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News Briefs I

PC Virus Hare' to Activate Today


Rumors of a deadly computer virus were circulating on the Internet as early as the first days of June. With a phone call July 3 from an unhappy customer in New Zealand to a Southern California company that fights computer viruses, rumor edged toward fact.

The customer, the University of Auckland, sent a sample of the virus to Charles Renert, development manager for the Antivirus Research Center of the Symantec/Peter Norton Group, makers of the popular Norton AntiVirus. The head digital epidemiologist at the Santa Monica company dissected the code.

The Hare Krisna virus is designed to wipe out every piece of data on every PC-Compatible computer it comes across. It will flash "HDEuthanasia by Demon Emperor: Hare Krisna, hare, hare" on the screen of an infected machine. It will activate today, Thursday Aug. 22.

While the highly infectious Hare virus is constructed in a way that could enable it to wipe out every file on a computer's memory, Renert and his colleagues in the antivirus industry counsel caution and safety, not panic.

Jimmy Kuo, senior virus researcher at McAfee Associates Inc., said that the computers of the world are too diverse and complex for a virus to cause total havoc. Kuo estimated that only between 100 and 1,000 computers would be affected Thursday. The virus is believed to be the work of a hacker from New Zealand, Australia or Europe, depending on who's doing the digital detective work.

Japanese Exec Released by Captors

Los Angeles Times

A day after gaining his freedom, the Japanese executive held captive for more than a week by kidnappers in Mexico said he plans to rest, enjoy his family and "savor the sweetness of freedom."

"This last week was one of the worst weeks of my life," Mamoru Konno said.

Looking tired and emotionally drained, Konno, 57, read a brief statement to dozens of reporters, many of them representing Japanese news media, at a news conference at Sanyo North America Corp.'s San Diego headquarters. He thanked reporters for "coming to help celebrate my release."

Mexican authorities, meanwhile, predicted an imminent break in their efforts to apprehend the six-member gang which is still at large.

Konno was set free early Monday morning in the La Mesa area of Tijuana, Mexico, by a gang said by the Baja California attorney general's office to consist of either all Mexicans or possibly a South American. Konno was kidnapped Aug. 10 as he left a Tijuana public park where a Sanyo employee baseball team had played an intramural game. Sanyo paid the $2 million ransom.

ValuJet May Re-open in September

The Washington Post

ValuJet Airlines, which stopped flying two months ago because of U.S. regulators' worries about its flight safety, will not get approval to resume flying by Friday, its target date, and likely will have to wait until at least early September to restart its operations, sources at the Department of Transportation said Tuesday.

The Atlanta-based carrier voluntarily grounded its fleet June 17 after the Federal Aviation Administration found "serious deficiencies" with its maintenance program in inspections following the May 11 crash of Flight 592 in the Florida Everglades. ValuJet officials have said they want to get back in the air quickly, with at least a few flights, to win back customers and begin rebuilding the carrier.

ValuJet must obtain clearances from the FAA, which is reviewing the airline's aircraft and safety procedures, and the DOT, which is reviewing its financial health and management. The FAA's review may be finished by Friday, according to DOT and ValuJet sources.

But the DOT, which oversees the FAA, appears to be at least 10 days away from issuing the airline a "certificate of fitness," according to DOT sources. The carrier needs that certificate, which was pulled when ValuJet voluntarily ceased operations, before it can begin advertising and selling seats on its flights.

Still, ValuJet is preparing for its return and has begun recalling some of its flight crews. Tuesday, Lewis Jordan, president of the carrier, maintained that ValuJet meets DOT's fitness criteria, and should be granted permission to fly.

"We are hopeful that we will be approved to return to flying status as soon as possible," Jordan said.