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Linda - After facing criticism for blocking content on its network, Verizon Wireless last week reversed its decision to bar an abortion-rights group from sending text messages to Verizon subscribers. The nation’s second-largest wireless carrier said executives determined that the decision was an “incorrect interpretation of a dusty internal policy.” Last week The New York Times reported that Verizon Wireless had turned down a request from NARAL Pro-Choice America to use its network to allow people to receive text messages. Other wireless carriers accepted the text messages, which have become popular political tools for reaching voters. Verizon Wireless said it initially rejected NARAL’s request because of the potentially controversial content of the text messages. Verizon Wireless spokesman Jeffrey Nelson said in a written statement that“The decision to not allow text messaging on an important, though sensitive, public policy issue was incorrect, and we have fixed the process that led to this isolated incident,”
Tom - The question over Verizon Wireless’s right to bar messages it deems controversial is the latest iteration of the battle over network neutrality — a dispute over whether and how much Internet and wireless-network operators can control the content flowing to their subscribers. The issue heated up this summer when AT&T, in broadcasting a Pearl Jam concert over the Internet, blocked lyrics critical of President Bush. AT&T later apologized for doing so, saying the lyrics were mistakenly silenced because they contained profanity. Consumer advocates say discriminating against certain content is a violation of free speech while Some network operators claim they should have the authority to prioritize content. Federal Communications Commissioner Michael J. Copps said the text-message incident shows the need for legislation ensuring that such discrimination does not occur on Internet networks. To quote Copps “If someone has the technological power and the commercial incentive, they’re going to try doing this,” he said. “You can expect adverse consequences for consumers in the absence of clear net-neutrality rules.”Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) said the incident raised troubling questions about the cellphone carriers’ practices saying in a written statement “I ask Verizon to decisively state that it will no longer discriminate against any legal content its customers request from any organization,” Dingell said in a written statement. We will provide a link with more on this story on our website
Linda - AT&T has rolled out new Terms of Service for its DSL service that have lead to some controversy according to the online journal Ars Technica. According to a post on their blog, Ars Technica says the , ToS potentially attempts to give AT&T the right to disconnect its own customers who criticize the company on blogs or in other online settings. In section 5 of its legal ToS, AT&T stipulates the following: “AT&T may immediately terminate or suspend all or a portion of your Service…without notice, for conduct that AT&T believes … tends to damage the name or reputation of AT&T, or its parents, affiliates and subsidiaries.”
Tom - The blog posting notes that the language of the contract does not require any proof of any actual damage to the name or reputation of AT&T in order to terminate service.”The post goes on to note that while the wording of the contract is certainly problematic, it does not necessarily mean that AT&T will actually start censoring content or cutting off service of people critical of AT&T. Indeed, there is no guarantee that such activity by AT&T would even be legal. However, critics have pointed out this TOS agreement as a prime example of why net neutrality is needed. We will provide a link to the AT&T TOS on our website
Linda - A Senate committee last week decided to push ahead with legislation shielding reporters from being forced to reveal their sources in federal court, despite objections from the federal law enforcement and intelligence community. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell and Brian A. Benczkowski, principal deputy assistant attorney general, in letters objected to the bill being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which would create the first federal media shield law for journalists. Under the measure, federal courts would join 32 states and the District of Columbia in giving reporters protection from being forced to reveal confidential sources, except in certain cases. The bill has support from more than 50 news organizations, and is the result of a compromise between Republicans Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Richard Lugar of Indiana, and Democrats Charles Schumer of New York and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut. We will provide a link to the test of the legislation
Tom – The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press has released their ,a href="http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=359">latest findings for the most reported on news stories. They found that for the third week of September, O.J. Simpson's recent arrest on robbery and assault charges was the most heavily covered news story. Yet they note that public interest in the Simpson case was fairly modest. Overall, just 13% of Americans say they followed reports about Simpson's arrest very closely, while 17% listed it as the single story they followed most closely. By contrast, there was much greater public interest in the situation in Iraq: 32% say they paid very close attention to the war, and 25% followed it more closely than any other story last week. Simpson's latest legal troubles drew somewhat more interest from blacks than whites. About a quarter of blacks (24%) cited Simpson's arrest as the week's top story, compared with 15% of whites. There was broad agreement among both blacks and whites, however, that Simpson's case received too much press coverage.
Linda - A much larger racial gap emerged on another high profile news story: the demonstrations in Jena, Louisiana in support of six black teenagers involved in a schoolyard fight. The so-called Jena Six story was by far the biggest story of the week among African Americans. Fully half of blacks say they followed this story very closely, while 40% listed it as the story they followed most closely last week. By contrast, just 11% of whites followed the story very closely and 9% listed it as their top story. The national news media devoted 5% of its coverage to this story, which is less than half of the amount of coverage that news organizations devoted to the Simpson arrest (13%). When asked about the main reason why many people are following the Simpson story, 66% of the public says it is because they want to see him finally convicted of a crime. Another 20% say people follow this story because they have an ongoing interest in news about Simpson. Just 3% believe that people follow the story because they sympathize with the former football star. Blacks and whites are largely in agreement on this question: 66% of whites and 63% of blacks say most people follow the Simpson story because they want to see him finally get convicted. We will provide a lind to the report on our website
Tom – On Sept. 13 The UN General Assembly adopted a declaration outlining the rights of the world’s estimated 370 million indigenous people and outlawing discrimination against them – a move that followed more than two decades of debate. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was approved after 143 Member States voted in favour, 11 abstained and four – Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States – voted against the text. A non-binding text, the Declaration sets out the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues.
Linda – According to the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, known as FAIR, this landmark declaration received little attention in mainstream media. They report that a Nexis search for stories in the two weeks following the vote finds a mere four U.S. newspaper articles (one of which was in the student press) and exactly zero U.S. TV/radio broadcasts. A contrast in media priorities can be seen in the fact that Nike's new sneaker for American Indians generated six U.S. newspaper articles and was mentioned in two CNN broadcasts and one on NPR. We will post a link to the FAIR article on our website.