Oh well - maybe there is a sunspot factor at work.
All is well, and for the life of me I don't know what is meaningfully different. I've rebooted several times (this is win98), and
retyped the URL a few times.
Since the original problem seemed to point to a funny interpretation of the URL, I am accepting this as "the likely suspect".
Unfortunately the defense attorney would point out that the program output did show debugging output (bless log4j) with the URL
looking fine and dandy.
Maybe I should consider a lead lined roofing job the next time it leaks. Hey, do you think I could take it off as a business
Again, sorry for the wasted bandwidth.
(Aaaaghhh - the connection to the isp is acting up, #@$***. When will these whips cease and desist?)