Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Brief History of the Gaza Folly | The American Prospect

A Brief History of the Gaza Folly | The American Prospect: "A Brief History of the Gaza Folly

The flotilla attack is just the latest in a series of bad decisions Israel has made about Gaza over the past five years.


Gershom Gorenberg | June 1, 2010 | web only



A Brief History of the Gaza Folly


Palestinian flags wave in Gaza port a day before a flotilla of aid ships was to arrive. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)


At first, reports of the number of dead fluctuated by the hour. After Israeli naval commandos landed on a Turkish ferry heading for Gaza, rumors said that Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the radical Islamic movement among Israeli Arabs, had been killed on board. The rumors turned into news items in the Arab media; the sheikh was then reported alive and well. Descriptions of what actually happened on the crowded deck of the Mavi Marmara have, predictably, been wildly at odds. Activists who were on board say the Israeli commandos fired before being attacked; the Israeli military says the soldiers were defending themselves from a mob. Both sides present film clips of the nighttime struggle to back up their case.

Out of this blurred picture, one thing seems agonizingly clear: The raid was a link in a chain of premeditated folly.

Let's follow that chain, from the news reports backward. To deflect criticism, Israeli army sources have told the press that the commandos faced a 'lynch' when they descended by ropes from helicopters onto the Mavi Marmara -- the largest boat in the flotilla intended to break Israel's blockade on Gaza. Inside Israel, the word 'lynch' stirs a very loaded memory: the mob murder of two Israeli soldiers who strayed into the West Bank city of Ramallah at the start of the Second Intifada in 2000.

Yet the word emphasizes the stark difference between the two events. The commandos didn't stray onto the ferry's deck. They boarded it in a planned operation. If, as Israel Defense Forces footage seems to show, people on the boat's deck greeted them with knives and clubs, it means that at least some of the activists decided in advance that nonviolence wasn't their strategy. Nonetheless, they weren't lynching anyone; they were attempting to stop a boarding party in international waters. The Israeli Foreign Ministry argues that interdicting a ship on the high seas to enforce a declared blockade is legal under international law. It should have been no surprise, however, that the boarding would meet resistance from the 679 people aboard the ship -- a mix of pro-Palestinian activists from the international Free Gaza Movement; members of the Turkish Islamic relief group Insani Yardim Vakfi; and a handful of prominent Israeli Arabs.

That takes us back a link: The decision to send a handful of commandos to seize the ship -- a decision approved by Prime Minister Netanyahu and his inner circle of ministers -- shows hubris, poor intelligence work, and determined inability to learn from experience. Both the politicians and the generals expected that the arrival of Israeli soldiers would convince the crew and passengers to submit. And yet, a day before the boarding, Israel Radio cited an Al-Jazeera report that people aboard the ship said they were ready to die. The Israel Radio reporter described that attitude as 'paranoia.' He didn't consider the possibility that those aboard were ready for a fight. It seems that military intelligence also failed to examine clues in plain sight.

The naval commandos are an elite unit, trained for daring operations. Controlling an angry crowd of civilians armed with knives and slingshots isn't in their job description. The riot equipment they got for this mission was insufficient. Outnumbered, they resorted to live fire. But riot control has long been an Israeli weak point. In 1990, outnumbered police fired on Palestinian demonstrators on the Temple Mount, killing a score of people and causing an international crisis. In 2000, police used live fire after Ariel Sharon's visit to the same holy site, killing several Palestinian protesters and igniting the Second Intifada. Yet before the 2005 evacuation of Jewish settlers in Gaza, troops and police got weeks of training in crowd control and self-restraint. Deployed en masse, they were able to subdue violent protesters without fatalities. Somehow, the comparative lessons weren't learned before this week's deadly fiasco.

Perhaps there's no way to use sophisticated crowd-control methods while boarding a ship. But that problem only leads us further back, to the decision to stop the flotilla. True, if Israel had allowed six ships, their passengers, and their cargo of humanitarian aid to reach Gaza, the siege of the Hamas-controlled territory would have been breached beyond repair.

But the Israeli siege itself is another link in the chain of folly. It was imposed in stages after Hamas' election victory in January 2006, the abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit later that year, and the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007. Limited supplies are allowed through at land crossings -- and a shifting list of civilian goods are blocked. Instead, they reach Gaza through smuggling tunnels from Egypt, along with arms. The siege hasn't convinced Hamas to return Shalit. It hasn't sparked a popular revolt against Hamas rule. It has encouraged smuggling, caused suffering, and amplified foreign criticism of Israel. The flotilla was a missed chance for a long-needed review of Israel's policies toward Hamas since the pullout from Gaza in 2005.

So we move back one more link, to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decision's to leave Gaza unilaterally, rather than as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority. Sharon knew that reaching an agreement would mean yielding nearly all of the West Bank as well. He saw the Gaza withdrawal as a way to avoid making such a deal. But the unilateral pullout weakened Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, an advocate of a negotiated peace, and legitimized Hamas and its 'armed struggle.'

Before and after the raid, Israeli officials referred to the flotilla as a 'provocation' intended to harm Israel. That's probably true -- and only raises the question of why Israel allowed itself to be provoked. Part of the answer lies in a cognitive failure in understanding events long before 2005.

To explain, I need to turn for a moment to what I can only call an omen that occurred the day before the raid: At age 89, veteran Israeli dissident Lova Eliav died. In 1968, as a rising politician in the Labor Party, Eliav shocked his comrades by declaring that the Palestinians must be recognized as a people, that Israel must negotiate with them and give up the occupied territories. His heresy came after he spent months in the towns and refugee camps of Gaza and the West Bank, listening to Palestinians. It was a product of empathy, reason and the ability to believe in both peace and patriotism. He was driven from the party to the left margins of politics. Decades later, his ideas moved into the mainstream.

One more detail of his resumé: In 1947, as a young man, Eliav was the commander of a ship called the Haim Arlosoroff, which tried to bring Holocaust survivors to Palestine in defiance of British immigration limits. The voyage ended off the coast of Haifa when British marines took control of the ship. The would-be immigrants were interred in Cyprus. Eliav's mission was not a failure, though. It was one step in a campaign that stirred the world against British policy and led to the establishment of Israel.

Were Israel's current leaders able to read the past as Eliav did, to see oneself in one's adversary, they would have seen the implications of the voyage of the Mavi Marmara and the folly of interdicting it. They might even understand that their consistent effort to avoid a two-state solution is a mistake. Eliav embodied a heroic, humanistic Zionism. The omen of his passing was ignored. It remains for Israelis who believe in his path to demand that the government finally break the chain of folly.

- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Towards an ethics-based complement to scripture in NSW primary schools | St James Ethics Centre

Towards an ethics-based complement to scripture in NSW primary schools | St James Ethics Centre: "Towards an ethics-based complement to scripture in NSW primary schools
Photograph of school children.

'Dear Minister, Please approve the pilot!'

Presented by:
NSW Federation of P and C Associations
St James Ethics Centre
The Need for Change

Did you know that children whose parents make a conscientious decision to have them opt out of Special Religious Education (SRE) are prohibited from any form of instruction during this period? NSW Department of Education policy provides for the supervision of these children but specifies they are not to have access to 'ethics, values, civics or general religious education.'

Not surprisingly, many view the existing policy as socially and psychologically unjust — all students are entitled to meaningful instruction, ethical exploration and the associated benefits.

Based on mounting community interest and support, St James Ethics Centre, proposed a pilot project to test the concept of offering an ethics-based complement to scripture.
Minister Firth says YES! to trial an ethics-based complement to scripture

St James Ethics Centre welcomed the announcement on 25 November 2009 by Premier Nathan Rees approving its proposal to conduct a pilot program for an ethics-based complement to scripture in ten NSW primary schools.

More details regarding the Premier’s announcement are available here.

The Centre takes this opportunity to acknowledge the generous support it has received in relation to this initiative. We thank all those who have been part of the project so far and look forward to working with you in the future.
Project update

The 10-week trial at ten NSW Primary schools is currently underway and will last through Term 2, 2010. Professor Phillip Cam from the University of New South Wales, an international expert in the teaching of ethics and philosophy to children, has written the pilot curriculum. Thirty three volunteers from within each school community have been recruited and trained as ethics teachers. More information about the Ethics Pilot is available here.

- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Forever For Now - VMWare Player Image Creation

Forever For Now - VMWare Player Image Creation: "Forever For Now

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VMWare Player Image Creation
Introduction
Background

VMWare recently introduced their VMWare Player and VMWare Server products for Windows and Linux. They offer some premade disk images for use with the Player and Server technology, but they do not offer software to create new virtual machines or images. Luckily you can create them on your own without too much hassle.

I'm using VMWare Player under both Ubuntu Linux 5.04 Hoary Hedgehog and Ubuntu Linux 5.10 Breezy Badger. Installing the software is fairly straightforward and there are some great guides over at the Ubuntu forum on how to do this.

The trick to getting more out the VMWare Player and VMWare Server than a few premade images is actually two-fold, let me guide you through the process of almost getting a free VMWare Workstation replacement.

In this article I'll be referring mostly to VMWare Player, but you can also create VMWare Server images using the steps described.
A Fresh Start
Zero entropy

One of the 'problems' you could have with the premade images for VMWare Player is that they don't come in the sizes and formatting you'd like. Also, since they are already filled with data you don't really benefit from sparse file support from your filesystem once you format them from within the virtual machine.

The best thing to have would be a clean hard disk image in a reasonable size which you could use to format. If you start off with a nearly empty hard disk image, a filesystem like ext2 or ext3, will be able to detect the file as being sparse and optimize its usage accordingly.

There are two ways to get a clean disk image for your virtual machine.
Using QEMU

QEMU is an open source virtualization solution written by Fabrice Bellard. It supports a wide array of host operating systems and architectures and is able to virtualize a few different architectures as well. QEMU comes bundled with some tools related to virtualization and emulation.

In one of the more recent versions, a tool called qemu-img is included. Using this tool you can create empty disk images for use with QEMU, but also for use with VMWare products like VMWare Player. This tool can easily be installed on a Linux system.

But if you want to save some time, here's option two.
Download empty VMWare Player images

I've got some empty VMWare disk images available for download. They're compressed as ZIP files and because they are empty the files are very small. Uncompressing them on your own system will enable sparse files support, so don't worry once you start unpacking the larger disk images.

The empty disk images come in three sizes: 500 megabytes, 10 gigabytes and 20 gigabytes. I reckon these should be large enough for all but the most demanding users.

Download the empty VMWare Player disk images:

* VMWare Player SCSI disk image, 500 megabytes unpacked (.ZIP, 1 Kb)
* VMWare Player SCSI disk image, 10 gigabytes unpacked (.ZIP, 3 Kb)
* VMWare Player SCSI disk image, 20 gigabytes unpacked (.ZIP, 5 Kb)
* VMWare Player IDE disk image, 20 gigabytes unpacked (.ZIP, 5 Kb)

The disk images above are freely available on the Internet. Use the IDE disk image for installing Windows 2000, Windows XP or other Windows operating systems in your Player.

So, with the first barricade out of the way, let's look at the second problem: a so-called VMX file which contains the virtual machines description and properties.
Configuration Cleaning
Boilerplate

As I said earlier, you'll only need a VMWare Disk Image (a VMDK file) and a VMX file which describes the virtual machine. I've already presented you with three disk image downloads, and here is one file you can use as a template for your new virtual machines.

* VMWare Player Virtual Machine Template for Linux, BSD, UNIX and other guest operating systems (.VMX, 1 Kb)
* VMWare Player Virtual Machine Template for Windows operating systems (.VMX, 1 Kb)

If you are getting errors regarding a mismatch between the disk images using LSI Logic formatting and the template using a Bus Logic virtual SCSI device, please download the template again. I've updated it to use the correct LSI Logic SCSI device.

The second download link is the template you want to use with the IDE disk image to run Microsoft Windows inside the virtual machine. This second template uses an IDE disk which is compatible with Windows.
Customizing the template

Once you've downloaded the configuration file template, rename it to suit your needs and open it up in a text editor like vi, emacs or Notepad if you're using Windows. The first few lines are the ones above '# DEFAULT SETTINGS UNDER THIS LINE' and they look like this:

#!/usr/bin/vmware
displayName = 'Linux 2.6.x Host'
guestOS = 'other26xlinux'

memsize = '512'
scsi0:0.fileName = '10G.vmdk'
ide1:0.fileName = 'cdrom.iso'

The first line with the shebang can be ignored safely. The next few lines set a few options for the virtual machine, I'll explain these one by one.

* displayName defines the name of the virtual machine you will see in the titlebar and VMWare Player menu, you can use a long descriptive string if you want.
* guestOS is a short code for the operating system you will be running in the virtual machine. I have included a list of all possible values below.
* memsize defines the amount memory available to the virtual machine in megabytes. Valid entries are 32, 64, 128, 256, 512 and 1024.
* scsi0:0.fileName defines the hard disk image for the SCSI hard disk in the virtual machine. Use one of the downloads above to get the VMDK files.
* ide0:0.fileName defines the hard disk image for the IDE hard disk in the virtual machine. Use the IDE downloads above to get the VMDK file. This IDE disk allows you to run Microsoft Windows.
* ide1:0.fileName defines the ISO file to use in the CD-ROM drive of the virtual machine. The filename is relative to the working directory.

Needless to say, you should change the values in the template to suit your needs.
Supported Virtual Machine Operating Systems
One setting to rule them all

VMWare Player can be tweaked to perform better when virtualizing certain operating systems. Here is a list with all supported guest operating systems which you can enter in the guestOS parameter in the VMX configuration file.
Microsoft Windows, 32-bit

* winVista = Windows Vista (experimental)
* longhorn = Windows Longhorn (experimental)
* winNetBusiness = Windows 2003 Small Business Server
* winNetEnterprise = Windows 2003 Enterprise Server
* winNetStandard = Windows 2003 Server
* winNetWeb = Windows 2003 Web Server Edition
* winXPPro = Windows XP Professional Edition
* winXPHome = Windows XP Home Edition
* win2000AdvServ = Windows 2000 Advanced Server
* win2000Serv = Windows 2000 Server
* win2000Pro = Windows 2000 Professional
* winNT = Windows NT
* winMe = Windows Me
* win98 = Windows 98
* win95 = Windows 95
* win31 = Windows 3.1 / Windows 3.11
* windows = Other Windows

Microsoft Windows, 64-bit

* winVista-64 = Windows Vista x64 Edition (experimental)
* longhorn-64 = Windows Longhorn x64 Edition (experimental)
* winNetEnterprise-64 = Windows 2003 Enterprise Server x64 Edition
* winNetStandard-64 = Windows 2003 Server x64 Edition
* winXPPro-64 = Windows XP Professional x64 Edition

Linux, 32-bit

* ubuntu = Ubuntu Linux
* redhat = Red Hat Linux
* rhel4 = Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4
* rhel3 = Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3
* rhel2 = Red Hat Enterprise Linux 2
* suse = SuSE Linux
* sles = SuSE Linux Enterprise Server
* mandrake = Mandrake Linux
* nld9 = Novell Linux Desktop 9
* sjds = Sun Java Desktop System
* turbolinux = Turbo Linux
* other26xlinux = Other Linux on a 2.6.x kernel
* other24xlinux = Other Linux on a 2.4.x kernel
* linux = Other Linux

Linux, 64-bit

* ubuntu-64 = Ubuntu Linux 64-bit
* rhel4-64 = Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 64-bit
* rhel3-64 = Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 64-bit
* sles-64 = SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 64-bit
* suse-64 = SuSE Linux 64-bit
* other26xlinux-64 = Other Linux 2.6.x 64-bit
* other24xlinux-64 = Other Linux 2.4.x 64-bit
* otherlinux-64 = Other Linux 64-bit

Sun Microsystems Solaris

* solaris10-64 = Solaris 10 64-bit
* solaris10 = Solaris 10
* solaris9 = Solaris 9
* solaris8 = Solaris 8
* solaris7 = Solaris 7
* solaris6 = Solaris 6
* solaris = Other Solaris

Novell Netware

* netware6 = Netware 6.x
* netware5 = Netware 5.x
* netware4 = Netware 4.x
* netware = Other Netware

FreeBSD

* freeBSD-64 = FreeBSD 64-bit
* freeBSD = FreeBSD

Apple Darwin

* darwin = Apple Darwin (unsupported)

Other

* other = Other OS
* other-64 = Other 64-bit OS

Finishing Touches
Example VMX

If you wanted to run the Ubuntu Linux 6.04 Dapper Drake Flight 3 preview release in a VMWare Player virtual machine, you should modify the first lines in the VMX file template to something like this:

#!/usr/bin/vmware
displayName = 'Ubuntu Dapper Drake 6.04 Flight 3'
guestOS = 'ubuntu'

memsize = '512'
scsi0:0.fileName = '20G.vmdk'
ide1:0.fileName = 'dapper-install-i386.iso'

After saving this file to 'dapper.vmx' you should run the VMWare Player:

vmplayer ./dapper.vmx

If all goes well, the installation CD ISO image will boot and you will be able to install Dapper Drake to the virtual hard disk. Enjoy!
Conclusion
Go create

With this tutorial you should now be able to create virtual machines from scratch. I hope I've provided you with all the tools necessary to create a blank disk and configuration and then enjoy the speed and easy of use of VMWare Player.

A word of advice though: if you like this VMWare product, please support VMWare by buying one of their software products. They deliver excellent value for money and will save you a lot of time otherwise spent on rebooting your computer system.

This article was written on the 14th of February 2006 and updated on the 7th of March 2006 fixing the LSI Logic SCSI adapter in the template file. On the 3rd of April 2006 I added the 20G IDE disk image for use with Windows XP. On the 23rd of October 2006 I added the VM template for use with Windows guest operating systems and added some comments on this.

On the 22nd of March 2009 I updated some outdated links to the QEMU website, thanks to Kevin Salmon informing me about these links.
Related pages

Check out these related pages on using VMWare Player:

* Installation on Ubuntu Linux
* QEMU website
* QEMU qemu-img documentation
* VMWare website
* VMWare Player website
* VMWare Server website

Other Linux articles

* Apache 2 mod_deflate Benchmark
* CGI Scripting Tips for Bash or SH
* GDB GNU Debugger Intro
* MySQL Tips and Tricks
* PostgreSQL Tips and Tricks
* Server-wide Performance Benchmarking
* Setting up a Chroot Jail for CVS
* VMWare Player Image Creation

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* ► VMWare Player Image Creation

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- Sent using Google Toolbar"

EasyVMX!: Virtual Machine Creator

EasyVMX!: Virtual Machine Creator: "Create virtual machines for VMware Player

Create virtual machines for VMware Player



EasyVMX! is the simple and failsafe way to create complete virtual machines for VMware Player on the web.
You can install any Windows, Linux, BSD or Solaris, and test LiveCDs in a safe environment.


EasyVMX! comes in three different flavours:


EasyVMX! SuperSimple Expert Form
The original Virtual Machine Creator
Four required configuration fields
500MB to 100GB pre-built disk images
Lots of configuration options
Download Virtual Machine as zip
Easiest Virtual Machine Creator ever
Four required configuration fields
Uses the default settings from EasyVMX!
Great for Live CDs
Download Virtual Machine as zip
EasyVMX! 2.0 (beta)
Full Vista compatibility
Supports Shared Folders
Added lots of Player 2.0 features
See all the new features in the blog


EasyVMX! has created 2,002,503 virtual machines.


"Absolutely the best online virtual machine builder"

Zong Hopes to Offer One-Click Android Payments - Bits Blog - NYTimes.com

Zong Hopes to Offer One-Click Android Payments - Bits Blog - NYTimes.com: "Zong Hopes to Offer One-Click Android Payments
By NICK BILTON

Apple’s iAd platform, when it is first used this summer, will display embedded advertisements on mobile devices. Some ads could have the ability to complete transactions.

This move by Apple could please iPhone software developers who wish to offer free mobile applications and still draw revenue through the ad platform.
Zong mobile platformzong.com Zong’s latest mobile platform offers a one-click buy option.

But mobile transactions on the Google Android platform are currently limited to Google’s clunky Checkout system, which has curbed the ability to perform embedded mobile payments with Android apps.

To try and solve the difficult Android payment problem, Zong, a mobile payment company, announced on Wednesday that it planned to offer a solution to these limited options with a new embedded mobile payment product.

The new payment solution will make it easier for developers who design applications specifically for the Android platform to charge mobile customers and will make quick purchases possible without having to go through the painful process of entering credit-card numbers or billing information on a mobile phone.

Zong avoids this by using a process called carrier billing, where payments are billed directly to a user’s mobile phone provider.

Zong hopes to make it painless for developers to include the payment system in apps by providing a simple one-click button that can easily be slipped into any Android application. The program is currently being tested in a private test of the software.

David Marcus, Zong’s chief executive, explained in an interview by phone that the latest announcement made it simple to charge customers within an application.

“This could enable Zynga to build a mobile Farmville with virtual transactions built into the application with a few lines of code,” Mr. Marcus said.

He said he believed it could also help to make Android devices more popular than Apple iPhones and iPads. “The Android platform is going to surpass the iPhone in market share over the next five years,” he predicted.

Mr. Marcus also said the company planned to start with Android and explore other platforms at a later date. “We would love to be on the iPhone, but because of Apple’s terms of service we just can’t do in-app transactions,” he said.

According to a company press release, Zong currently processes millions of payments a month on mobile devices and with virtual goods online. The company recently closed a $15 million round of financing led by Matrix Partners.

The video below shows an example of a Zong transaction inside an Android game.

- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Zong Hopes to Offer One-Click Android Payments - Bits Blog - NYTimes.com

Zong Hopes to Offer One-Click Android Payments - Bits Blog - NYTimes.com: "Zong Hopes to Offer One-Click Android Payments
By NICK BILTON

Apple’s iAd platform, when it is first used this summer, will display embedded advertisements on mobile devices. Some ads could have the ability to complete transactions.

This move by Apple could please iPhone software developers who wish to offer free mobile applications and still draw revenue through the ad platform.
Zong mobile platformzong.com Zong’s latest mobile platform offers a one-click buy option.

But mobile transactions on the Google Android platform are currently limited to Google’s clunky Checkout system, which has curbed the ability to perform embedded mobile payments with Android apps.

To try and solve the difficult Android payment problem, Zong, a mobile payment company, announced on Wednesday that it planned to offer a solution to these limited options with a new embedded mobile payment product.

The new payment solution will make it easier for developers who design applications specifically for the Android platform to charge mobile customers and will make quick purchases possible without having to go through the painful process of entering credit-card numbers or billing information on a mobile phone.

Zong avoids this by using a process called carrier billing, where payments are billed directly to a user’s mobile phone provider.

Zong hopes to make it painless for developers to include the payment system in apps by providing a simple one-click button that can easily be slipped into any Android application. The program is currently being tested in a private test of the software.

David Marcus, Zong’s chief executive, explained in an interview by phone that the latest announcement made it simple to charge customers within an application.

“This could enable Zynga to build a mobile Farmville with virtual transactions built into the application with a few lines of code,” Mr. Marcus said.

He said he believed it could also help to make Android devices more popular than Apple iPhones and iPads. “The Android platform is going to surpass the iPhone in market share over the next five years,” he predicted.

Mr. Marcus also said the company planned to start with Android and explore other platforms at a later date. “We would love to be on the iPhone, but because of Apple’s terms of service we just can’t do in-app transactions,” he said.

According to a company press release, Zong currently processes millions of payments a month on mobile devices and with virtual goods online. The company recently closed a $15 million round of financing led by Matrix Partners.

The video below shows an example of a Zong transaction inside an Android game.

- Sent using Google Toolbar"

The Kno, a Tablet for the College Market - Bits Blog - NYTimes.com

The Kno, a Tablet for the College Market - Bits Blog - NYTimes.com: "The Kno, a Tablet for the College Market
By MIGUEL HELFT
The Knokno.com

The success of the Kindle and iPad has sparked a slew of tablet-wannabes. Some are imitators, while others are trying to bring new ideas to the tablet and e-reader concepts.

The Kno, a dual-screen device aimed at the college market, falls in the latter category. The tablet/e-reader, which was first shown in public on Wednesday at the D8 technology conference in Southern California, allows students to view textbooks on its digital screens much as they would appear in their analog versions, with text, color images and graphics.

Kno, which is short for knowledge, was founded by Osman Rashid, who also founded Chegg, a fast-growing Silicon Valley start-up that allows students to rent textbooks. When I wrote about Chegg last year, I asked Mr. Rashid about the wisdom of starting a book-renting business in a world that was quickly embracing digital books. He said he had an answer to that but could not tell me yet. Kno, he hopes, is that answer.

“Students want to replicate this analog experience in a digital format,” Mr. Rashid said, while he demonstrated the Kno prototype on stage at D8.

The device has two, 14-inch screens, which are big enough to display two facing textbook pages without requiring students to scroll up and down to see the entire pages. It will also have a stylus that will allow students to take notes. It weighs about 5.5 pounds, with each slab of the tablet a little thicker than half an inch.

In addition to the ability to view textbooks, the Kno gives students a desktop full of tools to organize their college lives, like calendars and folders for each of their courses where they can view textbooks but also store notes and videos and highlight passages in the books.

Mr. Rashid said the company had deals with several large textbook publishers, including Pearson, McGraw Hill Education, Cengage Learning and Wiley, to make their texts available on the Kno.

The device is built on its own Linux-based operating system and supports a full browser, raising the question of whether students may end up using it to check in with their Facebook friends rather than listen to their lectures. It is powered by a NVidia Tegra processor and supports Flash.

It is hard to judge the Kno at this point, because it is a work-in-progress. Several of the features do not yet work. And during the demo, the device appeared to be slow. But then again, it is a prototype.

Kno plans to release a test version in the fall and begin selling it broadly before the end of the year. Mr. Rashid said the Kno would cost less than $1,000, but otherwise did not discuss pricing.

After the presentation, I played with the Kno for a few minutes. It felt very large and heavy, especially when compared with the thin iPad. But Mr. Rashid said to compare it not with an iPad, but rather with with a 20-pound backback containing textbooks, notebooks and a laptop, often a heavy, 15-inch or 17-inch device preferred by students.

The company is backed by venture capitalists and recently received an investment from Andreessen Horowitz. Marc Andreessen, who co-founded Netscape, joined the company’s board.

“The fact that they are targeting the textbook market is key,” Mr. Andreessen said in an interview by phone. The device, he said, “is no heavier or clumsier than a single textbook. And over time, all the components are going to get lighter.”

- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Is Steve Jobs Big Brother? - Opinionator Blog - NYTimes.com

Is Steve Jobs Big Brother? - Opinionator Blog - NYTimes.com: "Is Steve Jobs Big Brother?
By ROBERT WRIGHT

Robert WrightRobert Wright on culture, politics and world affairs.
Tags:

Apple, iPad, iPhone, steve jobs

Steve Jobs is in the running for two trophies: comeback of the decade and villain of the year.

Last week Apple’s market capitalization surpassed Microsoft’s — something that seemed impossible 10 years ago and really impossible 14 years ago, when Jobs returned from corporate exile to resume leadership of a down-and-out Apple. And some people think Apple’s best years lie ahead; iPads are selling like — well, like iPhones.

Meanwhile, though, Jobs stands accused of what in Silicon Valley is a capital crime: authoritarian tendencies. He’s long played hardball with journalists who reveal details about forthcoming products, and now he’s deciding what content people can view on the iPhone and iPad. Apps featuring even soft-core porn are verboten, and some kinds of political commentary don’t make the cut. Apple recently rejected an app from a political cartoonist — and then, embarrassingly, had to reconsider after he won the Pulitzer Prize.
Steve JobsJim Wilson/The New York Times Steve Jobs during the introduction of the iPad in January. Apple controls which applications are available on both the iPad and the iPhone.

Put these two Jobs profiles together — emerging infotech hegemon and congenital control freak — and you get a scary scenario: growing dominance of our information pipelines by a guy who likes to filter information. No wonder Jobs’s detractors have been making ironic reference to Apple’s famous 1984 Super Bowl ad, the one that implicitly cast the IBM-Microsoft alliance as Big Brother.

One tech journalist puts the fear this way: “I don’t want a single, Wal-Mart-like channel that controls access to my audience and dictates what is and is not acceptable material for me to create.” It’s not a crazy fear, given that some industry analysts think Apple wants to become “the Internet’s cable TV company” — turning its iMachines into the dominant distributors of print, video and audio.

Still, it’s an unwarranted fear. The nature of the digital landscape makes it hard to be both a control freak and a global hegemon. And Jobs’s history suggests that he’ll choose control over power.

Rewind the tape to that 1984 ad. It heralded the coming of the Macintosh operating system, which was head and shoulders above anything Microsoft was offering. So why did Microsoft wind up dominating the operating system market? Because Jobs chose not to do what Microsoft did: license his operating system to computer makers. If you wanted Apple software, you had to buy Apple hardware.

Maybe Jobs is just intent on building the perfect product.

The Microsoft approach harnessed positive feedback. The more models of Windows computers, competitively priced, the more people would buy Windows computers. And the more Windows computers people bought, the more programmers would write their software for Windows, not Apple. And the more Windows software there was, the more attractive Windows computers would be. And so on. That’s how Windows wound up with around 90 percent of the desktop operating system market.

With the iPhone, Jobs is again forgoing this positive feedback. He’s not licensing the operating system to other handset makers. There’s only one kind of iPhone — love it or leave it.

Meanwhile, Google is following a variant of the Microsoft strategy. It’s backing the Android operating system, which any handset maker is free to use. And lots of them are using it. There are more than a dozen Android models on the market, and in the first quarter of this year total sales of Android phones surpassed iPhone sales. This same logic can play out at the expense of the iPad, once lots of Android-based tablets come online.

All of this explains why some tech observers think that Apple, notwithstanding its stunning iPod-iTunes-iPhone-iPad-based comeback, is approaching its peak.

Why is Jobs choosing the same path that, last time around, kept him from conquering the world? I had puzzled over this for months until I had a conversation with tech-watcher Harry McCracken, who suggested a theory that seemed outlandish at first but is making more and more sense to me: Steve Jobs just isn’t bent on world domination.

I mean, sure, all other things being equal, he might love to rule the world. So would I. But there are things he won’t sacrifice for that goal.

One is the high profit margins you get from being the only company that sells the hardware linked to a good operating system. But I think there’s something else at work, too, and it’s kind of admirable.

If you ask Jobs why he won’t let other companies build hardware for the iPhone operating system, he’ll say something to the effect that you get a smoother product, with fewer glitches, if one company designs both the hardware and the software.

That’s true, but it was true in the computer market as well, and Jobs’s smoother products confined Apple not just to a fraction of Microsoft’s market share but to a fraction of its market capitalization; his high profit margins didn’t make up for low sales. So what’s the rationale for repeating this exercise?

Maybe there’s no rationale that makes sense in dollars and cents. Maybe Jobs is just intent on building the perfect product. Yes, he wants to make money, but, beyond a certain point, he’ll trade off money for perfection.

I say this as someone who doesn’t share his vision of perfection. I own an iPhone, but various things about it annoy me, as I note in this rant. (I may trade it in for a Palm Pre — the ultimate underdog in the cell phone wars, but a thing of beauty.)

In the various things I don’t like about Apple products, the unifying theme is the subordination of functional elegance to visual elegance. For example: The iPhone looks real sleek with that curvy metal, but it sure is easy to drop on a screen-shattering slab of sidewalk!

In general, I admit, Apple’s functional elegance is impressive. Indeed, it’s a tribute to Jobs that when the functionality falls short, it’s almost always the result of a conscious decision to favor aesthetics — whereas design flaws in Microsoft products often reflect a failure of engineers to put themselves in the shoes of users.

Maybe Jobs is basically just an artist. Maybe he wants above all to create products that are beautiful. And he succeeds, even if it costs him market share, and even if he doesn’t handle the trade-offs between functional and visual beauty as I would.

Some would say calling Jobs an artist is just a euphemistic way of calling him a control freak. And certainly an artistic temperament is a fussy temperament.

Still, being this kind of control freak is different from being the kind of control freak who wants to amass as much power as possible over information flow and then use it to stifle expression. That kind of control freak would follow the Microsoft strategy to maximize market share and thus maximize the number of machines whose apps menu he could then satanically control.

Of course, maybe Jobs isn’t an artist at heart, and maybe he isn’t deeply driven to create the perfect product. Maybe he just thinks having a small market share but high profit margins is the way to make the most money — and his finicky design aesthetic is a byproduct of this strategy.

In either event, the world is safe from him. Apple’s information pipeline won’t be the only one, and it won’t be the biggest one. Whether for temperamental or strategic reasons, Jobs is too intent on control to wind up in a position to control us.

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Interesting Times: Israel Takes the Bait : The New Yorker

Interesting Times: Israel Takes the Bait : The New Yorker: "June 1, 2010
Israel Takes the Bait
Posted by George Packer

gaza_opt.jpg

The Israeli raid on a flotilla bound for Gaza was worse than a crime, it was a blunder. None of the extenuating qualifications raised by its defenders matters—that the death toll was lower than on an average day in Lahore or Mosul; or that the relief ship carried (in addition to an Irish Nobel laureate, a Holocaust survivor, and a best-selling Swedish novelist) a lot of Turkish Islamists who were ready for a fight; or that Hamas is at least as much to blame for the suffering in Gaza as Israel. The point-counterpoint in blogs and U.N. deliberations misses the realm where the meaning of this raid is playing out. The purpose of the convoy was not primarily to bring aid to desperate Gazans, but to call attention to the Israeli blockade and turn world opinion overwhelmingly against it—as Greta Berlin, a leader of the Free Gaza Movement, made clear before the ships set sail. By this standard, the incident could not have gone better.

The flotilla was bait, and Israel took it—a classic triumph of civil disobedience over state power. So it doesn’t really matter that the “humanitarians” on the ship immediately resorted to violence: what the world will remember is that Israel’s first impulse was direct confrontation with civilians bringing aid, regardless of the effects on either the ship’s passengers or its own reputation. This revealed a greater moral obtuseness than firing missiles into civilian areas in the middle of a war. It’s not always the bloodiest incidents that evoke the strongest reaction and bring the most lasting consequences. No one remembers that the death toll was zero during the May, 1963, civil-rights demonstrations in Birmingham. What everyone knows is that Bull Connor brought in the K-9 units and firehoses. King and his circle got the images they badly needed, the nation recoiled, and the tide turned for the civil-rights movement.

Sunday night’s incident showed again that the most powerful force in international relations today is neither standing armies nor diplomatic councils, but public opinion as shaped by media. The presence of an Al Jazeera crew on one ship proves that the pro-Gazans understand completely the main arena in which they’re operating. The American military learned this truth slowly and the hard way in Iraq and Afghanistan. No one else cared if it was insurgents dressed as ordinary men who triggered an attack; what always shaped the world’s judgment was footage of soldiers retaliating with overwhelming firepower. (The recent WikiLeaks video is a good example; Raffi Khatchadourian has more about WikiLeaks this week in the magazine.) For years, the military would release self-justifying (and often misleading) statements that only inflamed opinion and strengthened the hand of the insurgents. Over time, American soldiers learned that they had to care what the world—especially Iraqis and Afghans—thought. They started trying harder to avoid such incidents, and, when that failed, to control their effect by owning up faster to their own responsibility.

At one time, Israelis understood counterinsurgency much better than Americans, which is why U.S. officers looked to their Israeli counterparts for advice in the early years of the Iraq war. At one time, the Israelis understood that self-interest demanded subtlety, restraint, and attention to perception. As others have pointed out, these qualities have been disappearing from Israeli strategy and tactics, and the current right-wing government seems determined to isolate and destroy itself with the unbending principle of self-defense.

One more thought, about what the incident means for Obama’s foreign policy. His national-security strategy, released last week, is a perfectly good document—almost too unobjectionable in its laundry list of goals and its lack of priorities. But Israel’s attack on the convoy shows an essential weakness in Obama’s vision of international affairs. The document has a lot to say about threats and military superiority, but its emphasis is on co√∂peration. Obama’s strategy of engagement is based on the notion that America, its allies, and its opponents have certain mutual interests that self-interest will lead them to identify and embrace. This notion has not been borne out with Iran, where the rulers of the Islamic Republic believe that self-interest—their own survival—depends on a climate of perpetual crisis and permanent demonization of the U.S. and Israel. And it hasn’t been borne out with Israel, which has just acted in a way that blurs self-interest into suicide.

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The Madoff Circle: Who Knew What? - ProPublica

The Madoff Circle: Who Knew What? - ProPublica: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

The Madoff Circle: Who Knew What?
by Jake Bernstein, ProPublica - June 2, 2010 2:40 pm EDT

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A Bernard Madoff New York Mets baseball jacket is displayed during a U.S. Marshals Service auction of personal property seized from Bernard and Ruth Madoff on Nov. 13, 2009 in New York City. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

When Bernard Madoff pleaded guilty to running the biggest Ponzi scheme in history, he insisted he was the lone perpetrator, asserting that no one – not his family, not his colleagues, not his friends – knew of the fraud.

But an alternate narrative is emerging from the pile of Madoff-related civil suits and court motions that have been filed in the last two years – one in which a small circle of men played knowing, integral roles in the scheme, in some cases benefiting more from it than even Madoff himself.

The evidence for this remains largely circumstantial. These relationships were forged in the days before e-mail, and none of the cases has yet produced anything for public consumption that delivers insights into what these men were thinking. In the one instance in which a judge has ruled on allegations against some of the men, he dismissed the charges for lack of evidence.

But the men’s actions, as described in the court cases, appear to have furthered the scheme. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the trustee charged with recovering money for Madoff’s victims have alleged that some of the men had expectations and influence far beyond what is typical for the usual investor. Most tellingly, the documents say that in at least one instance, and possibly more, these men helped keep the Madoff scam afloat, providing hundreds of millions of dollars of cash when it was on the verge of collapsing.

If this was a conspiracy – and the available information is by no means complete – it does not seem to have been one in which the perpetrators plotted together around a tavern table. Irving Picard, the trustee, has sued several of Madoff’s biggest beneficiaries, alleging they “knew or willfully ignored” that they were participating in a fraud. The suits are silent on the question of whether those involved coordinated or knew of one another’s activities, but they don’t need to demonstrate that to be successful.
Bernie Madoff
His scheme is alleged to have been helped by wealthy investors who "knew or willfully ignored" signs that it was a fraud.
Jeffry Picower, 67
This lawyer, accountant, and noted philanthropist is alleged to have reaped the most from Madoff's scheme – $7.2 billion. He died recently of a heart attack.
Carl Shapiro, 97
A Boston-based philanthropist who made a fortune in ladies fashion and allegedly as much as $1 billion from Madoff.
Stanley Chais, 83
A close Madoff friend for more than 50 years. He and his family are alleged to have withdrawn approximately $200 million more than they invested with Madoff.
Robert Jaffe, 66
Shapiro's son-in-law is believed to have funneled more than $1 billion of investor money to Madoff.
Maurice Cohn, 79
Madoff's former neighbor and business partner, he worked with Jaffe at a business called Cohmad, which allegedly did little else for investors beyond sending money to Madoff.

What these men undeniably shared were similar backgrounds and interests. Based largely in New York and South Florida, they moved through parallel milieus of affluent Jewish country clubs and synagogues. They were active in similar philanthropies and served on the boards of foundations, universities and yeshivas.

The cast of characters, spelled out mostly in complaints filed by the trustee and the SEC, includes: Carl Shapiro, [1] 97, a Boston-based philanthropist who made one fortune in ladies dresses and a larger one with Madoff; Robert Jaffe [2], 66, Shapiro’s son-in-law; Maurice “Sonny” Cohn, 79, a one-time Madoff neighbor turned business partner; Stanley Chais [3], 83, a close friend of Madoff’s for more than 50 years and one of his earliest investors; and Jeffry Picower [4], a lawyer and accountant, who recently died of a heart attack at 67.

None of these men has been charged criminally. Thus far, federal authorities have indicated in court filings that just one of them – Chais – is the subject of a criminal inquiry. A year ago, The Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous sources, reported that the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan was investigating at least eight investors, including Picower, Chais and Shapiro [5].

All have denied being anything but victims of Madoff’s [6].

Chais, Cohn and Jaffe have drawn considerable ire from investors for running so-called feeder funds that channeled huge sums into Madoff’s investment business. Jaffe alone funneled more than $1 billion of investor money to Madoff, according to the SEC. He worked with Cohn in a business called Cohmad – a contraction of Cohn and Madoff – that operated out of Madoff’s offices. Contrary to what some investors in the funds believed, it appears the men did little to manage the money beyond simply collecting it for delivery to Madoff.

Members of this circle not only did far better than other investors, who averaged 10 percent to 12 percent returns annually, they also had a highly unusual level of input into the nature of their returns.

According to the trustee’s complaint, there were several instances in which Picower or his associates contacted Madoff’s office, asking for specific monthly returns [7]. Over a five-year period in the late ’90s, two of Picower’s accounts [8] had annual returns ranging between 120 percent and 550 percent. A third had yearly returns as high as 950 percent.

Chais and his family consistently received yearly returns higher than 100 percent, far exceeding the gains realized by investors in his funds. Moreover, according to an SEC complaint [9], when Madoff told Chais he was switching to a new strategy that might show occasional short-term trading losses without interfering with net gains, Chais made a special demand to maintain the appearance of loss-free investments.

“Chais told Madoff that he did not want there to be any losses in any of [his] Fund’s trades,” the SEC complaint alleges [9]. “Madoff complied with Chais’ request. Between 1999 and 2008, despite purportedly executing thousands of trades on behalf of the Funds, Madoff did not report a loss on a single equities trade.”

Chais disputes the allegations [9], and his lawyer characterized the SEC’s complaint in a statement as “a distorted and false picture of Stanley Chais.”

“Like so many others, Mr. Chais was blindsided and victimized by Bernard Madoff’s unprecedented and pervasive fraud,” the statement said. “Mr. Chais and his family have lost virtually everything – an impossible result were he involved in the underlying fraud.”

Many of those in the circle took money from the scheme as fees rather than investment gains.

Cohmad officials reaped a total of $98.4 million in payments between 1996 and 2008, most of it labeled income from “account supervision,” according to the SEC [10].

Chais charged fees equal to 25 percent of each Chais fund’s net profit for calendar years in which profits exceeded 10 percent, according to the trustee. As profits exceeded 10 percent every year, Chais took in almost $270 million in fees from 1995 to 2008.

Though Madoff receives the lion’s share of the blame and/or credit for his scheme, it appears that several of his close associates profited more handsomely than he did. Shortly after he confessed, Madoff declared in court documents that his household net worth was about $825 million.

Picower, the biggest beneficiary of the scheme by far, took in $7.2 billion in profit, according to the trustee. Picower’s widow and the trustee are currently haggling over the exact amount of a multibillion-dollar settlement. Carl Shapiro and his family received more than $1 billion, the trustee charged in a court document filed last November in U. S. Bankruptcy Court.

Chais and his family members withdrew approximately $200 million more than they invested with Madoff, according to the SEC. This came on top of the hundreds of millions in fees Chais charged investors.

Chais’ lawyer denied that his client had any knowledge of the Ponzi scheme or that he had raked in the vast riches alleged. “Despite the astronomical numbers mentioned by the Trustee in his complaint, the bulk of the funds alleged to have been distributed to Mr. Chais were in fact distributed to his investors,” his statement said.

At key moments, Madoff’s investors came to the rescue to keep the scheme going. The first instance came in 1992, when the SEC shut down a feeder fund run by the accountants Frank Avellino and Michael Bienes, then Madoff’s largest, accusing the pair of operating a Ponzi scheme. Avellino and Bienes admitted they had acted as unregistered investment managers, but insisted the money had been invested with Madoff, who promptly returned more than $300 million.

Ironically, the SEC mistook Madoff’s ability to raise that amount so quickly as proof that his business was legitimate and “the money was where we [the agency] would expect it to be,” a staff attorney told the SEC’s inspector general last year. Almost two decades later, investigators suspect Madoff may have tapped his circle to collect the cash while scrambling, with the help of his right-hand man, Frank DiPascali, to fabricate trading records, a scene detailed in the agency’s case against DiPascali.

Identifying precisely who helped Madoff repay Avellino and Bienes’ investors is currently an area of inquiry for law enforcement, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

Despite his ever-growing network of feeder funds, Madoff had another liquidity crisis in November 2005. According to a federal complaint [11] filed against his employee Daniel Bonventre, Madoff’s investor account had an end-of-day balance of about $13 million to cover about $105 million in wires scheduled to go out over the next three days.

Two days later, one of Madoff’s investors, identified in the complaint [11] as “Client A,” sent about $100 million in bonds to Madoff, which he used as collateral to secure a $95 million bank loan to continue the Ponzi scheme. The following January, Client A gave Madoff $54 million more in bonds, which were used as collateral for a $50 million loan.

Investigators have not revealed the identity of Client A, but a person close to the investigation said he was among Madoff’s group of longtime close associates.

The final bailout came toward the end of 2008, when Madoff was hit with a tidal wave of redemption requests from investors caught up in the larger financial crisis. Toward the end of 2008, he looked to Shapiro, who pitched in $250 million.

Shapiro and his family have said repeatedly through spokesmen that they were unaware of the true nature of Madoff’s business. The spokesman declined to comment on the $250 million.

No civil or criminal complaints have been filed against Shapiro, but a court filing by the trustee raised questions about the nonagenarian’s “contentions that he is a victim of Madoff’s scheme,” alleging “inconsistencies between Mr. Shapiro’s counsel’s account of the family history with Madoff and the records available to the Trustee.” The trustee is negotiating with the family to recover profits made over the years.

The emergency cash infusion failed. Just 10 days later, Madoff says he confessed to his sons that “it’s all just one big lie,” finally ending the scheme.

So far, efforts to hold Madoff associates accountable have met with mixed results.

Civil claims by the SEC [10] against Jaffe, Cohmad and Cohn were largely rejected by Federal District Judge Louis Stanton, who ruled in February that the agency had failed to prove they “knew of, or recklessly disregarded, Madoff’s fraud.” The judge left the door open for the SEC to refile its complaint by June 18, if it can strengthen its case.

Lawyers for Maurice Cohn and Cohmad released the following statement in response to the ruling: “As we have maintained all along and Judge Stanton agrees, the SEC's complaint supports nothing other than "the reasonable inference that Madoff fooled the defendants as he did individual investors, financial institutions and regulators."

If there were others involved in the Ponzi scheme, building federal or state criminal cases against Madoff’s circle may prove difficult. Though their relationships go back decades, most of their dealings were done verbally, and there isn’t a lot of correspondence, according to a person with knowledge of the investigations. Federal investigators are working with DiPascali to get a clearer picture of the degree of complicity of others in the scheme.

Illness and age also may become factors. Though a grand jury could consider charges against Chais by mid-June, he suffers from a rare blood disorder and is in and out of the hospital. Shapiro, too, is said to be in ill health.

The trustee is expected to file more lawsuits in coming months as the date approaches when the statute of limitations runs out.

Criminal cases brought against several former Madoff employees have already eroded the notion, lodged so powerfully in the public imagination, that Madoff worked alone, said Daniel Richman, a professor at Columbia Law School and a former prosecutor. With each additional case, he said, it may well crumble further.

“I imagine the paradigmatic Ponzi scheme with the evil genius who keeps all the secrets to himself and engineers this massive crime, like most stick figures, will probably not hold true,” he said.

Write to Jake Bernstein at Jake.Bernstein@propublica.org [12].

Want to know more? Follow ProPublica on Facebook [13] and Twitter [14], and get ProPublica headlines delivered by e-mail every day [15].