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IM giants told to work it out. A consortium of financial services giants, which are getting into instant messaging, wants to force interoperability among ICQ, AIM, Yahoo Messenger and MSN Messenger. “The call for interoperability comes as corporations are beginning to look more seriously at IM as a communications tool within the office–a trend that has IM providers salivating at the thought of turning what has been mostly a free service into a paid product.” CNET

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“How Would The Bush Administration’s Claims Of Self-defense, Used As Justifications For War Against Iraq, Fare Under Domestic Rules Of Self-defense?” Joseph Fletcher, professor of jrusiprudence at Columbia, argues that the administration’s claim of “self-defense” in justifying its coming war against Iraq is “banal”. Most aggressors lay claim to self-defense and broaden the claim to include preemptive actions that do not pass muster with legal standards that require an “imminent unlawful attack”. International law, in fact, is even more extreme; the UN Charter, e.g., requires not just an imminent but an actual attack to invoke the right of self-defense. The US’s threat to Iraq meets neither standard but may be justifiable under other alternative, lesser, legal arguments, e.g. that a danger so great exists that ‘an attack is “immediately necessary” on this “present occasion” ‘. However, the US fails to make international law arguments even when some may be applicable. FindLaw

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After Baghdad, What?

Iraq war hawks have plans to reshape entire Middle East: “As the Bush administration debates going to war against Iraq, its most hawkish members are pushing a sweeping vision for the Middle East that sees the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq as merely a first step in the region’s transformation.

The argument for reshaping the political landscape in the Mideast has been pushed for years by some Washington think tanks and in hawkish circles. It is now being considered as a possible US policy with the ascent of key hard-liners in the administration…” Boston Globe

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Fate of the WTC Businesses

Year of Struggle and Change:

When the World Trade Center towers fell, they took more with them than human lives. A huge segment of the downtown economy collapsed with the falling steel and concrete, and the disaster encompassed far more than the large financial firms that are most often identified with the Sept. 11 attacks.

The trade center was home to hundreds of diverse companies, a polyglot village spanning everything from Asian food importers to graphic designers to dentists. Many had inhabited the towers for decades.

Those companies, more than half of which had fewer than 20 employees, became refugees on Sept. 11. Some have folded, overwhelmed by the deaths of owners or employees or undone by a lack of cash. Others have eked out a living in kitchens and basements. Some have relocated to Florida or Texas, while others have insisted on staying within a few blocks of ground zero. Some, miraculously, have flourished, growing even as the local economy foundered.

The New York Times set out to chronicle the fate of the complex’s tenants as they struggled to re-establish themselves over the past year. After compiling lists of tenants from several sources, The Times estimates that about 700 companies and organizations occupied the trade center buildings. Defining a more precise number, however, is difficult because so many of the companies were subtenants whose occupancy did not appear on official lists.

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Why Aren’t U.S. Journalists Reporting From Iraq?

‘This week we are finally getting to the core excuse from the Bush administration for attacking Iraq right now. Vice President Dick Cheney, in an interview with CNN’s John King on Sunday, laid it out nice and simple, the way they like it back in Wyoming: “We have to worry about the possible marriage, if you will, of a rogue state like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq with a terrorist organization like Al Qaeda.”

This notion that the Iraqi leader is in cahoots with Osama will be easy to feed the American people. To the American people, one bad Arab is the same as the next, and Osama equals Saddam. People who wonder about the Bush war-urgency only need to think about this: There’s a blind spot that needs to be exploited now, before too many journalists get the idea to go inside Iraq and find out what’s really happening.’ TomPaine.com [via Walker]

…by Nina Burleigh, who has written for The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and New York magazine. As a reporter for TIME, she was among the first American journalists to enter Iraq after the Gulf War.

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Dual appendages:

Fossil find reveals world’s oldest penises: “A perfectly preserved shellfish fossil over 100 million years old has revealed a surprising feature – the oldest penis in the world. The fossil, a one millimetre-wide crustacean called an ostracod, was found in Brazil and examined by David Siveter at the University of Leicester. It was preserved with its shell open displayed another surprise – not one but two penises…” New Scientist

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Fla. Terror Scare:

It Turns Out It is a Possible ‘Hoax’:

‘Three men reportedly overheard talking about a terrorist plot were pulled over and detained for 17 hours Friday before authorities said the men were apparently kidding around and released them.

“If this was a hoax, they will be charged,” Collier County Sheriff Don Hunter said angrily after an all-day search of the men’s two cars turned up no sign of explosives.’Yahoo!

So the ‘terrorists’ are damned if they are and damned if they aren’t ; this seems to indicate that the intention to ‘hoax’ comes from them. However, Plastic‘s take on the issue

, unfortunately without much attribution, is that the dissembling comes from the supposed informant:

‘…Several people who went to High School with Eunice Stone, the woman who reported the trio to the FBI, were quoted as saying ‘Oh yeah, Eunice always was a gossipy bitch, trying to start trouble and get attention with her lies.’ Neighbors also reported that Mrs Stone was ‘Overly intrusive into other people’s lives…with a tendency to excite the situation at someone else’s expense.”

“CNN, Fox News, and Yahoo somehow all managed to quote the same person, but not quite with the same quote. After reading several ‘quotes’ carefully I can say with some conviction that there is enough variation in what she ‘heard’ that I would feel safe in saying she didn’t hear it at all. Perhaps even more vindictively filling in information that she thought she heard, and then passing that along without mentioning that maybe she didn’t hear it so well, and maybe didn’t hear it at all but just made it all up in her head.’

I have wondered for a year why we haven’t heard more irresponsible hoaxing and tattletale tales. The boy-who-cries-wolf hysteria of the current administration’s repeated terror alerts certainly guarantees such attention-getting maneuvers will get what their perpetrators’ hearts desire…

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Pentagon to Troops in Afghanistan:

‘Shape Up and Dress Right’:

For several months, the Special Operations Forces soldiers whom the United States sent to Afghanistan have been growing beards and donning local garb in an effort to blend in with the local people and their surroundings.

But last weekend, the story goes here, Pentagon brass were shocked by news photos of scruffy looking Special Operations Forces swinging into action to help abort the assassination attempt here against President Hamid Karzai in which his companion, Gul Agha Shirzai, governor of Kandahar Province, was wounded.

“On Monday,” said a Special Operations Forces officer, leaning against the mud wall of a local bazaar, “we got the word: some general in Washington ordered no more beards.” NY Times [thanks, Abby]

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Boston’s ‘Big Dig’:

Imagine my delight to find the UK’s Sp!ked covering my hometown’s ‘Big Dig’, the largest public works project in history.

“The construction of tunnels under the old highway, while the traffic flows unimpeded, has required some innovative technology. Sub-zero temperature brine is pumped through pipes to freeze the ground solid. Tunnelling can then take place without disturbing roads, trains, or building foundations, and when this is complete the ground thaws out.”

And here’s The Big Dig’s website.

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Who’s he?

William F. Buckley, Jr. reviews Joseph Epstein’s Snobbery:

Joseph Epstein’s new book about snobbery ends up being a book about Joseph Ep- stein, which is perfectly okay—provided one is Joseph Epstein. Another’s book about snobbery, displaying the author’s biography, his likes and dislikes, suspicions, affections, affectations, crotchets, would not guarantee against a reader’s strayed attention. There isn’t the slightest risk of this happening upon reading Epstein’s book, because he is perhaps the wittiest writer (working in his genre) alive, the funniest since Randall Jarrell. The New Criterion [via Walker]

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Even More Forbidden:

Forbidden thoughts about 9/11: The readers respond. Six pages that read like this:

In the days and weeks that followed the attacks I found myself worrying about the rescue dogs that were working the site. There were reports in the media almost daily about injuries to the dogs (and in some cases deaths) and I found myself wondering if it was really that important to recover things like concrete splashed with the victim’s DNA. Salon [via Spike]