10 Sep

Ars Technica – Sanctioned: P2P lawyer fined $10,000 for “staggering chutzpah”

A federal judge has fined Texas lawyer Evan Stone $10,000 for sending out subpoenas and then settlement letters to people accused of sharing a German porn film called Der Gute Onkel—all without the judge’s permission.

In September 2010, Stone brought suit on behalf of Mick Haig Productions against 670 accused file-swappers, and he asked permission to take early discovery. Judge David Godbey said no; instead, Godbey brought in the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Citizen to represent the interests of the Does, since none of them had yet been named and therefore had no counsel to speak for them. EFF and Public Citizen lawyers soon began hearing from people who said that Verizon had turned over their information to Stone, information generally obtainable only by subpoena.

The lawyers asked Judge Godbey to find out what was going on, and to sanction Stone if he had in fact issued subpoenas without the court’s permission. Turns out that he had—at least four times. Godbey ruled (PDF) yesterday that Stone "grossly abused his subpoena power," obtained subscriber names he was not entitled to learn, and then, "almost unbelievably, Stone used the information he received to contact an unknown number of potential Does, presumably in the form of demand letters and settlement offers."

This wasn’t even the first time Stone had run into subpoena problems. In a separate Texas lawsuit over anime, Stone sent a subpoena more than a month after the judge in that case withdrew permission to do so; even more shockingly, "Stone issued the subpoena on the same day that he voluntarily dismissed the underlying case," according to Godbey.

via Ars Technica – Sanctioned: P2P lawyer fined $10,000 for "staggering chutzpah". Seriously stupid and unethical moves by this lawyer.

27 Feb

NYTimes.com – Texas, Budget Cuts and Children

The really striking thing about all this isn’t the cruelty — at this point you expect that — but the shortsightedness. What’s supposed to happen when today’s neglected children become tomorrow’s work force?

Anyway, the next time some self-proclaimed deficit hawk tells you how much he worries about the debt we’re leaving our children, remember what’s happening in Texas, a state whose slogan right now might as well be “Lose the future.”

via NYTimes.com – Texas, Budget Cuts and Children. Who cares about ensuring the health and education of children, not Texas.

24 Jan

Kickstarter – Standing Up To The Experts by Orlando Wood

In a small room in Austin, Texas, a group of fifteen people are single-handedly deciding what is taught to the next generation of American children. The highly politicized fifteen-member Texas State Board of Education is currently going through the once-in-a-decade process of rewriting the teaching and textbook standards for its nearly 5 million schoolchildren. And when it comes to textbooks, what happens in Texas affects the whole nation.

Texas is the nation’s largest textbook market. Unlike other states, that allow their districts to pick and choose what books they buy, Texas buys them centrally – making Texas unbelievably influential on the standards that Textbook publishers use as a basis for their textbooks. Over the last 10 years, the textbook from this board found its way in upwards of 65% of American classrooms.

Over the course of the current review, the board has been focusing on infusing the school curriculum with broader conservative and religious themes. In Science, there has been an insistence on questioning the theory of evolution. And during the review of the history standards, the more conservative members have attempted to define the United States as a Christian nation goverened by Christian principles , and emphasize "American Exceptionalism," the notion that America is special and destined to lead the world.

Simply put, our goal is to shed light on this important issue and the key players in this process — we will explain their goals, explore the scope of their influence, and delve into the personal motivations behind their actions. We’ve been invited into their homes and have held intimate interviews with each of the members of the board and key decision makers and campaigners close to the issue.

via Kickstarter – Standing Up To The Experts by Orlando Wood. They’ve already reached their goal and then some but this looks like an awesome project.

30 Nov

BBC News – EU launches antitrust probe into alleged Google abuses

The European Commission has launched an investigation into Google after other search engines complained that the firm had abused its dominant position.

The EC will examine whether the world’s largest search engine penalised competing services in its results.

The probe follows complaints by firms including price comparison site Foundem and legal search engine ejustice.fr.

Google denies the allegations but said it would work with the Commission to "address any concerns".

Earlier this year the attorney general of Texas launched a similar investigation following complaints from firms including Foundem.

via BBC News – EU launches antitrust probe into alleged Google abuses. Not too shocked that Google is accused of abusing it’s power, that being said I actually would be shocked to see Google found guilty.

01 Aug

The New Yorker – The real numbers on illegal immigration

In fact those numbers are surprising: they are sharply down, according to the Border Patrol—by more than sixty per cent since 2000, to five hundred and fifty thousand apprehensions last year, the lowest figure in thirty-five years. Illegal immigration, although hard to measure, has clearly been declining. The southern border, far from being “unsecured,” is in better shape than it has been for years—better managed and less porous. It has been the beneficiary of security-budget increases since September 11th, which have helped slow the pace of illegal entries, if not as dramatically as the economic crash did. Violent crime, though rising in Mexico, has fallen this side of the border: in Southwestern border counties it has dropped more than thirty per cent in the past two decades. It’s down in Senator McCain’s Arizona. According to F.B.I. statistics, the four safest big cities in the United States—San Diego, Phoenix, El Paso, and Austin—are all in border states.

via The New Yorker – The real numbers on illegal immigration. The New Yorker does some slapping around of politicians who just outright lie in an effort to create fear.

27 Jul

BBC News – US border violence: Myth or reality?

In the past two years, more than 5,000 people have been murdered in Juarez as drug-related crime has soared.

A few hundred yards away across the river in El Paso, local authorities have recorded just two murders this year. In 2009 there were 11.

Yet politicians including Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott tend to portray border towns as being pushed to crisis point.

via BBC News – US border violence: Myth or reality?. BBC News on truth versus perception in terms of violence on the border.