CULTURE DIGEST: Sioux leaders ponder beer blockade; judge says DVDs can’t be edited to block obscene content

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--About 4 million cans of beer are sold each year at four stores in Whiteclay, Neb., a border town just a few hundred feet outside the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Most of the beer is sold to Indians, and it has caused so much trouble that leaders of the Oglala Sioux tribe are considering a beer blockade.

The youth suicide rate on the Pine Ridge reservation is the highest in the nation, the Associated Press reported June 28, and most of the suicides involve alcohol. Just 2 percent of South Dakota’s population lives on the reservation, yet it had 19 percent of the state’s fatalities caused by drunken driving in 2005, AP said.

Alcohol is officially banned on the reservation, but nearly every family shows the effects of alcohol in accidents, violence, sexual abuse and suicide, AP reported, and leaders are desperate for a solution.

In late June, tribal leaders concocted a plan to set up checkpoints on roads leading into the reservation, where they would search vehicles and confiscate beer.

“We are the last line of defense when it comes to protecting our people,” Duane Martin of the 16,500-member reservation’s Strong Heart Civil Rights Movement told AP.

But Duane Twiss, acting police chief on the reservation, said a beer blockade could violate the constitutional rights of people against illegal searches and seizures since their cars are their property.

“I’ve just got to make sure that we’re covered legally,” Twiss said. “If someone decides not to stop [at a checkpoint], we’re going to be responsible.”

So the blockade is on hold while community leaders meet to work out a plan that is satisfactory for all involved, which includes having lawyers sort out the legal issues.

Even though a beer blockade hasn’t happened yet, optimism is high that leaders are moving in the right direction.

“I think this is a success because we got a commitment from the new police chief to deal with the problems of illegal alcohol sales,” Mark Vasina of Nebraskans for Peace, a group that has tried to end alcohol sales in the border town, told AP.

‘STAND UP FOR SCIENCE’ LAUNCHED -- Discovery Institute has launched a campaign to defend the state science standards in Kansas, which were implemented by a close vote last year and could be overturned if conservatives lose seats on the board of education during an Aug. 1 primary ballot.

The Seattle-based Discovery Institute is operating a website, www.standupforscience.com, and has started a petition drive as part of its effort to educate the public on the need to keep the current science standards in Kansas, which Discovery considers the best in the nation.

“The ‘Stand up for Science’ educational campaign is intended to defend newly implemented science standards in Kansas from misleading and blatantly false campaigns of misinformation,” John G. West, associate director of Discovery’s Center for Science & Culture, said in a July 11 news release.

West said groups such as Kansas Citizens for Science are clearly misinterpreting the state’s science guidelines, which require students to examine a broad spectrum of scientific evidence for and against biological and chemical evolution.

“First, they continue to advance the false idea that the teaching of Intelligent Design is an integral part of the new standards. It is not. Second, they continue to claim that the board of education redefined the term ‘science’ when it did no such thing,” West said. “And finally, they denounce the new standards for not teaching students the consensus view of science, when in fact that is still required learning in the new standards.”

Robert Crowther, director of communications for Discovery Institute, said Kansas’ approach to teaching evolution will better inform students about the facts of scientific evidence in biology and will require them to critically analyze that evidence so that they will gain the critical thinking skills necessary to become good scientists.

Besides Kansas, four other states -- Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and South Carolina -- have science standards that require students to learn about critical analysis of evolution, Discovery noted in a July 7 news release.

Last year, the Kansas board of education listened to testimony from 23 scientists and scholars about how scientific evidence regarding evolution should be presented in the classroom before voting 6-4 to amend the science standards.

“There is now a concerted and organized effort to undermine those standards and ultimately to repeal them and replace them with dogmatic, Darwin-only science standards,” Crowther said.

Of the five seats up for grabs in the next election, four are now held by conservative Republicans who supported the current science standards, according to the Associated Press. If two conservatives are defeated, the board’s majority would shift the other way.

JUDGE HANDS DVD VICTORY TO HOLLYWOOD -- A federal judge has ruled that companies that edit objectionable material from movies and sell or rent them as family friendly versions are acting in violation of copyright laws and must stop their practice immediately.

The ruling settles a fight that began in 2002 when eight Hollywood studios and eight prominent film directors sued five companies that edit out profanity, sex, nudity and violence from films with the intent of offering a more sanitized version for family viewing.

But U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch said July 6 that the companies must immediately cease all production, sale and rentals of edited videos and turn over all existing copies of their edited movies within five days of the ruling, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

“Their business is illegitimate,” Matsch wrote in a 16-page ruling. “The right to control the content of the copyrighted work ... is the essence of the law of copyright.”

The companies named in the suit are the Utah-based CleanFlicks, CleanFilms and Play It Clean Video, Arizona-based Family Flix USA and the separate CleanFlicks of Colorado, the Hollywood Reporter said.

“Whether these films should be edited in a manner that would make them acceptable to more of the public playing on a DVD in a home environment is more than merely a matter of marketing; it is a question of what audience the copyright owner wants to reach,” Matsch wrote. “This court is not free to determine the social value of copyrighted works. What is protected are the creator's rights to protect its creation in the form in which it was created.”

The one family friendly company not affected by the ruling is ClearPlay, which is protected by a bill that was signed into law by President Bush in April 2005 -- the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act -- to shield ClearPlay and companies that employ similar methods from lawsuits.

ClearPlay’s editing method differs from the five named in the suit because it does not involve making an altered DVD copy. The ClearPlay DVD player is pre-programmed with filters for hundreds of movie titles that tell it when to mute or skip over objectionable content. Filters for the latest movies are downloadable online, and parents can customize the filters to fit their preferences.

“There’s no question that Hollywood movies are getting edgier and edgier,” ClearPlay CEO Bill Aho told Baptist Press last year. “You find sex and language and violence creeping into more and more movies. I don’t think that these trends in Hollywood reflect the values that parents have for their families.”


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