Category Archives: Legal News

L.A. prosecutors file criminal charges in methane leak near Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES |

Los Angeles prosecutors filed criminal charges against the Southern California Gas company on Tuesday over a huge methane leak near the city that has forced thousands of residents from their homes since October.

The four misdemeanor charges accuse SoCalGas, a division of San Diego-based Sempra Energy, of failing to report the release of hazardous materials following the underground pipeline rupture and discharging air contaminants.

“While we recognize that neither the criminal charges nor the civil lawsuits will offer the residents of Los Angeles County a complete solution, it is important that Southern California Gas Co. be held responsible for its criminal actions,” District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a written statement.

Lacey’s move came on the same day that California Attorney General Kamala Harris sued Southern California Gas Co, accusing the utility of violating state health and safety laws by failing to promptly control the escaping gas and report the leak to authorities.

The lawsuit also cites environmental damage caused by the uncontrolled release of 80,000 metric tons of methane, the prime component of natural gas and a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

The leak stems from an underground pipeline rupture at the company’s 3,600-acre (1,457-hectare) Aliso Canyon natural gas storage field. The largest such leak ever in California, at its height it accounted for a fourth of all methane emissions statewide.

The lawsuit amends a civil complaint brought in December by the Los Angeles city attorney and later joined by Los Angeles County. It seeks civil penalties and court orders requiring the utility to immediately take all steps necessary to mitigate the leak, repair the damage and prevent future discharges.

Several attempts to halt the methane release have failed, but the company said it hopes to plug the leak by the end of the month through a relief well.

Read Full – http://www.reuters.com/article/us-california-methane-lawsuit-idUSKCN0VB25M

Italian police arrest 2 fugitive Mafia bosses in underground bunker

Updated 9:31 AM ET, Sat January 30, 2016

(CNN) After eluding capture for years, two Mafia bosses have been arrested in an underground bunker in southern Italy.

Police seized mobsters Giuseppe Ferraro, 47, and Giuseppe Crea, 37, in Calabria region Friday, according to Italian news agency Ansa.

Ferraro was found guilty of murder and Mafia association decades ago, and had been a fugitive since 1998.

Crea was convicted of Mafia association and had been on the run for nine years, according to the news agency.

Their hideout had an array of weapons, including rifles, pistols and machine guns.

“Today is another great day for everyone and for the country because justice has won,” Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said after their arrest.

Beyond Italian borders

The two men are part of ‘Ndrangheta, a dangerous criminal organization that has tentacles worldwide. The group is based in Calabria, where the two men were arrested.

‘Ndrangheta’s power has grown beyond Italian borders.

Two years ago, Italian officials said the group is linked to drug trafficking in South and Central America, Canada and the United States.

The ‘Ndrangheta was formed in the 1860s, and is involved in kidnappings, corruption, drug trafficking, gambling and murders, according to the FBI.

It has between 100-200 members in the United States, mostly in New York and Florida.

Full Article – http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/30/europe/italy-mafia-arrests/

Downloaded music causing legal headache for wedding parties

An increasing number of wedding halls are not permitting the use of music downloaded from the Internet, even legitimately, for wedding parties. Doing so is considered beyond private use of the music and in violation of the Copyright Law.

Since playing music on CDs is permitted at wedding halls, customers of online music distribution services are complaining that it is unfair to prohibit legitimately purchased downloaded music.

“Please purchase a CD, because you cannot use this music here,” a wedding hall employee told one woman in Tokyo who was asked about the entertainment for her friend’s wedding party. The woman had paid for the song and downloaded it from an online music distribution service.

“Recently, some songs have only been distributed via the Internet,” she complained. “Although I purchased it, like a CD, I was told using it at my friend’s wedding party would be in violation of copyright. I can’t agree with that.”

However, the wedding hall has a legitimate reason for not allowing her to use the music she bought: According to the Copyright Law, copying and playing music and other media without permission of copyright holders is prohibited, except for private use.

An official of the copyright section of the Cultural Affairs Agency says that legally, “private” means use of a copyrighted item among four to five people with an intimate relationship similar to that of a family. Use of downloaded music at wedding parties is considered in excess of this restriction, according to the official.

Even if a song is legitimately purchased, playing it at a wedding party constitutes a violation of the Copyright Law because the song is considered a copy, having been downloaded from the Internet to a portable music player or computer.

The Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC) and the Recording Industry Association of Japan asked the Bridal Institutional Association, a group of hotels and wedding halls, in July 2014 not to use copied music at wedding parties without permission.

Distribution of music via the Internet has spread worldwide since Apple Inc. started selling its iPod portable music players in 2001. Although CD sales still account for a large portion of Japan’s music industry, the share of songs distributed online doubled to over 19 percent of all music sales in 2014 from a little less than 9 percent in 2005. On the other hand, the total production value of CDs in Japan dropped to ¥184 billion in 2014 — about half of the ¥359.8 billion seen in 2005.

“It is natural that copyright holders want to protect their rights because high-quality copies can be made easily today thanks to the advancement of digital devices,” said Kensaku Fukui, a lawyer knowledgeable about copyright. “However, it is also understandable that consumers find it unfair that use of legitimately downloaded songs at wedding parties is prohibited, because they don’t intend to distribute pirated copies. It is necessary to discuss solutions moving along and at the time.”

Using CDs permitted

According to JASRAC, the “copying right” must be obtained to play downloaded music, which is considered copied, at wedding parties and other public occasions.

The copying right might be granted if a user directly contacts a music creator or record company to seek permission and pays several thousand yen per song. Yet, most people do not try to deal with this by themselves, an official of the Cultural Affairs Agency said.

Read Full Article – http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002697689

New state voting laws face first presidential election test

, USA TODAY10:22 p.m. EST January 29, 2016

WASHINGTON — Battles are being waged across the country over new voter ID laws and other election changes that have never before been tested in a presidential election.

National and local civil rights groups also have launched grass-roots efforts to fight state laws that they say could suppress voting by minorities and the elderly.

President Obama joined the cause in pledging during his Jan. 12 State of the Union Address to travel the country lobbying for steps to make voting easier.

“You’re going to see some ramping up of activism,’’ said the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP. “The president is right, but everybody should be joining in that (effort).’’ Barber’s group will lead a voting rights rally Feb. 13 in Raleigh.

Some of the new state election laws require would-be voters to show specific forms of identification. Others cut back on the time period that voters can cast ballots early, or make it more difficult to register to vote.

Supporters of the laws say they protect against voter fraud. They say Obama and voting rights groups should leave the issue to states.

“It seems that the president is moving to … federalizing the way we handle elections,’’ said Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Fifteen states have enacted more restrictive election laws never before tested in a presidential election, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

Those states — Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin — account for 162 electoral votes of the 270 necessary to win the presidency.

Myrna Pérez, director of the Brennan Center’s Voting Rights and Election Project, said voters in some of those states, “are going to be voting in a presidential election with fewer federal protections than they’ve had in the last 50 years.”

In some states, new voting laws took effect soon after a 2013 U.S. Supreme Courtdecision nullifying a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Under that provision, states and other jurisdictions with a history of voter discrimination — mostly in the South — had to obtain advance permission, or “pre-clearance,” from federal officials before making any changes to their election systems.

The new laws attracting the most attention were adopted by Republican-run state legislatures and focus on voter ID requirements. Thirty-three states have voter ID laws — some enacted many years ago — that will be in place on Election Day in November, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Mississippi’s 2012 voter ID law didn’t hamper participation in last year’s governor’s race, according to Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.

The law requires would-be voters to show one of 10 forms of photo ID. Eligible IDs include a driver’s license, a firearms license, a passport, and any state or federal government ID bearing a photo.

​Hosemann said Mississippi is the only state that wasn’t sued by the Justice Department over its voter ID law, “because we did it right.’’

“President Obama doesn’t have to come here to talk about voter ID because that’s in our rearview mirror … We’re moving on,’’  he said.

Last week, Hosemann proposed an election law package that includes allowing people to register to vote online, a 21-day early voting period, tougher penalties for election-law crimes, and moving the state’s presidential primary up by a week to the first Tuesday in March. The package is expected to be part of legislation introduced next week.

“I’m just real pleased about where we’re going in Mississippi,’’ Hosemann said. “Right now it’s such a difference from where we were half a century ago.’’

Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP, which opposed the voter ID law, said the group continues to review complaints and monitor its implementation.

Read Full Article – http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2016/01/29/new-state-voting-laws-face-first-presidential-election-test/79534420/

How Misguided Drug Policies Are Failing the EDM Community

ON JANUARY 27, 2016, 9:00AM
 In 2002, a bipartisan group of three Republicans and four Democrats led by then-Senator Joe Biden responded to growing public concern about MDMA use. A flurry of legal pressure had risen from the drug-related death of 17-year-old Jillian Kirkland, who passed away after an evening at New Orleans’ State Palace Theatre in 1998. Nearly four years later, the Reducing Americans’ Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act, aka the R.A.V.E. Act, was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
The loosely worded act was an extension of the 1986 “Crack House Statute,” under which promoters and event organizers could be charged with “maintain[ing] a drug-involved” premise. Wondering what that phrase actually means? So have US promoters, venue owners, advocates, artists, and fans since a slightly augmented act — the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act — was tacked onto a 2003 Amber Alert bill, which passed without a vote or much debate. Like most US drug policies, the act has hindered true harm reduction within club and festival culture.
During what has been reported as the plateau of MDMA use and resultant hospitalizations in the US, the DEA sent baby-faced undercover agent Michael Templeton to the site of Kirkland’s death to acquire a firsthand account of the environment and the interactions between club owners, drug dealers, and revelers. During a six-month period in early 2000, Templeton and a fellow DEA agent were able to, according to a Time report, purchase 45 hits of ecstasy. Instead of arresting any of their dealers, the DEA and the New Orleans Police Department gathered info to prosecute State Palace managers Robert and Brian Bruner, as well as promoter Donnie Estopinal, aka Disco Donnie.
The feds weren’t just building their case on the ecstasy hits, but the culture itself: uptempo beats, touching and massaging, glow sticks, availability of free water, and even the energetic style of dancing. “The country was a lot more conservative and much less open-minded,” remarks Estopinal via telephone about the era. “Scary times in this industry … [we] didn’t know who would be next.”
Unable to convict any party under the Crack House laws, the government pushed for new regulations that would allow for easier prosecution. By naming easy access to free water and “chill rooms” as indicators of drug-involved premises, authorities eliminated two primary harm reducers in order to make their next arrests. While the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act has yet to be used to successfully prosecute a single promoter or venue owner, the lack of those harm-reduction essentials has itself claimed multiple lives.
After heading to D.C.’s Echostage with some of her fellow University of Virginia Alpha Phi sorority sisters on August 30th, 2013, Shelley Goldsmith consumed unadulterated MDMA as many of her classmates had done since heading off to university. Later, she would succumb to hyperthermia, possibly to do excessive dehydration, and eventually die of cardiac arrest at the age of 19.
Eight months later, Shelley’s mother, Dede Goldsmith, would lead the collective efforts to Amend the R.A.V.E. Act. “In this situation, it became very clear that there is a problem with the law, but also a problem on college campuses in terms of identifying and supplying harm-reduction techniques for these substances just like there already is with alcohol,” says Goldsmith via phone.

Misinformation about MDMA is rampant. In contrast to underage drinking, little has been done at universities and colleges to properly educate young adults on the risks associated with club drugs. As Goldsmith points out, “[There are] organizations like SSDP (Students for Sensible Drug Policy) that work with more of an alternative crowd, but no one that really reaches out to Greek Life.” Given the increased risk of drug use within the US Greek system, that’s one communication gap that needs to be bridged.

 

“Everyone feels safe to come together around the drug war. ‘Those evil drugs, we gotta get ‘em,’” quips Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies’ (MAPS) Policy and Advocacy Manager Natalie Ginsberg.

Even though we are nearly 50 years removed from the cultural renaissance that was 1968, politicians are still wary of the PR associated with progressive drug reform policies. While Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) has assisted Goldsmith in officially connecting with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and Goldsmith herself has been appointed to the Virginia Commission on Youth, no legislator has officially supported or introduced an amendment initiative. And Goldsmith doesn’t envision any campaigning politician to support the policy shift in the foreseeable future.

 

Full Article – http://consequenceofsound.net/2016/01/how-misguided-drug-policies-are-failing-the-edm-community/