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In the latest round of the War On
Tourism Terrorism, the USA will now require visitors to register online 3 days prior to entering the country. I'm guessing that the old system (in which tourists filled a card in on the plane and handed it in at immigration) was letting in just too many terrorists or something. That certainly won't be a problem with the new system; the online registraion process will ask the visitor whether or not they're a terrorist, allowing Homeland Security agents to intercept terrorists (at least the less bright ones) before they leave the plane.
A Russian government agency is now making noises about requiring all WiFi devices to be registered. This will include not only access points, but laptops, VoIP phones, handheld game consoles and so on. The Russian Mass Media, Communications and Cultural Protection Service reserves the right to confiscate any unregistered devices:
According to Karpov’s statement, registering a PDA or telephone would take 10 days. Then, only the owner of the device would be licensed to use it. Registering a Wi-Fi hotspot, on the other hand, would be more difficult. Anyone wishing to set up as much as a personal home-network would need to file a complete set of documents, as well as technological certifications. Networks in Moscow or St. Petersburg would also need approval from the Federal Security Guard Service (FSO) and the Federal Security Service (FSB).The FSB, of course, used to be known as the KGB, and is closely tied to the administration of Vladimir Putin.
WIRED News has an article on the Kafkaesque world of US "terrorist watch lists". If your name (or some approximation thereof; which is why it can suck to have a common Arabic name) appears on them, you can be detained for interrogation should you attempt to board a flight in the US, or denied credit. You are not entitled to any explanation and have no right to recourse, and the very existence of some of these watchlists, or how many there are, is not officially acknowledged. Which, as you can imagine, lends itself to abuse:
Despite that, last month constitutional scholar Walter F. Murphy, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence Emeritus at Princeton University, found himself unable to check in curbside at a New Mexico airport. A check-in clerk with American Airlines told him it was because he was on a "terrorist watch list," Murphy says.
"One of them, I don't remember which one, asked me, 'Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying for that,'" recalls Murphy. "I said, 'No, but I did give a speech criticizing George Bush,' and he said, 'That will do it.'"
While there are almost no American citizens on the OFAC list, it is routinely used during home purchases, credit checks and even apartment rentals, and has caused people with common Latino and Muslim names to be denied mortgages for having a name that only vaguely resembles a name on the list, according to a recent report (.pdf) from the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights.
Under a new European Commission proposal, any web sites featuring moving images may soon be subject to the same regulations as broadcast television:
Ministers fear that the directive would hit not only successful sites such as YouTube but also amateur "video bloggers" who post material on their own sites. Personal websites would have to be licensed as a "television-like service".Didn't they introduce a law like this in Australia a few moral panics ago? What has been the experience there? Have web sites taken down video content because of it? Or is it tacitly recognised that the law is unworkable and that its purpose is to provide a new offence for which otherwise legitimate troublemakers can be prosecuted where expedient?
Something to keep in mind as you fill in your tax return: The Australian Federal Court has ruled that a convicted heroin dealer can claim a tax deduction for money lost during a failed drug deal.
This reminds me of something I heard many years ago: a man filled in his tax return forms, giving his profession as "burglar". The ATO allowed him to claim his burglary implements as tax deductions, but not the cost of travelling to/from the premises he robbed.
When the European Union recently sent a probe to Mars, they had to deal with a number of issues, such as which language to have the count-down in:
During the research period they realised that the rocket would actually be too heavy to get off the ground unless they got rid of that manual printed in all 37 European dialects. But in the end this week's launch was an enormous example of European cooperation and every country agreed on one thing: that it was their own scientists who had made the greatest contribution to this success. What's more, this milestone shows that Europe now rivals the US when it comes to space exploration.
But not everybody's enthusiastic about the exciting possibilities of space exploration:
This ought to be a mission to inspire our imaginations, but there are plenty of us on the left who are instinctively cynical about any sort of technological breakthrough. And this because underneath it all, there is a vague suspicion that all science is somehow vaguely rightwing. That everything from double physics on Thursday afternoons to man landing on the moon is the sort of nerdy boy's stuff that ought to be automatically sneered at by any self-respecting old leftie. Never mind that science has brought us the cure to countless diseases and clean water and warm homes and laserjet printers that work almost 50% of the time. The bottom line is that the kids who wanted chemistry sets for Christmas were not the ones wearing Rock Against Racism badges or going on the CND marches; indeed they could probably only see nuclear explosions as a fascinating cosmic phenomenon. So for generations on the British left there has been a lazy hostility to any major scientific achievement, whether it was cloning a sheep or keeping Margaret Thatcher's hair fixed in place.
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