Justice watch: Keeping an eye on the law.

Sign Up Kids Not to Get E-mail

LANSING, MICH . - Parents can now sign up for what Michigan officials say is the nation's first registry aimed at keeping spammers from sending children inappropriate e-mail.

The new law, which came into effect July 1, bans sending messages to children related to such things as pornography, illegal or prescription drugs, alcohol, tobacco, gambling, firearms, or fireworks.

Signing up for the registry is free, and parents soon will be able to add their children's instant message IDs and cellphone, fax, and pager numbers.

E-mail senders must comply with the new law by Aug. 1. Violators face up to three years in jail or fines up to $30,000 if convicted and could face civil penalties of up to $5,000 per message sent.

Some Internet safety experts have said antispam laws have been difficult to enforce, and others worry the lists will give hackers a way to get access to a large database of children.

Public Service Commission Chairman Peter Lark said safeguards, including encryption of e-mail addresses and other information, will keep the Michigan registry secure.

Utah is getting ready to set up a similar registry for children.

Illinois bans investments in Sudan

SPRINGFIELD, ILL. - A new state law requires Illinois to divest about $1 billion worth of pension investments in companies that do business in Sudan and to sever all financial ties to the violence-ridden country.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed the bill into law June 25, saying it makes Illinois the nation's first state to divest all financial interests in Sudan. The Sudanese government has been accused of war crimes and genocide during a civil war against rebel groups. "The people of Illinois will not condone human rights abuses and genocide. We will take our money elsewhere," the governor said.

Similar legislation is pending in other states, and Harvard University also recently announced plans to stop Sudanese investments.

Sen. Jacqueline Collins, who pushed the bill through the Illinois Senate with unanimous support, said she modeled her proposal on laws passed in the 1980s that put pressure on South Africa to end apartheid.

The law, which takes effect in January 2006, prohibits the state from investing in Sudanese government bonds or in companies doing business with or in Sudan. It will require Illinois, within 18 months, to remove from two of its five pension systems about $1 billion worth of pension investments in 32 companies that work in Sudan.

N.H. Newspapers Pull Housing Ads

CONCORD, N.H. - Six newspapers in New Hampshire have agreed to stop running real estate ads that suggest children aren't welcome at the properties following complaints.

Several dozens landlords and real estate agents also agreed to stop placing ads targeting adult tenants and to submit future ads to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development for review. Federal law prohibits landlords from discriminating against children.

The ads included promotions like "one mature person," "quiet adult location," and "great for a single person." They are discriminatory because they make it harder for families to rent the locations, says Christine Lavallee of New Hampshire Legal Assistance.

The landlords who were cited have agreed to pay up to $100 to a homeless shelter, and the newspapers are required to attend a training session for classified advertising managers.

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