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Tiffiniy Cheng writes, "No governor deserves your attention unless they're awesome, right? What if the awesomest possible candidate was running against big power right now? Zephyr Teachout is that badass."
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This morning's ruling from New York State's highest court, holding that towns can ban fracking in city limits, is a huge setback for petrocratic rule.
Dr. Stacy Makhnevich was a NYC dentist (billing herself as the "Classical Singer Dentist of New York") who made use of a bizarre form provided by a company called "Medical Justice." Her patients were expected to sign this form, through which they assigned copyright in all their reviews of the dental practice and the doctor to the doctor herself, enabling her to use copyright notices to censor any criticism of her that appeared online. Robert Lee was an unhappy patient who posted a one-star Yelp review in 2010, and subsequently ended up embroiled in litigation against Makhnevich -- a lawsuit that would have likely settled the question of the legality of Medical Justice's adhesion contracts.
But Medical Justice left Makhnevich to fight the claim on her own, and she has subsequently disappeared. It seems she is no longer practicing dentistry, and her lawyers can't locate her and have asked to shut down the case.
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Charlie writes, "There is a smoke shop in Scotia NY, owned by a young black man. There are many, many smoke shops in the capital region, but the rest are owned by white people. Undercover police decided to send an 'undercover agent' (an informant facing his own jail time) to investigate. Shortly after, the owner was charged with possession of crack cocaine. He was facing almost a decade in prison. Just one hitch though: the owner had video cameras set up in his shop. The videos captured the informant dropped a bag of crack on the counter; planting the drugs. The charges were dismissed, the informant has suddenly "disappeared" and the owner is now considering a law suit."
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A woman who valet-parked her car at Rochester airport returned to find a notice informing her that the valet had searched her car, on orders from the TSA. The TSA does not search cars in the other garages, and they do not provide notice to valet parkers that their cars are subject to search. The TSA says it searches the parked cars because they are stored close enough to the terminal that a bomb could do serious damage.
John McCaffery, TSA, said, “No, those vehicles that are in the garage, short term long term parking, even if they carry pretty large amounts of explosives, they would not cause damage to the front of the airport. But for those who use the valet, the car could be there for a half hour or an hour so there is a vulnerability.”
News10NBC went to the valet parking and one of the attendants showed us the notice they put in the cars.
We asked, “You're required, they tell you, you have to search the car?” Valet Parking Attendant Frank Dettorre said, “I have to do it.”
My prediction: the TSA will erect a sign at the valet drop-off saying, "By valet parking, you agree that we can search your car." And that will be the end of it. Because in the 21st century, posting a notice of your unreasonable conduct is the same as getting consent for it.
TSA searches valet parked car [Berkeley Brean/WHEC.com]
The New York Senate has passed a bill making it illegal to "harass" a police officer by "any type of physical action" -- even action that does not otherwise constitute interference, obstruction or assault. Given that "obstruction" and "interference" are famously broad, it's hard to imagine what conduct the police and the NY Senate believe they need to control by statute, though there's a clue in the statutory language, which makes it a felony to "harass, annoy, or threaten a police officer while on duty."
In other words, if you cause any physical contact with a police officer, even unintentionally, even if the contact does not rise to the level of assault or obstruction or interference, you can be convicted of a felony and imprisoned if the officer can show that your conduct "annoyed" him. This is the kind of statute that seems calculated to allow the police and prosecutors to put people in jail for very long stretches (remember that 97% of people indicted for felonies in the USA plead guilty under threat of decades of prison should they fight and lose) just because they don't like them very much.
I'm reminded of Toronto's notorious "Officer Bubbles", Adam Josephs, who told a G20 protester that if any soap bubbles were to touch him, he could consider it assault (and who violently arrested the protester on that basis). The world laughed (albeit with some weary cynicism) at the idea that a large, armed man could call incidental contact with a soap-bubble "assault." But the New York Senate has effectively given police the power to literally treat mere annoyances as felonious conduct.
“At a time when shocking incidents of disrespect and outright confrontation are at an all-time high, the men and women who patrol the streets of our cities deserve every possible protection we can offer them,” Senator Griffo stated. “My bill would make it a crime to take any type of physical action to try to intimidate a police officer. This is a necessary action because we can see from the rise in incidents that too many people in our society have lost the respect they need to have for a police officer. We need to make it very clear that when a police officer is performing his duty, every citizen needs to comply and that refusal to comply carries a penalty.”
Empire State Development, the New York State agency devoted to promoting New York businesses, threatened the (extremely excellent) Everyman Espresso shop with a lawsuit because they used an "I [Coffee Cup] New York" logo (the logo appears on the knuckles of Sam Penix, who co-owns Everyman). After Everyman took the sign down, Empire State Development's lawyers demanded "an accounting of all gross revenues generated during the period when the I ♥ NY® Trademark was used" so that they could figure out how big a bill to send to a small New York business for using it.
“Basically, it’s extortion,” he said. “It’s also ironic because we are being threatened by the entity that has vowed to grow our New York business.”
The mission of Empire State Development, the department’s parent agency, is indeed “to promote a vigorous and growing economy, encourage the creation of new job and economic opportunities, increase revenues to the State and its municipalities, and achieve stable and diversified local economies.” Empire State Development is also home to the state tourism department, which started an effort last year to revive and reinvent its “I ♥ NY” campaign.
On Monday, Everyman slapped a “Censored” sign over the logo on the door of its second shop, on West Broadway in SoHo, which opened last summer. Everyman’s principals are complying with Ms. Neumann’s request, albeit under protest. “We just think there’s no likelihood of confusion,” Mr. Terrana said.
Students from Tufts University who attended this year's Macy's Parade were showered with confetti made from shredded, confidential Nassau County police files. The shreds revealed the identities of undercover officers, including their SSNs and bank details.
"It landed on her shoulder," Finkelstein said, "and it says 'SSN' and it's written like a Social Security number, and we're like, 'That's really bizarre.'"
Finkelstein, a Tufts University freshman, said he and his friends were concerned and picked up more confetti that had fallen around them.
"There are phone numbers, addresses, more Social Security numbers, license plate numbers and then we find all these incident reports from police."
The documents were apparently from the Nassau County Police Department.
The Oatmeal's campaign to raise funds to preserve and develop the 16 acre plot in Wardenclyffe, Long Island where Nikola Tesla's lab once stood has concluded successfully. The fundraiser aimed to raise $850,000 and ended up with $1.4 million, with donations from over 100 countries. The money was given to a group called The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, and was used to buy the land from the Agfa Corporation, its erstwhile owner.
(Image: Tesla Science Center)
Joly MacFie captured video of Charlie Stross's and my tour-stop at Brooklyn's MakerBot this week. We were there in support of our new novel Rapture of the Nerds, and did a talk, reading and Q&A that touched on the Singularity, its precedents, its discontents, and its inherent comedy -- all while 3D printers chattered in the background. And afterwards everyone got 3D printed miniatures of our heads!
We're making our final stops of tour tomorrow -- Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! -- in Rochester, NY, at RIT. Tell your friends!