Dispatches > In Brief

In Brief

News highlights from around the world

Issue: "The 2002 vote," Nov. 2, 2002

Too direct?

Zoltan Kovacsmay may soon be the most hated man on the Internet. His new online advertising tool could become the biggest annoyance since spam.

His service, called DirectAdvertiser, works like a cross between junk e-mail and pop-up Web ads. Users need not have an open browser or a running mail program to get messages.

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DirectAdvertiser exploits a messaging feature in Windows networking software. It was intended to let techs send emergency notices to users warning about shutdowns, glitches, and the like. The missives appear in windows on a user's screen, much like a pop-up ad. The software can route around filters meant to weed out spam.

Windows' messenger option (which is not the same as Microsoft's MSN Messenger chat program) can be disabled, but it may mess up virus scanners and other programs.

DirectAdvertiser is officially based in Romania, but it operates in the United States. It claims it can reach 85 percent of consumer PCs in the country. But the scheme has some limitations. For one thing, a user must be online to receive a message, so ads can't pile up like spam in an inbox. For another, the messages are limited to plain text, so advertisers can't include hyperlinks or pictures. Also, if the technology becomes widespread, firewall makers may strengthen their products to keep out these messages. | Chris Stamper

Fed up

At least one of the regional Federal Reserve Banks didn't show much reserve last month. The Kansas City Fed posted on its intranet an invitation for employees to attend "an information session entitled 'A Difference Among Us: Sexual Orientation'" on Oct. 11, National Coming Out Day. The purpose: "To enhance employee awareness about National Coming Out Day and societal and workplace issues gay and lesbian coworkers can face ..."

"I find it especially appalling that the Fed is using its position as the nation's central bank and as a quasi-governmental organization to support an immoral lifestyle," said a Fed employee who, ironically since his employer was promoting differences, feared he would be fired if he went public with his concerns.

The Fed isn't alone. At least five federal agencies in June issued proclamations recognizing National Gay and Lesbian Pride Month. Among them: the Departments of Agriculture, Transportation, and the Interior, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta's proclamation reinforced the "Stonewall Rebellion" myth, painting an attack by homosexuals on authorities who raided an illegal gay night club as a noble civil-rights protest that "sparked a broader movement." During the 1969 incident, homosexuals assaulted the officers outside the bar, then set fire to the establishment after the agents barricaded themselves inside to await backup. | Lynn Vincent

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