Digest

May 09, 2008

Facebook agrees on safety rules for children

The Facebook social networking Web site has agreed with 49 states, including Maryland, to develop new safety standards to protect children from predators and inappropriate material.

The agreement is similar to one the states reached in January with competitor MySpace Inc. Both sites have attracted millions of online members - mostly young people - who use them to exchange personal profiles, photos, videos, messages and news about themselves.

Facebook was originally aimed at college students, but it has since expanded to a broader base.

The Myspace audience base is somewhat younger, but both have come under fire as potential hangouts for predators and purveyors of adult material.

"I applaud the willingness of these companies to take the steps necessary to protect children from predators and to educate parents about the steps they can take to help prevent their child from becoming a victim while online," said Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, who joined colleagues around the country in announcing the deal.

Facebook agreed to restrict searches by users older than 18 so tht they can't seek out younger users, send warning messages when a child is in danger of providing personal information to an unknown adult, act more aggressively to remove inappropriate content and groups from the site and participate in a task force developing age and identity verification software.

From Staff and Wire Reports

Maryland

Weather

Tornado warning issued in S. Maryland

The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning early today for Charles and Prince George's counties in Maryland and Fairfax County in Virginia after the weather service's Doppler radar indicated a tornado over Potomac Heights.

No reports of a tornado touching down in Maryland were immediately available from the weather service. A weather service spokeswoman said crews would survey today to confirm whether a twister touched down. Some reports of structural damage were received in Stafford County, Va., she said.

At 12:02 a.m., the weather service said a tornado was over Potomac Heights and moving northeast at 28 mph. The tornado warning was to expire at 12:45 a.m.

Maryland

State police

Troopers getting upgraded handguns

Maryland State Police troopers are starting to be trained with a new, upgraded model of their .40-caliber Beretta handguns and should all be using the new weapons by the end of the year.

Greg Shipley, a spokesman for the department, said Beretta USA Corp. agreed to allow the police to return the 11-year-old 96D-model semiautomatic pistols for newer Px4 Storm pistols. As a result, the department will get 1,650 new guns at no cost to taxpayers, Shipley said.

Authorities said the new guns have been tested by state firearms experts and chosen for their simple design, safety features and dependability.

Shipley said a prime feature is the adjustable grip that can be customized to fit a trooper's hands. The department last got new weapons in January 1997, when troopers went from 9 mm to .40-caliber handguns.

Shipley said new recruits are being trained with the Storm pistols in academy classes and that troopers will start working with the new guns as they go through regularly scheduled training sessions this year.

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