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OpenMarket: Risk and Consumer Freedom

  • Taking Tobacco to Court

    November 1, 2006
    In case you missed it, the Supremes are tackling a major tobacco/tort reform liability case this week. AP's Mark Sherman has the story:
    The Supreme Court grappled Tuesday with whether to allow a $79.5 million verdict against a cigarette company, a case that business groups are pointing to in asking the justices to clamp down on large damage awards. Mayola Williams was in the crowded courtroom to hear the justices discuss the judgment that an Oregon jury imposed against Altria Group Inc.'s Philip Morris USA in connection with the death of her husband, Jesse. A two-pack-a-day smoker of Marlboros for 45 years, Jesse Williams died of lung cancer nine years ago. Mayola Williams followed through on a promise she said she made to her husband and sued Philip Morris, which makes Marlboros,...
  • Turning Free Speech Upside Down

    October 31, 2006
    Thomas Jefferson once wrote that “to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical.” A similar principle is rooted in the First Amendment, which generally prohibits the government from forcing people to pay for speech with which they disagree. Federal law nevertheless permits states to impose “agency shop” arrangements under which every employee in a unionized workplace, even though not a union member, must pay to the union, as a condition of employment, a compulsory service charge equal in amount to union dues. The Supreme Court rejected non-union employees' challenges to such coerced charges on freedom of association grounds in Railway Employees v. Hanson (1956). But it softened that harsh result by ruling in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977), that such compelled charges cannot be used over an...
  • The Sweetest Urban Legend of All

    October 31, 2006
    Keeping the holiday theme going, we now turn to the perennial Halloween boogieman, the anonymous candy poisoner. For decades, parents have been warned to check their kids' candy carefully, lest a cyanide-laced Sugar Daddy make in into junior's mouth. As Iain has taught us, however, the record books are mighty slim when it comes to any children actually being harmed by psychos intent on taking advantage of the candy-giving season:
    Every year, newspapers and television programs warn parents about the "threat' [from poisoning trick-or-treat candy, along] with grave reminders to check apples for razor blades and needles. This year [2003], the Food and Drug Administration has joined in the tale-telling, warning parents to...
  • Kazman vs. Cupcake

    October 30, 2006
    CEI's Sam Kazman had the quote of the day. It happened during a debate on CNBC's Morning Call over whether NYC should ban restaurants from using artificial trans-fats. His opponent showed a 25-year-old cupcake as proof that trans-fats are bad for us. Sam's classic response? Press play to find out!
  • SEJ 2006: Open Source Journalism

    October 27, 2006
    There was yet more cool action from the Society of Environmental Journalists' conference this afternoon as Amy Gahran and Adam Glenn explained what Gahran called "open source journalism." She and Glenn encouraged their audience to become more involved blogging (and commenting online) on issues that they cover, both for professional development and to begin turning their readership into an extended community. Both of those goals, of course, come with significant personal rewards. A journalist who blogs, they explained, will reap the rewards of the distributed intelligence of everyone interested in their topics. Comments on reporter's posts are a great way to suggest story ideas or introduce a corrective point of view....
  • Another doomsday report – Simon redux

    October 24, 2006
    Shades of Paul Ehrlich: WWF in a new report says that the earth cannot support its human population, especially those in the developed world with their insatiable appetite and unsustainable lifestyle. WWF's report states:
    “Since the late 1980s, we have been in overshoot — the Ecological Footprint has exceeded the Earth's biocapacity — as of 2003 by about 25 per cent. Effectively, the Earth's regenerative capacity can no longer keep up with demand — people are turning resources into waste faster than nature can turn waste back into resources. Humanity is no longer living off nature's interest, but drawing down its capital. This growing pressure on ecosystems is causing habitat destruction or degradation and permanent loss of productivity, threatening both biodiversity...
  • The Newest Cell Phone Accessory: Lead Underpants

    October 24, 2006
    A new study out of the UK suggests that mobile phone radiation may be responsible for increased infertility in men. This observed decline in sperm count and motility, of course, has also been linked to obesity, smoking, stress, pollution and endocrine disrupting chemicals, but that needn't stand in the way of roping in yet another culprit. This latest round of worry over the health effects of mobile devices reminds one of Steve Milloy's recent round-up of the top ten junk science stories from the past ten years, including #2, the terrifying phantom risk of cell phone brain cancer.
  • Small Government Hate Speech?

    October 19, 2006
    Craig Bannister of CNSNews just passed on a story out of Marquette University in which graduate student Stuart Distler was banned from displaying the following Dave Barry quote on his office door: "As Americans, we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government." Lots to agree with there if you're a fan of smaller government. The chairman of his department disagreed, however, and removed the quote from Distler's office door, saying that the quote was "patently offensive," and that "hallways and office doors are not 'free-speech zones.'" One wonders where on Marquette's campus one can express one's ideas freely. Perhaps, like some modern airports do with smoking, there will be...
  • Europe Takes a Stab at the Multimedia Revolution

    October 17, 2006
    Sometimes, a regulatory idea comes along that is so stupid and offensive, one assumes it couldn't actually be real. "Who could possibly think this is a good idea?" one asks. This morning it's deja vu all over again with news that the EU wants to force anyone posting video online to be licensed as if they were a television broadcast network. That means that CNN International and your favorite video blogger are now looking at the same regulatory compliance burden. Taking video clips with your cell phone and putting them on YouTube or MySpace, by this defintion, makes you an "online broadcaster." Fortunately, for the moment, only Slovakia has stepped forward to officially embrace this proposal. On that note, Slovakian video bloggers beware. Let's just make sure no one tells the FCC about this. They may not go this far...
  • Update: Foley to Move to Amsterdam, Run for Parliament

    October 6, 2006
    News out of the Netherlands this week is bearing an odd parallel to DC's most talked about scandal involving a now-former Congressman from a certain peninsular state. In what must be a not entirely unexpected setback, a political party founded earlier this year by Dutch pedophiles looks as though it has insufficient support to compete for seats in the parliamentary general election next month. Children's rights groups sued to have the party banned outright, but a Dutch court ruled that the nation's freedom of expression guarantees extended even to the euphamistically-named "Brotherly Love, Freedom and Diversity party (PNVD)." Maybe this two-party...

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