Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Nebraska to Amend Their Safe Haven Statute

In the news the past several months there have been reports of parents abandoning their children, as old as 17, in Nebraska under the state’s safe-haven law. According to a news article today, Governor Dave Heineman has stated he will call for a special legislative session in order to correct the wording of the law.

Nebraska’s current law potentially allows any parent to abandon their children at hospitals up to the age of 19. As seen since the enactment of this law, hospitals in the state have received more abandoned children than they had expected and older than what most other state laws cover. People from outside of Nebraska have driven hours to the state just to take advantage of this safe haven law; nine children from Iowa, Michigan and Georgia have been abandoned in Nebraska.

Nebraska is the last state to adopt such a safe haven law, perhaps making it more surprising that they have not followed the lead of other states, and instead crafted their own language leading to these issues. The original bill was drafted only to encompass infants, but was later amended when the bill stalled in debate. According to one article, Senator Tom White defends Nebraska’s law by saying that, “All children deserve our protection.”

While Senator White’s statement that “All children deserve our protection” cannot be denied, Nebraska’s safe haven statute appears to go over and beyond the protection that needs to be provided. At this time, it appears that many parents are abandoning their older children as they are having a hard time dealing with their children’s attitude and/or behavior. Instead of working through these issues, children are being abandoned and are being sent to emergency shelters or foster homes.

Instead of protecting the children, it seems that the only people that are being protected are the parents who have given up and cannot deal with their teenage children any longer. These children are being dropped off at hospitals in Nebraska, being torn from their family with perhaps little possibility of finding another family for support. Such programs are helpful for infants and children up to a certain age, but it seems that extending such laws to include children up to the age of 19 are more harmful than good. Thankfully, the Nebraska Governor has realized this and is attempting to resolve this problem as soon as possible.

The Future of Google Book Search

Three years ago, the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers and a handful of authors and publishers filed a class action lawsuit against Google Book Search.

Yesterday, that lawsuit was settled. Google will now be working closely with these industry partners to bring even more of the world's books online. Together Google and the publishers will accomplish far more than any of them could have individually, to the enduring benefit of authors, publishers, researchers and readers alike.

Google has agreed to pay $125 million to start the Book Rights Registry, resolve legal fees from the 3-year-old lawsuits, provide more access to out-of-print books, compensate authors for unauthorized use of their work and find new ways to sell copyrighted books online.

The settlement is subject to approval by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

To read more about the settlement, click here.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Proponents of Proposition 8 Targeting Public Schools

With the election just weeks away, proponents of Proposition 8 in California appear to be ramping up their efforts to overturn the state Supreme Court decision allowing for same sex marriages. In an effort to overturn the decision in In Re Marriage Cases, supporters of Proposition 8 have taken to running commercials suggesting the harmful effects that legalized same sex marriages will have on schools and their students. (Samples of some of the commercials can be found here and here.)

In these commercials, advocates of the proposition worry that schools will be required to teach students about same sex marriage. Proponents of the measure point to instances such as a field trip of first graders, with parental permission, to San Francisco City Hall where their teacher was married to her female partner.

However, opponents of Proposition 8 state that schools have already been teaching tolerance of gays and lesbians, long before the Court decision. Children have been taught about such issues as homophobia, discrimination against homosexuals and sexual orientation; whether Proposition 8 passes or not, schools indicate they will continue teaching such subjects.

Many campaign ads focus on the negative and often instill some level of fear into the public. However, as is the case in most instances, the opponents of Proposition 8 provided concrete evidence of the effects this measure will, or rather won’t, have on the education of students.

As presented in the article, “[a]n estimated 52,000 children are being raised by two mothers or two fathers in California.” Children will notice such things and have questions; this will occur whether same sex marriage is legalized or not. With the changing world, it seems necessary to help children with their questions and teach them acceptance rather than discrimination. Perhaps it should be the parents rather than the school teaching this, but it seems odd that this issue seems to only have appeared with the vote on Proposition 8 approaching.

Monday, October 13, 2008

John Berry’s “Escape from Reading”: Where to Begin?

To be blunt, John Berry’s September 15 editorial column for Library Journal (“Escape from Reading”) is misguided. Berry begins by mentioning that “I never ‘loved’ reading, the way so many people declare they do,” with his increasingly poor eyesight only making the act “more difficult.” Therefore, as he writes:

“In this new phase of my life, I have begun to view the progress of media and information technology as advancing my liberation from reading, or at least from much of the guilt and drudgery I associate with it.”

The word “liberation” in this sense is a bit peculiar, but isn’t really problematic yet. But Berry further contrasts reading with other (aural-visual) forms of media consumption that he prefers. Reading is “time-consuming,” while new media forms are easier and more efficient. Classic literature full of “lifeless typography,” such as Ulysses and Moby-Dick, was once a proverbial millstone around his neck, while “[b]oth sound and image giver the words more color, more life.” Not liking books once meant negative feelings (guilt, embarrassment, shame), while “I [now] don’t have to...feel guilty because I’ve put down the book to watch the movie.”

So how is Berry’s dislike of reading meaningful for the modern library? As he writes:

“We librarians would be fools if we didn't take advantage of the liberation the new media have given us from our ancient role, chained to the codex book and the hard labor of reading it and toting it around. Though books will always have an exalted place on our shelves, there's a great deal more we can offer, both in our stacks and on our library web sites. It is clear to me that among our most exalted professional missions is to make sure these new ways to receive entertainment and information are accessible and available to everyone. That can only lead to more widespread enlightenment, even for those who, like me, need sometimes to escape the printed page” (emphasis mine).

This is a bewildering passage for several reasons. Berry’s support of new media as a tool of liberation is remarkably uncritical, ignoring any sort of social or historical context (other than his own personal experience). Are other forms of media consumption inherently “easier” than reading? How does “easier” equate with “liberation” or “enlightenment”? Moreover, librarians are more than adequately incorporating “these new ways to receive entertainment and information,” which is largely contributing to the 21st century library models that…Berry decried earlier this year. Hmm.

Similar questions arise with regard to Berry’s treatment of reading. As best I can tell, “reading” in this column primarily stands for reading canonical works with which many people struggle. But reading books is, quite obviously, about much more than wrestling with Ulysses, as the broad review coverage of Library Journal amply demonstrates every issue. What should also be quite obvious to Berry is that there are countless ways to read books and respond to what we are reading, whether James Joyce or Danielle Steele wrote it. There are too many counterexamples to plausibly imagine books as something to which we are enslaved or “chained.”

And this leads to perhaps the most irritating aspect here, which is tone and word choice. Berry declares halfway through that “some folks will see this as a confession,” which is really an unavoidable conclusion. By casting books as oppressive and the act of reading as guilt-ridden, he clearly makes it sound as if his general rejection of both is a courageous act. It isn’t. That’s not to say that Berry’s struggles with reading aren’t legitimate, or that libraries shouldn’t extend their outreach to patrons who are there for reasons other than to check out books. Rather, adequately addressing such issues requires an appreciation for complexity and a lack of hyperbolic claims—both of which are sorely lacking in this column.

Friday, October 10, 2008

2008 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari

The Norwegian Nobel Committee announced today that former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari has won the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize. The committee cited Ahtisaari's "significant" part in establishing Namibia's independence and his "central" role in solving the question of the Indonesian province of Aceh in 2005. Ahtisaari twice worked to find a solution in Kosovo -- first in 1999 and again between 2005 and 2007. He also worked with others this year to find a peaceful solution to the problems in Iraq, the committee said. Ahtisaari is Chairman of Crisis Management Initiative, an independent, non-profit organization that promotes and works for sustainable security.

The prestigious prize includes a medal, a personal diploma, and 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.4 million) in prize money. The committee awards the peace prize annually according to guidelines laid down in the will of its founder, Alfred Nobel. The committee plans to award the prize to Ahtisaari on December 10th at Oslo City Hall in Norway.

The peace prize is one of five Nobel prizes awarded annually. The others -- for physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, and literature -- were announced this week and will be awarded in Stockholm, Sweden later this year.

There should be more people in the world like former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari. I hope that he will inspire others by his efforts and accomplishments. Congratulations! Enjoy the $1.4 million.

source: CNN

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Bailout and Foreign Economies

While the current market issues and the associated proposed government bailout continue to be major concerns in the United States, other countries are also feeling the effects of this financial crisis. Many countries are feeling the impact of the crisis and pending bailout in their stock markets and banking industries.

Yesterday, the Senate voted 74-25 to approve a bailout, which included amendments that raise the amount of funds that will be federally insured from $100,000.00 to $250,000.00, extended tax breaks and will restrict “"golden parachute’ severance payments to disgraced Wall Street executives.” President Bush has asked the House of Representatives to approve the bailout by the end of the week so it can be enacted “to avoid further damage to the US economy”. It is uncertain whether this vote will be taken this week, and whether the House will approve this amended bailout after previously rejecting an earlier bailout proposal.

Even with just the Senate approval of this bailout, European stock markets were lifted and the value of the dollar was raised in Europe. Although there has been some improvement due to this Senate approval, the European Central Bank has renewed millions of dollars in one-day loans to ensure that distressed interstate banks would continue to have proper cash flow. The Asian stock market continues to fall due to this American financial crisis; banks have been required to expend several billion dollars in order to ensure the Asian stock markets continue to move.

On Saturday, economic leaders from Britain, France, Germany and Italy will convene "to discuss the crisis and a Dutch proposal for a European rescue fund for banks.” Some countries have taken measures into their own hands rather than wait for a response from the European Union. Two major Dutch banks have already received government bailouts and an emergency law was passed in Ireland to guarantee bank deposits (a move several European countries fear will mean a large number of transfers from other European countries to Irish banks).

It is natural that we think of resolving our economic issues without necessarily considering the impact felt by other countries. Still, it is obvious that our economic difficulties are having a large impact outside of our borders. Hopefully, the bailouts and measures taken by both the United States and foreign countries will be sufficient to turn around this crisis and ensure measures are in place should something similar happen in the future.

You can read the original article here.