A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent performs the aggressive pat down search of passengers arriving at Denver International Airport less than a week away from the Thanksgiving holiday on November 19, 2010 in Denver.   UPI/Gary C. Caskey Photo via Newscom

Two major stories impact the Internet this week: the use of blogs and social networks to galvanize air travelers protesting the TSA’s “grope and scan” procedures, and the feds’ continuing attempt to control the web through policies implemented by the Federal Communication Commission and legislation through Congress by the U.S. Senate. We’ll start with how flyers are organizing on the Internet against TSA tactics.

As I reported in last week’s Surfin’ Safari column, the federal government’s Department of Homeland Security TSA agents are sliding their gloved hands over Americans’ genitalia and/or subjecting them to backscatter X-ray scanners.

The uproar by the public has been loud and clear, “Hands off my junk!”

Within days, websites like We Won’t Fly were urging travelers to “opt out” of the invasive “pat-downs” and scanners on the busiest travel day of the year, the day before Thanksgiving:

“Should you decide to opt out, you must be aware that the TSA will perform a pat-down instead of subjecting you to the WBI/AIT (AKA porno-scanner). The TSA may try to pressure you into submitting to the scanners. You are not required by law to submit to imaging, however, many TSA employees may attempt to intimidate, coerce or insist that it is required. You will need to be firm, and sometimes will not be allowed to opt out unless you state in exactly these words “I opt out.”

It remains to be seen how many air travelers will participate in the “opt out” day and if it will have its intended effect of deliberately disrupting holiday travel. It might also be another indication of the Internet’s effectiveness in again galvanizing Americans to take action against an overreaching government.

An enterprising blogger at Security Edition is offering playing-card sized, round-edged, non-threatening thin metal plates engraved with our Constitutional Bill of Rights, explaining that carrying one through an airport scanner will trigger an alarm, necessitating a “pat-down,” thus resulting in even more pressure at airport security checkpoints. When asked for the “offending” piece, the holder relinquishes the card to the TSA agent, explaining of the plate, “It’s my rights. Now you have them”.

By the way, Checkpoint Charlie was the iconic symbol of the Berlin Wall during the Cold War, designated as the single crossing point (by foot or by car) for foreigners and members of the Allied forces to get from point A to point B.

Government clamps down on information superhighway, too

While the TSA is arguably violating our 4th Amendment Right against unlawful search and seizure, another federal agency – the FCC, is invading the Internet with a move calculated to implement the controversial ‘Net-neutrality regulation. The timing for this Trojan Horse “gift” couldn’t be more ironic: three days before Christmas.

According to a report at The Hill, some see it as a way for the FCC to move the matter along before the GOP assumes the majority and while Congress is not in session to criticize the effort.

Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., ranking member of the telecom subcommittee, is among those who questioned the schedule. House Republicans unanimously oppose the ‘Net-neutrality policy.

And while that’s going on, along comes COICA, the “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act,” a bill that the Senate Judiciary Committee last week unanimously approved (see the list of Senators in favor here), giving Attorney General Eric Holder the right to shut down websites with a court order if copyright infringement is deemed “central to the activity” of the site – regardless if the website has actually committed a crime.

With COICA, the federal government would be empowered to act as private security agents for Hollywood, the recording industry and media, policing the Internet for illegal file sharing.

COICA would allow the federal government to censor the Internet without due process and is being tagged one of the most draconian laws ever considered to combat digital piracy. It contains what some say is a “nuclear option,” a provision that essentially allows the attorney general to turn suspected websites “off,” even if the site does not contain illegal content – links alone would allow the feds to kill the site. COICA must still be approved by the full House and Senate before becoming law. A vote is unlikely before the new year.

Does your Congressional representative know how you feel about this?

Congress getting cozy with Google?

The days of smooth sailing for White House pal Google might be hitting rocky shoals, if the Republicans have anything to do with it. Maybe.

The seemingly ubiquitous Google, already firmly ensconced as technology advisor in the Obama White House, is making moves to involve itself in “streamlining” Congress’ bill-making process. Google’s Chief Executive Eric Schmidt wasted no time meeting with House Republicans two days after the Nov. 2nd elections about streamlining the bill-making process using Google technology.

The Hill reports that Schmidt, a major campaigner for President Obama, stands to become a target of investigations by multiple committees.

“Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who has promised to be an aggressive watchdog as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has led congressional Republicans in questioning whether Google has inappropriate ties to the Obama administration,” The Hill reports.

Keep an eye on this one. Watch and learn.

Tweeting can land you in a work camp … in China

A Chinese woman has been sentenced to a year of “re-education” in a labor camp for “disturbing social order”.

Her crime? Retweeting a message deemed “anti-Japanese.”

Online activist Cheng Jianping disappeared ten days after retweeting a satirical suggestion by her fiancé (who was not detained) that the Japanese Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo be attacked. The day she disappeared was to be her wedding day.

Amnesty International is urging Chinese authorities to release her.

“Sentencing someone to a year in a labor camp, without trial, for simply repeating another person’s clearly satirical observation on Twitter demonstrates the level of China’s repression of online expression,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Director for the Asia-Pacific.

Though Twitter is blocked in China, it is reportedly widely accessed and used by human rights defenders and their supporters to quickly organize in support of human rights activists who are detained or tried in court.

“Re-education Through Labor” is an administrative punishment that can deprive an individual of their liberty for up to 4 years through a decision by the police without a trial by an independent court.

Facebook moves into the future

Facebook has unveiled “Project Titan”, its new messaging platform that some predict will hasten e-mail’s obsolescence.

According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Internet e-mail, which arrived on the scene in the early 1970s, is past its prime in the emerging era of texting and instant messaging. Zuckerberg says as high school students are forgoing e-mail in favor of shorter, more immediate chats, more people will send IMs and chats because it’s simpler, “more fun” and more valuable to use.

According to a Pew Internet and American Life Project survey, studies show text messaging has surpassed face-to-face contact, e-mail, phone calls and instant messaging as the primary form of communication for U.S. teens. Just 11 percent of teens said they use e-mail every day to interact with friends, compared with 54 percent who said they text daily and 30 percent who said they use landline phones.

Another interesting factoid: Facebook accounts for one in four page views in the U.S.

The moneychangers

Facebook to eBay: Facebook’s overtaken you in worth, according to recent reports.

Facebook is now the third-largest U.S. Internet business, with an estimated worth of $41 billion. EBay is valued at $39.3 billion on the Nasdaq Stock Market. A privately held company, Facebook’s stock is trading at more than $16 on SecondMarket Inc., trailing Amazon.com Inc., valued at $74.4 billion, and Google, valued at $192.9 billion.

Elsewhere, rumors swirl of Yahoo cutting 20 percent of its workforce, even as Google gives every employee a 10-percent pay raise.

In the battle of the Internet big boys, one Googlers got $3.5 million to not join Facebook’s team. And finally, Google denies it is developing its own version of Facebook.

Day-after-Thanksgiving Christmas shopping begins in 3 … 2 … 1

Consumers: It’s Cyber Monday over Black Friday!

Blue Light Specials are back! K-mart rebounds from bankruptcy using social networking.

TJ Maxx in on the deal too.

Free holiday online shipping – WalMart.

“High tech” using “low tech” ads: Check in with Facebook for a special deal.

And as for how the shopping is done, are smart phones replacing credit cards? Google thinks so.


Looking back in time

1936 – First edition of LIFE magazine published

1954 – “Air Force One” christened by First Lady Eisenhower

1963 – JFK assassinated in Dallas

1963 – LBJ takes oath at Dallas’ Love Field

1963 – Oswald shot to death in Dallas

1963 – JFK funeral in Washington, D.C.

1971 – D.B. Cooper hijacks airliner, escapes with $200,000 ransom

Now playing at the Princess Theater, Urbana, Ill.

Congratulations to WorldNetDaily readers Jim Nygaard of Cudahy, Wis., and Rose O’Donnell of Tempe, Ariz., who were among the first to correctly guess actor Kevin Costner who portrayed District Attorney Jim Garrison in the 1991 double-Oscar winning movie JFK. Directed by Oliver Stone, the film tells the story of the New Orleans DA who discovers there’s more to the Kennedy assassination than the official story.

The film was based in part on the non-fiction account of L. Fletcher Prouty in his book “JFK, The CIA, Vietnam and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy”. Prouty served as the chief of special operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Kennedy presidency. The retired U.S. Air Force colonel was in charge of the global system designed to provide military support for the CIA’s secret activities. It is widely believed that Stone based the film’s character “Mr. X” on Prouty.

The quote was: “‘Treason doth never prosper,’ wrote an English poet. ‘What’s the reason? For if it prosper, none dare call it treason.'”

This week’s quote: “Let me ask you a question. When you look in the mirror, what do you like best about yourself?”

Name the movie, the actor and the character. Send your answer to me at the email address below. Good luck!

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