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by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 1st 2015 9:32am
While Univision has claimed in the media that its decision to cut ties with MUO came in response to certain comments by Mr. Trump during a June 16, 2015 campaign speech announcing his candidacy for President of the United States, the decision was, in reality, a thinly veiled attempt by Univision, a privately held company principally owned by longtime Clinton Foundation donor and current Hillary Clinton fundraiser, Haim Saban, to suppress Mr. Trump's freedom of speech under the First Amendment as he begins to campaign for the nation's presidency and, in recent weeks, has dramatically risen in the polls while expressing critical views of Mrs. Clinton. Little else can explain Univision's decision to not only abandon its contractual relationship with MUO, but also, upon information and belief, pressure NBC to follow suit and cut longstanding ties with Plaintiffs nearly two weeks after the statements were made.First of all, as all of you (minus a few trolls) are currently screaming right now, no the First Amendment has absolutely nothing to do with this. We'll let the obligatory xkcd explain:
In a move which can only be described as both tasteless and defamatory, on June 25, 2015, Mr. Ciurana, Univision's President of Programing and Content, then posted a photo on his official Univision Instagram account comparing Mr. Trump to Dylann Roof, the 21 year old who was recently arrested in the murder of nine (9) African-Americans attending bible study at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, one of the worst hate crimes to ever take place on U.S. soil. While Mr. Cuirana would later remove the defamatory post, the damage was already done: almost immediately, Mr. Ciurana's post was picked up by the media and became the subject of hundreds, if not thousands, of press articles, yet another example of Univision's dubious efforts to create a false narrative in an attempt to upset Mr. Trump's longstanding personal and business relationship with the Hispanic community.If you're curious, here's the Instagram that Alberto Ciurana put up:
In reality, however, Mr. Trump's calls for immigration reform, particularly with respect to the U.S.-Mexican border, were nothing new. Indeed, for over a decade, Mr. Trump had, in numerous television and news interviews, consistently voiced his concerns regarding the influx of illegal immigrants pouring into the United States across the Mexican border and the crime that has resulted therefrom, views which were widely reported by every major media outlet, including, both Univision and NBC.Indeed. It may be true that Trump has said offensive things in the past, but that doesn't mean that Univision can't later decide that the greater attention paid to his more recent offensive comments are such that it no longer wishes to do business with him. There's no rule anywhere that says, "Well, if you didn't complain four years ago when I said some stupid shit, you can't complaint now!" Even if it's true that Univision is only making this decision because Trump's comments went a bit viral, that's Univision's decision to make, and his previous comments are completely meaningless.
As Mr. Trump explained in an interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly on March 30, 2011, "[t]hey're coming over, and they're climbing over a fence, and there's nobody within 10 miles -- and they're selling drugs all over the place, they're killing people all over the place -- and we're not doing anything about it."
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 1st 2015 8:31am
The most significant attack that the publishers considered and then undertook, however, was to withhold new and bestselling books from Amazon until the hardcover version had spent several months in stores, a practice known as “windowing.” Members of the Big Six both kept one another abreast of their plans to window, and actively pushed others toward the strategy. By December 2009, the Wall Street Journal and New York Times were reporting that four of the Big Six had announced plans to delay ebook releases until after the print release, and the two holdouts — Penguin and Random House — faced pressure from their peers.In other words, the publishers were so focused on wanting to raise the price of ebooks, they were willing to embrace a solution that they knew both encouraged piracy and harmed long-term sales.
Ultimately, however, the publishers viewed even this strategy to save their business model as self‐destructive. Employees inside the publishing companies noted that windowing encouraged piracy, punished ebook consumers, and harmed long‐term sales. One author wrote to Sargent in December 2009 that the “old model has to change” and that it would be better to “embrace e‐books," publish them at the same time as the hardcovers, “and pray to God they both sell like crazy.” .... Sargent agreed, but expressed the hope that ebooks could eventually be sold for between $12.95 and $14.95. “The question is,” he mused, “how to get there?”
by Tim Cushing
Wed, Jul 1st 2015 7:10am
Open records requests and lawsuits go hand-in-hand. Agencies obfuscate, stall, perform deliberately inadequate searches and fail to respond in a timely manner. These actions frequently result in lawsuits, which are notably almost always filed by the requester.
The Hamilton Township of New Jersey isn't like other government agencies. It's far more proactive.
In March, a private citizen named Harry Scheeler Jr. sent a request to Hamilton Township for surveillance footage of the town-hall and police-department buildings, making the request under the state Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and the state common law right of access to public records. A few weeks later, instead of responding to the request, the township sued Scheeler and asked a local court for relief from any obligation to respond, then or in the future. The township also asked for attorney’s fees.As Jonathan Peters at the Columbia Journalism Review points out, this isn't the first time this has happened, but it is incredibly rare and it almost always ends badly for the agency instigating the legal action. This case is no different, although it did manage to survive long enough for Scheeler to narrow his request in hopes of having the lawsuit dropped. The township was very persistent, unfortunately. But unfortunately for the township, the presiding judge recognized how truly effed-up it would be to allow this suit to continue or otherwise encourage government agencies to sue open records requesters.
Scheeler asserts that the Township has no authority to seek relief from the records request in court; that only the requestor has such a right. Consequently, before reaching the merits of the request, the threshold issue that the court addresses in this opinion is whether a government agency, such as the plaintiff, may file a lawsuit against a person requesting public records, or whether the right to institute a lawsuit determining the validity of the request belongs solely to the requestor. The court concludes that the right to bring the issue to court belongs exclusively to the requestor, not the government agency.New Jersey's open records law -- like those everywhere in the US -- provides for the filing of legal complaints against unresponsive government agencies. What the law doesn't provide for is the township's actions. In lieu of a response, it sought an injunction barring not only this request, but any future requests for similar information by Scheeler. As the court points out, this is about as far-removed from the intention of open records laws as anyone can get.
To allow a government agency to file a lawsuit against someone who has submitted a request for government records would undoubtedly have a chilling effect on those who desire to submit such a request, undercutting the public policy previously described.Now, not only has the temporary restraining order against Scheeler been lifted, but the township will be paying his legal fees as well. The court notes that not doing so would basically allow government agencies to trap citizens in "quixotic battles" against entities with "almost inexhaustible resources." Because Scheeler was "trapped" by a lawsuit he didn't initiate and one that pertained to the government's obligation to turn over requested documents, the presiding judge reads the fee-shifting provision of the state's open records law as applicable to legal fees. To do otherwise, the court points out, would be reward the township for violating open records laws.
A government agency's lawsuit against document requestors subjects them to involuntary litigation with all of its concomitant financial, temporal, and emotional trimmings. A public policy that gives a government agency the right to sue a person who asks for a government document is the antithesis of the policy underlying both OPRA and the common law to provide citizens with a means of access to public information to keep government activities open and hold the government accountable.
by Karl Bode
Wed, Jul 1st 2015 5:09am
"We are targeting people who are afraid of radiation", he said. However, in a statement to South China Morning Post, Qihoo acknowledged that no definitive link has been made between Wi-Fi signals and poor health. "We aren’t scientists. We haven’t done many experiments to prove how much damage the radiation from Wi-Fi can cause. We leave the right of choice to our customers."They are, however, engineers who are very familiar with the effects of radiation, but the fact that they couldn't be bothered to support the claim with any actual research or data should tell you plenty. Not surprisingly, Qihoo competitor Xiaomi wasn't too impressed with this new product line:
"The so-called pregnancy mode [of Qihoo’s router] is just a marketing tactic. Wi-Fi usage is safe, so please rest assured when using it [Xiaomi’s router]. We firmly oppose, and feel ashamed of, those who create rumours and arouse instability for business purposes."Qihoo's response? Basically the implication that the company will be proven righteous when the nation's moms begin dropping dead from 802.11n exposure:
"We will wait and see who has a more profound understanding of Wi-Fi routers, me or our competitors."Lovely. If hard science is going to be an afterthought (or more accurately no thought at all), it seems pretty obvious to me what the next step in wireless router marketing is. We should begin selling routers that promise to magically protect all users' chakras and clogged meridians, while giving the customers' aura and spirit a bright, shiny luster that lesser routers simply can't match.
by Glyn Moody
Wed, Jul 1st 2015 1:07am
It's been a while since we last wrote about CETA, the trade deal between Canada and the European Union. Back in March, we noted that the French Secretary of State for External Commerce, Matthias Fekl, said that France would not ratify CETA unless the corporate sovereignty, or investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), provisions were removed or replaced by something completely different. Of course, it's hard not to be sceptical about these statements, since politicians like to grandstand, and are happy to change their positions every few months. But not, it seems, Matthias Fekl. According to a report on the French site Le Devoir (original in French), he's still of the same opinion:
For the Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, Matthias Fekl, who expresses the official position of France, it is not only a question of principle but a fact of life today. If negotiators do not rewrite Article 33 of the [CETA] Treaty which deals with dispute resolution, there will be no ratification.
And it's not just France that has a problem here. According to the article, Fekl said:
Look, this [refusal to accept the corporate sovereignty provisions in CETA] will also be the case in other countries. This isn't meant as a threat. But as far as this chapter is concerned, things must definitely move.
The EU Commissioner for trade, Cecilia Malmström, is well aware of the issues here -- not least because 145,000 people told her in the ISDS consultation last year -- and has presented a concept paper entitled "Investment in TTIP and beyond – the path for reform" (pdf). These are quite similar to proposals made by Fekl for the creation of a new European court to settle trade disputes. But there are two big problems with following that path.
First, the European Commission (and Fekl) have only just begun to sketch out how that reform might look. It is likely to take some time to come up with alternatives like entirely new courts. There is no way that something will be agreed for CETA, which may be ready for ratification quite soon. There's also the problem of TAFTA/TTIP. Given that Malmström has admitted that the current ISDS is unsatisfactory, and that she is trying to come up with something better, it will be hard for her to include it in TAFTA/TTIP in its current form. But the US side has made it clear that it is not happy with dropping corporate sovereignty completely, which leads once more to the problem of time-scales, since a serious replacement for ISDS may not be available even for TTIP. It will be interesting to see how Malmström deals with this key issue for both CETA and TAFTA/TTIP.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jun 30th 2015 9:03pm
by Michael Ho
Tue, Jun 30th 2015 5:00pm
by Tim Cushing
Tue, Jun 30th 2015 3:53pm
The McKinney (Texas) Police Department is under lots of outside scrutiny, thanks to the racially-tinged antics of its police force -- namely the since-departed Officer Eric Casebolt, who barrel rolled into infamy in a cell phone-captured video that culminated in him pinning down a 14-year-old girl while waving a gun at two teens.
Since that point, multiple entities have filed public records requests with the police department. An interim response given to MuckRock's Shawn Musgrave lists 61 requests as of June 19th, a number that has certainly increased since that point. One of the early requesters was Gawker's Andy Cush, who sought "[Officer Eric] Casebolt’s records and any emails about his conduct sent or received by McKinney Police Department employees."
Cush just received a response from the city's legal representatives claiming it will cost nearly $80,000 to compile this information.
The city arrived at that extraordinary figure after estimating that hiring a programmer to execute the grueling and complex task of searching through old emails would cost $28.50 per hour, and that the search for emails about Casebolt would take 2,231 hours of said programmer’s time. That only comes to about $63,000; the bill also includes $14,726 “to cover the actual time a computer resource takes to execute a particular program.” In other words, the operating cost of the computer used to search the emails is nearly 15 grand on its own.Perhaps in an effort to make this stratospherically-high fee appear more reasonable, the law firm broke it all down in table form.
A person who believes the person has been overcharged for being provided with a copy of public information may complain to the attorney general in writing of the alleged overcharge, setting forth the reasons why the person believes the charges are excessive. The attorney general shall review the complaint and make a determination in writing as to the appropriate charge for providing the copy of the requested information.This particular avenue of recourse has been used frequently in the past. A 2012 examination of Texas open records requests by the Center for Public Integrity found McKinney ranked highest in the state in the number of fee complaints to the state attorney general (per 100,000 residents). Not all of these were fee-related, but the ratio of referred requests suggests the local government is more reluctant to turn over responsive documents than its neighbors. A spokeswoman for the city notes in the article that requests related to the police department are treated with "an overabundance of caution." This response to Gawker, however, seems not so much cautious as confrontational -- a "shut up and go away" response in the form of a thoroughly ridiculous $79,000 price tag.
by Tim Cushing
Tue, Jun 30th 2015 2:46pm
"The more things change, the more everything is just Smith v. Maryland (1979)."
Or so the FISA Court notes in its latest order authorizing the continued collection of bulk phone records under… well, not Section 215, which expired, but under a "non-hyper-literal evil genie" reading of the contradictory forces temporarily in play thanks to the passage of the USA Freedom Act.
"Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose," well, at least for 180 days. This application presents the question whether the recently-enacted USA FREEDOM Act, in amending Title V of FISA, 2 ended the bulk collection of telephone metadata. The short answer is yes. But in doing so, Congress deliberately carved out a 180-day period following the date of enactment in which such collection was specifically authorized. For this reason, the Court approves the application in this case.The order notes that there was much more to consider in this renewal application. It nods to the expiration of Section 215 on May 31st and its brief return to its pre-Patriot Act form for roughly 24 hours before the passage of USA Freedom pushed the expiration date up until 2019. It notes the legal challenges brought against the bulk collection by Ken Cuccinelli and FreedomWorks, as well as the stipulations added to the collection by the surveillance reform bill.
The USA FREEDOM Act prohibits the FISC from issuing an order for production of tangible things without the use of a "specific selection term." USA FREEDOM Act§ 103(b), amending FISA § 501(c). This amendment and the related amendments set forth in sections 101 through 103 of the USA FREEDOM Act prohibit the government from acquiring tangible things in bulk under a FISA business records order. Crucially for purposes of this case, however, section 109(a) of the USA FREEDOM Act states that these amendments do not take effect until 180 days after enactment (November 29, 2015).The rest of the order is given over to dismissing a handful of other legal challenges to the bulk collection program, including the Second Circuit Court's finding that the program -- in its current form -- is not actually authorized by law.
And if that was not clear enough, the USA FREEDOM Act also states that "[n]othing in this Act shall be construed to alter or eliminate the authority of the Government to obtain an order [under the business records provisions of FISA] as in effect prior to [the ban on bulk acquisition taking effect after 180 days]." USA FREEDOM Act §109(b). In passing the USA FREEDOM Act, Congress clearly intended to end bulk data collection of business records and other tangible things. But what it took away with one hand, it gave back - for a limited time - with the other.
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