Archive for the ‘Laws’ Category

Service of Crowds: What do Guns Have to Do With It?

Thursday, October 5th, 2017

Photo: pinterest.com

I avoid crowds. I don’t like being one among hordes whether in a stadium or an indoor or outdoor venue. I learned, in writing this post, that I attributed to my dislike something else about mobs relating to gun violence that turns out isn’t true. Please read on.

When I saw the fans on “60 Minutes” last Sunday cheering feverishly for American star soccer player Christian Pulsic—the 19 year old is on the professional German Dortmund team [photo above]—I shuddered while I think I was supposed to admire. Thousands dressed largely in team yellow and black colors stood and cheered, then jumped up and down while squeezed shoulder to shoulder. [Pulsic was remarkable, but I digress.]

I loved the Christmas Show at Radio City Music Hall last year but even that gave me pause. The capacity is 6,000+. Ticketholders are scrutinized by security airport style–wand and all–but still.

I see countless images and mentions on Facebook of folks either at or returning from a glorious rock concert or exhilarating game. [I love concerts–in moderately sized halls.] In supersized stadiums or open spaces I fear stampedes and not being able to get out of a packed place.

Now, after the latest massacre by guns–in Las Vegas–I thought I had another reason to question whether it’s safe to produce/attend events at venti-sized stadiums or heavily subscribed gatherings in smaller spaces until we have a better way of vetting venues for nasty perpetrators.

Photo: drawception.com

Turns out that where being fish in a barrel for gun-toting killers is concerned I’m wrong to worry about humongous  venues–statistically anyway. The Washington Post reported “People killed in mass shootings make up less than half of 1 percent of the people shot to death in the United States. More than half of gun deaths every year are suicides. In 2015, more than 12,000 people have been killed by guns, according to the Gun Violence Archive.” [I highlighted part of the quote.]

Put another way, that means that two years ago, almost 6,000 people died from gunshot wounds that weren’t due to suicide and mostly didn’t happen in stadiums and outdoor music festivals. “Twenty-seven percent of the mass shootings occurred in workplaces, and 1 in 8 took place at schools. Others took place in religious, military, retail and restaurant or other locations.”

Photo: en.wikipedia.com

So I was wrong about massive crowds being targets, but guns are not off the hook. The government protects us from unsafe prescription drugs, cigarettes, and from harm by having passengers remove their shoes at airports—so why not from citizens with guns?

A Vox.com article subhead is “In the developed world, these levels of gun violence are a uniquely American problem.” Shouldn’t Congress mount a program to correct misinformation and misplaced anxiety and simultaneously put in place ways to verify the sanity and objectives of people who buy guns in future? Shouldn’t there be a gauge to determine the appropriate type of guns a citizen should own for non military/police-related purposes? Common sense tells us that there must be a suitable number of guns for sportsmen and women to own. Why not do for guns what we do for cars–register them so that homeland security in every community is aware of citizens with an excessive number? Everyone appears shocked to learn that the latest murderer had so many rifles. We should never be surprised. Nothing’s perfect–car fatalities are caused by people whose licenses have been revoked–but does that mean we shouldn’t address the problem?

Photo: slate.com

Service of Court Rulings that Thin Consumers’ Ability to Sue

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Photo: history.com

The California law suit against Bristol-Myers Squibb and the blood thinner Plavix involved almost 700 plaintiffs because the drug “allegedly created a substantial risk of heart attack, stroke and other injuries,” wrote Jess Bravin in The Wall Street Journal. But only 86 plaintiffs were from California and according to a new Supreme Court 8-1 ruling, only those cases can be heard in that state. Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

Photo: drugsdb.com

“The ruling was one of a series this term limiting so-called forum shopping, where plaintiffs’ attorneys file suit in a state or federal court they believe will be sympathetic to their claims,” Bravin reported.

California’s Supreme Court argued that all should be considered because the claims were similar; Bristol-Myers Squibb sales reached $900+million in the state and the drug was sold around the country. Justice Sotomayor wrote: “There is nothing unfair about subjecting a massive corporation to suit in a state for a nationwide course of conduct that injures both forum residents and nonresidents alike.”

The winning argument went that “Companies have long complained that plaintiffs in certain cases seek out venues where they believe they are most likely to receive favorable rulings, even when the cases involved may have only a tenuous connection to the area.”

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Photo: biography.com

According to Bravin, Justice Samuel Alito wrote: “The nonresidents were not prescribed Plavix in California, did not purchase Plavix in California, did not ingest Plavix in California, and were not injured by Plavix in California. The mere fact that other plaintiffs were prescribed, obtained, and ingested Plavix in California—and allegedly sustained the same injuries as did the nonresidents—does not allow the state to assert specific jurisdiction over the nonresidents’ claims.”

Bravin added: “Consumers groups, however, have warned that cutting back too sharply on plaintiffs’ ability to sue could give big companies more ways to avoid responsibility for harm they cause.”

Had you heard of forum-shopping before? Do you agree with the Supreme Court—that the court in a state can hear only about plaintiffs from that state? Or does that help corporations “avoid responsibility for harm they cause,” that consumer groups fear?

US Supreme Court building. Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Service of a Glacial Pace When it Comes to Food Safety: Key Word–Preventable

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

Sloth

Even advocates of the Slow Movement might agree that it’s taken far too long for the Food and Drug Administration to create and implement rules for the five year old Food Safety Modernization Act. Congress passed the act, wrote Jesse Newman, “after a wave of deadly outbreaks in the past decade stemming from contaminated fruit, spinach, peanut butter and other products.”

So hurry up, already, before someone else gets sick and/or dies!

With the new rules, the feds can take action before—not after—foods are found to be tainted. Newman added that manufacturers will have to “detail in writing” their food-safety steps. But don’t breathe sighs of relief just yet. According to Newman, food companies large and small have until 2018 to comply, though the larger ones must move more quickly.

And then there’s insufficient funding. More about that later.

Food safetyIn “FDA Tightens Its Food-Safety Rules,” Newman wrote: “About 48 million people, or one in six Americans, get sick each year from foodborne diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 128,000 people are hospitalized, and 3,000 die annually.”

Those made ill from tainted peanut butter who are still alive might find solace in this week’s Associated Press [AP] headline “Ex-Peanut Exec gets 28 Years in Prison for Deadly Salmonella Outbreak.” The executive, Stewart Parnell, was the owner of Peanut Corporation of America. According to the AP, this was “the stiffest punishment ever handed out to a producer in a foodborne illness case. The outbreak in 2008 and 2009 killed nine Americans and sickened hundreds more, and triggered one of the largest food recalls in U.S. history.”

PeanutsParnell knew that he’d shipped contaminated peanut butter, the federal jury determined. The AP reported that Judge W. Louis Sands said, “‘These acts were driven simply by the desire to profit and to protect profits notwithstanding the known risks.”

The killer is that these incidents needn’t happen. “Largely preventable” were the words the FDA deputy commissioner for food and veterinary medicine used in Newman’s article. The reporter mentioned the latest listeria outbreak in ice cream that killed three people and the fact that “Blue Bell neglected practices that might have prevented listeria contamination.” And then there were the Mexican cucumbers that contained salmonella and lately made people sick in 30 states.

PreventableBut there’s another snag: Insufficient funding. The FDA says it needs $260 million to implement the rules but House and Senate appropriations bills for 2016 are under $100 million. Maybe they can take some money from health insurers who have to pay the hospital and medical bills of people who didn’t have to get sick in the first place.

Given that members of Congress and the FDA and their families eat food, and we clearly can’t depend on manufacturers to take the right steps on their own, I’m puzzled at the sluggish pace they’ve agreed to to avert preventable, potentially life-threatening measures. And you? Is there a better way? Have you ever been made sick by tainted food? Isn’t it incredible that due to lack of responsibility of so many we even need such regulations?

vintage family eating dinner

Service of Nonsensical Laws II: Obsolete Wedding Statutes and Slipshod Driver License Regs

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

crazy laws

An Internet entrepreneur wrote me: “You’ve probably already covered laws and regulations that make no sense in a civilized society, one that prizes safety, well-being and plain old common sense.”  [I have, in “Service of Nonsensical Laws and Regulations: Cockamamie Campaign Finance, Motor Vehicle Rules and Road Signs.”]

She shared these examples:

Obsolete Statue in the Sunshine State

left at the alterA Florida statute makes it possible for about-to-be brides or bridegrooms to cancel their wedding just hours before the event and still have no reimbursement obligation to whomever paid for the non-refundable wedding expenses that already had been incurred (photographer, wedding gown, flowers, reception, etc.).

I have personal experience with this and participated in a lawsuit against my niece’s fiancé, who called off their wedding 36 hours before the event. My sister, brother-in-law and I lost the lawsuit last year and still are furious about it.

Brides or bridegrooms are not protected from deadbeats in, I think, 43 states. I can’t recall the exact number but my sister has it memorized. This Florida statute was written in the 1940’s, when weddings typically took place in church basements and guests were served punch and a platter of sandwiches.

It makes absolutely no sense in the 21st century, when the average wedding costs $25,000 and some (like my niece’s) cost much more than that.

Taking License with the Empire State’s Driving Permits

old person drivingIn New York, a 90 year old can renew his or her driver’s license without being evaluated by authorities and without taking any tests. All they have to do is pay a fee. New York State says my Mom is good-to-go until age 98. What??!!

Why does Florida ignore the cultural change for weddings as do over 75 percent of states? Do you think that there should be protection for those with big investments in them and obligations to shoulder at least a percentage of costs for those who wait to the last minute to announce a change of heart?

There have been articles in The New York Times, slate.com, consumerreports.com and elsewhere about how technology makes it possible for some elderly people to drive safely. What are your thoughts?

 1950s wedding

 

 

Service of Nonsensical Laws and Regulations: Cockamamie Campaign Finance, Motor Vehicle Rules and Road Signs

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Stolen License 1

 

Pocket Laws

I thought it strange that Christine Quinn was reprimanded for paying for campaign activities out of her own pocket–it’s against the law–when the converse would seem to cause a problem. Read about this in The Wall Street Journal.

Plate Laws

We ran into an unsettling situation this weekend when we discovered the front license plate missing on our car [photo above]. I went back to where we park at the railroad station during the week and I didn’t find the plate. I was hoping it had fallen off or that kids had been up to mischief and had tossed it somewhere. I’ll never know why someone took the plate and one from at least one other car near where we’d parked [photo below, right].

Next stop was to the state troopers where I got a “Report of Lost, Stolen or Confiscated Motor Vehicles Items,” form and left the station puzzled and shaken. Stolen license 2

The desk trooper told me that I didn’t need to report one missing plate and wasn’t the slightest interested that at least one other car had been vandalized. This is a sleepy town where, thank goodness, nothing too bad happens so it’s not as though the station is overwhelmed with people in handcuffs hanging out in the lounge. I was the only visitor and a call came in while I was there about a woman overwhelmed in the heat.  

This nonchalance made no sense. My nephew, in the car business, confirmed my suspicion that someone taking plates was probably up to no good. He said to take care of the situation ASAP and noted that some use the good plates to sell stolen cars. I envisioned someone having an accident with my plate and causing complications for us–even though the car, plates and registration would not match.

toll boothThe Motor Vehicles clerk said that some use the stolen plates to rack up toll booth fees by zipping through without EZ Pass device or coin. We should be off the hook as of Monday when the clerk associated the car with a new license plate in the computer and trust we hear no echoes about the matter.

Back to the head-scratching, sloppy aspect of this: The form noted that the fee for the new plates–and registration–might be waived if a crime is involved. My form confirms this–so why not take that step? It seems like poor advice not to register such an incident with the police if only for self-protection. Can’t you just hear a judge or vendor such as EZ Pass ask, “Did you report this????” should a problem arise. It simplified the procedure with Motor Vehicles and we paid nothing for the new plates and registration certificate.

Last, according to both the trooper and the instructions: “If only one license plate was stolen and you had a two-plate set, turn in the remaining plate to the Motor Vehicles office.” It doesn’t say that you will be given new plates on the spot so bring a screw driver and extra bolts. Without this information why would you want to park a car on the street with no plates? In addition, if there were a way to keep the original plate number and clear our responsibility for last week I would have preferred it. We would have saved steps to contact the insurance company, EZ Pass, the company from which we lease the car and the parking company to record the new plates.

Thieves had to crouch in weeds to remove license plates.

Thieves had to crouch in weeds to remove license plates.

So far the cost in cash was $7.00 for the revised parking permit–the car dealer gave me the bolts—but the cost in time will be almost a day of work in addition to the stress of feeling violated. The trooper was not sympathetic, in fact he made me feel like an idiot because in looking for the latest registration form he noticed and smirked because we’d kept a pile of expired ones. [I’m not the only one as I found out when telling others of this experience.] He said having them in the folder wasted time. 55 mph speed sign

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While I’m addressing cockamamie rules and laws, why do we have traffic signs in Dutchess county that instruct drivers that the 45 mile per hour zone is over when it would cost the same to install one noting 55? We crawl behind umpteen drivers who don’t notice the passive sign and see only the 45 part of it.

Are there laws and regulations that don’t make sense to you? Do you keep copies of expired documents? Why do state troopers shrug at a theft that could lead to additional illegal behavior?

Right turn from left only

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