Doctors and Facebook Present Ethics Challenge

Some doctor's unrestricted profiles on Facebook run the risk of violating the traditional bounds of a patient-caregiver relationship, CNN reports.

A study done by the Journal of Medical Ethics that surveyed 200 residents and fellows at a hospital in France revealed that those without a facebook profile are in the minority. Beyond that, most were sharing their full name and employer along with a picture.

The prevalence of facebook among the physicians, CNN reports, is likely related to the prevalence of the website among today's youth. These problems are hardly isolated to medicine, either, says Deven McGraw, director of the Health Privacy Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology.

"Any professional faces the same dilemma," McGraw said. "You want to share information with your friends, and yet, given the reach of Facebook, what are you comfortable sharing in a personal space that could be cast in a different light in a professional context?"

The concern, then, is not the disclosure of medical information or a breach of trust on the part of the doctor but rather the potential connection on facebook complicating or jeopardizing the relationships between patients and their caregivers.

The American Medical Association has instituted a social media policy for its members as a response. Basically, the report says to keep in mind the fact that Facebook is by no means a private means to publish things and think before posting.

While telling doctors to use common sense before sharing information on the website is certainly helpful, the same message applies to all members of the popular social network.

Bachmann Prays for Anti-Gay Christian Punk Group

Michelle Bachmann made the news again in early December for her activity with the group You Can Run But You Can't Hide.

From their own website, You Can Run's mission statement is to re-affirm traditional judeo-christian beliefs with today's youth. "Mission Statement: Re-shaping America by re-directing our future generations to our Judeo-Christian/Constitutional foundation morally and spiritually through education and music," it reads.

In late November Bachmann met with members of the group and said a prayer to bless their activities, saying they were absolutely on track with God's wishes, Right Wing Watch reports. The group speaks at high school assemblies and forwards their agenda through music and entertainment.

You Can Run has previously come under fire for the staunchly anti-gay views it promotes. On air during their radio show, Bradlee Dean, the groups's spokesman, said that Muslims calling for the extermination of gays are potentially more moral than American Christians.

"Muslims are calling for the executions of homosexuals in America," Dean said. "This just shows you they themselves are upholding the laws that are even in the Bible of the Judeo-Christian God, but they seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do, because these people are livid about enforcing their laws. They know homosexuality is an abomination."

He then continued by debunking any sense of credibility that the show may have had left when he began citing absolutely erroneous statistics simply for the advancement of his position.

"The bottom line is this...they [homosexuals] play the victim when they are, in fact, the predator," Dean said. "On average, they molest 117 people before they're found out. How many kids have been destroyed, how many adults have been destroyed because of crimes against nature?

Mark Knief, president of Minnesota's Log Cabin Republicans, was outraged at the comment, calling into question why Bachmann would choose to associate with them given the state of her reputation. This should be a grave concern with any candidate that is supporting them."

The Wikileaks Saga Continues

Further developments in the ongoing tale of Wikileaks cable leaks and Assange's subsequent imprisonment are occurring around the world with comments and criticisms on the incident coming from all over.

Julian Assange has been released on bail after being imprisoned for nine days in a London Jail, CNN reports. Under heavy police scrutiny with an electronic location tag and a mandatory daily check-in, Assange has relocated to a mansion outside London owned by a supporter.

Assange told reporters upon arriving at the mansion that his first priority is to get back to work in the ongoing Wikileaks cable release program, stating that his legal team is working on the charges against him. ""Obviously, clearing my name is also important, and I will continue to do that, my legal team will continue to do that," he said. "We will press the Swedish government to provide us with evidence of the allegations, something that has been denied to date. I have yet to receive a single page of anything ever from this investigation."

In America, members of the House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee revealed an intent to treat Wikileaks as a non-news organization, Wired reports. By making this distinction they open the door for prosecution of Wikileaks (and Assange) under 1917's Espionage Acts without appearing to crack down on media outlets.

The arguments for the differentiation focus on the means of acquiring the data they release and the lack of a filter for the information released. Instead of investigative reporting or acquiring the documents personally, Wikileaks utilizes international dropboxes to gain access to classified content. Beyond that, a news outlet reports classified material if it pertains to a particular story and is deemed better released for the public good, whereas Wikileaks publishes a broad variety of sources on all matter of subjects.

Bachmann Accuses Black Farmers of Fraud

Rep. Michelle Bachmann along with Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) alleged in late September that the National Black Farmer's Association's own data proves fraud on a national scale in a settlement known as Pigford II.

The settlement is designed to distribute money to black individuals who were unfairly denied federal funding and assistance during the 80's and 90's due to racial discrimination, City Pages reports.

Bachmann has said that the discrimination claim process was subject to "massive and widespread fraud and abuse," Free Republic reports. King said that he believes the Obama administration to be willfully ignoring the abuse in the same publication.

Their reasoning, City Pages reports, is based off of data provided by the National Black Farmer's Association stating that 18,000 black farmers exist in the United States. In the Pigford II case over 94,000 claims have been filed so far; that disparity is the cause for such ire.

Collin Peterson, a Minnesota Congressman who took part in crafting the settlement, called Bachmann and King's allegations "simply nonsense", City Pages reports. "The reason they're not in farming is because they couldn't get financing. That's part of their argument," Peterson said.

The whole controversy is made significantly more interesting considering the fact that Bachmann's own family has willfully accepted farmer's assistance from the government.

Her opinion is not held party-wide, though. The measure passed 256-152 in the house in late November. As Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) said, "We are correcting historic wrongs that should never have occurred in the first place."

Sexual Assault Reports Rise in Military

In April of this year the Department of Defense reported an 11 percent increase in sexual assaults involving a service member, but military insiders say the jump is due to increased reporting, not more assaults.

The report said that there were 3,230 reports filed during the fiscal year that ended last September, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Pentagon, along with local military mental health resources, say that this is a result of a radical policy change in 2004 that altered how the military handled sexual harrasment or assault cases.

Before that date, the Star Tribune says that any and all counts of sexual harassment were immediately sent forth to a civilian law enforcement. Aside from the obvious fears attached to reporting a sexual assault, this only made the action of reporting feel like a deeper betrayal to the unit than the assault in the first place, Lt. Col. Cynthia Rasmussen told the Star Tribune.

Military culture is changing, Helen Benedict, a professor of journalism at Colombia, told the Tribune, and that's good for women who want to serve their country. Long regarded as spoils of victory or prey in the man-focused sphere of combat, women are proving themselves everyday to be just as capable as their male counterparts.

"It's a sign of hope, really, in that once all those people have aged out and younger peers who are more used to seeing women as equal are in charge," she said. "There will be a generational change."

Police Brutality Suit Leads To Policy Changes

Though the sensationalized case of Derryl Jenkins is now almost two years old, the Minneapolis Chief of Police Tim Dolan just released an internal memo Dec. 1 addressing the situation. Blaming improper training in group handcuffing situations for the unnecessary violence of the arrest, Dolan said that the department has since changed its policies and training, City Pages reports.

The video of the incident from a police car's dashboard camera is available on Youtube. On Feb. 19, 2009, Derryl Jenkins was pulled over for allegedly speeding on North Penn Avenue. After Jenkins exited his vehicle, the officer felt that he should be handcuffed, at which point the two began physically fighting. As the scuffle continued, more squad cars arrive and the officers join in. After it appears Jenkins is subdued, it appears that the police continued to hit him, both punching and kicking. As a result of the incident, Jenkins needed seven stitches, City Pages reports.

The Star Tribune reports that immediately after the incident Dolan submitted the video to the Department's internal Affairs and Training Units in addition to calling on the FBI for an external review of the case. Though the FBI's ruling has not been released yet, the Department seems to consider the case effectively closed.

In the memo, Dolan writes that none of the involved officers have been disciplined, but the policies in question have been changed. "I thought we were using excessive force in some group arrests and you thought I was being unfairly critical. We were both right. The reality is that those involved officers were doing what they were taught. None of them were disciplined, but we changed our policies and our training," Dolan wrote.

Mylan Masson, a Minneapolis police officer, told the Star Tribune that kicking is not advised by the department, though he explained the legitimacy of the officer's actions. "There is kicking that can be used for passive aggression," Masson said. An officer would kick a suspect who is not actively resisting to make sure they aren't reaching for a gun, for instance.

Still, the change is welcome as the brutality present in the later sections of the video cannot be denied.

Wikileaks Sympathizers Strike Back

After Julian Assange was taken into custody in London on Tuesday, hundreds of anonymous activists banded together under the banner "Anonymous" to attack the websites of various corporations involved in the controversy.

With an unprecedented level of coordination, users of IRC chat rooms developed a program that allowed them to take control of others' computers once they opt in to participating in the attacks, equatable to a sort of voluntary virus. Incredibly simple and convenient, once the file is on a user's computer, the leaders of the attack have full access to utilize the machine in a coordinated distributed denial-of-service assault, CNN reports.

"Operation Payback", as participants call it, targets primarily the financial institutions (Visa, Mastercard, and Paypal) that stopped payments to Wikileaks' accounts after a governmental request and because it took down the Wikileaks website when it was hosted on Amazon's servers, citing a terms of service violation, the Star Tribune reports.

CNN reports in a different article that the attacks have been largely unsuccessful. Mastercard's was the only website of those targeted to actually go down for any determinate amount of time, and it appears from the lack of user complaints that the others continued to operate smoothly.

Even so, Anonymous is not resting on their laurels. Wired News reports that since last night a website version of Anonymous's application has gone up, allowing anyone with the most basic knowledge of how to operate a computer to collaborate in the assault.

Important to note is that the website does not incorporate any means of IP address masking, which means that anything a particular machine does through it is entirely traceable. This is of particular concern since three people have been arrested in connection with the attacks and two convicted, Wired reports.

The Gawker Controversy

Brett Favre can't seem to catch a break. Whether people are complaining about his play and saying he should be benched or whining that his injuries are keeping him off the field too much, he can't seem to do anything right - and that's just on the field. The ongoing saga of his alleged lewd behavior with a Jets sideline reporter Jenn Sterger is certainly notable for potential repercussions within the league, but much more so for the interesting question of ethics in journalism it raised.

Deadspin (a subsidiary of the Gawker group) was the news outlet to break the big story in the first place, coming forth with descriptions of the pictures and messages between Sterger and Favre. City Pages reports that in an interview, Gawker founder Nick Denton stated that they paid 12,000 dollars for the records of the texts and pictures in question. This raised ethics concerns on its own but was overshadowed by Gawker's "next big scoop."

Gawker then tried to create controversy and scandal when they published a story about former Republican Senate hopeful Christine O'Donnell sharing a bed (not copulating) with a younger man.

Gawker is not necessarily perceived by the public to be entirely reputable. Their stories have been called "skeezy and scuzzy" by The New York Times David Carr and other equivalent criticisms from a number of sources. What they didn't expect was Gawker returning criticism for their alleged ethical breaches by burning their anonymous source in the matter.

From a Gawker post in response: "A good deal of the reaction to the piece was governed by revulsion at the voice of Anonymous, who certainly comes off as a dick. So yes, we will grant you that the 25-year-old guy Christine O'Donnell drunkenly pursued, and bedded, on Halloween night three years ago is not a gentleman. We wish she had better taste in guys. But our publication of his account wasn't intended as a celebration of his character."

The other stories aside, this seems the bigger picture here. Any news organization has a basic responsibility to uphold the integrity of the craft, regardless of how trivial of stories they choose to publish. Burning the source shows Gawker's true colors more clearly than their story choice ever could.

Michelle Bachmann Ranked In Most Embarrassing Re-Elects of '10

Michelle Bachmann, voice of Minnesota's sixth district in the House of Representatives, was ranked the number one most embarrassing re-elected member of Congress in 2010 by a citizen's watchdog group, City Pages reports.

The group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, is a non-profit based out of Washington D.C. dedicated to "promoting ethics and accountability in government and public life by targeting government officials -- regardless of party affiliation -- who sacrifice the common good to special interests," their website says. This is the fifth year they have compiled the list.

City Pages reports that her inclusion in the list seems rather self-evident. "She pumps out gaffes and pants-on-fire moments with such gay abandon that it's mostly a matter of picking the best of the best," it said, going on to state that the entry for her in the report didn't even touch on several of her more publicized faux pas, saying that "Perhaps space was a consideration."

In the entry, CREW focused on the illegal rally Bachmann planned and her bout of McCarthyism when she accused several members of Congress of harboring "anti-American" sentiments, going so far as to accuse Barack Obama of having ties with terrorists.

The rally was held to oppose healthcare reform in 2009. Not only did Bachmann use her official government website to organize the demonstration on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, she then neglected to secure the proper permits for the rally. This was in direct violation of House rules, which prohibit "grassroots lobbying" and soliciting a particular member's position on Representatives websites.

The other claim relating to McCarthyist politics referenced a 2008 appearance on Hardball with Chris Matthews. During her time on the show she called for a deep examination to root out members of congress with anti-American leanings, calling Obama out in particular.

She did partially apologize for her remarks several days later, saying that she should not have gone so far as to use the phrase 'anti-American', but she has since allowed her true colors to show. In March of 2010 she referenced the comments she had made on the show at a fundraising rally. ""I said I had very serious concerns that Barack Obama had anti-American views," Rep. Bachmann said. "And now I look like Nostradamus."

Heisman Favorite Absolved, Father Accepts Guilt

Auburn University's quarterback Cam Newton was declared eligible to play after a suspension lasting less than 24 hours was lifted on Dec. 1. Newton was suspended on suspicion an ethics violation in the form of soliciting a pay-for-play arrangement with Mississippi State University.

USA Today reported that the NCAA cleared Newton for play after an investigation was made into the matter. The NCAA discovered that Cecil Newton, Cam's father, and the agent representing them, Kenny Rogers, had committed the violation without Cam's involvement when they asked Mississippi State for more than 100,000 dollars in exchange for a signed letter of intent.

ESPN reported that the controversy surrounding the situation, especially his alleged involvement in it, troubled Cam deeply. "Everything I've done at this university, I did it the right way," he said in an interview. "I'm a person that did no wrong."

In response to Cam's reinstatement, his father released a statement through the family's attorney stating that he would not be attending the Heisman ceremony on Sunday night. He said that his son has worked hard to get where he is and that he does not want his presence to detract from the moment in any way. "SO THAT MY SON CAM NEWTON CAN RECEIVE ALL THE HONORS AND CONGRAGULATIONS THAT HE HAS WORKED SO HARD TO ACCOMPLISH WIHTOUT DISTRACTION, I HAVE DECIDED NOT TO BE IN ATTENDANCE AT THE HEISMAN CEREMONY; AS IT WILL PERHAPS ROB CAM AND THE EVENT OF A SACRED MOMENT," the statement reads.

The Newton family lawyer stated that the Roberts family was happy their son was allowed to play, but saddened that the charges were not dropped altogether. "He's hurt badly by this," the lawyer said. "It's like sticking a knife in the guy." The NCAA has not completely closed the case on Newton yet. The official release stated that his reinstatement occurred "prior to the close of an investigation."