News Briefs for May 2002

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Virtual Porn is Constitutional – In a 6-3 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 1996 law prohibiting the use of simulated pornographic scenes that led viewers to believe the computer-created participants were real minors. The law was challenged by the Free Speech Coalition, a trade association for pornographers, which argued that a ban on such simulated artistic displays would have affected major motion pictures as much as it would impede porn producers. “The First Amendment requires a more precise restriction,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy. Later this term, the court is to rule on a law governing youths’ access to pornography on the Internet.

So Is Cussing in Front of Kids – Timothy Boomer, a 28-year-old from northern Michigan, was vindicated last month in his appeal to overturn a state law barring vulgar language in front of women and children. The 1897 law was tossed out unanimously by a three-judge panel, which said it would be “difficult to conceive of a statute that would be more vague.” Boomer was tipped out of a canoe by friends in 1998, and cursed them out while a nearby mother covered her infant’s ears. Boomer was fined $75 and sentenced to four days of volunteer work.

Full Vans Highly Dangerous – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said last month that 15-passenger vans such as the Dodge Ram, Ford Econoline and GMC Savana – commonly used by youth-serving organizations – are more likely to roll over than buses or minivans, and their occupants are less likely to wear seat belts. The vans are also three times more likely to roll over at capacity than they are with fewer than 10 passengers.

Young Killer to Be Killed – Napoleon Beazley, a 25-year-old who was sentenced to death for murdering a man in a failed carjacking when he was 17, lost his appeal in a Texas court last month. The court had issued a stay of execution while it reviewed Beazley’s claim that his first lawyer presented an inadequate defense because he had not raised the issue of Beazley’s age at the time of the killing.

Sex Ed Advocates Get Their MTV – Advocates for Youth and MTV will team up to present a year long comprehensive sex education series titled “Fight for Your Rights: Protect Yourself.” The pair will coordinate 100 sex-education forums across the country in reaction to what Advocates for Youth President James Wagoner says is a censoring of information. He noted that one-third of school districts have abstinence until marriage programs. “Nobody should be promoting ignorance in the era of AIDS,” he said.