The Massachusetts Supreme Court has ruled in favor of allowing OpenCourt to expand their streaming video feeds of court proceedings beyond Quincy District Court. The WBUR project has been running since last year, allowing anybody to watch what’s going on in the courtroom. It’s been a success by any measure, but when they tried to expand to broadcasting jury trials, the county DA sued to stop them. The court ruled that there’s simply no legal basis to stop them—they have the same right as any other media outlet to film in the courtroom. This is a great project, doing the important work of opening up courtrooms. This is the second such legal challenge that they’ve faced, the second time it’s gone to the state’s highest court, and the second time that they’ve won. →
Nine weeks after launching Virginia Decoded, I’ve got some great traffic data to see how people are getting to the site. My hypothesis has been borne out: it’s mostly people trying to figure out legal problems via Google. →
- The Guardian: Mexico City considers fixed-term marriage licences
The city is considering offering two-year marriage licenses. Couples would get married, and two years later their marriage contract would end, though they could, of course, renew it. Why? Because so many marriages end after two years, requiring an expensive and trying divorce. I've been forecasting limited term marriage licenses for years, but I never would have guessed that it might start in the heavily Catholic Mexico.
- CNet: Was legal site rewrite a liberal plot? Not quite.
Justia made a mistake in a regular expression (I made the same mistake last week), resulting in some SCOTUS rulings going missing from their website. The conspiracy-theory responses are remarkable, especially the bizarre call for a criminal investigation. Justia is a private site—they're free to exclude any rulings for any (or no) reason!
I am embarrassingly excited about this thermostat. I've put a lot of thought into thermostat design over the past few years, convinced that they could both look and function a great deal better than the best models currently available. (In my new home, we got top-flight ones installed, and they're still ugly and work poorly.) The Nest Learning Thermostat is quite a bit more advanced than anything I'd imagined. One more feature I'd like: the ability to detect the presence of people in the home based on whether their phone is on the WiFi network.
- Mediaite: AP Reporter Responds To Chris Hayes Panel Debate On Racism Of Droppin’ G’s From Obama Speech
There's some fussing about how an AP reporter transcribed a quote from President Obama. In a recent speech, the president said: "Shake it off. Stop complainin’. Stop grumblin’. Stop cryin’." On one of those sunday morning shouting shows, the reporter was declared to be racist for doing so. Ridiculous. Anybody who saw or heard the president's remarks knows full well that this was a deliberately affected speaking style. To transcribe his remarks with the "g" would have whitewashed his speech while altering his remarks. This is not a matter of transcribing a dialect paternally, but instead attempting to convey his remarks accurately.
- National Arbitration Forum: Ms. Stefani Germanotta v. oranges arecool XD
This is a really interesting decision that resulted from an ICANN complaint that Germanotta filed against a Lady Gaga fan site, ladygaga.org, demanding that the fan turn over the domain name. Though there are a lot of facts that led to their conclusion, the mediators found in favor of the fan, finding that the site was run in good faith, there was no substantial likelihood of confusion with the official site, and that Germanotta doesn't appear to be having any trouble promoting herself.
- Sunlight Labs: House Revamps Floor Feed
The U.S. House has made some great changes to their legislative data service. The U.S. Senate remains in the stone age.
- Bloomberg: Obama Lawyers Signal Likely Supreme Court Appeal on Health Care
The White House wants to end the federal appeals court rulings on the president's health care reform, and for the Supreme Court to take up the case. That's likely to bring a decision in June, in the middle of the presidential campaign. "President Barack Obama is trying to resolve the legal issues on his watch, said Alex Castellanos, Republican consultant. 'This is not politics,' he said. 'This is governing.'" Damned straight.
- NPR: Silence From Rep. Bachmann As Vaccine Challenge Expires
Remember the bioethicist's $10,000 challenge to Michele Bachmann if she would simply identify a single person who was rendered mentally retarded by the HPV vaccine? The money would have gone to Bachmann's charity of choice. That's an easy $10k, right? Apparently not—Bachmann couldn't do it. And of course not: her repeated claim that middle school girls have received the shot and promptly been rendered retarded is ridiculous on its face. It's important that dangerous lies like this be responded to like this, because the alternative is for people to come to believe that it's true.
- Wikipedia: Tontine
A tontine is an investment system by which a bunch of people pay into a pot and take their proportional share of the interest on a regular basis. As more participants die, the remaining participants all get a greater share of income with each payment. The last person alive gets a lump payment of all the remaining money. It was popular in the 1700s and 1800s, but they've both fallen out of favor and made illegal in many places.
- Ars Technica: Patent trolls have cost innovators half a trillion dollars
A study by some Boston University researchers have found that, from publicly traded companies alone, $500B has been spent on paying off patent extortionists. That's a quarter of all U.S. R&D expenses, wasted. If we want to get serious about reducing the cost of doing business in this country, let's start with software patent reform.
- Google Webmaster Central: View-all in search results
When articles can be viewed paginated or all on one page, Google is now preferring the all-in-one approach in displaying search results. Because, of course, people don't want to read articles broken up into ten pages.
- Pressthink: We Have No Idea Who’s Right—Criticizing “he said, she said” journalism at NPR
Jay Rosen provides this thoughtful piece about the media-wide habit of presenting two sides of a disagreement and pretending that's good journalism. (The exception to this rule is, of course, Fox News, which makes only the thinnest of pretenses at presenting both sides equally.) Opponents of abortion say that tighter regulations on clinics are necessary. Supporters say that regulations are tight enough. So, go farther—compare abortion clinics to other, similar medical facilities, compare the requirements and the actual health data, and tell us who's right.
- Lynchburg Police: A Look at Citizen’s Arrest in Virginia
Like most states, Virginia has a concept of "citizen's arrest." But you'd best know what you're doing if you're going to try it. The crime has to be a felony and you have to have actually observed the criminal commit the crime. Otherwise, you're setting yourself up for a kidnapping charge—even if the person is guilty.
- Carnegie Hero Fund Commission
In 1904, Andrew Carnagie established the Hero Fund, which would reward any civilian who voluntarily risks his lives while attempting to save the life of another. In the 107 years since, they have given out 9,000 medals and $32M in grants, 20% posthumously. These are the stories behind some of their winners, but brief information on all of the winners is available on their site.
- NPR: The Unthinkable
Franklin Pierce was the only president ever elected and subsequently denied his party's renomination. Arthur, Johnson, Fillmore, and Tyler also lost their party's nomination, but all of them ascended to the presidency from the vice presidency after the death of the president.
- IBM Many Bills: A Visual Bill Explorer
IBM is doing some really interesting work with legislation here. In my own work on Richmond Sunlight, I've long treated the text of the bill as a black box, doing very little with the text of bills. IBM demonstrates here that there's actually some valuable data to be gleaned from the actual words within the bill. Their interface is lousy—the site is hard to use—by I really admire their original thinking.
- Think Progress: In Washington, You Don’t Need To Know Anything About Policy To Be a Senator Or Chair Important Commissions
Former Senator Alan Simpson knows disturbingly little about Social Security and, indeed, history and math, especially for the guy who is the co-chair of the President Obama's budget commission.
- Wikispecies: Free Species Directory
From the Wikimedia foundation, Wikispecies is like Wikipedia, but for species. One entry for every species. They're up to 265,369 articles.
- Wall Street Journal: Grandparents and Grandkids Connect Via Facebook, Twitter and Texting
My grandfather kept up with his grandchildren—and we kept up with him—via Facebook until shortly before his death last year. My grandmother had photos and status updates cherry-picked from Facebook and e-mailed to her—delivered via her HP Presto e-mail printer—until her death last month. Of course, the ability to assign grandparents (and grandchildren) to a specific group to limit access is helpful, too—kids need not share everything with their elders.