Thursday, 13 March 2008

Wednesday, 12th March 2008


1011





David Pogue reviews the 'greener' options in portable music and video players
Yeah, yeah, O.K., so the glaciers are melting, polar bears are becoming extinct and oceanfront property will soon open up in Philadelphia. But c'mon, people, try to look at the bright side.
Consider this: The new environmental awareness is unleashing a wave of innovation in every category of technology - including portable music and video players.
And how, you may ask, can an iPod-wannabe be green?
By being totally self-powered, for one thing. Already, there are two such players: the Media Street eMotion Solar ($160 to $190, capacities from 1 to 4 gigabytes) and the Baylis Eco Media Player ($350, 2 gigabytes). Neither needs batteries or power from a cord; they can live completely off the grid.

GADGETS OF THE WEEK
Gadget charger aims to reduce cord clutter
The area on and around many bedside tables has become a rat's nest of charger wires for phones and other gadgets. The Idapt intends to change that with a unique triple charger that can also match the duvet cover. The Idapt is a flat charger with one power cable and three slots to hold various charging "tips." To charge phones or MP3 players you simply place the proper tip into the Idapt and connect the device. There are tips for the iPod, Nokia phones and Nintendo DS Lite, among others. There is also a mini-USB charger that should work with almost any phone or digital music player.
The Idapt, which is made by a Spanish company, is available online at www.idaptweb.com for about $65.50. Next month, it will come in multiple colors but for now you are limited to black and white.

OBITUARY
PARIS
Lazare Ponticelli, the last French soldier to have endured the horrors of World War I, died at the age of 110 on Wednesday, President Nicolas Sarkozy said.
"Through him, I bow to the millions of 'poilus' who responded with exemplary everyday courage to the call of the invaded homeland," Sarkozy said, using the French word commonly used in France to describe the unshaven men on the front lines.
Sarkozy said there would be a national ceremony in coming days to honor all French soldiers who fought in the Great War, which broke out in 1914 and ended in 1918 and left about 1.4 million French dead and 4.5 million wounded.
The president's statement gave no cause or details of Ponticelli's death, but an official at the president's office said Ponticelli died at his home in Kremlin-Bicêtre, near Paris, on Wednesday morning.
Until this year, Ponticelli said he did not want a state funeral. But when the second-to-last soldier, Louis de Cazenave, died in January, also aged 110, Ponticelli specified that he would accept a simple ceremony, although he emphasized that the honors should go to those who had perished in battle.
Ponticelli was born in Bettola, northern Italy, on Dec. 7, 1897, and arrived in the French town of Nogent-sur-Marne in 1906, when he was 9, according to the veterans' office at French Defense Ministry. He first worked as a chimney sweep in Nogent-sur-Marne and later sold newspapers on the streets of Paris. When war broke out, Ponticelli dug ditches to bury the dead and then dug the trenches that became an enduring symbol as troops from France, Britain and the allied powers fought forces from Germany, Austria-Hungary and their allies in battles that frequently meant the gain, or loss, of just a few meters of muddy ground.
Sarkozy said Ponticelli was so dedicated to defending his adopted country that he had cheated on his age to join French forces in August 1914, when he was still 16. The following year, Ponticelli, who did not obtain French citizenship until after the war, was conscripted by the Italian Army and fought the Austrian Army in the mountainous Tyrol.
In an undated interview provided by the Defense Ministry, Ponticelli described how he had been shot but continued firing his rifle until Austrian troops waved white cloths to signal their defeat. "Blood was running into my eyes," said Ponticelli. "I told myself that if I stopped, I was dead," he said, adding that, "I continued firing despite my wound."
Ponticelli said he was forced to remain in Italy until 1920 but returned to France, where one year later he founded a heating and pipe company that Sarkozy said still has thousands of employees. During World War II, Ponticelli kept his business going in the southern part of the country before joining the Paris resistance, in 1942.
http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/03/12/europe/veteran.php









NEW YORK
In a widely cited report published last November, a research firm projected that user demand for the Internet could outpace network capacity by 2011. The title of a debate scheduled next month at a technology conference in Boston sums up the angst: "The End of the Internet?"
"The Internet doesn't collapse, but there would be a growing class of stuff you just can't do online," said Johna Till Johnson, president of Nemertes Research, which predicted the bandwidth crunch by 2011, anticipating demand growth of 100 percent or more a year.
Others are less worried, at least in the short term. Andrew Odlyzko, a professor at the University of Minnesota, estimates that digital traffic on the global network is growing about 50 percent a year, in line with a recent analysis by Cisco Systems, the big network equipment maker.

BORMIO, Italy
[23-year-old American skier Lindsey] Vonn, formerly known by her maiden name of Kildow, clinched the World Cup [Alpine downhill] season title last month and received the traditional crystal globe trophy that went with it here on Wednesday. She received it without racing: the season's final women's downhill race was canceled because of soft snow on the bottom of the course.
"It's surreal that it's finally come through," she said of the title, which she first began daydreaming about when she was 9 years old and met Street, the irrepressible American speed demon who would soon be in possession of her downhill globe.
"She really inspired me," Vonn said. "Seeing the globe inspired me to want to win it, and I've been working hard to get there ever since."




BOOK REVIEW
There are few subjects more timely than the one tackled by Susan Jacoby in her new book, “The Age of American Unreason,” in which she asserts that “America is now ill with a powerful mutant strain of intertwined ignorance, anti-rationalism and anti-intellectualism.”
For more than a decade there have been growing symptoms of this affliction, from fundamentalist assaults on the teaching of evolution to the Bush administration’s willful disavowal of expert opinion on
global warming and strategies for prosecuting the war in Iraq. Conservatives have turned the term “intellectual,” like the term “ liberal,” into a dirty word in politics (even though neo-conservative intellectuals played a formative role in making the case for war against Iraq); policy positions tend to get less attention than personality and tactics in the current presidential campaign; and the democratizing influence of the Internet is working to banish expertise altogether, making everyone an authority on everything. Traditional policy channels involving careful analysis and debate have been circumvented by the Bush White House in favor of bold, gut-level calls, and reasoned public discussions have increasingly given way to noisy partisan warfare among politicians, commentators and bloggers alike.Meanwhile, studies show that American students are falling behind students from other developed countries in science and math, and that ignorance of basic civics class fundamentals, not to mention basic liberal arts concepts, is widespread. Ms. Jacoby notes that two-thirds of Americans cannot name the three branches of government or come up with the name of a single Supreme Court justice. She cites one survey finding that American 15-year-olds rank 24th out of those from 29 countries in mathematical literacy, and another indicating that only 57 percent of adult Americans had read a nonfiction book in a year.

As Ms. Jacoby sees it, there are several key reasons for “the resurgent American anti-intellectualism of the past 20 years.” To begin with, television, video games and the Internet have created a “culture of distraction” that has shortened attention spans and left people with “less time and desire” for “two human activities critical to a fruitful and demanding intellectual life: reading and conversation.” The eclipse of print culture by video culture began in the 1960s, Ms. Jacoby argues, adding that the ascendance of youth culture in that decade also promoted an attitude denigrating the importance of tradition, history and knowledge.By the ’80s, she goes on, self-education was giving way to self-improvement, core curriculums were giving way to classes intended to boost self-esteem, and old-fashioned striving after achievement was giving way to a rabid pursuit of celebrity and fame. The old middlebrow culture, which prized information and aspiration — and which manifested itself, during the post-World War II years, in a growing number of museums and symphony orchestras, and a Book-of-the-Month club avidity for reading — was replaced by a mass culture that revolved around television and blockbuster movies and rock music. It was also in the ’60s, Ms. Jacoby writes, that a resurgent fundamentalism “received a jolt of adrenaline from both the civil rights laws” in the early years of that decade and the later “cultural rebellions.” She succinctly records the long history of fundamentalism in America, arguing that poorly educated settlers on the frontier were drawn to religious creeds that provided emotional comfort without intellectual demands, just as “the American experiment in complete religious liberty led large numbers of Americans to embrace anti-rational, anti-intellectual forms of faith.” She is less successful, however, in explaining why, in the 21st century, Americans remain so much more religious than the rest of the developed world, and why matters like abortion, homosexual marriage,
stem cell research and the teaching of evolution — which are not particularly divisive in an increasingly secular Europe — have become wedge issues in the United States.The other thing that sets America apart from Europe, Ms. Jacoby argues, is this country’s insistence on local control of schools, which means that “children in the poorest areas of the country would have the worst school facilities and teachers with the worst training” and that “the content of education in the most backward areas of the country would be determined by backward people.”“In Europe,” she writes, “the subject matter of science and history lessons taught to children in all publicly supported schools has always been determined by highly educated employees of central education ministries. In America the image of an educated elite laying down national guidelines for schools was and is a bête noire for those who consider local control of education a right almost as sacred as any of the rights enumerated in the Constitution.”The ignorance resulting from the absence of national education standards, combined with the resurgent anti-intellectualism now abroad in the land, Ms. Jacoby concludes in this useful if less than electrifying volume, is dangerous for any country, but especially dangerous for a democracy. As Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”





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OPINION
Well-connected men, however, have typically sought out sex workers who have been recommended by their friends and who don't have Web sites. Escort agencies are supposed to be out of the question for old-school rakes who want to protect their marriages and careers.In my experience [as a former sex worker], a sense of personal connection in these customers' sex lives makes them feel safer. Not all sex clients are junkies for risk or adventure-seekers. Many are cautious and can't enjoy sex unless they're in a calm, secure environment.After the Spitzer news broke, Alan Dershowitz explained away Spitzer's ill-advised choice by making silly generalizations about men who pay for sex - that they don't use their brains. But I encountered plenty of men who used their brains just fine.From all accounts, Eliot Spitzer doesn't seem to be one of them.
http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/03/12/opinion/edtran.php




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COMMENTARY
FAITH-INSPIRED MOVEMENTS
I faced a packed church of hundreds of twenty-something evangelicals who want to be a generation of new abolitionists - focusing on the most vulnerable people in our world today. They suspect that Jesus would likely care more about the 30,000 children who die globally each day due to unnecessary poverty and preventable disease than he might worry about gay marriage amendments in Ohio. This emerging generation is the leading edge of a new movement of "progressive evangelicals."

Historians call these moments "great awakenings" when the revival of faith leads to big changes in society like the abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, child labor law reform, and, most famously, civil rights. That we may be on the edge of such a time again has been almost entirely missed by a media obsessed with the political horse race, including changing religious voting trends.

http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/03/12/opinion/edwallis.php




COMMENTARY
GLOBALIST
Most of the roses I saw were destined for the Sainsbury's supermarket chain in Britain, with a price tag of the equivalent of $10 already applied. I asked Helen Buyaki, aged 27, one of 1,800 employees at the farm, what she earns. She said, "4,500 shillings a month." That's 70 bucks.
Look at the global economy one way and Buyaki earns the equivalent of seven bunches of roses for a month's labor. That smacks of exploitation. Look at it another and she has a job she'd never have had until globalization came along.
I say what's going on here is hopeful. It's a primer in how and why globalization can be good for humanity - and not just rich humanity. As Milbank pointed out, "More and more people want a socially and ethically acceptable rose."
What does that mean? It means Longonot has worked to acquire "fair trade" certification from the International Fair Trade Association, a group that insists producers show concern for the social well-being of workers in industries from flowers to coffee. Europeans and Americans are increasingly demanding "fair trade" products.
So Buyaki, like others, gets free health care. Workers spraying chemicals have the right protective clothing. Use of chemicals is cut by the breeding of tiny predatory mites that feed on flower-eating mites, and by the production of natural compost.
Being anti-globalization is dumb. A good way to improve globalization, as national capitalist economies were once improved, is to insist on fair trade certification. Africans don't need charity; they need the jobs globalization brings. They also need the developed world's social and environmental pressure.
It makes sense to produce flowers here. The carbon footprint of a Kenyan rose is much smaller than that of a Dutch rose grown with artificial heating and lighting.
http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/03/12/opinion/edcohen.php
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PARIS
It looks a bit like a child's toy, a walkie-talkie circa 1975, a cheap plastic throwback to the good old days when telephones were made for talking.
But to Spice Ltd., a telecommunications company in the world's fastest-growing phone market, this new product embodies the latest, greatest innovation in cellphone technology today: a handset priced at less than $20.
Spice, which is based in Noida, India, unveiled what it is branding "the People's Phone" at a wireless industry conference in Barcelona last month. The handset is an anomaly among mobile phones today: The number keys are big and bold. It is chunky and has no color screen - in fact, it has no screen at all. Nothing about it flips, folds or slides. It is, as Spice's chairman, Bhupendra Kumar Modi, described it, "just a phone."
Yet if sales unfold according to Modi's plan, Spice could sell as many of the People's Phone as Apple sells of its iPhone, which sits at the other end of the coolness - and price - spectrum, with a price tag of $399 in the United States and more in some other markets. Both companies are aiming for sales of 10 million phones in their first year, which would be about a 1 percent share of the global market in 2008.
"There is a massive need for these phones," said Paul Shoker, president of Spice Mobile. "We are targeting an area from Iraq to Indonesia, and that area has a population of 2.5 billion."
Spice has orders for about 1 million of the People's Phone, and expressions of interest have come in from Mexico, Africa and Indonesia, Modi said, as well as Europe. "They're asking about the phone in the market for the very young and the very old," he said.
The phone is made by ZTE Technologies in China from a design by Spice, a point of pride for a country that tends to do a lot of back-office work for other, more industrialized economies.
"India also has to give its products to the world," Modi said. "We have some products that are world-class, designed by us."
Previous attempts to make a sub-$20 phone, he said, have not made a big difference because manufacturers started with mid-grade phones and began removing features.
"We went zero-based. We designed a special chip for it, we designed a special battery for it," he said. "We are starting at $20, but we can get it further down."
Isn't India a big enough market to contain Spice's ambitions? "I don't think so," Modi said with a laugh.
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WASHINGTON
More investment in math and science education and a more liberal policy toward skilled foreign workers are crucial if the United States is to avoid losing its competitive edge in the world, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates told Congress Wednesday.
The toughest sell was the position of Gates, and others in high tech industries, that Congress raise the current cap of 65,000 H-1B visas, nonimmigrant visas that allow employers to hire foreign nationals with specific skills. The program also allows another 20,000 visas for foreign nationals receiving masters or doctoral degrees from U.S. universities.
Current limits, he said have led to a "serious disruption" in the flow of talented science, technology, engineering and math graduates to U.S. companies. Gates said Microsoft and other firms have been forced to locate staff in countries more open to skilled foreign workers . Last year, Microsoft was unable to obtain H-1B visas for one-third of the qualified foreign-born job candidates it wanted to hire.
Sen. Charles Grassley, a Republican who has pressed for changes to the H-1B program, on Wednesday wrote Gates, saying "I'm concerned that some companies are more concerned about their bottom line than about the dire need to better educate and train American students and workers. The solution is not, in my opinion, importing more foreign workers." He said he was offering legislation requiring companies to make a good-faith effort to hire Americans before employing an H-1B visa holder.
"Our goal is not to replace the job of the B students with the A student from India," Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican told Gates.
Gates replied that the demand for skilled employees ensures that wages will not be depressed and said that Microsoft adds an average of four employees to support each H-1B hire.
He said 59 percent of doctoral degrees in the sciences and engineering now go to temporary residents. "It makes no sense to educate people in our universities ... and then insist that they return home."



LONDON
Carlyle Group, the U.S. private equity firm run by David Rubenstein, said Wednesday that losses at its $16 billion mortgage-bond fund would not hurt the company's 59 other private equity and venture capital funds.

"The challenges facing CCC will have no measurable impact on any other fund, " Carlyle said. Carlyle Group is working "tirelessly" with Carlyle Capital to "maximise value for all interested parties," the firm added.
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BIRMINGHAM, Alabama
In 2002, a banker named Charles E. LeCroy arrived here with a novel pitch to ease taxpayers’ burden. Some Wall Street wizardry, he said, could lighten their load.
Six years on, officials here are still struggling to untangle the financial web that Mr. LeCroy and his fellow bankers spun. Jefferson County is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy after a series of exotic bond deals that the bankers concocted went wrong, and the interest on its debts, rather than shrinking as the bankers had promised, has ballooned like a bad subprime mortgage.
Officials from Birmingham, the county seat, are trying to persuade Wall Street creditors to let them soften the terms of the deals. If they fail, the county could sink into in one of the biggest public bankruptcies in American history.
The running credit crisis and looming recession are squeezing communities across the country. But perhaps nothing else comes close to the financial fiasco unfolding here.
During the last few years, Jefferson County entered into a series of complex transactions, called swaps, worth a staggering $5.4 billion. The accusations and recriminations are flying. Talk of Wall Street tricks — and local corruption — has captivated residents and left many wondering how the county will pay its bills.
“There are 101 messes up there, and they are not all cleaned up yet,” said Jim White, the president of the Birmingham law firm of Porter White, which is advising the county on its finances.
At the heart of this story are Mr. LeCroy, who arranged many of the transactions; a Montgomery investment banker, William Blount, whose firm, Blount Parrish & Company, earned larger fees than any other adviser on the transactions; and Larry P. Langford, the local official who signed off on the deals.
As a managing director at
JPMorgan Chase, Mr. LeCroy persuaded the county to convert its debt from fixed interest rates to adjustable rates. He also recommended that the county use interest-rate swaps that he said would protect it if interest rates rose.
Mr. LeCroy, however, is no longer in the bond business. He landed in prison for three months in 2005 in connection with a municipal corruption case in Philadelphia. He has left JPMorgan Chase and declined to comment for this article.
Mr. Langford, now the mayor of Birmingham, previously oversaw the county’s finances. He says he had no idea what Mr. LeCroy and the many other bankers on the deals were doing, and he asked for Mr. Blount’s help in vetting their proposals.
“I needed somebody to be able to tell me what all that stuff was,” Mr. Langford said in a deposition in June. “And even when they told me, I still don’t understand 99 percent of it.”
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WASHINGTON
The U.S. economy may be coming in for a landing, but the demand for private jets is flying high.
The bustling economies of China and India and newfound oil wealth in countries like Russia have helped keep sales of small executive jets strong. Despite the weakening of corporate profits in the United States, North American plane makers are reporting record orders, many from overseas.
"There is a lot of demand worldwide," said Raymond Jaworowski, an aerospace analyst with Forecast International, a market research company in Newtown, Connecticut. "If the U.S. economy does soften and even if we go into recession, the effects will be insulated somewhat by the growing economies outside the United States."
The overall demand for jets is expected to remain strong in the coming years, said Jaworowski, who forecasted that industrywide nearly 15,000 business jets worth a total of $192 billion would be sold over the next decade. The increase will come in planes of all sizes, he said.






EDITORIAL OBSERVER
Indeed, ageism may be society's last acceptable prejudice. A survey last year by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found 48 percent of respondents were less willing to vote for someone over age 70 as president. McCain is 71. Only atheists did worse in the survey, which found broad acceptance for electing a woman (where only 11 percent would admit they were less likely to vote for a female candidate), a black (4 percent), a Mormon (30 percent), and even that bipartisan political pariah, a longtime Washington politician (15 percent).
The point is not that there is 10 times as much ageism as racism in America today; the point is that it isn't considered impolite to admit it.

A few years ago I attended a diversity seminar at Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business. Our instructor asked us which demographic characteristic we believed most determines a person's outlook and experience. Most of us answered race, others said gender, or maybe class. But no, we were told; it is age that most defines both a person's own sense of identity and the way others view them.
It was a mind-bender at the time, but it makes a kind of native sense: The generation gap may have been bridged over the war or pop music, but it yawns anew over facility with new technologies - a social divide the impact of which isn't even clear yet.

http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/03/12/opinion/edloth.php












JERUSALEM
Israeli undercover troops killed four Palestinian militants in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Wednesday, shattering a five-day lull in violence and threatening Egyptian efforts to mediate a cease-fire.
Among the four were two men, both in their 40s, who had been wanted by the Israelis for years: Muhammad Shehada, the commander of Islamic Jihad in Bethlehem, and Ahmed Balboul, a senior figure in Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades, a militia affiliated with Fatah, the party headed by President Mahmoud Abbas.

In an interview with The New York Times last July, Mr. Balboul said that he was hoping to work out an amnesty deal for himself with the Israelis. “Our intentions are turned toward negotiation,” he said, having come to a meeting in Bethlehem’s Manger Square unarmed.
A Fatah spokesman in Bethlehem, Hassan Abed Rabbo, said Wednesday that the
Palestinian Authority had requested amnesty for Mr. Balboul but that the request was refused. Mr. Abed Rabbo insisted that as an Aksa Brigades leader, Mr. Balboul was not involved in any joint activity with Islamic Jihad, but that he may have been with the other armed men for a sense of security. According to Palestinian reports, Mr. Shehada used to belong to Fatah.

The raid came hours after Ismail Haniya, the leader of the Hamas administration in Gaza, laid out the conditions for a temporary cease-fire with Israel, including a cessation of all Israeli military operations in the West Bank.
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/13/world/middleeast/13mideast.html?st=cse&sq=iSABEL+kERSHNER&scp=8




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CHICAGO
"The Dark Knight," picks up where "Batman Begins" left off, with Oldman's police lieutenant, Jim Gordon, warning about the perils of escalation: that Batman's extreme measures could invite a like response from the criminal element. And sure enough, a deadly new villain, the Joker, emerges to wreak havoc.In a political context this would politely be called an "unintended consequence." (Gotham as Baghdad, anyone?) Nolan doesn't deny the overtones. "As we looked through the comics, there was this fascinating idea that Batman's presence in Gotham actually attracts criminals to Gotham, attracts lunacy," he said. "When you're dealing with questionable notions like people taking the law into their own hands, you have to really ask, where does that lead? That's what makes the character so dark, because he expresses a vengeful desire."
http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/03/11/arts/batman.php




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FRANKFURT
Liechtenstein has issued an international arrest warrant for a man suspected of selling stolen banking data to German authorities that formed the basis of a vast tax-evasion scandal.

The warrant, citing news media reports, said that Kieber may have been supplied with a new identity and travel documents by the German intelligence service.

Kieber's whereabouts are not known, though he is believed to be living in Australia, according to newspaper reports. The German news-magazine Focus reported last week that Kieber told the German intelligence service, the BND, that he worried his life was in danger.
http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/03/12/business/tax.php














NEW YORK
"From those to whom much is given, much is expected," Spitzer said. "I have been given much: the love of my family, the faith and trust of the people of New York and the chance to lead this state. I am deeply sorry that I did not live up to what was expected of me."
"Over the course of my public life, I have insisted — I believe correctly — that people regardless of their position or power take responsibility for their conduct," he said. "I can and will ask no less of myself. For this reason, I am resigning from the office of governor."
On Wednesday, Spitzer ended his speech by pledging to retun to public service outside the political realm, following a period of atonement with his family.
A proud man humbled, he made a final nod to the enduring American belief in the possibility of redemption.
He quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson, who preached the philosophy of self-reliance: "As human beings our greatest glory consists not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."
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PARIS
Asked whether the United States could repair the damage it has suffered to its reputation during the Bush presidency and especially since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Kouchner replied, "It will never be as it was before."
"I think the magic is over," he continued, in what amounted to a sober assessment from one of the strongest supporters in France of the United States.
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NEW YORK
As New York’s attorney general, Eliot Spitzer had broken up prostitution rings before, but this 2004 case took on a special urgency for him. Prosecuting an international sex tourism business based in Queens, he listened to the entreaties of women’s advocates long frustrated by state laws that fell short of dealing with a sex trade expanding rapidly across borders.
And with his typical zeal, he embraced their push for new legislation, including a novel idea at its heart: Go after the men who seek out prostitutes.
It was a question of supply and demand, they all agreed. And one effective way to suppress the demand was to raise the penalties for patronizing a prostitute. In his first months as governor last year, Mr. Spitzer signed the bill into law.
“It [his resignation] leaves those of us who worked with his office absolutely feeling betrayed,” said Dorchen Leidholdt, director of Sanctuary for Families Legal Services, one of the leaders of the coalition that drafted the legislation.
The law, which went into effect Nov. 1, mainly deals with redefining and prosecuting forms of human trafficking, which Governor Spitzer called “modern-day slavery.” It offers help to the women who are victims of the practice, rather than treating them as participants in crime.
But it also lays the groundwork for a more aggressive crackdown on demand, by increasing the penalty for patronizing a prostitute, a misdemeanor, to up to a year in jail, from a maximum of three months.
Efforts to clarify and overhaul New York’s penal code on prostitution and human trafficking seemed stuck in legislative gridlock.
“We had tremendous difficulty trying to get this law passed, year after year,” said Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of Equality Now. “Our only hope was for Eliot Spitzer to be elected governor.”
“He understood,” she added. “He got it, unlike hundreds of other politicians and law enforcement officials that we talked to.”


HONG KONG
The Hong Kong government on Wednesday ordered all kindergartens and primary schools to close for two weeks amid a growing flu outbreak.
It also asked one of its top scientists to study the deaths of three children over the past week.
Health secretary York Chow said Yuen Kwok-yung, who helped study Hong Kong's outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak, or SARS, about four years ago, would head a panel of scientists studying the recent deaths.
Chow said it was not clear if the three cases were linked but that he became concerned after the most recent death - that of a 7-year-old boy on Tuesday - because five of his classmates had also been hospitalized.
Chow announced at a late-night news conference that all kindergartens, primary schools and special schools would begin the Easter holiday early to prevent the spread of influenza in classrooms. He did not say how many schools and students would be affected. Classes will resume March 28, he said.
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NEW YORK
To the long list of objects vulnerable to attack by computer hackers, add the human heart.
The threat seems largely theoretical. But a team of computer security researchers planned to report Wednesday that it had been able to gain wireless access to a combination heart defibrillator and pacemaker.
They were able to reprogram it to shut down and to deliver jolts of electricity that could potentially have been fatal if the device had been in a person. In this case, the researchers were hacking into a device in a laboratory.



WASHINGTON
"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," Ferraro had told a California newspaper, The Daily Breeze. "And if he was a woman of any color, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."


WILLEMSTAD, Curacao
Some middlemen simply foot the bill for modest one- or two-day trips, effectively duping Venezuelans out of their [U.S. dollar] quotas while plying them with liquor at beaches here, where the hushed tones of Dutch tourists trying to focus on their paperbacks are drowned out by groups of partying Venezuelans.
Little soul-searching about exploiting Venezuela's vagaries seems to have emerged in Curaçao, which has been finding ways to grow prosperous off its neighbor to the south since the early 20th century when Royal Dutch Shell built a refinery here to process Venezuelan crude oil.
So many shops in central Willemstad have signs saying "We Welcome Venezuelan Cards" that it is a surprise to find one that does not. The explanation, when it comes, is simple.
"We don't do it," said Manish Chandhani, 25, a salesman in Baba's, an electronics store. "My boss does not like to earn easy money."






BRUSSELS
Because of the way the EU budget is organized there is no overall figure for spending on Mediterranean countries. But, for the period 2007-10, Algeria has been allocated €220 million, Egypt €558 million, Morocco €654 million, the Palestinian Authority €632 million, Syria €130 million, Tunisia €300 million and Israel - which counts as a developed country - €8 million
MARCOUSSIS, France
Prop Fabien Barcella kept his place as Lièvremont left the front five in the pack unchanged.
"We wanted some stability because we had ups and downs in the set pieces and there is no way we can afford to leave possession to the Welsh," Lièvremont said. "We'll first aim at competing with the Welsh and at playing our game and then, secondarily, we'll think about those 20 points."
Didier Retière, Lièvremont's assistant in charge of the forwards, said that "for the time being, clinching the title would be a luxury."
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LONDON
Jonny Wilkinson was dropped by England while Ireland's veteran fly half, Ronan O'Gara was promoted to captain for the game between the two countries at Twickenham on Saturday, The Associated Press reported from London.
Wilkinson became the record points scorer in international rugby on Saturday against Scotland, but England lost that game to end its chances of winning the Six Nations.
Wilkinson was demoted to bench and replaced by Danny Cipriani, who was going to make his first start against Scotland at fullback until he was photographed leaving a nightclub in the early hours of last Thursday and dropped as punishment.
ALL PHOTOGRAPHS COPYRIGHT IAN WALTHEW 2008

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