The new documents show that in 2009, the NSA checked an “alert list” of nearly 18,000 telephone numbers against daily reports it got of Americans’ phone calls. The numbers on the alert list were supposed to be from suspected terrorists, but most of them didn’t meet the standard of “reasonable articulable suspicion” (RAS). Specifically, a FISC judge wrote in March 2009 that “only 1,935 of the 17,835 identifiers on the alert list were RAS-approved.”
The FISC court judge slammed the government for exceeding its mandate and verging on dishonesty, but the government’s lawyers clearly don’t see it that way.
“The fact that while the NSA is not perfect and screws up from time to time, there is absolutely no indication that there has ever been any abuse of this or frankly, any other program—spying for improper purposes or intentionally exceeding the bounds of proper authority,” Robert Litt, general counsel for ODNI, told reporters.
That same 2009 FISC order says that the government had not lived up to the court’s requirements.
Poor Eric Merola. He objected to my “Fair Use” of a small low-res image of his movie poster. He used the legal thuggery tactic of submitting a false DMCA in order to force me to give him my home address so that I can be the subject of legal harassment and intimidation by his lawyers and media thugs.
Then, when I posted a short video pointing out the false DMCA and posting his public email address… he had it flagged for “Scams and Spam”. Poor Eric. A guy can’t use perjury to silence his critics without a lot of headache anymore. At last count, there were over 80 copies of this “unscrubbed” video on YouTube. My thanks to those who deemed that necessary.
To ease his troubled mind, I’ve removed any and all references to anything he ever worked on in this “scrubbed” version of my previous video. I dare him to take this one down. Go on, Eric… I’m game if you are. Let’s dance.
Google is taking a lot of heat for its decision to scrap the popular Reader RSS feed aggregator, leading many to question why it would pull the plug on such a popular service. It turns out that the answer might have a lot to do with the hidden costs of safeguarding privacy. According to a report from All Things D, an unnamed source says that the closure is at least partly because of Google’s reluctance to build out the staff and infrastructure needed to deal with legal and privacy issues related to the product.“UNLESS IT’S GOING TO GET TO 100 MILLION USERS IT’S NOT WORTH DOING.”
The source says that Google is trying to position the company so that it stops getting stuck in expensive privacy lawsuits, like the $7 million Wi-Fi data-slurping case in the US. When the company announced it would be shuttering Reader, the service reportedly didn’t even have a project manager or full-time engineer assigned to it, and it’s said that Google didn’t want to spend the money to build the service out into a tentpole app. And while many longtime users of the service have questioned why Google doesn’t simply Reader off to a third party, its deep integration with other Google Apps means it’s easier for the company to just shutter it. So how many users would have made it worthwhile for Google to keep Reader around? Former Reader product manager Nick Baum tells ATD, “my sense is, if it’s a consumer product at Google that’s not making money, unless it’s going to get to 100 million users it’s not worth doing.”
A judge on Friday rejected claims by the Mennonite owners of a Lancaster County furniture maker that new federal health-care mandates violate their free-speech and religion rights by making them pay for employees’ contraceptive services.
In a 34-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg said the owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. did not prove that complying with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act amounted to a “substantial burden” on their religious rights or that they qualified as a “religious employer” for an exemption.
The decision was the latest in a string of conflicting rulings across the country, but the first in the Third U.S. Judicial Circuit, which covers Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Lawyers say the issue could end up before the Supreme Court.
Conestoga, an East Earl-based furniture maker owned and operated by Norman Hahn and his family, had previously excluded contraceptive services such as the morning-after pill from the insurance coverage it offered its 950 employees.
Last month, the Hahns claimed in a lawsuit that the new law would unconstitutionally force them to offer such options, which they called a “sinful and immoral” affront to the Mennonite Christian beliefs on which they run their company. Violating the law, they said, would subject them to crippling fines - $95,000 a day, or $100 for each employee nationwide.
They also argued that the free-speech rights that the Supreme Court recognized for corporations in the 2010 Citizens United case should be extended to corporations’ religious rights.
Citing the potential for significant harm against the company, Goldberg issued a 14-day temporary restraining order late last month, and barred government officials from imposing the fines. Lawyers for both sides appeared before the judge last week.
Attorneys arguing on behalf of the Departments of Treasury and Health and Human Services countered that the claim was baseless because the new regulations apply to insurers and secular corporations, not their owners, and because the act gives workers options but does not force any to use them. The American Civil Liberties Union also filed an amicus brief siding with the government.
When Steven Vicinanza got a letter in the mail earlier this year informing him that he needed to pay $1,000 per employee for a license to some “distributed computer architecture” patents, he didn’t quite believe it at first. The letter seemed to be saying anyone using a modern office scanner to scan documents to e-mail would have to pay—which is to say, just about any business, period.
If he’d paid up, the IT services provider that Vicinanza founded, BlueWave Computing, would have owed $130,000.
The letters, he soon found out, were indeed real and quite serious—he wasn’t the only person getting them. BlueWave works mostly with small and mid-sized businesses in the Atlanta area, and before long, several of his own customers were contacting him about letters they had received from the same mysterious entity: “Project Paperless LLC.”
“I was just mad,” he said.
Vicinanza soon got in touch with the attorney representing Project Paperless: Steven Hill, a partner at Hill, Kertscher & Wharton, an Atlanta law firm.
“[Hill] was very cordial and very nice,” he told Ars. “He said, if you hook up a scanner and e-mail a PDF document—we have a patent that covers that as a process.”
It didn’t seem credible that Hill was demanding money for just using basic office equipment exactly the way it was intended to be used. So Vicinanza clarified:
“So you’re claiming anyone on a network with a scanner owes you a license?” asked Vicinanza. “He said, ‘Yes, that’s correct.’ And at that point, I just lost it.”
Former German first lady Bettina Wulff has taken on Google over search terms that link to false rumors that she used to be a prostitute. The company argues that it generates such terms based on “objective factors,” but it’s not that simple. Google has suppressed undesirable results before in response to powerful lobby groups.
Look up former German first lady Bettina Wulff on Google Germany, and the search engine suggests refining the search with terms such as “prostitute,” “bordello” and “Playboy.” Wulff, whose husband Christian Wulff resigned in disgrace from the presidency in February, maintains that the rumors about her alleged “red-light past” are completely false.
On Monday, the mass-circulation newspaper Bild dedicated its front page to Bettina Wulff’s autobiography, which will be published on Wednesday. It quotes from a chapter in the book in which Wulff addresses the rumors.
“My pseudonym is supposedly ‘Lady Victoria’ and my workplace was apparently an establishment called ‘Chateau Osnabrück,’” Wulff writes, according to Bild. She continues: “I have never worked as escort.” The rumors have been very hurtful for her and her family, Wulff writes, describing her concern that her young son Leander might discover the speculation while surfing the Internet.
For some two years, Wulff has been fighting bloggers and journalists disseminating the gossip, and her lawyers have already issued 34 successful cease-and-desist orders, including one against a prominent German television personality this weekend.
But last week they took on Internet giant Google too, filing a defamation suit with the Hamburg district court to force the search engine to remove a long list of damaging terms recommended by its “Autocomplete” function in connection with Wulff. Google, which has refused to comply, claims that the search suggestions are simply the result of an algorithm. The company seems confident about the lawsuit, having won similar cases in court with claims that the search engine only reflects what people search for most often online.
Nearly two years after the signing of the landmark Dodd-Frank legislation, many of the rules meant to restore public trust in the country’s financial institutions have yet to be enacted.
Squads of lobbyists and lawyers have overwhelmed the rule-making process in minutia, blizzards of paper, and hundreds of meetings.
As a result, government regulators have missed more than half of their rule-making deadlines, with just 120 of the 398 regulations enumerated by the law in effect, according to a tally by the Wall Street law firm Davis Polk. Key provisions are still months away, most notably the so-called “Volcker Rule” meant to rein in banks’ appetite for risky investments and prevent a repeat of the 2008 meltdown that led to the public bailout of some of the country’s largest financial institutions.
“The richest industry in the history of the world is using its vast and unlimited resources to slow, delay, gut, and weaken as many of the rules as possible,” said Dennis Kelleher, a former aide to the late Senator Edward Kennedy and the chief executive of Better Markets, a Wall Street watchdog group. “If they don’t get their way, they file suit.”
A year ago, a federal court in Washington sided with the US Chamber of Commerce when the business group challenged the Securities and Exchange Commission on a controversial rule that made it easier for shareholders to replace corporate directors. Although the court did not invalidate the rule, it required the SEC to launch a rigorous — and time-consuming — cost-benefit analysis before finalizing the regulation.
President Barack Obama’s campaign has recruited a legion of lawyers to be on standby for this year’s election as legal disputes surrounding the voting process escalate.
Thousands of attorneys and support staffers have agreed to aid in the effort, providing a mass of legal support that appears to be unrivaled by Republicans or precedent. Obama’s campaign says it is particularly concerned about the implementation of new voter ID laws across the country, the possibility of anti-fraud activists challenging legitimate voters and the handling of voter registrations in the most competitive states.
Republicans are building their own legal teams for the election. They say they’re focused on preventing fraud - making sure people don’t vote unless they’re eligible - rather than turning away qualified voters.
Since the disputed 2000 presidential election, both parties have increasingly concentrated on building legal teams - including high-priced lawyers who are well-known in political circles - for the Election Day run-up. The Bush-Gore election demonstrated to both sides the importance of every vote and the fact that the rules for voting and counting might actually determine the outcome. The Florida count in 2000 was decided by just 537 votes and ultimately landed in the Supreme Court.
Paraguay’s congress voted to remove President Fernando Lugo. The impeachment proceeding was a lighting process in which with both chambers approved his destitution in a little more than 24 hours.
Paraguay’s La Nacíon reports that Vice President Federico Franco will assume the presidency after Lugo was found guilty of “performing his duties badly.”
La Nacíon from Argentina reports that the speed of the trial took many in Paraguay by surprise. Thousands of Lugo supporters and detractors streamed to Asuncíon, waiting for developments, the paper reports.
Lugo for his part will “appeal the constitutionality of the process.” He might resort the Inter-American Court of Human Rights because he says he was only given two hours to mount a defense. The regular time table to start any legal proceedings, Lugo’s lawyers told the paper, would be 18 days.
All of this, explains the AP, stems from “the inability of a leader elected on promises of helping the poor to find a balance with one-time allies who have increasingly disapproved of his leftist policies and strident, uncompromising style.”
Those tensions were heightened last week, after police tried to evict landless farmers from a forest reserve near the border with Brazil. Seventeen people were killed in the clashes with police in that incident.
More updates from local news sources at NPR
In the end, after you’ve stripped away their six-figure degrees, their state bar memberships, and their proclivity for capitalizing Odd Words, lawyers are just another breed of knowledge worker. They’re paid to research, analyze, write, and argue — not unlike an academic, a journalist, or an accountant. So when software comes along that’s smarter or more efficient at those tasks than a human with a JD, it spells trouble.
That’s one of the issues the Wall Street Journal raised yesterday in an article on the ways computer algorithms are slowly replacing human eyes when it comes to handling certain pieces of large, high-stakes litigation. It focuses on a topic that is near and dear to the legal industry (and pretty much nobody else) known as discovery, which is the process where attorneys sort through troves of documents to find pieces of evidence that might be related to a lawsuit. While it might seem like a niche topic, what’s going on in the field has big implications for people who earn their living dealing with information.
The discovery process is all about cognition, the ability of people to look at endless bails of info and separate the wheat from the chaff. For many years, it was also extremely profitable for law firms, which billed hundreds of dollars an hour for associates to glance at thousands upon thousands (if not millions) of documents, and note whether they might have some passing relevance to the case at hand. Those days are pretty much dead, gone thanks to cost-conscious clients and legal temp agencies which rent out attorneys for as little as $25-an-hour to do the grunt work. Some firms are still struggling to replace the profits they’ve lost as a result.