Welcome to The Funny/Alerts Newsletter. I don't know about you, but wasting time deleting 20 or more SPAM messages every day gets very old, very quick. I recently heard about "Email Bouncer" and it is a powerful email service that virtually eliminates all SPAM and email viruses for you. It works better than a filter since there is no guesswork. Only confirmed email addresses are delivered. There is no software to install, simple to use and managed through an easy web interface.
Email Bouncer will verify all email addresses BEFORE the email messages are delivered to your computer. Since Email Bouncer operates on THEIR server, it is not necessary to install any programs on your computer. You can continue using your existing email program. Their service is extremely effective in stopping SPAM and preventing viruses from reaching your computer!

http://www.email-bouncer.com/how_it_works.cfm

Signed,
Co-Conspirator To Make The World A Better Place

===
GRINS & GIGGLES:
"Can you explain to me how this lipstick got on your collar?" the suspicious wife sneered.

"No, I can't." the husband replied. "I distinctly remember taking my shirt off."

[Doh!]

===
CYBERSPACE ALERT:
The World's Worst Viruses
Check out our list of nasty computer viruses--and find out how to save your PC from infection.
Frank Thorsberg

Earthworms are a boon to the backyard gardener and healers still use leeches to thin a sick patient's blood, but no good has ever come from a computer worm or virus. Computer viruses have become increasingly dangerous and quick-spreading in the last couple of years, wildly proliferating through cyberspace and causing billions of dollars in damage.

Some of the distinctions between different types of malicious code are now blurred, but the classic computer virus is a piece of sneaky code that tells your PC to do something that you usually wouldn't want it to do. Without your knowledge, a virus could wipe out the programs and data on your hard drive or even let someone take over your machine remotely. A virus replicates by embedding itself into programs or system files.

Worms are another type of devious program that, today, typically spread via e-mail or Internet chat programs. With the help of unprotected users' address books, worms such as Klez spread explosively--disrupting networks and businesses. The oldest worms didn't change system files or obliterate data. But as worms got more sophisticated, the newer ones started to behave more like viruses, doing considerable damage. For example, Klez can delete files and create the mechanism to run itself on system startup.

A third general classification of malevolent code is the Trojan horse. This destructive program poses as an innocent application or file, such as a screen saver or photo. Unlike worms and viruses, Trojan horses don't replicate.

Some viruses and worms won't destroy your data, while others do tremendous damage. For example, the LoveLetter virus over wrote files and inserted viral code on hard drives around the globe two years ago.

"As far as what [virus writers] can do, the sky is the limit," says April Goostree, virus manager for McAfee.com. "In the antivirus industry, we never say 'never' anymore. Because as soon as you do, you are going to be proven wrong. It's anybody's guess about what the next virus will do."

Here's a look at ten of the most malignant viruses and worms of all time.

10. Surreptitious Sircam
Sircam appeared in July 2001 on PCs running Windows 95, 98, and Me. The worm appeared in e-mail in-boxes with an attachment; the body of the message was in Spanish or English. Typical greetings included "Hi! How are you?" and "Hola como estas?" If you launched the attachment, Sircam installed itself on the infected computer, then grabbed random documents and sent them out to e-mail addresses it captured from your address book. It also occasionally deleted files and filled the infected computer's hard drive with gibberish.

9. Red Raider
Code Red burned brightly in the summer of 2001, infecting hundreds of thousands of computers--mainly on corporate networks. Code Red slithered through a hole in Internet Information Server (IIS) software, which is widely used to power Internet servers, then scanned the Internet for vulnerable systems to infect and continue the process. The worm used contaminated PCs as weapons in denial of service attacks-- flooding a Web site with a barrage of information requests. The original target was the official White House Web site, but government officials changed the site's IP address to thwart the attack.

The worm exploited a weakness in the IIS software (which has since been fixed with a patch from Microsoft) that allowed an intruder to run arbitrary code on a victimized computer. Multiple variants of this worm now exist. 

8. Bad Benjamin
Benjamin--a new breed of worm--was let loose in May 2002, and it affected users of the popular file-sharing program Kazaa. The crafty worm posed as popular music and movie files. Kazaa users thought they were downloading a media file to their machines, but they got the imposter instead. It then set up a Kazaa share folder and stuffed it with copies of itself posing as popular music and movie files, which other Kazaa users would download. It congested the system's network connection and would ultimately fill up a hard drive. 

7. Numbing Nimda
Nimda (also known as the Concept Virus) appeared in September 2001, attacking tens of thousands of servers and hundreds of thousands of PCs. The worm modified Web documents and executable files, then created numerous copies of itself. The worm spread as an embedded attachment in an HTML e-mail message that would execute as soon as the recipient opened the message (unlike the typical attached virus that requires manual launching of the attachment). It also moved via server- to-server Web traffic, infected shared hard drives on networks, and downloaded itself to users browsing Web pages hosted on infected servers. Nimda soon inspired a crowd of imitators that followed the same pattern. 

6. Tennis Anyone?
The Anna Kournikova (or VBS.SST@mm) worm, appearing in February 2001, didn't cause data loss, although in the process of boosting the profile of its namesake, the Russian tennis player, it did cause embarrassment and disruption for many personal and business users. The worm showed up in Microsoft Outlook users' e-mail in-boxes with an attachment (supposedly a picture of Kournikova). The attachment proved hard to resist. The result? Clicking the bogus attachment sent copies of the worm via e-mail to all addresses found in the victim's Outlook address book. Kournikova also brought about a number of copycat variants. 

Most worm creators have never been identified, but a 21-year- old Dutchman, Jan de Wit, admitted to unleashing this worm. The admitted virus writer is appealing a 150-hour community service sentence handed down in September 2001 by a judge in the Netherlands.

5. (Expletive Deleted) Explorer
The Explorer.zip worm appeared in the summer of 1999, following in the footsteps of Melissa. The worm deleted Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files and randomly altered other types of files. Like Melissa (see below), Explorer traveled via e-mails that appeared to be from someone the recipient knew. The message included a file that, if activated, showed a fake error message to the user. Unlike Melissa, this virus did not use Outlook to gather e-mail addresses. Instead, it watched the in-box of the infected computer and then sent automatic replies to senders, using the same e-mail subject as the original message.

4. Maniacal Magistr
Magistr is one of the most complex viruses to hit the Internet. Its victims, users of Outlook Express, were hooked by an infected e-mail attachment. The virus, discovered in mid-March 2001, sent garbled messages to everyone in the infected user's e-mail address book. Attached were files pulled at random from the infected PC's hard drive plus an executable file with the Magistr code. This virus was not as widespread as many others, but it was very destructive. Magistr overwrites hard drives and erases CMOS and the flashable BIOS, preventing systems from booting. It also contained anti debugging features, making it hard to detect and destroy. 

3. Malevolent Melissa
The Melissa virus swamped corporate networks with a tidal wave of e-mail messages in March 1999. Through Microsoft Outlook, when a user opened an e-mail message containing an infected Word attachment, the virus was sent to the first 50 names in the user's address book. The e-mail fooled many recipients because it bore the name of someone the recipient knew and referred to a document they had allegedly requested.

So much e-mail traffic was generated so quickly that companies like Intel and Microsoft had to turn off their e-mail servers. The Melissa virus was the first virus capable of hopping from one machine to another on its own. And it's another good example of a virus with multiple variants. 

2. Klez the Conquerer
The Klez worm, which blends different virus traits, was first detected in October 2001. Klez distributes itself like a virus, but sometimes acts like a worm, other times like a Trojan horse. Klez isn't as destructive as other worms, but it is widespread, hard to exterminate--and still active. In fact, so far, no other virus has stayed in circulation quite like Klez. It spreads via open networks and e-mail--regardless of the e-mail program you use. Klez sometimes masquerades as a worm-removal tool. It may corrupt files and disable antivirus products. It pilfers data from a victim's e-mail address book, mixing and matching new senders and recipients for a new round of infection. 

1. Love Hurts
LoveLetter is the worm everyone learned to hate in spring 2000. The infection affected millions of computers and caused more damage than any other computer virus to date. Users were infected via e-mail, through Internet chat systems, and through other shared file systems. The worm sent copies of itself via Microsoft Outlook's address book entries. The mail included an executable file attachment with the e-mail subject line, "ILOVEYOU." The worm had the ability to overwrite several types of files, including .gif and .jpg files. It modified the Internet Explorer start page and changed Registry keys. It also moved other files and hid MP3 files on affected systems. 

Your Best Defense
The best defense against virus attacks is a good offense. Without proper protection, computer worms can spread like wildfire. From minor annoyances to major epidemics meant to cripple giant Web sites, these tenacious trespassers cost us billions of dollars. Here are several tips to help you keep these troublemakers at bay.

1. Don't open any e-mail attachments that look suspicious or come from unknown senders. Be on the lookout for e-mails from people you know, but with language or style they wouldn't normally use--this should raise a red flag.

2. Install an antivirus program such as Symantec's Norton AntiVirus or McAfee's VirusScan. Take the time to install your vendor's updates on your PC.

3. Go to Symantec Security Response and McAfee.com Virus Information for the companies' latest security alerts, disinfecting instructions, and archives.

4. Stay on top of patches created by other software vendors to thwart new threats and programming vulnerabilities. By registering your software after purchase, you'll be notified by the maker when updates are available. Make sure you review and install the necessary critical updates and fixes available through Windows Update.

5. Visit other expert sites to keep up to date on virus news. Carnegie Mellon University's CERT Coordination Center is a great place to find out about the latest virus alerts and vulnerabilities. The organization publishes many statistics and offers security advice for Web site operators.

http://www.symantec.com/nav/nav_9xnt
http://www.mcafee.com/Default.asp?Plugin=no
http://securityresponse.symantec.com/
http://www.mcafee.com/anti-virus/default.asp
http://www.cert.org/

===
MEATSPACE ALERT:
Conspiracy theory
This one goes out to all the conspiracy geeks out there
By D. Brian Burghart

If you ever want to see ordinarily tolerant people roll their eyes, turn on their heels and hit the door, you only have to say two words: conspiracy theory. 

I'm generally one of those heel-turners, subscribing-- as I do--to the belief that most people are far too incompetent to keep a secret, let alone accomplish nefarious deeds under a vast cloak of anonymity. On the other hand, I'm not totally close-minded. I know there are real conspiracies out there--the movement of illegal drugs, prostitution rings and corporate and political cover-ups. 

So, when I hear the president commenting on a "shadow government" designed to take over in the event of a terrorist attack on Washington, D.C.--without the benefit of a legislative or judicial branch--or about American citizens, like Yaser Esam Hamdi, being held incommunicado on nebulous terrorist charges, I have to overcome my natural inclination toward disbelief. 

"This case appears to be the first in American jurisprudence where an American citizen has been held incommunicado and subjected to an indefinite detention in the continental United States without charges, without any finding by a military tribunal, and without access to a lawyer," U.S. District Judge Robert Doumar was quoted as saying in an Associated Press story about the refusal of the government to give up information on the Hamdi case. 

If nothing else, those kinds of statements prove to me that things are changing in this country. And then I see things like DARPA's Web site, www.darpa.mil, and my stomach gets all fliggy. 

DARPA is the Department of Defense's research and development agency. The acronym stands for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The agency is not a particularly secret organization, unlike the National Security Agency. In fact, it is widely known for pioneering the development of the Internet (ARPANET) back in 1962.DARPA was established in 1958 in response to the Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite. Its mission was to keep the United States' military technology ahead of its enemies'. The agency has around 240 personnel (about 140 technical) managing a $2.7 billion budget for the 2003 fiscal year. 

The item that has me wondering can be found on the DARPA's Information Awareness Office site, www.darpa.mil/iao (incidentally, the agency collects information on who visits the site, so if you have a fixed IP address for any reason, you're identified). It's called the "Total Information Awareness System," and it's a doozy. John Poindexter, former national security adviser (1985-1986), is director of the Information Awareness Office. For those who don't recall, Poindexter was convicted on five counts of deceiving Congress in the Iran-Contra scandal. The conviction was later set aside. I also read somewhere that he's the model for Tom Clancy's hero, Jack Ryan. 

The goal of the TIA program is to "revolutionize the ability of the United States to detect, classify and identify foreign terrorists--and decipher their plans--and thereby enable the United States to take timely action to successfully preempt and defeat terrorist acts." 

The method is simple: Compile every available piece of information about every individual on the planet, run it through a complex algorithm and look for individuals that fit certain criteria for further surveillance. The information comes from a variety of sources: financial, educational, travel, medical, veterinary, country entry, place/event entry, transportation, housing, critical resources, government and communications. This is a database beyond any database that current technology can build. 

The problem, as I understand it, is that while this program is directed at "foreign terrorists," in order to parse out the terrorists, it has to look at everybody. It's the fact that few non-Westernized countries keep the sorts of records the TIA wants to analyze to find terrorists that makes me worry about my privacy. 

Some of the components to the TIA system are quite intriguing. The Effective, Affordable, Reusable Speech-to-Text (EARS) program will allow automatic transcription of broadcasts and telephone conversations in multiple languages. The Babylon program will develop rapid, two-way, natural language speech translation interfaces for the soldier to use in field environments. The Human Identification at a Distance program will develop automated biometric identification technologies to detect and identify humans from great distances. 

Presumably, these systems would work in conjunction with programs like the FBI e-mail sniffing program, DCS1000 (formerly Carnivore), and the NSA's communications monitoring program, Echelon. It only gets weirder. For example, the Washington Times reported last week that space agency NASA told Northwest Airlines security specialists that it has a plan to read travelers' minds to identify terrorists and is developing the technology with an unidentified commercial firm. 

Add into this the mission of the DARPA's Information Exploitation Office, which basically locates targets using TIA-styled information to "enable U.S. forces to put at risk, engage and kill any ground target, anywhere, at any time." 

Finally, sprinkle into the mix U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft's Citizens Corps spy program, add a dollop of customer databases from bookstores and preferred-customer cards at grocery stores, and you've got an Orwellian recipe for a novel. How would you like to get a second look by a government agency for buying bleach, iodine, fertilizer or hummus? 

Conspiracies must, by definition, be secret. They must also, by definition, be illegal. But with things like the Patriot Act and the Justice Department's softening of policies against monitoring domestic political activities, I'm fairly certain none of this stuff is prima facie illegal, even if it is repugnant. 

War is hell, I know. But it remains to be seen if privacy becomes a casualty of the war on terrorism. In the meantime, though, don't try to bring any of this stuff up with your neighbors; they'll probably just turn on their heels and beat feet. 

Or maybe I'm reading too much into it.

http://www.darpa.mil/iao/programs.htm

===
TRUE STORY:
DrinkOrDie member gets 33 months in prison
By LINDA ROSENCRANCE

A 24-year-old member of DrinkOrDie, one of the oldest international piracy groups on the Internet, has been sentenced to 33 months in federal prison for conspiring to violate criminal copyright laws.

Christopher Tresco of Allston, Mass., pleaded guilty in May in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia of using his employer's computers to distribute copyrighted material, including movies, software, games and music, according to a U.S. Department of Justice statement (download PDF).

Tresco faced up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. He is scheduled to surrender Nov. 1 to begin serving his sentence.

"Chris made an error in judgment in getting involved in this activity and he has acknowledged to the court that he violated the law," said Tresco's Boston-based attorney, Gary Crossen. "He hopes others will learn from him the lesson to avoid computer crimes and respect federal copyright laws."

Tresco is one of 40 people worldwide targeted by Operation Buccaneer, a 14-month undercover investigation into copyright violations by the U.S. Customs Service (see story). One of Tresco's co-conspirators pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges earlier this year (see story) and was sentenced to 46 months in prison.

Operation Buccaneer also netted members of other online piracy groups, including RiSC, RAZOR1911, RiSCISO, and POPZ. To date, 13 people have pleaded guilty to charges in connection with Operation Buccaneer; 10 have already been sentenced. Federal prosecutors said DrinkOrDie consisted of approximately 65 members from more than a dozen countries including England, Australia, Sweden, Norway and Finland.

Federal prosecutors said Tresco, known by his screen name "BigRar," took advantage of his job as systems administrator for the Economics Department at MIT to install and operate a number of DrinkOrDie file storage/transfer sites on the MIT system. This included DrinkOrDie's "drop site," a computer connected full time to the Internet that served as the workstation and initial distribution point for all the group's release work of copyrighted material, according to prosecutors. The group would defeat security features, then distribute the counterfeit titles around the world.

In addition, Justice officials said, Tresco installed and operated a number of the group's FTP "leach" sites containing tens of thousands of software, game, music and movie titles for copying and downloading by DrinkOrDie members. 

===
FUN SITE:
Smart Home
Gadgets galore!

Smarthome, Inc. today announced a suite of easy-to-use, affordable home automation products and personal gadgets that work in conjunction with a PC.

"The world of gadgets and the world of PCs are fast linking together, and Smarthome is dedicated to being at the forefront of that revolution," said Leo Soderman, director of marketing for Smarthome, Inc. based in Irvine, Calif. "Our goal is to offer practical, innovative products that enhance the usefulness of your PC in the home or at work."

The following are available from Smarthome at www.smarthome.com or by calling 1-800-SMARTHOME:

Home Control Assistant 4.1 -- This software is ideal for a homeowner that is frequently out of town or desires to automate their scheduled tasks with one comprehensive system. Home Control Assistant 4.1 allows users to design customized schedules for temperature, lighting and more -- even the hot tub can be controlled via PC. Vacation schedules can also be set, reducing the risk of being burglarized while you’re out of town by making it appear someone is home. Price: $149

Four-Port Video Capture System -- This system is ideal for checking up on the kids and the home while at the office or on vacation. The video capture system can monitor the home and digitally record video footage when it detects motion. The system lets users remotely view up to four cameras in the home or business from anywhere in the world where users have access to the Internet. The system includes a CD-ROM containing the drivers for the capture card, server software for Microsoft Windows 98 and remote viewing software for Windows® 98/2000/NT. Price: $249.99

Pocket Hard Drive Voice Bank -- The voice bank is perfect for professionals and students alike. The voice recorder has a USB interface that transfers user’s audio notes directly to their PC. It doubles as an FM radio receiver so users can listen to the radio while on break from class or during lunch. The voice bank can record up to 16 hours of audio and has an auto power-off feature that turns off the recorder when it is not in use. This recorder requires a PC running Windows 98/2000/ME. Price: $269.99

Wireless Internet Audio Transmitter -- This product is ideal for computer users that listen to MP3 files, live Internet streams or have collections of burned CDs that they’d like to listen to in areas other than at the computer desk. This product transmits audio from a PC to a stereo up to 150 feet away, even through walls and floors, eliminating the need to use a computer’s usually low-power speakers. Price: $122.99

Virtually Indestructible Keyboard -- This keyboard is designed for consumers who use their PC in a basement or garage, or at work in demanding conditions such as construction or auto repair. The keyboard is mildew- and water-resistant and can be cleaned with a damp cloth, and is the perfect substitute for ordinary keyboards that can’t handle dust, dirt or moisture. The keyboard features the standard 109 keys and is compatible with all MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows operating systems. Price: $49.99

http://www.smarthome.com/

===
HARDWARE:
The Parent's Playbook

Youth athletics has dramatically changed for the more than 31,000,000 children playing sports in the U.S. today. With out-of-control sports parents, over training and burnout, performance- enhancing drugs, injury recovery, and eating disorders it is no wonder that youth sports has gotten a bad rap.

"The Parent's Playbook: Developing a Game Plan for Maximizing Your Child's Athletic Experience" (July 2002), a new book from the leading sport psychologists of Champion Athletic Consulting (CAC), addresses the critical problems surrounding youth athletics and gives parents and coaches the tools they need to help their children excel on and off the playing field.

Written by CAC founders Dr. Christopher E. Stankovich, Ph.D. and Dr. Todd M. Kays, Ph.D., "The Parent's Playbook" is designed in an interactive, easy-to-read format and teaches parents and coaches effective psychological techniques, training methods, and communication skills that are utilized by today's top sport psychologists and professional athletes.

"Parents need to know how to not only make youth sport participation a fun experience for their child, but a meaningful experience as well," says Stankovich. "We created a reference manual that parents can utilize for years to come. We want to empower them to make decisions that will help their children excel in both sports and life."

Stankovich and Kays organized the book based on questions raised by parents, coaches, and athletes they have worked with over the years. Each chapter includes simple, easy-to- understand tips followed by a "Game Prep" section that offers key questions parents can use to initiate dialog with their children and help identify their needs.

"The Parent's Playbook", the book that legendary coach and College Hall of Famer Chuck Klausing called "a must-have book for parents," can be purchased through major booksellers or by calling 1-800-462- 6420.

http://www.championathletic.com

===
SOFTWARE:
Microsoft Patches Critical Office Holes

Security flaws could allow an attacker to edit Office documents via the Web, or even gain full control over an affected PC.
by Joris Evers

Microsoft has warned of three vulnerabilities in software that allows users to view and edit Office documents in a Web browser. The most serious flaw, rated "critical," could give an attacker full control over a user's PC.

All three vulnerabilities exist in the spreadsheet component of Office Web Components, or OWC, software that provides limited Office functionality in a Web browser without the need for Office to be installed, Microsoft said Wednesday in a security bulletin announcing a fix for the flaws.

OWC is shipped with various Microsoft products, including Office, and is also available as a separate download.

Microsoft's severity rating for standard computers is "critical," while the vulnerabilities present only a "moderate" risk to Internet and Intra net servers, the Redmond, Washington, company says.

Most Serious

The most serious vulnerability lies in the "Host()" function of the spreadsheet OWC component. An attacker could take any action on a PC that the user could by sending a specially-crafted HTML e-mail or luring the user to a Web site containing the special HTML page, Microsoft says.

The other two vulnerabilities lie in the "LoadText()" and "Copy()/Paste()" methods of OWC. These expose files and the clipboard contents on a user's system. To read files, an attacker would have to know the location of the files and the files have to be readable through a Web browser, limiting the scope of the vulnerability, Microsoft says.

That's incorrect, according to security experts at GreyMagic Software, who say they first reported the three vulnerabilities to Microsoft almost five months ago. The "LoadText()" flaw allows an attacker to read any file, they said in an e-mail to the IDG News Service. Microsoft, also informed by GreyMagic, issued a revised security bulletin late Thursday, correcting its first bulletin on this point.

Also, GreyMagic criticized Microsoft for not permanently disabling the associated ActiveX control. ActiveX controls are single purpose computer programs. The so- called "Kill Bit" is not set on the control, which means an attacker could remotely reinstall the vulnerable control. Microsoft acknowledges this, but contends it would be hard to reinstall the vulnerable control without the user noticing because the OWC package is 7MB in size.

GreyMagic disagrees, stating that "unlike MS claims, it's not that easy to notice the ActiveX control when it installs itself. An attacker can open an off-screen window that will silently install OWC without the user knowing." According to GreyMagic, "This is a fundamental problem in the patch and it renders it quite useless."

An attacker could reinstall the vulnerable OWC ActiveX control on a user's system by sending an HTML e-mail message or luring the user to a specially crafted Web page, Microsoft said in its bulletin.

Slow to Patch?

Thor Larholm, a security researcher at PivX Solutions LLC, said Microsoft took its time to plug the OWC holes and said the vulnerable ActiveX control should have been disabled.

"This one sure took a long time to patch, despite the public awareness that was raised," he said. "Microsoft forgot to set the 'Kill Bit' on the component, so a malicious programmer can reinstall the old and vulnerable OWC automatically when a user visits his Web page."

Microsoft in its bulletin said it can't set the Kill Bit because Office and other applications used to write Web pages refer to the ActiveX control in question. If the Kill Bit were set, many Web pages would no longer function, according to Microsoft. The company is working on a new technique to set the Kill Bit without forcing users to redo the Web pages calling the ActiveX control.

Affected are OWC 2000 and OWC 2002. This software is shipped with Microsoft's BackOffice Server 2000, BizTalk Server 2000, BizTalk Server 2002, Commerce Server 2000, Commerce Server 2002, Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2000, Money 2002, Money 2003, Office 2000, Office XP, Project 2002, Project Server 2002, and Small Business Server 2000, according to Microsoft.

Patches to eliminate the vulnerabilities are available. Microsoft advises Office XP users to install Office XP Service Pack 2 instead of the general patch. Users can also download and install the updated OWC software from Microsoft's Web site instead of patching. OWC is about 7MB in size.

More information can be found in Microsoft's security bulletin MS-02-044.

[click Start > Windows Update. Then select Product Updates from the left column. - DP]

===
HEALTH WATCH:
Some early mobiles pose brain tumor risk
By Anna Peltola

STOCKHOLM (REUTERS) - Long-term users of some first generation mobile phones face an up to 80 percent greater risk of developing brain tumors than those who did not use the phones, a new Swedish study shows.

The study, published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention, looked at 1,617 Swedish patients diagnosed with brain tumors between 1997 and 2000, comparing them with a similar control group without brain tumors.

Researchers found that those who had used Nordic Mobile Telephone, or NMT, handsets had a 30 percent higher risk of developing brain tumors than people who had not used that type of mobile, particularly on the side of the brain used during calls. For people using the phones for more than 10 years the risk was 80 percent greater.

"Our present study showed an increased risk for brain tumors among users of analog cellular telephones. For digital cellular phones and cordless phones the results showed no increased risk overall within a five-year latency period," the study said.

Two major mobile phone manufacturers, however, disputed the findings of an increased risk of cancer.

The world's biggest mobile producer, Finland's Nokia Oyj, which still produces two models of phones working in the NMT standard, said scores of other studies conducted on the health effects of mobile phones showed no evidence of health hazards for users.

"There have been close to 200 studies done on different areas of mobile phones and in the light of those and the way the scientific evidence is, there is no health risk in using mobile phones," Marianne Holmlund, communications manager at Nokia Phones, told Reuters on Thursday.

Mikael Westmark, a spokesman for Sweden's Telefon AB LM Ericsson, which used to make NMT handsets, said: "The study and the conclusions it reaches differs from at least three other studies in the past in several highly regarded scientific journals. None of these studies found a connection between mobile phones and cancer."

DEVELOPED TO SERVE NORDIC COUNTRIES

The NMT network was initially developed to serve the Nordic countries, starting operations in the early 1980s, but then became popular in Russia and the Baltic countries.

It is still used in more than 40 countries, but has been overtaken in several countries by the Global System for Mobile Communications, or GSM, which is due to be gradually replaced by rapid third-generation mobile networks.

Analog NMT phones have been in operation for 20 years, making it possible to study the longer-term impact of microwave exposure to their users, but researcher Kjell Hansson Mild said it was too early to draw conclusions on the currently widely used digital GSM mobiles.

"Nothing can be said about GSM at this stage," said Hansson Mild, professor at the National Institute for Working Life and co-leader of the study.

"These are tumors that develop very slowly, and GSM does not have users who have been using it for 10 years," he told Reuters.

Holmlund said the old handsets and the new GSM mobile phones both adhered to European Union limits on the amount of energy absorbed by the human body.

[the jury is still out on this one in the U.S. but, forewarned is forearmed - DP]

===
QUICK WIT:

When the student is ready the teacher will appear.

_