The Progressive Policy Institute thinks it's time to can the spam.
Scholars at the center-left tank have maxed out on those pesky, unsolicited e-mails that clog electronic in-boxes, and in a new briefing paper they lay out a wish list of federal legislative changes.
"Our position on this breaks a bit with our normal view. Normally we would opt for minimal regulation on Internet issues," said Randolph Court, the paper's co-author and a former reporter for Wired News. But "we see spam as a threat to the growth of the digital economy and therefore worthy of legislative intervention."
Among the tank's recommendations: Require unsolicited commercial e-mail to include the label "ADV" (or "ADV:ADLT" for the truly nasty ones) in the subject line. PPI also wants senders to identify themselves accurately and provide a way for unlucky recipients to opt out once and for all.
Court and co-author Robert Atkinson say regulation is warranted because spam shifts the costs of advertising from the advertiser to the consumer (who might be paying for time online) and the Internet service provider carrying the message. Several states, including Virginia, have already enacted anti-spam laws, and a House Commerce subcommittee recently held a hearing on the topic.
SECURITY SCHMOOZING: Young, ambitious and into nuclear weapons?
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has chartered New Analysts in International Security, an informal group formed to provide networking opportunities for younger analysts in the fields of nonproliferation and national and international security.
NAIS is being coordinated by Jon Wolfsthal, an associate at Carnegie's Non-Proliferation Project and former Department of Energy staff member. About 45 people turned up at the first meeting earlier this month at Carnegie. The next meeting is planned for January.
FOREIGN POLICY FRACAS: New York Times columnist William Safire isn't making many friends in the foreign policy tanks lately.
In a late September column, Safire, a onetime aide to Richard M. Nixon, chastised the international community for its lack of action against "another Asian autocrat"--Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamad. And he named names: "On the contrary, Mahathir will soon be welcomed to the U.S. by the U.S. business and foreign policy establishment. Stimulated by the likes of Maurice Greenberg, whose amoral insurance interests in Asia shape the mind set of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Asia Society and the Nixon Center, many of our ever-engaging friends of 'order' will kowtow."
The Nixon Center, along with the council and the Asia Society, penned a quick response defending Greenberg, an insurance tycoon who is the chair or vice chair of each organization's board, but the newspaper hasn't run it. So the center is now faxing it out to folks like us, and posting it on its Web site, along with comments that show the center is keeping count (this is Safire's "fifth attack on the Nixon Center in the pages of The New York Times"). The center said it played no role in bringing the Malaysian prime minister to the United States.
"In making such far-fetched attacks, we believe Mr. Safire seriously damages his own credibility and thus his authority to comment on the Nixon Center or other American institutions," the center wrote.
NEW FACE, NEW PLACE: Diana Zuckerman, a psychologist with experience in academia as well as on Capitol Hill and in the White House, has been named the first executive director of the National Center for Policy Research for Women and Families. Known as CPR, the small tank is funded primarily by the Tides Foundation. It plans to work as a liaison between academic researchers and public policymakers on issues of health and well-being.
DATA INDISCRETIONS: On Oct. 18, the Urban Institute's National Center for Charitable Statistics, in partnership with Philanthropic Research Inc. and the IRS, posted an unprecedented store of financial information about the nation's think tanks, charities and other nonprofits on the Internet. About three days later, they took it back down.
It seems the IRS, which was in charge of scanning the documents, also scanned in some confidential attachments listing the names of big donors. The mistake was discovered after some nonprofit officials checked out their own information only to find their donor lists exposed for all the competitive fund-raising world to see.
About a third of the original batch of Form 990s are now cleaned up and re-posted, and the organizations are working on the rest. There is no date set for the next upload. You can check out about 30,000 organizations now at http://nccs.urban.org or www.guidestar.org.
PARTING THOUGHT: According to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, there were more black elected officials in 1998 than in any year since the center began counting in 1970. Last year, there were 8,868 black officeholders, up 212 from 1997. The state with the highest count: Mississippi, with 849.
Still, the center points out, less than 2 percent of elected officials are black, while blacks are about 13 percent of the population overall.
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