Harvard, Yale and Stanford join the fight against Trump’s Muslim ban


(…I’ll get even with those schools that turned me down)

❝ Seventeen elite universities including Harvard, Yale and Stanford have joined forces to fight President Donald Trump’s ban on travel to the U.S. by refugees and citizens of seven mostly Muslim countries.

The schools say in court papers the ban threatens their ability to recruit students, faculty and scholars from abroad and to “meet their goals of educating tomorrow’s leaders from around the world.”

❝ The schools filed papers Monday in Brooklyn federal court seeking a judge’s permission to join a lawsuit fighting the ban. The American Civil Liberties Union and immigrant rights groups’ lawsuit has already led to a national order barring the government from relying on the ban to deport those who arrived on U.S. soil.

The other schools joining in the request are Brown, Carnegie Mellon, University of Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Emory, Johns Hopkins, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton and Vanderbilt.

❝ …In Brooklyn, the schools say it’s their mission to attract the world’s best scholars, faculty and students as they strive to foster a rich educational environment and draw from all over the world. During the 2015-2016 academic year, more than 1 million international students studied at U.S. universities, according to the schools.

The sort of vulgar education generally favored by Trump chumps – and the Chump-in-Chief – kept in place sufficiently long will drag down the overall level of education in the United States from mediocre to pitiful. If Republican neo-cons and their Teapublican cohort continue to get their way in Congress.

Give ’em enough time. The traffic will reverse and they’ll not only lose one of their chief worries about furriners — those smartass kids who actually study science, the arts, fact-based history and economics will be leaving, too. Only student who obey will enter Mudville U.

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New Jersey town sues DuPont for toxic waste dumping bigger than Exxon Valdez oil spill


Click to enlargeWilliam Bretzger/The News Journal

❝ A small town in New Jersey has sued DuPont for $1.1 billion, claiming it dumped more than 100 million lbs. of toxic waste into soil and water near the Delaware River, “a disaster worse than Exxon Valdez” that will take 1,000 years to clean up.

❝ Carneys Point Township is a town of about 8,000 near the eastern end of the Delaware Memorial Bridge. Its December lawsuit in Salem County Superior Court involves the cleanup of the Chambers Work Site, where Teflon was invented in 1938.

The site has been linked to cancer clusters in the area, which includes Carneys Point.

❝ DuPont began operating at the site in 1892 as a gunpowder mill, then transformed it onto a 1,400-acre chemical manufacturing complex that used hazardous substances including mercury, benzene and ethyl chloride.

Thousands of New Jersey residents have sued DuPont for contaminating their drinking water at the site. One such case was settled in 1993 for almost $40 million. DuPont did not admit liability…

❝ The town asks the court to calculate the penalties due under the Industrial Site Recovery Act — tens of thousands of dollars per day multiplied by years, and compel DuPont to establish a remediation trust as required by law.

It says the remediation trust should be $1.126 billion…

DuPont spokesman Dan Turner declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Not especially interested in what DuPont PR flacks have to say in the company’s defense. Responsibility is the operative process. DuPont must be made to pay up for the damages caused to generations of residents by their careless, thoughtless, profit-mills.

You need to be concerned about “smart” sex toys and privacy – Huh? Wha?


WTF?

❝ With the internet of things, previously innocuous devices have been rigged up to collect all sorts of data about their users—including sex toys. According to a recently filed US lawsuit, at least some people are unhappy with the privacy risk this could pose.

In the complaint, an unnamed plaintiff claims one “smart” sex toy collected identifiable details on her use of the device without her knowledge, and she is now seeking punitive damages. That data allegedly included details such as when the device was used, and what intensity setting the user selected.

❝ Although this sort of data collection may come as a surprise to some, researchers have discovered that other similar devices are also pooling sensitive information, highlighting a looming privacy threat: What if the company is hacked, and those details are released? Even if the data is kept secure, some customers perhaps don’t want unknown employees to have access to a wealth of data on how they spend their most personal time…

❝ The lawsuit, first reported by the Courthouse News Service, centres around a device called the We-Vibe: a vibrator which can be remotely controlled with a smartphone app.

The complaint alleges that the app was designed to “secretly collect intimate details about its customers’ use of the We-Vibe, including the date and time of each use, the vibration intensity level selected by the user, the vibration mode or pattern selected by the user,” and the user’s email address.

According to the complaint, “Plaintiff would never have purchased a We-Vibe had she known that in order to use its full functionality, Defendant would monitor, collect, and transmit her Usage Information.”

❝ The lawsuit appears to be based on the work of security researchers known as g0ldfisk and followr, who told an audience at the Defcon hacking conference in August how they took apart the We-Vibe and discovered the sort of data it was sending back to the company. At the time, Standard Innovation, the Canadian company behind the We-Vibe, said it collected some of the data for market research purposes. The company gave the example that if lots of customers kept using the We-Vibe’s highest intensity setting, then perhaps the device was a bit too weak overall…

The We-Vibe is far from the only smart sex toy on the market collecting user data. In one case, Pentest Partners found an Android sex toy app that stored very personal temporary images…

“If you lose your phone, or someone pops your SD card, some highly private content could be exposed,” security researcher Ken Munro said.

The wonders of any technological advance pretty much can be guaranteed to provoke greed, profit, salacious abuse and criminal behavior – by human beings.

Feds claim Microsoft can’t shield user data from government

The U.S. says there’s no legal basis for the government to be required to tell Microsoft customers when it intercepts their e-mail.

The software giant’s lawsuit alleging that customers have a constitutional right to know if the government has searched or seized their property should be thrown out, the government said in a court filing. The U.S. said federal law allows it to obtain electronic communications without a warrant or without disclosure of a specific warrant if it would endanger an individual or an investigation.

Microsoft sued the Justice Department and Attorney General Loretta Lynch in April, escalating a feud with the U.S. over customer privacy and its ability to disclose what it’s asked to turn over to investigators…

The Justice Department’s reply Friday underscores the government’s willingness to fight back against tech companies it sees obstructing national security and [often bullshit] law enforcement investigations. Tensions remain high following a series of court confrontations between the FBI and Apple over whether the company could be compelled to help unlock iPhones in criminal probes…

The industry’s push against government intrusion into their customers’ private information began at least two years ago, in the wake of Edward Snowden’s disclosures about covert data collection that put them all on the defensive.

Microsoft and Apple argue the very future of mobile and cloud computing is at stake if customers can’t trust that their data will remain private, while investigators seek digital tools to help them fight increasingly sophisticated criminals and terrorists savvy at using technology to communicate and hide their tracks…

The government said Microsoft doesn’t have the authority to sue over whether its users’ constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure are being violated…

Secrecy orders on government warrants for access to private e-mail accounts generally prohibit Microsoft from telling customers about the requests for lengthy or even unlimited periods, the company said when it sued. At the time, federal courts had issued almost 2,600 secrecy orders to Microsoft alone, and more than two-thirds had no fixed end date, cases the company can never tell customers about, even after an investigation is completed.

Our government does not recognize any individual right to privacy. Our government does not recognize any individual right to knowledge of the government investigating folks. Yeah, we can all come up with some unique circumstance when that might seem reasonable. Our government presumes a blanket privilege while denying any such right to ordinary citizens.

Not so incidentally, this isn’t especially a conservative vs liberal thing. There are a few of each in Establishment politics who will back up Americans’ right to privacy, right to know. Damned few.

The rest are silent.

Uruguay wins case against tobacco giant

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An international arbitrator has ordered tobacco company Philip Morris to pay Uruguay $7 million in damages and court costs after losing a lawsuit that challenged government anti-smoking policies…

The International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, an arm of the World Bank, ruled that the Swiss-based tobacco-manufacturer had failed to prove that Uruguray had violated the terms of its 1998 Bilateral Investment Treaty in approving a ban on smoking in enclosed spaces, higher cigarette taxes and warning labels between 2005 and 2010. This lawsuit represented the first time a tobacco company had sued a sovereign state before an international forum…

In enforcing the laws, government officials ordered a review of each of the 12 brands of cigarettes sold in Uruguay and required the manufacturer to increase the size of the health warnings on cigarette packaging by 80 percent. The resulting costs forced Philip Morris to withdraw seven of the 12 types of cigarettes that it sold on the Uruguayan the market.

But in their defense, lawyers for Uruguay cited scientific studies which showed a correlation between smoking and a 15 percent increase in cancer cases in the country, making it an “addictive chronic disease.

“This position is shared by the World Health Organization and its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, as well as the Pan American Health Organization and international scientific and medical institutions,” Uruguayan president Tabare Vazquez said.

Bravo, Uruguay. Keep making these greedy bastards pay for their crimes.

DuPont must pay $5.1 million for cancer case from Teflon production

A U.S. jury on Wednesday ordered DuPont to pay $5.1 million to a man who said he developed testicular cancer from exposure to a toxic chemical used to make Teflon at one of its plants…

It is the second time jurors in Ohio federal court have found against DuPont, which is facing more than 3,400 lawsuits from residents who say they contracted one of six diseases linked to perfluorooctanoic acid, known as PFOA or C-8, which is used to make products such as Teflon non-stick cookware.

Following a five-week trial, jurors deliberated for less than a day before finding DuPont was negligent and awarding $5.1 million in compensatory damages to David Freeman, an Ohio resident who said he developed testicular cancer from his exposure to C-8 in drinking water.

The jury also decided that DuPont had acted with actual malice, a finding that exposes the company to punitive damages, the amount still to be determined…

The trial was a so-called bellwether, the verdict of which is intended to help the companies and plaintiffs value remaining cases alleging similar facts.

Punitive damages rule AFAIC. It hasn’t been very many years since folks started to win deadly and life-altering cases against industrial giants.

Woman sues Border Coppers for invasive cavity search finding no drugs and no reason for the search

A new lawsuit filed by an American woman alleges that she was subjected to an unconstitutional search by border agents and then an extensive cavity search by a male doctor acting on their orders.

The civil complaint, which was filed last week in federal court in Tucson and seeks unspecified damages, targets the government, Customs and Border Protection, the CBP agent, and the doctor who searched her, among others.

The court filing describes 18-year-old Ashley Cervantes’ harrowing experience over the course of seven hours in October 2014. She had just returned from Nogales, Sonora (Mexico) back into Nogales, Arizona—she had come back from eating breakfast at one of her favorite spots.

According to the complaint, after presenting her identity documents, an unidentified CBP agent accused Cervantes of possessing illegal drugs, which she denied. She was ordered to proceed to a detention room, where she was handcuffed to a chair. There, she was sniffed by a dog (in violation of CBP policy) and was taken to another room where she was ordered to squat so that female officers could visually inspect her.

Unsatisfied that they had not found the drugs, the agents escalated their search. CBP Agent Shameka Leggett then filled out an Immigration Health Services’ form, known as a Treatment Authorization Request, describing Cervantes as being “diagnosed” as an apparent “potential internal carrier of foreign substance.” The agent recommended that she be X-rayed at a hospital.

Cervantes was then transported in custody from the border to Holy Cross Hospital…

The Holy Cross records from Ashley’s time at the facility include a number of factual inaccuracies, including inaccurately setting out that Ashley was accompanied by her mother and arrived in a private vehicle. In reality, Ashley was transported in a CBP vehicle. Her handcuffs were not removed until she changed into a hospital gown for the alleged purpose of undergoing an X-Ray.

Ashley was never X-rayed, despite that being the only “course of treatment” authorized by the TAR.

The complaint goes on to describe how Dr. Martinez “forcefully and digitally probed her vagina and anus.”

Ashley had never before been to a gynecologist and, for the remainder of her life, will always remember that her first pelvic and rectal exams were under the most inhumane circumstances imaginable to a U.S. citizen at a hospital on U.S. soil.

Scumbags working for scumbag coppers ain’t any different. They deserve the same penalties. They require the same oversight. They should be challenged by the professional bodies overseeing their professions.

Are you ready for nutrition labels that are actually readable?!

new nutrition label
Click to enlarge

Trying to understand how healthy your food is by reading the nutrition labels on packaging is like trying to complete an advanced math equation: It’s possible, but requires a lot of effort.

Now, deciphering the labels will finally get easier. The US Food and Drug Administration just announced their final ruling on a long-anticipated overhaul of calorie labels on packaged foods.

The new Nutrition Facts labels will appear on millions of food packages within two years, finally telling you more about what you really need to know about your food for health — especially how much sugar has been added.

The Sugar Association will probably sue the FDA over the new label. Surprise, surprise.

Leading credit rating company — pays $130 million settlement for sleazy work

California’s public pension system, Calpers, said it has reached a $130 million settlement with Moody’s and Moody’s Investors’ Service to resolve a case involving inflated grades of residential mortgage deals that later faltered.

The lawsuit stems from losses the pension fund suffered after the collapse of the housing market and defaults on formerly AAA-rated securities that were backed by pools of residential mortgages…

The California Public Employees Retirement System, or Calpers, brought the lawsuit against Moody’s and other rating agencies in 2009.

Remember the Great Recession – that little present from conservatives who say Wall Street is over-regulated? These were mortgages that served as collateral for the whole disaster.

Calpers, the largest pension fund in the United States, has previously settled with Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s, the other rating agencies that were named in the lawsuit.

S&P, a unit of McGraw Hill Financial, settled with Calpers in February last year for $125 million.

The settlements rank as the largest known recovery from Moody’s and S&P in a private lawsuit for civil damages

If you feel our economy still hasn’t returned to what it was, say, 10 years ago, 30 years ago, this is one of the reasons. Trading securities backed by phony credit ratings doesn’t make for long-range stability. Placing it within the context of an economy managed for the benefit of the top 1% – while screwing over the rest – illustrates even more of the questions raised by suits like this one.

Don’t look to the people who provided the groundwork for this disaster to offer legitimate solutions. The conservatives who infest Congress still have their jobs and will use all their skill at lying to convince you this coming November that it wasn’t their fault.