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CULTURE DIGEST: FCC recommends crackdown on television violence; …

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The Federal Communications Commission recommended to Congress April 25 that action be taken to address violent programming on television, which research indicates can increase aggressive behavior in children.

In the release of a long-awaited report, the FCC responded to a request from a House committee to consider whether television violence should be regulated similar to the ways the government regulates sexual content and profanity.

The commission reviewed numerous studies conducted by the medical and social science communities and found that research on whether watching violent programming actually causes aggressive behavior in children is inconclusive.

“However, major studies, including those by the surgeon general and the Federal Trade Commission, have found that exposure to violent content on TV is associated with an increase in aggressive or violent behavior in children,” Chairman Kevin Martin said, adding that some of the effects of exposure to violence are emotional desensitization toward violence in real life and having a higher tendency for violent behavior later in life.

“In other words, the evidence does not prove causation, but it does demonstrate a strong correlation,” Martin said. “These findings make clear, and the commission today affirms, that exposure to violent programming can be harmful to children.”

Critics of the FCC report said a crackdown on violence would prohibit the First Amendment right of free speech.

“The job of policing TV for children is one for parents, not the government,” Caroline Fredrickson of the ACLU said. “The government isn’t capable of making distinctions about what’s violent or gratuitous.”

But the FCC found that parental controls such as the V-chip and the TV ratings system have “limited effectiveness” in protecting children from violent content, and the commission suggested an “a la carte” system in which viewers could purchase cable channels individually or in smaller bundles to avoid the channels that are most harmful to children.

The Parents Television Council applauded the FCC report and noted the increase in gratuitous violence on television in recent history. PTC studies found that violence on prime time broadcast television has increased 75 percent since 1998 and the television season that began in the fall of 2005 was one of the most violent ever recorded.

“The First Amendment does not prevent government from enacting reasonable legislation to protect children from entertainment that is harmful to them,” Robert Peters, president of Morality in Media, said. “… Wise consumer choice depends on wise parents, which not every child is fortunate to have.”

CANCER POINTS TONY SNOW TO GOD — White House Press Secretary Tony Snow returned to work April 30, one month after learning his bout with cancer had returned to his liver.

Now that he has recovered from surgery to remove a cancerous growth, Snow will begin chemotherapy and try to balance work at the White House with the treatments.

Snow’s ability to deal with the uncertainties of cancer stems from his deep faith in God, as he told a group of journalists in Washington earlier this year.

“In many ways, having cancer was the very best thing that ever happened to me, other than marrying my wife,” Snow said in January when he was in remission from colon cancer.

The prospect of death made him realize the importance of faith and attitude, Snow said, because he had to make a choice about whether he wanted to live and how he would live. After his first cancer surgery, Snow said he had to stay in bed and began reading the Bible more and learning to pray, syndicated columnist Cal Thomas reported in March.

Snow also learned how to surrender his will to God during those difficult days when he feared leaving his wife and three young children without a husband and father.

“It’s not just saying, ‘God, it’s in your hands,’ but understanding whatever may come afterward is a matter of not trying to get God to do stuff for you, except maybe to mow down some of the barriers that separate you from God, because for all of us, our vanities get in the way,” Snow said at the media dinner.

One of the verses that has meant the most to Snow during his ordeal has been Psalm 91:2-3, which says, “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.’ Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.”

WICCAN SYMBOL ADDED TO VETERANS’ HEADSTONES — After a lawsuit and a decade of petitioning the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Wiccan community has won the right to have their pentacle added to the list of 38 religious symbols available for engraving on veterans’ headstones.

“The government acted to settle in the interest of the families concerned,” Matt Burns, a Veterans Affairs spokesman, told The New York Times, “and to spare taxpayers the expense of further litigation.”

Wicca is a pagan belief system rooted in the reverence of nature, and most Americans do not consider Wicca a religion, The Times said.

Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, which represented the plaintiffs in the case, said religious discrimination caused the delay.

“The Wiccan families we represented were in no way asking for special treatment,” Lynn said. “They wanted precisely the same treatment that dozens of other religions already had received from the department, an acknowledgement that their spiritual beliefs were on par with those of everyone else.”

In 1999, when President Bush was governor of Texas, he responded to a question about Wiccan soldiers being allowed to worship at Fort Hood, The Times noted.

“I don’t think witchcraft is a religion,” Bush said. “I would hope the military officials would take a second look at the decision they made.”

A Pentagon survey said there are 1,800 Wiccans in the U.S. armed forces and their belief system is mentioned in official handbooks for military chaplains and noted on their dog tags, The Times said.

‘ASSASSIN’ GAME DISCOURAGED — College students who have enjoyed a popular game called “Assassin” are being warned by police to guard their behavior in light of the Virginia Tech shootings.

People who play Assassin have the goal of “killing” or eliminating other players while avoiding attacks on themselves, USA Today reported April 25. Players typically are assigned a target and use fake weapons to eliminate that target during certain times of day or night, usually outside classrooms or after school, the newspaper said. A game can last for days or weeks, and whoever has the most kills wins.

But police are urging students to re-evaluate the way they play now that people are in a heightened state of alert for suspicious activity involving guns.

“The kids say it’s a harmless game. Well, part of it is a harmless game, but what they don’t take into consideration is when a neighbor sees someone hiding in bushes, they call in,” Mark Gleason, police chief in Leland Grove, Ill., told USA Today.

Also, police who respond to a call about suspicious activity could mistake a water gun for a real gun, Gleason said, noting that, “You could have a tragedy right there.”

Assassin players could be cited for disorderly conduct by raising alarm and provoking a breach of peace, USA Today said.

“A lot of people are trying to move away from using fake weapons,” Ryan Mulligan, a student at the University of Illinois who runs a website called campusassassins.com, said.

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  • Erin Roach