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Tom - Reuters is reporting that this past Friday the government argued that it should be allowed access to people's cell-phone records to help track suspected criminals. A Justice Department attorney urged a federal appeals court to overturn lower court rulings denying it the right to seek information from communications companies about the call activity of specific numbers that authorities believe are associated with criminal activity. But civil rights lawyers argued that providing information such as dates, times and call duration, and which cell towers the calls used, would be an invasion of privacy and a violation of constitutional protections against unjustified arrest. Attorneys for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology said the government should have to obtain a warrant to track an individual via a cell phone and show probable cause that the information would provide evidence of a crime.
Linda - In 2008, the government asked for court permission to use cell phones for tracking without showing probable cause. The request was denied by a magistrate judge, whose decision was upheld by a district court. The government is not seeking to monitor the content of cell phone conversations but wants information on call activity to assist law-enforcement as it tracks suspected criminals. Kevin Bankston, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argued that cell tower data can allow officials to determine a cell phone user's location to within a tenth of a mile, and that could violate constitutional rights protecting a person from unreasonable seizure.
Tom - Reuters UK is reporting that according to a watchdog group, an increase in online journalists and freelancers has made the press more vulnerable to repression, but new media are also helping raise awareness about such attacks. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in its annual report, released at a Tokyo news conference, that freelancers and local reporters faced more risk of attack from dictators, repressive governments and militant groups because they did not have media organizations to back them. But blogs, social networking sites and other new forms of media have also helped fight censorship, although there were exceptions such as in China.
Linda - E-mail alerts, Facebook petitions and blog posts helped raise the visibility of imprisoned journalists in Iran after crackdowns on the media in the aftermath of a disputed presidential election last June, CPJ said. That international pressure helped in the release of high-profile journalists such as Newsweek correspondent Maziar Bahari and freelancer Roxana Saberi. But advocates of media freedom faced obstacles in China, where CPJ said tight online censorship hindered access to information on infringements. Google Inc., the world's biggest search engine provider, threatened last month to shut its Chinese portal and pull out from China, citing cyber attacks and tightening censorship.
Tom - AFP is reporting that the New York Times is conducting an investigation after a Wall Street and finance reporter was found to have improperly used wording and passages from other news organizations. Zachery Kouwe, who joined the Times in 2008 from the New York Post, "reused language from The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and other sources without attribution or acknowledgement," the Times said in an editors' note. The Times said Kouwe appeared to have "improperly appropriated wording and passages published by other news organizations" in a number of business articles over the past year and in posts on NYTimes.com's DealBook blog. According to his biography on the Times website, the New York-based Kouwe worked from 2005 to 2008 at the New York Post, where he was chief mergers and acquisitions reporter.
Linda - The Wall Street Journal alerted the Times to similarities between a Journal story and a Times story of February 5, the newspaper said. A subsequent search by The Times found other cases of extensive overlap between passages in Mr. Kouwe’s articles and other news organizations. Said the Times: "Copying language directly from other news organizations without providing attribution -- even if the facts are independently verified -- is a serious violation of Times policy and basic journalistic standards." According to the Times website, Kouwe covers hedge funds, mergers and acquisitions, private equity, investment banking and other subjects. Nearly seven years ago, New York Times reporter Jayson Blair resigned over what the newspaper at the time called "widespread fabrication and plagiarism."
Tom - Bloomberg is reporting that retired NBA star Earvin Magic Johnson is in talks to purchase Johnson Publishing Co., home to Ebony and Jet magazines and an archive of iconic photographs documenting U.S. black life for more than half a century. Johnson, 50, would fold the publisher into Magic Johnson Enterprises, said a person with knowledge of the discussions. The company he founded while a player with the Los Angeles Lakers has partnerships with Starbucks Corp., 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide Inc. and T.G.I. Friday’s Inc. Ad revenue at Ebony declined 38 percent to $35.5 million last year on a 39 percent drop in ad pages, according to Publishers Information Bureau.
Linda - Johnson Publishing was founded in 1942 by John H. Johnson, Linda Johnson Rice’s father. Ebony, the monthly magazine of features, the newsweekly Jet and the long-defunct Negro Digest chronicled African-American life when mainstream media paid little attention. Photographer Moneta Sleet Jr. was working for Ebony when he shot the Pulitzer Prize-winning image of Coretta Scott King and her young daughter at Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral in 1968. Jet stirred controversy in 1964, when it ran photos of 14-year- old Emmett Till in his coffin, beaten beyond recognition in a racially-motivated attack. Ebony’s resonance was underscored when president-elect Barack Obama granted the magazine his first print interview following the 2008 campaign.
Tom - The Associated Press is reporting that roughly 40 percent of Americans do not have high-speed Internet access at home, according to new Commerce Department figures. The Obama administration and Congress have identified universal broadband as a key to driving economic development, producing jobs and bringing educational opportunities and cutting-edge medicine to all corners of the country. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Rural Utilities Service, part of the Agriculture Department, are in the middle of handing out $7.2 billion in stimulus funding for broadband. Most of that money will be used to build networks in parts of the country that lack high-speed Internet access. And next month, the Federal Communications Commission will deliver policy recommendations to Congress on how to make universal broadband a reality. Among other things, the FCC is expected to propose expanding the fund that subsidizes telephone service in poor and rural communities and finding more airwaves for wireless broadband services.
Linda - The NTIA report released Tuesday stems from a Census Bureau survey of about 54,000 households conducted in October of last year. The statistics show that U.S. broadband usage continues to grow, with 64 percent of U.S. households subscribing to high-speed Internet as of October, up from 51 percent two years earlier. But the results also highlight remaining hurdles, particularly in rural America. While 66 percent of urban households subscribed to broadband in October, that was true for only 54 percent of rural households, the survey found. That is partly because broadband is not as widely available in rural areas. The phone and cable companies that provide the bulk of broadband connections in the U.S. have been slower to build high-speed systems in places that are too sparsely populated to justify the costly network investments. Lack of broadband availability is only part of the challenge for Washington, however — because even in places where broadband is available, not everyone subscribes. Among households that do not have broadband, the survey found, 38 percent said they don't need it or are not interested. Twenty-six percent said it is too expensive. Only 3.6 percent said they do not subscribe because it is not available where they live.