Law and Order/Legislation

CALM law keeps the volume down during commercials

Too loud!

The baby is asleep. You have the volume down on your favorite show. Then a commercial comes on and the volume is screaming. Within seconds, of course, so is the baby. Excessive volume on radio and TV commercials has been the largest source of complaints received by the Federal Communications Commission since 2002, when it started taking complaints. However, on Dec. 13, when the CALM law kicked in, it became a federal violation for broadcasters, cable operators and satellite operators to transmit commercials at an excessively high volume.
CALM law passed over a year ago
Advertisers know you are leaving the room […]

US broadband in a world of hurt

A stack of routers and other Internet-related devices.

Is America a first-world nation when it comes to broadband Internet penetration? Numerous studies suggest that the U.S. has a long way to go. Despite talk of free flow of and access to information, millions of Americans still don’t have access or can’t afford high-speed Internet. The consumer cost for high-speed Internet in the U.S. is completely out of proportion with what it costs consumers in the rest of the developed world, notes Wired.
Millions of Americans lack broadband
According to Wired, about 19 million people in the U.S. are unable to access broadband Internet due to their geographic location. Service providers […]

Your digital privacy is a casualty of archaic privacy laws

Close-up of the pencil-scribed word “privacy” being erased.

Your digital privacy is less safe than you realize, suggests professor Neil Richards of Washington University School of Law. So much so that you have “no idea” how much of your personal information is out there, available to governments or parties prepared to bid for your sensitive personal information. And digital privacy laws have done a poor job of keeping up with the number of ways in which you the consumer can be victimized, notes Richards.
Connect the digital privacy dots, says Richards
Richards told Business Insider that most people who bandy about their dirty laundry on the World Wide Web simply […]

First same sex marriage licenses issued in Wash. state

gay couple

Same sex marriage became legal in Washington State today, Thursday, November 6. More than 200 couples lined up outside the King County downtown Seattle administration building, to be among the first to receive a legal marriage license.
Lining up for same sex marriage
The couples began lining up 8 hours earlier, enjoying an atmosphere of festive anticipation that was shared by participants and bystanders alike.  According to the Seattle Times, “There were no signs of significant protests.”
Kelly Middleton and Amanda Dollente were the first in line, at around 4 p.m. The couple, from Auburn, Wash., have been an item for a year […]

BP agrees to pay $4.5 billion for Gulf oil spill

Deepwater Horizon

Oil giant BP has agreed to pay the federal government $4.5 billion in penalties for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It is the largest such settlement in history. BP still faces civil suits, but don’t worry. It is still making enormous profits.
BP pleads guilty to 12 felonies
The London-based petroleum titan has agreed to plead guilty to 11 felony charges of misconduct or neglect that led to the oil spill and to the deaths of 11 drilling rig workers. A 12th felony count was added for obstruction of Congress, due to a misrepresentation of the […]

Legal pot not jackpot for potheads

Pot dog

Marijuana aficionados may be rejoicing in Colorado and Washington, now that voters have passed state laws for legal pot. But experts say, tread with caution. For now, there is no guarantee that federal prosecutors still won’t crack down on users, growers and sellers.
Legal pot laws pass
Tuesday, Colorado voters passed Amendment 64. A similar initiative, I-502, passed in Washington state. Both ostensibly give state lawmakers a year to determine regulations and structure for a new industry of legal, recreational marijuana. However, federal prosecutors have no such time limit to challenge any portion of the laws in a lawsuit.
Still illegal federally
Although marijuana […]

California Prop 37 fails to pass, GMO labeling still not required

Close-up on a field of wheat.

The labeling of genetically modified food (aka genetically modified organisms, or GMOs) was a hot-button issue during the recent election. California Proposition 37, which would have required that food products containing GMOs be clearly labeled for public information, failed to pass. Critics of the legislation believe that the result of passing Prop 37 would have been higher food prices. Yet proponents maintain that the right to know – for a variety of reasons both health- and politics-related – outweighs whatever cost increases would have potentially occurred.
California Proposition 37 defeated, 53 percent to 47 percent
On a county-by-county basis, California Proposition 37 […]

Charities and transparency – How not to get taken for a ride

Giant pink ribbon on the corner of 5th and Market, downtown Louisville, KY.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman wants the act of giving to charity in his state to come with some assurances that the money is going to the intended causes. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month – along with its ubiquitous pink ribbon brigade – has authorities wondering whether charitable donations are being used more to fund promotional product placement, rather than the most important work of charities. If Schneiderman has his way, new rules regarding charities and transparency will be established that will serve as a model on which the public can rely.
Charities and transparency – Worrying about Kony […]

Zumba prostitution ring, and how not to money launder (Pt. 3)

Money hung out to dry on a clothesline

Money laundering is illegal, as is prostitution in the U.S., save for at the Bunny Ranch in Reno, Nevada. If you can hide both behind a thriving Zumba studio business, then you’re doing better than Alexis Wright, the allegedy Zumba prostitution queen of Kennebunk, Me. Click if you missed PART 1 or PART 2 of this article.
More on money laundering that doesn’t Zumba
While money laundering can be used to help conceal garden-variety illegal business, it can be even more serious. In some cases, it can even be used to conceal terrorist activities, according to the New Zealand Department of Internal […]

Zumba prostitution ring, and how not to money launder (Pt. 2)

A prostitute has a work-related conference with a potential customer.

Zumba prostitution rings aren’t commonplace in Kennebunk, Me. However, the impulse to hide illegal activity behind legitimate business is quite common, as is associated money laundering. CLICK HERE if you missed the beginning of this article.
Kennebunk residents had their suspicions of Zumba instructor
While many Kennebunk residents claimed to be in the dark as to the nature of Alexis Wright’s alleged business behind the scenes, some had their suspicions involving men coming and going from the Latin-flavored dance studio at all hours.
One dance student, Alison Ackley, was dumbfounded by the authorities’ discover.
“She was very professional. She was an amazing dancer and […]

Zumba prostitution ring, and how not to money launder (Pt. 1)

A large Zumba dance class in progress.

All was quiet in the small seaside town of Kennebunk, Me., at least until Alexis Wright’s alleged Zumba prostitution ring was uncovered. Now the community is caught in an uproar. Of all the possible legal fronts for illegal activities, running a prostitution ring behind a legitimate Zumba exercise dance studio is creative. Most creative businesspeople keep their dark little secrets separate from legitimate operations and do the money laundering off-site as one might expect. Working up a lather in Zumba, then keeping the already accelerated heart rate high in the back room – allegedly – is a rather ingenious business […]

Social Security Administration orders 174K hollow point bullets

Four hollow point bullets, displayed side by side.

Most people think of the social welfare program called the Social Security Administration (SSA) as an agency that provides retirees and near-retirees with a small measure of financial security via paid monthly payroll tax-funded benefits. Lately, however, those predisposed toward conspiracy theories are worried that SSA’s recent purchase of 174,000 hollow point bullets is something more than a distribution of benefits.
174,000 hollow point bullets – for seniors?
The Associated Press reports that the Social Security Administration recently purchased a large weapons cache that includes 174,000 hollow point bullets, which are significantly more damaging to human flesh than regular bullets, in that […]

Three-way civil union challenges definition of marriage, family

A man sits on a bed between two women who are in close physical contact with him.

A recent ruling in Brazil is once again bringing the political theater of definition of marriage to the forefront – and conservatives in the South American nation are up in arms. BBC News reports that a notary in Sao Paulo has accepted a civil union between three people – two women and one man. According to Public Notary Claudia do Nascimento Domingues, the trio has lived together long enough to warrant family rights, and Brazilian law has nothing that forbids such an arrangement.
Civil union and not a marriage, but…
Marriage and civil union are different from the standpoint of the law, […]

Revenge of robo-signing: the credit card lenders

robo-signing

Robo-signing, the practice of approving large amounts of loans without properly verifying them, is back in the news after having been a major player in the mortgage melt-down a few years back. This time, however, credit card companies seem to be playing fast and loose with loan verification.
Different lenders, same robo-signing
Major mortgage lenders like Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase were forced to suspend foreclosure operations in 2010, following the discovery of a proliferation of false legal documents created by robo-signing. Those lenders eventually paid out $26 billion to misled borrowers and their lawyers.
But it seems the nation’s credit card […]

Study: Junk food laws help curb child obesity

Close-up of the belly of an obese child.

For all the potential criticisms one can levy against the nanny state mentality, sometimes, facts sometimes support Big Brother’s method. In the case of a recently released study on the impact junk food laws have had on child obesity, there is compelling evidence that suggests that when such regulation is applied to school cafeteria food and availability of vending machines with unhealthy food, student weight declines.
Restrict junk food, fight child obesity
The new child obesity study, which published today in the journal Pediatrics, offers what some experts are calling the first real evidence that school regulations can have a positive effect […]

Support grows for marriage equality, opposing arguments lose steam – Pt. 2

Gay Marriages NYC

Support for marriage equality has been rapidly growing among American voters, according to many polls in recent years. And yet, many still vehemently try to block others from having the same rights they enjoy, based merely on their sexual orientation.
Arguments against marriage equality
Opposition arguments are often based on doomsday scenarios of “where it could lead,” such as to the legitimization of bestiality or pedophilia. However, these generally are arguments designed to scare people into voting a certain way. Since nobody can read the future, they are pure science-fiction.
Other opponents argue that allowing gay people to marry will somehow degrade the […]

Support grows for marriage equality, opposing arguments lose steam – Pt. 1

Christine Gregoire

According to a U.S. General Accounting Office report from 2004, there are at least 1,138 rights, benefits and protections afforded to married couples and their children at the federal level alone. Not all of those rights, benefits and protections are financial in nature, but a great many of them are. All of them, however, are denied to same-sex couples, no matter how devoted their commitments, in most states. Marriage equality is still an issue in this nation, in spite of rising public acceptance.
Marriage equality tug-of-war
Marriage equality is a topic of much debate at this time in my state of Washington. […]