Thoughts Gallery March 2005
March 1
Image of the Day
Elephants paint on the canvas during new Guinness record attemp of most expensive paint by elephants at Maesa elephant camp in Chiang Mai province northern Thailand.
March 2
Image of the Day
Italy probes possible CIA role in abduction

An Italian prosecutor investigating the apparent kidnapping of a suspected Islamic militant in the streets of Milan served military authorities this week with a demand for records of flights into and out of a joint U.S.-Italian air base in northern Italy. Italian newspapers have reported that the prosecutor, Armando Spataro, is investigating the possible role of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in the disappearance of Osama Nasr Mostafa Hassan, better known as Abu Omar, a popular figure in Milan's Islamic community who vanished Feb. 17, 2003. Spataro, a chief prosecutor in Milan, said by phone Thursday that "I can confirm only that yesterday I went to Aviano," as the air base is known. "We have an investigation," he added, "but it's secret." Bruno Megele, a top anti-terrorist police investigator who reportedly accompanied Spataro, declined to speak about the visit, which Italian newspapers described as unprecedented. Spataro's warrant is believed to have sought information about the ownership and flight plans of non-military aircraft as well as records on vehicles arriving at and departing from Aviano in the hours before and after Omar's disappearance. A passerby who claimed to have witnessed the abduction said several men grabbed Omar, a 41-year-old Egyptian national, on a Milan sidewalk and hustled him into a parked van that drove off accompanied by another car.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, several unnamed U.S. officials have been quoted by numerous media outlets discussing the U.S. practice of "rendition," in which suspected terrorists or Al Qaeda supporters captured abroad are sent for interrogation to countries where human rights are not universally respected. The Tribune reported last month that a Gulfstream executive jet reportedly used to ferry some suspected terrorists to Egypt and other countries was owned by Bayard Foreign Marketing LLC, a Portland, Ore., company that appears to exist only on paper. A break from practice Most renditions in which the CIA is known or suspected to have taken part involve individuals captured on the battlefield or arrested by authorities in the countries where they reside. Neither was the case with Abu Omar, which has opened the door to the possible criminal prosecution of those involved. Spataro was quoted earlier as saying that if any Americans played a part in Omar's abduction, "it would be a serious breach of Italian law."
The newspaper La Repubblica reported last week that some targets of the investigation worked for the CIA. The leading Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera of Milan, said Thursday that "at least 15 persons have been under investigation for months." Another paper, Il Giorno, reported that all 15 were CIA employees. One source told the Tribune that the police are satisfied that they know the identities of those who carried out the abduction, and that Spataro is now trying to determine at what level the action was approved. A CIA spokeswoman had no comment. Ben Duffy, a spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Rome, said officials there were "trying to figure out what's going on." The CIA also has satellite facilities at the U.S. Consulate in Milan and at the Aviano air base.
The base's chief of public affairs, Capt. Eric Elliott, confirmed that Spataro had met with the Italian base commander on Wednesday. Although the base is owned and commanded by the Italian air force, many of the fighters and bombers based there are from the U.S. and are flown by U.S. pilots. Elliott said U.S. authorities at the base intended to "respond appropriately to requests for information from the Italian authorities in accordance with existing agreements." That presumably would include records of any flights by the mysterious Gulfstream jet. The first public mention of the aircraft appeared six weeks after the Sept. 11 hijacking attacks, when a Pakistani newspaper reported that Jamil Qasim Saeed Mohammed, a 27-year-old microbiology student at Karachi University, had been spirited aboard the plane at Karachi's airport by Pakistani security officers.
There is still no information about where Mohammed may have been taken. But Pakistani officials said later that the U.S. believed Mohammed, a Yemeni national, belonged to Al Qaeda and had information about the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole while it was refueling in the Yemeni port of Aden. Another well-documented rendition involving the same plane occurred in December 2001, when two Egyptian nationals, Ahmed Agiza and Muhammed al-Zery, were flown aboard the Gulfstream from Sweden's Bromma airport to Cairo. A Swedish television channel, TV4, reported last year that the plane's registration number was N379P, which would make it the aircraft acquired by Bayard Foreign Marketing last Nov. 16. The Sunday Times of London, which said it had obtained the Gulfstream's flight logs, reported in November that the plane was based at Dulles International Airport outside Washington and had flown to at least 49 destinations outside the U.S., including Egypt, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Jordan, Iraq, Morocco, Afghanistan, Libya and Uzbekistan. Stefano Dambruoso, Milan's anti-terrorist prosecutor at the time of Omar's disappearance, said he suspected from the beginning that Omar had been kidnapped, noting that he had no apparent reason to flee or to leave his wife, a teacher at a private Islamic school in Milan. Initial suspicion focused on the Egyptian intelligence services, which are believed to have kidnapped another Egyptian militant, Talaat Fouad Kassem, under similar circumstances in Yugoslavia in 1995. The Egyptian Embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comment by voice mail and e-mail. The Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, recently told a group of Tribune reporters and editors that he had no personal knowledge of any torture of suspected terrorists by his government.
        Aboul Gheit did not deny the possibility that renditions had taken place, although he said he had no evidence of that either. "Are we to be blamed," he asked rhetorically, "if the Americans are delivering people to us, our own nationals?"  Call helps establish link. Spataro was able to link Omar's disappearance to Aviano through records of cell phone calls made by his abductors as they drove the 175 miles to the air base from Milan, Corriere della Sera reported Thursday. The calls included conversations with someone at the base, the paper said.  The newspaper reported last year that, about 14 months after his disappearance, Omar telephoned his wife from Cairo to tell her he had been released from prison by the Egyptians.
        During that conversation, monitored by an Italian police wiretap, Omar reportedly told his wife that he had been kidnapped by American and Italian agents, "narcoticized," and, after several hours of questioning at Aviano, flown aboard a small plane to Egypt.  Once there, he said, he was imprisoned and tortured by the Mukhabarat, the Egyptian intelligence service. The Italian police said Omar was re-arrested by the Egyptians a few weeks after that phone call and has not been heard from since. One person knowledgeable about Spataro's investigation said it has not turned up evidence of involvement by Italian intelligence agents in Omar's disappearance, and Italy's intelligence services do not have the power to make arrests or detain suspects in any event. Omar, a native of Alexandria, Egypt, reportedly fought with Muslim forces in Afghanistan and Bosnia during the 1980s and 1990s, and was arrested in Albania in 1996 and charged with planning an attack on the Egyptian foreign minister. Following his release by the Albanians, Omar was granted political asylum by Italy in 1997. He spent the next several years as an imam, or preacher, at a popular mosque in Milan.
       Omar's post-Sept. 11 meetings with known Al Qaeda operators and his recruitment of militant fighters for jihadist battles--an activity that an Italian court declared earlier this month did not violate that country's laws--eventually brought Omar to the attention of police. Their listening devices reportedly picked up a conversation in which Omar talked of mounting a car bomb attack against a public bus in Milan. The subsequent discovery that Omar had been taken to Egypt has raised questions about the fate of the former Al Qaeda chief in Italy, Abdelkader Mahmoud Es Sayed, another Egyptian Islamist who disappeared from Milan two months before Sept. 11. Like Es Sayed, Omar was one of several Egyptian militants opposed to the government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who were granted political asylum by the Italian government. Es Sayed, better known as Abu Saleh, was at first believed by authorities to have made his way to Afghanistan and later to have died there in an allied bombing attack. He was convicted in absentia in Egypt for his alleged role in the killings of 58 foreign tourists at Luxor in November 1997.

March 3
Image of the Day
Japan Eyes Manned Base on Moon
TOKYO - Japan plans to start building a manned base on the moon and a manned space shuttle within the next 20 years, a newspaper report said. Japan's space agency, JAXA, is drawing up plans to develop a robot to conduct probes on the moon by 2015, then begin constructing a solar-powered manned research base on the planet and design a reusable manned space vessel like the U.S. space shuttle by 2025, the Mainichi Shimbun said.
        The space agency's budget could be boosted six-fold to $57 billion to assist those plans, the Mainichi said. The plans also include using satellites to send information on evacuation routes, locators on people's whereabouts and alerts to cell phones in the event of major emergencies like a tsunami, the daily said. JAXA officials were unavailable for immediate comment. Japan has long focused on unmanned scientific probes. In a major policy switch last year, however, a government panel recommended that the country consider its own manned space program.
       Long Asia's leading spacefaring nation, Japan has been struggling to get out from under the shadow of China, which put its first astronaut into orbit in October 2003. Beijing has since announced it is aiming for the moon. One month after China's breakthrough, a Japanese H-2A rocket carrying two spy satellites malfunctioned after liftoff, forcing controllers to end its mission in a spectacular fireball. Further launches were put on hold for 15 months, but on Saturday Japan took a big step to re-establish the credibility of its space program with the successful launch of a domestically designed H-2A rocket that placed a communications satellite into orbit.
March 4
Image of the Day
The rear of the Emil Bach House, by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, is seen in Chicago. The Prairie style home, unsold after several months on the market, is gong on the auction block in March with starting bids of $750,000, less than a third of the original $2.5 million asking price.
March 5
Image of the Day
GlobalFlyer pushes the boundaries of aerospace design
American adventurer Steve Fossett likes to joke that his attempt to fly around the world without stopping or refueling has no "practical" purpose. But the research that went into developing the super-light and aerodynamic aircraft could one day lead to more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly commercial planes, said Sir Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Atlantic, which is funding the project. "As an airline, we hope that Virgin Atlantic airplanes will (one day) be made of composite materials and that metal will be thrown away," Branson said at a press conference.
        The single engine turbofan aircraft designed by Burt Rutans Scale Composites is constructed with lightweight, composite materials in order to maximize fuel efficiency. It is so aerodynamically perfect that it needs drag parachutes to land.  While he admits that his taste for adventure and publicity also drove his interest in the GlobalFlyer, Branson said he also hopes that the project will spur further interest in aviation and adventure. "A lot of benefits to mankind come from projects like this," Branson said. "Kids around the world can log in and participate in a great adventure and perhaps aspire to something like it in the future."
       The aircraft will also allow the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to test a new state-of-the-art communications system that will one day be used on spacecraft. NASA said that the equipment has the potential to "reduce the cost and infrastructure of the current ground-based communications systems" by using satellites to relay tracking and flight data. The GlobalFlyer is also being used as a platform for research into cosmic radiation. The experimental aircraft took off from Salina Municipal Airport for a flight around the world that is expected to last between 60 and 80 hours.
March 6
Image of the Day
People are switching to Firefox!
After an initial surge in market share gains that followed the release of Firefox 1.0 in November, the pace at which the open-source Web browser is winning market share has slowed down, new research shows. At the same time, Microsoft's dominant Internet Explorer browser has dipped below the 90 percent level in market share, according to two tracking surveys released earlier this week. As of February 18, Firefox held a 5.7 percent share of the U.S. browser market and IE stood at 89.9 percent, according to San Diego-based Web analytics firm WebSideStory. In November, right before the Firefox 1.0 launch, IE held 92.9 percent of the market and earlier versions of Firefox held 3.03 percent, according to WebSideStory.
       According to, an Amsterdam-based Web metrics firm, Firefox now holds 8.45 percent of the browser market on a worldwide basis, while Microsoft's IE continues to dominate with an 87.28 percent share, down 1.62 percent compared with the end of November. However, the speed at which Firefox is gaining market share has slowed down, WebSideStory says. Firefox's market share grew 15 percent over the last five weeks, compared to growth of 22 percent in the period between December 3 and January 14. From November 5 to December3, right after the launch of Firefox 1.0 on November 9, the browser's market share grew 34 percent, it says.
The initial high adoption rate had Firefox on a path to reach a 10 percent market share by mid-2005, according to WebSideStory. With the slower growth, the browser may reach that milestone by the end of the year, WebSideStory says. That achievement would be in line with the goal set by the Mozilla Foundation. "Growth in Firefoxa??s usage has slowed slightly since its big surge in November. This is probably to be expected as we move beyond the early-adopter segment," WebSideStory Chief Executive Office Jeff Lunsford says in a statement. "Growing concern over potential security holes in the browser might be another factor to consider." The Mozilla Foundation, the distributor of Firefox, last week warned of serious security flaws in the browser and released an update. In an about face two weeks ago, Microsoft said it would release a test version of IE 7.0 in mid-2005. Previously, Microsoft had said it would not offer a browser upgrade until the next version of Windows ships in late 2006. Both WebSideStory and measure browser market share by tracking what Web browsers are used when visiting certain Web sites.
March 7
Image of the Day
The face of a decorated mummy inside an ancient wooden coffin, shaped like human body that date back to the 26th Pharaoh Dynasty that ruled from 672 BC to 525 BC, is seen in Sakkara, south of Cairo. Australian archaeologists have discovered one of the best preserved ancient Egyptian mummies dating from about 2,600 years ago, Zahi Hawass, the head of Egypt's Supreme Council for Antiquities said.
March 8
Image of the Day
China Dons Even Bigger Export Hat
An explosion in Chinese apparel and textile exports is fueling a backlash in the United States and Europe, while triggering labor shortages in China and job losses elsewhere. The outcry was triggered this week by new data showing a sharp increase in China's clothing and textile exports in January. New Year's Day marked the expiration of a decades-old global quota system that had limited China's market share. Unhindered by quotas, China's sales to the United States surged 65%, to $1.4 billion, compared with the same month last year, according to data released this week by the China National Textile and Apparel Council. Shipments to the European Union jumped 46% to $1.5 billion.
       Even more stark was the increase in China's exports of cotton knit shirts and trousers, two of its most popular items. In January, China shipped nearly 27 million cotton trousers, up from 1.9 million a year earlier, according to a U.S. industry analysis of Chinese customs data. The Asian country shipped 18 million cotton knit shirts in January, up from 941,000. Those statistics — which will be accompanied by U.S. figures to be released today — are further straining relations between China and its major trading partners. This week, the Italian government called on the European Union to impose tariffs on Chinese textiles and apparel. EU officials said they needed more information before taking such a step.
       Meanwhile, U.S. manufacturers are set to hold a news conference in Washington today to urge the Bush administration to move quickly to impose controls on the most popular Chinese imports. They blame China for flooding the U.S. market with goods, triggering plant closures and thousands of job cuts in January and February. An appeal last year by manufacturers for the U.S. government to restrict imports based on the threat of a surge in Chinese imports is tied up in court. "This is no longer just a threat," said John Emrich, chief executive of Guilford, a Greensboro, N.C.-based textile maker. "Are they going to wait until the house is burned down and then call in the fire department?"
       For their part, U.S. retailers are fighting import restraints, arguing that quotas were costly for them and their customers. Retailers also said the best way to help struggling foreign suppliers was for Congress to pass a proposed Central American Free Trade Agreement, which would expand opportunities for producers from that region. Analysts said it was still too early to know how the end of the quota system would play out. It's also premature to draw conclusions from only one month's data, they said, because China isn't always so accurate with these sorts of records. Year-over-year comparisons could also be misleading. For one thing, the Chinese New Year holiday last year fell in January, shutting down factories for several weeks. This year, that holiday was in February. Still, most industry observers believe that the latest data confirm what many predicted — that China is well on its way to dominating the global apparel and textile market, and the biggest losers will be competitors in many of the world's poorest countries. "We hope that maybe some more orders will get here by winter, which comes in April," said B. Shaw Lebakae, a union organizer struggling to help the thousands who have lost their jobs in the AIDS-ravaged African country of Lesotho. Since last fall, Lebakae said, six large factories have closed and three more are struggling to stay afloat.
       The global effect of the phase-out can be seen around the world, starting in China. Chinese officials anticipated the backlash, and in an effort to ease tensions, the government late last year imposed export duties on garments, particularly cheaper items. Although acknowledging the sharp increase in exports, Du Yuzhou, president of China Textile Assn., said this week that he expected overseas shipments to slow down. In January, Chinese textile and apparel exports totaled $8.4 billion, up 29% from a year earlier. For all of 2004, China's overseas shipments of textiles and apparel gained 21%. Garment shipments kept China's export-driven economy booming at the start of the year. On the whole, China recorded an $11.1-billion trade surplus in the first two months of this year, contrasted with an $8-billion deficit in the same period a year earlier. The unexpectedly large surplus is expected to drive China's economic expansion in the first quarter to an annualized growth rate of 9.3%, about the same pace for all of last year. Given the backlash, Chinese garment producers were reluctant to comment Thursday on their good fortunes. But places like Shaoxing, a textile stronghold in China's entrepreneurial province of Zhejiang, have been hopping since January. The only thing holding back many companies seems to be getting raw materials fast enough, and finding enough hands to sew and package goods.
       Some producers in Shaoxing face an estimated 30% shortage of labor, according to businesspeople there. Yul Kim, who owns a textile and clothing company in Shaoxing, said he was surprised at the brisk activity. Usually after the Chinese New Year holiday, business slows before picking up gradually. But not this time. "Orders have soared since the end of the quota," Kim said. At Shanghai's port, Li Jia, sales manager of Hanjin Shipping Co., said some of the dramatic increases this year were inflated because exporters held back December shipments until the quotas were lifted. If anything, Li said, the port of Shanghai hadn't been as busy as he had expected in January, citing a 15% increase in outgoing containers carrying clothing. He said, however, that more Chinese companies were trying to export higher-end apparel — a move the central government is encouraging — which may have boosted the overall value of Chinese exports. In Southern California, dockworkers and shipping companies at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are racing to keep up with increased volume from China. But many U.S. clothing manufacturers are struggling.
       Since 2001, U.S. textile and apparel firms have cut 373,800 jobs — about 35.7% of total employment. In February alone, 5,600 jobs were lost, according to the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition. In Fullerton, employees at Springs Industries are packing up their plant, after the Fort Mill, S.C.-based firm decided that its survival depended on becoming smaller and more niche-oriented. The Orange County facility, whose 270 employees produced towels, was one of six plants that Springs Industries shuttered this year. Ted Matthews, a Springs Industries spokesman, said the company was surprised at how tough price competition has been. In part, that's because many big customers — including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and Federated Department Stores Inc. — have started manufacturing their own goods now that quotas have disappeared. He said the company has seen price decreases of as much as 30% in its major product categories, such as bedding and towels. "We have to do everything we can to continue to serve our customers and improve the value we offer them," he said.
Among the hardest hit may be producers in Mexico and Central America. Their factories had for years supplied the U.S. market with the low-priced goods that China is now cranking out. Experts have predicted that Mexico's apparel industry, which has already lost 200,000 jobs since 2000, will continue its downward slide. Many of Mexico's apparel makers are small fry that lack the capital to invest in state-of-the art technology or the expertise to move beyond contract sewing. Mexico's labor costs are at least four times higher than China's.  Indeed, China is taking dead aim at Mexico's top apparel export to the U.S.: men's cotton trousers. Mexico had supplied about one-fourth of the casual pants that have become a staple in American men's wardrobes. But China's U.S. trouser shipments soared by 1,332% in January, according to an analysis of Chinese data by AMTAC, the U.S. industry group.

Raul Metsa's company has already felt the effect. The vice president of sales for Chihuahua, Mexico-based Grupo Diamante said the apparel contractor had seen orders vanish in recent years for products such as men's pants, knit shirts and bluejeans. His firm has turned to niche categories such as uniforms and industrial sewing, which aren't as sensitive to foreign competition. But the transition has been painful. The company's current workforce of 800 is just a third of what it was in the 1990s. "The business is tougher because of globalization," Metsa said. "It won't disappear completely from Mexico. But I think we're going to see less volume, fewer factories." Ernesto Moguel, a partner in Tlaxcala-based Ermo Industrial, which manufactures men's cotton trousers, said he would like to see limits reimposed on China's production. "We can compete against any company in the world, but we can't compete against the Chinese government," he said. "They are subsidizing everything."

March 9
Image of the Day
Hackers Target U.S. Power Grid
Hundreds of times a day, hackers try to slip past cyber-security into the computer network of Constellation Energy Group Inc., a Baltimore power company with customers around the country. "We have no discernable way of knowing who is trying to hit our system," said John R. Collins, chief risk officer for Constellation, which operates Baltimore Gas and Electric. "We just know it's being hit." Hackers have caused no serious damage to systems that feed the nation's power grid, but their untiring efforts have heightened concerns that electric companies have failed to adequately fortify defenses against a potential catastrophic strike. The fear: In a worst-case scenario, terrorists or others could engineer an attack that sets off a widespread blackout and damages power plants, prolonging an outage. Patrick H. Wood III, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission , warned top electric company officials in a private meeting in January that they need to focus more heavily on cyber-security. Wood also has raised the issue at several public appearances. Officials will not say whether new intelligence points to a potential terrorist strike, but Wood stepped up his campaign after officials at the Energy Department's Idaho National Laboratory showed him how a skilled hacker could cause serious problems. Wood declined to comment on specifics of what he saw. But an official at the lab, Ken Watts, said the simulation showed how someone could hack into a utility's Internet-based business management system, then into a system that controls utility operations. Once inside, lab workers simulated cutting off the supply of oil to a turbine generating electricity and destroying the equipment. Describing his reaction to the demonstration, Wood said: "I wished I'd had a diaper on."
       Many electric industry representatives have said they are concerned about cyber-security and have been taking steps to make sure their systems are protected. But Wood and others in the industry said the companies' computer security is uneven. "A sophisticated hacker, which is probably a group of hackers . . . could probably get into each of the three U.S. North American power [networks] and could probably bring sections of it down if they knew how to do it," said Richard A. Clarke, a former counterterrorism chief in the Clinton and Bush administrations.Clarke said government simulations show that electric companies have not done enough to prevent hacking. "Every time they test, they get in," Clarke said. "It's nice that the power companies think that they've done things, and some of them have. But as long as there's a way to get into the grid, the grid is as weak as its weakest company."
       Some industry analysts play down the threat of a massive cyber-attack, saying it's more likely that terrorists would target the physical infrastructure such as power plants and transmission lines. James Andrew Lewis, director of technology policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in the District, said a coordinated attack on the grid would be technically difficult and would not provide as much "bang for the buck" as high-profile physical attacks. Lewis said the bigger vulnerability may be posed not by outside hackers but by insiders who are familiar with their company's computer networks.But in recent years, terrorists have expressed interest in a range of computer targets. Al Qaeda documents from 2002 suggest cyber-attacks on various targets, including the electrical grid and financial institutions, according to a translation by the IntelCenter, an Alexandria firm that studies terrorist groups.
       A government advisory panel has concluded that a foreign intelligence service or a well-supported terrorist group "could conduct a structured attack on the electric power grid electronically, with a high degree of anonymity, and without having to set foot in the target nation," according to a report last year by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. C yber-security specialists and government officials said that cyber-attacks are a concern across many industries but that the threat to the country's power supply is among their top fears.
       Hackers have gained access to U.S. utilities' electronic control systems and in a few cases have "caused an impact," said Joseph M. Weiss, a Cupertino, Calif.-based computer security specialist with Kema Inc., a consulting firm focused on the energy industry. He said computer viruses and worms also have caused problems. Weiss, a leading expert in control system security, said officials of the affected companies have described the instances at private conferences that he hosts and in confidential conversations but have not reported the intrusions publicly or to federal authorities. He said he agreed not to publicly disclose additional details and that the companies are fearful that releasing the information would hurt them financially and encourage more hacking. Weiss said that "many utilities have not addressed control system cyber-security as comprehensively as physical security or cyber-security of business networks."
       The vulnerability of the nation's electrical grid to computer attack has grown as power companies have transferred control of their electrical generation and distribution equipment from private, internal networks to supervisory control and data acquisition, or SCADA, systems that can be accessed through the Internet or by phone lines, according to consultants and government reports. That technology has led to greater efficiency because it allows workers to operate equipment remotely. Other systems that feed information into SCADA or that operate utility equipment are vulnerable and have been largely overlooked by utilities, security consultants said. Some utilities have made hacking into their SCADA systems relatively easy by continuing to use factory-set passwords that can be found in standard documentation available on the Internet, computer security consultants said.
       The North American Electric Reliability Council, an industry-backed organization that sets voluntary standards for power companies, is drafting wide-ranging guidelines to replace more narrow, temporary precautions already on the books for guarding against a cyber-attack. But computer security specialists question whether those standards go far enough. Officials at several power companies said they had invested heavily in new equipment and software to protect their computers. Many would speak only in general terms, saying divulging specifics could assist hackers. "We're very concerned about it," said Margaret E. "Lyn" McDermid, senior vice president and chief information officer for Dominion Resources Inc., a Richmond-based company that operates Dominion Virginia Power and supplies electricity and natural gas in other states. "We spend a significant amount of time and effort in making sure we are doing what we ought to do."
       Executives at Constellation Energy view the constant hacking attempts -- which have been unsuccessful -- as a threat and monitor their systems closely. They said they assume many of the hackers are the same type seen in other businesses: people who view penetrating corporate systems as fun or a challenge. "We feel we are in pretty good shape when it comes to this," Collins said. "That doesn't mean we're bulletproof." The biggest threat to the grid, analysts said, may come from power companies using older equipment that is more susceptible to attack. Those companies many not want to invest large amounts of money in new computer equipment when the machines they are using are adequately performing all their other functions. Security consulting firms said that they have hacked into power company networks to highlight for their clients the weaknesses in their systems.
"We are able to penetrate real, running, live systems," said Lori Dustin, vice president of marketing for Verano Inc., a Mansfield, Mass., company that sells products to companies to secure SCADA systems. In some cases, Dustin said, power companies lack basic equipment that would even alert them to hacking attempts. O. Sami Saydjari, chief executive of the Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.-based consulting firm Cyber Defense Agency LLC, said hackers could cause the type of blackout that knocked out electricity to about 50 million people in the Northeast, Midwest and Canada in 2003, an event attributed in part to trees interfering with power lines in Ohio. He said that if hackers destroyed generating equipment in the process, the amount of time to restore electricity could be prolonged. "I am absolutely confident that by design, someone could do at least as [much damage], if not worse" than what was experienced in 2003, said Saydjari, who was one of 54 prominent scientists and others who warned the Bush administration of the risk of computer attacks following Sept. 11, 2001. "It's just a matter of time before we have a serious event."
March 10
Image of the Day
A Philippine Tarsier measuring 4-5 inches sits on a branch inside a captive breeding center in Loboc town on Bohol island, central Philippines. The endangered animal, who feeds on tiny insects is believed to be the world's smallest primate
March 11
Image of the Day
The first baseball thrown at the 1912 opening of Fenway Park, the Boston Red Sox' stadium, shown here, will be offered for sale at a Sotheby's baseball memorabilia auction in June. The auction of more than 350 lots, including the contract selling Babe Ruth from the Red Sox to the New York Yankees, comes sixth months after another Sotheby's auction at which the bat used by Ruth to hit his first homer in Yankee Stadium sold for $1.265 million. In baseball folklore, die-hard Red Sox fans believe Ruth's sale to the Yankees spawned the curse that haunted the Red Sox. A young Ruth was already a star and had helped the Sox win the 1918 World Series. But with the Yankees he changed the face of the U.S. national pastime and became a legend, fondly nicknamed 'The Bambino.' he Yanks, who had been lackluster before they got Ruth, went on to become world champions repeatedly.
March 12
Image of the Day
Look Who's Talking at the Drive-Through
LOS ANGELES - McDonald's Corp. wants to outsource your neighborhood drive-through. The world's largest fast-food chain said on Thursday it is looking into using remote call centers to take customer orders in an effort to improve service at its drive-throughs. "If you're in L.A.... and you hear a person with a North Dakota accent taking your order, you'll know what we're up to," McDonald's Chief Executive Jim Skinner told analysts at the Bear Stearns Retail, Restaurants & Apparel Conference in New York. Call center professionals with "very strong communication skills" could help boost order accuracy and ultimately speed up the time it takes customers to get in and out of the drive-throughs, the company said.
March 13
Image of the Day
Harvard in Lather Over Campus Maid Service

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - A Harvard University student's fledgling dorm-cleaning business faced the threat of a campus boycott on Thursday after the school's daily newspaper slammed it for dividing students along economic lines. The Harvard Crimson newspaper urged students to shun Dormaid, a business launched by Harvard sophomore Michael Kopko that cleans up for messy students. "By creating yet another differential between the haves and have-nots on campus, Dormaid threatens our student unity," the Crimson said in an editorial. "We urge the student body to boycott Dormaid."
Like many elite American universities, Harvard comprises a mix of affluent students as well as those who are less well-off.  But Kopko, 20, said he could not understand the Crimson's reaction to his business, which he said was all about creating jobs and wealth at the Ivy League school. "In a free economy it's all about choice, and the Crimson is trying to take choice away from people," the student entrepreneur told Reuters. "I think it's a very uneconomic and narrow view. It's essentially against creating wealth for society." Kopko said since launching his dormitory-cleaning service last month in the Boston area, he has signed up 50 clients. He plans to expand the service to other parts of the country and is aiming for $200,000 in annual sales in a year's time.

March 14
Image of the Day
Trade Deficit Hits Record $665.9B in 2004
The United States deficit in the broadest measure of international trade soared to an all-time high of $665.9 billion in 2004, showing in stark terms the speed with which the country is becoming indebted to the rest of the world. The Commerce Department reported that the shortfall in the current account was 25.5 percent higher than the previous record, the $530.7 billion deficit set in 2003. The department also noted that the deficit was worsening as the year ended with the shortfall in the fourth quarter hitting a record $187.9 billion, up 13.3 percent from the third quarter deficit.
The Bush administration contends the soaring trade deficits reflect a U.S. economy that is growing faster than the rest of the world, pushing up imports and dampening demand for U.S. exports. But private economists are worried that the huge level of resources being transferred into the hands of foreigners will eventually result in lower U.S. living standards. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve reported that output at the nation's factories, mines and utilities rose by 0.3 percent in February, following a tiny 0.1 percent increase in January. It was the best showing since a surge of 0.8 percent in December and was led by a 0.5 percent jump in manufacturing, the third straight 0.5 percent gain in this sector.
In other economic news, the Commerce Department said construction of new homes and apartments rose by 0.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.195 million units in February, the fastest pace in 21 years. Construction of single-family homes hit an all-time high of 1.775 million units, up 0.3 percent from January, and multi-family construction was up 1.7 percent to 420,000 units. Analysts believe the housing sector, which has set sales records for four straight years, will begin to cool this year under the impact of rising interest rates.
The current account trade deficit is closely watched by economists because it is the broadest measure of international trade, covering not only trade in goods but also trade in services and investment flows between nations. The deficit for 2004 was not only a record in dollar terms but also as a percentage of the total U.S. economy, climbing to 5.7 percent of the gross domestic product, up from 4.8 percent of GDP in 2003.
The deficit represents the amount in resources that the United States is transferring into the hands of foreigners in exchange for foreign oil, cars and other products that Americans are purchasing. While foreigners have been more than willing to exchange their products for U.S. dollars, there is a worry that at some point they will become less willing to do so and will seek to exchange dollars for other foreign currencies. The dollar's value against other currencies has been declining for three years but so far that decline has been orderly.
However, some private analysts worry that one day the dollar might begin falling in value more sharply if foreigners suddenly decide to diversify into other currencies and begin cashing in their holdings of U.S. stocks, bonds and Treasury securities. Such a development could send stock prices in this country plunging and interest rates surging.
Investor Warren Buffett warned in this year's letter to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. that the United States could become a "sharecropper's society" by the continued transfer of U.S. assets into foreign hands. He estimated the country's debt to foreigners could surge to $11 trillion by 2015. However, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has said in recent speeches that he believes the country's current account deficit will be resolved without sparking financial market turmoil as the weaker dollar makes U.S. goods more competitive in foreign countries while making imports more expensive and thus less appealing to Americans. But Buffett warned in his letter to shareholders that the growing indebtedness would require annual payments to foreigners to service the debt of around $550 billion by 2015, a transfer of resources that would mean less investment and lower living standards in the United States.
For 2004, the current account deficit reflected a shortfall of $665.5 billion in goods, up from a goods deficit of $547.6 billion in 2003. One-fourth of the deterioration was blamed on higher foreign oil imports. The U.S. surplus in services shrank to $48.4 billion last year, down from a surplus of $51 billion in 2003. U.S. investors earned $24.1 billion in their foreign holdings last year while foreign investors earned a higher $33.3 billion on their holdings in the United States. Unilateral transfers, including such things as foreign aid, totaled $72.9 billion in 2004, up from $67.4 billion in 2003.
March 15
Image of the Day
This photo provided by the Idaho National Guard, shows a newly discovered species of fairy shrimp. At left is the female and on the right is a male. Biologists with the Idaho National Guard have discovered the new species of fairy shrimp living in the oft-dry lake beds of Idaho's desert. Though they look delicate enough to match their name, they are strong enough to survive, unhatched, for years in the baking heat of summer and the frozen tundra of winter until enough rain falls and the pools return.

This is a large, predatory fairy shrimp. This guy is about three inches long. That is huge for a fairy shrimp," biologist Dana Quinney said Tuesday during a press conference announcing the discovery. There are already about 300 species of fairy shrimp worldwide, Quinney said, but only three other species boast the size of the newly discovered ones. Though the animals have been given a Latin name, Quinney is reluctant to reveal it until an article describing the species is published in a scientific journal, possibly next winter. Dana Quinney and a colleague, Jay Weaver, first noticed the carnivorous shrimp in 1996. It took them nearly 9 years to compare the animal to the existing species and realize they had something entirely different.

March 16
Image of the Day
If the ice is colored a soft shade of blue, what does that make hockey's blue lines? Orange of course. Don't adjust your TV sets — the Buffalo Sabres (news) are using Rochester, their AHL farm club, to try out a new colored ice surface that could become the standard once the NHL resumes playing. The first test comes Sunday, when Rochester plays Cleveland at Buffalo. "It's an experiment, let's leave it at that," Sabres managing partner Larry Quinn said Tuesday while watching Rochester practice. Quinn said the test came after NHL officials discussed whether changing the ice color from white would enhance how the game is viewed by fans in arenas and on television.

March 17 
Image of the Day
A frozen mammoth discovered in the permafrost in Siberia is displayed during a preview of the Expo 2005 in Nagakute, Japan. The beast, believed to have lived 18,000 years ago and preserved in a giant refrigerator, is a key exhibit of the Expo, which will largely feature more modern wonders such as robots.
March 18
Image of the Day
Toyota partner robot music band members play trumpets and horn to welcome visitors at Toyota Group Pavilion.
March 19
Image of the Day
NEC's new personal robots, named 'PaPeRo 2005,' dance in formation during their press preview in Tokyo. PaPeRo 2005 can read names in Chinese characters and answer a numerical formula after upgrading its voice and human faces recognition system from its previous model.
March 20
Image of the Day
Hitachi's EMIEW robot, called 'Pal' stands as another robot, 'Chum' runs behind at Hitachi's Tokyo headquarters. The Japanese technology giant said it had developed a stocky robot on two wheels that can take orders from human voices and lend a hand with daily chores. Japanese electronics conglomerate Hitachi's new humanoid robot 'Emiew' is unveiled in Tokyo. The two-wheeled robot, which can move at a speed of up to 6 km (3.7 miles) per hour, or a little faster than an adult's average walking speed, is equipped with a collision-avoidance system. It can also recognise about 100 words and combine them interchangeably to understand and reply to commands, Hitachi said.
March 21
Image of the Day
A mannequin robot named 'Palette' moves its arms and head to strike a pose like a supermodel through motion-capture technology before the press at a Tokyo hotel. SGI Japan Ltd. and Flower Robotics Inc. demonstrate their jointly developed mannequin robot 'Palette' in Tokyo. The mannequin robot, equipped with a sensor detecting human movement, can memorise and replay dozens of motion-captured movements and poses of fashion models as well as model clothes. The robot, targeted at the fashion and service industries, will go on sale this year, a company official said.
March 22
Image of the Day
The new and old Furbys in the toy company's showroom at the American International Toy Fair in New York. The new, larger, Furby (botton) is driven by Hasbro's new 'Emoto-tronics' robotic technology and has six times the memory of the original Furby, which sold over 40 million pieces after its introduction in 1998. The expected retail price will be about $40.
March 23
Image of the Day

One of the few Houston country home still standing, now surrounded by the city, and stripped of it's forested cover
March 24
Image of the Day
Combating Wi-Fi's Evil Twin
Just when wireless hot-spot surfers thought it was safe to get back into the water, hackers have come up with new methods for mimicking corporate Web sites and intranets in the 802.11 environment. Wi-Fi’s "evil twin" is basically a hacker who infiltrates a company by picking up its SSID (Service Set Identification) and learning what type of encryption is being used while sitting in a convenient spot outside the building, said IBM global solutions manager for managed security services Doug Conorich. Then the hacker will use a WLAN tool like Airsnort or other available freeware to suck off information about who is connecting to whom and what is happening on the Wi-Fi network," Conorich told NewsFactor. The intruder will attempt to gain entry by posing as one of the access points of the company, masquerading as a corporate network or "the man in the middle," by using an antenna that is stronger than the one in the internal access point, Conorich explained. "Wi-Fi is going to connect to the strongest signal that is out there. And if the hacker has the stronger signal, then corporate people will latch onto it -- and the hacker will be able to take their credentials by emulating the corporate Web site."
       Although wireless hacking is rather new, it already is becoming something of a national pastime. There are clubs around the U.S. that are devoted to so-called "war chalking." "When club members find an access point, they will chalk it on the sidewalk, using a code that says whether the access point is open or closed, and gives the SSID and the channels being used," notes Conorich. "People go out on a Friday or Saturday night, walk around and find as many access points as they can as a sort of contest," Conorich said. "In New York City, there is a Web site called NYCwireless that logs all of the Wi-Fi access points seen around the New York City area and lists their addresses, operating channels, and so on." Although war chalking is not a threat to the enterprise in and of itself, it can become a prelude to "war driving" -- a game that involves driving around looking for vulnerable access points that may become targets for hack attacks at a later date, Conorich added.
        "Normally, what companies do to protect themselves is to hide their SSIDs by turning off their broadcast," said Conorich. "This forces hackers to know the SSID.” But, if hackers wait long enough, they will be able to deduce the SSID -- the unique ID with a maximum of 32 characters that is attached to the header of a packet, notes Conorich. "Each probing laptop is going to send that SSID over the airwaves in clear text, so if I am monitoring the signal, I am eventually going to see what that SSID is." Whenever possible, I.T. managers should avoid installing access points that will radiate signals beyond the confines of the physical enterprise. This will make it less likely that hackers can intercept enterprise traffic from the corporate parking lot. Nevertheless, a hacker equipped with a highly directional antenna can pick up Wi-Fi signals over quite a distance, notes Symantec senior director of engineering Alfred Huger, who acknowledges that a 3-meter dish left over from the early days of satellite TV certainly would do the trick.
"At the base level, you need to make sure that WEP encryption is on, which sounds like a trivial matter, but many companies don't bother to encrypt their traffic at all," Huger told NewsFactor. "And if you require the traffic to go through a VPN server, then the hacker will not be able to emulate the VPN connection --because that will force everybody to encrypt all their traffic," Huger said. "But no matter what you do, it does not stop people from trying to get to you," he acknowledged. "If only VPN traffic is allowed to pass through the network, then, yes, protection can be had, inasmuch as total protection is humanly possible to achieve," Huger said. "But even then, the I.T. manager must always keep in mind that 'where there's a will, there's a way.'" Routing users through a VPN does not preclude someone from getting onto the network and taking part in LAN traffic, notes Huger. For this reason, I.T. managers should consider not tying the Wi-Fi network directly to their corporate LANS.
       Businesses can take a more proactive approach by deploying a wireless intrusion-detection technology that connects to the system in much the same way as a wireless access point. But rather than handling traffic, the wireless sensor just "sniffs at all the traffic that goes by," notes Conorich. "It allows companies to inventory all their assets, know every AP up on their area, every wireless device probing, then take an inventory that identifies which ones are theirs," says Conorich. The next step is to determine the rogue access points, which basically fall into two categories: the rogue Access Point (AP) set up on the network, and the APs of a neighboring company or a Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX - news), which may be free access or corporate in nature. "Even though the latter don't belong to you, you'll need to want to identify them before you can ignore them," advises Conorich.
       Wi-Fi’s phishing also represents a serious threat to mobile workers, because it is all too easy for hackers to set up a false Web page that mimics a public hot spot in the airport or the local coffee shop. The hacker merely needs to gain one-time access to the source to make a Web site copy that will be able to trick Wi-Fi surfers into disclosing private information, says McAfee AVERT Research Fellow Jimmy Kuo. Then, all that's required is for the spoofer to generate a signal that is strong enough to overwhelm the genuine hot spot AP. Probably the only thing that would alert someone to the fact that they were being spoofed would be that the genuinely secure sites "typically operate under 'https,' while those mimicked would just be under 'http.'" Kuo told NewsFactor. "One of the first things you want to do after logging on to a public hot spot "is to immediately log onto to the corporate network through the VPN process, which will encrypt every single transmission coming in and going out of your machine," Kuo advises. "But the general rule is, if you are out in public, then assume that everything you do is in public," he says. If you are going to open an account over a public hot-spot connection, for example, "then you’d better make sure it doesn't have an open credit line."
       I.T. managers worried about hacker infiltration over notebooks parked in public may elect to deploy an anti-virus product -- such as Symantec Client Security, which incorporates a location-awareness function that allows the amount of network protection to change automatically, based on notebook location. When the software program senses that the laptop is outside of the corporate firewall, then it automatically forces the network-connected device into running a VPN session, says Symantec Group Product Manager Kevin Haley.
"Once this happens, all traffic is encrypted to prevent someone from being able to listen in," Haley told NewsFactor. "So you can sit in a coffee shop on a Wi-Fi connection and have the same firewall protection as if you were behind the network gateway." The software uses a number of criteria -- including domain and IP address -- to determine where the network-connected notebook is located at any given moment, Haley said. The software also gives I.T. managers the ability to establish a specific VPN policy for notebooks or even push a new policy out to the clients at will.
March 25
Image of the Day
Tree trimmer Dav Hernandez adjusts his line as he moves among the branches of an American Elm, giving the tree a springtime trim in Central Park in New York. Blue skies and warm weather greeted park workers Wednesday morning as the trimming of the elms and the planting of other species continued with other spring maintenance
March 26
Image of the Day
March 27
Image of the Day
Thief Steals Poop From Woman Walking Dog
SAN DIEGO - This mugger was left holding a bag he didn't really want. Police said they were searching for a gunman who ran up to a woman while she was walking her dog Monday night and grabbed the bag she was holding. It contained poop. When the gunman discovered what was in it, he threw it down in disgust, pointed his gun at the 32-year-old woman and demanded money, San Diego police detective Gary Hassen said. He then aimed his .22-caliber semiautomatic at the dog, named Misty, and pulled the trigger twice but the gun didn't fire, Hassen said. The robber, who was believed to be in his 20s, ran to a waiting small, silver car and fled, police said.
March 28
Image of the Day
Indian mascot remains benched for Final Four

Chief Illiniwek, a student in Native American garb who performs a five-minute halftime show at Illinois home games, has not been at the NCAA tournament and will be absent from the Final Four. Illinois has come under pressure from Native Americans to eliminate Illiniwek, and in 2002 Illinois professor Brian Jewett launched
In January, the NCAA minority issues committee asked schools that use the American Indian as a nickname to conduct a six-month self-evaluation of their relationship with the American Indian. They are due May 1.
"There are an infinite number of choices for the sports culture, but the Native Americans only have one culture," Illinois professor Carol Spindel, author of the book Dancing at Halftime: Sports and the Controversy over American Indian Mascots, said Wednesday. This month the Illinois Native American Bar Association sued the school, saying the chief violates the 2003 Illinois Civil Rights Act, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The Illini, who face Louisville in the semifinals Saturday, do not bring the chief on the road except for an annual contest against Missouri in St. Louis or selected other neutral-site games. School officials say Illiniwek is not a mascot in a traditional sense because he is not comical and does not run down sidelines. "He's considered a symbol at the university," Illinois spokesman Kent Brown said Wednesday. The chief did perform at the NCAA tournament more than a decade ago, according to Illinois spokesman Tom Hardy. The other three finalists' mascots are expected to attend, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Kyle Cline, who has served as Chief Illiniwek since 2004, declined comment Wednesday via e-mail.

March 29
Image of the Day
'Braveheart' Sword Leaves Scotland

LONDON - One of Scotland's national treasures, the 5-foot sword wielded by William Wallace, the rebel leader portrayed in the Academy Award-winning film "Braveheart," left its homeland for the first time in more than 700 years. The double-handed weapon that belonged to Wallace will be the centerpiece of an exhibition at New York's Grand Central Station during Tartan Day celebrations, which begin later this week.
This year marks the 700th anniversary of the execution of Wallace, who led the Scots in their battle to free themselves from English rule and whose story was brought to the screen by Mel Gibson in the 1995 film "Braveheart." The film won five Academy Awards.
"This is an historic moment. It is the first time in 700 years that a relic of this importance has left these shores," said Colin O'Brien, a Scottish official accompanying the sword to the United States. The 6-pound weapon will be returned to its home at the National Wallace Monument in Stirling, Scotland, after the celebrations. Wallace's sword was kept at Dumbarton Castle for 600 years. King James IV is said to have paid for it to be given a new hilt in 1505.

March 30
Image of the Day

Dubai Looks to Build Tallest Skyscraper
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - For now, the world's tallest building-to-be is just a flower-shaped concrete tattoo on the desert sands, but its pilings are already in place, plunging 160 feet into the earth. When it's finished, visitors will swoon over this city from 123 stories high, if not more.
In fact the Burj Dubai will be much higher, the developers say — dozens of stories taller than skyscrapers in Taiwan, Chicago or anywhere else. But they are keeping the exact height a secret to flummox competitors in the world's furious race for the title of tallest skyscraper.
"We're going to records never approached before. Not only will it be the tallest building, it will be the tallest manmade tower," said Robert Booth, a director at Emaar Properties, the Dubai construction firm developing the spire-shaped, stainless-steel-skinned tower. Booth said jokingly that once completed in 2008, the $900 million Burj will sport a movable spire to keep observers from ever gauging the true height. "Only the chairman will know how tall it is," he joked.
He refused to reveal the total number of stories, but a mock elevator at the site held a button for a 189th floor. The building's 10 foot sway in the wind means designers need to prevent whiplash in the ultra-long cables hauling up 50 elevators.
The craze for height has hit hardest in industrializing Asian countries like Taiwan, Hong Kong and China, which boast seven of the world's 10 tallest buildings. The current tallest, at 101 floors, is the Taipei 101 in Taiwan, though Toronto's CN Tower is 180 feet higher, largely because of its huge antenna.
The Persian Gulf city of Dubai has staked its fame on engineering audacity such as its vast archipelagoes of artificial holiday islands, and the Burj, Arabic for "tower," is one of its more extreme mega-projects. New York built skyscrapers because land was scarce; Dubai is doing it to get on the international map. "It's image, clearly," said Richard Rosan, president of the Washington-based Urban Land Institute. "There is no practical reason for having a building this tall."
On paper, the Burj looks something like a giant space shuttle about to be launched into the clouds. Booth took reporters to the open-air 37th floor of a neighboring building, a vertigo-inducing experience in itself, and chatted breezily while standing perilously close to the abyss. "Can you imagine what it's going to be like on the 137th floor?" he said. "You can't be scared of heights to do this job." Developers say the silvery steel-and-glass building will restore to the Middle East the honor of hosting the earth's tallest structure — a title lost in 1889 when the Eiffel Tower upset the 43-century reign of Egypt's Great Pyramid of Giza.
Designers have planned for catastrophes, manmade and other, said Greg Sang, Emaar's project manager for the Burj. Sang believes the concrete-core building would withstand an airliner strike of the sort that brought down the steel-frame World Trade Center. "Concrete is much more robust than steel when you hit it. It's also much better at resisting fire," he said. The tower owes its shape to American architect Adrian Smith, of the Chicago firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Smith also designed Shanghai's 1,378-foot Jin Mao tower, the world's fourth tallest.
Workers from the chief contractor, South Korea's Samsung, are already swarming over the slab, shaped in three rounded lobes like a local desert flower. A hotel will occupy the lower 37 floors. Floors 45 through 108 will have 700 private apartments — already sold in just eight hours, the developer said. Corporate offices and suites will fill most of the rest, except for a 123rd floor lobby and 124th floor observation deck — with an outdoor terrace for the brave. The spire will also hold communication equipment. As for the title of world's tallest, Sang expects the Burj to hold it for a few years. "But someone, somewhere will come along and build a taller building. It's just a matter of time and money."

March 31
Image of the Day
Terri Schiavo Dies, but Debate Lives On
PINELLAS PARK, Fla. - With her husband and parents feuding to the bitter end and beyond, Terri Schiavo died Thursday, 13 days after her feeding tube was removed in a wrenching right-to-die dispute that engulfed the courts, Capitol Hill and the White House and divided the country. Cradled by her husband, Schiavo, 41, died a "calm, peaceful and gentle death" at about 9 a.m., a stuffed animal under her arm, flowers arranged around her hospice room, said George Felos, Michael Schiavo's attorney. No one from her side of the family was with her at the moment of her death. Her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, were not at the hospice, Felos said. And her brother had been barred from the room at Michael Schiavo's request moments before the end came. The death of the severely brain-damaged woman brought to a close what was easily the longest, most bitter — and most heavily litigated — right-to-die dispute in U.S. history.
"Mr. Schiavo's overriding concern here was to provide for Terri a peaceful death with dignity," said Felos, who was also present at the death. But the Rev. Frank Pavone, one of the Schindlers' spiritual advisers, called her death "a killing," adding: "And for that we not only grieve that Terri has passed but we grieve that our nation has allowed such an atrocity as this and we pray that it will never happen again." Schiavo suffered brain damage in 1990 and fell into what court-appointed doctors called a persistent vegetative state, with no real consciousness or chance of recovery, after a chemical imbalance caused her heart to stop. She had left no written instructions in the event she became disabled. Her husband argued that she told him long ago that she would not want to be kept alive artificially. Her parents disputed that, and held out hope for a miracle recovery for a daughter they said still laughed with them and struggled to talk. Pinellas County Circuit Judge George W. Greer sided with her husband and authorized the removal of the feeding tube keeping her alive. It was disconnected March 18.
During the seven-year legal battle, federal and state courts repeatedly rejected extraordinary attempts at intervention by Florida lawmakers, Gov. Jeb Bush, Congress and President Bush on behalf of her parents. Supporters of her parents, many of them anti-abortion activists and political conservatives, harshly criticized the courts. Many religious groups, including the Roman Catholic Church, said the removal of sustenance violated fundamental religious tenets. About 40 judges in six courts were involved in the case at one point or another. Six times, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene. As Schiavo's life ebbed away, Congress rushed through a bill to allow the federal courts to take up the case, and President Bush signed it March 21. But the federal courts refused to step in.
The case prompted many people to ponder what they would want if they, too, were in such a desperate medical situation, and many rushed to draw up living wills. The case also led to a furious debate over the proper role of government in life-and-death decisions, and whether the Republicans in Congress violated their party's principles of limited government and deference to the states by getting involved. In Washington on Thursday, the president was careful to extend condolences to Schiavo's "families" — meaning both Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers — even though he backed efforts to reconnect her feeding tube.  "I urge all those who honor Terri Schiavo to continue to work to build a culture of life where all Americans are welcomed and valued and protected, especially those who live at the mercy of others," the president said. House Republican Leader Tom DeLay condemned the state and federal judges who refused to prolong her life, and he warned that lawmakers "will look at an arrogant and out-of-control judiciary that thumbs its nose at Congress and the president." "I never thought I'd see the day when a U.S. judge stopped feeding a living American so that they took 14 days to die," he said.
Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother, said that Schiavo's death "is a window through which we can see the many issues left unresolved in our families and in our society. For that, we can be thankful for all that the life of Terri Schiavo has taught us." Outside the hospice — where over the past few weeks more than 50 protesters were arrested, many for trying to symbolically bring Schiavo food and water — demonstrators wept, prayed and sang religious hymns. Some threw their protest signs down in disgust. "You saw a murder happening," said one demonstrator, Dominique Hanks. Schiavo's body was taken in an unmarked white van with police motorcycle escort to the Pinellas County medical examiner's office, where an autopsy was planned that both sides hoped would shed light on the extent of her brain damage and whether she was abused by her husband, as the Schindlers have argued. In what was the source of yet another dispute between the husband and his in-laws, Michael Schiavo will get custody of his wife's body and plans to have her cremated.
Michael Schiavo's brother, Scott Schiavo, said the ashes will be buried in an undisclosed location near Philadelphia so that her immediate family does not attend and turn the moment into a media spectacle. A funeral Mass, sought by the Schindlers, was tentatively scheduled for Tuesday or Wednesday. The ill will between the husband and his in-laws became plain in other ways: The Schindlers' advisers complained that Schiavo's brother and sister had been at her bedside a few minutes before the end came, but were not there at the moment of her death because Michael Schiavo would not let them in the room. "And so his heartless cruelty continues until this very last moment," said Pavone, a Roman Catholic priest. Felos disputed the Schindler family's account. He said that Terri Schiavo's siblings had been asked to leave the room so that the hospice staff could examine her, and the brother, Bobby Schindler, started arguing with a law enforcement official. Michael Schiavo feared a "potentially explosive" situation, and would not allow the brother in the room, Felos said. "Mrs. Schiavo had a right to have her last and final moments on this earth be experienced by a spirit of love and not of acrimony," the lawyer said.
Before she was stricken, Terri Schiavo had recurring battles with weight, and her collapse at age 26 was believed to have been caused by an eating disorder. her parents, who visited her nearly every day, reported their daughter responded to their voices, and video showed her appearing to interact with her family. But the court-appointed doctor said the noises and facial expressions were reflexes. Both sides accused each other of being motivated by greed over a $1 million medical malpractice award from doctors who failed to diagnose the chemical imbalance.
Schiavo's feeding tube was briefly removed in 2001. It was reinserted after two days when a court intervened. In October 2003, the tube was removed again, but Gov. Bush rushed Terri's Law through the Legislature and had the tube reinserted after six days. The Florida Supreme Court later struck down the law as unconstitutional interference in the judicial system.
Schiavo lived in her brain-damaged state longer than two other young women whose cases brought right-to-die issues to the forefront. Karen Quinlan lived for more than a decade in a vegetative state, brought on by alcohol and drugs in 1975 when she was 21. New Jersey courts let her parents take her off a respirator a year after her injury. Nancy Cruzan, who was 25 when a 1983 car crash put her in a vegetative state, lived nearly eight years before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that her feeding tube could be withdrawn. In both cases, however, the families agreed that lifesaving measures should be ended.