Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

CHEW’s John Layman Kicks Off CBLDF Lecture Series

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

On Saturday, December 18th, the writer, and former Wildstorm Editor, John Layman (CHEW, GAMBIT) became the first Guest Lecturer to visit the CBLDF offices in Manhattan. An educational event and a fundraiser, seats were limited, and offered online through the “CBLDF Reward Zone” donation center, and quickly sold out. Twenty lucky fans were able to spend Saturday afternoon learning from a comics personality who is simultaneously a respected veteran and an overnight success.

Layman outlined his history in the industry, from journalism, up through Wildstorm, right into the breakout success of CHEW, his current Image Comics project with artist Rob Guillory. Explaining the finer details of developing and pitching ideas, and managing your creative properties, he was frank and informative, offering personal and insight from the trenches of the comics industry. Keeping things light and informal, Layman ended by answering questions from participants. Attendee Geoff Locke said of the afternoon, “John was candid and informative about the ins and outs of pitching a project. Plus, we learned Frank Quitely will do a variant cover for a box of Twinkies!”

John Layman’s visit marks the first of a coming series of lectures and workshops to be held in the CBLDF ...

Graft-Busting Site Blocked

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011
Chinese county authorities seek to block news of official wrongdoing.

EFF Calls for Immediate Action to Defend Tunisian Activists Against Government Cyberattacks

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Demonstrations and protests over unemployment and poor living conditions have been ongoing in Tunisia since the beginning of December, but last week the Tunisian government turned up the heat on bloggers, activists, and dissidents by launching a JavaScript injection attack that siphoned off the usernames and passwords of Tunsians logging in to Google, Yahoo, and Facebook. The Tunisian government has used these stolen credentials to log in to Tunisians’ email and Facebook accounts, presumably downloading their messages, emails, and social graphs for further analysis, and then deleting the accounts entirely.

Among the compromised accounts are Facebook pages administered by a reporter with Al-Tariq ad-Jadid, Sofiene Chourabi, video journalist Haythem El Mekki, and activist Lina Ben Khenni. Unsatisfied with merely quelling online freedom of expression, the Tunisian government has used the information it obtained to locate bloggers and their networks of contacts. By late last week, the Tunisian government had started arresting and detaining bloggers, including blogger Hamadi Kaloutcha, and cyberactivist Slim Ammamou, who alerted the world to his whereabouts at the Tunisian Ministry of the Interior using Google Latitude. This weekend, Tunisian citizens began to report on Twitter and in blogs that troops were using live ammunition on unarmed citizens ...

UC Berkeley Chancellor Blames Arizona Shooting on ‘Hateful Speech,’ Warns of Safety Consequences on Campus

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Yesterday morning, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau e-mailed the campus community with regard to the horrendous mass shooting in Arizona that killed a federal judge, a 9-year-old girl, and several others while gravely injuring Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the apparent target of the attack.

Like many others in the news media and on blogs and Twitter, Birgeneau chose to put the blame for the shooting on the "climate" of speech in Arizona, while lamenting what he sees as similar problems at his own institution. The key sentence: "A climate in which demonization of others goes unchallenged and hateful speech is tolerated can lead to such a tragedy."  The e-mail is produced in whole below:

From: Robert J. Birgeneau, Chancellor <>
Date: Mon, Jan 10, 2011 at 10:30 AM
Subject: Chancellor Birgeneau comments on Arizona shootings
To: "Staff, All Academic Titles, Other Members of the Campus Community, Deans, Directors, Department Chairs, Students," <>

Dear members of our campus community:

This weekend's shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the deaths and injuries of many others in the horrific event in Tucson, Arizona[,] have shocked our nation.  We here at UC Berkeley offer our sincere condolences to everyone who has been personally affected ...

Happy New Year from EFF!

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Thank you to all of the Electronic Frontier Foundation supporters who were able to make a contribution this past year. Truly your donations, advocacy, and steadfast moral support have helped make EFF the formidable organization that it is today. We have come a long way from our first victory in Steve Jackson Games v. Secret Service to our most recent major win over bogus copyright infringement claims in Universal Music Group v. Augusto, and our work continues. In case you missed it, take a look at EFF's year-end video for an 8-bit recap of just a few major accomplishments in 2010.

This week we will begin sending tax receipts to all recent donors as well as EFF Member Cards to donors of $65 or more! EFF is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and your gift is tax deductible to the full extent provided by law.

Don't forget to match your gift with your employer:

  • Ask your human resources department if your employer matches donations.
  • Fill out the paperwork and forward it to EFF for completion (if necessary). While EFF remains a nonpartisan organization, some employers may ask that you specify non-political activities for your donation.
  • You're done! It's a simple ...

Dissident’s Plight Clouds Hu visit

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011
A report emerges that Chinese police harshly punished a rights lawyer for defending public interests.

Standing with the Sheriff

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

There may be a politically active extremist serving as a sheriff in Arizona. But it’s not Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik. On the day of the horrific shootings in Tucson that killed 6, critically wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and injured 13 others, Sheriff Dupnik, visibly shaken, decried the vicious tone that politics has taken recently, especially in his state. He blamed nobody for the murders but the murderer. But, he said, it was time for some national “soul searching.”

When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And unfortunately, Arizona has become sort of the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.

Let me say one thing, because people tend to pooh-pooh this business about all the vitriol that we hear inflaming the American public by people who make a living off of doing that. That may be free speech, but it's not without consequences.

Many on the Right saw these remarks and reacted not with an honest discussion of responsibility in political ...

Responding to Censorship

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011
The removal of David Wojnarowicz’s video from the National Portrait Gallery last month renews conservative groups’ attacks on the arts. Clearly, it’s timed with the ascension of the Republican majority in the House and attempts to formulate a strategy for eliminating voices and ideas they find troubling. It’s remarkable how unoriginal and inflexible their thinking [...]

David Moshman on Academic Freedom Debate

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011
Noted scholar of academic freedom David Moshman relates a very interesting debate on academic freedom over at The Huffington Post.

Pipeline Raises Partnership Questions

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011
Experts ask whether a maiden Sino-Russian pipeline will kickstart cooperation.

State judge rules NYC can release teacher ratings

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

NEW YORK — A judge ruled yesterday that New York City can release performance ratings for 12,000 teachers based on a statistical analysis of student test scores.

Justice Cynthia Kern of Manhattan state Supreme Court denied a petition by the United Federation of Teachers to keep the teachers’ names private, saying that releasing the ratings with their names attached would not be arbitrary or capricious under the law.

Union President Michael Mulgrew said the union would appeal and would ask the Appellate Division to halt any release of the teacher ratings pending its review of the decision.

Jesse Levine, a lawyer for the city, said officials would await the appeals court’s ruling.

The union’s lawyer, Charles Moerdler, had argued at a Dec. 8 hearing that releasing the data would be an invasion of privacy and would unfairly subject teachers to public ridicule.

But Kern said in her ruling that the courts “have repeatedly held that release of job-performance-related information, even negative information such as that involving misconduct, does not constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy.”

Kern said the public “has an interest in the job performance of public employees, particularly in the field of education.”

At issue are so-called value-added ...

High court won’t review Colo. church-zoning flap

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

BOULDER, Colo. — The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected Boulder County's request that it review a land-use dispute with a church.

County officials told the Daily Camera that the high court had decided yesterday against weighing in on the matter.

The county was appealing the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals May 2010 decision backing plans by the Rocky Mountain Christian Church in Niwot to nearly double the size of its 128,000-square-foot campus. The church challenged the county's denial of the plans, citing the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

The law protects churches from discriminatory land-use laws.

Boulder County said it treated the church's application the same way it treated others and that it was denied because it would violate land-use codes.

Ariz. high court: Student’s curses didn’t ‘abuse’ teacher

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

PHOENIX — The Arizona Supreme Court says that a school child must use "fighting words," not merely curse, to be found guilty of abusing a teacher.

Yesterday's ruling overturns the delinquency finding of a student known in court papers as Nickolas S. His age, city of residence and school year aren't included in the ruling.

The boy was serving an on-campus suspension when he twice made foul comments to his teacher.

He was convicted of teacher abuse in both cases, but an appeals court overturned one conviction because his comment was minor. A second conviction where he used extremely vulgar language had been upheld.

Yesterday's ruling said his words did not meet the U.S. Supreme Court's standard that the language must provoke an ordinary person to "exchange fisticuffs."

Mongolian Activist Feared Detained

Monday, January 10th, 2011
Rights groups call on Chinese authorities to release information about an activist and his family.

Special Thanks to Those Who Encouraged People to Give to FIRE

Monday, January 10th, 2011

At the end of 2010, we offered the top five reasons why people should donate to FIRE. (If you missed them here on The Torch, here are #5, #4, #3, #2, and #1.) Thank-yous are certainly in order for our own Alisha, Jen, and Amanda for writing them up. We also want to thank a few of our supporters in the blogosphere who also kindly suggested that people donate to FIRE during the holiday season, supporting our efforts to support the defense of individual rights on college campuses.

Amy Alkon, in a post for Advice Goddess Blog, extensively cited an earlier piece by Ann Snyder about FIRE's involvement in protecting freedom of expression at Temple University, San Francisco State University, and Penn State in order to persuade people to donate to FIRE.

Rand Simberg of Transterrestrial Musings remarked that FIRE remained at the top of his list of good causes to donate to.

J. DeVoy of The Legal Satyricon referenced eight of FIRE's law review publications in a blog post that also suggested people donate to FIRE.

Finally, "Blogfather" Glenn Reynolds, as he has for several years, recommended ...

CBLDF Accepts Downs Intellectual Freedom Award at ALA Midwinter

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Last weekend, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund was presented the Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award, an honor presented by the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to acknowledge individuals or groups who have furthered the cause of intellectual freedom, particularly as it impacts libraries and information centers and the dissemination of ideas.

The award was presented last Saturday at a presentation during the American Library Association midwinter conference, and accepted by CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein. His acceptance remarks highlight the rise of comics from being hobbled by junk science in the 1950s to their near universal embrace by contemporary culture, and are presented in full after the jump.

CBLDF Board Member Neil Gaiman & Executive Director Charles Brownstein with the Downs Intellectual Freedom Award. Photo by Cat Mihos.

On behalf of the membership, board of directors, and staff of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, I’m here to thank you for bestowing this tremendous honor upon us.

When the CBLDF was established 25 years ago, it would have been unfathomable that comics would be at the center of today’s cultural conversation. It would have been equally far-fetched that ...

Instead of Slaying a Beast, Syracuse Creates a Monster

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Those who wish to censor are often shocked to discover that the harder they try to suppress speech, the more widely known it becomes. This phenomenon is certainly true for the investigation of Len Audaer, the alleged author of the satirical blog SUCOLitis at Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL).

Alex Piliouras of Syracuse Basement, another humor blog, explains how SUCOL's attempts to silence SUCOLitis have given it a much louder voice:

For another thing, blogs aren't exactly pulling in millions of viewers. They're blogs. It's the equivalent of vomiting on a keyboard because you're bored. However, once there's the David v. Goliath factor, wherein Goliath tries to silence David with a gag order (that's how it happened in the Bible too, right?), people start to become interested in that vomit. All of a sudden, Audaer is on The Daily Show pleading his case about a blog that no one would have ever found without the law school's help.

Piliouras points out that the school's efforts have also solidified SUCOL's reputation as a law school to avoid by those who value basic civil rights:

So we say, "Kudos," law school. You managed to increase Audaer's popularity and support ...

Arizona Shooting Causes Debate Over Free Speech

Monday, January 10th, 2011


Heightened and "vitriolic" political rhetoric is being blamed by some for the kind of violence that landed Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in intensive care following a mass casualty shooting on Saturday, but others say a blame game is hardly appropriate or useful right now.

Pima County, Ariz., Sheriff Clarence Dupnik sparked much of the debate during a press conference Saturday evening in which he blamed talk radio and television for a decline in America.

"I think the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business and what (we) see on TV and how our youngsters are being raised, that this has not become the nice United States of America that most of us grew up in. And I think it’s time that we do the soul-searching," the sheriff said.

Tea Party group: “There can be no civil discourse.”

Monday, January 10th, 2011

The weekend violence in Tucson has ignited a national discussion on the far right’s violent rhetoric against elected officials and candidates who do not subscribe to their ideology. "Second Amendment solutions" rather than First Amendment ones should never be seen as legitimate ways to express opposition to a democratically elected government.

But instead of taking this event as a reminder of how important responsible debate is to our nation, some groups are claiming they’ve given up on it completely. According to Roll Call:

[A]fter the group was "attacked" for the shootings, Judson Phillips of Tea Party Nation wrote this weekend that the era of agreeing to disagree was over.

"[T]he aftermath of today's shooting is the official obituary for political civility in this country," he wrote. "The left has simply gone to far. There can be no civil discourse with people as crazy as those on the left are."

Responding to the national discussion on overheated political rhetoric by declaring an end to civil discourse is not constructive, to say the least.

If Phillips has given up on civil discourse, what exactly is he suggesting take its place?

Free Speech Victory in Kansas As Judge Reinstates Nursing Student

Monday, January 10th, 2011

The Kansas City Star reported last week that U.S. District Judge Eric F. Melgren ordered Johnson County Community College (JCCC) in Kansas to reinstate a nursing student who had sued JCCC over her expulsion for posting a photo of herself with an anonymous woman's placenta on Facebook. JCCC also had expelled three other students for doing the same. The judge ruled that JCCC got rid of the student without affording her a fair hearing.

That's not all. JCCC apparently violated both the free speech and due process rights of student Doyle Byrnes and her three classmates. The Star reports these findings by Judge Melgren:

  • Photos are taken to be viewed, and if the students were given permission to photograph the placenta, it became irrelevant what they did with the pictures.
  • There was no violation of any patient's privacy because there was nothing in the photos to identify whose placenta it was.
  • Byrnes was not allowed a fair hearing on her dismissal.

According to Star journalist Matt Campbell, Judge Melgren added: "I don't know that what they [the students] did was disruptive. I think the college's reaction was disruptive."

JCCC claims that the four students were "dismissed" but not "expelled," since they had ...

NewSouth Books Publishes Mark Twain (Expurgated)

Monday, January 10th, 2011
NewSouth Books, based in Alabama, is publishing a new edition of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. As many know, Mr. Twain has been very much in the news lately. His Autobiography is a current bestseller (NYTimes bestseller list for 10 weeks now) and is earning well-deserved praise. Regrettably, now [...]

Federal court issues subpoena for WikiLeaks’ Twitter account info

Monday, January 10th, 2011

LONDON — U.S. investigators have gone to court to demand details about WikiLeaks' Twitter account, according to documents obtained on Jan. 8 — the first revelation about the criminal case Washington is trying to build against those who leaked classified U.S. documents.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says he believes other U.S. Internet companies such as Facebook and Google may also have been ordered to divulge information about him and his colleagues.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia issued a subpoena ordering Twitter Inc. to hand over private messages, billing information, telephone numbers, connection records and other information about accounts run by Assange and others.

The subpoena also targeted Pfc. Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army intelligence analyst suspected of supplying the site with classified information; Birgitta Jonsdottir, an Icelandic parliamentarian and one-time WikiLeaks collaborator; and Dutch hacker Rop Gonggrijp and U.S. programmer Jacob Appelbaum, both of whom have worked with WikiLeaks in the past.

The subpoena, dated Dec. 14, asked for information dating back to Nov. 1, 2009.

Assange blasted the U.S. move, saying it amounted to harassment, and vowed to fight it.

"If the Iranian government was to attempt to coercively obtain this information from journalists ...

N.C. judge strikes down ban on public profanity

Monday, January 10th, 2011

RALEIGH, N.C. — Cursing in public may not be seemly, but it is protected by the Constitution, a North Carolina judge ruled in striking down a 98-year-old state ban on public profanity.

Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour dismissed a misdemeanor charge Jan. 5 against Chapel Hill resident Samantha Elabanjo, who had been convicted in July of using the word “damn” during a confrontation with police officers.

Baddour ruled the law against “indecent or profane language” within earshot of two or more people on any public road in North Carolina was too broad.

“There is no longer any consensus, if there ever was, on what words in the modern American lexicon are ‘indecent’ or ‘profane,’” Baddour wrote. “A reasonable person cannot be certain before she acts that her language is not violative of this law, and it is therefore unconstitutionally vague.”

The case started Feb. 15 when Elabanjo was having a conversation on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill and stepped into the road as a police cruiser drove by, according to court documents. The two officers asked her to get back on the sidewalk. She did, but told the officers “You need to clean up your damn, dirty car” while still ...

High court turns away appeal of $5 million slander award

Monday, January 10th, 2011

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court will not overturn a Florida surgeon's $5 million slander award after a hospital executive said he would not send his dog to the doctor for surgery.

The high court today refused to hear an appeal from Lawnwood Medical Center, Inc. It argued that the award given to Dr. Samuel Sadow was excessive.

Sadow and the hospital had been fighting in court because the doctor was denied privileges to do surgery in Lawnwood's open-heart institute. A Lawnwood official then told another doctor about Sadow: "I would not send my dog to him for surgery."

Sadow sued for slander, and a jury awarded him $5 million in punitive damages. A Florida appeals court upheld the award.

The case is Lawnwood v. Sadow, 10-371.

N.H. justices hear divorced parents’ home-schooling dispute

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

CONCORD, N.H. — Divorced parents who couldn’t agree on how to educate their daughter have brought their fight to New Hampshire’s highest court in a case that looks at whether families have a constitutional right to home-school their kids.

Religious-freedom groups have trumpeted the cause of Brenda Voydatch of Meredith, who home schooled her 11-year-old daughter, Amanda, from first through fourth grade.

Voydatch claims her rights were violated when a court ordered that Amanda attend public school after the girl’s father, Martin Kurowski, said his ex-wife’s strict Christian teachings were socially isolating their child and they could not settle on an alternative to home schooling.

On Jan. 6, a lawyer for Kurowski, who has joint custody, argued in state Supreme Court that parents have no constitutional right to home-school their kids.

“Religion is a big issue for Ms. Voydatch, but it’s a small issue for the court,” said attorney Joshua Gordon. “This is not a constitutional case.”

John Simmons Sr., Voydatch’s attorney, argued that the court punished both the mother and daughter for their religious views.

After the hearing, Simmons said if the lower court ruling is upheld, “No woman wearing a burqa could ever make a decision for her ...

Richmond police want documents back from anarchist

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

Editor's note: The Associated Press reported Jan. 11 that Richmond officials had decided to withdraw the lawsuit against the anarchist.

RICHMOND, Va. — Richmond's police chief is seeking the return of documents the department turned over to a local anarchist group that posted them online.

Chief Bryan T. Norwood said in a complaint filed this week in Richmond Circuit Court that Mo Karn received documents exempt from release under her request under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

Norwood alleges that the public dissemination of the documents endangers city police officers and citizens, specifically because the information includes tactical strategies police employ during emergencies.

Karn told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that her group sought the documents to learn the department's rules and monitor whether they're being followed. The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia said Jan. 6 that it had agreed to represent Karn.

The Times-Dispatch reported that Norwood said in his complaint that a police department attorney had exceeded her authority in giving the documents to Karn without Norwood's approval.

The Best of Cablegate: Instances Where Public Discourse Benefited from the Leaks

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Since late November, the whistleblower website Wikileaks has been in the process of releasing in waves over 250,000 leaked United States diplomatic cables. Known as "Cablegate," this is the largest publication of confidential documents by any organization. (Catch up on Wikileaks developments by reviewing EFF’s page on this issue).

Wikileaks’ disclosures have caused tremendous controversy, with critics of Wikileaks claiming the leaks of classified information could endanger lives and harm international diplomacy. Others have commended Wikileaks, pointing to a long history of over-classification and a lack of transparency by the United States government.

Regardless of the heated debate over the propriety of Wikileaks’ actions, some of the cables have contributed significantly to public and political conversations all around the world. In this article, we highlight a small selection of cables that been critical to understanding and evaluating controversial events.

  1. “Dancing Boy” Scandal Alleges Child Prostitution, Possible Drug Use among U.S. Private Contractors
    The Guardian reported on a cable describing an incident in which employees of DynCorp, a U.S. military contractor, hired a “dancing boy” for a party. The term “dancing boy,” also known as bacha bazi, is a euphemism for a custom in Afghanistan in which underaged boys are ...

Beijing to Push Ideology Online

Friday, January 7th, 2011
Netizens are unlikely to buy into an effort by China's propaganda chiefs to modernize communist ideology.

This Week in the News: Federal Harassment Bill Is Back

Friday, January 7th, 2011

The first week of 2011 has been eventful for FIRE.

The "Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act" is back in the news and will most likely be reintroduced in Congress this year. FIRE Chairman Harvey Silverglate explained why the bill is unnecessary and would restrict a wide swath of protected expression if enacted in an article for Reason editor-in-chief Matt Welch points to Harvey's article over at Hit & Run.

Meanwhile, Raju Chebium, in an article for, cites Greg's opposition to the proposed legislation on the ground that it will lead to even greater censorship on college campuses. Bill co-sponsor Representative Rush Holt argues that at least the new legislation "doesn't imprison students for teasing or bullying their classmates."

FIRE's annual speech code report, Spotlight on Speech Codes 2011: The State of Free Speech On Our Nation's Campuses, continues to make the news. Erica Perez, an investigative reporter focusing on higher education for California Watch, wrote an excellent piece about how no California institutions in our report fully protect expressive rights, with 64% earning red lights and 36% earning yellow lights. She also cites examples of policies that caused certain California institutions to receive such ...

Corporate Front Group on the Attack in North Dakota

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Even though Election Day is almost two years away, a shadowy political organization with ties to the agriculture industry is already on the air with negative ads attacking North Dakota’s Democratic Senator Kent Conrad. The American Future Fund, as profiled in People For the American Way’s report Citizens Blindsided, is run by GOP operatives in Iowa and funded by anonymous donors who likely have ties to Big Agriculture.

A New York Times report traced the group’s founding to the ethanol industry and their lobbyists, and Dan Morain of the Sacramento Bee wrote that groups like the AFF “operate in the shadows. Their donors are anonymous. The power behind them is rarely apparent. It’s impossible to track the exact amounts they spend on campaigns in any timely fashion.” The AFF is also responsible for running some of the midterm elections most misleading and disgraceful ads, including one spot that viciously attacked Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley over the Park 51 Islamic Community Center in New York.

Now, barely two months after the midterm election, the AFF is on the air in North Dakota criticizing Senator Conrad, who is up for reelection in 2012. The AFF spent over $10 million ...

Tornadoes, and Bomb Scares, and Bias! Oh, My!

Friday, January 7th, 2011

The University of South Carolina has a speech code classifying any "negative or unwanted attention" on the basis of "race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, national origin or other differences" as a "critical incident" equivalent to a suicide attempt, sexual assault, student death, fire, bomb threat, or tornado.

The Staff Manual for university housing employees has a chapter instructing RAs and other residence hall staff on how to respond to so-called critical incidents. In the case of "bias-related incidents," staff are instructed to immediately report the incident to the police, regardless of whether it is a physical attack or simply "negative or unwanted attention" such as a verbal or written comment. Staff must ask witnesses to remain on the scene and must refrain from erasing any evidence, such as inappropriate comments, until police have cleared them to do so. "After the immediate response," the protocol continues, "you should notify your supervisor." Staff must also "document any bias-related incidents" and submit a report to their director in the morning.

The only other things (in addition to "bias-related incidents") that the University of South Carolina considers to be "critical incidents" are as follows: medical emergencies; suicide attempts; sexual assaults; domestic violence; student ...

ALA Midwinter Meeting – intellectual freedom meetings

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Coming to the ALA 2011 Midwinter Meeting in San Diego?

Attendees are welcome to attend all intellectual freedom related meetings – (IFC, Freedom to Read Foundation, Ethics, and IFRT)!

Check out time and location details at the ALA Midwinter Wiki.

Commentary: We Need Good Teaching, Not Censorship

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Chris Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, weighs in on the new edition of "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" which removes the over 200 uses of the term "nigger" from the original text.

Read Finan’s commentary in full.

‘Bullying Free Speech’: FIRE Chairman Warns of Threat to Student Speech Posed by Federal Anti-Bullying Legislation

Friday, January 7th, 2011

FIRE Chairman and Co-founder Harvey Silverglate has a new article on discussing the threat to student speech posed by the "Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act," introduced in Congress by Senator Frank Lautenberg and Representative Rush Holt last November. Harvey's warnings about how the bill would erode freedom of expression on campus are timely and important; the bill's authors say that they plan to reintroduce the legislation in the new Congress soon.

In his article, entitled "Bullying Free Speech," Harvey argues that the proposed legislation is "deeply flawed," pointing out that it introduces new restrictions on student expression that are "redundant, frustratingly vague, and dangerously broad." Harvey writes:

What the bill's authors fail to acknowledge is that federal laws already require colleges to prohibit the kind of harassing behavior that constitutes serious bullying. Announcing the bill, Senator Lautenberg stated that bullying has "damaged too many young adults, and it is time for our colleges to put policies on the books that would protect students from harassment." Yet under Title VI and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, federally funded colleges and universitiesthe overwhelming majority of public and private institutions of higher learning...

Students Expose ‘Admission Fraud’

Friday, January 7th, 2011
Foreign medical students in China find their college unapproved by a government list.

‘California Watch’: No Free Speech at California Colleges

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Free speech is not safe at California collegesnot by a long shot. That's what investigative reporter Erica Perez found in FIRE's 2011 speech code report, as she wrote yesterday for California Watch:

A new report from a national free speech advocacy organization found most of the four-year universities it surveyed had speech codes that substantially limit students' freedom of speech, including dozens of colleges in California.


Of the 33 California universities the organization rated, 64 percent got a red light, including San Diego State UniversityUC Santa Cruz and Claremont McKenna College. About 36 percent got a yellow light, including UC BerkeleyOccidental College and San Jose State University. No California college received a green light.

As defined by the report, a red light means the university's policy clearly and substantially limits freedom of speech or bars public access to speech policies on the web. Three colleges got the red light label for requiring a password to view speech-related policies - including Stanford University.

UC Santa Cruz got a red light in part for its harassment policy, which includes "sexual jokes, comments or innuendos" and "remarks about a person's body" as ...

Justices will take Rx-data case

Friday, January 7th, 2011

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court says it will decide whether state laws aimed at the marketing of prescription drugs violate free-speech rights.

The Court agreed today to hear Vermont's appeal of a lower court ruling that struck down a state law that prevents companies from selling to pharmaceutical companies information that details doctors' prescribing records, though without patient names.

The drug makers use the information to tailor their sales pitches to individual doctors, among other things.

Maine and New Hampshire have similar laws that have been upheld by a lower court.

Backers of the laws generally say drug prices are too high and that one reason is the money drug makers spend to market and advertise their products. The laws' supporters say that by preventing the sale of the information, they help protect medical privacy, control health-care costs by promoting generic drugs and improve public health.

Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell said two dozen other states have at least considered similar measures in recent years, making the Court's guidance on a burgeoning issue critical.

The Vermont law is being challenged by three companies that sell the information they gather — IMS Health, SDI and Source Healthcare Analytics.

They argue that ...

High court to hear case involving Nev. ethics law

Friday, January 7th, 2011

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court will consider a Nevada case that weighs the right of an elected official to vote on business that comes before him against the state’s interest in having an ethical government.

The justices today agreed to review a Nevada Supreme Court ruling that struck down a part of the state ethics law.

The case involves a vote cast by Michael Carrigan, a member of the City Council in Sparks, Nev., near Reno. Carrigan was censured by the Nevada Ethics Commission for voting on a casino project even though his friend and campaign manager worked as a consultant to the project’s developer.

The Nevada high court said the law was so broad that it violated Carrigan’s free-speech rights to vote as an elected official.

Ex-CIA officer charged with leak to Times reporter

Friday, January 7th, 2011

WASHINGTON — A former CIA officer has been indicted on charges of disclosing national security secrets after being accused of leaking classified information about Iran to a New York Times reporter.

Federal prosecutors charged Jeffrey Sterling with 10 counts related to improperly keeping and disclosing national security information.

The indictment did not say specifically what was leaked but, from the dates and other details, it was clear that the case centered on leaks to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist James Risen for his 2006 book, State of War. The book revealed details about the CIA’s covert spy war with Iran.

Sterling, 43, of O’Fallon, Mo., was arrested yesterday and appeared in federal court in St. Louis later in the day. U.S. Magistrate Judge Terry I. Adelman told him he would be detained through the weekend because the government had declared him a danger to the community. There was no plea entered. Another detention hearing was scheduled for Jan. 10.

Sterling served on the Iranian desk at the CIA and handled Iranian spies who had defected to the United States. In Chapter 9 of the book, “A Rogue Operation,” Risen detailed how a CIA officer mistakenly revealed the CIA’s network in Iran in ...

Televangelists escape penalty in Senate inquiry

Friday, January 7th, 2011

NEW YORK — A senator’s high-profile investigation of spending by televangelists wrapped up after more than three years yesterday with no penalties for the pastors who refused to cooperate and no definitive findings of wrongdoing.

The report released by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley raises questions about the personal use of church-owned airplanes, luxury homes and credit cards by pastors and their families, and expresses concern about the lack of oversight of finances by boards often packed with the televangelists’ relatives and friends.

However, the senator draws no specific conclusions about whether the ministries violated IRS rules that bar excessive compensation for leaders of religious nonprofits.

Grassley, a Republican, began the investigation in November 2007 and released the report at the end of his tenure as the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee. The senator will remain on the Finance Committee but will become the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee.

The six televangelists targeted in the investigation preach some form of the prosperity gospel, which teaches that God wants to bless the faithful with earthly riches. Ministers in this tradition often hold up their own wealth as evidence that the teaching works.

Many conservative Christians condemn the prosperity gospel ...

Ore. high court overturns 2 child-porn convictions

Friday, January 7th, 2011

PORTLAND, Ore. — If you look, but don't download, you haven't violated an Oregon law that has been used frequently against child-pornography suspects, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled yesterday.

Prosecutors called the 5-2 decisions in companion cases State v. Barger and State v. Ritchie a disappointment and said the Legislature was likely to update the 1995 law — something Chief Justice Paul De Muniz encouraged.

How many other convictions or investigations might be thwarted wasn't clear, although prosecutors said the ruling was narrow because most users aren't content just to look at child porn on the Web rather than saving it to a disk.

Oregon's law against encouraging child sexual abuse says it's a violation if a person "knowingly possesses or controls" images of sexually explicit conduct involving a child for purposes of sexual gratification.

In cases from Lane and Clackamas counties, the court's majority said simply surfing the Web doesn't fit the definitions of possession and control in the 1995 law. Further action, such as paying for the images or downloading them, is required for a conviction.

"The intangible nature of a web image is analogous to seeing something that a visitor has temporarily placed in one's own home," ...

Warning to China’s Media

Thursday, January 6th, 2011
Censors guard against references to power exercised apart from Party control.

New Controls on Text Messages

Thursday, January 6th, 2011
Lists show hundreds of words banned in China, including references to democracy, human rights, and corruption.

PM’s Son Faces Reform Challenge

Thursday, January 6th, 2011
Following his two-star general appointment, critics pressure Hun Sen’s son to clean up Cambodia’s military image.

Death Probe Sparks Doubt

Thursday, January 6th, 2011
Residents of eastern China say an official investigation into the death of an activist has yielded questionable results.

Spreading our Message: The Power of the ‘Twitterverse’

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Despite lacking the reach and sweep of the 6.6 million tweeple who frenetically follow and retweet Justin Bieber on Twitter, FIRE's Twitter presence has become one of our most powerful tools in the fight to defend liberty on college campuses.

Because colleges and universities often can't defend in public what they do to students and faculty in private, spreading our issues across the social media is crucial to our success. When our messages go out to our Twitter followers, these tweets have the ability to be spread far and wideand shared with those that are seeing FIRE's work for the first time. It's a chain reaction. For example, at the end of November, celebrity FIRE supporter Adam Baldwin retweeted our news regarding the "Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act" to his 47,000 followers. Thanks to Baldwin, that's 47,000 people who might not have even known that the bill threatens individual rights on campus.

If you don't already, please take a moment to follow us on Twitter. In 140 characters or less, you'll see just how prevalent free speech violations on campuses areand, more importantly, you'll be able to help us do something about it. Every ...

Ohio gov.-elect relents, will allow press at swearing-in

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio's incoming governor has reversed an earlier decision and plans to open his official swearing-in to reporters and some members of the public, a spokesman said yesterday.

Republican Gov.-elect John Kasich changed direction after requests from supporters as well as a flurry of news-media criticism this week, said spokesman Rob Nichols.

Nichols said the incoming governor was not concerned about security at his Columbus-area home, where he had planned to hold the ceremony, as much as he wanted the occasion to be a private one shared with his family.

During a news conference yesterday where he was announcing his pick for state prisons director, Kasich offered his own explanation for restricting media access: "I think there's a lot of people that are going to come to my event that don't want you sticking a notebook and a pencil in their face," he told reporters. He added that his guests didn't want the news media chronicling what they ate and drank or whether they could dance.

The swearing-in, expected to be conducted by Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, will now be held in the Senate chamber at the Statehouse at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 10, Nichols said. Kasich, a ...

Neo-Nazi convicted of using Web to threaten juror

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

CHICAGO — Jurors in Chicago convicted an avowed neo-Nazi yesterday of encouraging violence against the foreman of a jury in a 2004 trial of a white supremacist, with prosecutors saying his threats struck at the heart of the U.S. justice system.

William A. White, 33, could face up to 10 years in prison when sentenced. The one-time jury foreman who White was accused of targeting sat on a spectators’ bench in the courtroom, leaned forward and cried after the guilty verdict was read. White, a burly native of Roanoke, Va., turned to his attorneys and shook his head in disappointment.

During a trial that lasted three days, prosecutors told jurors that White threatened the foreman by posting the man’s name, photograph, address, cell phone number, sexual orientation and even his cat’s name on his neo-Nazi website. Defense attorneys argued it was protected free speech.

“It is critical to our system of justice that jurors and judges alike must be free to perform their duties without living in fear,” Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, said in a statement after the verdict.

A sentencing hearing hasn’t been set. White is serving a 2 ½ year prison ...

1st Circuit: R.I. town can target houses that host noisy parties

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A federal appeals court has upheld a Rhode Island beach town’s use of orange stickers to mark houses that host noisy parties.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston said yesterday in URI Student Senate v. Town of Narragansett that Narragansett’s orange sticker policy was constitutional, even if a little “unorthodox.”

The town ordinance, which had been challenged by University of Rhode Island students who live off-campus in Narragansett, allows police to place orange stickers on homes where loud and raucous parties have taken place.

In its opinion, a three-judge panel of the court rejected arguments that the ordinance was overly broad or vague.

“The appellants’ overbreadth argument misses the mark. The constitutionally protected right of association cannot be reinvented to suit a plaintiff’s fancy,” the appeals panel said. “It has never been expanded to include purely social gatherings. Rather, it is contingent on the presence of underlying individual rights of expression protected by the First Amendment. … There is no such underlying right at stake here.”

The appeals court also said that students and landlords who received the stickers did not suffer enough of a stigma to make the law unconstitutional.

The Tea Party’s Constitution

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

The new House GOP majority is planning to read the entire Constitution aloud on the House floor tomorrow. We can’t argue with that—our elected representatives can always use a brush-up on what’s in the document. But what’s troubling about the GOP’s planned Constitution-reading is that the new far-right class of House Republicans is trying to paint themselves as the sole defenders of our nation’s laws.

In fact, as PFAW’s Jamie Raskin examines in a new report, the Tea Party movement and the elected officials it empowered are in fact fighting against selected values in the Constitution. Raskin writes of the Tea Party’s relationship with the Fourteenth Amendment:

By railing against the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments, the Tea Party makes clear that it is not at peace with our written Constitution, and its hostility to democratic constitutional purposes runs even further back than its opposition to Populist and Progressive-era amendments. The Tea Party has problems with the Fourteenth Amendment’s fundamental protection of equal civil rights, the very anchor of modern democratic constitutionalism. Tea Party activists may dress themselves up in colonial garb and swear their devotion to the Constitution. But the Constitution they revere is not the real one, but ...