Dear Subscribers:

Here's our lineup for this second week of March:

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Lawmakers with clues

One of the things we cover in this newsletter is Washington and the Web - policy and lawmaking developments that have impact on kids and families online. A rich resource for us - and for anyone curious about which legislators have the most Internet clues - is the Tech Law Journal. It provides "news, records, and analysis of legislation, litigation, and regulation affecting the computer and Internet industry" (and, it follows, affecting all of us online folk).

Among many useful features in TLJ are its scorecards: Top 10 Senatorsand Top 10 Representatives for High Tech. You've seen some of the senators' names in this space before: Topping the Senate list is Sen. Conrad Burns (R) of MT (remember our report on his "Digital Dozen"?). Interestingly, there are seven Republicans and three Democrats in both the House Top 10 and the Senate Top 10, with Republicans in the top slots on both lists and Democrats in the No. 2 slots. We're glad to see the Internet is reasonably bi-partisan!

Notably, Sen. John McCain (R) of AZ, Senate Commerce Committee chairman and possible presidential candidate, is not on TLJ's Top 10 list - despite his sponsorship of the Y2K Act (approved by the Senate Commerce Committee last Thursday) that would limit litigation over Year 2000 technology problems. Though Senator McCain has spent considerable time on Internet issues as Commerce Committee chairman - especially his bill requiring all libraries and schools who receive federal "e-rate" connectivity funding to install filtering software - he is not a member of the Internet Caucus. That kept his score down in the eyes of the Tech Law Journal.

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With Planned Parenthood's credibility...

And here's an outstanding Web resource for teens on sexual issues: Planned Parenthood's Our thanks to Bill Schneck, a subscriber and lawyer who specializes in Internet legal issues, for pointing out the site to us. includes a Q&A of the day (Qs from teens, As from experts); a searchable "warehouse" of articles, quizzes, and charts; a page on the risks of "online dating" (cybersex); information on "global perspectives on sex, dating, love, and life" that's most appropriate for this global medium; users polls; "Puberty 101" (what's happening with my body?); experiences from fellow teens on issues only partly related to sex (like peer pressure); and "hothouse" a "zine" by teens for teens.

That last feature is interesting. It's not a big 'zine - just one article at a time, as far as we can tell. But its value is real teenagers' own experiences and the wisdom that results. Users can submit their articles for consideration right in the Web site. The latest - "Guys & Pregnancy: The Real Deal" - is about a 19-year-old father of three who found out the hard way what his legal responsibilities were after the girls he got pregnant refused to have abortions. His mother's feelings are reported as well.

Do send us the URLs of sites you think we and your fellow subscribers should know about - via We appreciate your e-mail, because we feel strongly that we are each other's best experts.

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Web News Briefs

  1. Privacy boost and more government news….

    Three news items from our friends at the Association of Online Professionals, who publish the AOP Bulletin.

    a. Online privacy is an important issue for kids online, so you should know that the White House has stepped up the watchdog effort. President Clinton has appointed a "privacy guru" (more formally: chief counsel) for the US government, the AOP says. Peter Swire, an Ohio State University law professor and noted author on privacy topics will take the job full-time in May when the school term ends. He has advocated a combination of industry self-regulation and government regulation to deal with privacy.

    b. Pennsylvania started it. Now New York follows suit in setting a special Internet crime unit. NY State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is forming the special bureau to deal with crimes like child pornography, consumer scams, and online trading glitches, the AOP says.

    c. Finally, the very connected California may allow citizens to vote via the Internet. At least, the state will be studying the issue - to "combat falling voter registrations and attract more voters to the polls," the AOP Bulletin says. The new Internet Voting Task Force will look at security, accessibility, public acceptance, and electronic voter registration. Here, here! we say.

  2. Anonymity: A right? A threat? Probably both! Some legal battles that might seem obscure right now could actually significant impact on anyone who posts in online discussion boards. At stake: posting anonymously. You may have heard about US companies suing people for posting negative (sometimes inaccurate) information about them on financial discussion boards. In the most recent case, reported in ZDNet, Seattle-based Wade Cook Financial Corp. is suing 10 anonymous users for posting defamatory comments about it on Yahoo!'s financial bulletin boards. Even the ACLU, involved in the debate to protect free speech online, agrees that making false allegations against corporate officials is defamatory. The fundamental struggle, ZDNet reports, is between companies' legitimate efforts to protect themselves and legitimate reasons for online anonymity. It's an interesting issue for us parents to follow because anonymity is a big issue in protecting children in online discussion boards and chat. It's a fundamental right that, when abused, becomes a threat. Now to figure out how to simultaneously protect the right and prosecute the abuser! Any suggestions? Please e-mail us.

  3. Media montage

    We love the way media are being mixed these days to augment the power of important ideas and events. To wit: AOL the online service and DreamWorks the film company are collaborating in an entirely different medium (print!) to extend the reach of what happened in their own spaces. According to USAToday, they're making a book - Now You Know - building on Saving Private Ryan and some powerful messages posted on AOL discussion boards after the film was released. The 96-page "remembrance book," as its publisher, Newmarket, calls it, will include 100 of the some 30,000 messages that were posted by WWII GIs and their children and grandchildren after Saving Private Ryan was released. Those 30,000 posts represent the second-largest response AOL has gotten to an event - after the death of Princess Diana, according to AOL and USAToday.

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From extreme relief to extreme science: homework help

While we're on the subject, Homework Central pointed us to a rich resource on the Marshall Plan and postwar life in the US at the Library of Congress's site. The exhibit was created to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Marshall Plan, arguably America's most successful relief effort ever. Secretary of State George Marshall announced his proposed solution "to the wide-spread hunger, unemployment, and housing shortages that faced Europeans in the aftermath of World War II" at Harvard on June 5, 1947 (quoting the Library of Congress).

And for our elementary school students, a site on an entirely different subject: Extreme Science! Hey, wouldn't Bill Nye the Science Guy agree - that if we're going to have extreme sports we gotta have extreme science! Here's where they'll find "the biggest, baddest, and best" of the natural world - in the form of a gallery of world records in science, as well as some of the "way-cool scientists who are out on the edge studying this stuff!" Great packaging of serious stuff, we say. But tell us what you think. Homework Central's other picks this week include "Mummies of the World" and "How to Draw a Cartoon."

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This week from CyberAngels' K. Beatty a chat terminology alert:

" 'A/S/L PLEASE!!!'

"Have you ever been in a chat room and had someone come in and say that? What does it mean? It means, 'Please give your age, sex, and location.' Should you? Carol decided it was harmless enough and answered in the channel, 'HI I am 22, female from Toronto Ontario Canada.' She suddenly had this person's full attention, and an 'instant message' box appeared. That means a person sent her back a private message that no one else in the chat channel could see. He identified himself as male, 29, from California. He immediately started asking Carol very personal questions - such as, 'Are you married?' 'Do you flirt?' 'Do you like cybersex?' 'Can I have your email address so we can write each other?'

"Carol was only interested in casual chat, not this kind of attention! What went wrong? Casual chat does not require you to reveal such personal information. The A/S/L question seemed innocent enough, but in chat it's often a precursor to flirting. A term often used for A/S/L is 'trolling' - looking for cybersex. Trollers go in and out of chat rooms asking the A/S/L question until someone answers them.

"There are times when A/S/L is asked innocently, meaning no offense. How do you tell the difference? CyberAngels encourage members to answer in a friendly manner: such as, 'Hello. I am sorry, I don't give out personal info, but if you would like to chat in the channel that is fine.' Sometimes people put a little humor in their response to A/S/L - with something like: '80/android/Mars.' It acknowledges the question, but lets the person know that the one is not interested in getting personal. Be on the lookout for trollers. You'll find that, after a while, you'll be able to spot them a mile away and defuse their efforts before things get embarrassing."

[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 at]

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Family news from the Amazon

Nothing virtual about it. Even as we "speak," member of the Sage Family and guru Larry Magid is in the Peruvian Amazon reporting on Dr. Bob Ballard's 10th Jason Project (Dr. Ballard is the oceanographer and deep-ocean explorer who found the Titanic). Larry says middle and high school students from the US, Canada, Peru, and Mexico are there with scientists studying the rainforest and the local customs. His reports, Qs&As from kids and scientists, and the Jeeves Rainforest Tour can be found on a special section of Ask Jeeves for Kids.

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


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