Beware what you read on the Internet, warn many online experts. Undoubtedly, the Internet has been a huge boon for information-seekers. Videos, personal Web pages, blogs and postings by interest groups of all kinds – from government agencies to hobbyists and hate groups – now supplement newspapers and other traditional media as information sources available to anyone with access to a computer. But analysts caution that most traditional methods for locating information and determining its credibility are radically changed online. Instead of depending on a reference librarian’s expertise, readers must rely on search engines like Google, which tally how many people have accessed online documents and sources in the past. That process is open to manipulation by people who conspire to move biased pages to the top of the sources list. At the same time, anyone can publish an article or book online with no second pair of eyes checking it for accuracy, as in traditional book publishing and journalism. As a result, readers today must gauge the credibility of millions of individuals and groups posting online, a task calling for critical-reading skills that are not being taught in most schools.
By Marcia Clemmitt
When the Democrats and Republicans hold their quadrennial national conventions later this summer, their primary goal is to produce a scripted television show that will boost their candidates’ prospects in the general election. The last thing they want is intra-party squabbling. According to that scenario, convention delegates will have nothing to do but cheer Barack Obama and John McCain, whose nominations were virtually assured before the conventions began, along with the party platforms. Politicians, political scientists and critics in the media are questioning whether the conventions have outlived their usefulness. If the important decisions are made before the conventions begin, they ask, why bother to hold them? It would be more democratic to select presidential nominees in direct primaries, which is how almost all other nominations are made, they say. Convention supporters argue that the gatherings are needed in case a nomination isn’t settled beforehand. The conventions are the parties’ final authorities, and they make decisions about party rules that can affect which candidates get nominated. The convention is also the one time every four years during which the party becomes a truly national organization, with delegates and other activists from around the country mingling face-to-face.
By Tom Price
Socially Responsible Investing
Rising concern about health and the environment has led to the rapid growth of socially responsible investing (SRI) in recent years. In fact, SRI is no longer just about avoiding “sin” stocks like tobacco, gambling and liquor – or companies that profit from war. Today’s socially responsible investors want to find companies that have clear strategies for meeting environmental and social goals as well as favorable corporate-governance policies. Today, some 260 mutual funds – up from 55 in 1995 – have $202 billion invested in socially responsible companies. But can an investor make money in a socially responsible investment? Experts are divided on that question, but one thing is certain: Demand for investment vehicles that align money and ethics is growing in popularity and becoming more and more mainstream in investment circles.
By Thomas J. Billitteri