The Free Press, Mankato, MN


March 27, 2013

News and Comment: gay marriage, guns, cyber attacks

The best minds in America were busy figuring out how and who we can love via the institution of marriage, if gun background checks stop any crime at all and what we are going to do if one major Internet company gets cyber-attacked by another and opens the floodgates of a worldwide spam attack.

Here's the news and comment on those topics for this week:

NEWS: U.S. Supreme Court justices seem to raise lots of questions about the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. An AP report suggests a majority had big problems with it.

COMMENT: Of course, mainstream media and others were wrong trying to predict the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act. Many had predicted its demise by the skeptical questions asked by all of the justices and were surprised of course when the ruling came out exactly the opposite of what they had predicted.

That may happen here, who knows. But there did not appear to be many justices asking questions that would offer a way out of a ruling that declares DOMA unconstitutional. It would be one of procedure, which, in my mind would be one justices would consider boring.

Many justices seem to be enjoying their new celebrity status weighing in on these questions that are compelling to society and many of them realize that. In another rare move, I believe, they allowed audio of the proceedings to be released immediately, suggesting a desire to engage the media and the country.

Hence, a boring ruling on procedure would maybe not be what some had envisioned with their newfound celebrity status.

NEWS: The Minnesota House public safety committee passed by a narrow margin a bill that expanded background checks for those buying semi-automatic and handguns at gun shows from private sellers. We already editorialized that this is so very small a change, it's more than reasonable. Read our opinion here.

COMMENT: It's hard for me to believe there was so much resistance even among Democrats for this small change for safety in light of the events at Newtown, Conn. Democrats in rural areas claim their constituents feel very strongly about the 2nd Amendement issues involved.

I don't doubt that many are concerned. It seems overstated. Poll after poll shows 80 percent to 90 percent of people think background checks for gun owners are a good idea. It's a credit to the NRA that they've been able to somehow make even these small changes seem like mountains in the light of the horrific violence we've seen.

NEWS: SpamHaus, a major Internet company the prevents others from abusing the Internet and loading it with spam was attacked with a trick that aimed 300 billion bits per second of information to its servers. It's a compelling story found here.

COMMENT: This looks scary and serious folks. I still think cyber attacks are a topic that is far below the public's radar in comparison to how seriously we ought to be taking this. That a place like Spamhaus can be attacked by alleged disgruntled Russian Internet spammers has got to give one pause and suggest any cyber disaster is possible.

Listen to these quotes from the experts in this story:

"It is a small miracle that we're still online," Spamhaus researcher Vincent Hanna said.

Patrick Gilmore of Akamai Technologies: "This attack is the largest that has been publicly disclosed — ever — in the history of the Internet"

Gilmore and Prince said the attack's perpetrators had taken advantage of weaknesses in the Internet's infrastructure to trick thousands of servers into routing a torrent of junk traffic to Spamhaus every second..

If your Internet was slow yesterday, this attack is probably the reason why.

Keep the old technology handy, just in case all this Internet stuff falls apart. What would we use here at the newspaper? An old IBM Selectric? I don't think you could find one at the antique store.

We stopped using our Associated Press satellite dish a few years ago. It's all Internet based now. As I said. Scary.

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