Friday, October 12, 2007

Daily Report

· The New York Times reports that a panel of experts found that an increase in the cultivation of crops used for the production of ethanol, especially corn, might affect water quality and cause water shortages. The panel recommended improved agricultural practices, water recycling and other steps to address the problems. (See item 2)

· The Associated Press reports that a freight train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in Painesville Township, Ohio, setting off a fire that resulted in the evacuation of thousands of people located nearby the tracks. No injuries were reported. Officials are investigating the cause of the accident. (See item 3)

Information Technology

32. October 11, IDG News Service – (California) California state site can’t shake porn problems. The Web site blamed for last week’s Internet problems within the state of California has been taken offline after links to pornographic material reappeared on the site. The Transportation Authority of Marin’s Web site was offline Wednesday, its front page replaced with a placeholder page saying the site is down for maintenance. The Web site was taken down after security experts reported that it was hosting pornographic material over the past weekend. “The site was shut down ... to step back and determine what was the best action to take to address the continued contamination,” said the authority’s executive director in an e-mail message. “The site is down until it is re-structured with additional security, can be sponsored by a more reliable ISP, and perhaps secured from this occurring.” The agency switched Internet service providers in early September after first discovering that its servers had been hacked. And last week, it was at the heart of a crisis that threatened to pull the entire state of California off the Internet.

33. October 11, IDG News Service – (National) U.S. trade body launches hard-drive probe against five companies. The U.S. International Trade Commission has launched an investigation into five companies after allegations of patent infringement in hard disk drives. The probe will target both drive makers and companies that use hard disk drives in their products: Western Digital Corp., Seagate Technology Inc., Toshiba America Information Systems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc., the agency said in a statement. The Washington-based body said the investigation has been launched in reaction to a complaint of violation of Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 and seeks a ban on importation into the U.S. of products that allegedly infringe on U.S. patents. The complaint was made a month earlier by Steven and Mary Reiber of Lincoln, Calif., and is centered on “dissipative ceramic bonding tips,” which are related to electrical wire connections inside the drives. The ITC did not name the patents alleged to have been infringed, but according to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office records, the Reibers hold patents 6,935,548 and 6,651,864 covering dissipative ceramic bonding methods. With Wednesday’s decision to open an investigation, the ITC has a 45-day time frame in which to set a target date for completing the investigation.

Communications Sector

34. October 12, The Wall Street Journal – (International) 3Com says sensitive data
won't flow to Huawei.
3Com Corp. tried to allay concerns over a proposed sale of the company to Bain Capital Partners LLC and Huawei Technologies Co., a telecommunications company with close ties to the Chinese government, saying the Chinese company won't have access to "sensitive" U.S. technology. 3Com, a Massachusetts networking-equipment and network-security-systems company, and private-equity firm Bain Capital said they notified the U.S. government that Huawei won't have any operational control and won't be able to make decisions for 3Com if the deal goes through. Bain, which agreed Sept. 28 to buy most of 3Com for $2.2 billion, or $5.30 a share, said last week that it would submit the proposed transaction to national-security review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. Companies generally submit deals to government review as a defense measure. The government can unwind deals that weren't reviewed if it later determines the deal is a threat to national security. The proposed acquisition of 3Com, which counts the U.S. Defense Department among its customers, was expected to generate government scrutiny because of concerns over Huawei's government ties. Bain would retain a majority stake in 3Com, while Huawei would hold a minority stake, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Huawei, which is 3Com's largest customer, will appoint three of 11 board members if the acquisition goes through, according to the filing. 3Com said it relied solely on Bain Capital for information about arrangements with Huawei.

35. October 11, Reuters – (National) FCC weighs decision on Net access charges. U.S. regulators are expected to decide Thursday whether to grant a request by AT&T to lift some regulations that govern what it can charge rivals for access to its high-speed Internet lines. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is facing a deadline of midnight on Thursday to rule on a petition by AT&T to scale back the regulations. Analysts have said the commission could rule at the same time on a similar petition by Qwest Communications International, whose request was put on hold by the agency last month. The FCC eased the same regulations on Verizon Communications last year. Verizon’s petition was not approved by the agency, but went into effect when one of the commissioners was recused and the remaining four deadlocked. All the requests have been strongly opposed by smaller rivals such as Sprint Nextel, Time Warner Telecommunications and XO Communications. These competitors argue that they have few alternatives to get access to the high-speed lines they need, and are being charged more and more by the dominant carriers.

36. October 10, The Associated Press – (National) Bush Pushes for telecom immunity in proposed eavesdropping bill. President Bush said Wednesday that he will not sign a new eavesdropping bill if it does not grant retroactive immunity to U.S. telecommunications companies that helped conduct electronic surveillance without court orders. A proposed bill unveiled by Democrats on Tuesday doesn't include such a provision. Mr. Bush, appearing on the South Lawn as that measure was taken up in two House committees, said the measure is unacceptable for that and other reasons.