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More on the Court Win: For First Amendment Libel Law Purposes, Bloggers = Media

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More on the Ninth Circuit decision from The Volokh Conspiracy:

 writes:  So holds today’s Obsidian Finance Group v. Cox (9th Cir. Jan. 17, 2014) (in which I represented the defendant). To be precise, the Ninth Circuit concludes that all who speak to the public, whether or not they are members of the institutional press, are equally protected by the First Amendment. To quote the court,

The protections of the First Amendment do not turn on whether the defendant was a trained journalist, formally affiliated with traditional news entities, engaged in conflict-of-interest disclosure, went beyond just assembling others’ writings, or tried to get both sides of a story. As the Supreme Court has accurately warned, a First Amendment distinction between the institutional press and other speakers is unworkable: “With the advent of the Internet and the decline of print and broadcast media … the line between the media and others who wish to comment on political and social issues becomes far more blurred.” Citizens United, 558 U.S. at 352.

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BENCH UPDATE: Bloggers Have First Amendment Protections, Federal Appeals Court Rules

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GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) Jeff Barnard reports:  A federal appeals court ruled Friday that bloggers and the public have the same First Amendment protections as journalists when sued for defamation: If the issue is of public concern, plaintiffs have to prove negligence to win damages.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new trial in a defamation lawsuit brought by an Oregon bankruptcy trustee against a Montana blogger who wrote online that the court-appointed trustee criminally mishandled a bankruptcy case.

The appeals court ruled that the trustee was not a public figure, which could have invoked an even higher standard of showing the writer acted with malice, but the issue was of public concern, so the negligence standard applied.

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New research on mass shootings shows the same thing all the other new research shows: assault weapon use rare, no epidemic

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 writes:  A recently completed study at Northeastern University finds that many of the ‘facts’ circulated by gun control groups about mass shootings in the US are far from it. In fact, the study contends that mass murders rarely use ‘assault weapons,’  cannot be prevented with background checks and gun bans, and that the rates of these shootings as well as their toll is not increasing.

The 22-page study, entitled  Mass Shootings in America: Moving Beyond Newtown was compiled by criminology professor James Alan Fox and Monica J. DeLateur. In the study, the two smash a number of gun myths through hard statistical work. Without taking funds from either side in the argument, the work is impartial.

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Friday Afternoon News Dump

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BenK – Ace of Spades HQ – Follow Ben on twitter.


Ali, Frazier and the ‘Fight of the Century’: A Photographer Remembers

 Not published in LIFE. Muhammad Ali speaks to the press during a pre-fight weigh-in at Madison Square Garden in March 1971. John Shearer—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Not published in LIFE. Muhammad Ali speaks to the press during a pre-fight weigh-in at Madison Square Garden in March 1971. John Shearer—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Ben Cosgrov  writes:  After refusing to register for the draft in 1967 — at the very height of his career — 25-year-old Muhammad Ali was stripped of his heavyweight championship title and endured a forced layoff from the ring for three years. In 1971, after winning the appeal of his conviction and five-year prison sentence before the U.S. Supreme Court, the former champ returned to boxing, fighting a few bouts against lesser (albeit ranked) rivals before facing the title-holder, Philadelphia’s “Smokin’ Joe” Frazier.

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The New Intolerance: Will We Regret Pushing Christians out of Public Life?

Devoutly unbelieving: on a summer’s day, art enthusiasts admire Cosmo Sarson’s mural of a breakdancing Christ in Stokes Croft, Bristol. Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty.

Devoutly unbelieving: on a summer’s day, art enthusiasts admire Cosmo Sarson’s mural of a breakdancing Christ in Stokes Croft, Bristol, England.  Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty.

In this provocative challenge to the left, the former New Statesmandeputy editor Cristina Odone argues that liberalism has become the new orthodoxy – and there is no room for religious believers to dissent.

Cristina Odone  writes:  I couldn’t believe it. I was trying to discuss traditional marriage – and the state was trying to stop me.

Incredible, in a 21st-century European country, but true. I was invited to speak at a conference on marriage last summer, to be held at the Law Society in London. The government had just launched a public consultation on changing the law to allow same-sex marriage. The conference was a chance for supporters of traditional marriage to contribute to the debate. The participants included a retired philosophy professor, a representative of the Catholic archdiocese of Westminster, the chairman of the Tory party’s oldest pressure group, the Bow Group, Phillip Blond (another Tory adviser) and spokesmen for various Christian organisations. The title, “One Man. One Woman. Making the Case for Marriage for the Good of Society”, could hardly have sounded more sober. I accepted without a second thought.

A few days before the conference, someone from Christian Concern, the group which had organised the event, rang me in a panic: the Law Society had refused to let us meet on their premises. The theme was “contrary to our diversity policy”, the society explained in an email to the organisers, “espousing as it does an ethos which is opposed to same-sex marriage”. In other words, the Law Society regarded support for heterosexual union, still the only legal form of marriage in Britain, as discriminatory.

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Cruz: A Preview

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Texas Monthly Magazine


In the Best of Hands: Podesta, Left-Wing Mastermind, to Lead NSA Review

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Joel B. Pollak reports:  President Barack Obama announced Friday that John Podesta, his new “counselor” and the political operative responsible for creating the institutional left in Washington, will be the appointed “to lead a comprehensive review of big data and privacy” in the aftermath of revelations about the National Security Agency’s electronic spying programs. When he joined the White House last month, Podesta’s focus was said to be “climate change.”

The president’s speech contained little news. It was a classic Obama set-piece, designed to demonstrate that he understands both sides of a complex argument, while delegating responsibility to third parties and taking steps that reinforce the interests and goals of the hard left. In this instance, Obama left final decisions about where to store NSA data to Congress, while making sure that Podesta is in charge of the consultative process as a whole.

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Death by Data: How Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ Prefigured the Nightmare of the Modern Surveillance State

A 1915 portrait of Franz Kafka. Image: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A 1915 portrait of Franz Kafka. Image: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

“Kafkaesque” is a word much used and little understood. It evokes highbrow, sophisticated thought but its soupçon of irony allows those who use it to avoid being exact about what it means. When the writers of Breaking Bad titled one of their episodes Kafkaesque, they were sharing a joke about the word’s nebulousness. “Sounds kind of Kafkaesque,” says a pretentious therapy group leader when Jesse Pinkman describes his working conditions. “Totally Kafkaesque,” Jesse witlessly replies.

[Amazon: Kafka's The Trial and Kafka: The Decisive Years by Reiner Stach]

If the word is widely misused, it is also increasingly valuable. Last year, when the attorney and author John W Whitehead wrote about the US National Security Agency scandal in an article headlined “Kafka’s America”, the reference to Kafka clearly made sense:

“We now live in a society in which a person can be accused of any number of crimes without knowing” what exactly he has done. He might be apprehended in the middle of the night by a roving band of Swat police. He might find himself on a no-fly list, unable to travel for reasons undisclosed. He might have his phones or internet tapped based upon a secret order handed down by a secret court, with no recourse to discover why he was targeted. Indeed, this is Kafka’s nightmare and it is slowly becoming America’s reality”

We live in a world of covert court decisions and secret bureaucratic procedures and where privacy is being abolished – all familiar from Kafka’s best-known novel, The Trial. This year marks the centenary of the book’s composition, though it was not published until after Kafka’s death, in 1925.

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Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and more have painted BMWs for the Art Car Project: 2014 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance

Calder Batmobile

Calder Batmobile

Basem Wasef  writes:  Gearheads talk a lot about fast race cars, and perhaps equally as much about four-wheeled beauties. The rare instance when beauty and brawn coexist within the same body is like lightning striking twice, and in the case of the famous Alexander Calder BMW 3.0 CSL “Batmobile,” a great reason to consider a pilgrimage to the 2014 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.

BMW’s so-called Art Cars debuted to the public at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs at the Louvre museum in 1975, and have attracted artistic icons like Roy Lichtenstein (1977 320i), Andy Warhol (1979 M1), David Hockney (850 CSi), and Jeff Koons (M3 GT2). The Calder car kicked off the three and a half decade-strong tradition of collaboration, and qualified first in class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in ’75 with drivers Sam Posey and Jean Guichet at the helm, until it was knocked out of the race with a broken driveline component.

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Strange Fruit: Iran Hangs 40 People in 2 Weeks, 19 in One Day

AP Photo/ISNA, Amir Pourmand)

AP Photo/ISNA, Amir Pourmand)

  writes:  Iran has gone on an execution binge in the past two weeks, hanging some 40 people, including 19 in one day, according to international human rights groups inside and outside of Iran.

Iran hanged a total of 19 prisoners on Tuesday, including one who was executed publicly, according to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC), which tracks the Islamic Republic’s flawed judicial system.

Forty executions have taken place since the beginning of January, including 33 in just the past week, according to human rights group Amnesty International.

Iran, which human rights activists say is one of the world’s leaders in the abuse of prisoners, hit an all time execution peak in 2013 when it killed some 529 citizens.

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No Respect: World’s greatest Gacker calls Healthcare.gov Security ‘Shameful’

The cover of "Ghost in the Wires," the autobiography of notorious computer hacker and security expert Kevin Mitnick. (LITTLE, BROWN & COMPANY)

The cover of “Ghost in the Wires,” the autobiography of notorious computer hacker and security expert Kevin Mitnick. (Little, Brown & Company)

Security expert — and once the world’s most-wanted cyber criminal — Kevin Mitnick submitted a scathing criticism to a House panel Thursday of ObamaCare’s Healthcare.gov website, calling the protections built into the site “shameful” and “minimal.”

In a letter submitted as testimony to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Mitnick wrote: “It’s shameful the team that built the Healthcare.gov site implemented minimal, if any, security best practices to mitigate the significant risk of a system compromise.”

[The book at Amazon: Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World's Most Wanted Hacker]

Mitnick’s letter, submitted to panel Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and ranking member Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, held comments from several leading security experts.

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Four and a Half Years After Xinjiang Riots, Grievances Unanswered

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Choi Chi-yuk reports from Urumqi on the Xinjiang riots, in which at least 197 people were killed. With Mandy Zuo at South China Morning Post:

A bus stop has been built on the Jiefang South Road where several thousand Han people marched with knives and sticks, seeking revenge on the Uygurs, but were stopped by officers of the People’s Armed Police with tear gas. Elderly women wearing red armbands sat on chairs at the bus stop yesterday, watching passers-by, while squads of armed police patrolled the area.

A Uygur who owns a grocery shop on the Xinhua South Road said his business was affected for several months after the riot in 2009, as the road was the worst-hit part of the city.

“Uygurs would be regarded as terrorists after the July 5 incident, if men wore a beard or women wore a kerchief, a veil or a gown,” he said. “Schools are teaching children not to believe in religion.

“We’re so depressed and feel unable to breathe,” he said. [Source]

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The 2009 riots erupted from protests over the deaths of two Uyghur migrant workers in southern China, which ignited a cocktail of existing grievances. At Dissent MagazineNick Holdstock examines the triggers of this and earlier incidents, from which he argues authorities have learned the wrong lessons:

Four years later, what are the prospects for further unrest in ? In as much as anything in China (or elsewhere) can be said to follow a pattern, there have arguably been broad similarities between the causes of, and responses to, the  protests and previous ones in Xinjiang.

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Sacré Bleu! The French, Too? France Surpasses U.S.A. in Whiskey Consumption

First Japan buys Jim Beam. Now this. 

Roberto A. Ferdman writes:  Japanese beverage giant Suntory is acquiring Beam, which makes Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark bourbons, among other spirits, for $16 billion. The two companies control nearly 10% of the global whiskey market, according to International Wine and Spirit Research. Combined, they will obviously be going after a larger share.

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A quick gander at global whiskey consumption helps show where the promise lies. India is far and away the world’s biggest guzzler, owing in part to its large population. Roughly half of the world’s whiskey is drunk by the sub-continent, according to Euromonitor. Most of it is made by UB India, the world’s largest whiskey company by volume.

But when those numbers are broken down per capita, India falls well outside of the picture. France, Uruguay, and the United States soar to the top…

[See the chart, and weep]  Read the rest of this entry »


Revolutionary Scuba Mask Creates Breathable Oxygen Underwater On Its Own

breathablee

Designer Jeabyun Yeon has created something great.  Essentially it turns humans into fish.

“Triton uses a new technology of artificial gill model.

- It extracts oxygen under water through a filter in the form of fine threads with holes smaller than water molecules.

- This is a technology developed by a Korean scientist that allows us to freely breathe under water for a long time.

- Using a very small but powerful micro compressor, it compresses oxygen and stores the extracted oxygen in storage tank.

- The micro compressor operates through micro battery.

Spotlight-Odd-Looking-Scuba-Mask-Turns-You-Into-a-Fish

 

- The micro battery is a next-generation technology with a size 30 times smaller than current battery that can quickly charge 1,000 times faster.” – Yanko Design

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Why Texas Is Growing (and Illinois Isn’t)

Why-Texas-Is-Growing-And-Illinois-Isnt

Michael Barone writes:   The Census Bureau’s holiday treat is its release of annual state-population estimates, to be digested slowly in the new year.

The headline from this year’s release is that population growth from July 2012 to July 2013 was 0.72 percent, lower than in the two preceding years and the lowest since the Great Depression 1930s. This reflects continuing low, below-replacement-rate birth rates and lower immigration than in 1982–2007. Net immigration from Mexico evidently continues to be zero.

The nation’s economy may be growing again, but Americans — and potential Americans — are not acting like it. There’s a parallel here with poll results showing that majorities still believe we are in a recession that the National Bureau of Economic Research says ended in June 2009, nearly five years ago.

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Metadata Stagecraft

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China cloning on an ‘industrial scale’

Originally posted on China Daily Mail:

BGI has ambitions to sequence the genomes of a million people, a million animals and a million plants

The scale of ambition is staggering. BGI has ambitions to sequence the genomes of a million people, a million animals and a million plants

The cloning methods may not be novel – but the application of mass production is

You hear the squeals of the pigs long before reaching a set of long buildings set in rolling hills in southern China.

Feeding time produces a frenzy as the animals strain against the railings around their pens. But this is no ordinary farm.

Run by a fast-growing company called BGI, this facility has become the world’s largest centre for the cloning of pigs.

The technology involved is not particularly novel – but what is new is the application of mass production.

The first shed contains 90 animals in two long rows. They look perfectly normal, as one would expect, but each of them is carrying cloned embryos. Many…

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