Winklevoss Twins Take Facebook Case to Supreme Court

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, twin brothers who claim to have created the idea for Facebook, plan to appeal their case against the company to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to The Digital Home blog of reports.

The Winklevosses originally sued Facebook in 2004. In San Francisco, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the brothers’ request for an en banc hearing on a recent opinion ordering them to accept a 2008 settlement deal with founder Mark Zuckerberg. The settlement gave the Winklevosses $65 million in cash and stock. Now the twins seek to void the settlement based upon a faliure by Facebook to disclose an accurate value of its shares when the settlement was reached. Legal commentators believe the odds are against the case being accepted by the high court.


San Francisco Votes to Ban Yellow Pages

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors cast a 10-1 first vote to ban unrequested home and business delivery of the hefty telephone directories. There will be a final vote next week.

Those in favor argue the law is necessary to protect the environment, fight neighborhood blight, and help the economy. Proponents of the law further argue that the Internet makes the directories unnecessary. Those who oppose the law argue that it is a restriction of free speech rights.

According to the Sierra Club, AT&T distributes nearly 1 million phone books per year to San Francisco alone, equaling over 5 million pounds of paper for just one city in California. This figure doesn’t include other business directory book deliveries. According to statistics,  approximately 70% of U.S. adults rarely or never use the phone book. Some cities in the U.S., such as Seattle, are creating their own ordinances to allow residents to opt out of receiving yellow pages.  National Yellow Pages Association and the Association of Directory Publishers have recently launched YellowPagesOptOut, a website where customers can easily cancel their home delivery service. Anyone can acces the site at the following link to opt out of yellow page delivery:


Firm Hired to Defend DOMA Withdraws

Republican lawmakers hired the prestigious law firm King & Spalding, based in Atlanta, to represent them in upholding the federal ban on gay marriage under the Defense of Marriage Act. However, due to protests from advocacy groups, the firm has announced it is withdrawing from the case.

The decision to withdraw prompted the partner leading the work on the case, Paul Clement, to resign. Paul Clement said he will continue the work from another law office. Clement had been retained by House Republican leaders after President Barack Obama ordered the Justice Department in February to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act.

DOJ Asks Supreme Court to Allow GPS Tracking Without a Warrant

The U.S. Department of Justice has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule a federal appeals court decision that held police must get a warrant before attaching a global positioning device to a suspect’s car. The issues in the case involve whether use of a GPS tracking device is a “search” under the Fourth Amendment and whether a person has an expectation of privacy for his travel in public.

The government argues there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in a person’s movements from one place to another. It relies on a 1983 case, United States v. Knotts, which allowed police to install a beeper device in a can of chemical used to make drugs. The lower court said that case didn’t apply because it involved travel from one place to another, versus tracking a person’s movements at all times.


U.S. Court of Appeals Strikes Order to Put Gay Parents on Birth Certificate

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has struck down a court order to list gay parents on a child’s birth certificate. The child was adopted in New York, which allows gay adoptions, but was born in Louisiana. Louisiana does not permit any unmarried couples, whether adopting out-of state or in-state, to obtain revised birth certificates with both parents’ names on them.

The couple brought suit alleging Louisiana had violated the Full Faith and Credit Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Full faith and credit is a legal principle which requires judges to validate and enforce judgments from other jurisdictions. In rejecting the full faith and credit argument, the Fifth Circuit court said that it only applies to state courts, not state officials. The court also denied the Equal Protection claim, finding that adoption is not a fundamental right.


Japanese Nuclear Disaster Upgraded to Worst Rating

Now on the same severity level as the Chernobyl disaster, the Japanese government has upgraded the rating of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis to a Level 7 event on the international system for rating nuclear accidents.

“What’s different here from the Chernobyl accident is that we have not yet seen a direct impact on the health of the people as a result of the nuclear accident,” said Edano, the Japanese government’s leading spokesman on the crisis. “The accident itself is big, but we will make, as our first priority, our utmost effort to avoid any health impact on the people.”

Hidehiko Nishiyama, the chief spokesman for Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said that unlike the Chernobyl disaster, the reactors inside the badly damaged buildings at Fukushima Daiichi remain largely intact, “although there are some leaks being seen.”

Nishiyama said Tuesday’s designation was made “provisionally,” and that a final level won’t be set until the disaster is over and a more detailed investigation has been conducted. The previous event level of 5, equal to the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, was also a provisional designation.

Mr. Nishiyama’s agency is part of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which promotes the use of nuclear power. Mr. Shiroya’s commission, which is independent from nuclear power operators and their equipment providers, issued an estimate that emissions totaled 630,000 terabecquerels.

According to the New York Times, that works out to 34 percent of the official Soviet estimate of emissions and 17 percent of the unofficial higher estimate.

Mr. Shiroya also said there was a threefold margin for error involved. The outside estimates of total releases would range from as low as 6 percent to as high as 51 percent of the unofficial totals from Chernobyl.


Japan Sets New Radiation Limits for Seafood

After finding radiation levels in the seawater around the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, Japanese officials have issued new standards for radiation levels in seafood. A sample of kounago fish caught last Friday off the coast halfway between the plant and Tokyo had 4,080 becquerels of iodine 131 per kilogram (2.2 pounds). The new standard allows up to 2,000 becquerels of iodine 131 per kilogram, the same standard used for vegetables in Japan.

Nicholas Fisher, a professor of marine sciences at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, said that according to some radiation safety guidelines people could eat 35 pounds of fish per year containing the level of cesium 137 detected in the Japanese fish. While she claims this amount will not lead to immediate death, there is a general agereement that people will reduce fish consumption from the affected area.

Seawater readings released Tuesday were taken closer to the plant than before and did not necessarily reflect a worsening of the contamination. Other measurements several hundred yards (meters) away from the plant are now said to be at 1,000 times the legal limit — down from more than four times that last week.

Experts agree that radiation dissipates quickly in the vast Pacific, but direct exposure to the most contaminated water measured would lead to “immediate injury,” said Yoichi Enokida, a professor of materials science at Nagoya University’s graduate school of engineering.

As the plant operator, TEPCO’s share price has nose-dived a staggering 80 percent since the quake. In response to the bad publicity, Takashi Fujimoto, TEPCO’s vice president, said it was offering 20 million yen ($240,000) to each town or city affected by a mandatory evacuation zone. He called the cash “apology money” and noted that one town had refused it because it disagreed with the approach. He did not give further details.


Arizona Outlaws Abortions Based on Gender, Race

Arizona’s governor signed a bill making it illegal for doctors to perform abortions based on the child’s sex or race. Heath professionals or physicians who don’t report known or suspected violations will face felony charges and civil fines and may be liable for damages. The law doesn’t require doctors to ask patients for their reason for seeking an abortion, but opponents of the law fear it will lead to such questioning and erode womens’ rights. The bill states:

“Evidence shows that minorities are targeted for abortion and that sex-selection abortion is also occurring in our country. There is no place for such discrimination and inequality in human society. Sex-selection and race-selection abortions are elective procedures that do not in any way implicate a woman’s health. The purpose of this legislation is to protect unborn children from prenatal discrimination in the form of being subjected to abortion based on the child’s sex or race by prohibiting sex-selection or race-selection abortions.”

Several states have also recently passed laws restricting abortions. This year, Missouri and Oklahoma have passed laws restricting late term abortions, and South Dakota recently required women to seek counseling at a pregnancy center and wait three days before obtaining an abortion. Kansas also enacted legislation restricting abortions this year.


U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Immunity of Government Officials Who Give False Testimony

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to decide a case involving whether a government official has absolute immunity when giving false testimony in a civil lawsuit. The case involves an investigator, James Paulk, who falsely claimed that a critic of an influential Georgia hospital system was harassing doctors. Paulk, an employee of the Dougherty County District Attorney’s office, started the investigation as a political favor to hospital officials, but later admitted he had no evidence and had not talked to any witnesses. The charges against Charles Rehberg, who sent faxes criticizing the Phoebe Putney Health System, were dismissed.

Rehberg is now appealing. The question presented in this case is: Whether a government official who acts as a “complaining witness” by presenting perjured testimony against an innocent citizen is entitled to absolute immunity from a Section 1983 claim for civil damages.


U.S. Government Sued for Giving Syphillis to Over 700 Guatemalan Mental Patients

Seven Guatemalans filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that they had been the subject of non-consensual human medical experimentation by the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS). The complaint alleges PHS ran venereal disease experiments on unaware mental patients to test whether penicillin could also be used as a prophylaxis immediately following exposure to the syphilis bacteria.

Comparisons are being drawn to the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male”. After the discovery by a professor at Wellesley College, President Obama has issued an apology to Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom for the testing.


Inside U.S. Government Sued for Giving Syphillis to Over 700 Guatemalan Mental Patients