United States Senate prepares for floor vote on net neutrality

{{tasks|news|re-review}}Tuesday, January 9, 2018

On Monday, Democrats in the United States Senate announced they had gained enough sponsors to perform a congressional review of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s December 2017 reversal of previous rules regulating Internet service providers, commonly called Net Neutrality.

Under the Congressional Review Act, if 30 senators co-sponsor the action, United States Congress can vote on whether to overrule a decision made by a federal agency such as the FCC. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate would have vote in favor, and President Donald Trump would have to sign the review.

On Monday, Claire McCaskill of Missouri announced she was the 30th senator to agree to sponsor the floor vote. “What I’ve heard from the thousands of Missourians who’ve contacted my office is simple — consumers should have protected, free, and open access to the online content of their choosing,” she said in a statement.

The Obama-era Net Neutrality rules were revoked last month. On December 14, as protesters gathered in Washington D.C., the United States Federal Communications Commission under Chairman Ajit Pai voted 3-2 to overturn the 2015 decision, which forbade Internet service providers (ISPs) such as Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T from blocking individual websites or charging websites or customers more for faster load times.

Specifically, the 2015 decision placed the Internet under Title II of the 1934 Telecommunications Act, which established that Internet access must be regulated under the same rules as a utility. Currently, in the U.S., telephones are regulated in this way, but cable television is not. Cable providers can offer bundled services and otherwise select which channels to offer customers; they do not have to offer access to every channel the way ISPs have offered access to the whole Internet. The new rules voted on December 14 transfer the Internet from the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission to the Federal Trade Commission, which means instead of being forbidden from blocking websites or offering different access speeds, ISPs will only be required to disclose having done so.

Telecom analyst Gigi Sohn, who worked with Pai’s predecessor Tom Wheeler in 2015, said, “There are going to be fast lanes and slow lanes[…] As a consumer, that means some of your favorite websites are going to load more slowly, and it also may mean some of your favorite content goes away because the provider just can’t pay the fee.”

Former Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson said, “Net neutrality allowed something like Etsy to hang out a shingle on the web and give it a try”.

Supporters of the new rule argue Net Neutrality regulations were unnecessary. Commissioner Michael O’Reilly pointed out the Internet “has functioned without net neutrality rules for far longer than it has without [sic] them.”

“Quite simply, we are restoring the light-touch framework that has governed the internet for most of its existence,” said Chairman Pai, who argued removing the rules would make the Internet freer and more open.

“[T]he internet will continue to work tomorrow just as it always has,” promised AT&T Senior Executive Vice President Bob Quinn, who said his company would not block websites or discriminate with respect to content.

Opposition was organized almost immediately and was not limited to plans for congressional review: The Attorneys General for the states of New York and Washington have both announced plans for lawsuits against the new rules.. The United States Congress also has the authority to overrule the FCC’s decision by passing legislation. One such bill, House Resolution 4585, or the “Save Net Neutrality Act of 2017,” was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives on December 7.

According to a poll conducted the week of December 6 by the University of Maryland, more than 80% of registered U.S. voters opposed the repeal of Net Neutrality, 75% of registered Republicans, 89% of registered Democrats, and 86% of independents, those not registered to either party. Before the vote, the FCC had accepted comments on the measure from the public through its website, FCC.gov. However, there have been allegations that many of the comments offered in support of the rollback were fakes. Before the vote took place, attorneys general from seventeen states and the District of Columbia sent a letter to the FCC asking the vote be delayed until the matter could be investigated.

The FCC’s decision must be published in the U.S. Federal Register before congressional review can take place or any lawsuits filed.

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Bangladesh security tightened following Pilkhana massacre and Bashundhara City fire

Friday, March 20, 2009

Following the Pilkhana massacre which occurred February 25 and 26 leaving 74 dead and the inferno at the Bashundhara City shopping mall complex March 13 leaving seven dead, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said security measures are being tightened countrywide across Bangladesh.

Fire drills will be enacted at all key-point installations (KPI). Fire fighting systems will be examined by the fire brigade and the public works department (PWD) to ensure functionality. Security measures will be enhanced supplementing areas under private security such as at the Bashundhara City Complex.

The Fire Service and Civil Defence Department requires modernization and needs new equipment to fight fires past the sixth floor of buildings. The Fire Brigade says it needs turntable ladders, snorkels, foam-tenders, lighting units, emergency tenders, fireproof uniforms, and rescue ropes for fire fighting and rescue operations. Transportation to fires is also an issue due to narrow roads, low electrical wires and congestion.

The Bangladesh National Building Code requires fire fighting equipment installed in buildings over seven floors. This code is to be monitored by authorities to ensure compliance with the new guidelines and to make sure buildings are being maintained.

The Bashundhara City Complex opened Monday for shoppers two days after Friday’s blaze. A probe is underway to determine the cause of the fire and to assess structural damage.

Loss of life was minimized as the blaze broke out on a Friday, the beginning of the weekend in Bangladesh, so offices in the upper floors were empty. The lower eight floors are used for shopping and the upper floors are all Bashundhara Group offices.

The mall is valued at Tk 7.0 billion (US$100 million). It is not known if the complex is covered by fire insurance.

It is estimated that it will take over two years to rebuild the area damaged by flames which were burned down to a skeleton. Bashundhara City’s technical advisor, Latifur Rahman, estimated damages at Tk 2.0 billion (US$29m).

Only one television cameraman has been allowed in to film the burnt area. None of the 2,500 shops, cinemas or cafes were burnt by the inferno. The seventh and eighth floors still experience smoke damage, and there was water damage to merchandise.

A three member committee is currently investigating the cause of the fire which will consist of Iqbal Khan Chowdhury, joint secretary of the ministry, representatives of the police, IGP Noor Muhammad, and fire brigade, Director General Abu Nayeem Md Shahidullah. The committee is required to report within the week with their findings. The forensics department is also sifting through the burnt remains.

The Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industries has also formed a committee which has begun interviewing witnesses and recording their testimony alongside the government committee.

It has been discovered that 150 closed circuit cameras were not being used when the fire started. Another mystery is why the mall fire fighting system has been found unused.

Why the fire burnt so fiercely is a matter to think….These matters seem to be mysterious

“In the shopping mall there is an ultra-technology elevator which runs even without electricity but we have found that locked,” Iqbal Khan Chowdhury, joint secretary (Police) of the home ministry, said. “Why the fire burnt so fiercely is a matter to think. We have to see if there was any incendiary substance there. These matters seem to be mysterious.”

Mall management has been asked to submit substances and items which would have been in the upper floors when the fire started. The fire erupted on the 17th floor and spread quickly to the two floors above and engulfed the three floors below. The aerial ladders belonging to the Fire Service and Civil Defence reached as high as the 13th floor of the 21-storey building.

Videos have been sent to the United States (US) for examination to assist in determining the cause of the fire and to help in the damage assessment. Experts from the US are expected to arrive soon.

Firefighters were brought to the rooftop of the 20-storey tower by helicopter. The only fatality in this operation was Baki Billa, a firefighter of Bashundhara City firefighting department, who fell when climbing down a rope from a helicopter to the roof of the building. Three other firefighters made the transition safely. At this same time, the chief security officer was safely rescued by the Bangladesh Air Force helicopter, a Bell 212. Six security officers of the complex also lost their lives.

Finnish police isolate ports in Helsinki

Saturday, August 6, 2005

The Finnish police isolated the ports of Katajanokka and Länsisatama on Saturday. The ports were isolated at around 9.30 p.m. local time and the isolation was called off at around 11.30 p.m.

Finnish police received reports from Estonia that a shipping container loaded with explosives could be coming from Estonia Saturday evening. They checked every truck that passed the ports with the assistance of the Border Guard Service. There are still two ships due to arrive in Helsinki tonight, but they were already checked in Tallinn.

Former Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian released on bail

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Taiwan’s former President, Chen Shui-bian (???), has been conditionally released on bail, some ten hours after he was indicted for corruption. Speaking to media at the Taipei District Court, he said: “I want to thank my lawyers, members of the Democratic Progressive Party and my supporters who have given me huge encouragement. I am grateful to those who cared for, supported and looked after me so I could get through the hardest and loneliest 32 days of my life in prison.” He earns the historical distinction of being the first ex-president of the Republic of China to be indicted for criminal offenses and could suffer life imprisonment if convicted.

Along with 13 other family members and close associates, including his wheelchair-bound wife, son Chen Chih-Chung, and daughter-in-law Huang Jui-ching, Chen was indicted Friday on charges of embezzling government funds and laundering money or ill-gotten bribes. The panel of three judges ruled he should appear at future court hearings and must not leave the country nor change his address.

Prosecutor Lin Che-hui accused Chen of having “embezzled 104 million New Taiwan dollars ($3.12 million) from a special presidential fund, and received bribes of $11.73 million in connection with a government land procurement deal and a separate construction project; the damning piece of evidence was the presence of NT$740 million ($22.2 million) in cash stashed in a Taipei bank safety vault held by the Chens.” Yuanta Securities director Tu Li-ping said, “she hand delivered NT$200 million ($6 million) in cash to Wu at the presidential residence in 2006 on behalf of executives of an affiliated bank; the money was an incentive for Wu not to interfere with a merger the bank was pursuing.”

Chen insists on his innocence. Contradicting the 100-page indictment, he said that “the $21 million his wife wired to their son’s Swiss bank accounts came from leftover campaign donations. Taiwanese law permits such donations to be kept by political candidates.”

In 1975, Chen married Wu Shu-chen (???), the daughter of a physician. The couple has a daughter, Chen Hsing-yu (???), who is a dentist; and a son, Chen Chih-Chung (???), who, having received a law degree in Taiwan, studied at and graduated with a M.A. degree from the University of California in 2005.

In November 2006, Chen’s wife Wu Shu-chen and three other high ranking officials of the Presidential Office were indicted for corruption, charged with misappropriating NT$14.8 million (USD$450,000) of government funds using falsified documents. Due to the protection from the Constitution against prosecution of the sitting president, Chen could not be prosecuted until he left office, and he was not indicted, but was alleged to be an accomplice on his wife’s indictment.

Chen’s term as President of the Republic of China ended in May 2008. Immediately thereafter, prosecutors began investigating him regarding allegations that he misused his discretionary “state affairs fund”, as well as his connection to the first family’s money-laundering activities. He resigned from the Democratic Progressive Party on August 15, 2008, one day after admitting to falsifying past campaign expenses and wiring campaign contributions to overseas accounts.

In November 2008, Chen was escorted by a security staff, into the Taipei prosecutor’s office for questioning. After 6 hours, he left the Supreme Court prosecutor`s office in handcuffs, was arrested and detained. The charges each carry a minimum penalty of 5 years imprisonment. Following a 6 day hunger strike while in detention, Chen collapsed and was rushed to Taipei’s Far Eastern Memorial Hospital, where he was later transferred to Panchiao Hospital for force-feeding. Despite Chen’s lack of interest in appealing, his lawyer Cheng Wen-long completed a motion seeking his release from detention and filed a notice of appeal of the court’s decision, along with a petition for constitutional interpretation to restrain actions violative of the Constitution.

Prosecutor General, Chen Tsung-ming said that after Chen’s case had been removed to the Taipei Local Court, he would re-file a petition for Chen’s detention. Chen and the main opposition DPP have accused President Ma Ying-jeou‘s administration of “using the scandals to plan a political plot against the former leader.”

Meanwhile, The Straits Times reported that “prosecutors are to investigate former President of the Republic of China and Chairman of the Kuomintang from 1988 to 2000, Lee Teng-hui on suspicion of money laundering, based on allegations made by Chen during his own questioning recently that his predecessor transferred large funds abroad through dummy accounts.” Mr. Lee angrily denied the accusations concerning “a suspected transfer of 50 million Taiwan dollars (US$2.26 million) to Mr Lee from a local stock investor via overseas dummy accounts.” Charges also included transactions made at the end of Lee’s tenure and at the beginning of Chen’s term, including “one billion Taiwan dollars that had been wired to various countries including Singapore.”

The China Post calls for calm and urges fair trial for Chen. “All the people should wait patiently for the outcome of the trial … They shouldn’t do anything to influence the judges in any way, because the rule of law in Taiwan is at stake. We should show the world that Taiwan is a democracy where anybody who commits a crime, be he a man on the street or a former president, is duly punished.” it said.

Owner and manager of Moroccan factory arrested over 55-fatality fire

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Police have arrested the owner of a mattress factory in Hay Hassini, Casablanca, Morocco which burned down in a disaster that claimed 55 lives. His son, who was the factory’s manager, was also arrested.

Those killed — 35 of whom were women — were trapped inside by locked fire exits, which were barricaded to stop theft during working hours. “The people who died were either asphyxiated or burned,” commented a firefighter. 17 were wounded. Moustapha Taouil of the Casablanca civil protection service said the blaze was triggered by an inadequatly maintained electric saw on the ground floor. The initial fire quickly engulfed all four storeys of the building.

The Rosamor factory was clearly operating unsafely, officials said. “It’s a building with a ground floor and three upper floors specialising in making furniture, therefore there were highly inflammable products,” said Taouil. “We confirmed during our examination that the owners of the premises failed to respect legal requirements for this kind of industry including staff training… the owner in contravention of the law, locked staff inside the plant apparently to prevent theft of raw material. It was this that prevented them getting out. The fire was caused by lack of proper maintenance of certain machines and electrical installations.” He said a short circuit on the ground floor, which was filled with power saws, triggered the disaster.

As a result of the investigatons, “The plant’s owner, Adil Moufarreh, and his son Abdelali Moufarreh, who was the manager, have been taken into custody after having been questioned by police,” said an official.

28-year-old factory employee Fadila Khadija said “There was no emergency exit, the extinguishers were empty and the working conditions were difficult.” One source said that windows were also unusable as they were covered with iron bars. 20-year-old survivor Omar Elaaz said “I was working on the first floor as an upholsterer. The smoke came up from the ground floor where the foam rubber, wood and glue are stored. I used a gas bottle to break the wire mesh that protects every window.” 31-year-old upholsterer Hakim Hakki told of his own lucky escape and its effect on him from hospital: “I jumped from the third floor with four other colleagues while the women, who didn’t dare to follow us, perished in the inferno. God saved me but I’ll never forget those who died.”

The father of deceased 19-year-old Abdelazziz Darif said his son was paid 250 dirhams (20 euro/31 US dollars) per week and did not have social insurance.

New Zealander on oxygen machine dies after power disconnection

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

New Zealander Folole Muliaga died Tuesday morning after Mercury Energy cut off the power in her household due to $168.40 of unpaid bills. Mrs Folole Muliaga was seriously ill and dependent on an oxygen life support machine that required electricity to run.

The 44-year-old died two and a half hours after the power was cut by a contractor, working for State Owned Enterprise, Mercury Energy. A spokesperson for Mercury Energy has said that they are devastated and deeply sympathetic by the news, but state they did not know that the power was needed to run the oxygen machine. They have stated that discretion is exercised in cases of extreme hardship or when medical conditions make it appropriate and that the same contractor had done so the previous day. However, relatives claim that the contractor was told that the power was needed by family members present, was invited into the house and talked to Mrs Folole Muliaga, but showed no discretion or compassion under the circumstances.

The power was cut at about 11am. Brendan Sheehan, spokesperson for the family, said that after the power was cut, Mrs Muliaga suffered from breathing difficulties. During this time Mrs Mulianga declined an offer for an ambulance from family members. At about 1pm she informed her sons that she was feeling dizzy and asked for hymns to be sung. Her condition quickly deteriorated until she couldn’t speak. When she passed out at 1:32pm, an ambulance was called but Mrs Mulianga could not be revived when it arrived 12 minutes later.

That same evening remaining family members claim they had to grieve in the dark, power was only reconnected after the outstanding amount of $168.40 was paid to Mercury Energy. Mercury Energy claim that the were initially only made aware that a funeral was going to take place and attempted to reconnect the supply at midnight once the full circumstances were made clear but were unable to contact the family. They state the supply was eventually reconnected before 8am the next day. Evidence has been provided by family members to show that they had made two payments to Mercury Energy in the same month trying to clear their outstanding bill, $61.90 on 1 May 2007, and $45 on 17 May 2007.

Trevor Mallard, minister of State Owned Enterprises, said, “I do think it is important that the facts are established before people rush to judgement.”

Both the New Zealand Police and Mercury Energy, the retail operating division of Mighty River Power, are conducting investigations into the events.

The mother-of-four school teacher lived in Mangere, South Auckland and had been suffering from a heart and lung condition, according to relatives of Mrs Muliaga, since February.

Hospital doctors have expressed surprise at the short length of time between when the supply was cut and the death occurred. They have also explained that relatives are trained what to do if the supply is lost, including to call for an ambulance if severe symptoms develop.

Guantanamo inmate Murat Kurnaz transferred to Germany and released

Sunday, August 27, 2006

After being held for more than four years at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, German born Turkish citizen Murat Kurnaz was transferred to German custody by U.S. authorities on Thursday. An hour later, he was released.

Kurnaz was picked up in Pakistan in 2001 when riding a bus. He was first transferred to a prison camp in Afghanistan and then transferred to Guantanamo bay. He was designated an “enemy combatant” even after German law enforcement and US intelligence officials concluded that there was no information tying him to al-Qaeda or other terrorist activities.

Kurnaz’s lawyers have charged that Kurnaz was tortured while being held in Afghanistan and – to a lesser degree – while at Guantanamo Bay. Even on the flight back to Germany Kurnaz was shackled on hand and feet, tied to the ground and blindfolded.

Pentagon spokesman Chito Peppler said that the conditions for the prisoner transfer of Kurnaz to Germany included guarantees that Kurnaz be treated humanely by German authorities and that Germany take steps to ensure Kurnaz would not pose any threat to the world.

New Jersey to consider bikini waxing ban

Friday, March 20, 2009

New Jersey is considering a state-wide ban on Brazilian waxes, the removal of hair from the bikini area.

Although genital waxing has never really been allowed in the state, the New Jersey Board of Cosmetology and Hairstyling plans to propose a ban with more specific legal wording, in response to two women who reported being injured during a wax. The board will consider the proposal at their next meeting on April 14.

If the measure passes, New Jersey may become the only US state to ban the practice outright.

Although millions of Americans engage in bikini waxes, which generally cost between $50 and $60 per session, the practice comes with risks. Skin care experts say the hot wax can irritate delicate skin in the bikini area, and result in infections, ingrown hairs and rashes.

Waxing on the face, neck, abdomen, legs and arms would continue to be permitted in the state under the proposed ban. Although New Jersey statutes have always banned bikini waxing, the laws were unclear and seldom enforced.

As a result, many salons from around the state have offered bikini waxing for years. Many salon owners spoke out against the proposed ban, which they said would severely damage their business.

“I really don’t know if the state can stop it at this point,” said Valentia Chistova, owner of the Monmouth County salon Brazil. “I know a lot of women who are really hooked.”

 This story has updates See New Jersey backpedals on proposed bikini waxing ban 

American Indian Movement spokesperson dies, age 75

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Vernon Bellecourt, once the primary spokesperson for the American Indian Movement, died recently at age 75. Bellecourt, an Ojibwa who fought for Native rights, was perhaps best known for his opposition to Native names and mascots for sports teams.

First in the headlines in 1972, Bellecourt organized a cross-country caravan of the Movement, to Washington. Once there, members of the group occupied the Bureau of Indian Affairs offices. His goal of international recognition for Aboriginal nations and their treaties found him meeting with figures like Libyan Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi, and Palestine’s Yasir Arafat. In 1977 Leonard Peltier was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life terms for the murder of two FBI Agents during a 1975 shoot-out on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation; Bellecourt led the campaign to free him.

Most recently, he visited Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, to discuss getting free or cheap heating oil for reservations.

His work as president of the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media made a much wider known mark, though. Bellecourt emphasized that he believed such names perpetuated racial stereotypes, clouding the real identities and problems facing natives.

Teams with native-related names could almost guarantee on Bellecourt showing up at major games. He twice burned an effigy of Chief Wahoo, the Cleveland Indians baseball team mascot, and both times was arrested. When the Washington Redskins of the National Football League made the Super Bowl, Vernon was there to protest. The United States Commission on Civil Rights was critical of such names by 2001, calling them “insensitive in light of the long history of forced assimilation”. Some newspapers have stopped using the names of teams with Native origins.

None of his “big four” targets have shown any indication of changing: the Washington Redskins, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Cleveland Indians or the Atlanta Braves.

Post-season use of American Indian mascots were banned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association in 2005, suggesting the names are “hostile or abusive”. Bellecourt was pleased with the NCAA sanctions, but suggested such actions were only going “half way”.

The Florida State Seminole and the Illinois Illini were among the 18 colleges affected by the ban. Florida president T.K. Wetherell threatened legal action in response. The Florida Seminole tribes have endorsed the University’s usage of the name, but some out-of-state tribes were “not supportive”, according to the NCAA vice president for diversity and inclusion.

Born WaBun-Inini, Bellecourt died from complications of pneumonia on October 13, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States.

John “Jebby” Bush, son of Florida Governor Bush, arrested for public intoxication

Monday, September 19, 2005Early Friday morning, John “Jebby” Ellis Bush, the 21 year old son of Florida Governor Jeb Bush, was arrested in Austin, Texas for public intoxication and resisting arrest. Roger Wade, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission spokesman, said Bush was apprehended at 2:30AM near the corner of Trinity and Sixth Street in the city’s downtown entertainment and bar district.

Jeb and Columbia Bush’s youngest son allegedly wobbled up to TABC and Austin police on duty in the city’s downtown entertainment district and began badgering police about an earlier arrest of people he knew. TABC agent Capt. David Ferrero said Bush appeared to be drunk and “was observed to be a danger to himself and others.”

According to the arrest affidavit, “Subject further resisted by pushing back with his body as he was restrained at the [Austin Police Department] transport van.” During the scuffle, Bush suffered a cut on his chin and was transported to Breckenridge Hospital where he was treated and released. Bail was set at $2,500, but Bush was released on his own recognizance later about 10:30AM. If he fails to appear for court, he will forfeit the bond. Austin law classifies Public Intoxication as a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500, while Resisting Arrest is a Class A misdemeanor, and is punishable by up to a year in jail.

Authorities were unaware of Bush’s identity until after his arrest and booking when they observed his Florida Driver License. Governor Bush appearing with his wife at a Miami museum reception bristled at reporters’ questions Friday evening when the issue was mentioned saying, “I’m not going to discuss it on the public square with 30 cameras.”

Several members of the Bush family have received considerable press coverage for perceived or abusive use of alcohol and other substances, including George W. Bush’s DUI, Jenna and Barbara Bush’s underage drinking, and Jebby’s sister Noelle arrest for forging a Xanax prescription.