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Internet Dark Day Protests Proposed Web Bills

Susan Britt

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By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

Many Internet sites such as Wikipedia, Reddit, Craig’s List and BoingBoing are dark today in reaction to legislation in Washington, DC, regarding what appears to be a growing divide between the entertainment industry and Web companies including Google and Facebook. While many sites that are protesting will continue to remain functional WordPress is offering a widget so that those sites can display a banner ad showing their support.

Two bills and a draft text for legislation are the culprits. All three are designed to attempt to limit copyright infringement by rogue websites mainly outside the U.S.

However, many are concerned that if not more well-defined they could limit the use of sites like Facebook and Twitter in regards to copyrighted material such as music and photos.

While all three have the same goal, they are vastly different and many think this could endanger the way the internet works, some even go so far as to say that two of these bills, if enacted, could “break the internet.”

The PROTECT IP Act (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011) (PIPA), also known as Senate Bill 968; The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), also known as House Bill 3261; and The Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN Act) all originated from failed COICA (Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act of 2010).

While PIPA is a revision of the failed 2010 COICA. SOPA is a revision of PIPA addressing some of the technological concerns, where OPEN Act is a reaction by the technology companies to both others.

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PIPA an SOPA propose to use domain blocking to enforce copyright laws. Domain Name Systems (DNS) transfer information requested by the user and uses a number to reference the computer containing that information (IP Address). By design, all domain name servers are identical worldwide. If the U.S. begins blocking and filtering certain domain names they will no longer be identical resulting in possibly fracturing the entire structure of the internet.

In reaction, PIPA bill author Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and SOPA author Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) have agreed to remove the strict DNS-filtering provisions.

The entertainment industry is supporting PIPA and SOPA while internet and computer companies support OPEN Act.

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PIPA is heavily backed by National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the Independent Film & Television Alliance, the National Association of Theatre Owners, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Directors Guild of America, the American Federation of Musicians, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the Screen Actors Guild, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Nashville Songwriters Association International, Songwriters Guild of America, Viacom, Institute for Policy Innovation, Macmillan Publishers, Acushnet Company, Recording Industry Association of America, Copyright Alliance and NBCUniversal.

Supporter of SOPA include  the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, Macmillan US, Viacom, and various other companies and unions in the cable, movie, and music industries. They also include trademark-dependent companies such as Nike, L’Oréal, and Acushnet Company.

OPEN Act is being pushed forward by Google, Facebook, the Consumer Electronics Association as well as the Computer and Communications Industry Association.

All three proposals are designed to stop transfers of money to foreign websites whose primary purpose is piracy or counterfeiting but SOPA and PIPA take it further by seeking to require Internet providers and search engines to redirect users away from these sites. Any sites containing hyperlinks to the identified sites must delete them or any reference to them or face possible liability and prosecution.

Any site found to “stream” copyrighted content more than ten times in six months could face a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Penalties for selling counterfeit drugs, military materials or consumer goods will also be increased. Although, Internet services dedicated to taking action against these websites will be immune.

Software is already available for search engines to redirect users around a “seized” domain name as is currently in use by Mozilla’s Firefox. Also, although the domain name for a site would be useless, any user that has already obtained the IP Address for a site can directly access that site even if it has been blocked by filters.

As written, SOPA and PIPA would be administrated by the United States Justice Department, where OPEN Act would come under the responsibility of the United States International Trade Commission.

One of the biggest concerns of SOPA and PIPA is that because they would be governed by the U.S. Justice Department websites considered politically undesirable could potentially become targets of this legislation due to its broad definitions. Currently, China’s government is using similar legislation to do just that. Called the Green Wall of China their law enables government to police sites deemed politically objectionable.

The federal government has been ineffective in enforcing copyright laws overseas prior to the Internet.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates PIPA’s cost at $47 million to cover expenses of enforcement, hiring and training of 22 new special agents and salaries of support staff through 2016.

SOPA would allow the U.S. Department of Justice to seek court orders against offending websites outside the U.S. In order to enforce the law, the U.S. Attorney General could require U.S. service providers, ad networks and payment processors to suspend doing business with sites found to infringe on federal laws regarding criminal intellectual property laws.

Many are concerned that the definition of an “offending” site is not clear enough in any of the bills making it open to a wide variety of interpretations both now and in the future. Also, it could potentially criminalize Internet activities that are currently permitted under law.

Wikipedia (after today):
Open Act
SOPA
PIPA

Open Act bill

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Elections

Faith in Action Alabama calls on law enforcement to protect voters from harassment

“In these harrowing days it is incumbent upon all of us as citizens and you and your colleagues as law enforcement professionals to do all we can to maintain this right secured by so much courage and sacrifice.”

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Nine clergy members from across the state have signed an open letter calling on local and state law enforcement to protect voters against intimidation and harassment at the polls.

The clergy are leaders in Faith in Action Alabama, a regional association of Christian congregations affiliated with the national group Faith in Action, the largest grassroots, faith-based organizing network in the country. It seeks to address a range of issues like gun violence, health care, immigration and voting rights.

This is their letter:

Across our country and here in Alabama, it is being seen that citizens are turning out in record numbers to vote early and by absentee ballots. It is very heartening to see so many of our fellow citizens energized and committed to exercising that most fundamental and critical duty of citizenship, the use of their franchise.  As servant leaders of an ecumenical association of nearly 2,000 faith communities across our state we are certainly encouraging our congregants to fulfill this duty either through early, absentee or day of election voting. For us this is not only part of our civic duty, but as people of faith obligation as well.

Unfortunately, it it also largely known that there are forces in our country that are actively, publicly and fervently at work to suppress the votes of some of our fellow citizens. We write to implore you to use the full authority of your office and department to ensure that those who seek to vote, especially on November 3, 2020 are not assailed or intimidated by illegal harassment in their polling places. We believe these threats are pervasive enough and real enough that proactive measures should be in place as citizens come to vote throughout that day. The strong, visible presence of uniformed legitimate law officers will hopefully prevent any attempts at confrontation or intimidation and violence.

The history of our state is marked by the efforts of tens of thousands of Alabamians who marched, protested, brought legal actions, shed their blood and some even gave their lives that every citizen of this state might have full and free access to the ballot box. In these harrowing days it is incumbent upon all of us as citizens and you and your colleagues as law enforcement professionals to do all we can to maintain this right secured by so much courage and sacrifice.

Please be assured of our prayers for you and the men and women of your department who have the awesome responsibility of providing public safety and equal protection under the law for every Alabamian. If we, the members of Faith in Action Alabama’s Clergy Leadership Team, can be of assistance please do not hesitate to call upon us.

Sincerely,

Rev. Jeremiah Chester, St. Mark Baptist Church, Huntsville

Rev. David Frazier, Sr., Revelation Missionary Baptist Church, Mobile, and Moderator, Mobile Baptist Sunlight Association

Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, Fifth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church

Bishop Russell Kendrick, Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast

Bishop Seth O. Lartey, Alabama-Florida Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

President Melvin Owens, Alabama State Missionary Baptist Convention

Bishop Harry L. Seawright, Ninth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church

Dr. A.B. Sutton, Jr., Living Stones Temple, Fultondale

Father Manuel Williams, C.R., Resurrection Catholic Missions of the South, Montgomery

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Report: Alabama’s Black Belt lags behind state in economic prospects

Black Belt counties lag behind others in economic prospects and investments in businesses.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(APR GRAPHIC)

It took Marquis Forge five years and 18 banks before he and his partner were able to open their company, Eleven86 Water, in Autauga County, just north of the Black Belt, and a report released Tuesday shows how Black Belt counties lag behind others in economic prospects and investments in businesses. 

Forge, a former University of Alabama football player, told reporters during a briefing Monday that he considers Autauga County, which borders the Black Belt’s Lowndes County, part of the Black Belt, and said it shouldn’t have been so difficult to access the capital needed to start a business. 

The report released Tuesday by the University of Alabama’s Education Policy Center titled “Black Belt manufacturing and Economic Prospects” is the last in the center’s Black Belt 2020 series, and found that only four of the state’s 24 Black Belt counties, as defined by the center, are above the statewide average of 22.4 businesses per 1,000 residents, and just one, Montgomery County, was above the 2018 statewide average of personal income of $43,229. 

Researchers also found that just three Black Belt counties are above the state’s average in gross domestic product being produced by counties of $45,348. 

“To achieve Governor Ivey’s ambitious goal of 500,000 a million more Alabama workers with skills by 2025, all hands have to be ‘on deck.’ It will require higher labor force participation rates, particularly in the Black Belt, where the average is 20 points below the statewide average,” said Stephen Katsinas, director of the university’s Education Policy Center and one of the authors of the report. 

“Due to smaller economies of scale, our approaches to  education, workforce development, and community building will have to be different to reach Alabama’s Black Belt,” Katsinas continued. “In the longer term, we first must define the Black Belt, because you can’t measure what you can’t define. Then we must do what West Alabama Works is doing–go where the people are to bring hope by connecting them to a well-aligned lifelong learning system that makes work pay.”   

Donny Jones, COO of Chamber of Commerce West Alabama and Executive Director of West AlabamaWorks, told reporters Monday that one of the keys to helping the Black Belt will  be helping state and Congressional legislators understand the nuances of rural Alabama. 

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Jones said the state should look at how colleges are graded, and that many smaller colleges don’t get credit for putting students through programs that get them short-term certificates that lead to jobs. 

“Those are some of the things on the statewide level that we can really start to work on,” Jones said, adding that they’ve already begun teaching modern manufacturing in Black Belt high schools that gives students college credits toward an associates degree while still in high school. 

“I think that’s very important for individuals to understand the impact that we can have in our higher ed and our K-12 system, really works hand in glove to move the needle for workforce development,” Jones said. 

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Jim Purcell, State Higher Education executive officer of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, told reporters that it’s also important to look at one’s own community and identifying what is “unique and special,” and said he was recently in Autauga County, where he is from, and bought two cases of Eleven86 Water because he remembered how good the water there was. 

“I think that’s what you’ve done, is you’ve taken the gift that Autauga’s environment has and enhanced it, so that the people can benefit from it,” Purcell said to Forge. “I think that’s the key.” 

Asked what he’d tell state legislators to spur them to make changes so that other entrepreneurs wouldn’t have to struggle as hard as he did to open a business, Forge said he would ask for a clearer path for assistance. 

“Instead of digging down through a tunnel with a spoon I would have someone outline the tracks on getting funds and assistance from local, state and the national level, because there are funds out there,” Forge said. 

After going to 18 banks to get the financing he needed, he still had to liquify all his assets to make it happen, Forge said. 

“How many people are going to do that?” he asked. “We shouldn’t have to do that.”

To read all of the Education Policy Center’s reports on Alabama’s Black Belt, visit here.

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Zeta is a hurricane again

Zeta currently has sustained winds of 85 mph. On its current course it will make landfall at Southeast Louisiana or the Mississippi Coast late this afternoon and move through Alabama tonight.

Brandon Moseley

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A satellite image of Hurricane Zeta. (VIA NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE)

Zeta is continuing its path toward the Gulf Coast and it is strengthening. Zeta is now a hurricane again and is forecast to be a category two hurricane when it comes ashore this evening.

“As expected, #Zeta is strengthening as it moves across the Gulf of Mexico,” the Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency warned. “The windfield extends nearly 150 miles and we will begin to see impacts such as tropical winds, rain, rip currents and dangerous surf, as well as storm surge in Baldwin County.”

Zeta currently has sustained winds of 85 mph. On its current course it will make landfall at Southeast Louisiana or the Mississippi Coast late this afternoon and be moving through Alabama tonight.

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for Morgan City LA to the Mississippi/Alabama state line, incl. Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and Metropolitan New Orleans. According to NOAA, hurricane conditions are expected there this afternoon, with tropical storm conditions beginning later this morning. Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion. Damaging winds, especially in gusts, will spread well inland across portions of southeast Mississippi and southern Alabama this evening and tonight.
A Storm Surge Warning is in effect from the mouth of the Atchafalaya River to Navarre Florida, incl. Lake Borgne, Lake Pontchartrain, Pensacola Bay and Mobile Bay.

“If you live in a low lying area you should evacuate before dark on Wednesday evening to a safer place,” warned Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) addressing Mobile and Baldwin County residents. “If you live on higher ground in southwest Alabama please make your plans Wednesday to be wherever you plan to spend the night by dark Wednesday evening and do not leave until daylight Thursday as we will experience tropical storm force winds and 2-4 inches of rain which could cause flash flooding, downed trees or downed live power lines. This storm should pass through our area rapidly and be gone early Thursday. Let’s all pray that this is the last storm of this hurricane season.”

ABC 33/40 television meteorologist James Spann said on social media, “We will deal with periods of rain today with temperatures in the 70s; the main wind and rain associated directly with Zeta will come tonight, and there is potential for a high impact wind event for much of the state.”

Storm surge predictions have risen since yesterday. Under current forecasts, Zeta is expected to bring a storm surge of six to nine feet for Dauphin Island. The storm surge will be four to six feet in Mobile Bay, and three to five feet for the Baldwin County shore towns of Fort Morgan, Gulf Shores, and Orange Beach to the Florida line.

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Winds gusts in Mobile and Baldwin counties could be as much as 70 miles per hour. Isolated tornadoes are a possibility as this powerful storm system moves through the state of Alabama.

Because the storm is moving so fast it should not produce as much torrential rain as a slower moving storm reducing the flooding risk; however that fast speed means that it won’t lose a lot of strength as it moves through the state thus tropical storm winds could be experienced well inland.

Most of Alabama should get one to three inches of rain. The combination of heavy winds and heavy rains could weaken the root systems of trees meaning there is a possibility of losing power tonight. Citizens should check their emergency kits and make sure that they have flashlights, batteries, radios, and fully charged phones in case they are needed tonight.

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The Mobile County Emergency Management Agency is asking that people who live on the coast or in flood prone areas please evacuate before tonight. Shelters have been set up in Mobile County, including a medical needs shelter.

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries has set up a shelter for livestock evacuating the area at the Alabama A&M Agribition Center in Huntsville.

Sandbags are available at the Baldwin County Commission office in Robertsdale. There is a limit of 25 bags per person while supplies last.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) has declared a state of emergency.

Baldwin, Mobile, and Escambia Counties were declared a natural disaster area after Hurricane Sally slammed into the state last month. Many areas are still in the process of cleaning up from that storm.

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Byrne introduces bill to protect underwater forest

This is the only known site where a coastal ice age forest this old has been preserved in place, with thousands of trees still rooted in the dirt they were growing millennia ago before being reclaimed by the Gulf of Mexico.

Brandon Moseley

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(VIA THIS IS ALABAMA)

Thursday, Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) introduced the Alabama Underwater Forest National Marine Sanctuary and Protection Act. His bill would designate the site, an ancient cypress forest found sixty feet underwater south of Gulf Shores as a National Marine Sanctuary.

“The underwater forest is another unique Alabama gem with global importance. As the only known site where a coastal ice age forest this old has been preserved in place, we must take action now to protect it,” Byrne said. “The Alabama Underwater Forest National Marine Sanctuary and Protection Act protects Alabamians ability to fish, dive, and recreate at the site while ensuring none of its invaluable artifacts can be removed or damaged. This designation will also open up further tourism opportunities along our Gulf Coast.”

“I would like to thank Ben Raines, whose work with me after his discovery of the site has been instrumental in crafting this bill,” Byrne concluded.

60,000 years ago the planet was cooler that it is now. This forest a relic is from an ice age before the last ice age 16,000 to 10,000 years ago. Tons of water were locked up vast glaciers that covered the globe from not just the Artic but as far south as St. Louis. Herds of woolly mammoths, giant bison, mastodons, wooly rhinos, horses, and American camels were pursued by sabertoothed cats, dire wolves, and the massive cave bear. With so much water locked up in snow and ice ocean levels were significantly lower than they are now. Gulf Shores which is a barrier island town today was not the Alabama coast then. The underwater forest is a remnant from that bygone age and appears to be a wholly unique relic of our planet’s past.

This is the only known site where a coastal ice age forest this old has been preserved in place, with thousands of trees still rooted in the dirt they were growing millennia ago before being reclaimed by the Gulf of Mexico.

For scientists this a treasure trove of information the types of plants that inhabited the Gulf Coast during the ice age and before humans arrived in the new world. That world was impacted by a sudden sea rise.

The work of the team investigating the site is detailed in Ben Raines documentary, The Underwater Forest, co-produced by This is Alabama and the Alabama Coastal Foundation.

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Bradley Byrne represents Alabama’s First Congressional District. He is not running for re-election.

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