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On the Agenda: January 17-20, 2012

A graphic that reads "On the Agenda."
This week: 84 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job.
A graphic that reads "On the Agenda."
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January 17, 2012

It would be hard to find anything 84 percent of Americans could agree on. But a new poll released today, the first day of a new legislative session, finds 84 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job. Who says Congress is divisive?

Speaking of disapproval: the big news this week is the planned online blackout tomorrow to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). Major players in online news, including Reddit, Raw Story, BoingBoing and Wikipedia will be down for most of the day to demonstrate how such sites could be shut down if these bills pass.

Also, this week we’ll announce the details of our settlement with South Carolina’s Chesterfield County School District. Last December, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of a district student and his father, both atheists, challenging the district’s pervasive practice of school-sponsored prayer, preaching and religious activities, as illustrated in this video.

Tuesday, January 17

Detention: The military commission hearing in the case of Abd al-Rahim Hussayn Muhammad al-Nashiri beginning today will once again put on the world stage two of the worst U.S. ideas: Guantánamo and the death penalty. At issue in the pre-trial hearing is an indigent defendant’s right to receive funding for the necessary investigation and experts needed to defend against capital charges and the death sentence, and to ask for that funding outside the interested ears of the prosecution.

Wednesday, January 18

Online Piracy: It sounded like a good idea at first: SOPA was introduced in the House as an effort to reduce online copyright infringement by taking down sites that allow Internet users to acquire pirated versions of original artistic content online. But the proposed legislation’s vague definition of what constitutes copyright infringement could lead to the restriction of completely lawful non-infringing content, which is why the ACLU opposes SOPA. (PIPA, introduced in the Senate, is similar legislation.)

See the statement we submitted to the House Judiciary Committee on SOPA, and read our blog posts following the developments. And join us in urging Congress to oppose SOPA and craft a bill that more narrowly targets pirated material online.

Thursday, January 19

The American Constitution Society and the ACLU will host a panel discussion about the role the U.S. Sentencing Commission plays in sentencing guidelines after the 2010 passage of the Fair Sentencing Act.

Friday, January 20

ACLU Legislative Counsel Michelle Richardson will speak at American University’s Washington College of Law conference entitled “Transparency and the Obama Administration: A Third Year Assessment” about unnecessarily unclassified information.

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