Issue 103, Winter 2006/2007

  • During the 25th annual Banned Books Week in late September, a Houston-area parent challenged Fahrenheit 451 – a book about reading and thinking freely. “It’s just all kinds of filth,” he claimed, admitting later that he had not read it.
  • At a Manchester, NH awards dinner honoring defenders of the First Amendment, featured speaker Newt Gingrich argued for "a different set of rules" to govern free speech in light of the war on terror. The terrorist threat, he said, will "lead us to want to know what is said in every suspect place in the country, (and) will lead us to learn how to close down every website that is dangerous …."
  • In a bid to increase ad revenues, Google is developing “ambient-audio identification technology” that would use personal computers’ internal microphones to monitor what television channels Americans watch. But can we be sure that’s all they’d listen for – and that the government won’t get in on the act?
  • A report by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) concludes that most U.S. universities restrict speech that is fully protected by the First Amendment. Nearly 3/4 of those surveyed have speech codes that are unconstitutional; many maintain rules that have previously been struck down in federal courts.
  • According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 20 journalists around the world are currently in prison without having been charged with a crime. Two of these – AP photographer Bilal Hussein and Al-Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj – are being held by the U.S. In 2005, the U.S. ranked sixth among jailers of journalists, just behind Uzbekistan and tied with Burma.
  • The director of the Customs House Museum in Clarksville, TN, removed an installation by William Gentry just hours after it was put on display for fear that the deep-fried flags in the installation would offend community sensitivities and imperil the museum’s public funding.
  • A public sculpture in Loveland, CO was attacked by some local residents because the figures in it are nude. As a compromise, the Visual Arts Commission decided to move the work to a less prominent spot.
  • The Mexican motifs in the murals of Commerce City, CO artist Iris Scadden were distasteful to some vocal citizens who called for a moratorium on her work. In response, the City Council considered a ban on all murals, but national concern about the case led them to drop the issue for the time being. We are watching the situation.
  • Readers of the December 22 edition of The New York Times were greeted by black boxes covering portions of an op-ed on Iran. The author, former CIA employee Flynt Leverett, claims he was censored due to pressure from the White House. He commented, "National security must be above politics."
  • NCAC is proud to welcome its newest Participating Organization: The National Center for Science Education.