Sunday, May 18, 2008

Starbucks logo under fire: shows partially covered breasts

The new retro logo at Starbucks is stirring controversy. The logo shows a mermaid with partially-covered breasts.

A Christian group based in San Diego called The Resistance says the logo looks like a naked woman with her legs spread like a prostitute.

The Resistance is calling for a national boycott of Starbucks.

Starbucks says the logo is appropriate. It'll be around for a few weeks.

The logo is based on a 16th century Norse woodcut of a two-tailed mermaid.


Original here

US oil shipments canceled.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Responding to congressional pressure, the Bush administration on Friday said it is suspending oil deliveries into the government's Strategic Petroleum Reserve for the remainder of the year.

The move came days after Congress passed legislation requiring President Bush to temporarily halt shipments into the reserve in hopes of lowering gasoline prices. The president is expected to sign the bill.

The decision came as Bush, visiting Saudi Arabia, sought to get the Saudis to pump more oil. Saudi Arabia announced it decided a week ago that it increase production by 300,000 barrels a day in response to customer requests, although it also told U.S. officials it believes world supplies are sufficient to meet demand.

The Energy Department said it will not sign six-month contracts schedule to have begun starting July 1, for the acceptance of 76,000 barrels of oil a day. The department also plans to defer deliveries under existing contracts once the legislation passed by Congress late Wednesday becomes law.

Bush had opposed halting the shipments, arguing that such a relatively small amount of oil would not influence prices. The reserve, a system of salt caverns on the Louisiana and Texas Gulf coast, is 97 percent full, holding 701 million barrels of crude.

The stockpile, currently sufficient to cover two months of oil imports, is kept as a cushion in case of a major disruption of oil supplies.

It's not clear how much of an impact — if any — the interruption of deliveries into the reserve will have on oil or gasoline prices.

Crude oil prices were about $126 a barrel and held firm Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, despite the U.S. and Saudi announcements. Average gasoline costs were nearly $3.79 a gallon, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service.

Both the House and Senate by lopsided votes this week directed the president to suspend the oil SPR shipments with both Republicans and Democrats saying it made no sense for the government to take oil at today's prices. The crude oil would better be left on the market to increase commercial supplies, they said.

The government accepts the oil in lieu of royalty payments that otherwise would go into the U.S. Treasury on oil taken from U.S. land and offshore waters. Administration officials emphasized they are not actually "buying" oil, but critics say the U.S. Treasury in any case is losing revenue.

Original here

10 ways you might be breaking the law with your computer

For many years, the Internet was the “final frontier,” operating largely unregulated — in part because of the jurisdictional nightmare involved in trying to enforce laws when communications crossed not just state lines but also national boundaries. That was then; this is now.

Legislation that affects the use of Internet-connected computers is springing up everywhere at the local, state, and federal levels. You might be violating one of them without even knowing it.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the existing laws and some of the pending legislation that can affect how we use our computers and the Internet. Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice; this is merely an overview of some of the legislation that’s out there, how it has been interpreted by the courts (if applicable), and possible implications for computer users.

Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.

#1: Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)

Most computer users have heard of this law, which was signed in 1998 by President Clinton, implementing two World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties. The DMCA makes it a criminal offense to circumvent any kind of technological copy protection — even if you don’t violate anyone’s copyright in doing so. In other words, simply disabling the copy protection is a federal crime.

There are some exemptions, such as circumventing copy protection of programs that are in an obsolete format for the purpose of archiving or preservation. But in most cases, using any sort of anti-DRM program is illegal. This applies to all sorts of copy-protected files, including music, movies, and software. You can read a summary of the DMCA here.

If you’re a techie who likes the challenge of trying to “crack”DRM,” be aware that doing so — even if you don’t make or distribute illegal copies of the copyrighted material — is against the law.

#2: No Electronic Theft (NET) Act

This is another U.S. federal law that was passed during the Clinton administration. Prior to this act, copyright violations were generally treated as civil matters and could not be prosecuted criminally unless it was done for commercial purposes. The NET Act made copyright infringement itself a federal criminal offense, regardless of whether you circumvent copy-protection technology or whether you derive any commercial benefit or monetary gain. Thus, just making a copy of a copyrighted work for a friend now makes you subject to up to five years in prison and/or up to $250,000 in fines. This is the law referred to in the familiar “FBI Warning” that appears at the beginning of most DVD movies. You can read more about the NET Act here.

Many people who consider themselves upstanding citizens and who would never post music and movies to a P2P site think nothing of burning a copy of a song or TV show for a friend. Unfortunately, by the letter of the law, the latter is just as illegal as the former.

#3: Court rulings regarding border searches

Most Americans are aware of the protections afforded by the U.S. Constitution’s fourth amendment against unreasonable searches and seizures. In general, this means that the government cannot search your person, home, vehicle, or computer without probable cause to believe that you’ve engaged in some criminal act.

What many don’t know is that there are quite a few circumstances that the Courts, over the years, have deemed to be exempt from this requirement. One of those occurs when you enter the United States at the border. In April of this year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the right of Customs officers to search laptops and other digital devices at the border (the definition of which extends to any international airport when you are coming into the country) without probable cause or even the lesser standard of reasonable suspicion. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and other groups strongly disagree with the ruling. You can read more on the EFF Web site.

Meanwhile, be aware that even though you’ve done nothing illegal and are not even suspected of such, the entire contents of your portable computer, PDA, or smart phone can be accessed by government agents when you enter the United States. So if you have anything on your hard drive that might be embarrassing, you might want to delete it before crossing the border.

#4: State laws regarding access to networks

Many states have criminal laws that prohibit accessing any computer or network without the owner’s permission. For example, in Texas, the statute is Penal Code section 33.02, Breach of Computer Security. It says, “A person commits an offense if the person knowingly accesses a computer, computer network or computer system without the effective consent of the owner.” The penalty grade ranges from misdemeanor to first degree felony (which is the same grade as murder), depending on whether the person obtains benefit, harms or defrauds someone, or alters, damages, or deletes files.

The wording of most such laws encompasses connecting to a wireless network without explicit permission, even if the wi-fi network is unsecured. The inclusion of the culpable mental state of “knowing” as an element of the offense means that if your computer automatically connects to your neighbor’s wireless network instead of your own and you aren’t aware of it, you haven’t committed a crime — but if you decide to hop onto the nearest unencrypted wi-fi network to surf the Internet, knowing full well that it doesn’t belong to you and no one has given you permission, you could be prosecuted under these laws.

A Michigan man was arrested for using a café’s wi-fi network (which was reserved for customers) from his car in 2007. Similar arrests have been made in Florida, Illinois, Washington, and Alaska. See

#5: “Tools of a crime” laws

Some states have laws that make it a crime to possess a “criminal instrument” or the “tool of a crime.” Depending on the wording of the law, this can be construed to mean any device that is designed or adapted for use in the commission of an offense. This means you could be arrested and prosecuted, for example, for constructing a high gain wireless antenna for the purpose of tapping into someone else’s wi-fi network, even if you never did in fact access a network. Several years ago, a California sheriff’s deputy made the news when he declared “Pringles can antennas” illegal under such a statute.

#6: “Cyberstalking” laws

Stalking is a serious crime and certainly all of us are in favor of laws that punish stalkers. As Internet connectivity has become ubiquitous, legislatures have recognized that it’s possible to stalk someone from afar using modern technology. Some of the “cyberstalking” laws enacted by the states, however, contain some pretty broad language.

For example, the Arkansas law contains a section titled “Unlawful computerized communications” that makes it a crime to send a message via e-mail or other computerized communication system (Instant Messenger, Web chat, IRC, etc.) that uses obscene, lewd, or profane language, with the intent to frighten, intimidate, threaten, abuse, or harass another person. Some of the lively discussions on mailing lists and Web boards that deteriorate into flame wars could easily fall under that definition. Or how about the furious e-mail letter you sent to the company that refused to refund your money for the shoddy product you bought?

Closely related are the laws against “cyber bullying” that have recently been passed by some states and local governments.

The best policy is to watch your language when sending any type of electronic communications. Not only can a loss of temper when you’re online come back to embarrass you, it could possibly get you thrown in jail.

#7: Internet Gambling laws

Like to play poker online or bet on the horse races from the comfort of your home? The federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 criminalizes acceptance of funds from bettors — but what about the bettors themselves? Are they committing a crime?

Under this federal law, the answer is no, but some state laws do apply to the person placing the bet. For example, a Washington law passed in 2006 makes gambling on the Internet a felony. The King County Superior Court just recently upheld that law, although challengers have vowed to take it to the Supreme Court.

Be sure to check out the state and local laws before you make that friendly online bet.

#8: Security Breach Disclosure laws

A California law passed in 2003 requires that any company that does business in California must notify their California customers if they discover or suspect that nonencrypted data has been accessed without authorization. This applies even if the business is not located in California, as long as you have customers there, and no exception is made for small businesses.

#9: Community Broadband Act of 2007

This is a piece of pending federal legislation that was introduced in July of 2007 as U.S. Senate Bill 1853. In April 2008, it was placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders and is still winding its way through the legislative process. This federal law would prohibit state and local governments (municipalities and counties) from passing laws that prohibit public telecommunications providers from offering Internet services.

This is in response to laws passed in a few states, as a result of lobbying from the telecom industry, that prohibit cities from installing and operating public broadband networks, such as public wi-fi networks. The big telecom companies have a vested interest in preventing cities from establishing networks that could compete with their own services by providing free or low cost Internet services because the public services are partially or wholly taxpayer-subsidized.

If this law passes, it could make it easier to find free or low cost ISP services in cities that choose to build public networks. On the other hand, it could (depending on how it’s funded) cause tax increases for those who live in those municipalities, including those who don’t use the public networks.

#10: Pro IP Act

Back on the copyright front, the House of Representative recently approved by an overwhelming majority HR 4279, which imposes stricter penalties for copyright infringement. It creates a new position of “copyright enforcement czar” in the federal bureaucracy and gives law enforcement agents the right to seize property from copyright infringers.

This may all sound fine in theory, but when you look at the way other seizure and forfeiture laws have been applied (for instance, the ability of drug enforcement officers to seize houses, computers, cars, cash, and just about everything else that belongs to someone tagged as a suspected drug dealer — and in some cases not returning the property even when the person is acquitted or not prosecuted), it makes many people wary. Read more about the bill here.

Some local jurisdictions have already established seizure authority for piracy. See this article for more information.

Original here

Will Smith Opens Scientology School

“New Village Academy will lead the world in identifying innovative learning styles, educational best practices and the ingredients for enduring prosperity.” This quote is from the Vision Statement of the new school being funded and founded by Will Smith. Some of the “innovative learning styles” are Montessori, the Constructivist Model, and L. Ron Hubbard Study Tech, among others.

Study Tech was “developed” by L. Ron Hubbard and is used worldwide by the Church of Scientology. It is also promoted by a group called Applied Scholastics, a known Scientology front group. It combines common sense with learning techniques that have been around since the dawn of language, and gift wraps it in a shiny new package — with only 4% of the total income as the cost.

New Village Academy, along with using the Study Tech, as well as promoting L. Ron Hubbard on their Glossary page, has 6 staff members who have been confirmed to have studied Scientology. A post at the Operation Clambake Message Boards listed that Andrea Beckham, Sigrid Burket, Tasia Jones, James Oliver, Marcia Perkins, and Sisu Raiken have all taken Scientology courses between 1990 and 2006 (using the Scientology Service Completions tool from the Truth About Scientology website).

Another noteworthy aspect of the NVA is that they have a large section of their curriculum outlining the importance of learning “Ethics” (a very Scientology term). The NVA website states that “A well-established ethics system is used to help students who have made poor choices learn to make better ones.” It also says that “Our faculty, specifically teachers who are trained to work with our children on ethics, are available to students when they are having difficulties in any situation.”

The Staff who are known to have Scientology training will be, among other things, the “Education Enrichment Program Supervisor”, “Director of Qualifications” (Qualifications, or ‘Quals’ will be the program to make sure that students have a 100% understanding of things, and if they don’t they will be retaught gently what they don’t know), “Director of Learning”, as well as a position of training the teachers.

Original here

Myspace “Outrage Indictment” Perverts Justice

Who doesn’t feel sorry for the family of Megan Meir. Their daughter after being harassed mercilessly on Myspace by someone who she thought was a teenage boy by the name of Josh Evan, commits suicide.

We come to find out that the harassment was not by vicious, immature, uncaring Josh, which you could certainly argue happens all the time with teenagers in the real and cyberworld. This harassment however was actually allegedly being perpetrated by vicious, immature uncaring adult Lori Drew who set up a fake Myspace profile, posing as the young Josh Evans. Lori’s daughter was a long time friend of Megans

After months of harassment by this fictional teen peer, Megan, who was already suffering from a myriad of teen social and psychological issues tragically killed herself. You can read a full account of this story in the New Yorker Magazine article.

Lori Drew has now been indicted by a federal grand jury on one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization to get information used to inflict emotional distress on the girl.

Outrageous, immature and cruel behavior by Lori Drew? Absolutely. If this is the kind of behavior she engages in, I would argue she is just as much a danger to the futures of her own children as the mothers in the Texas Polygamist Compound who had their kids placed in foster care. I certainly would not want my kids in the same mall or high school as hers…

In any event, this case engendered enormous publicity and outrage over Drew’s actions and the fact that there did not appear to be any crime committed. Certainly a moral crime but no legal one hence Ms. Drew apparently would continue on her life path not encumbered by the steel bars so many wanted but only her conscience.

In true Jack McCoy, Law and Order style, federal prosecutors decided they they would seek what I call a “outrage indictment” against Lori Drew. An “outrage indictment” is when there is no criminal statute that will hold someone responsible but the public outrage is so great over the act that prosecutors throw every irrelevant statute that has no bearing on the “crime” against the wall to see what sticks. They do this because they know that public outrage is so great that they will get an indictment regardless of how ridiculous the attempt would seen if people were not so outraged over what happened.

The prosecutors even knowing that there is practically no chance of a conviction can then hold their heads high having satisfied the blood lust of those calling for the head of Lori Drew.

I know that Jack McCoy gets convictions all the time on these “outrage indictments” He is my idol.

I certainly understand the publicity and “public deterrent” rationale behind obtaining these “outrage indictments”. Even if you can’t get a conviction there is publicity and deterrent value. Maybe the next idiot parent who would otherwise “act like a child” will think twice and hopefully get some counseling before their next idiot move.

I am not saying there should not be a special place in hell reserved for Lori Drew . Maybe one day there will be appropriate legislation that deals with these types of situations. I have no doubt that there will be numerous emotional “if it was your child” or “you must not have children” type comments. Those are emotional statements. Those are revenge statements. The rule of law is supposed to be unemotional, rational and fairly applied.

Is it a “perversion of justice” that Lori Drew suffers no consequences for her acts? You bet it is. So our solution is to balance out one perversion with another?

A prosecution twisting a statute not intended for this situation to obtain an “outrage indictment” violates every one of those principals and improperly uses the courts to legislate criminal acts Over the next 10 years, you will see proper legislation enacted to address the issue of “cyber bullying” in the social media and other contexts.

Until that time, the rule of law is not about turning Lori Meir into some high tech cyber criminal for which the statute she was indicted under was designed to deal with as much as we would like to see her pay a high price. That is the rule of media justice. That is the rule of outrage justice. That is the rule of a “legal lynch mob”

Not rules to live by….

Original here