Sunday, February 25, 2024

The NetChoice cases: Will the Supreme Court turn First Amendment law on its head?

  On February 26, 2024, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases—NetChoice v. Paxton and Moody v. NetChoice—that address whether Florida and Texas can enact laws prohibiting social media platforms from moderating content posted by their users.

  The Florida law predominantly limits social media platforms’ ability to “censor”—demonetize, remove, or otherwise restrict—political candidates and certain journalistic outlets. It would also prevent the platforms from moderating harmful mis- and disinformation from several sources, even prohibiting them from attaching labels that guide users to verified information. The Texas law is far broader, preventing most widely used websites, from Facebook and X, formerly known as Twitter, to Etsy and Yelp, from enforcing community standards by prohibiting the removal of nearly any content that’s based on viewpoint. This includes preventing the removal of heinous and objectionable material—Nazi propaganda, deepfakes, socially damaging conspiracy theories, etc.—from any platform unless it falls under specific narrow exceptions, particularly within the narrowly and technically legal definition of being “unlawful.”

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Alabama can’t look away from difficult history

  Rep. Ed Oliver (R-Dadeville) predicted in January that a “divisive concepts” bill — which presumes exposure to hard or unflattering history will melt children into gelatin — would pass in the first or second week of the legislative session.

  And happy Black History Month to you, too. The good news is that the 2024 Alabama Legislature finished its second week last Thursday without the bill — sponsored by Oliver over the last several years — rearing its rage-choked head in the Statehouse.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Voters don’t always have final say – state legislatures and governors are increasingly undermining ballot measures that win

  Less than half of Americans trust elected officials to act in the public’s interest.

  When voters want something done on an issue and their elected officials fail to act, they may turn to citizen initiatives to pursue their goals instead. The citizen initiative process varies by state, but in general, citizens collect signatures to have an issue put directly on the ballot for the voters to voice their preferences. Nearly half the states, 24 of them, allow citizen initiatives.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

For 150 years, Black journalists have known what Confederate monuments really stood for

  In October 2023, nearly seven years after the deadly Unite the Right white supremacist rally, the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia was melted down. Since then, two more major Confederate monuments have been removed: the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery and the Monument to the Women of the Confederacy in Jacksonville, Florida.

  Defenders of Confederate monuments have argued that the statues should be left standing to educate future generations. One such defender is former President Donald Trump, the likely GOP presidential nominee in 2024.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Dietary supplements and protein powders fall under a ‘wild west’ of unregulated products that necessitate caveats and caution

  Dietary supplements are a big business. The industry made almost US$39 billion in revenue in 2022, and with very little regulation and oversight, it stands to keep growing.

  The marketing of dietary supplements has been quite effective, with 77% of Americans reporting feeling that the supplement industry is trustworthy. The idea of taking your health into your own hands is appealing, and supplements are popular with athletes, parents, and people trying to recover more quickly from a cold or flu, just to name a few.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Ohio v. EPA threatens the EPA’s ability to regulate air pollution nationwide

  On February 21, 2024, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for an emergency petition to postpone implementing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “good neighbor plan,” which is meant to protect downwind states from high levels of ozone pollution. Unusually, the court is holding oral argument in this matter even though it originates in the notorious emergency docket known as the “shadow docket.” Unlike in the traditional merits docket, cases heard in the shadow docket typically are decided without oral argument on a fast-tracked basis and often are procedural in nature. In Ohio v. EPA, the court has chosen to hear arguments to determine whether the good neighbor plan should be paused while litigation in the lower courts continues. A stay of the plan could allow upwind states to emit approximately 70,000 additional tons of smog-creating nitrous oxide by the peak of the 2026 summertime ozone season, causing up to 1,300 premature deaths and increased hospital visits for thousands of Americans with asthma or other respiratory problems each year. This case serves as another opportunity for this radical, right-wing Supreme Court to rule in favor of powerful industry polluters over the safety and welfare of the American people.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Mexico is suing US gun-makers for arming its gangs − and a US court could award billions in damages

  The government of Mexico is suing U.S. gun-makers for their role in facilitating cross-border gun trafficking that has supercharged violent crime in Mexico.

  The lawsuit seeks US$10 billion in damages and a court order to force the companies named in the lawsuit – including Smith & Wesson, Colt, Glock, Beretta, and Ruger – to change the way they do business. In January, a federal appeals court in Boston decided that the industry’s immunity shield, which so far has protected gun-makers from civil liability, does not apply to Mexico’s lawsuit.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

2023’s billion-dollar disasters list shattered the US record with 28 big weather and climate disasters amid Earth’s hottest year on record

  National weather analysts released their 2023 “billion-dollar disasters list” on Jan. 9, just as 2024 was getting off to a ferocious start. A blizzard was sweeping across across the Plains and Midwest, and the South and East faced flood risks from extreme downpours.

  The U.S. set an unwelcome record for weather and climate disasters in 2023, with 28 disasters that exceeded more than US$1 billion in damage each.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

With higher fees and more ads, streaming services like Netflix, Disney+ and Hulu are cashing in by using the old tactics of cable TV

  There’s one thing that television viewers can count on in 2024: higher fees and more commercials.

  The major streaming services – Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and Max – have all announced rate hikes and new advertising policies.

Friday, February 16, 2024

George Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ is a story of jazz, race and the fraught notion of America’s melting pot

  February 12, 1924 was a frigid day in New York City. But that didn’t stop an intrepid group of concertgoers from gathering in midtown Manhattan’s Aeolian Hall for “An Experiment in Modern Music.” The organizer, bandleader Paul Whiteman, wanted to show how jazz and classical music could come together. So he commissioned a new work by a 25-year-old Jewish-American upstart named George Gershwin.

  Gershwin’s contribution to the program, “Rhapsody in Blue,” would go on to exceed anyone’s wildest expectations, becoming one of the best-known works of the 20th century. Beyond the concert hall, it would appear in iconic films such as Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” and Disney’s “Fantasia 2000.” It was performed during the opening ceremonies of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, and if you ever fly on United Airlines, you’ll hear it playing during the preflight safety videos.