Archive for the ‘Politics’ category

Enormous UK Privacy Disaster

11-22-07

A huge fiasco in England — Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs office (HMRC) mishandled and then lost two CDs containing private tax data on 25 million UK families. Alastair Revell, who blogs for IT Director, says this:

Apparently, the CDs were sent by internal mail without being registered or recorded in any way. It was clearly an accident waiting to happen.

Worse still, when they didn’t turn up, it seems from the statement made to the House of Commons by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alastair Darling MP, that a further copy was sent by recorded delivery, which apparently he believes should not have happened either!

It needs a moment or two just to reflect on the enormity of what was done here, not once, but twice. Sensitive details of just under half the UK population were sent by internal post between two offices with little consideration for its security. It seems the first reaction of those who discovered that the data hadn’t arrived was to resend it, not to ask what had happened to it!

Furthermore, it seems that Mr Darling knew of the security breach on 10th November 2007, but did not instruct HMRC to inform the police for four days. Exhaustive searches have not found the missing CDs, although by their very nature, no comfort can be drawn from their recovery. They could easily have been copied at any time in transit, let alone after they had been lost. The data has been compromised!

The astounding reality is that just under half the nation’s personal and banking details have been compromised by employees of the government.

There is so much apologizing going on in London today, you could probably see the tears from a satellite. However, according to the trade site Government Technology, it happened before, and recently. (more…)

Holiday Slices of Dolan Media

11-21-07

Well, it happened. Rachel Paulose, the controversial young U.S. Attorney for Minneapolis, has left the frozen north and will return to Washington DC. Minnesota Lawyer Blog’s Mark Cohen has been getting a lot of eyes on his insightful farewell-to-Paulose post:

I believe that Paulose made the right choice in opting to end her often stormy tenure and accept a policy job in main Justice in Washington, D.C.

It has always been my belief that it was a management situation causing the disruptions at the office. Paulose has sterling academic credentials and a highly impressive resume for her age. But she had little real management experience.

Intent on impressing her bosses and no doubt deeply believing in her priorities, she plowed ahead and redirected the office without getting buy-in from the troops. She was also reportedly sometimes dictatorial in manner and abrasive toward subordinates. These are rookie mistakes frequently made by inexperienced managers. But when that manager is in charge of 100 talented individuals at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and operating in a fishbowl, there is little room for error.

While I am not adverse to occasionally giving an important role to a highly talented young person and giving them a chance to grow into it, such a person needs guidance and support. As far as I can tell, such support was completely lacking from the problem-riddled Department of Justice.

Read the whole thing; and go back and read Minnesota Law Blog’s coverage of the Paulose story going back the past few months. It is much more than a just footnote to the DOJ controversies of the past year….

Deon Roberts of New Orleans’ The CityBusiness Blog is irate that the Crescent City is being passed over as a presidential debate site:

Who says we are “not ready” for an event of that size?

We hold Mardi Gras, for crying out loud. What about the Sugar Bowl, Jazz Fest and Essence Fest?

We surely could handle 3,000 journalists. What are they talking about?

One of Deon’s commenters, Wendy King, speculates the Republicans put the kibosh on it because they

would have to come down here, get a guided tour of the devastated parts of the city, and explain to their supporters why this city’s recovery isn’t on a faster track.

Now, this is awkward…another Dolan Media market, Long Island, is getting a presidential debate. According to LI BizBlog, the third one will be held at Hofstra University. If it turns out to be Giuliani vs. Clinton, I think we’re all going to feel left out….

A circuit judge in Virginia has ruled that property owners near Chesapeake Airport should get compensated for the diminution of their homes’ value due to noise, according to VLW Blog….

In Maryland, a biochemistry professor is about to get very rich, according to The Daily Record.

(Lawrence R.) Sita, a chemistry and biochemistry professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, has been working for the past eight years on a new method of making pure plastics without chemical additives.

The issue of chemical additives in plastics is a hot topic, with mounting numbers of product recalls and controversy over reform of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Suddenly, Sita, a lifelong academic, is seriously considering licensing his technology from the university and starting a company of his own.

Success would require catching the attention of the global plastics industry, including big names such as Dow, that produces 110 million metric tons of plastic each year.

That’s enough plastic to rebuild the Great Pyramid at Giza 44 times over, Sita said.

Maybe this guy will give Professor Sita a call….

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Happy Thanksgiving….

Friday Dolan Media on My Mind

11-16-07

Long Island Business News’ publisher John Kominicki uses the announcement of FTC fines against telemarketers that defy the Do-Not-Call list to illustrate the maxim No good deed goes unpunished:

To be honest, it’s the not-for-profits that bother me the most. My wife and I give to many causes, but we like to do it locally and as anonymously as possible. Our thanks is often a steady stream of calls asking for more.

Let that be a warning to you: Give a dollar over the phone to the vets, Civil War widows or public television and you will be hounded without mercy.

The typical call goes something like this:

“Hello, Mister … Kernacko? No, wait … Kamikoko?

“It’s Kominicki.”

“Yes, I’m calling on behalf of Channel 437. Last year, Mr. Kackinocki, you pledged $250 and we sent you the fabulous three-DVD set Judy Garland: The Demerol Years.”

“Yes, I remember that. But I already sent you $250 this year – just last month, I believe.”

“Oh yes, Mr. Kimchinicki, but you know the cost of providing wonderful, commercial-free programming like ours goes up and up and we’re wondering if you’d be willing to send us an additional $500.”

“Didn’t Ray Kroc’s widow just leave you, like, $700 billion?”

“Thank you, Mr. Komatahari. We’ll charge the credit card we have on file, and as our way of saying thank you, we’re going to send you the new Yanni CD.”

“Yanni has a new CD?”

“Thank you again for supporting Channel 437. We’ll be sure to call next year.”

Meanwhile, New Orleans City Business‘ publisher Mark Singletary warns the Orleans Parish school system, faced with a massive post-Katrina reconstruction project to “be on the lookout for the infamous New Orleans ‘consultants.’ These ‘consultants,’ woven into the fabric of nearly every New Orleans public contract, have long stifled progress and promoted corruption.” Singletary urges that the new schools to “conform to community standards–hopefully another community’s standards….”

Minnesota Lawyer Blog is following a highly politicized controversy over U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose, with the most recent posts here and here. Blogger Marc Cohen’s view is Paulose’s youth and inexperience has left her vulnerable to cagey veteran prosecutors who know how to play the media to make their boss look bad. The Paulose case has become a national story, with the young prosecutor seen by the NY Times as a symbol of ex-A.G. Alberto Gonzalez’ reign….

In Portland, according to DJC, some 257 architects and designers entered the Courtyard Housing Design Competition, which is what it sounds like. To enter, you draw a design for housing that includes a courtyard. Courtyard housing is “a style deemed more attractive to families with children than stacked condos without open spaces would be.” The winners were announced Wednesday night….

The University of Idaho’s Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival was honored yesterday by President Bush, reports the IBR. The festival was one of seven winners of the National Medal of Arts. Among this year’s other honorees: Legendary jazz guitarist Les Paul. The festival goes back to 1967 and has featured jazz legends as well as a student jazz competition….

Is this normal? Next Tuesday, the University of Colorado’s Presidential Search Committee will hold a meeting in Colorado Springs, according to CSBJ blog, to find out what kind of president residents want after the incumbent retires next spring….

Today, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens celebrates his 87th birthday, reports Kimberly Atkins in DC Dicta, making him the second-oldest person to serve on the nation’s highest court. Click here to see who was older….

Judith Regan Flips the Script and Enjoys a PR Turnaround

11-15-07

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Judith Regan, one of the most successful publishers and editors in the book business, saw her career come to an ignominious end late last year after a controversy erupted about her plan to publish a peculiar memoir by O.J. Simpson, If I Did It, as well as an erotically-charged novelization of Mickey Mantle’s life. During a December 2006 conference call with HarperCollins’ attorneys about the Mantle book, Regan allegedly uttered a epithet so offensive — reportedly anti-Semitic — that HarperCollins fired her the same day.

A few months later, writer Michael Wolff published in Vanity Fair a memoir/feature about Regan, in which he reported Regan was

telling people that something has changed at News Corp. It’s not the same company anymore. Murdoch himself has changed. His third wife, Wendi Deng Murdoch, is part of the problem. It’s her craving for respectability that has made Murdoch weak, according to Judith. She might even be … liberal. Peter Chernin is … a Democrat. Gary Ginsberg worked for Clinton. Murdoch is forsaking his tabloid heart in the quest for mainstream, yuppie respectability. The greatest, most audacious media company of the age had become like any other—pitiably concerned about what people think. News Corp. is selling out. Judith Regan isn’t.

There might be something to this. Murdoch, over the last few years, has certainly morphed from a dark, ruthless, diabolical figure into a more complex, thoughtful, and, as he aged, vulnerable media sage.

Judith, the tabloid monster, is, in some sense, the skin he’s shed.

So, by that point, Regan had managed to pretty much destroy her reputation from a PR standpoint. She was the publisher who wanted to pay O.J. millions. Who used anti-Semitic epithets. Who was too “tabloid” even for Rupert Murdoch.

Regan’s defamation lawsuit, regardless of its legal merits, is a brilliant PR tactic, designed to replace her toxic PR image with that of someone far more compelling in this election year: The woman who knows secrets about a leading presidential candidate.

Most of the indictment is a series of who-shot-John accounts of events leading up to her firing, in which the Regan claims Jane Friedman, HarperCollins’ CEO defamed her by spreading the story of the anti-Semitic slur, which Regan denies, and by making Regan the scapegoat for the OJ Simpson book fiasco despite her claims that Friedman, Murdoch and other company executives approved its publication.

But have you read the press coverage? Here’s how the New York Times played it:

Judith Regan, the former book publisher, says in a lawsuit filed today protesting her dismissal by the News Corporation, the media conglomerate, that a senior executive there encouraged her to lie to federal investigators about her past affair with Bernard B. Kerik after he had been nominated to become homeland security secretary in late 2004.

The lawsuit asserts that the News Corporation executive wanted to protect the presidential aspirations of Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Kerik’s mentor, who had appointed him New York City police commissioner and had recommended him for the federal post.

In the first six paragraphs of the AP version, O.J. Simpson isn’t even mentioned:

One-time book publishing powerhouse Judith Regan filed a $100 million defamation lawsuit Tuesday saying her former employers asked her to lie to federal investigators about Bernard Kerik, the former police commissioner who was once her lover, and tried to destroy her reputation.

Regan, who worked for HarperCollins Publishers LLC, said the smear campaign stems from her past intimate relationship with Kerik, who was police commissioner under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and from the political agenda of News Corp., the parent company of HarperCollins.

Regan, 54, says in court papers that News Corp.’s political agenda centers on Giuliani’s presidential ambitions. It was Giuliani, a Republican, who appointed Kerik police commissioner and recommended him to President Bush for secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Kerik had to withdraw his nomination after it was revealed he had not reported the wages he paid to a nanny.

Regan says “it is now widely accepted” that one of Giuliani’s vulnerabilities is the 52-year-old Kerik. Because of Regan’s affair with Kerik, court papers say, a senior News Corp. executive told her he believed she had information about Kerik that could hurt Giuliani’s campaign and she should lie to federal investigators.

Court papers say another executive told Regan, a HarperCollins editor for 12 years, to withhold documents that were clearly relevant to the government’s investigation of Kerik.

giuliani-kerik.jpgThe Kerik-Giuliani claims are right up front in the suit to make sure you don’t miss them. The substance of the claim is that Regan told an unnamed News Corp. executive about her affair with Kerik in 2001, at which point a “covert smear campaign” was initiated against her.

In 2001.

She was fired in 2006. In between 2001 and 2006, Regan had her own TV show on the News Corporation’s Fox News Network, and was granted the opportunity to move her imprint, ReganBooks, to Los Angeles in order to expand into synergistic arrangement with other media. She also had her contract with HarperCollins renewed and compensation increased in 2005.

Regan’s suit, however, would have us believe that the News Corporation signed that contract in 2005 fully expecting to fire her before the contract ran out, having worked on a scheme to do so since 2001. (more…)