Speaking at BlogOrlando: Legal Issues Session

BlogOrlando’s Legal Issues session will give us an opportunity to cover some important areas, such as whether bloggers are considered journalists and if so, what legal protections they may have; libel & slander (and the role of satire); how to protect against liability regarding blog comments left by other people, and so on. And if there is time, I’ll also talk about what conflict management approaches, short of using cease and desist letters or initiating other legal action, may be open to bloggers.

In other words, this session will provide basic information that ultimately will help bloggers avoid some mine fields and allow them to focus on what they really enjoy doing — communicating and interacting with our readers and others in the community.

Here’s a brief list of some helpful sites to know about:

And these lists of blogs, compiled by 3L Epiphany, are also good information sources and commentary to keep on hand:

 


The National Foundation to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse Accuses McDonald’s of Hiring Convicted Sex Offenders

The National Foundation to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse (NFPCSA) is calling for a boycott of McDonald’s restaurants after Nashville station NewsChannel 5 WTVF uncovered that nationwide, McDonald’s restaurants have hired “dozens” of convicted sex offenders.

According to the WTVF report, “McDonald’s says it has a policy against hiring sex offenders at its 8,000 or so company owned stores. But at the 18,000 franchise stores that operate under the golden arches, they’re free to hire anyone they want.”

WTVF’s investigation revealed nine sex offenders in Delaware, thirteen in Indiana and sixteen in Louisiana working in McDonald’s restaurants. But, unfortunately:

“We can’t tell you how many other child molesters or other sex offenders are working at McDonald’s restaurants here in Tennessee or anywhere else. That’s because in most states, including Tennessee, sex offender registries don’t have information about employers. So the public can’t find out — until something bad happens.”

No response yet on McDonald’s Corporate site.

 


How To Be A Worldly American

In his post on How To Be A Less Ugly American, Paul Holmes refers to Business for Diplomatic Action, Inc.’s guidelines for Americans outside the United States.

In the abridged version of its World Citizens Guide, BDA offers these suggestions (see the PDF for elaborations on the suggestions) for making a favorable impression when traveling abroad:

  1. Look. Listen. Learn.
  2. Smile. Genuinely.
  3. Think big. Act Small. be Humble.
  4. Live, eat and play local.
  5. Be patient.
  6. Celebrate our diversity.
  7. Become a student again.
  8. Try the language.
  9. Refrain from lecturing.
  10. Dialog instead of monologue.
  11. Use your hands. Watch your feet.
  12. Leave the cliches at home.
  13. Be proud, not arrogant.
  14. Keep religion private.
  15. Be quiet.
  16. Check the atlas.
  17. Agree to disagree respectfully.
  18. Talk about something besides politics.
  19. Be safety conscious, not fearful.
  20. Dress for respect.
  21. Know some global sports trivia.
  22. Keep your word.
  23. Show your best side.
  24. Be a traveler, not a tourist.

Paul offers his own suggestion as well:

“Personally, though, the best way to connect with overseas audiences is to explain that you didn’t vote for the current U.S. administration and that you agree that it current policies are, to be as diplomatic as possible about it, misguided.”

Meanwhile, Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm and the new A Death in Belmont, gives these impressions in the article Welcome Stranger in this month’s National Geographic Adventure (print edition):

“An old friend of mine once observed that the arrival of a stranger in a rough town often presents locals with two options: Feed him or kill him. He was referring to some ancient time when the dilemma was literally that stark, but his larger point was that all societies must choose whom they let in and whom they keep out, and letting someone in entails more than just opening the city gates. Once you do that you become to some degree responsible for the stranger’s welfare. Travel, then, at its crudest, is the art of convincing people to take care of you rather than spurn you — or worse. It’s a knife-edge that makes a life spent at home feel not fully lived….

You had to be wary when you traveled, I realized, but you also had to be open. You had to protect yourself, but you couldn’t be so suspicious that you’d lie to avoid giving food to a stranger. These were lessons from the harsher parts of the world, but I started to think that maybe they were applicable anywhere. The starting point was respect; if you didn’t lead with that, even with street-corner thugs, nothing was going to turn out well. So you start with respect and see where that goes; if it doesn’t work, you switch to something else…. things pretty much come down to how you treat one another. There’s a certain liberty in that; there’s a certain justice.”


Gary Goldhammer Comments On The Zacarias Moussaoui Verdict

Gary Goldhammer wrote a thought-provoking post about the Zacarias Moussaoui verdict. Gary isn’t just your ordinary blogger writing about what is undoubtedly one of the most high-profile death penalty trials in United States history. He’s also the author of Dead End, a 1994 book that examines the financial and human costs of the death penalty.

For anyone who wants to learn more about the death penalty and how it is administered in the U.S., go to Pro-death penalty.com and the Death Penalty Information Center.

Here are some quick links of interest:

And to test your knowledge about the death penalty, follow this link to DPIC’s 10-question Death Penalty Quiz.


Colmen McCarthy’s Peace Studies Class Comes Under Scrutiny

Last month, two 17 year-old students at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Maryland called for a ban of the Peace Studies course that has been offered as an elective to Seniors at the school since 1988 and is taught by Colman McCarthy, a former Washington Post reporter and founder of the Center for Teaching Peace. According to the Washington Post:

“[The students] acknowledge that with the exception of one lecture they sat in on this month, most of what they know about the course has come from friends and acquaintances who have taken the class. But, they said, those discussions, coupled with research they have done on [Coleman] McCarthy’s background, have convinced them that their school should not continue to offer Peace Studies unless significant changes are made. This is not an ideological debate, they said. Rather, what bothers them the most is that McCarthy offers students only one perspective.”

Despite the furor, the school’s administration intends to keep teaching the course. As Principal Sean Bulson stated:

“Peace Studies is one of the things that makes B-CC unique…It’s been an institution here, and kids from all across the spectrum have taken it. It’s not about indoctrination. It’s about debate and dialogue.”

McCarthy doesn’t hide the fact that he is a strong opponent of violence of any kind. However, he was puzzled by the students’ opposition:

“He said that although the two sat in on a recent class, they have not talked to him in depth about their concerns.

‘I’ve never said my views are right and theirs are wrong,’ he said about the students who take his course. ‘In fact, I cherish conservative dissenters. I wish we could get more of them in.’

But McCarthy’s unwavering belief in the importance of his work is summed up by his statement that “unless we teach them peace, someone else will teach them violence.”

The Peace Studies course is currently taught at seven other Montgomery County, Maryland high schools. Back in the 1990s, when I had the pleasure of teaching this semester-long course at Wilson High School in Washington DC as part of my graduate school training, it was called “Alternatives to Violence.”

While teaching this popular elective emphasizing nonviolent conflict resolution in interpersonal, community, national and international situations, my goal was to expose the students to ideas and topics they had never been confronted with before. And just as the Washington Post article stated, I remember many lively debates between myself and the students and amongst the students themselves.

We talked about such subjects as the civil rights movement, the death penalty, environmental activism, and political peace movements, among other things. Never was there any attempt to sugar-coat the facts. In talking about the death penalty, for example, of which about half of the students were in favor of and half opposed, we discussed the number of people who were executed and later found innocent of the particular crime for which they were imprisoned.

Rarely did any of the students not have a strong opinion one way or another. They were open-minded but not easily swayed if their own personal experiences didn’t comport with something in the curriculum. I remember one boy who was frustrated by my obviously idealistic insistence that talking through a problem was a way to resolve most disagreements.

He looked at me and said something along the lines of “Ms. Weckerle, you’ve obviously never been to my neighborhood. There we hit first and talk later.”

I learned a lot from those kids.


Journalist Chose Fairness Over Objectivity

C-SPAN recently broadcast Personal Recollections of the Civil Rights Movement, which offered a fascinating look at the experiences of journalists who lived through that tumultuous era. Panelists included Chuck Conconi, Helen Thomas, Jack Nelson, Carl Stern and Barbara Reynolds.

A comment made by Chuck Conconi (now Editor At Large of Washingtonian Magazine, but back then a journalist with the Washington Post) stood out for its unapologetic honesty. Speaking about his coverage of the movement, Conconi said,

“I could be fair in my reporting, but I couldn’t be objective.”


Profile in Courage: Journalist Mohammed al-Asaadi

When ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt were injured in Iraq on January 29, the American media held vigil. The story received extensive coverage, possibly because Woodruff and Vogt are two of its own.

Commenting on the attention, American University profession Kathryn Montgomery said, “when you see the kind of coverage this story is getting it draws attention to the lack of coverage that hundreds of cases don’t get.” According to UPI, for example, the same week that Woodruff and Vogt were injured, 10 American service members were killed in Iraq.

While Woodruff and Vogt should be commended for their willingness to report from a war zone, especially in light of the number of journalists injured and killed during conflicts, there is another journalist sitting in a jail in Yemen who deserves our attention as well.

On February 11, Mohammed al-Asaadi, the editor-in-chief of the Yemen Observer, a weekly English-language newspaper, was arrested and charged with insulting the Prophet Muhammad. According to MSNBC:

…when his newspaper ran an article about the Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist, Asaadi decided to reprint the cartoons—albeit with a large X censoring most of them, and an article denouncing them….he was arrested and charged with insulting the Prophet.

Reporters Without Borders immediately requested the release of Asaadi and five other journalists who are currently in prison for having printed the now infamous cartoons.

Here are excerpts from an interview with Asaadi conducted by Newsweek’s Rod Nordland:

This is a different sort of case…Tell us how it came about.
When we ran our article on the Danish cartoons, it was all about how the Prophet should be honored, with quotations from famous people about what an important figure he was, and a news story on Yemeni protests. We reprinted the cartoons but blacked them out. Unfortunately by an innocent mistake in the production process, a thumbnail of the cartoons appeared on the front page—only 1.5cm [0.6 of an inch] by 2cm [0.8 of an inch], you could hardly read it. But then one of the directors of [the newspaper] al-Akhbar al Yawn approached the Yemen Observer owners to blackmail us—that unless we paid them they would raise a stink. We refused, and they collected signatures on a petition that they presented to the prosecutor. Theirs is a newspaper that lives by blackmail, everybody knows that.  But the government responded by revoking our license to publish and putting me in jail.

Do you regret now the decision to run the cartoons, however censored, given the climate?  There are plenty of religious fanatics in Yemen, even if they’re a minority.
We had a meeting to discuss this before we published them, so it wasn’t an accident.  And we felt that these cartoons had already been shown on Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya [satellite TV] and millions of Muslims had seen them.  And I personally believe these cartoons should be published.  If we make it unlawful to look at them, we give them an importance they don’t deserve, as if there’s something holy or special about them. We should be able to discuss them openly, which is what we did.

The article as a whole discussed Islam and particularly the Prophet in reverential tones.  So why the government reaction?
Most of these extremists don’t read English, they just saw the pictures. And the article was accompanied by an editorial, saying the cartoons were terrible, but we should accept the apologies of the newspaper that published them and move on, not continue running through the streets.  That’s what really angered the [government] hard-liners.  Even religious scholars have supported us: it’s the intention behind the publication, not just the publication.