Italy court upholds Berlusconi tax fraud verdict

ITALY — Former Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s tax fraud conviction and four-year prison sentence were upheld on the first appeal Wednesday in a case that could see him barred from public office for five years.

In Italy, defendants are legally considered innocent until all appeals are exhausted, and Berlusconi’s lawyers are expected to appeal the case to the nation’s highest Court of Cassation once the reasoning for the decision is published.

Still, the ruling, which comes just days before prosecutors wrap up closing arguments in his sensational sex-for-hire trial, raises the question of whether Berlusconi’s days as a political force are numbered…

The case already is tightly tied to Berlusconi’s political fortunes. He announced he was stepping aside just two days before the October lower court verdict convicting him in a scheme that involved inflating the price his Mediaset media empire paid for TV rights to U.S. movies and pocketing the difference. Shortly after the guilty verdict, he renewed his political campaign, and his lawyers began seeking a series of trial delays for his electoral commitments…

His lawyers had argued to move the Mediaset appeal and the sex-for-hire case to the nearby city of Brescia, arguing that Milan courts are partial. The high court denied the motion earlier this week…

The ruling also upheld barring him from managing any company for three years. Even if the jail sentence is confirmed, it is unlikely Berlusconi would serve any time for the tax fraud case because a furlough shaving three years off the sentence would likely be applied and one-year sentences are not normally served…

On Monday, the sex-for-hire trial will resume with prosecutor Ilda Boccassini wrapping up closing arguments that were started in early March, before the trial was slowed by delays over Berlusconi’s campaign commitments, his health and the motion for a change of venue. In that case, the media mogul is on trial in Milan on charges he paid for sex with an underage Moroccan teen during the infamous “bunga-bunga” parties at his villa and then tried to cover it up. Both he and the woman, Karima el-Mahroug, better known as Ruby, deny sexual contact.

Overdue. Which is typical in what passes for judicial proceedings in Italy if you have sufficient power and political clout.

Scumballs never stop — patent troll claims to own the Web

Even after Amazon and Google put two bullets into its head earlier this year, overgrown patent troll Eolas is stumbling forward with new lawsuits against Facebook, Wal-Mart and Disney.

Eolas is a shell company that had been stomping around the country demanding companies pay it to use basic technology that lets users “interact” with the web. It suffered what looked like a fatal blow earlier this year when Amazon and other Eolas targets persuaded a Texas jury that two of its patents were invalid.

Nonetheless, Eolas has dusted itself off and filed new claims based on the same patents plus two more that are offshoots from the original patent issued in 1998. That patent…is entitled “Distributed hypermedia method for automatically invoking external application providing interaction and display of embedded objects within a hypermedia document.”

Eolas’ legal rampage led the man regarded as the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, to testify in February that its patents should be invalid.

The troll’s activities have also proved controversial because the University of California has been its partner in the patent lawsuits. A spokesperson told Reuters, which was first to report the Facebook suit, that the school considered the patents public assets and that it “should be paid a fair value when a third party exploits that university asset for profit.”

…McKool Smith…The law firm, which has won hundreds of millions in Texas troll cases through commissions of up to 40 percent, has seen its fortunes turn in the last year.


Creeps like this prove the US Patent Office has gone from incompetent to useless and a partner in criminal conspiracies.

Though one of the cardinal requirements of this kind of theft is a patent office that knows nothing of technology, the many judges and courts cooperating in this crap are equally corrupt and fill the needs of legal extortion with their ignorance.

Congress prepares to declare war on the internet

Many internet users in the United States have watched with horror as countries like France and Britain have proposed or instituted so-called “three strikes” laws, which cut off internet access to those accused of repeated acts of copyright infringement. Now the U.S. has its own version of this kind of law, and it is arguably much worse: the Stop Online Piracy Act, introduced in the House this week, would give governments and private corporations unprecedented powers to remove websites from the internet on the flimsiest of grounds, and would force internet service providers to play the role of copyright police.

As the Electronic Frontier Foundation notes in a post on the proposed legislation, the law would not only require ISPs to remove websites from the global network at the request of the government or the courts (by blocking any requests to the central domain-name system that directs internet traffic), but would also be forced to monitor their users’ behavior in order to police acts of copyright infringement. Providers who do not comply with these requests and requirements would be subject to sanctions. And in many cases, legal hearings would not be required…

In addition to using what some are calling the “internet death penalty” of removing infringing websites from the DNS system so they can’t be found, the proposed bill would also allow copyright holders to push for websites and services to be removed from search engine results and to have their supply of advertising cut off — and would require that payment companies like PayPal and ad networks comply with these orders. If you liked what PayPal and others did when they shut off donations to WikiLeaks, you’re going to love the new Stop Online Piracy Act…

The bottom line is that if it passes and becomes law, the new act would give the government and copyright holders a giant stick — if not an automatic weapon — with which to pursue websites and services they believe are infringing on their content. With little or no requirement for a court hearing, they could remove websites from the internet and shut down their ability to be found by search engines or to process payments from users. DMCA takedown notices would effectively be replaced by this nuclear option, and innocent websites would have to fight to prove that they deserved to be restored to the internet — a reversal of the traditional American judicial approach of being assumed innocent until proven guilty — at which point any business they had would be destroyed.

Just as our Congress has become the kind of legislative body that would make any corporation happy and content, this bill would make for the kind of internet that would increase smiles and profits for media conglomerates — regardless of the stifling blanket dropped on the whole Web.

English riots blamed on feral underclass of hardcore offenders

Remembering three young men murdered by rioting thugs
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

The justice secretary, Kenneth Clarke, has blamed the riots that swept across England last month on a “broken penal system” that has failed to rehabilitate a group of hardcore offenders he describes as the “criminal classes”…

Writing in the Guardian, Clarke dismisses criticism of the severity of sentences handed down to rioters and said judges had been “getting it about right”. However, he adds that punishment alone was “not enough”.

“It’s not yet been widely recognised, but the hardcore of the rioters were in fact known criminals. Close to three quarters of those aged 18 or over charged with riot offences already had a prior conviction. That is the legacy of a broken penal system – one whose record in preventing reoffending has been straightforwardly dreadful.”

He says: “In my view, the riots can be seen in part as an outburst of outrageous behaviour by the criminal classes – individuals and families familiar with the justice system, who haven’t been changed by their past punishments.”

Clarke uses his intervention to call for the coalition government to adopt a “renewed mission” in response to the riots that addressed an “appalling social deficit”.

His comments will reignite the debate on the causes of the disturbances, which the prime minister, David Cameron, has said “were not about poverty”…I agree.

“There is an urgent need for some rigorous social research which will look, without prejudice, at the causes and the consequences of the recent riots,” Professor Tim Newburn said. “Crucially, it is vital that we speak with those involved in the disturbances and those affected by them to try to understand any lessons for public policy…”

Clarke writes: “The general recipe for a productive member of society is no secret. It has not changed since I was inner-cities minister 25 years ago. It’s about having a job, a strong family, a decent education and beneath it all, an attitude that shares in the values of mainstream society. What is different now is that a growing minority of people in our nation lack all of those things and indeed, have substituted an inflated sense of expectations for a commitment to hard graft.”

Not especially different from what we witness, case by case, incident by separate incident on the nightly news here in New Mexico. The culture of repeat offenders let loose on society time after time – until that day when one or a few commit commit some crime horrific enough to get the attention of politicians and pundits.

When the furor dies down the courts/jails/police revert to being a revolving door.

Pakistan upholds rape acquittals – continues to avoid 21st Century

Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed an appeal by gang rape victim Mukhtar Mai against the acquittal of five men she accused of attacking her…

Mai, now 40, was gang raped in June 2002 on the orders of a village council in Meerwala town of Punjab province as punishment after her younger brother was wrongly accused of having illicit relations with a woman from a rival clan.

The boy was 12-years-old at the time.

A local anti-terrorism court (ATC) had sentenced the six accused men to death, but the Lahore High Court acquitted five of the men in March 2005, and commuted the sentence for the main accused, Abdul Khaliq, to life imprisonment.

A four-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday “dismissed” all appeals and ordered the release of those arrested, according to a copy of the court order received by AFP. It however upheld the life sentence for Khaliq…

Mai, whose case garnered much attention in the West as an example of oppression suffered by Pakistan’s women, expressed her disappointment over the Supreme Court verdict while human rights groups also voiced discontent…

Mai, who now helps protect women facing threats at the hands of influential men, said she would not file any appeal against Thursday’s judgement…

“This is a setback for Mukhtar Mai,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement urging the government to “ensure her safety.”

Pakistan’s government refuses to ensure honesty. Why should you expect safety?

Almost a thousand women were raped in Pakistan during 2010 while more than 2,000 were abducted and almost 1,500 murdered, according to the Aurat Foundation, an organisation working for the protection of women in the country.

A further 500 were the victims of “honour killings”, a custom under which relatives and other fellow tribesmen kill a woman if they believe she had an affair.

There are many nations devoting every opportunity afforded to bring the lives of their families, their neighbors, their nation to a healthier, better life. I’d be hard pressed to qualify Pakistan as one of those progressive nations.

Bobby Fischer’s widow may have his money. Well, that took long enough.

“Does this mean I get to stay buried– finally?”

A long fight over the estate of the chess champion Bobby Fischer appears to have reached its endgame, with a court ruling that a Japanese woman is indeed his widow and heir.

A district court in Iceland, where Mr. Fischer spent the last years of his life, ruled Wednesday that Miyoko Watai, a pharmacist and the president of the Japan Chess Association, had been married to Mr. Fischer and was therefore entitled to inherit his estate. Mr. Fischer, who died in January 2008, left no will; his estate is said to be worth about $2 million.

Mr. Fischer’s nephews, Alexander and Nicholas Targ, who also filed a claim to the estate, plan to appeal the ruling….

After Mr. Fischer’s death, a protracted legal battle erupted over his estate. In addition to Ms. Watai and the Targ brothers, a Filipino woman named Marilyn Young also laid claim to the estate, saying that her daughter, Jinky, was Mr. Fischer’s child.

To test that claim, last summer Mr. Fischer’s body was exhumed and a paternity test conducted. It came back negative.

Ms. Watai seems to me actually to have had Fischer’s interest at heart. She understood that it is humane to make allowances for a precariously balanced genius, and proper considering his many contributions to a multitude of people all over the world.

British Court forces release of documents confirming U.S. torture

Seven years captivity – released without charges
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

The British government has failed in a legal challenge to keep secret U.S. intelligence material relating to allegations of “cruel and inhuman” treatment involving the CIA.

London’s Court of Appeal rejected a request by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband to prevent senior judges from disclosing seven paragraphs of information relating to the case of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed…

Mohamed, an Ethiopian national and British resident, was arrested in Pakistan in April 2002.

He says he was then flown to Morocco on a CIA plane and held for 18 months, during which he says he was repeatedly tortured, including having his penis cut with a knife. Morocco has denied holding him.

He was transferred to Afghanistan in 2004 and later moved to Guantanamo Bay, U.S. authorities have said. He was never charged and returned to Britain in February 2009…

Judges later said the United States had threatened to end intelligence cooperation if the evidence of alleged torture was released.

But last October, two High Court judges ruled there was “an overwhelming public interest” in releasing the details, a decision upheld by the Appeal Court on Wednesday…The seven redacted paragraphs refer to interviews conducted by U.S. officials in which it was reported that Mohamed was shackled and subjected to sleep deprivation, threats and inducements.

“Although it is not necessary for us to categorize the treatment reported, it could be readily contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities,” the now public judgment said.

Think our freedom-loving Supreme Court would have allowed such a decision? Or Congress? Or President Obama?

Justice Department offers limits on state secrets privilege


The Justice Department is preparing to impose new limits on the government assertion of the state secrets privilege used to block lawsuits for national security reasons. The practice was a major flashpoint in the debate over the escalation of executive power and secrecy during the Bush administration.

The new policy…would require approval by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. if military or espionage agencies wanted to assert the privilege to withhold classified evidence sought in court or to ask a judge to dismiss a lawsuit at its onset.

“The department is adopting these policies and procedures to strengthen public confidence that the U.S. government will invoke the privilege in court only when genuine and significant harm to national defense or foreign relations is at stake and only to the extent necessary to safeguard those interests,” says a draft of a memorandum from Mr. Holder laying out the policy and obtained by The New York Times.

Under the Bush administration, the Justice Department frequently asserted the state secrets privilege, blocking lawsuits by people who claimed that they had been illegally wiretapped or tortured as part of the government’s counterterrorism efforts…

Several lawmakers adopted a cautious stance on whether they would press forward with the privilege legislation, because they had not yet seen the policy. Still, the lead sponsor of the House version of the bill, Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, noted in a statement that the bills would affect courts, too.

“Fixing the executive branch’s assertion of the privilege is only one part of the equation,” Mr. Nadler said. “Congress must still enact legislation that provides consistent standards and procedures for courts to use when considering state secrets claims. Our constitutional system requires meaningful, independent judicial review of governmental secrecy claims.”

Say “Amen!”

Patient does not have right to refuse chemo, judge rules — UPDATED

UPDATED: Judge issues arrest warrant for mom of boy refusing chemo, orders boy be placed in protective custody for medical treatment
Well.. it sounds like I got the “kicking and screaming” part right. But, of course, it sounds like the family is doing some lousy decision-making.  A quotable quote from the article: “Colleen Hauser testified at the earlier hearing that her son ‘is not in any medical danger.'”  Ahk!

A Minnesota judge ruled Friday that a family cannot refuse chemotherapy for their cancer stricken 13 year old son.

Judge John Rodenberg denied the Hauser family’s request to decline chemo for their son Daniel. The family wanted to avoid chemotherapy, citing their religious beliefs.

In his ruling, Judge Rodenberg wrote:

“Brown County Family services has demonstrated a compelling state interest in the life and welfare of Daniel Hauser sufficient to override the fundamental constitutional rights of both parents and Daniel to the free exercise of religion and the due process right of the parents to direct the religious and other upbringing of the child.”

His cancer doctor says Daniel Hauser of Sleepy Eye has a 90 percent chance of surviving his Hodgkin’s lymphoma with chemotherapy. Without it, Dr. Bruce Bostrom says, it’s almost certain Daniel will die.

Nevertheless, Colleen and Anthony Hauser are supporting what they say is their son’s decision to instead treat the disease with nutritional supplements and other alternative treatments. They belong to the Nemenhah Band, a Missouri-based religious group that believes in natural healing methods.

Judge Rodenberg praised all parties, including the family and county officials, for acting in good faith at all times….

But despite their rights to believe as they wish, the judge said several Minnesota statutes require parents to provide “necessary medical care” to their children, and that “complementary and alternative health care” is not enough.

Most people will latch onto the religious beliefs aspect of this story. It probably made the judge’s decision a lot easier, not harder. For me, the more interesting question is what happens when a patient wishes to decline treatment, for any reason. In this case, it appears that the 13-year-old has his own strong preference, and the parents support him. Should the government drag him kicking and screaming to treatment, or should the family make its own decision?

Republicans prefer no Junior Senator for Minnesota – to losing

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

A Minnesota court panel has ruled that Democrat Al Franken beat Republican incumbent Norm Coleman in the long-fought contest for a U.S. Senate seat and said the comic turned politician should be certified as the winner.

The contest, however, is far from over. Coleman has already said he would appeal the widely anticipated ruling to the Minnesota Supreme Court and possibly to federal courts.

It may be months before the U.S. Senate knows if Democrats will control a crucial 59th seat in the body, strengthening their chances of putting together a controlling 60-vote bloc to cut off debate.

And that’s what it’s all about. Republican tradition of political ideology trumping democracy and civil liberty.

The ruling from a three-judge panel of state court judges who examined absentee votes in question said Franken had won and should be certified.

The panel concluded its work last week after finding Franken had a 312-vote lead. But Minnesota Governor [Republican] Tim Pawlenty has said he would not certify a state winner until all legal challenges are exhausted…

Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said “a thorough election contest upheld the result of a meticulous recount.

Al Franken won the election, Al Franken won the recount, Al Franken won the contest, and now Al Franken should be allowed to get to work for the people of Minnesota.”

I can only hope the voters of Minnesota keep in mind how the RNC and their tame governor decided that no representation was preferable to the candidate the people elected.