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Senate approves child protection, 'virtual' gambling measures


The U.S. Senate this week took steps to block online gambling Web sites, and to protect minors from pornography on the Internet.

GAMBLING. Online gambling has been growing by leaps and bounds -- doubling in the past two years -- allowing visitors to gamble and place bets with only a credit card for cash.

Citing the growing number of children with access to the Internet, legislators said gambling could be a vice in easy reach of millions of kids.

A bill, backed by state attorneys general and backers of regulated gambling, would update the ban on using a telephone for gambling purposes by expanding it to include the Internet and other forms of communications.

Online gambling is considered illegal anyway, so most virtual casinos operate outside the U.S.

And while U.S. laws won't affect the offshore gambling sites, the law could give law enforcement officials something to work with.

"Attorneys general have no way to stop it under existing laws. This bill makes it illegal, and can be enforced by asking Internet service providers to pull the plug on it," said Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl.

A similar measure was introduced in the House of Representatives, but wasn't considered on the floor, according to a story by Reuters.

CDA II. The Senate also passed two measures aimed at determining what minor children can and can't see while using the Internet.

The Senate OK'd legislation to ban sexually explicit materials deemed "harmful to minors" on the Internet.

The bill -- dubbed The Communications Decency Act II -- is aimed at banning commercial sites from displaying material judged "harmful to minors."

An amendment also would require schools and libraries that receive federal subsidies for Internet access to use filtering software to screen out content inappropriate for minors.

Both pieces of legislation were added to a multi-million-dollar appropriations bill, which was approved.

How the CDA II fares remains to be seen, however.

Critics say that the bill -- like the original CDA struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court -- is vague in its terminology at present.

And installing filtering software isn't a solution, critics say, because it invariably some "useful" sites are also blocked out along with the objectionable ones.

Neither measure has been debated, and its likely both will be more closely examined in the future.

BUSINESS VIEWPOINT. While online businesses appear to be growing exponentially with each passing week, one of the nation's top media executives doesn't believe in investing in the future of the Internet.

Barry Diller, CEO of USA Networks, said at a conference last week that his own company won't venture into the Internet because "it's a bad business."

Diller was addressing the Spotlight 98 conference, where most speakers promoted the Internet as a top investment arena.

Diller, owner of the Home Shopping Network and its online counterpart, the Internet Shopping Network, says despite the urgings of others, he won't go public with the ISN -- even though other online businesses like Amazon.doc are doing well with investors.

"I think it's a bad business, a bad game," Diller said in a Reuters interview.

And as for other online businesses, he predicted that ad-supported Web sites will never survive. "If you're gonna do that, you better be a merchant or you're toast."

IMAC GOODIES. Computer retailer CompUSA announced this week it will offer rebates totalling $800 in accessories for advance buyers of Apple Computer's new Macintosh, the iMac.

The rebate period begins today and runs through Aug. 14, the day before the iMac's official debut.

CompUSA customers who reserve an iMac will receive a coupon book offering instant and mail-in rebates for a wide range of products.

The G3-powered iMac features a retail price of $1,299.

MAC UPGRADES. If you own an older Macintosh, a new line of Mac accelerators is on the market that might interest you.

Vimage introduced last week its line of CPU upgrade cards covering more than a dozen models of Power Mac, Mac clones and PowerBooks.

For details, visit their Web site at www.vimagestore.com.

If you own a pre-Power PC Macintosh and want to add some computing power, you can try a visit to the Mac Speed Zone at www.macspeedzone.com for more information.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

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