Blogging Booms Worldwide, Repression on its Heels

With Internet use booming worldwide, tens of thousands of new blogs written in Farsi, Arabic, Chinese and other languages are inspiring both civic activism and government crackdowns.

Worldwide, nearly half of all imprisoned media workers are online journalists or bloggers, according to a new study by the Committee to Protect Journalists that names Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Tunisia and Syria as leaders in online repression.

What now for J-Schools?

It was a sobering moment.

The new director of the University of Iowa’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications, David D. Perlmutter, last December distributed a chart to members of his school’s professional advisory board. It showed that applicants to the school were so flat this past year that practically anybody who applied was approved for admission to the two-year undergraduate program. It begged the question many people in the field are asking, to wit, what’s a journalism school to do?

Public Transit Users Looking for a Lift

Got a clunker? At least until late August, that could get you cash. Ride the bus or rapid transit? Too bad, so sad; you pay instead. Across the country, local governments are reducing service and raising fares for municipal bus, train and light rail lines, according to a new study by Transportation for America, a nonprofit advocacy group.

Costa Rica's Ecotourism Marred by Development, Evictions

Costa Rica’s lauded ecotourism industry is under new, and not always positive, scrutiny. Community-based ecotourism is getting raves for creating jobs in agricultural areas, where tourists delight in glimpsing and sharing a day in the life of a Costa Rican farmer, Inter Press Service reports. President Oscar Arias approved a law in July to support “agro-ecotourism” as a way to let small farmers and some indigenous communities share in the tourism boom. Yet another law protecting coastal resources is being used to remove impoverished communities living on beachfront plots on or near ecotourism destinations. Lacking titles to land they say their families have occupied for decades, residents near the Ostional Wildlife Refuge, a haven for sea turtles on Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast, are set for removal.

Homeless Gain Further Hate Crime Protections

Homeless people are gradually being included in hate crimes laws, as the number of fatal attacks on the homeless remains steady even as overall attacks decline. Last November, tracked reports of sometimes deadly attacks on homeless people around the nation, and noted both skepticism about claims of a trend in hate crimes, as well as new protections against such attacks. At the state level, these included emerging regulations in Florida, California, Massachusetts, Alaska, Ohio and Washington. Now, other states are starting to give homeless individuals the same legal status afforded other groups protected by hate-crime legislation, according to recent reports in the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. In May, Maryland became the first to take action, when a Republican lawmaker added homelessness to a hate-crimes bill — to illustrate what he thought was the absurdity of assigning certain groups protected-class status.

Economy Batters Anti-Violence Programs

Victims of domestic and sexual violence are getting left behind by state governments that are slashing funds as the recession forces budget cuts. California led the way, as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cut $20.4 million earmarked for domestic violence programs from the state budget, according to news reports. Statewide, the governor’s action is affecting 94 domestic violence centers, and has already caused three to close, according to Camille Hayes of the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence. Hayes told the Redding Record-Searchlight that state funds were “really what kept [the centers’] lights on and doors open.” The U.S. Justice Department gave a last-minute reprieve to six California programs that got $3 million in grants, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Prison Labor out of the Box, and in

Labor by prisoners is complicated enough — but it doesn’t get any easier once an offender’s sentence is complete. In difficult economic times, it’s that much harder for ex-prisoners who have to check off the “yes” box on job applications that ask, “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” Nationwide, an array of reform organizations decry the question, which they say unfairly punishes former offenders who have already served their time. In Florida, the Orlando Sentinel reports that the American Civil Liberties Union wants to ban the felony question from state employment applications. “Once you check that box in this tight market, it’s fatal,” Orlando attorney Glenn R. Leong, told the newspaper.