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1/4/03 <link>
Human Cloning

Julie Hilden discusses in FindLaw some of the potential legal issues that might arise in the context of human cloning. In her view, the legal controversy is much ado about (almost) nothing. While she points out the stigma and controversial negative aspects of cloning, she also points out that history shows that the legality of cloning is not easily challenged. For instance, she says (bold text is our emphasis), "...
There is also an argument to the contrary, however - in favor of allowing parents to make the decision to clone. It is this: Without a simple, clear rule (or, indeed, a constitutional right) that says parents may do as they like when it comes to reproduction, the government may interfere in reproduction and parenting in troubling ways - and that is something the courts have consistently refused to allow to happen. After all, people make stupid reproductive choices all the time. They have children they do not want, cannot support, or abandon, and they bring children into psychologically traumatic situations that scar them forever. Yet so far, the government has only rarely appointed itself as the "reproduction censor," telling couples when and why they can (or cannot, or must) have children. And when it has, the courts have generally interfered to stop it from doing so. Indeed, so far, the Supreme Court has supported broad reproductive rights. In Skinner v. Oklahoma, it declared a right to procreate when it barred a state from sterilizing a prisoner. In Griswold v. Connecticut, it struck down a ban on contraception. In Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, it held unconstitutional laws that unduly restrict abortion. Roe and Casey are often discussed as decisions involving bodily privacy and a woman's right to choose. Yet Griswold involves not privacy, but a drugstore purchase. Moreover, its holding not only the right of a woman, but the right of a couple to choose when - and when not to - reproduce. And the right to choose implicated in Skinner was a man's right to choose, not a woman's..."
Interestingly, Art Kaplan argues in MSNBC that the media presented the recent so-called revelations by a weird sect about a supposedly cloned baby with much disregard for facts or questioning. He urges the media to do better reporting on science.

10/15/02 <link>
Scientific fraud, this time from Lawrence Berkeley National Labs
Accusation is that reported discovery of element 118 was a fabrication.

10/9/02 <link>
Once again it is proven that lie-detector tests cannot be believed and have no legal value 
This time is a National Academy of Sciences report. Here's a snippet: "...No spy has ever been caught by a polygraph, the 318-page report noted, while a rigorous test could falsely implicate up to 16 percent of those tested.
'National security is too important to be left to such a blunt instrument,' said Stephen Fienberg, who heads the panel of the National Academy of Sciences. 'The polygraph's serious limitations in employee security screening underscore the need to look more broadly for effective, alternative methods'..."

9/26/02 <link>
"Star" Bell Labs researcher fired for falsifying scientific data
Jan Hendrik Schon, who was apparently on the fast path towards a potential Nobel Prize, canned. 

9/25/02  <link>
H1B immigration laws put to the test
Lawsuit filed - something that we felt was inevitable. 

California the "trailblazer"
More reasons why we love California - the fact that it sets legal trends often for the rest of the country. New laws passed recently include family leave law, emissions law, stem-cell use law. Older examples cited include Clean Air Act of 1970 and Assault Weapons ban.



















3/9/03 <link>
Violent TV programs viewed during childhood significantly increase risk of adult aggression/violence
Here is a summary of the results of an interesting study reported in the journal Development Psychology (bold text is our emphasis): 
"...The study involved 329 adults who were initially surveyed as children in the late 1970s. Researchers interviewed them again as adults, along with their spouses or friends, and checked crime records. As children, the participants were rated for exposure to televised violence after they chose eight favorite shows from 80 popular programs for their age group and indicated how often they watched them...As young adults, men in the study who had scored in the top 20 percent on childhood exposure were about twice as likely as other men to have pushed, grabbed or shoved their wives during an argument in the year preceding the interview. Women who had scored in the top 20 percent were about twice as likely as other women to have thrown something at their husbands.
For one or both sexes, these “high TV-violence viewers” were also more likely than other study participants in the previous 12 months to have shoved somebody in anger; punched, beaten or choked an adult, or committed a crime or a moving traffic violation...Along with viewing of violent TV, the participants had been asked as children how much they identified with violent TV characters and how realistic they judged various violent TV shows to be. Researchers found that high ratings on any of the three childhood measures predicted higher ratings of overall aggression in adulthood. It made no difference how aggressive the participants had been as children...Dennis Wharton, spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters, said not all studies find a link between TV viewing and violent behavior. “I think the jury is still out about whether there is a link,” he said. The American Psychological Association, however, has concluded that viewing violence on TV or other mass media does promote aggressive behavior, particularly in children. Other mental-health and medical groups have taken similar stands. Joanne Cantor, professor emerita of communications at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the new study was “a very strong addition to what I consider a large amount of data that points in the same direction.

11/17/02 <link>
Tort Reform Myths
P.L.A. refers us to this interesting analysis by Charles Kuffner of the coffee-spill-liability verdict against McDonalds and shows why the verdict (which was significantly reduced by the judge) was the correct one. Other statistics:
- "...A study of courts in the nation's 75 largest counties conducted by the National Center for State Courts found that only 364 of 762,000 cases ended in punitive damages, or 0.047 percent..."
- "...a study of 16 states by the same center showed that the number of liability suits has declined by 9 percent since 1986..."
- "...(
Unusual or big verdicts make news, said Michael McCann, a political science professor at the University of Washington. McCann and William Haltom of the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma found in a study that) the large McDonald's verdict got extensive front-page coverage in 1994. But only about half the newspapers carried articles when the judge later reduced the punitive damages to $480,000..."
- "...
In similar research, Oscar Chase, a law professor at New York University, found in a survey of cases in the New York area that the average verdict reported by The New York Times in 1989 was $20.5 million. But including the much larger number of cases that did not attract media attention, the average verdict was really $1.1 million..."
The bottomline? Don't believe all that you hear about the ridiculous lawsuits and massive verdicts!

The Robber Barons of the U.S. Energy Industry <link>

10/17/02 <link>
Enron trader pleads guilty to ripping off California from 1998 through 2001
Of course we knew these criminals and their bosses have been at it. The tragedy is how long it took to prosecute this.

9/27/02 Paul Krugman on the energy industry robber barons, and their supporters
An op-ed worth reading

9/23/02 Evidence that the CA natural gas market was also gamed
Again, under the unwatchful eyes of the Federal Government, in 2000-2001. Here's are snapshots from the article, "The nation's biggest natural gas pipeline company illegally manipulated the California market during the energy crisis, a federal regulatory judge said Monday in a ruling that could bolster wide-ranging claims for refunds. El Paso Corp. used a variety of strategies in 2000-01 to withhold an average of at least 345 million cubic feet of natural gas a day from California customers, creating an artificial shortage that drove up prices, concluded Judge Curtis L. Wagner Jr. of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Among the maneuvers, he said: El Paso failed to use 21% of the capacity of its pipeline to the state....In addition to operating at less than capacity, he said, El Paso did not use all available shipment routes into California and scheduled nonessential maintenance operations that sidelined some of its facilities...." The LA Times article also points out, as an aside that, "...The judge's finding is the latest addition to a growing body of evidence suggesting that California's 2000-01 energy crisis was the result of manipulative business practices and not merely regulatory blunders and an imbalance of supply and demand. Last week, the state Public Utilities Commission issued a report saying most blackouts could have been avoided in 2001 had California's five big private power plant operators produced as much electricity as they were capable of generating...."

9/18/02 More evidence that power companies gamed the California market
Of course, all under the unwatchful eyes of the FERC.