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Linux development and the Cuban blockade (DRAFT, plz ACK!)

To Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) <senator@wyden.senate.gov>

Dear Senator Wyden:

I'm working on a project in my spare time called SEUL ("Simple End-User 
Linux").  The goal is to create a distribution of Linux that can be used by 
anyone (ideally in place of Windows95).  Our web site is http://www.seul.org/.

We have constructed an "expert group" of people from around the world in a 
mailing list hosted on a machine at MIT.  This list will be used to discuss 
what, precisely, is right or wrong with current computer OS's, and to try to 
write down in a formal manner suggestions as to how to make SEUL better.

An interesting problem has been discovered, however.  We have 39 people on 
the list as of right now, one of which resides in Cuba (e-mail address is 
@comuh.uh.cu).  I haven't checked the rest carefully, as the coordinator of 
the list, who lives in Spain, only mentioned the Cuban resident in his mail 
of earlier today (yesterday, actually, given that it's 2am Nov 2. currently).

I have searched Thomas and found the bill in question (HR 927), and found one 
paragraph that may apply:

"Amends the Trading with the Enemy Act to repeal the exemption from its civil
penalties for news gathering, research, export and import of informational
materials, certain educational or religious activities, and certain activities
of human rights organizations."

I have trouble parsing this completely, but it appears as if our work would 
be covered under "research", which can apparently now be prosecuted.

My question is: can we go ahead with our plans of discussing the pros and 
cons of various levels of the operating system (installation, administration, 
user interface, and applications) regardless of where the participants 
reside?  Are there restrictions on what can be discussed (likely political 
topics are not allowed, but luckily not on-topic either), and if so how can 
we be sure to stay within those bounds?

We will be starting our discussion with the current list within a day or two, 
which makes this a fairly high-priority item.  I will be making calls Monday 
to whichever agencies I can find in the YP to try to resolve this, but we 
would appreciate any help you can give us.

         Erik Walthinsen
         SEUL Project System Architect

      Erik Walthinsen - SEUL Project infrastructure/system architecture
       /  \           omega@sequent.com         Work: (503)578-5314
      |    | M E G A  omega@aracnet.com         Home: (503)281-4281
      _\  /_          psu12113@odin.cc.pdx.edu  Majoring in CS

       SEUL: Simple End-User Linux - creating a Linux distribution
     http://www.seul.org/            for the average home/office user

SEUL-Leaders list, seul-leaders-request@seul.mit.edu