Friday, January 19, 2007

MySpace Sued For Negligence In LA Superior Court - SF Chronicle

This is a fascinating case, but it does raise the question: can MySpace counter-sue the parents for not policing the kids? Many teens are far more tech-savvy than parents know, understanding such processes as how to mask IP adresses, and adept at programming in Java and HTML. Ultimately, the teen has to be policed as well as the adult MySpace user.

Families of sexually abused girls sue MySpace, alleging negligence
Joe Garofoli, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, January 19, 2007

Four families whose underage daughters were sexually abused after meeting people they encountered on the social networking site MySpace have sued News Corp., the site's parent company, alleging it was negligent in not creating safety measures to protect younger users.

In separate suits filed this week in Los Angeles Superior Court, an attorney for the families said the virtual site is like a day care facility or a restaurant that didn't adequately protect its customers.

"These virtual sites are no different," said Jason Itkin, a Houston attorney representing the families. "MySpace has not taken the steps necessary to protect its customers. They know that these predators have been there."

The families want MySpace to toughen its age verification system "so that people are as old as they say they are" on MySpace, Itkin said. They are seeking damages "in the millions" he said.

The lawsuits, similar to one filed last year in federal court in Texas by some of the same attorneys, raise a broad cultural question: When it comes to monitoring children's online behavior, where does parental responsibility end and corporate responsibility begin?

"Blaming MySpace won't solve the larger problem," said Liz Perle, editor in chief of Common Sense Media, which monitors children's media from San Francisco. "Parents are aware of where their children are when they go to a party. They need to be aware of where they are online.

"We teach our kids how to be responsible and not drink and not smoke. We have to put media communication on that level," Perle said. Common Sense Media offers tips for parents at

MySpace policy bans children younger than 14 from the site. Teens 14 or 15 years old can show their full profiles -- which can contain a variety of personal information -- only to people on their list of known friends.

However, it is up to users to confirm their ages to the site. MySpace announced Wednesday that it was developing software to allow parents to see if their children were creating multiple profiles -- one to show to their folks, another to show to the rest of the world. Dubbed Zephyr, the parental tools are expected to be available this summer.

In a statement Thursday, Hemanshu Nigam, chief security officer for MySpace, said: "Ultimately, Internet safety is a shared responsibility. We encourage everyone to apply common-sense offline safety lessons in their online experiences and engage in open family dialogue about smart Web practices."

But Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who is leading a coalition of 34 attorneys general pondering legal action against MySpace, called Zephyr "a shortsighted and ineffective response to a towering danger to kids.

"Children can easily evade the software's purported protections by creating profiles from computers outside the home," Blumenthal said. "This software does nothing to stop predators or protect kids from inappropriate material."

Blumenthal wants MySpace to increase its minimum age to 16 and to require that parents confirm their children's ages. He suggested that the site use "publicly available data" to confirm the ages of older users.

In light of several high-profile cases of predators meeting underage MySpace users online, a number of companies have developed versions of spyware and other tools to help parents monitor their children's online wanderings.

But such tools "are only Band-Aids. They're good tools, but they don't teach safe usage to your children," said Common Sense Media's Perle. And once their children leave the computer screen, she said, "parents need to know where their 14-year-olds are going and who they're meeting."

Itkin said the families he represented were "all diligent parents who are doing the best they can." One parent even equipped her daughter's cell phone with software that would tell the parent when the teen was using it. He did not know if the parents had any monitoring software on their computers.

"But even the most diligent parent can't supervise their child all the time," Itkin said. "These children would have never been lured away from their homes if they hadn't met these predators in the first place."

Rebecca Jeschke, a spokesperson for San Francisco's Electronic Frontier Foundation, said MySpace might have some protection under a section of federal law passed as part of the Communication Decency Act of 1996. According to the law:

"No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

Still, some of the details revealed in the Los Angeles filings will frighten many parents and further concern the operators of social networking sites.

According to one of the lawsuits, a teen identified as Julie Doe III created a MySpace profile when she was 15. Last year, a 25-year-old adult male MySpace user, a complete stranger to the teen, initiated contact with her. He lured Julie out to a meeting, drugged her and sexually assaulted her.

The Houston Police Department and the FBI located Julie, still heavily drugged, according to the suit, "with multiple X marks carved into the side of her pelvis by a sharp blade, presumably by the 25-year-old MySpace user." She spent seven days in the hospital and has been undergoing psychological counseling. The 25-year-old pleaded guilty to sexual assault and is serving a 10-year sentence in a Texas state prison.

Three of the four girls represented in the lawsuits are back in school, and all have undergone extensive counseling.

Chronicle staff writer Ellen Lee contributed to this report. E-mail Joe Garofoli at

Columnist Art Buchwald Dies at Age 81

Columnist Art Buchwald Dies at Age 81
By DARLENE SUPERVILLE, Associated Press Writer
Thursday, January 18, 2007

(01-18) 15:11 PST WASHINGTON, (AP) --

Columnist and author Art Buchwald, who for over four decades chronicled the life and times of Washington with an infectious wit and endeared himself to many with his never-say-die battle with failing kidneys, is dead at 81.

Buchwald's son, Joel, who was with his father, disclosed the satirist's death, saying he had passed away quietly at his home late Wednesday with his family.

Buchwald had refused dialysis treatments for his failing kidneys last year and was expected to die within weeks of moving to a hospice on Feb. 7. But he lived to return home and even write a book about his experiences.

"The last year he had the opportunity for a victory lap and I think he was really grateful for it," Joel Buchwald said. "He had an opportunity to write his book about his experience and he went out the way he wanted to go, on his own terms."

Neither Buchwald nor his doctors could explain how he survived in such grave condition, and he didn't seem to mind.

The unexpected lease on life gave Buchwald, a Pulitzer Prize winner, time for an extended and extraordinarily public goodbye, as he held court daily in a hospice salon with a procession of family, friends and acquaintances.

"I'm going out the way very few people do," he told The Associated Press in April.

Buchwald said in numerous interviews after his decision became public that he was not afraid to die, that he was not depressed about his fate and that he was, in fact, having the time of his life.

Often called "The Wit of Washington" during his years here, Buchwald's name became synonymous with political satire. He was well known, too, for his wide smile and affinity for cigars.

Among his more famous witticisms: "If you attack the establishment long enough and hard enough, they will make you a member of it."

Naturally, he found the humor in his choice to renounce dialysis, and he wrote about it in some final columns.

"I am known in the hospice as The Man Who Wouldn't Die," Buchwald wrote in March. "How long they allow me to stay here is another problem. I don't know where I'd go now, or if people would still want to see me if I wasn't in a hospice.

"But in case you're wondering, I'm having a swell time — the best time of my life."

Last January, doctors amputated Buchwald's right leg below the knee because of circulation problems. Losing it was "very traumatic" and he said it probably influenced his decision to reject the three-times-a-week, five-hours-a-day dialysis treatments. In 2000, he suffered a major stroke.

His syndicated column at one point appeared in more than 500 newspapers worldwide. It appeared twice a week in publications including The Washington Post and was distributed by Tribune Media Services.

In a 1995 memoir on his early years, "Leaving Home," Buchwald wrote that humor was his "salvation." In all, he wrote more than 30 books.

"People ask what I am really trying to do with humor," he wrote. "The answer is, 'I'm getting even.' ... For me, being funny is the best revenge."

In 1982, he won the Pulitzer, journalism's top honor, for outstanding commentary, and in 1986 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

He also was at the center of a landmark battle with Hollywood over the question of who originated the idea for Eddie Murphy's 1988 hit film "Coming to America."

Buchwald first attracted notice in the late 1940s in Paris, where he became a correspondent for Variety after dropping out of college.

A year later, he took a trial column called "Paris After Dark" to the New York Herald Tribune. He filled it with scraps of offbeat information about Paris nightlife.

In 1951, he started another column, "Mostly About People," featuring interviews with celebrities in Paris. The next year, the Herald Tribune introduced Buchwald to U.S. readers through yet another column, "Europe's Lighter Side."

"I'll Always Have Paris!" is the title of a 1996 book. He celebrated his 80th birthday at a party at the French Embassy in Washington.

Among the many who visited Buchwald at the hospice was French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte, who brought a medal honoring the 14 years Buchwald spent as a journalist in Paris.

Buchwald returned to the United States in 1962, at the height of the glamour of the Kennedy administration, and set himself up in an office just two blocks from the White House. From there, he began a long career lampooning the Washington power establishment.

Over the years, he discovered the allure of show business and in 1970 he wrote the Broadway play "Sheep on the Runway."

But he was best known in that realm for the court battle over "Coming to America." A judge ruled that Paramount Pictures had stolen Buchwald's idea and in 1992 awarded $900,000 to him and a partner.

The case dated to a 1983 Paramount contract for rights to Buchwald's story "King for a Day." The studio had dropped its option to make such a movie in 1985, three years before releasing "Coming to America" without credit to Buchwald.

Both stories involved an African prince who comes to America in search of a bride.

Paramount argued that the two stories were not that similar. After the judge ruled in Buchwald's favor, Paramount lawyers insisted in the trial's next phase that the film failed to produce any net profits. The case became a celebrated example of "Hollywood accounting."

The judge wound up awarding Buchwald and his partner far less than the millions they had sought, but the columnist said he was satisfied.

Born in Mount Vernon, N.Y., on Oct. 25, 1925, Buchwald had a difficult childhood. He and his three sisters were sent to foster homes when their mother was institutionalized for mental illness. Their father, a drapery salesman, suffered Depression-era financial troubles and couldn't afford them.

At 17, Buchwald ran away to join the Marines and spent 3 1/2 years in the Pacific during World War II, attaining the rank of sergeant and spending much of his time editing a Corps newspaper.

After the war, he enrolled at the University of Southern California, where he became managing editor of the campus humor magazine and a columnist for the student paper. But he dropped out in 1948 and headed for Paris on a one-way ticket.

He married Ann McGarry, of Warren, Pa., in London on Oct. 12, 1952. The writer and one-time fashion coordinator for Neiman-Marcus later wrote a book with her husband. They adopted three children.

She died in 1994. In 2000, Buchwald published his first novel, "Stella In Heaven: Almost a Novel," about a widower who can communicate with his deceased wife.

Despite his successes, the perennial funny man said he battled depression in 1963 and 1987. He once joked about deciding not to commit suicide out of fear that The New York Times miss the story.

"You do get over it, and you get over it a better person," he once said of the illness.

Buchwald is survived by son Joel Buchwald, of Washington; daughters Jennifer Buchwald, of Roxbury, Mass.; and Connie Buchwald Marks, of Culpeper, Va.; sisters Edith Jaffe, of Bellevue, Wash., and Doris Kahme, of Delray Beach, Fla., and Monroe Township, N.J.; and five grandchildren.

A family spokeswoman said Buchwald would be interred at the Vineyard Haven Cemetery in Martha's Vineyard, Mass., where his wife Ann is buried.


Associated Press writer Connie Cass contributed to this story.

Colts Tony Dungy, Bears Lovie Smith Can Be First Black coaches In Super Bowl

I hope this happens, as it would pave the way for major changes in society and for the better. Kids need to see this. They need to know they have a chance. Other kids, not Black, need to see that Blacks can lead on a national stage.

Dungy, Smith have chance to be first black coaches in Super Bowl
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS - Two weeks ago, Lovie Smith made the three-hour trip from Chicago to watch Tony Dungy's Colts take on Herman Edwards' Chiefs in a first-round NFL playoff game.

The night before, the three old friends and their wives dined at P.F. Chang's in downtown Indianapolis in what was as much a symbolic meeting as a gathering of old pals - three black coaches celebrating the arrival of their teams in the NFL playoffs.

"We talked about starting in '96 in Tampa and some of the things we remembered from then," Dungy recalled on Thursday. "How great it is that we are in the playoffs and that at least two of us have a chance to make it to the Super Bowl. You realized it would be awesome if it happened and, hopefully, it will."

It's officially one game from being awesome.

If the Colts beat the New England Patriots on Sunday and Smith's Bears beat the New Orleans Saints, it would put two black coaches in the NFL's marquee game for the first time in its 41 years. Even if just one of them wins, that, too, would be a first.

There were just three black head coaches in the NFL when Dungy started nearly a decade ago in Tampa, with Edwards and Smith on his staff. Back then, 70 percent of the league's players were black - a percentage that still holds.

This year, there were seven black coaches, including Dennis Green in Arizona and Art Shell in Oakland. Both men were fired after the season, although Shell will remain in the Raiders' front office. The others are Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis and Cleveland's Romeo Crennel.

Though he didn't coach this season, Ray Rhodes coached Philadelphia and Green Bay in the 1990s.

Despite the strides, no black head coach has ever taken the final step.

"Of course, it would be special if that happened," Smith said. "I hope for a day when it is unnoticed but that day isn't here. This is the first time, I think, two black men have led their teams to the final four. You have to acknowledge that. I do, we do. I realize the responsibility that comes with that."

So do black players.

"We're making progress slowly," says defensive tackle Anthony McFarland of the Colts, who played for both Dungy and Smith in Tampa Bay.

"I don't think players think of 'black players' and 'white players.' It shows that for Tony and Lovie to come this far that there are at least some organizations that have confidence that black men can be head coaches. I hope it goes beyond that so we don't have to think of their race," he said.

NFL leaders acknowledge that's in the future.

"We still have problems with the front office," said Pittsburgh's Dan Rooney, one of league's senior owners.

An example: When Jerry Reese was promoted to general manager of the New York Giants this week, he became just the third black man in that key position, joining Baltimore's Ozzie Newsome and Houston's Rick Smith.

The push for diversity actually came from outside the NFL five years ago.

Two lawyers, the late Johnny Cochran Jr. and Cyrus Mehri, released a study criticizing the league for ignoring black candidates for head coaching jobs.

Then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue, a staunch advocate of minority hiring, quickly appointed a committee headed by Rooney to study the problem.

From that emerged "the Rooney rule," requiring any team with a coaching vacancy to interview at least one minority candidate before making a decision. Rooney himself is currently considering Minnesota defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin, who is black, and Chicago assistant Ron Rivera, who is Hispanic, for his team's coaching vacancy.

That rule was a huge step forward.

As recently as 1987, when 200 league and team officials convened for their annual March meeting, there was just one black person among them. Two years later, Shell became the first black head coach of the modern era - there hadn't been one since Fritz Pollard in the barnstorming days of the early 1920s.

Few remember Pollard, although Dungy acknowledged him Thursday as "the Jackie Robinson of pro football."

Another positive sign: Some black coaches who have left their original teams have been hired again. Dungy, Shell and Rhodes all got second jobs after being fired, and Green and Edwards (who was with the New York Jets from 2001-2005) voluntarily left one team and were hired by another.

"That the black coaches are being fired and rehired show that they are becoming part of the system now - they're inside the 'old boy network' instead of out of it," Rooney said. "I don't think people look at their race but just that they're just good coaches. It's a big step from where we were."

Still, the NFL's numbers aren't close to the NBA's, another league with a large majority of black players. It currently has 11 black coaches for 30 teams, and there have been 56 in its history.

The NFL started a minority intern program nearly two decades ago for players and college coaches. It, in turn, has brought dozens of black assistant coaches into the league.

But a year ago, when there were nine vacancies, only Shell, who had been working in the league office, was hired.

It's no wonder they end up rooting for each other to succeed.

"Of course, Tony is a good friend," Smith said. "I'm a big Colts fan since they are on the AFC side of the football. But not if we play them in the Super Bowl."