Soylent and Proposition 65

Lots of people have been gleefully reposting links to a PR Newswire press release from a group who are suing the makers of Soylent for failing to comply with California’s Proposition 65. Test results commissioned by As You Sow, conducted by an independent laboratory, show that one serving of Soylent 1.5 can expose a consumer to a concentration of lead that is 12 to 25 times above California’s Safe Harbor level for reproductive health, and a concentration of cadmium that is at least 4 times greater than the Safe Harbor level for cadmium.

Explaining SOPA

A lot of people are concerned about SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act. There are plenty of pages that say that it will destroy the Internet, but very few that explain clearly exactly why. It has also become clear that the politicians writing the law have no idea how the Internet actually works. So here is my attempt to explain it all. Let me start by explaining DNS, using a situation that doesn’t involve computers, that hopefully anyone can understand.

Things we already knew

New York Times: “You can hear voices, you can operate under intermittent delusions, you can see rabbits in the road that aren’t there and still be legally sane [by New York standards].”

US vs UK

A US court has ruled that authorities cannot force people to incriminate themselves by divulging their encryption passwords. This is in marked contrast to the UK, where the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) makes it a crime to decline to hand over all your incriminating files if the police demand it. If the case doesn’t involve national security, you can be put in jail for two years. If it does, five years.

A little logic is a dangerous thing

On September 20th, an unnamed woman was raped at gunpoint by four men. A judge in Philadelphia has ruled that since the woman was a prostitute, it wasn’t gang rape—just “theft of services”.

Good news for slackers

AP reports: Saying surfing the web is equivalent to reading a newspaper or talking on the phone, an administrative law judge has suggested that only a reprimand is appropriate as punishment for a city worker accused of failing to heed warnings to stay off the Internet. In his decision, Spooner wrote: “It should be observed that the Internet has become the modern equivalent of a telephone or a daily newspaper, providing a combination of communication and information that most employees use as frequently in their personal lives as for their work.

Netflix class action lawsuit redux

I just got a phone call from one of the lawyers involved in the Netflix class action lawsuit I wrote about a while back. Apparently my letter had caught his attention, and he wanted to discuss my objections to the proposed settlement in more detail. It turned out to be quite an interesting conversation. I explained that the first issue was that I felt the proposed settlement gave far too much benefit to the legal firm, rather than the allegedly wronged customers of Netflix.

Foxes guarding the henhouse?

The 9/11 Commission recommended setting up an organization to help safeguard civil liberties. Sure enough the Bush administration has gone ahead and created a President’s Board on Safeguarding Americans’ Civil Liberties. Ignoring for the moment the issue that civil liberties should, constitutionally, be protected for everyone and not just US citizens, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the people who are being put in charge of safeguarding your freedoms.

“Step away from the marshmallows!”

Last year, teachers’ aide Hope Clarke went vacationing in Yellowstone National Park. While she was there camping out, she was slightly negligent—she failed to put away a sealed bag of marshmallows after sipping hot chocolate around the campfire. This is viewed as bad behavior because, as we all know from TV, food attracts bears eager to steal pick-a-nick baskets. Perhaps bears can smell marshmallows through plastic, I don’t know. Anyway, rules are rules, and for her food storage crimes Ms Clarke was handed a fine for $50.

PATRIOT II

More about the sequel to the “PATRIOT” act: it’s called the Domestic Security Enhancement Act. Amongst the planned improvements to the legal system: Law enforcement to be able to wiretap you for up to 48 hours without needing a warrant or court order. New ‘secret subpoenas’, where you can be compelled to testify and also prohibited from revealing to anyone that you’ve been served a subpoena. New search warrants, valid throughout the USA, to be issued if police accuse you of computer hacking.