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News Briefs 2

Vote Approaches on Internet Pornography Legislation

Newsday

As members of a House-Senate conference committee prepared for a final vote this week on overhauling the nation's telecommunications laws, free speech activists began a large last-ditch lobbying effort to kill an amendment aimed at limiting pornography on the Internet.

The protest comes as the conference committee takes up a measure that imposes fines and prison terms for publishing "indecent" material on the Internet. Free speech activists say the amendment violates the First Amendment.

Leaders of the conference committee have said they want to have telecommunications reform completed quickly. But opponents of the Interent-pornography provision declared a "day of protest" Tuesday, asking Internet users to write, fax or e-mail their members of Congress.

The debate began earlier this year after Sen. James Exon, D-Neb., attached an amendment to the Senate telecom bill restricting indecent material on the Internet.

Less drastic measures have since emerged. But last week, legislators reversed course and endorsed a measure similar to the Exon amendment.

Many opponents of the measure are looking to House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., who has expressed reservations about the constitutionality of speech-restricting legislation.

"He's long shown a deeper knowledge of potential for the medium than a lot of people have," said Mike Godwin, counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group advocating free speech in cyberspace. "And I think there's a real possibility he'll turn out to be one of the heroes."

It is unclear what effect the cyberspace debate will have on the larger telecommunications reform package, which would allow local and long-distance telephone companies into each others' markets and deregulate cable TV rates.

Federal Retirement Funds Grow

The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

Federal workers with money in their in-house 401(k) plans' stock fund have had a very, very good year. For the 12-month period ending in November they've earned a remarkable 36.83 percent, pushing many of their accounts well above the $100,000 mark.Their bond fund investments earned 17.48 percent. Those in the treasury fund, where most who can't stand the ups and downs of the market park their funds, earned 7.22 percent.

The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is an option open to all employees. Those in the old Civil Service Retirement System can invest up to five percent of salary via payroll deduction.

Workers under the newer Federal Employees Retirement System can invest up to 10 percent. Those who put in at least five percent get a total five percent match from their agency. FERS employees who invest nothing still get a one percent match from Uncle Sam.

Many nervous workers bailed out of the C-fund (stocks) late last year when the market dipped. But those whose stayed and continued to buy prospered.