Worried about the influence of money in American politics, the huge cash payouts that the US supreme court waved through by its Citizens United decision – the decision that lifted most limits on election campaign spending? Corporations are having their way with American elections just as they’ve already had their way with our media.
But at least we have the courts, right?
Wrong. The third branch of government’s in trouble, too. In fact, access to justice – like access to elected office, let alone a pundit’s perch – is becoming a perk just for the rich and powerful.
Take the young woman now testifying in court in Texas. Jamie Leigh Jones claims she was drugged and gang-raped while working for military contractor KBR in Iraq (at the time, a division of Halliburton). Jones, now 26, was on her fourth day in post in Baghdad in 2005 when she says she was assaulted by seven contractors and held captive, under armed guard by two KBR police, in a shipping container.
When the criminal courts failed to act, her lawyers filed a civil suit, only to be met with Halliburton’s response that all her claims were to be decided in arbitration – because she’d signed away her rights to bring the company to court when she signed her employment contract. As Leigh testified before Congress, in October 2009, “I had signed away my right to a jury trial at the age of 20 and without the advice of counsel.” It was a matter of sign or resign. “I had no idea that the clause was part of the contract, what the clause actually meant,” testified Jones.
Here’s his statement as I transcribed and lightly cleaned it up from my recording:
The thing we’re facing now is that, you know, the State Department is suddenly really cozy with Twitter because they are like, “Oh wow, we were trying to get this done with AK-47s and you guys got it done with Tweets. Can we be friends?” But I maintain that it has to be a neutral technology because there are different forms of democracy. You don’t want your technology, you don’t want Twitter, to look like it’s simply a tool for spreading U.S. democracy around the world. You want it to help for good, but you don’t want it to look like you’re in the pocket of the U.S. government. So we try to speak out and say that they have no access to our decision-making.
Seattle police are investigating an assault rifle that was left on the trunk of a patrol car – found only after two people flagged down separate officers to alert them.
The incident happened Monday night, and the patrol car with the gun on the back was photographed in the 1500 block of Seventh Avenue, near The Cheesecake Factory and The Roosevelt hotel.
Police started the investigation after the person who took the photo sent the image to The Stranger. It was posted on Slog, the alternative newspaper’s blog, at 5:21 a.m. Monday with a short description of the incident.
It was reposted on Slog at 9:51 a.m. with police spokesman Sean Whitcomb saying the department is “very embarrassed that this happened.”
How a handful of countercultural scientists changed the course of physics in the 1970s and helped open up the frontier of quantum information.
Every Friday afternoon for several years in the 1970s, a group of underemployed quantum physicists met at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, in Northern California, to talk about a subject so peculiar it was rarely discussed in mainstream science: entanglement. Did subatomic particles influence each other from a distance? What were the implications?
Many of these scientists, who dubbed themselves the “Fundamental Fysiks Group,” were fascinated by the paranormal and thought quantum physics might reveal “the possibility of psycho-kinetic and telepathic effects,” as one put it. Some of the physicists cultivated flamboyant countercultural personas. In lieu of solid academic jobs, a few of them received funding from the leaders of the “human potential” movement that was a staple of 1970s self-help culture.
Twenty-five percent of young American women would rather win America’s Next Top Model than the Nobel Peace Prize.
Lisa Bloom proposes that we change how we talk to young girls to stop sending the signal that their appearance matters most.
Drawing on almost 2,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables on Haiti released by WikiLeaks, a partnership between The Nation magazine and the Haitian weekly, Haïti Liberté, exposes new details on how Fruit of the Loom, Hanes and Levi’s worked with the United States to block an increase in the minimum wage in the hemisphere’s poorest nation, how business owners and members of the country’s elite used Haiti’s police force as their own private army after the 2004 U.S.-backed coup that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and how the United States, the European Union and the United Nations supported Haiti’s recent presidential and parliamentary elections, despite concerns over the exclusion of Haiti’s largest opposition party, Lavalas, the party of Aristide.
A Senate bill aims to cut off support for any site found by the courts to be ‘dedicated’ to copyright or trademark infringement. Its goals are laudable, but its details are problematic.
Hollywood studios, record labels and other U.S. copyright and trademark owners are pushing Congress to give them more protection against parasitical foreign websites that are profiting from counterfeit or bootlegged goods. The Senate Judiciary Committee has responded with a bill (S 968) that would force online advertising networks, credit card companies and search engines to cut off support for any site found by the courts to be “dedicated” to copyright or trademark infringement. Its goals are laudable, but its details are problematic.
A woman has filed a complaint with federal authorities over how her elderly mother was treated at Northwest Florida Regional Airport last weekend.
Jean Weber of Destin filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security after her 95-year-old mother was detained and extensively searched last Saturday while trying to board a plane to fly to Michigan to be with family members during the final stages of her battle with leukemia.
Her mother, who was in a wheelchair, was asked to remove an adult diaper in order to complete a pat-down search.
“It’s something I couldn’t imagine happening on American soil,” Weber said Friday. “Here is my mother, 95 years old, 105 pounds, barely able to stand, and then this.”
Sari Koshetz, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration in Miami, said she could not comment on specific cases to protect the privacy of those involved.
“The TSA works with passengers to resolve any security alarms in a respectful and sensitive manner,” she said.
Nina Paley alerted us to an article from the Boston Globe that’s been getting some attention about how many theaters are showing digital projections of regular “2D” movies that look really bad because projectionists don’t remove 3D lenses. Basically, lots of theaters are using digital projectors, which were supposed to be a huge boon for the theater industry. It’s easier than shipping and loading film. It can often present a crisper picture. In general it provides plenty of benefits. Those same projects can show 3D movies, but if you try to show a 2D movie via the 3D lenses, you can lose a ton of light. In some cases, the films are being projected 85% darker due to this. In other words, it’s making the theater experience dreadful.
You might just think the issue is lazy projectionists who don’t want to change lenses. While that might play a part… the bigger issue appears to be Sony’s insane fear of digital infringement:
So why aren’t theater personnel simply removing the 3-D lenses? The answer is that it takes time, it costs money, and it requires technical know-how above the level of the average multiplex employee. James Bond, a Chicago-based projection guru who serves as technical expert for Roger Ebert’s Ebertfest, said issues with the Sonys are more than mechanical. Opening the projector alone involves security clearances and Internet passwords, “and if you don’t do it right, the machine will shut down on you.'” The result, in his view, is that often the lens change isn’t made and “audiences are getting shortchanged.'”
Yes, the projector requires you to get security clearances and internet passwords just to change a lens… or it shuts down on you. Why? Because of the fear of the dreaded “piracy.” Of course, all this really does, in the long run, is drive more such “piracy” by making people question why they should go to the theater for a crappy movie-going experience.
* Oh, and yes, it’s pretty freaking cool that Roger Ebert’s projectionist is named James Bond.
A Dutch group torched the cover of Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes in Amsterdam on Wednesday, as a protest against the bestselling title.
The activists vowed to burn copies of the book, published in Dutch as Het Negerboek, in an Amsterdam park unless its name was changed.
The Netherlands on Wednesday became the first country in Europe, and only the second in the world, to enshrine the concept of network neutrality into national law by banning its mobile telephone operators from blocking or charging consumers extra for using Internet-based communications services like Skype or WhatsApp, a free text service.
The measure, which was adopted with a broad majority in the lower house of the Dutch Parliament, the Tweede Kamer, will prevent KPN, the Dutch telecommunications market leader, and the Dutch units of Vodafone and T-Mobile, from blocking or charging for Internet services. Its sponsors said that the measure would pass a pro-forma review in the Dutch Senate without hitches.
Analysts said that the legal restrictions imposed in the Netherlands could shape Europe’s broader, evolving debate over network neutrality, pushing more countries on the Continent to limit operators from acting as self-appointed toll collectors of the mobile Internet.
A pair of golden orb spiders, named Gladys and Esmerelda, were shot into space aboard NASA’s penultimate shuttle mission in May.
The experiment is part of a K-12 curriculum that, when school is back in session, will let students compare the behavior of spiders kept in the classroom to the spidernauts.
On Earth, these spiders (Nephila clavipes) generally spin partially circular webs, ones that look like they have been lopped off at the top. But when spinning in space, the web ends up completely circular. The spiders, which use gravity to orient themselves, seem unsure which way to face at times, say researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Golden orb spiders normally use gravity when building the long lines that radiate from the web’s center — occasionally letting go to drop to the ground. But now when she lets go, Esmerelda doesn’t have gravity to bring her down, so she just floats instead of dropping.
The CEO of what had been one of the nation’s largest privately held mortgage lenders was sentenced Tuesday to more than three years in prison for his role in a $3 billion scheme that officials called one of the biggest corporate frauds in U.S. history.
The 40-month sentence for Paul R. Allen, 55, of Oakton, Va., is slightly less than the six-year term sought by federal prosecutors.
"I messed up. I messed up big," Allen told U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema before he was sentenced, apologizing to his family and "the entire financial community. "There was no excuse for my behavior."
Allen’s lawyer argued for leniency on the theory that Allen was CEO in name only. The real mastermind was Farkas, who kept Allen out of the loop on much of the company’s day-to-day operations, according to trial testimony.
“Mr. Allen was not treated as a CEO. He did not function as a CEO,” said defense lawyer Stephen Graeff. “Sentence Mr. Allen the man, not Mr. Allen the title.”
Farkas is to be sentenced next week, and prosecutors have indicated they will seek a significantly longer sentence for Farkas than for his co-conspirators.
A group of firms including Coca-Cola has alleged that Goldman Sachs is manipulating the metals market by only releasing metals that it holds in certain amounts, which artificially inflates prices, according to the WSJ, via Huffington Post.
In the past few years, Goldman (and other banks) have bought up metals warehouses, which allows them to determine how much metal they release to customers and when they do it.
Now the London Metals Exchange is looking into accusations that this not only allows Goldman to inflate prices, but that Goldman’s action does inflate prices.
Only 15 seconds in the limelight and she’d already created an overnight buzz. She was the newest member of the very popular all-girl Japanese idol group AKB 48. Upon seeing the new face appear on a candy commercial, the band’s faithful took to the message boards: Who is Aimi Eguchi?
This past Sunday, Ezaki Glico, the candy company which aired the commercial, confirmed what many of AKB 48’s fans had come to suspect: Aimi Eguchi wasn’t real. The new group member, it turns out, was a computer-generated composite of the real band members. Her pretty face was actually made up of the “best features” of six other members: her eyes, nose, mouth, hair/body, face outline and eyebrows were not flesh-and-blood, but cut-and-paste.
“We are facing a massive mental health problem as a result of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a country we have not responded adequately to the problem. Unless we act urgently and wisely, we will be dealing with an epidemic of service related psychological wounds for years to come.” — Bobby Muller, President Veterans for America.
Too bad there’s a war against mental health aswell.
The high school made headlines last week when a photograph depicting a 17-year-old male student with his hands inside the clothing of a 15-year-old female student at a school dance was published in the yearbook.
Sgt. Jeremiah MacKay of the Big Bear sheriff’s station said Tuesday that although his investigation was not complete, it showed that sexual penetration of a minor had occurred.
The yearbooks were immediately recalled, and students were ordered to bring them back to the school so the page with the photograph could be removed.
Officials warned that those who did not return their yearbooks could face charges of possession of child pornography.
I would tell them “Fuck no, I’m keeping it – it is evidence of the school’s crime, distribution of child pornography, and I need it for the prosecution.” This zero tolerance crap goes both ways.
Oh, and by the way, somebody call Barbara Streisand:
A group of UK copyright lobbyists held confidential, closed-door meetings with Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries to discuss a plan to allow industry groups to censor the Internet in the UK. The proposal has leaked, and it reveals a plan to establish "expert bodies" that would decide which websites British people were allowed to see, to be approved by a judge using a "streamlined" procedure. The procedure will allow for "swift" blocking in order to shut down streaming of live events.
But that avoids the more essential point, namely that Wal-Mart views low labor costs and a high degree of workplace flexibility as a signal competitive advantage. It is a militantly anti-union company that has been forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to current and former employees for violations of state wage and hour laws.
But if the Wal-Mart decision was a victory for employers, it was short-lived with the next day’s NLRB announcement.
The agency plans to adjust rules governing how union elections occur. The gist of it is that union elections can happen more easily, which is viewed negatively by employers wanting to avoid collective bargaining.
Among the proposed rule changes are electronic election petition filing, which would allow union organizers to put an election together more easily without an employer finding out.
“The business community will say it deprives them of the opportunity to get their message out,” said Mike Blumenthal, a Seyferth Blumenthal & Harris LLC lawyer.
It also would defer litigation claims regarding the eligibility of workplace voters until after the election, which could speed up the election process for union organizers.
Administrative rule-making does not require congressional approval.
Union critics see Tuesday’s NLRB announcement as something of an end-around to the Employee Free Choice Act, a pro-union piece of legislation that has failed to gain traction on Capitol Hill.
Hoping to get a case at the Indiana Southern District Court dropped as well, a Doe who saw his IP address listed in the court documents wrote to the judge. The case in question is Hard Drive Productions vs. Does 1-21, which accuses 21 does of sharing adult content via BitTorrent.
Most of the judges have no clue that the copyright holders who file these lawsuits are not really seeking a full trial, but merely want to collect settlements. The Doe in question explains this in the letter to the judge, and adds that the evidence the copyright holders claim to have is highly unreliable.
“These lawsuits have been rife with shoddy ‘evidence’ accumulation and wrongful harassment of Internet subscribers with no effort or evidence to identify the actual infringer behind an I.P. address rather than just demanding money from the person registered as the subscriber of the Internet connection,” the letter begins.
In his letter the Doe further stresses that running an open wireless network is not a crime, weakening the claims of the copyright holders even further. People have the right to offer an open connection to outsiders. There is no law that prohibits it and there are several wireless routers that have a second (unsecured) connection as a feature.
“I hope and plead with you to consider the interests of neighbors in being able to have friends over with their laptops without having to draw up legal agreements and waivers before they can connect to the Internet and share our I.P. address.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. has agreed to pay $153.6 million to settle civil fraud charges that it misled buyers of complex mortgage investments just as the housing market was collapsing.
J.P. Morgan Securities, a division of the powerful Wall Street bank, failed to tell investors that a hedge fund helped select the investment portfolio and then bet that the portfolio would fail, the Securities and Exchange Commission said.
Among the investors who lost money on the deal were autoworkers for General Motors, a Lutheran financial organization in Minneapolis and a retirement services company in Topeka, Kan.
BP claim that because the oil spill came on the Outer Continental Shelf, which is subject to the federal Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act OCSLA, state laws do not apply, even when the oil damaged state waters and coastlines.
By that logic, if I shot missiles into each of BP’s CEO’s houses from international waters, I couldn’t be blamed for it.
Anybody got a spare missile sub for me?
The World of Jim Henson: 1 :: 2 :: 3 :: 4 :: 5 :: 6 :: 7 :: 8 :: 9 :: “An excellent biography of the Muppet master, this 85-minute film from the PBS show Great Performances mixes the history of Henson’s projects with plenty of sketches that any fan age 6 and older should enjoy. The film shows the incredible range of Henson’s creations, starting in 1955 with “Sam and Friends” then moving on to Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, and beyond. It illustrates the breadth of his genius, from creating entirely new worlds in film (The Dark Crystal) to pithy ’60s TV commercials that achieved branding and a laugh in less than six seconds. There’s footage that most fans haven’t seen in years, or at all: a regular bit from The Jimmy Dean Show; tantalizing bits of his 1965 Oscar-nominated short, Time Piece; appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show; his explanation of Wall Street on Nightline; and Miss Piggy’s hilarious deconstruction of Morley Safer on 60 Minutes.”
“We are raised to honor all the wrong explorers and discoverers–thieves planting flags, murderers carrying crosses. Let us at last praise the colonizers of dreams.”
— Peter S. Beagle