What Others Are Saying

January 21, 2008

MySpace.com has sidestepped the regulatory clutches of states with a multipronged plan to protect its social networking site from bullies and sexual predators.

An accord reached with attorneys general from 49 states promises much in the name of making it more difficult for strangers to contact underage MySpace users. Steps include better monitoring of content, improved age-verification software and creating a closed "high school" section for users under 18. Other measures include extra staff on the lookout for inappropriate content, and increased monitoring of discussion groups and photos. A 24-hour hotline and a 72-hour deadline to investigate all complaints offer some comfort to parents and law-enforcement officials who have long demanded the Internet phenomenon do a better job protecting its underage users.

The efforts are welcome. The list of children sexually assaulted by people they meet online is growing. The case of the Missouri teenager who hanged herself after corresponding on MySpace with a "boy" - really the mother of a former friend - has struck fear in the hearts of parents.

But cautious optimism is the best way to view MySpace's plans. Until virtual online worlds are better and more widely policed, going after one site is a partial solution.

- Seattle Times

Three years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the death penalty for minors as cruel and unusual punishment, citing medical and social-science evidence that teens lack the maturity to be held accountable to the same degree as adults.

The justices acknowledged that their decision was influenced, in part, by the desire to end the United States' international isolation on the issue.

All of those arguments also could be applied to laws that put juveniles in prison without the possibility of parole, which still occurs in this country. In fact, 99.5 percent of all juveniles who are sentenced without a chance of release are in the United States.

- San Francisco Chronicle

Minnesotans are closer today to having an answer to the state's most burning question since Aug. 1: Why did the Interstate 35W bridge collapse? After Tuesday's release of preliminary investigative findings by the National Transportation Safety Board, "gusset plates" will forever be part of the state's lexicon, synonymous with a built-in, fatal flaw that's undetectable until it's too late. Or was it? Was there no opportunity for the design's carrying capacity to be reassessed - perhaps when the bridge was renovated in 1977 and 1998, or in this decade, as its traffic load rose far beyond original levels?

- Minneapolis Star Tribune

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