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ProfNet Experts Available on Same-Sex Marriage, First Amendment Rights, More

Also in This Edition: Jobs for Writers and Media Industry Blog Posts

NEW YORK, April 23, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Below are experts from the ProfNet network that are available to discuss timely issues in your coverage area. If you are interested in interviewing any of the experts, please contact them via the contact information at the end of the listing. To receive these updates by email, send a note to [email protected] with the industries you cover, and we'll add you to the appropriate edition. 

If you are in need of additional experts, you can also submit a query to the hundreds of thousands of experts in our network. You can filter your request by institution type and geographic location to get the most targeted responses. The best part? It's free! Just fill out the query form to get started.

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  • Gay Marriage Supporters Have Reason to Hope
  • Identifying Anonymous Online Commenters
  • Checking on Background Checks
  • FAA Needs Better Solution to Drone Issue
  • Oil by Rail Raises Liability, Safety Issues
  • Seeking DOJ Advice Can Avoid Prosecution
  • New Google Privacy Policies Raise Troubling Questions
  • Celebrity Divorces
  • Commencement Details: Western Connecticut State University


  • Sports Reporter - The Wall Street Journal (NY)
  • Senior Writer - The Fiscal Times (DC)
  • General Assignment Reporter - Killeen Daily Herald (TX)


  • Media 411: Copy Editors: Human vs. Automated
  • Blog Profiles: Food Blogs
  • Disclosure 101: NIRI's President and CEO Shares His Insight


Gay Marriage Supporters Have Reason to Hope
Amber Liddell Alwais
Divorce Attorney
McCurley Orsinger McCurley Nelson & Downing L.L.P. in San Antonio, Texas
"The steady spate of rulings by federal judges around the country recognizing the validity of same-sex marriages is a light at the end of the tunnel for same-sex couples. The latest ruling came on April 14 when an Ohio federal judge ordered the state to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages. I still advise gay and lesbian couples to proceed with caution, because issues like spousal benefits, adoption and even divorce are still being hashed out, but it certainly appears as if the federal courts are taking the lead on gay marriage. They're saying that same-sex marriage is entitled to the same protections as other relationships, or at least those judges are dismantling discriminatory practices against same-sex couples. So if you're in favor of gay marriage, the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter."
Media Contact: Amy Hunt, [email protected]

Identifying Anonymous Online Commenters
Rich Phillips
Thompson & Knight in Dallas
"Anonymous comments are a continuing source of controversy for websites and news organizations. Now a federal appellate court has ordered The Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans to produce information about two individuals who anonymously posted negative comments about a former city official on the newspaper's website. There is evidence that the commenters may actually be law enforcement officials, as one former prosecutor already has admitted to posting anonymous comments on news stories about the official and other targets of federal investigations. This case shows how courts are struggling with the scope of First Amendment rights in the digital age. The 5th Circuit's opinion notes that there is little guidance in the case law about how to balance constitutional protections and criminal defendants' rights to information. If the court ultimately issues a more lengthy opinion in the appeal, it could be the first guidance of its kind."
Media Contact: Barry Pound, [email protected]

Checking on Background Checks
Micah Prude
Thompson & Knight in Dallas
"The number of lawsuits involving the use of background checks of current and potential employees continues to rise, in part because of increased scrutiny and enforcement by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Federal Trade Commission. Both agencies are actively looking to go after employers they believe obtain or use background reports in violation of the law. Employers need to understand their litigation exposure and follow the law when it comes to background checks. If you use background checks, consider using them for all employees and applicants, make certain that your selection criteria don't negatively affect certain protected groups more than others, and be sure to give advance written notices and receive signed consents."
Media Contact: Barry Pound, [email protected]

FAA Needs Better Solution to Drone Issue
David Norton
Aviation Attorney
Shackelford, Melton, McKinley & Norton, LLP in Dallas
"As a pilot, I understand the need to make sure drone aircraft don't present a safety hazard to airplanes. But the deliberate nature of the Federal Aviation Administration's rulemaking process may not work well with the rapid advances in drone technology. Rules governing the use of drones have become an issue since the FAA told a Texas group that uses drones to help find missing people to stop using the small aircraft until the government agency establishes rules for where and how they can fly. It's another case where technology is developing faster than regulation. Companies such as this are doing good work. The FAA needs to find some sort of interim step that allows them to keep flying, while maintaining safety for everyone, as the rules are being written."
Media Contact: Mark Annick, [email protected]

Oil by Rail Raises Liability, Safety Issues
Daniel Johnson
Energy Litigator
Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP in Houston
"The U.S. shale boom has produced more oil than existing pipelines can carry, so trains are rushing to carry crude to refineries, which brings its own set of challenges. Safety shortcomings can become horrific disasters, such as last year's deadly accident in Quebec where an entire village was devastated by a runaway oil train. Now, tougher standards are coming. In Canada, railroad operators want oil companies to be on the hook for insurance that would cover the railroad's liability shortfall in bad accidents. Similar discussions are taking place in the U.S., and oil companies likely will face pressure to focus on their potential liability exposure, as well as to evaluate their insurance programs. Liabilities in a worst-case scenario can create existential risk for some companies. And there probably isn't enough insurance capacity in the market to cover them, which is why everyone will monitor closely how the liability issues play out."
Media Contact: Kit Frieden, [email protected]

Seeking DOJ Advice Can Avoid Prosecution
Tom Fox
FCPA and Compliance Ethics Lawyer and Blogger
Tom Fox Law in Houston
"There's a little-used but smart step a company can take when internal concerns arise over a possible violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act: Ask the Justice Department for its opinion early on and you might avoid prosecution. In one case, the DOJ approved a company's hiring of a member of a royal family to work in the U.S. and lobby the embassy of the royal family's country. To say I was surprised at this result is putting it mildly. Key to this approval and others is that a company have a strong, consistent compliance and ethics program with convincing procedural protections. Clearly, several companies have saved themselves much trouble by petitioning the Justice Department for an opinion ruling rather than allowing borderline practices to continue."
Media Contact: Kit Frieden, [email protected]

New Google Privacy Policies Raise Troubling Questions
Mark Thibodeaux
Litigator in Privacy, Data Security; Past IT Professional
Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP in Houston
"New privacy policy updates from Google this week raise difficult questions for Internet users and the legal community. The new policies say that when you send or receive content through Google services, such as Gmail, YouTube and Google Plus, you give Google a worldwide license to store and use such content. A key issue will be email sent to Gmail users, and Google's access to non-Gmail messages. People who send email to Gmail users have not explicitly agreed to Google's terms of service. There is a difference between a human being sitting in a back room reading your personal email and a computer bot scanning for keywords and aggregating anonymous information. On the other hand, the question of how far companies can go in collecting and using your personal data is still an open legal question. The courts will be addressing this."
Media Contact: Kit Frieden, [email protected]

Celebrity Divorces
Stacy Phillips
Phillips Lerner
"With respect to celebrity divorces, as with their lives, their divorces are often played out in public. The court of public opinion can be brutal."
Phillips, a certified family law specialist and managing principal of Phillips Lerner, a full-service family law firm in Los Angeles is the author of the book "Divorce: It's All About Control - How to Win the Emotional, Psychological and Legal Wars," now in its sixth printing. As a staunch supporter of victims' rights, she assisted in the drafting of Senate Bill 924 (codified in California Code of Civil Procedure Section 340.15), which extended the statute of limitations period for victims of domestic violence to sue their abusers in civil court. She represents business executives, entrepreneurs, sports, entertainment, political and religious figures, and other high-net-worth individuals. She is very ready for TV or radio in addition to print media. She is an experienced commentator
Media Contact: Elizabeth Lampert, [email protected]

Commencement Details: Western Connecticut State University
Western Connecticut State University, in Danbury, Conn., is holding its graduate commencement ceremony Friday, May 9. John Murphy, M.D., president and CEO of Western Connecticut Health Network, will give the commencement address. On Sunday, May 11, the university will hold its undergraduate commencement ceremony, featuring educational futurist Anya Kamenetz.
Media Contact: Sherri Hill, [email protected]         



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Following are links to other news and resources we think you might find useful. If you have an item you think other reporters would be interested in and would like us to include in a future alert, please drop us a line at [email protected]

  • THE EVOLUTION OF MEDIA: THE CHANGING ROLE OF THE JOURNALIST. With vast amounts of information being produced every day, it's a journalist's responsibility to sort, verify, and add context so audiences have the resources to think critically. Because of this, a good journalist will explore every tool out there. Read on to see the ways newsrooms and their journalists are adapting to today's digital media environment:
  • THE Q&A TEAM: YOUR NEXT SOCIAL MEDIA OBSESSION. When discussing well-known social media platforms that are used by many, most people think of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. But, what will be the next social media platform that will get everyone talking and signing up for? We asked our knowledgeable network of experts to share their opinion on this subject, and this is what they had to say:
  • THE RECIPE FOR A CAREER IN FOOD BLOGGING. On April 1 we hosted a #ConnectChat with Stephanie Wise, a baker and blogger for Girl Versus Dough. During the chat she explained how she turned her passion for baking into a blogging career. Check out a recap of the chat here:

PROFNET is an exclusive service of PR Newswire. To submit a request for experts:  To search the ProfNet Connect experts database:  To contact ProfNet by phone: +1-800-PROFNET, ext. 1  To share a thought on Expert Alerts: [email protected]



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