News BriefsPanel Upholds Pentagon on Gulf War Syndrome LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON
The latest federal panel to examine “Gulf War illness” concluded Friday that the Pentagon has been on the right track in its search for causes of the mysterious ailment and ruled out speculation that it might be the result of exposure to low-radioactivity artillery shells and bombs.
In an interim report that was condemned by some veterans’ activists, the presidential advisory panel said that the Pentagon’s investigation was generally “credible,” although it criticized certain narrow aspects of the work.
The Special Oversight Board on Gulf War Illness, headed by former Sen. Warren B. Rudman, R-N.H., recommended that defense officials expand their fact-gathering efforts and include examination of possible genetic factors.
In the aftermath of the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf war with Iraq, more than 20,000 U.S. veterans complained of a variety of symptoms that they believe are related to their participation in the conflict. The complaints include fatigue, nausea, joint pain, memory loss and flu-like symptoms.
Some activists have put increasing emphasis on a theory that the complaints have arisen because of the depleted uranium coatings on some artillery shells and bombs.
Using ‘Data Mining’ Technology, Amazon.com Stirs Controversy
the Washington Post --
“The Microsoft File: The Secret Case Against Bill Gates” is a bestseller among Microsoft employees.
At MCI WorldCom, they’re buying “The Electronic Day Trader.”
At the Library of Congress, “Gary Null’s Ultimate Anti-Aging Program” is a hit.
All this is revealed by the online bookseller Amazon.com, which has started featuring thousands of individual bestseller lists calculated by Zip codes, workplaces and colleges -- wherever its customers are ordering from. With a mouse click on its World Wide Web site, you can peek behind the scenes at the books that specific groups are reading, the compact discs they’re listening to and the videos they’re watching.
Amazon describes it as “fun,” happily announcing the feature, Purchase Circles, in a press release last week that was followed by a number of media reports.
Late Thursday, however, citing customer complaints, the company began backtracking. Customers can now opt out of having their data collected, as long as they’re savvy enough to read the fine print and send an e-mail to the company. Companies can choose not to be included by sending a fax.
The episode underscored the power of Web technology to collect vast detail about millions of consumers and zoom in on the data in ways unprecedented in the annals of marketing.
“We’re taking chances; we’re innovating here,” said Amazon spokesman Paul Capelli. “This program is building community and adding a unique feature that never could have existed before the Internet.”
The chief executive of the trade group to which Amazon belongs, the American Booksellers Association, had a different view.
“This is outrageous,” said Avin Mark Domnitz. “One of the things that people are afraid of with computers is that they are so powerful, (that) they collect extraordinary amounts of information about individuals. We could create an environment where people are afraid to go online.”
No one interviewed Thursday was particularly bothered by Amazon compiling lists by individual Zip codes -- that’s just a more specialized version of the national and regional lists that have been a feature of the book trade for decades. The concern was instead over the hundreds of lists specific to individual corporations, colleges and universities, and a sprinkling of nonprofit groups and government institutions.
“You can’t say there isn’t a privacy invasion here,” said Robert Biggerstaff of the National Association Mandating Equitable Databases, a consumer group. “It’s not traced back to the individual, but they are invading the privacy of the company.
Burger King Remains Defiant in the Occupied West Bank
The Baltimore Sun
MAALE ADUMIM, Occupied West Bank
The Burger King in this Jewish settlement remained open for business Friday, defiant in the face of a controversy that has bedeviled Middle East diplomacy for decades: Where are Israel’s borders?
On Thursday, the fast-food chain’s corporate headquarters ordered the the Burger King here to shut down because the franchise is for Israel and the restaurant is located in this sprawling Jewish settlement in the disputed former Arab territory that Israel has occupied since the end of the 1967 war.
Israeli-American businessmen Mishulam Riklis, the owner of the 46 Burger King restaurants in Israel, is taking legal action to make sure the Jewish settlement outlet remains open.
A lobbying campaign by Arab Americans and Muslims succeeded Thursday in persuading Burger King to forbid its Israeli franchisee to operate in Maale Adumim. Burger King in Miami contended that it had been misled by the franchisee about the location of the Maale Adumim outlet.
Leading American Jewish organizations came to the defense of Riklis and the settlement.
Burger King operates 84 outlets in Saudia Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar. Its competitor, McDonald’s, has a policy against opening franchises in the disputed occupied territories.
Jewish settlements in the occupied territories are a hot button in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. The Palestinians argue that every settlement is an attempt to extend Israeli sovereignty to their land. Israeli settlers do not deny this, but they argue the land is theirs by God-given right. The future of the settlements will be determined in the final negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.