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Tom - Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation that would require Internet service providers to store information about users for at least two years. Sponsors Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) tout the measure as combating child pornography. But privacy advocates and civil rights watchdogs say the measure threatens people's privacy and creates potential security risks. The proposed bill--the "Internet Stopping Adults Facilitating the Exploitation of Today's Youth Act," or Internet Safety Act -- would apply to all providers of electronic communication and remote computing services, including cable companies and telecoms as well as coffee shops, airports, hotels and even individuals who set up Wi-Fi routers in their homes. Keeping that data would create a trail that could connect people to their prior Web activities. While federal law already requires Internet service providers and telephone companies to preserve some data at the request of the police, that law is only invoked when law enforcement authorities are already investigating a crime. By contrast, the new bill would require preservation of data about every Web user--and the vast majority of users are not under any specific investigation.
Linda - Civil liberties advocates say there is no valid reason for the government to mandate that Internet service providers record everyone's Web activity. Said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center: "It's a dreadful proposal,""This is the definition of a fishing expedition before you know there are any fish." Rotenberg noted that retaining information creates more opportunities for data to fall into the wrong hands, resulting in identity theft or other fraud. Kevin Bankston, a senior attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, also criticized the bill saying "These data retention proposals unnecessarily threaten the privacy and anonymous speech rights of every Internet user, treating all of us as if we are criminals deserving of surveillance."
Tom - Earlier this week, the head of the NAACP urged readers to boycott the New York Post, calling a cartoon that the newspaper published an invitation to assassinate President Barack Obama. Benjamin Todd Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, called on the tabloid to remove editor-in-chief Col Allan, as well as longtime cartoonist Sean Delonas. Earlier this week, the newspaper apologized to anyone who might have been offended by the image printed Wednesday, which some say likens Obama to a violent chimpanzee gunned down by police in Connecticut.
Linda - On Thursday, after protests by notable figures including director Spike Lee, the paper posted an editorial on its Web site saying the cartoon was meant to mock the federal economic stimulus bill, but "to those who were offended by the image, we apologize." Jealous called the editorial "a half of an apology, without elaboration." NAACP officials said that if the Post does not take "serious disciplinary action," they would reach out to organizations across the country to join them in their efforts against the tabloid. NAACP Chairman Julian Bond called the publication of the cartoon "thoughtlessness taken to the extreme. ... Anyone who is not offended by it does not have any sensitivity."
Tom - A lobbyist’s lawsuit against The New York Times over the newspaper’s account of her ties to Senator John McCain has been settled, both sides announced last week. The suit, filed by Vicki L. Iseman, the Washington lobbyist, was settled without payment and The Times did not retract the article. In an unusual agreement, however, The Times is letting Ms. Iseman’s lawyers give their views on the suit on the paper’s Web site. Their opinion is accompanied by a joint statement from both sides and a note to readers, which is also appearing in last Friday's edition of the newspaper. The suit stemmed from an article published on Feb. 21, 2008, when Mr. McCain had become the all-but-certain Republican presidential nominee. The article dwelled in particular on his friendship with Ms. Iseman, a lobbyist for telecommunications companies that had business before the commerce committee, which Mr. McCain once headed. The article said that in 1999, during a previous presidential run, some top McCain advisers were “convinced the relationship had become romantic,” warned Ms. Iseman to steer clear of the senator, and confronted Mr. McCain about the matter.
Linda - Mr. McCain, who is married, interrupted his campaign the day the article was published to state publicly that there had been no affair, and to deny that anyone had confronted him about Ms. Iseman. She, too, said there had been no affair. The Times article drew harsh criticism, including from the paper’s own public editor, even as the paper argued that it was about public ethics, not sex. On Dec. 30, Ms. Iseman filed a libel suit, contending that The Times had implied both that there had been an affair, and that she had unethically capitalized on her relationship to benefit her clients. She maintained that she was a private person, not subject to the greater burden of proof that a public figure would need to show in a defamation suit. The two sides released a joint statement saying that the Times did not intend to conclude that Ms. Iseman had engaged in a romantic affair with Senator McCain or an unethical relationship on behalf of her clients in breach of the public trust.”
Tom - In a recent survey of journalists of color conducted by the African American web site for economic and political news, The Loop 21, and UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc., most respondents were cautiously optimistic about the effect of the Obama administration on the media's coverage of racial issues. Results of the survey were released last week during a special "Race & the Media" panel discussion hosted and presented by the National Press Club's Eric Friedheim Library. Although many survey respondents felt the coverage of the 2008 election opened doors for a fair and balanced discussion of race, an overwhelming 92% of those surveyed believed the mainstream media were still not effectively covering race relations in a multiracial society. Of that majority, 45% attributed the cause to a lack of diversity in newsrooms and 33% attributed it to a lack of understanding by editors/producers. The mass majority of respondents felt that using experts and analysts of color and the hiring of more people of color in management positions would positively affect the quality of reporting.
Linda - The consensus among a majority of the respondents was that mainstream media did a "fair to poor" job covering issues of interest to people of color during the 2008 presidential campaign. Seventy eight percent of respondents believed that mainstream media's coverage of issues affecting Native Americans was "poor;" 68% ranked coverage of Asian Americans as "poor." The coverage of issues affecting African Americans and Latinos was slightly higher rated, with 42% and 34% responding that it was "fair;" However, no group's coverage ranked "excellent" by more than 8% of respondents. Overall, a small majority (51%) of the respondents rated the mainstream media's job performance as "fair" when reporting issues affecting racial minorities in general.
Tom - In international news, the trial of an Iraqi journalist who gained cult status for throwing his shoes at former President George W. Bush was adjourned last Thursday until next month as supporters said he should be praised for standing up to the U.S. rather than punished. Muntadhar al-Zeidi walked into the courtroom in western Baghdad and was handed a scarf printed with a red, black and green Iraqi flag, which he kissed. Relatives and supporters applauded and chanted “Imam Ali is with you hero,” in reference to a revered Shiite Muslim saint. The 30-year-old television journalist’s expression of anger at a joint press conference with Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Dec. 14 energized many in the Middle East who opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Linda - Al-Zeidi’s attorneys say he has been charged with assaulting a foreign leader, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. The defense has tried to get the charge reduced, saying the act doesn’t merit such harsh punishment. Defense attorney Dhia al-Saadi Thursday asked the court to call social experts to testify because of what he called the political and psychological nature of the act. Judge Abdul-Amir al-Rubaie then held a closed session before announcing the trial was postponed until March 12 because the court needs time to ask the Iraqi Cabinet whether Bush’s visit was “formal or informal.” Dozens of relatives and supporters gathered outside the courtroom before the trial began, waving banners and calling for al-Zeidi’s release. Said al-Zeidi’s sister Doniya, as she stood outside the court Thursday with about 60 other supporters. “We are proud of what Muntadhar has done,” “Bush was not a guest in Iraq or came by invitation of the Iraqi people. He came as an occupier.”