Judge rejects neo-Nazi’s First Amendment argument in harassment case

Plaintiff Tanya Gersh of Whitefish, Montana.

When Andrew Anglin isn’t editing his neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer, he organizes harassment campaigns against perceived enemies. One target of an Anglin harassment campaign, Tanya Gersh, sued Anglin last year. On Wednesday, a Montana federal judge dealt Anglin a significant setback, holding that the First Amendment does not protect Anglin’s right to publish Gersh’s personal information and encourage his legion of anti-Semitic followers to harass her.

But this legal battle isn’t over yet. The judge’s ruling allows the lawsuit to go forward, but Gersh’s lawyers will still have to prove Anglin liable for invasion of privacy and other harms.

Still, the ruling could prove significant for other victims of online harassment. Anglin argued that he was just publishing information—like Gersh’s home phone number—and couldn’t be held responsible for what his readers did with that information. But the judge pointed to clear evidence Anglin knew exactly what readers would do with the information and egged them on at every step.

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New York politicians push back on Amazon HQ2 plans

Amazon’s HQ2 process was bound to polarize (though I do enjoy a good dueling op-ed on these pages) no matter how it landed. But the decision to set up shop in New York City is likely ruffling more feathers than just about any other possible outcome.

As a resident of neighboring Astoria, Queens, the less I say about the matter the better — I’m going to assume you didn’t click on this story to read five paragraphs of me complaining about the N train and my rent.I will say I haven’t spoken to too many fellow NYC residents who are excited about the personal impact Amazon’s move will have on quality of life.

A number of local and state representatives are also finally starting to weigh in on the matter, and many of the comments don’t reflect the sort of capitalist cheerleading one anticipates from elected officials. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand took to Twitter to express “concern” with how the process played out.

In particular, the one-time Blue Dog Democrat (who handily won her latest Senate bid a few weeks back) singles out Amazon’s tax breaks, along with the impact on struggling families, writing, “One of the wealthiest companies in history should not be receiving financial assistance from the taxpayers while too many New York families struggle to make ends meet.”

New York assemblyman Ron Kim took things further, promising legislation aimed as using tax subsidies to help cancel student debt, rather than prop up Amazon. It’s a move that reflects Bernie Sanders’ recent successful bid to provide Amazon warehouse employees a $15 minimum wage.

Congress member-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez expressed support for Kim and voiced her own disappointment in a deal that was brokered without community input.

“Amazon is a billion-dollar company,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “The idea that it will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need MORE investment, not less, is extremely concerning to residents here.”

US travel ban blocking students from presenting their research

A poster grayed-out in protest at the recent Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego.

At an academic conference, the question “where are you from?” can have many meanings. “For anybody who’s in science, that’s a complicated question,” says paleontologist P. David Polly. “Where are we now, where did we get our degree, where did we grow up, where did we get the other degree?” For many people in science, the list of answers will span multiple countries.

Because of this international culture, science is feeling the effects of increasing restrictions on international travel. At last week’s Society for Neuroscience (SfN) meeting in San Diego, a research poster drew a lot of attention: the bulk of the poster was grayed out, covered instead by a message from the author explaining that, as a citizen of Iran, she had been unable to enter the US to take part in the conference. “Science should be about breaking barriers,” she wrote, “not creating new ones.”

Tightening barriers

Leili Mortazavi, an undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia, ran into the same barrier. When her work was accepted for presentation at SfN, she started the visa application process, but when she arrived at her appointment, she was told she was “ineligible to apply” because of her Iranian citizenship. “I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a visa application or a background check,” she told Ars. But the current situation is one of “excluding everyone based on their place of birth and not caring if the reason for their traveling is legitimate or not.”

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Imminent Bitcoin Cash schism triggers cryptocurrency selloff

Many people doubt Craig Wright's claim to be Bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto.

Bitcoin’s price has fallen more than 12 percent over the last 24 hours to $5,400, the lowest price for the popular cryptocurrency in more than a year.

Bitcoin’s plunge is part of a broader cryptocurrency sell-off. Ethereum has fallen more than 15 percent over the last 24 hours, while Bitcoin Cash is down 18 percent.

Cryptocurrency markets are jittery ahead of a high-stakes “hard fork” of Bitcoin Cash. Rival factions are pushing different, mutually incompatible versions of the spinoff cryptocurrency, and the two versions are scheduled to create separate, competing versions of the blockchain starting on Thursday. The schism could create confusion among users and damage the reputation of the cryptocurrency.

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Comcast forced to pay refunds after its hidden fees hurt customers’ credit

Comcast forced to pay refunds after its hidden fees hurt customers’ credit

Comcast has agreed to pay $700,000 in refunds “and cancel debts for more than 20,000 Massachusetts customers” to settle allegations that it used deceptive advertising to promote long-term cable contracts, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced yesterday. “Comcast stuck too many Massachusetts customers with lengthy, expensive contracts that left many in debt and others with damaged credit,” Healey said.

The Massachusetts AG alleged that Comcast violated state consumer protection laws by “fail[ing] to adequately disclose the actual monthly price and terms of its long-term contracts for cable services, including failing to disclose to customers that the company could increase the price of certain monthly fees at any point during the long-term contracts.”

Comcast advertised a $99 lock-in rate “but did not adequately disclose equipment costs and mandatory monthly fees” that would add to monthly bills, and “failed to adequately disclose that the fees could increase while the customer was locked into the long-term contract,” the AG investigation found.

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Man pleads guilty to swatting attack that led to death of Kansas man

Man pleads guilty to swatting attack that led to death of Kansas man

Federal prosecutors in Kansas announced Tuesday that a 25-year-old Californian has admitted that he caused a Wichita man to be killed at the hands of local police during a swatting attack late last year.

Swatting is a way to harass or threaten someone by calling in a false threat to law enforcement, and, when successful, it usually results in a police SWAT team showing up needlessly at its victim’s house.

According to the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Kansas, Tyler Barriss pleaded guilty to making a false report resulting in a death, cyberstalking, and conspiracy. He also admitted that he was part of “dozens of similar crimes in which no one was injured.”

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Thermal power plants use a lot of water, but that’s slowly changing

nuclear cooling towers

It may come as a surprise that as of 2015, most of the water taken out of US ground- and surface-water sources was withdrawn by the electricity sector. Irrigation is a close second, and public supply is a distant third.

In 2015, thermal power generation—anything that burns fuel to create gas or steam that pushes a turbine—used 133 billion gallons of water per day. That water is mostly for cooling the equipment, but some of it is also used for emissions reduction and other processes essential to operating a power plant.

Those gallons are mostly freshwater, but some near-coast power generators do use saline or brackish water to operate. Much of the water is returned to the ecosystem, but some of it is also lost in evaporation. The water that is returned can often be thermally polluted, that is, it’s warmer than what’s ideal for the local ecosystem.

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Amazon is getting more than $2 billion for NYC and Virginia expansions

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on September 13, 2018.

Over the last year, Amazon has dangled in front of cities the possibility that they could host the company’s “second headquarters”—a massive $5 billion facility that would provide 50,000 white-collar jobs. On Tuesday, Amazon confirmed what had been widely reported: nobody would be getting this massive prize. Instead, the expansion would be split in half, with New York City and Arlington, Virginia, (just outside Washington, DC) each getting smaller facilities that will employ around 25,000 people each.

Amazon’s Seattle offices will continue to be the company’s largest and will continue to be Amazon’s headquarters by any reasonable definition. But pretending to have three “headquarters” undoubtedly makes it easier for Amazon to coax taxpayer dollars out of local governments.

The announcement is underwhelming in other ways, too. The Washington, DC, area has been widely seen as the frontrunner since the competition was announced last year. When Amazon announced a list of 20 finalists, the region claimed three of those 20 spots, with separate entries for Northern Virginia; Montgomery County, Maryland; and the district itself. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post in 2013 and bought the largest house in Washington, DC, in 2016.

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