Dear Subscribers:

Here's our lineup for this final week of January:

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Among other things, in Washington this week they're busy deliberating about the Children's Online Protection Act. That's "COPA" for short, also known as CDA II, because the law is a refinement of the Communications Decency Act struck down by the Supreme Court (June of '97). COPA was passed late last year, but it never went into effect, because the people who challenged CDA took COPA right to court in ACLU v. Janet Reno; Federal Judge Lowell Reed temporarily blocked COPA until Feb. 1. He's hearing arguments this week, so we're expecting news of his ruling on whether the law will be enforced by the deadline he imposed. We'll follow up with his decision next week.

Meanwhile, here's a roundup of this week's reports:

Where does your family stand on the Child Online Protection Act? Do you agree with the Justice Department that COPA is simply an "electronic brown bag" that keeps sexually explicit sites out of children's reach? Or do you agree with the ACLU that - by requiring commercial sites to keep material deemed harmful to minors away from people under 18 - COPA violates free-speech rights? Do you feel a government's definition of "harmful to minors" can be an acceptable standard? We'd love to hear your answers! Please e-mail us via!

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Where comic books meet the Internet and become something entirely different….

This is one of those incredible Internet-changes-the-rules stories that we find riveting. Stan "The Man" Lee, now 76, is fomenting his second comic-book revolution. The first one, according to Wired News, happened in 1961, when he and Jack "The King" Kirby came out with their first issue of the Fantastic Four. Now Stan is not only creating new superheroes, he's got a cyber-clubhouse where fans can interact with them.

"This is a place for me to join all you comic book collectors, artists, writers, and frantic fans," writes Stan (ostensibly) on the home page, "a place where we can all hang out together in our private clubhouse and play in the world of comics." The site has a ".net" designation because, there, users can create their own Web sites and have their own e-mail accounts (not terrifically innovative, but it's the association that counts!). And the site will offer free "superhero construction kits so you can bring your own comic book heroes to life." Back when one of us was in TV reporting, we interviewed a fantastic New York City junior high teacher who got contracts for a couple of his students to work at Marvel Comics. They were a couple of the most engaged students we'd ever encountered.

How will the site tap its fans' allowances? Wired reports that the first group of super heroes, six multicultural, multiracial characters, "will be introduced through a multiplayer game, free to play online and featuring enhancements players can purchase." It's a tried-'n'-true business model for sites involving interactive games. But one of the coolest things to our minds is that the Internet (and Marvel, which holds the rights to his first-round superheroes) are allowing a septuagenarian to start his second revolution!

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Three meaty information sites for your consideration this week, two courtesy of Homework Central, one we found in the news…

For kids of all ages, an interview with Julie Taymor, an artist whose media are light, costume, sound and … puppetry. You may have heard of a little project for which she won a Tony: the Broadway musical version of The Lion King! She talks about imagination, how childhood experiences shaped her art, and why she turned an 80-minute movie into a nearly three-hour spectacle.

Getting ready for Black History Month, starting next Monday, a Web exhibit about William Grant Still, the dean of African American composers produced for The Digital Scriptorium, Special Collections Library, Duke University. According to biographer Boyd E. Gibson, Still was "the first African American composer to have a symphony performed by an American orchestra (Afro-American Symphony, 1931), the first African American to conduct a major symphony orchestra, the first African American to have an opera (Troubled Island) performed by a major opera company (1949), and the first to have an opera (A Bayou Legend) performed on national television (1981)."

And while we're on the subject, one more site deserving a spotlight:, an information-packed site that debuted just last week, timed to Martin Luther King's birthday, by Cox Interactive Media out of Atlanta. Their tagline is, "Keeping families whole." Cox says it's the only comprehensive site focused solely on the African-American family. Content categories include family finance, relationships, and parenting, and there's a rich directory of links to sites targeting the black community (e.g., in the Business & Investing/Advice & Guides sub-category alone there were 20 links including the "African American Business Directory," "Black Geeks," and "Sister CEO").

If you go to these sites, tell us what you think! Just send us an e-mail (and thanks in advance).

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This week from Parry Aftab of CyberAngels:

"As reported last week, several hundred experts from law enforcement and governmental entities, advocacy groups, and the Internet industry met at a special conference held by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, in Paris.

"Cyberangels was honored to be among those invited and among the even more select group of those invited to speak. We were also appointed to the Follow-up Committee, which will be helping to make sure this is not just another 'talk session,' but rather the start of a worldwide effort to control child pornography and pedophilia online.

"The conference was billed as an 'international challenge.' In my brief speech I challenged the experts in the room to join forces, to put aside their egos and competitiveness to create a worldwide 'army.' And, given how well-received the declaration and action plan was, I believe that these experts have taken me up on my challenge.

"Part of the role of the Follow-Up Committee is to pull together a task force of child advocates, Internet industry members, and law enforcement. This will be the first of its kind. The effort will be world-centric, not US-centric. While many of us have been actively involved in the White House [Internet] Summits and America Links-Up efforts, this worldwide program will face the additional challenges of cross-cultural, cross-governmental and cross-lingual cooperation. So, in addition to responding to the needs of children in the US, the US advocacy groups, law enforcement, and the Internet industry will have to enlarge our focus to include children everywhere. We will need to recognize that many activities that are accepted here, are not acceptable in other countries. But I know we are up to this challenge.

Here's a copy of the final action plan. If you think you can help, please let me know, via or Include information about your group, what you do, where you operate from and what resources, research, and materials you can share. I will share this information with the other members of the Follow-Up Committee. For those of you who are not appointed to the official task force, I will create an advisory group, to enable everyone to have a role in this fantastic program. It is our hope that by pooling our resources, we will not have to reinvent the wheel. The UNESCO effort is very pro-free speech and needs the help of all child advocacy groups that deal with child sexual-molestation, pedophilia and the Internet. So, pass the word along. After all, we're all in this together. Child online safety is a worldwide problem and requires a worldwide solution!

[Material supplied by our partners, CyberAngels, reflects their views, not necessarily those of The Sage Family. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email us.]

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An e-mailed book recommendation - of interest to anyone teaching the Internet - from friend and subscriber Carol Morrison:

"Greetings! I just read a book I think you'd enjoy. It's called "The Indispensable Librarian: Surviving and Thriving in School Media Centers," by Doug Johnson (Linworth Publishing, 1997). I bet I don't even have to tell you that this recommendation is coming from a librarian!! Doug's book is over 2 years old now, so it's certainly not the most up-to-date in terms of equipment, Web sites, etc. However, as the District Media Supervisor for the schools in Mankato, Minnesota, he has had considerable experience (and interesting experience) managing teacher and student encounters with the Internet. He writes with enthusiasm, but he's frank about mistakes he and his staff have made. He also has some great discussion questions. I highly recommend it. Unfortunately, only a few libraries purchased it (where they have library science courses) so it may have to come to you through Interlibrary Loan (or you might even decide to buy it - tho' I don't know the cost.)

"Just wanted to let you know I thought of y'all (youze guys) as I read. And thanks for the tip on the Andrew Johnson Impeachment site - my husband was delighted with it!!"
- Carol Morrison - Librarian, retired

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That does it for this week. Have a great weekend.


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