American army tactics and aerial bombardments, which have brought death and destruction to many parts of Afghanistan. The bill has to be approved by the lower house of Parliament and by President Karzai before becoming law.

At much the same time in Baghdad, 144 members of Parliament -- out of a total of 275 -- signed a petition calling for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. The petition is now being developed into a draft bill by the legal and foreign affairs committees of the Iraqi Parliament.

Following talks with the Pakistan government last week, de Hoop Scheffer himself declared that military force alone would not defeat the Taliban, but that reconstruction was the key to a durable peace in a country shattered by more than 25 years of conflict and civil war.

The problem, however, in both Afghanistan and Iraq is that, without security, no serious reconstruction can take place. The question arises, therefore, whether the violent campaigns against insurgents in both countries by U.S. and other foreign troops contribute to security or are themselves a cause of insecurity.

This past weekend, the Taliban released a French aid worker captured more than a month ago. Eric Damfreville arrived back in Paris on Saturday, exhausted by the harsh living conditions, but saying that he had been well treated. He had been working in southwestern Afghanistan for Terre d’Enfance, an agency that helps children.

No one yet knows what deal the French may have struck with the Taliban behind the scenes to secure his release. A Taliban spokesman said Damfreville had been freed as a gesture to France’s president-elect, Nicolas Sarkozy. Perhaps more relevant was the statement Sarkozy made during his election campaign that there was no compelling reason for French troops to remain in Afghanistan.

Much like Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Iraq, President Karzai’s position in Afghanistan is increasingly uncomfortable. Crowds in the eastern city of Jalalabad have cried "Death to Karzai!" and "Death to Bush!" Violent anti-American demonstrations have taken place in Kabul, apparently sparked by the large-scale killing of civilians by American air strikes.

In the district of Shindand, 100 kilometres south of Herat, the U.S.-led coalition claimed to have killed 136 Taliban fighters at the end of last month. Local villagers said the dead were 51 civilians, among them 18 women and children. UN investigators said 1,600 families had been displaced. Another air strike a week ago on the village of Sarwan Qala destroyed several houses and is said to have killed between 50 and 80 civilians, mainly women and children.

"Still now they are digging out bodies from the rubble," a local shopkeeper was quoted as saying.

What seems clear is that the conflict in Afghanistan is widening and that pitched battles are taking place in many different parts of the country, and not only in the east close to the Pakistan frontier and in the southern province of Helmand where the Taliban are well entrenched and where fierce fighting is continuing.

The correspondent of the Financial Times in Kabul reported on 4 May that last month the Taliban seized control of a highway just 70 kilometres from Kabul in the Tagab district of the central Kapisa province and held it for 24 hours, before being driven out by government forces. It was the heaviest battle in the region of the capital since 2001.

What can Jaap de Hoop Scheffer say to George W. Bush? His task is unenviable. The American president believes he is engaged in a 'global war on terror', but, in fact, the people his troops are fighting and killing are tribesmen seeking to defend their families and ancestral lands against foreigners. In Afghanistan, attachment to Islam and hatred of foreigners are both very great, and have defeated other armies, whether the Soviets in the 1980s or the British a century earlier.

Patrick Seale is a leading British writer on the Middle East, and the author of The Struggle for Syria; also, Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East; and Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire.

Copyright © 2007 Patrick Seale

Released: 14 May 2007
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Advisory Release: 14 May 2007
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