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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Amero

London stock trader urges move to ‘amero’
Says many unaware of plan to replace dollar with N. American currency

By Jerome R. Corsi
Worldnet Daily
Tuesday, November 28, 2006

In an interview with CNBC, a vice president for a prominent London investment firm yesterday urged a move away from the dollar to the “amero,” a coming North American currency, he said, that “will have a big impact on everybody’s life, in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.”

Steve Previs, a vice president at Jefferies International Ltd., explained the Amero “is the proposed new currency for the NORTH AMERICAN COMMUNITY which is being developed right now between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.”

The aim, he said, according to a transcriptprovided by CNBC to WND, is to make a “borderless community, much like the European Union, with the U.S. dollar, the Canadian dollar and the Mexican peso being replaced by the amero.”

Previs told the television audience many Canadians are “upset” about the amero. Most Americans outside of Texas largely are unaware of the amero or the plans to integrate North America, Previs observed, claiming many are just “putting their head in the sand” over the plans.

CNBC asked Previs whether he thought NAFTA was “working and doing enough.”

He replied: “Until it created a lot of illegal immigrants coming across the border. I don’t know. You get the pros and cons on NAFTA. For some people it is a good thing, and for other people it has been a disaster.”

The speculation on the future of a new North American currency came amid a major U.S. dollar sell-off worldwide that began last week.

Yesterday, the dollar also reached new multi-month low against the euro, breaking through the $1.30 per euro technical high that had held since April 2005.

At the same time, the CHINESE central bank set the yuan at 7.0402 per dollar, the highest level since Beijing established a new currency exchange system in 2005 that severed China’s previous policy of tying the value of the yuan to the U.S. dollar.

Many analysts worldwide attributed the dramatic fall in the value of the U.S. dollar at least partially to China’s announcement last week that it would seek to diversify its foreign exchange currency holdings away from the U.S. dollar. China recently has crossed the threshold of holding $1 trillion in U.S. dollar foreign-exchange reserves, surpassing Japan as the largest holder in the world.

Barry Ritholtz, chief market strategist for Ritholtz Research & Analytics in New York City, in a phone interview with WND, characterized today’s downward move of the dollar as “wackage,” a new word he coined to convey that the dollar is being “whacked” in this current market movement.

Ritholtz told WND that yesterday’s downward move “was a major market correction that points to the risk of subsequent downside to the dollar.”

Asked whether he would characterize the dollar’s downside move as signaling a possible collapse, Mr Ritholtz told WND, “Not yet.”

Ritholtz pointed out market professionals had long looked at a dollar collapse as a “low probability event,” but the recent fall suggests “the probabilities have increased of a major dollar correction, or even of a collapse.”

U.S. trade imbalances with China have hit a record $228 billion this year, largely reflecting a surging flow of containers from China with retail goods headed for the U.S. mass market.

Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez is in Bejing leading a trade delegation of more than two dozen U.S. business executives.

“The future should be focused on exporting to China,” Guiterrez told reporters in Bejing, noting that this year, U.S. exports to China are up 34 percent on a year-to-year basis, surpassing last year’s gain of 20 percent.

One way to improve the U.S. trade imbalance may be to ease up on restrictions of exporting high-tech products and allowing technology transfers to China, a move likely to be politically charged in the U.S.

The decline in value of the dollar will also make U.S. exports more attractive and Chinese exports to the U.S. more expensive.

In February 2007, a virtually unprecedented top-level U.S. economic mission is scheduled to travel to China. Included in the mission are Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Jr., Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Previs declined to be interviewed for this article, telling WND in an e-mail he did not want to be quoted directly in any article that may express a political point of view.

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Posted by Elvis on 11/29/06 •
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Internet Archive Gets DMCA Exception

Thanks to the hard work of two great law school students of Peter Jaszi of American University, Jieun Kim and Doug Agopsowicz, the Internet Archive and other libraries may continue to preserve software and video game titles without fear of going to jail. This is a happy moment, but on the other hand this exception is so limited it leaves the overall draconian nature of the DMCA in effect. A total of more than $50,000 of pro-bono lawyer time has been spent to just affect this exemption and its continuation. We hope that Congress, and other governments, will pass more balanced copyright laws to allow at least libraries, archives, research and scholarship to flourish without the current dark clouds of litigation.

More formally, Internet Archive has successfully advocated for an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA prohibits circumvention of technological measures employed by or on behalf of copyright owners to protect their works (access controls). Specifically, 17 U.S.C. 1201(a)(1)(A) provides, in part, that No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title. In order to ensure that the public will have continued ability to engage in noninfringing uses of copyrighted works, such as fair use, subparagraph (B) limits this prohibition. It provides that the prohibition against circumvention shall not apply to persons who are users of a copyrighted work which is in a particular class of works, if such persons are, or are likely to be in the succeeding three-year period, adversely affected by virtue of such prohibition in their ability to make noninfringing uses of that particular class of works under this title as determined in a rulemaking proceeding.

On November 27, 2006, the Librarian of Congress, on the recommendation of the Register of Copyrights, announced six classes of works which will not be subject to the prohibition against circumventing access controls (the DMCA) through October 27, 2009. One of these six classes includes:

Computer programs and video games distributed in formats that have become obsolete and that require the original media or hardware as a condition of access, when circumvention is accomplished for the purpose of preservation or archival reproduction of published digital works by a library or archive. A format shall be considered obsolete if the machine or system necessary to render perceptible a work stored in that format is no longer manufactured or is no longer reasonably available in the commercial marketplace.

The group primarily responsible for requesting this second exemption is the Internet Archive, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was founded to build an internet library, with the purpose of offering permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format. Long before the enactment of the DMCA, many works distributed in digital formats on physical media (such as floppy diskettes) were designed so that the original diskette must be inserted into the appropriate drive in the computer in order to enable access to the work (original only access controls). When the Internet Archive migrates the content of these works to digital archival systems, often times the original only access controls must be circumvented to verify the integrity of the reproduction. Such original-only technological measures qualify as access controls even though the primary purpose may be to prevent copying. Thus, by circumventing the original-only access controls to verify the integrity of reproductions, the Internet Archive could potentially face liability under the DMCA for its archival work. However, as a result of receiving this exemption, the Internet Archive may continue to circumvent these access control measures for preservation purposes.

This exemption marks the second successful DMCA exemption proposed by the Internet Archive. The Internet Archive first received an exemption similar to the just-granted exemption back in 2003, thanks to pro-bono help of Alex Macgillivray, then of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati. As a result of receiving this exemption, the Internet Archive can continue its important archival work of computer programs and video games for at least the next three years, free from liability under the DMCA.

To read the full recommendation of the Register of Copyrights, click HERE

SOURCE.

Posted by Elvis on 11/29/06 •
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Record Home Price Drop In October

Median price sinks 3.5 percent from a year earlier, trade group see more price declines ahead.

By Chris Isidore
CNN Money
November 28 2006

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com)—The price of existing homes sold in October fell for the third straight month and posted the biggest drop on record, an industry group said Tuesday, adding it expects weakness in pricing to drag on into next year.

The National Association of Realtors said that the median price of a home sold in October was $221,000, the same as in September, but down 3.5 percent from October 2005.

The previous record drop was a 2.1 percent decline in November 1990, the real estate group said.

While month-to-month declines in home prices are not uncommon, year-to-year drops had been rare before the recent HOUSING SLUMP.

August was the first month in 11 YEARS to see such a decline. September was originally reported as a record 2.2 percent drop, but a revision in those numbers put that price decline at 1.8 percent.

The weakness in home prices isn’t likely to go away soon, according to Realtors spokesman Walter Molony. “We do expect we’ll see prices stay below year-ago levels through the end of this year, and pick up in the first quarter of 2007,” he said.

Pat Vredevoogd Combs, a Grand Rapids, Mich., Realtor and president of the trade group, said in a statement the the market has become a good one for buyers.

“With the exception of parts of the West, sellers are cutting their price enough to encourage sales,” she said. A sharp drop in sales and prices in once hot markets such as Washington D.C. and parts of Florida, coupled with improved sales in some lower-price markets in Texas, have driven median prices down 7 percent in the South.

But all four regions of the country posted a year-over-year decline in median prices.

“A fourth of the nation - areas that had the biggest boom - is in a correction that will take longer to balance,” she added.

The drop in prices represents a stunningly quick change in the market. The record high median home price of $230,000 was reached just last summer, in July. A year ago, existing home sale prices were 16.8 percent above the October 2004 levels, marking the fourth-biggest year-over-year increase in prices the group had ever recorded.

“Certainly the astronomical price appreciation seen over the last few years is a thing of the past,” said Wachovia economist Phillip Neuhart. “Much of the decline in median prices over the last few months can be attributed to the changing mix of homes sold as cautious buyers, seeing a weakening housing market, are less likely to buy up into a more expensive home.”

Still, the strong price gains of a year ago have left most buyers who have been in their homes more than a year with a more valuable home, even with the recent declines in prices.

Condo prices have been in a steeper and more prolonged decline. They fell 5.3 percent in October from a year eralier, the fifth straight decline on that basis. A big chunk of the nation’s condos are in markets that were once red hot but have now cooled significantly. The median condo price is now down 7.5 percent from the high reached in June 2005.

Neuhart said he was is encouraged that the number of homes sold last month ticked up slightly from September, rising to an annual rate of 6.24 million from 6.21 million. It was the first month-over-month increase since February, and it topped the forecast of a 6.14 million sales pace forecast by economists surveyed by Briefing.com. But Neuhart said a one-month gain is not enough to project the beginning of a turnaround in the pace of sales.

The trade group also characterized the increase as a sign that the overall real estate market is at least stabilizing.

“The present level of home sales demonstrates some confidence in the market, but sales are lower than sustainable due to psychological factors,” said David Lereah, chief economist for the Realtors. “The demographics of our growing population, historically low and declining mortgage interest rates, and healthy job creation mean the wherewithal is there to buy homes in most of the country, but many buyers remain on the sidelines. After a period of price adjustment, we’ll see more confidence in the market and a lift to home sales should be apparent in the first quarter of 2007.”

Still the October sales pace is down 11.5 percent from a year earlier. And the slower sales has led to the glut of homes on the market, with supply rising once again to a record 3.9 million existing homes for sale, up 1.9 percent from September, and 34.4 percent from a year earlier.

The huge increases in home prices a year ago sparked the building spree that flooded the market with new homes and helped lead to the current downturn, despite relatively low mortgage rates and low unemployment, two conditions that normally support further price appreciation.

Not only did BUILDERS build a record number of homes last year, but many were bought by investors who were looking to turn a profit on the purchase, rather than live in the home. Many of those buyers are now looking to sell the homes.

The existing home sales report comes the day before the government reading on new home sales, which showed a 9.7 percent year-over-year drop in median new home prices in the September report. Major builders, including Pulte Home (Charts), Centex (Charts), D.R. Horton (Charts), Lennar (Charts), KB Home (Charts) and Toll Brothers (Charts) have all seen sales and earnings fall in the face of the housing slowdown, with many warning the sector has yet to find a bottom.

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THE NEXT RECESSION PART 2
HOMEOWNER DEBT TO EQUITY AT RECORD HIGH
HOME PRICES SHOW FIRST ANNUAL FALL IN 11 YEARS
HOME FORECLOSURES ON THE RISE
HOUSING MARKET IN TROUBLE
HOUSING DOWNTURN
MIDDLE CLASS AND BROKE
MIDDLE CLASS, PROFESSIONAL, AND BROKE
MIDDLE CLASS FAMILIES IN WORSE SHAPE THAN EVER

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Monday, November 27, 2006

DOD Report to Detail Dangers of Foreign Software

Task force says U.S. adversaries may sabotage code developed overseas
By Gary Anthes
Computerworld
November 27, 2006

A U.S. Department of Defense task force early next year plans to warn the Pentagon of a growing threat to national security from ADVERSARIES who could insert malicious code in software DEVELOPED OVERSEAS.

The Defense Science Board, a military/civilian think tank within the DOD, will issue a report that calls for a variety of prevention and detection measures but stops short of recommending that all software procured by the military be written in the U.S., said the head of the task force that has been studying the so-called FOREIGN influence issue.

The possibility that programmers might hide Trojan horses, trapdoors and other malware inside the code they writeis hardly a new concern. But the DSB will say in its report that three forces the greater complexity of systems, their increased connectivity and the globalization of the software industry ח have combined to make the malware threat increasingly acute for the DOD.

“This is a VERY BIG DEAL,” said Paul Strassmann, a professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and a former CIO at the Pentagon. “The fundamental issue is that one day, under conditions where we will badly need communications, we will have a denial of service and have billion-dollar weapons unable to function.”

Robert Lucky, the chairman of the DSB task force, said this month that all the code the DOD procures is at risk, from business software to so-called mission software that supports war-fighting efforts.

The problem is we have a strategy now for net-centric warfare everything is connected. And if the adversary is inside your network, you are totally vulnerable, said Lucky, who is an independent IT consultant and engineer.

The private sector faces similar threats and has already begun to adopt some of the practices the DSB is likely to recommend to the Pentagon, said John Pescatore, an information security analyst at Gartner Inc. The same risks also apply to software developed in the U.S., he added.

“This is a major concern, but not just when it goes OFFSHORE," Pescatore said. He called the focus on offshore developers xenophobia but said the software security concerns raised by the DOD should serve as a useful wake-up call for all organizations that buy software.

Lucky agreed that a risk exists with U.S.-developed software but said it is greater when code is written overseas. The goal for users should be to make informed trade-offs between the level of risk and the economics of developing software, he said. For example, malware risks could be greatly reduced by having only people with U.S. security clearances writesoftware, but that would boost software development costs by three to 10 times, according to Lucky.

The DSB task force, which was commissioned by the Pentagon in October 2005, has been deliberating in secret. However, its report will be unclassified and is scheduled to be made available to the public soon after the first of the year.

Protective Measures

Lucky declined to comment on what the task force will recommend. But in response to industry fears he said that it won’t call for all of the software used by the DOD to be developed in the U.S.

Meanwhile, he cited the following measures as worthwhile protective steps:

* Requiring peer reviews in which multiple programmers review code and test results. However, that increases development costs, Lucky noted.
* Running scan tools that look for dangerous code hidden in software. But they’re imperfect, Lucky said. “They cant find everything.”
* Enforcing industry standards that can contribute to quality software code for example, the Common Criteria standards, officially known as ISO 15408, for evaluating information security.

“Its almost an insolvable problem to think you can findall the possible problems with code,Ҕ Lucky said. What you can do, though, is raise the bar. Through inspection and testing and so forth, you can eliminate a certain percentage of problems.”

A spokesman for the DOD said it couldnt comment on the upcoming report last week. The report was requested by Kenneth Krieg, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, who wrote in a memo last year that the DOD needed a better understanding of how much ғforeign-influenced software is embedded in its systems and the risks the military would face if code were compromised.

Ira Winkler, author of the book Spies Among Us (Wiley, 2005), a former analyst at the National Security Agency and a Computerworld columnist, said that the kinds of measures outlined by Lucky may be useful but that there is a much more obvious step.

“If there is one line of code written overseas, thats one line too many,” Winkler said. Developing it in the U.S. is not perfect, but we are talking about an exponential increase in risk by moving it overseas.

Winkler said the U.S. government typically buys systems that bundle the hardware, an operating system, a database and other components in addition to the application code. You can put back doors and Trojans in any layer of that environment, not just in the custom code,” he warned.

Indeed, the upcoming report is a follow-on to one released last year that detailed the risks of procuring microchips from foreign suppliers. The DSB called that practice directly contrary to the best interest of the DOD and wrote that opportunities for adversaries to clandestinely manipulate technology used in critical U.S. microelectronics applications are enormous and increasing.”

However, the buy American solution isnt as simple as it once would have been. With the globalization of the IT industry, many U.S. software vendors have set up overseas operations, and many have citizens of other countries working for them in the U.S. In addition, some software is based on integrated sets of components that are developed in different countries and would be difficult to tease apart if a U.S.-only procurement policy were adopted.

Phillip Bond, president of the Information Technology Association of America, said he expects the DSB task force to recommend that the Pentagon assign varying risk levels to software, with different procurement rules for each level.

The danger would be if they deem too risky most commercial software, because in almost any software, there is some piece, some lines of code, written somewhere else around the world, he said.

Bond said the ITAA has commissioned the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington to conduct its own examination of the risks posed by overseas software development. The ITAA expects that study to be completed at about the same time the DSB issues its report.

Pescatore recommended that the DOD and other users deploy tools that scan software for vulnerabilities and perform fuzz testing, in which programs are deluged with streams of random data intended to evoke every possible response they can make.

But no single measure is likely to completely safeguard software, Lucky cautioned. There are very clever things that can be done, he said. And were talking about complexity that boggles the mind. It’s so enormous that no one can truly understand a program with millions of lines of source code.

SOURCE

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The Soul Of A New Microsoft

Cover Story
BusinessWeek
December 4, 2006

At 3:32 p.m. on Oct. 19 an e-mail flashed across the screens of the 230 MICROSOFT employees working slavishly to bring the ZUNE music player to market. The sender was their brash team leader, J Allard, 37. The message included a link to an old video of Steve Jobs on YouTube, mocking Microsoft’s creativity. “The only problem with Microsoft is that they have no taste,” the Apple Computer boss says. “They have absolutely no taste.”

Allard was using one of the oldest motivational tricks in the book--his version of a football coach posting an opponent’s quote on the locker room wall. “I for one...want to see this guy eat his words,” Allard wrote. “Those are fighting words. He is speaking to every one of us and saying that we don’t get it.”

Zune hit store shelves on Nov. 14--a mere eight months after Allard’s team got the go-ahead for the seemingly impossible task of toppling Apple’s iPod music player. Contrast that with the five years and some 10,000 Microsoft Corp. workers it took to give birth to the latest version of the company’s Windows operating system, Vista, which begins selling to corporate customers on Nov. 30 (and to consumers in January). From the start, Vista has seemed like an anachronism--packaged software in a Web 2.0 era where ever more applications are moving off the PC and onto the Internet, some springing forth in a matter of weeks. Microsoft Chief Executive Steven A. Ballmer vows that this time-consuming process of cranking out code, which created complexity and bogged down development, will never be repeated.

No one’s suggesting that Zune will have anywhere near the impact of VISTA. In its early form, it is clearly no iPod killer. It’s bulkier and more of a battery hog, and the Zune Marketplace doesn’t offer as many songs or videos as Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes does. Plus, you pay for them with a confusing point system instead of dollars and cents. Zune will be lucky to sell 3 million units its first year and is sure to lose money for the foreseeable future. Vista, on the other hand, should run on about 76 million PCs by the end of 2007, says Roger Kay, founder of research firm Endpoint Technologies Associates. Vista sales should help fuel an $11.5 billion contribution to operating profits from Windows in the current fiscal year, says Credit Suisse First Boston analyst Jason Maynard.

But maybe the point is that Microsoft needs to find its un-Vista. Several of them, in fact. The software giant is entering perhaps the greatest upheaval in its 30-year history. New BUSINESS MODELS are emerging--from low-cost “open-source” software to advertising-supported Web services--that threaten Microsoft’s core business like never before. For investors to care about the company, it needs to find new growth markets. Its $44.3 billion in annual sales are puttering along at an 11% growth pace. Its shares, which soared 9,560% throughout the 1990s, sunk 63% in 2000 when the Internet bubble burst, and they have yet to fully recover.

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Posted by Elvis on 11/27/06 •
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