Tunisia. Egypt. Jordan. Bahrain. Yemen. Algeria. Syria. Libya. Iran. As the winds of popular protest blow across North Africa and the Middle East, authoritarian autocratic regimes around the region are anxious. They face increasing risk of removal due to political revolutions. New media plays an important role in the revolutions occurring across the region as activists use various forms of it to register their opposition, organize protests, and expose state abuses. Images of the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, the young Tunisian man who set himself alight in protest before a local government office, circulated in cyberspace before being broadcast by Middle East media corporation al-Jazeera. Observers credit his act, witnessed around the world, with sparking the Jasmine Revolution and leading to the removal of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali after twenty-three years in power. In Egypt, a Facebook page administered by a Google marketing executive helped mobilize a march of thousands to Tahrir Square in Cairo. Despite the government’s belated attempt to stop the protests by shutting off the Internet and using violence against protesters and journalists, Egyptian activists remained in the Square until President Hosni Mubarak resigned after thirty years in power. Syrian activists used Facebook to orchestrate opposition protests against the government of President Bashar al-Assad at the parliament in Damascus and at Syrian embassies around the world.11 And most recently, in Libya, activists and amateur citizen journalists opposed to the rule of Col. Muammar el Quadafi used Twitter to expose Quadafi’s violent acts of repression and the consequences of deepening conflict with the old regime. The spread of such uprisings—dubbed “Revolution 2.0” to highlight the importance of new media both in coordinating protesters and in developing social networks and strategies in advance of the uprisings—demonstrates that new media can play a crucial role in empowering pro-democracy protesters to start and sustain their movements.
Since 2005, the Reverend Fred Phelps and other members of the Westboro Baptist Church have outraged almost everyone by protesting near military funerals. In Snyder v. Phelps the Supreme Court will finally decide whether that outrage is actionable. Few people will lose sleep if the Court finds that the First Amendment allows Albert Snyder to sue the Phelpses for intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy for protesting near his son's funeral. After all, their messages, including statements such as "Semper Fi Fags," "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," "America is Doomed," "God Hates the USA," "God Hates You," and "Pope in Hell" were objectionable and mean-spirited. Snyder must have viewed their speech as "an affront of the most egregious kind."
The recently passed health care bill contains many provisions that deserve celebration. Improving access to care is an important first step. Enhancing patient safety and accountability is an important second step, one that proponents of medical malpractice reform often undermine with attempts to restrict the liability of health care providers through “litigation alternatives.” During the health care debate, these advocates frequently raised liability issues (couched in politicized rhetoric), despite studies that show civil litigation is protecting patient safety in the health care system now and will continue to play a significant role in the future.
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