Archive | Corporate Statism

ALEC strikes against state open records laws

Sacramento Walkabout: Capitol Building

Authoritarian enough for you?

In some cases, the bills hit resistance only after reporters caught on and began writing about them.

In Iowa, the House passed a bill to shield the audio of many 911 calls by declaring them confidential “medical records” after the AP used the open-records law to expose a series of gun-related accidents involving minors in one rural county. The plan died in the Senate after it was detailed in news reports, and media and civil rights groups raised objections.

Days later, the potential impact of the bill became clear when a beloved state celebrity, farmer Chris Soules of “The Bachelor” fame, was charged with leaving the scene of a deadly accident. A 911 call that would have remained confidential under the bill painted a far more sympathetic picture of Soules’ actions, showing he immediately reported the crash and sought aid for the 66-year-old victim.

Iowa lawmakers succeeded in passing another anti-transparency bill, approving unprecedented secrecy for the state’s $1 billion gambling industry by closing access to the detailed annual financial statements of the state’s 19 licensed casinos. Those records had been public for decades. The change came in response to lobbying from casinos, which had objected to a request from an out-of-state competitor for the records by claiming they contained proprietary information.

Florida has some of the nation’s strongest open-records and open-meetings laws, but that did not stop lawmakers from trying to tinker with them. This year, they passed 19 new exemptions to the Sunshine Law, the second most in at least two decades. The details of how public universities investigate cyberattacks and prepare for emergencies are now confidential. The identities of people who witness murders, use medical marijuana or get injured or killed at workplaces must also be withheld.

“I think the sheer number of new exemptions that were created was a bit alarming. It was almost a record. That’s never good,” said Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation in Tallahassee, who has tracked transparency legislation in Florida since the 1990s.

One of the worst for the public’s right to know, Petersen said, is a bill requiring records of criminal charges that result in acquittal or dismissal to be automatically sealed. She asked Gov. Rick Scott to veto the measure, arguing it would harm public safety by depriving employers of relevant information about onetime suspects who avoided convictions for any number of reasons. Scott ended up signing the bill, which supporters say will protect the wrongly accused from employment and reputational repercussions.

Still, many other bills that concerned Petersen were defeated, including measures that would have kept secret the names of applicants for top university jobs and allowed members of government boards to have more private meetings.

Facebook enabled advertisers to reach ‘Jew haters’

facebook logo

Want to market Nazi memorabilia, or recruit marchers for a far-right rally? Facebook’s self-service ad-buying platform had the right audience for you. Until this week, when we asked Facebook about it, the world’s largest social network enabled advertisers to direct their pitches to the news feeds of almost 2,300 people who expressed interest in the topics… Continue Reading →

Is this what the Founders had in mind? Nope

Day 16 of 365: Twice Daily, 12 hours apart.

Our patent system needs a complete overhaul, and it’s nowhere more urgent than with pharmaceuticals — especially when most of the R&D costs were covered by U.S. taxpayers:

The drugmaker Allergan announced Friday that it had transferred its patents on a best-selling eye drug to the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe in upstate New York — an unusual gambit to protect the drug from a patent dispute.

Under the deal, which involves the dry-eye drug Restasis, Allergan will pay the tribe $13.75 million. In exchange, the tribe will claim sovereign immunity as grounds to dismiss a patent challenge through a unit of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The tribe will lease the patents back to Allergan, and will receive $15 million in annual royalties as long as the patents remain valid.

The surprising legal move rippled quickly through the pharmaceutical world on Friday, setting off speculation about whether other drug companies would soon follow suit in order to protect their patents from challenges through a patent-review process that the industry despises.

If Allergan succeeds in holding onto its patents, “we will probably see multiple branded companies housing their patents with Indian tribes,” Ronny Gal, an analyst for Bernstein, said in a video message to investors on Friday.

For the Mohawk tribe, a community of 13,000 who live in a rural region on the border of New York State and Canada, the deal offers the promise of a new revenue stream that would bring in income beyond that of a casino the tribe runs near the reservation.

First responders sue Texas chemical plant for gross negligence

Harvey's aftermath: more fires expected at chemical plant

Seven first responders filed a lawsuit Thursday against a chemical company whose Houston-area facility exploded after Hurricane Harvey. The lawsuit against Arkema and three of the company’s executives is seeking over $1 million in monetary relief, and alleges that the company did not adequately warn law enforcement and public health agencies about hazardous materials at the… Continue Reading →

Billionaires who own GOP are stopping action on climate change

Irma Is Getting Stronger

Climate change is an issue that should not be partisan, yet in the United States, acceptance and belief in action on the issue are split down Party lines. This is because the wealthy interests who own the Republican Party don’t want action on climate change because it could cut into their profits, and they are the… Continue Reading →

Trump’s lawyer sue Greenpeace, make jaw-dropping accusations

Solidarity

Still reeling from a D.C. district court loss in June, Energy Transfer Partners, the owner of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), has sued Greenpeace and other environmental groups in a $300 million racketeering case, accusing them of inciting terrorism, fraud and defamation and violating state and federal RICO laws. On Tuesday, ETP released a statement… Continue Reading →

Is anybody home at HUD?

OCIO All Hands

This story was co-published with New York magazine. In mid-May, Steve Preston, who served as the secretary of housing and urban development in the final two years of the George W. Bush administration, organized a dinner at the Metropolitan Club in Washington, D.C., for the new chief of that department, Ben Carson, and five other former… Continue Reading →

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