Sunday, April 29, 2007

FCC Calls For Congress To Regulate TV Violence

Many pediatricians suggest that children's exposure to violence on television should be curtailed. Now what parents may be failing to do to protect their offspring may be taken up by the government.

The FCC is recommending that Congress step in with regulations limiting TV violence.

While the suggestion that violent TV viewing among children should be curbed may be admirable, the idea that the government might regulate it is absurd.

It's the responsibility of parents to determine what their children watch.

Besides, stopping violence on TV doesn't really protect anyone.

There's plenty of violence for children to see on cable TV (which isn't regulated by the FCC), in movies, in books, in comic books, on the Internet and, unfortunately, in real life, in neighborhoods and in homes.

Once the government gets involved, judgment calls will have to be made. Where will the lines be drawn? Will Saturday morning cartoons be banished? Were entire generations of children psychologically scarred by watching Popeye battle Brutus or Jerry outwit Tom? Will reruns of the Three Stooges be banished? Will TV journalists be ordered to sanitize their coverage of wars and other violent events? By this measure, the cops who beat Rodney King, for example, might not ever have been exposed to the world.

Even shows like COPS and Jerry Springer could find themselves regulated. We'd be "protected" from watching Jack Bauer beat the locations of suitcase nuclear bombs out of terrorists.

Maybe there would be no more free WWE. Wrestling enthusiasts would have to dig into their pockets to watch it only on pay for view.

Would hockey fans be forced to get satellite dishes so they can watch their teams battle for the Stanley Cup on the CBC? What would happen with football? Would NASCAR races be put on a time delay so that the network can dump out if there's a violent crash?

The only ones who would benefit by such draconian regulatory reach would be the lawyers. These kinds of proposed rules just scream for litigation. The Media General News Service says there are 220 lawyers in the current House and Senate. One can only hope that some of them are Three Stooges fans and that this proposal ends up where it belongs, in the circular file.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

More Civil Rights Hypocricy

Is it really civil rights activism when a group fights for the rights of one but not the other?

What about when those activists actually put down other minorities?

These Asian American demonstrators protested outside CBS to demand the firings of two radio shock jocks who placed a crank call to a Chinese restaurant.

The jocks have already been suspended. But the demonstrators are out for blood. They want WFNY's JV and Elvis fired. Arguing that because CBS fired Don Imus because of his comments offensive to blacks, it would be a double standard if these two aren't fired as well.

Debby Wolf, co-founder of People Against Censorship, whose members were counter demonstrating, says something very disturbing happened during the protest. She says one of the Asian Americans shouted out "Jews are racist" and was treated with cheers and applause.

So in the minds of these self-appointed regulators of acceptable speech, it's apparently wrong to make fun of Chinese people, but OK to make derogatory comments about Jews.

By the way, one of the radio personalities they want fired happens to be married to a Korean woman. This, in the minds of the organizers does not give him a pass, since his wife is an adult model with her own website.

So, not only are they limiting their support to Asian Americans, they further narrow it to those who fit their sense of morality.

All this hypocrisy speaks to their own personality deficits. The important question is, will CBS, and the rest of us, allow ourselves to play along with this game of trying to gag those with whom we disagree under the guise of civil rights?


Photo credit: Franklyn Strachan

Group wants CNN's Lou Dobbs fired

Now it's Lou Dobbs' turn.

Dobbs, who frequently uses his show on CNN to attack illegal immigration, had the audacity to compare immigration supporters to Nazi propagandists.

He didn't say they were like Nazis who carted away Jews and others in cattle cars to death camps. He likened their rhetorical tactics to those of Hermann Goering, though he likely misspoke meaning to refer to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels (Goering headed Hitler's air force).

Any comparison to Nazis is sure to attack the sensibilities of many. Pundits like Dobbs say things like this to elicit thought and response. Those who agree with him should say so. Those who disagree should speak out as well. It moves the discussion forward.

But calling for his firing?

A Hebrew immigrant group is demanding that CNN fire Dobbs. A group that's about as obscure, by the way, as the Asian American organization that's demanding that two CBS Radio shock jocks in New York be fired for making an on air prank call to a Chinese restaurant.

Obscure or not, the Asian American group was able to pressure CBS into suspending the duo.

We are moving into a world gone mad. On the one hand, there are those alarmists who fear that Muslim fundamentalism left unchecked will force us to comply with Sharia law, limiting our abilities to express ourselves. But at the rate we're going, we'll have accomplished this on our own long before the fundamentalists overtake us.

This all runs contrary to the foundation of this country. To the things the Patriots held near and dear. The right to express themselves. The right to speak out against one's government.

People gave up everything they had, including, in large numbers, their lives, so that we'd have rights that we seem so willingly to give away.

Here's an experiment. Take a copy of the Declaration of Independence and show it to people without letting them know what it is. Ask them to sign a petition endorsing the words. See if they will support its concepts.

I fear you'll find that many people will reject them as too radical.

Hopefully CNN will not fold to this latest demand for the firing of an on-air personality. Note to media corporate lawyers. The companies you work for are in the business of selling ideas. You should be in the business of fighting for their right to do that. Think of it as an act of self preservation.


Writer's disclosure: As a former CNN employee based in New York I am personally acquainted with Lou Dobbs.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Richard Gere Arrest Warrant

An arrest warrant has been issued for Richard Gere for dipping and hugging an Indian actress on stage in what, according to the complaint filed in that country, amounts to an obscene act.

The actress, Shilpa Shetty, also faces charges for not resisting the American movie star.

A former Indian legal official suggests that the warrants are not enforceable and should be dropped. But this is another example of attempts to muzzle people for their public expression around the world.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Imus Wanna Bes Follow In His Footsteps

A pair of college radio station shock jocks have emulated Don Imus right out of their jobs.

A program director at radio station WQRI at Roger Williams University has fired on air personalities Dana Peloso and Jon Porter for uttering the same phrase that got Imus fired at MSNBC and CBS Radio.

Here's the difference.

Peloso and Porter had been told to not repeat what Imus said on the air.

They chose to defy management and now suffer the consequences.

When you work for someone in radio, you say what they tell you to say, or, as this case illustrates, you don't say what they tell you not to say.

Hopefully for Peloso and Porter, it's a lesson learned.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

George Carlin's 7 Filthy Words Multiply

Comedian George Carlin's "7 Filthy Words" routine became the standard to determine indecent speech on the airwaves after WBAI-FM aired the bit, leading to a complaint to the FCC and a court battle that reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the ensuing decades, shock jocks from Howard Stern to Opie and Anthony have been pushing the envelope, to see just how far they can go before getting in trouble.

Now others are pushing back. Rev. Al Sharpton's condemnation of Don Imus' on air description of the Rutgers women's basketball team led to the "I Man's" firing. Two New York radio shock jocks have been suspended after an Asian American group complained about their on air prank call to a Chinese Restaurant. Ann Coulter was recently criticized as well for using the term "fag" on MSNBC. And Hispanics are starting to speak out about Bill O'Reilly and others calling illegal Mexican immigrants wetbacks.

The Random House Unabridged Dictionary defines wetback as a disparaging and offensive noun used to describe, "a Mexican laborer who enters the U.S. illegally, as by wading the Rio Grande."

Apparently the term wetback is, or at least was, officially endorsed by the U.S. government. The INS conducted a round up of illegal immigrants in 1954 called "Operation Wetback."

Uncivil speech is nogthing new. Keith Allan, reader in linguistics and convener of the linguistics program at Monash University, and Kate Burridge, chair of linguistics at Monash University co-authored "Forbidden Words", described by the publisher, the Cambridge University Press, as a "fascinating insight into taboo language and its role in everyday life."

A dialogue over words that some find hurtful and offensive is healthy. But a rush by ethnic, racial, religious, gender and sexual preference groups to grab the spotlight and bring down people who use them can be unsettling. Such pressures can stifle the very discourse that could lead to greater understanding. And things can get out of hand. Today radio hosts are worried that their words could lead to their downfall. Tomorrow it could be musicians, poets, authors, commentators and, yes, even university linguistics professors.

Books were burned in Nazi Germany. People are jailed in communist Cuba and in Vietnam for expressing themselves. Gay pride parade participants are attacked Jerusalem. Women are arrested in Iran for not wearing religiously sanctioned clothing. Discussion about hurtful rhetoric is good. Capitulating to self-appointed thought police, is not.

Imus' Mouth Claims More Victims

The new sensitivity toward anything that anyone might find offensive is claiming two more victims.

CBS has suspended two radio show hosts for making a prank call on air to a Chinese restaurant. Their suspensions follow complaints from an Asian American advocacy group.

Radio stations that pander to audiences with sophomoric humor have been doing this kind of thing for years. The management of Imus' station, and the management of WFNY were well aware (or should have been) that their airwaves were being used in this manner. The reason they encouraged it, or, perhaps, looked the other way, was because it resulted in ratings. Once it becomes a liability, real or potential, they take "appropriate" action.

The same group, People Against Censorship, that protested the Imus firings, is now planning to picket CBS to support WFNY's JV and Elvis.

The head of the Asian American group that complained says she is taking a page directly from Rev. Al Sharpton's playbook. And she's going for the juggler.

“If they don’t fire the D.J.’s, it will be a double standard,” Vicki Shu Smolin told the New York Times.

Meanwhile, following a less bombastic approach, Russell Simmons and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network are urging the rap community to self regulate and moderate the use of demeaning lyrics.

Even Sharpton, who I've previously criticized, is taking the right approach by using his influence as a shareholder to pressure record companies to discourage artists from using racially or gender belittling language. Note to Shu Smolin: Sharpton's failure to take this more reasonable path with Imus is the real double standard here.
Photo credit: Jeffrey Putman

Terrorism Arrests In England

Just one day after terrorists announced they were going to attack UK targets, six suspected supporters of terrorism have been arrested in England.

Britain seems particularly vulnerable to potential additional terrorist attacks. Its Islamic community is folded less into the fabric of society than are Muslims in the United States. This creates feelings of disenfranchisement and makes it more likely that homegrown attacks will occur.

The last time a group of suspected terrorists was arrested, many Brits expressed surprise that all but one was born in the United Kingdom.

A weekend report warned that England was moving toward two distinct societies. If this trend is left unabated, the likelihood of more violence, based on religious differences, sadly, will increase.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Gaza Bombings

A spat of bombings in the Gaza strip is instilling more fear in the people who live there.

When Israel takes military action in the Gaza it becomes the subject of international news and condemnation. But the Arab on Arab attacks that are becoming part of daily life escape the same scrutiny.

According to reports, the targets include pharmacies, beauty shops and Internet cafes. The Internet cafes because they "distract" the Palestinian youth. Beauty shops because of the vanity they offer their customers. Pharmacies because they dispense condoms.

Music stores are also targeted. Apparently some of the music they sell fails to meet certain religious standards.

Now a Christian bookstore in the Gaza has reportedly been bombed.

Some of these attacks were apparently carried out by the same people who kidnapped British journalist Alan Johnston.

All of these attacks in the name of religion. By people who believe they have not only the right, but the responsibility, to impose their will on others.

This violence deserves as much coverage as do Israeli military attacks in the Gaza. Those who cast a critical eye on one and not the other reveal the sad truth that they care not about the Palestinian people. But are exploiting them as excuse to espouse their hatred of Israel.

Christians Murdered In Turkey

More religious intolerance in the news today.

Three people have been killed in Turkey at a bible distribution facility.

And in Iraq, 23 people who belong to an ancient religious sect were pulled from a bus and executed by members of other religious beliefs.

This is history repeating itself. People dying in the name of religion. Not back in the Dark Ages. But during this so-called enlightened time.

This is an age that boasts an info-technology revolution. Those of us who are purveyors and consumers of this new technology should be using our global bully pulpits to speak out against religious intolerance in all forms. Especially when it manifests itself as violence.
Photo credit: rogiro

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Canadian Journalist Attacked By Muslim Extremists

Jawaad Faizi was attacked in suburban Toronto by two men he calls "religious fanatics." They assaulted him with a cricket bat as he sat in his car outside his editor's house.

Faizi's attack was in retribution for a piece he wrote for the Pakistan Post critical of a Pakistani cleric.

Steve Emerson, executive director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism, says this kind of intimidation of reporters is common in the Middle East and has occurred in Europe. But, he says, this is the first such case he knows of that has ever taken place in North America.

Faizi, a guest on my show, remains obviously shaken by the experience. He fears, not only for himself, but for his wife and children.

Threats preceded the attacks. The police took his report and did, he says, little else. Now, he says, they are finally on the case.

This is the problem with radical Islamists. Rather than protesting, demanding equal space in the paper or even boycotting the newspaper, they attack. It won't make Faizi take back his words. But it sends a message to Faizi, and to other journalists, that they should mind themselves in the future.

Sort of like the response to the editorial cartoon in Denmark that mocked the Prophet Mohammad.

This would be like Rev. Al Sharpton sending out religious thugs with baseball bats to teach me a lesson for my vocal criticism of him. People would be shocked if Sharpton were to do that. They should be equally shocked by the attack on Faizi.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Glorifying Mass Murder

The video taped images that Seung-Hui Cho managed to send to NBC between shootings on the Virginia Tech campus, played repeatedly by news outlets around the country, did more than extend the hurt suffered by those touched by Monday's massacre. They also glorify Cho's horrific act. And could encourage others to follow in his footsteps.

The murders of 32 people and Cho's own death took place days from the anniversary of the Columbine High School killings. Cho had indicated that he was influenced by that tragedy.

How many others in the future will now want to emulate what he did in Blacksburg, VA?
Note: Succumbing to pressure, some networks have decided to cut back or even eliminate airing of the disturbing images.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Mass Murderer's Manifesto

I've spoken with a number of psychologists these past few days about the mass killings at Virginia Tech. While they willingly spoke about how people can cope with the tragedy, none, having not examined him, felt comfortable trying to analyze the killer, Cho Seung-Hui. They universally suggested that since he was dead, we'd never be able to understand what went on his head.

Now, however, that is no longer the case.

Between the two shooting sprees, Cho videotaped, and sent off, a manifesto to NBC News. It offers us horrific insight into what was going on in his mind after all.

He reveals his psychotic thoughts. Thoughts that he acted out on the campus of Virginia Tech.

While the images are disturbing, they do help us comprehend.

When such massive tragedy strikes, we strive for answers. Sometimes we look for those to blame for the evil actions of others.

An entire cottage industry of blaming cropped up, and still flourishes, after the 9/11 attacks. For some, the concept that the people who actually hijacked the planes are really responsible, remains, even now, hard to grasp.

This same thought process began almost immediately after the news broke of the carnage in Virginia. Some people blamed Cho's ability to legally purchase his weapon. Others questioned whether he was taking some prescribed medication for mental illness that, they speculated, may have set him off. Others wondered if the odd tattoo on his arm meant he was part of a sleeper terrorist cell. His parents were mentioned. The university. The police.

Those who wish to seek answers need only view his video. Which reveals the real truth. The responsibility for Monday's massacre rests with Cho.


Photo credit: Alex Taylor who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. Taylor was a student at VT from 1998-2004.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Expressing Condolences To Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech has created the following link, moderated by the university, where people can express their condolences to the community in the wake of Monday's carnage there.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Campus Lock Downs

University officials across the nation are taking no chances with threats after yesterday's tragedy at Virginia Tech.

Campuses in Texas, Tennessee and Oklahoma were evacuated or locked down today.

Security expert and former NYPD officer Gary Moskowitz says the cops at Virginia Tech failed to follow proper procedure after the first shootings yesterday.

"Of course they should have locked down the campus," he says. "This is common sense."

Moskowitz, a frequent contributor to News Talk Online, speculates the police may have been unduly influenced by college officials to keep the campus open, even with a gunman at large.

He says there is a "strong likelihood" that the additional 30 fatalities could have been averted had there been a lock down and search which he says it was "the correct tactical thing to do."

He compares this to the action taken by the federal government after the 9/11 attacks, when a full ground stop of private aviation was ordered. That, he says, was the "correct thing to do."

Moskowitz says every school in the nation should review, or prepare, a safety plan to prepare for potential criminal acts on campus. Many schools prepared such plans, he says, after the Columbine High School shootings.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Nor'easter of 2007

The nor'easter that hit the New York/New Jersey area caused extensive flooding. Rainfall recorded was the most in 100 years.

These pictures were taken by Alexey Smirnov. The first is on the Bronx River Parkway (which became the Bronx River). The second was taken in Bronxville in New York's Westchester County.

Click on the images to blow them up. The arrow in the first picture points to a totally submerged car.

Tragedy At Virginia Tech

The Virginia Tech tragedy is already prompting debate about gun control.

Many callers during today's show suggested that the shooting rampage that claimed the lives of more than 30 people underscores the need to limit gun sales in the United States.

Others argued that the problem is not the guns. It's the people who use them.

One caller from Scotland said the relative inavailability of guns in the United Kingdom makes such a massacre there far less likely.

Of course, the realties in the UK and the United States are not the same. Here, guns are already in such wide circulation that any attempts to clamp down would only affect law abiding citizens. No one seriously believes criminals would give up their arms.

A caller from Wales applauded the United States for allowing its citizens to arm themselves. She says that, in Britain, people find alternative weapons to kill. She cited as examples knives, and even golf clubs.

That may be, but it seems unlikely someone could get away with killing 33 people on a college campus with a golf club or a knife.

There are questions, of course, about the way Virginia Tech responded to the first of the two shooting incidents. Why was the campus not put in lock down after the first shootings, of two students, while a suspect was still at large?

The debate and the questions are valid and necessary. But let's all also take time to pray or give good thoughts and wishes to the entire Virginia Tech community and the family and friends of the victims.


Talk about these issues and more every Mon-Fri at 5 PM New York time on News Talk Online on

Sunday, April 15, 2007

How Sharpton Could Have Done Some Good

The racial divide may have widened, not only because of Don Imus' remarks about the Rutger's Women's Basketball team, but by the way civil rights leaders, like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, exploited the situation.

I've spoken before how these men of the cloth should have sought reconciliation, not retribution for Imus' imprudent remarks.

Many people, like these demonstrators protesting the muzzling of Imus, miss the point. But so do the Reverands Jackson and Sharpton.

The use of language demeaning toward blacks and women by black rappers (and in everyday speech by some black young people) does not license white male talk show hosts to use the same language on their broadcasts. This incident illustrates, however, how damaging such rhetoric by the rappers can be.

Sharpton's inquisition of Imus on his radio show did nothing to further public insight into how insensitive his broadcast remarks were.

If Sharpton were a true civil rights leader, he would have facilitated the meeting between Imus and the basketball team with a goal of mutual understanding. So that Imus would learn how hurtful his words were to the team members. And so that the players would appreciate that Imus is a product of his own upbringing, generation, gender and race.

Sharpton could have emerged from that meeting to announce that he and Imus had agreed to sponsor a national debate. Imus could have used his microphone to encourage his audience, which remains supportive of his right to make such remarks, to temper their rhetoric toward others. Sharpton could have used his microphone to encourage a moderation of rhetoric among rappers and young black people.

Instead, Sharpton sought an opportunity to empower himself and bring Imus down. Not only was this a missed opportunity, but instead of muting racial baiting, those voices have been amplified. Sharpton has increased security because of death threats he says he has received.

So what was accomplished? Imus is out of a job, Sharpton fears for his safety. But have attitudes changed? Is there a new sensitivity to the hurtful rhetoric? Will the rap industry stop indoctrinating young people with the message that it's alright to demean women and people of color?

It may have been a lesson for some of us. Imus may have learned from it as well (though he won't be in a position to convey that to his audience unless and until he lands a new gig). But Sharpton? I don't think he's learned a thing.


Talk about these issues and more every Mon-Fri at 5 PM New York time on News Talk Online on

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Imus - NOT The Teflon Don

Don Imus' firing was practically inevitable.

Although he had a history of making disparaging remarks about people based on their race, religion, nationality and creed, he'd never been taken to task so publicly before. When advertisers responded by pulling out, MSNBC and CBS Radio almost had no choice but to pull the plug on his show.

Clearly the comments that lead to his demise struck a lot of nerves. Not only were they racist, but they were sexist. And because they were directed at women's college basketball players, they were considered to be especially in poor form.

But the feeding frenzy that followed his faux paux was (please excuse the expression) beyond the pale.

There were those in the white community who argued, rappers use these kinds of demeaning words, but no one says anything about that.

Frankly, they have a point. But it's a point that white people really shouldn't be making. When white people raise this issue, it sounds like we are making excuses for our own racism. This is a point that black leaders should be addressing.

Several have.

Here's what Newsday sports columnist, Shaun Powell has to say about Imus:

Because when we really get to the root of the problem. this isn't about Imus. This is about a culture we -- meaning black folks -- created and condoned and packaged for white power brokers to sell and shock jocks like Imus to exploit.

It's a view that was echoed by WBAI reporter Eric Williams as a guest on my show:

Where does a 67-year-old white guy learn the word 'ho' from? Where and why? Well, it comes out of the rap and hip hop community, that's where.

I was driving my 16-year-old daughter someplace the other day and she plugged her IPod into my car radio and turned up the volume. My ears were suddenly assaulted with the words of a hip-hop artist.

I don't want to wine you.
I don't want to dine you.
I just want to f--- you.

My daughter dismissed this as nothing but meaningless lyrics. She's mature enough to process the material and does not regard it as an argument for acceptable social behavior.

But I wonder how many others who listen to words such as these find them an encouragement for the mistreatment of women?

While Imus was still fighting for his job, he argued that the words of rappers enabled his own disgusting behavior.

I'm not suggesting that government needs to regulate the lyrics of rap. But I do believe that the artists, the recording industry and broadcasters need to re-think the values they are permitting to be espoused.

Most importantly, parents should be listening to what their children are playing. And have discussions with them to help them put it into perspective.


Talk about these issues and more every Mon-Fri at 5 PM New York time on News Talk Online on

Friday, April 13, 2007

My Interview At Podcamp

While walking around Podcamp NYC I came across some people webcasting live, using a cellphone to connect to the Internet.
When I walked up to ask them about their project, they asked if they could interview me.
A compilation of their Webcast interviews, including mine, can be found here:

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Anti-Semitism In Texas

Sadly, anti-Semitism is still alive in the United States.

A school role playing exercise in a small Texas town, designed to sensitize students to the dangers of intolerance, got out of hand, when the "Nazis" punched and spat on the "Jews."

One could fault the school for what happened.

Or one could say that it was a lesson well learned.

Rather than disciplining the students, the school should use this as an opportunity to open forums to discuss discrimination in all its ugly forms.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, there were more than 15-hundred documented anti-Semitic attacks in the United States last year. Shockingly, that number represents a decline from the year before.

Jews, of course, are far from the only victims of intolerance. Muslims, gays, and African Americans remain among the most notable groups to be targeted.

It's easier to commit acts of violence against objects than people. Discriminatory commentary reduces human beings to that vulnerable level.

One needs only to follow the debate over radio talk show host Don Imus' recent bigoted comments to know that the issue of race, religious and gender bias remains woven into the fabric of society. Imas reputation as an equal opporunity basher makes him a good case study.

The Council of Europe's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance says this about bias on that Continent:

Across Europe, racist incidents among young people are on the rise. School is the place to make or break our efforts to stop this trend.

School. Wasn't that where they were trying to enlighten the children in Waxachachie, Texas?


Talk about these issues and more every Mon-Fri at 5 PM New York time on News Talk Online on

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Justice At Duke?

In the end, the criminal justice system worked in North Carolina. But at what price?

From the beginning, the case of the three Duke University lacrosse players accused of raping a stripper at a team party just didn't ring true.

There was no DNA evidence. The "identifications" were suspect at best. The stripper's story repeatedly changed. But worst, the district attorney sounded like an opportunist from the start.

State prosecutors are supposed to seek justice. Not political capital.

It was clear that District Attorney Mike Nifong was pandering to a constituency when he held his initial news conference, using inflammatory rhetoric to vilify the defendants.

Potentially exculpatory evidence was ignored.

Political opportunism, Mr. District Attorney, at the expense of justice. And at the expense of the reputations of the players.

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. While the vast majority of county, state and federal prosecutors take their responsibilities seriously, occasionally, conviction rates take precedence over -- here's that word again -- justice.

The Duke debacle reminds me of another, far less publicized case. A murder was committed in Highland Park, Michigan, a Detroit enclave. A man from another state had been visiting family around the time of the homicide. And was identified by an eye witness during a photo lineup.

An arrest warrant was issued for the suspect, who, by then, had returned home. Now-retired police detective lieutenant Jim Fransisco was sent to carry out an extradition order.

When Francisco went to check on his prisoner, the suspect told the detective he had an iron clad alibi. He had been in Highland Park just before the murder. But had returned home and was at work at the time of the killing.

Francisco agreed to check the story out, and verified the man's alibi. He then phoned the assistant Wayne County prosecutor who had obtained the extradition order. Who promptly told Francisco that he was sent there, not to investigate, but to bring the prisoner back.

So bring him back he did. At taxpayer's expense. And at the expense of the man's reputation and job.

Francisco gave the man a get out of jail card. His business card. And told him to give the card to the attorney the court would appoint for him (again at taxpayer's expense) so that he could be subpoenaed as a defense witness.

Imagine that. A homicide detective offering to testify for the defense.

Francisco's testimony prompted the judge to drop the charges. As it turns out, this was a case of mistaken identity. The real killer, later apprehended, bore a striking resemblance to the wrongly arrested man.

But in his quest for a high conviction rate, the prosecutor in the Michigan case knowingly allowed for the prosecution of an innocent man, while the real perpetrator walked the streets. All at taxpayer's expense. And at the expense ... of justice.

I don't know what, if any, ramifications that prosecutor suffered. But I do know that Durham District Attorney Nifong should be stripped of his position and his license to practice law.

He also owes the three young men he dragged through the mud -- and their parents -- and the community a public apology.

Let this be a reminder to all prosecutors that their first responsibility is to seek justice. There are plenty of real criminals and real crime to help boost conviction rates without having to resort to the kind of abuse that ruins lives.


Talk about this and other topics Monday-Friday at 5 PM New York time on News Talk Online on

Using The Internet To Do Good

Last weekend I had opportunity to attend Podcamp NYC, attended by more than 1,000 bloggers, each anxious to extend his or her reach.

The only frustration one felt was over the impossibility of attending so many interesting, simultaneous seminars. So I gave up on planning and strolled the halls, entering meeting rooms on almost a whim. And I ended up strolling into a talk about using blogs to change the world.

I'm a big proponent of using the Internet to inform people of issues that affect our fellow human beings. And to expose efforts aimed at remedying those ills.

On my show, News Talk Online on, we've tried to address some of those issues. Pollution, malaria and homelessness are but a few we've discussed. These are problems that all of us can, to one degree or another, get involved in. But one issue that's become especially frustrating, because of a lack of international political will, is the genocide in Darfur.

Now, an Internet company with wide reach is doing something about it.

If you go to Google Earth and point toward Sudan, you will see an expansive overlay of orange highlighting Darfur. The words "Crisis in Darfur" will jump out at you. So will the flame icons that dot the map. Each pointing to a village -- there are more than 15-hundred -- that have been destroyed.

This is an attempt by a hugely influential corporate entity, to put the crisis in our faces.

I urge all of you to look at this frighteningly graphic display. And remember that, if we were able to use Google Earth to really zoom in, we would see our fellow human beings being wiped out in Darfur. The understaffed peacekeeping force from the African Union is largely impotent.

The organization reports that 2.5 million people have been left homeless in by the conflict. Published reports estimate that 200,000 people have died.

Holocaust survivor and intolerance foe Elie Wiesel said this at the Darfur Emergency Summit in New York in 2004:

Sudan has become today's world capital of human pain, suffering and agony. There, one part of the population has been - and still is - subjected by another part, the dominating part, to humiliation, hunger and death.

Since then, he has returned to New York to address the United Nations, to plea for international intervention.

The world cannot stand by, as it did for all too long during the Holocaust, and as it did, during the genocide in Rwanda, to permit this to continue.

While we focus on the Middle East, Anna Nichol Smith's death, and Britney Spears' choice (or lack thereof) of undergarments, thousands of our fellow human beings are attempting to survive in almost unfathomable conditions.

We need more corporate outrage like that displayed by Google. And more use of the Internet to create pressure on political bodies, especially the United Nations, to uphold its own principles and work to bring an end to this latest stain on humanity.


We talk about these and other issues daily at 5 PM New York time on News Talk Online on

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Don Imus We Hardly Knew Ye

One needs only to look in the faces of the coach and the members of the Rutgers Woman's Basketball team to know that words, in this case, those of syndicated radio talk show host Don Imus, can and sometimes DO hurt.

Imus, who will be meeting with the team to, presumably, apologize in person, has uttered repeated mea culpas. Among the venues; the Rev. Al Sharpton's radio show. Rev. Jesse Jackson has also publicly criticized Imus.

Imus should be contrite. But one might question where the Reverands Jackson and Sharpton get off being among those demanding contrition.

After all, Jackson did call New York City "Hymietown." And Al Sharpton's record of being a beacon for civil rights was forever tarnished during the Tawana Brawley debacle.

Frankly, I think they deserve one another. Three peas in a pod. Or, maybe, more appropriately, three motor mouths behind the microphone.

Imus is to be suspended from his radio show for two weeks. Maybe he'll return. Even if he does, it's likely that his inflated influence on American politics will be diminished. His ability to attract advertising dollars may be as well.

If there's a lesson to be learned, it's that this sad incident is a reminder that remnants of some of the bigoted attitudes that once prevailed in the United States remain.

Presumably in the years since their insensitive actions and comments, Sharpton and Jackson have grown, so that they no longer harbor the bias they once exhibited towards, respectively, whites and Jews. If so, they, more so than others, should be helping Imus through the process, so that he can reconcile his attitudes toward African Americans.

The title reverend identifies them as men of the cloth. One would think that, rather than seizing this sad chapter in Imus' long broadcasting career to condemn him, they would offer him opportunities for redemption.


We talk about these and other issues daily at 5 PM New York time on News Talk Online on

From CNN to Paltalk

Why, you may ask, did a CNN Radio correspondent leave the “most trusted name in news” to become news and programming director at

Simply put, I’ve been given an opportunity to help build something new and exciting. A chance to facilitate discourse across the globe between people with diverse points of view on issues that matter to us all.

I stumbled upon Paltalk about seven years ago, while doing a series of reports for CNN about free stuff on the Internet. I was so impressed with the program, and the owner and management team, that I accepted an invitation to stick around as the system’s volunteer ombudsman.

During that time, I “met” people from around the world. A voice, video and text chat program like Paltalk with its multitude of user generated virtual communities gives one an opportunity to delve into the mindset of representatives of virtually every faith, nationality, race and creed.

I was able to apply what I found on Paltalk to my work at CNN Radio. For example, within minutes of the announcement of the death of Yasser Arafat, I recorded interviews with Israelis and Palestinians on Paltalk. A mere 30 minutes later and CNN Radio aired what may have been the first nationally broadcast reactions from both sides.

The world is on the verge of potential conflagrations. But instead of talking with one another to try to find commonality, political and religious leaders on all sides are yelling at each other. All of this takes place out of the control of the people these leaders supposedly represent. Whenever it moves beyond rhetoric to armed conflict, the innocent bystanders are the ones who suffer. When you participate on Paltalk, you find yourself conversing and getting to know some of those potential bystanders.

The most recent conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon was a case in point. I listened on Paltalk as air raid sirens sounded in Israel, the computers abandoned by people taking cover. Some Israeli Paltalkers even left their webcams on while taking shelter. And I actually saw incoming rockets find targets just blocks away.

On the other side of the border, several Lebanese Paltalk users tearfully reported that their loved ones had been killed.

These kinds of relationships developed on Paltalk makes war far more personal. The victims are no longer just Israelis or Lebanese. They are real people, with real names.

It may be like tilting at windmills a bit. But on my show, News Talk Online, on Paltalk Monday-Friday at 5 PM New York time, we get to talk to and with people on all sides of these issues. Hopefully, the audience has the opportunity to gain some understanding from these daily sessions.

I’m not so na├»ve to think that we will change the course of history. But we may help open some minds during our journey.

This blog is my opportunity to share my thoughts with you about some of the issues we tackle on the show. I’ll also comment on other matters that I find interesting. I hope you find them interesting too.

The program’s website can be found at

You’ll find a link to the show, archives of and comments about previous shows, previews of scheduled, and video blogs addressing some of the subjects we’ve tackled in News Talk Online’s first five months.

I’ll be telling you what I think. I hope you’ll join in the discussion and tell me what you think as well.


The views expressed on this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of, AVM Software or their advertisers.