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Uncertain futures


Friday, February 28, 2003

New warning on identity theft

Job site Monster.com has sent users an email warning them of the danger of identity theft. Apparently fraudsters have been luring people into revealing personal information by posting fake job adverts

The danger of identity theft has been thrown into sharp relief by the case of 72-year-old British holidaymaker Derek Bond, who has just returned to the UK after being released from a South African prison, where he was held for over two weeks on FBI orders.

The FBI is now saying that another man who they are holding in Las Vegas used the entirely innocent Mr Bond's identity to cover his tracks while engaged in a telemarketing scam.

FBI agent John Lewis told the BBC on Wednesday morning "There are two people in custody at this exact moment in different parts of the world for the same offence. One is the right guy, and one is the wrong guy ... Mr Bond is owed an apology." Audio clip

Lewis thinks it a clear case of identity theft. "It is very frequent. In a sense, it is out of control, and obviously in this case it has caused one person an awful lot of harm."

One other interesting aspect of the case is how the FBI finally got the right man. Agent Lewis says that he received an anonymous phone call on Tuesday afternoon. The extremely well-informed caller said "I think you've got the wrong man in South Africa", and gave the real name of the fraud suspect, the name he was now using, and the address where he could be found in the US.

By this time the case of the obviously-innocent Bond was being widely reported in the British press. Rather than let it continue to damage UK-US relations and the credibility of US intelligence at this crucial time, it seems likely that some other part of the intelligence community took matters into its own hands and solved the FBI's case.

Sunday, February 09, 2003

North Dakota found to be harboring nuclear missiles. reports the Onion

Friday, February 07, 2003

Russians win top spot in UK music chart

What with peace-mongering Germans refusing to go to war and sylphlike Russian females riding high in the pop charts, national stereotypes are taking something of a hammering at the moment. The pop babes are Tatu, a teen duo of apparently lesbian tendencies who have just taken the number one spot in the UK singles chart, ahead of acts such as Kelly Rowland from Destiny's Child and Fame Academy winner David Sneddon.

Tatu (called tATu in the US for copyright reasons) is a manufactured band in the modern tradition. Singers Lena (17) and Yulia (16) were selected by producer Ivan Shapovalov from 500 hopefuls at an open casting. Their real preferences about sex or anything else aren't easy to distinguish from the hype, but the teen lesbian angle is successfully generating plenty of publicity.

Official Russian management site
US record label (UMG/Geffen)
Better German site with more music (flash)
Good fan site

UPDATE: Russians still at top a month on

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

China and US military still committed to space

Following the loss of the shuttle Columbia last Saturday there's been a lot written about the future of manned space flight - and most of it has been pretty negative. Either they'll be a long delay before such flights resume, or the commentators question the need for sending humans aloft at all. The future of the International Space Station looks bleak, and a mission to Mars looks unlikely any time soon.

But almost all this coverage has focused on the US civilian agency NASA, with perhaps the Europeans and the Russians getting a mention. What's been overlooked is the strong interest the US military still has in space, and the rapidly developing Chinese space programme - which aims to put a man in space by the end of this year or early next.

Chinese motivation seems to be a mixture of military and political.

China's Space Ambitions Keep Western Experts Guessing

China's Space Program Driven by Military Ambitions

Is China developing an anti-satellite capability?

Meanwhile NASA's plans to develop Project Prometheus, the kind of nuclear propulsion system that would be required to effectively explore the planets, now looks very uncertain.

Space tourism also looks less likely in the aftermath of Columbia's disaster.

However, the shuttle has always flown some military missions. Indeed, all but one of the seven astronauts who died in Columbia held military rank. If the civil programme slows down the pressure will be on the military to take over control of those things that really matter to it.

UPDATE: Pentagon sees space as military high ground

Call to weaponize space

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