Friday, December 22, 2006

And Now for a Little More Substance

HAVE A HAPPY SOLSTICE
&
A MERRY NEWTONMAS*!

First, we have some serious matters to attend to.

This in from Feral Scholar at http://stangoff.com/?p=434

The Feminist Movement of Nicaragua issued this plea entitled Stop Sandinista Betrayal! Campaign to stop Sandinistas and Chuch Right wingers voting to pass a law to disallow therapeutic abortion.

In Nicaragua, Catholic Church hierarchy, together with the FSLN and other right wing parties are voting on a law to penalize therapeutic abortion. The present law allowing for therapeutic abortion (since 1891) cites as justified causes: a pregnant woman's life, serious damage to the fetus or embryo and pregnancies due to rape. The President of the republic Enrique Bolaños has sent a document to the National Assembly asking members to vote on the bill without it going through normal procedures in the Justice Commission, but discussing it only in the plenary session. This means the proposal could be approved in only48 hours. If therapeutic abortion is made a crime this means that a large numberof women and girls who have been raped or are victims of sexual abuse in the family will be forced to carry their pregnancies further and givebirth, it will condemn to die women who have life-threatening pregnancies, force us to give birth to children with serious birth defects without necessarily having the adequate conditions (emotional, economic, or family environment) to attend to their need as they should be. WE ARE ASKING FOR YOUR URGENT ACTION IN ORDER TO STOP THIS VIOLATION OF WOMEN AND GIRLS' BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS, ESPECIALLY THE RIGHT TO LIFE. Michèle Najlis
Director Department of Theology
Ecumenical Centre Antonio Valdivieso
Member of the Feminist Movement of Nicaragua

Although the bill has now been passed, protests at the Nicaraguan embassy or consulate in your area, calls, etc. may help prevent its implementation or effect its repeal.

And here's something threatening blogging itself, as quoted by polybi on Nina Hartley's Sex Forums (http://www.nina.com/vboard/showthread.php?t=4888):

Senator Proposes Mandatory "Obscenity" Reporting for Blogs, Mailing Lists, and Beyond
by Darklady
WASHINGTON, DC -- Webmasters and web denizens who thought things got confusing and paranoid after the government strengthened and began enforcing its 2257 regulations may look back on those days with fondness if Sen. John McCain (AZ-R) gets his way. Legislation drafted and presented by McCain would require that commercial websites, as well as personal blogs, mailing lists, and more, conform to federal obscenity reporting guidelines or face fines of up to $300,000. Fear of such a possible development was likely behind the massive policy changes that community building websites such as Tribe.net underwent earlier in 2006 and, given some of the bill's requirements, such fear may not have been misplaced. McCain's proposal, emotionally named the "Stop the Online Exploitation of Our Children Act," affects, among other things, any internet presence that offers user profiles by forcing them to delete pages belonging to sex offenders, apparently with no consideration given to what their offense was or whether they have served their time. According to McCain during a speech on the Senate floor, these changes are necessary because "technology has contributed to the greater distribution and availability, and, some believe, desire for child pornography. " No mention was made about those offenders whose crimes involved adults or mutually consensual, but illegal, activity. Additionally, the proposed law mandates that any form of suspected "obscenity" or child pornography be reported to National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, with that information being forwarded to the appropriate legal authorities. Webmasters would be required to retain any "information relating to the facts or circumstances" for a minimum of six
months. Those who report suspected criminal activity would be immune from civil or criminal liability under the proposed law, so long as they followed the specified procedures precisely. Internet Service Providers are already required by law to report suspected child porn or obscenity, but McCain increases penalties and expands regulation to not only commercial web presences but to individual bloggers or those who provide bulletin board discussion areas and user forums on their websites. The Electronic Freedom Foundation was quick to condemn the proposal, with attorney Kevin Bankston stating that he was "concerned that there is a slipper slope here," according to News.com. "Once you start creating categories of industries that must report suspicious or criminal behavior, when does it stop?" he asked. While the answer to Bankston's question is unknown, what is known is that McCain's proposal would mandate reports from any content hosting service, any website with a message board, any social-networking site, any email service, any instant-messaging service, any chat room, any domain name registration service, any internet search service, any electronic communication service, and any image or video-sharing service. An anonymous McCain aid stated that any site or service that "you'd have to join up or become a member of to use" regardless of free or pay status would fall under the proposed law's jurisdiction. This includes, but certainly is not restricted to, so-called "social-networking" sites such as MySpace, LiveJournal, Friendster, as well as other membership sites including Amazon.com, Slashdot.com, Gamespot.com, CNET.com, MP3.com, and any other site that allows public profiles. Although some, including Kate Dean of the U.S. Internet Service Provider Association says that the organizations membership appreciates McCain's work to make reporting procedures more clear, others believe that the involvement of private individuals will make things more complex, in part because what constitutes child pornography is not entirely certain. The recent indictment of Alabaman photographer Jeff Pierson on child pornography charges, for instance, indicates that nudity is not required for an image of a minor to be deemed pornographic. Pierson's work features clothed underage models deemed "provocative" by prosecutors -- but taken with parental consent. The bill would also create a federal registry containing "any email address, instant-message address, or other similar internet identifier" possessed by anyone convicted of a sex crime. Those who refuse to provide the government with this information would face penalties of up to a decade in prison. The information would then be used, presumably, by membership sites forced to purge themselves of anything "associated" with that person. Regardless of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' recent political grandstanding on the topic, studies have shown that the online solicitation of minors has dropped during the past five years, even while social-networking sites have increased. Because of this, Bankston insists that "This constitutionally dubious proposal is being made apparently mostly based on fear or political considerations, rather than on the facts." Such concerns do not appear to be of interest to Congress, however, given that the Deleting Online Predators Act, another fuzzily worded bill that appears to target social-networking sites without actually defining its terms, was approved this past summer by the U.S. House of Representatives in a 410 - 15 vote. McCain, who scored 31 points out of a 100 point total in a News.com election guide concerning technologically friendly legislation, will be in good company during the coming year. Gonzales and the FBI intent to continue to push for mandatory ISP data retention and Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY-D) plans to join McCain by jointly introducing anti-sex offender and social-networking legislation in January.

Well, I'd intended to add some lighter observations here, but I've run out of time, so I'll have to get to back to you with those later. Again, happy holidays!

Eric Hamell

*25 December is Isaac Newton's birthday.

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