Archive for November, 2012

225px-Pat_Robertson_Paparazzo_Photography260px-Europasaurus_holgeri_Scene_2Pat Robertson remains something of an enigma. Just when you dismiss him as a religious wing nut who says that God gives him tips of who will win elections; atheists want people to be miserable; and causes earthquakes to punish Haitians as Devil worshippers. Then Robertson turns around and calls for the legalization of marijuana and now called for evangelists to stop suggesting that the Earth is only 6000 years old when every scientific fact points to the contrary. I wish he would just pick one side of the sanity/insanity line and stick with it because this is getting confusing.

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CT_-_State_Police_BadgeConnecticut State Trooper Aaron Huntsman, 43, has been charged with larceny for allegedly stealing jewelry and cash from the victim of a fatal motorcycle crash on Sept. 22. There is perhaps no greater violation of public trust for an offer than the robbery of a deceased victim. If convicted, for that reason, Huntsman would likely face heavy aggravators on sentencing, pushing the sentence higher.

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10467185-largeThere is a bizarre case out of New Orleans where Alabama football fan Brian H. Downing has begun serving a two-year sentence for “teabagging” an unconscious LSU fan outside a Bourdon Street restaurant — a vile humiliating act that was videotaped and posted on YouTube. The victim is also suing Downing in tort. Notably, Orleans Parish Criminal District Judge Karen Herman commented at sentencing that he “chose wisely” in accepting the plea bargain — indicating that she would have hit him with an even higher sentence for the disgusting act.

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220px-Mohamed_Morsi_croppedAs protests continue over the power grab of President Mohammed Morsi, Islamists pushed through a draft constitution without the involvement of Christian or liberal members to give Muslim clerics oversight over legislation and add restrictions to free speech, women’s rights, and other civil liberties.

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220px-NosferatuShadowI wonder if Homeland Security has a color coding for this particular warning. A Serbian village, Zarozje, is in full panic after its mayor issued a serious public health warning of an outbreak of vampires. One particular vampire actually: Sava Savanovic, which by the way is a great name for a vampire.

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Washington, D.C. had the worst high school graduation rate in the country in 2011 — down roughly 20 percent from just two years ago. The drop appears partially the result of a new (and better) accounting system that tracks actual students rather than allowing a ridiculous calculation method that tended to inflate numbers. Nevada had the lowest graduation rate of any state (62 percent) and D.C. did worse than Native American reservations (61 percent). The best state was Iowa with 88 percent followed by Vermont and Wisconsin (both at 87 percent).

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There was a justified outcry recently when a video surfaced (below) of an Ohio man William Bailey making fun of a young girl with cerebral palsy at a bus stop. It is a brief video but enough to enrage a nation. Now, Canton Municipal Judge John A. Poulos ordered the maximum sentence for Bailey, who pleaded no contest to reduced misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and aggravated menacing. I realize how emotionally charged this case has become, but should mocking be treated as a criminal act?

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There is another lawsuit against a police department for shooting a family dog without provocation. The latest victim is Rosie, a 3-year-old Newfoundland belonging to Charles and Deirdre Wright in Washington state. Rosie got loose and ended up in the backyard of Lora Perry. Perry said that police came and shot and killed Rosie who was not being aggressive in any way in her yard. The Wrights have now filed a civil rights suit.

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Egyptian judges are in the news for their resistance to the attempt of President Mohammed Morsi’s claim of unchecked power. However, progressive values can mean radically different things in some parts of the world. An Egyptian court this week convicted in absentia Wednesday seven Egyptian Coptic Christians and a Florida-based American pastor of insulting Islam and sentenced them to death.

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We have yet another case of a pet paying for the bad relationship of humans. Richard J. Atkinson, 63, pleaded guilty to stabbing the parrot, Bailey, of his former girlfriend with a serving fork. He then trashed the house. For the crime, he has received a six month jail sentence.

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We have another chilling tale of the plight of women in some traditional Islamic areas. A woman known as Nurbanu had divorced her husband when she found him in bed with another woman. The husband than responded to the divorce by throwing acid in her face — an all-too-common crime against women in the Middle East. The woman was disfigured and blinded, but the husband received only one year of jail for the crime. Nurbanu said she was then coerced to remarry him and he now allegedly continues to beat her. Warning the picture below is graphic and disturbing.

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Indiana State Police Superintendent Paul Whitesell surprised many when he added his voice to those supporting legalization of marijuana. Whitesell appears to support legislation that would decriminalize possession of marijuana.

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We have previously discussed the potential liability stemming from pranks. This video sent to me by a former student seems the perfect avenue for an infliction of emotional distress claim or negligence claim after inducing a heart attack in the subject.

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There is a rather unexpected debate occurring in Germany where the government is moving to re-criminalize bestiality. Since 1969, bestiality has been legal in Germany, but it would now be punishable with a fine up to 25,000 euros ($31,000).

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There is an interesting argument raised in a motion for a new trial for convicted murderer, Christopher Vaughn (left). Vaughn was convicted this summer in less than an hour in the killing of his family. Vaughn however is talking about the murder trial of another defendant, Drew Peterson (right). He is arguing that the conduct of the Peterson attorneys was so public and obnoxious that it tainted his own case before the jury.

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Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez failed in her latest effort to strip citizens of a basic right to film police in public — and thereby eliminate the single most effective tool against police abuse in this century. The Supreme Court refused her appeal of the ruling of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which expressly criticized Alvarez for her “extreme” position on the rights of citizens. As a native Chicagoan, I remain astonished that citizens have allowed Alvarez to remain in office as she has publicly sought to strip them of their rights and block a tool that has been used repeatedly to show police abuse. For a leading and generally liberal jurisdiction, Chicago has the ignominy and dishonor of leading the effort to fight core civil liberties in this area.

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We previously discussed the untimely and untidy death of Edward Archbold, 32, who collapsed after winning the title as the world champion roach eater. We speculated about the possibility of liability for a “bad roach.”
The autopsy is now in on Archold and the finding is that he choked to death on the roaches.

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Angus T. Jones has a curious way of demonstrating his deep Christian faith. Jones is shown in a new video denouncing the show “Two and a Half Men” as “filth” and a danger to Christian children and values. The problem is that Jones plays Jake Harper on the show and receives a reported $350,000 an episode. You may recall that Charlie Sheen was kicked off the show for making disparaging comments about the show and “dangerously self-destructive conduct.” While Sheen was not fired under a “morality clause,” such provisions are common in television contracts. Could denouncing the show as immoral violate the Morality Clause?
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The ABA Journal has released its list of the top 100 legal blogs in the world and we are once again in this august group of blogs. Congratulations to all of our regulars contributors and weekend bloggers. We have previously taken the top spot under the opinion category in the past but the ABA has now eliminated that category. Even more ominous was the decision to put the largest blogs in direct competition under an expanded “News/Analysis” category. This includes the long dominant “Above the Law” site. We would have to punch considerably above our weight to beat “Above the Law,” which is ranking regularly in the top two most visited legal sites in the world. Frankly, it is like a dingy going up against a battleship. However, we have never flinched in the face of superior numbers. So it is time to vote! It takes a very quick registration. Just click here and cast your vote today!

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We have been discussing the continued effort of prosecutors and police to jail citizens who photograph or videotape police in public. For a prior column, click here. Now, in California, another such arrest has been videotaped in California as Daniel J. Saulmon was charged with resisting, delaying and obstructing an officer when the video shows him standing at a distance and not interfering in any way with the arrest.

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Alabama lawyer James Stewart Robinson, 45, just may be the lawyer Michael Vick was looking for. Robinson has been charged with cruelty to a dog after he allegedly slit the throat of his family’s pet pit bull and then texted a photo of the dead dog to his estranged wife. The two are in the midst of a bitter divorce and had been arguing of custody of the dog, named Rufus.

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We have previously discussed the war on atheists and agnostics that seems to be accelerating with the rise of people claiming to have no religious affiliation or belief in God in the United States, according to recent polls. There is a steady stream of statements from the national and international campaign by leaders against atheists, who appear to be fair game for hateful, ill-informed rhetoric. While you may have seen this already, Pat Robertson pushed this trend to a new low: telling his many viewers that atheists want to everyone to be miserable because they are miserable. They therefore what “to steal your holiday [Christmas] away from you.”

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The City of Detroit has left whole areas without street lighting and even proposed allowing buildings to burn rather than spend the money on fire fighters. However, the city is now facing a $1.1 million default judgment in a civil rights suit after its attorneys failed to respond to the lawsuit.

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In torts class, we often discuss the limitations placed on the protection of property under the common law. While many states have passed controversial Castle Doctrines or “Make My Day” laws and others have extended such privilege to use lethal force to cars or workplaces (under Make My Day Better laws), the common law does not allow people to use force calculated to cause serious bodily injury or death in defense of property. Many stores instruct employees not to use physical force with shoplifters for that reason or to try to stop armed robberies (including cases where stores have fired such heroes). It appears that a security officer is out of job after a scuffle with an alleged shoplifter caused the middle-aged suspect to have a heart attack and die outside of a Walmart.

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In class, we often discuss the limitations on liability from fire under the common laws. This weekend showed how extensive, and foreseeable, such damage can be with a gas explosion. On Friday night, a strip club exploded in Springfield, Massachusetts — burning ten buildings including The House of Mercy church next door.

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Truth From The Mouths of Babes

The Gettysburg Address was 272 words and yet stands as one of the most iconic writings in history. We now have a type of Gettysburg Address of our generation. In just 137 words (almost 40 fewer words than Lincoln), this elementary student writes a moving call to arms coupled with a sense of deep sorrow. Like Lincoln, the student expresses profound pain of a nation with simple penetrating prose.

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Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

Confetti rained down upon people who had gathered in New York City to watch Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday. Some onlookers were surprised—and alarmed—when they discovered shredded police documents among the colorful confetti that had fallen from above. The documents contained confidential information that was still legible. The “police confetti” included the “social security numbers and banking information for police employees, some of whom are undercover officers.”

Tufts University freshman Ethan Finkelstein and a friend noticed that a strip of confetti that had landed on his friend’s shoulder had stuck to her coat. Finkelstein was concerned—“so he and his friends picked up more of the confetti that had fallen around them.” Finkelstein said, “There are phone numbers, addresses, more social security numbers, license plate numbers and then we find all these incident reports from police.”

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Submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

We have seen the Republicans falling all over themselves to claim that the UN Ambassador, Susan Rice, should not be our next Secretary of State following her statements in our Libyan Ambassador’s death at the hands of terrorists.  Former GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain were at the forefront of the attacks on Ambassador Rice.  “Shortly after Romney conceded his loss earlier this month, McCain set his sites on UN Ambassador Susan Rice, a likely nominee to succeed Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Pointing to several television appearances where Rice communicated the intelligence community’s as-yet imperfect understanding of what happened during the Benghazi attacks, McCain promised that “I will do everything in my power to block her from becoming Secretary of State.” ‘ Think Progress

Now it seems that not only has McCain backed off his promises to block Ambassador Rice’s rumored nomination to succeed retiring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but a prominent Republican is actually advocating her as a better Secretary of State candidate than Senator John Kerry because it was alleged that Kerry is against War!  “Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol on Sunday suggested that Republican senators should confirm United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice if she is nominated as secretary of state because she is more likely to support going to war than Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). ”  Raw Story   (more…)

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By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Bobby Jindral, Governor of Louisiana, has caused quite a stir in Republican circles calling on the party to throw off the mantle of the stupid and prejudiced among us. Pleading for an end to dumbed-down conservatism, the former golden boy of the party (before a disastrous 2009 televised reply to President Obama’s address to Congress) begged the party to turn away from being the champion of the “haves” and, most importantly, jettisoning its appeal to the lowbrow of society.

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Submitted by: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

As a visceral person who loves film, I am easily moved when I watch productions that connect the struggles of human beings with the vicissitudes of life. This week I watched such a creation and its’ genius was that it led me to thoughts larger than the particular subject of the program. Hubris is an ancient Greek word that can be thought of as indicating: “a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubris . To the ancient Greeks, hubris played an important part in their philosophy and in their philosophic expression in Greek dramas. In those times sexuality was also deeply intertwined in its examples. However: “In its modern use, hubris denotes overconfident pride and arrogance; it is often associated with a lack of humility, though not always with the lack of knowledge.” I intend to extrapolate from one desperate time in American history a sense of what fault it exposes in a macro-cosmic human sense.

Along with the “Great Depression” in the United States, an ecological disaster occurred and added to the general economic misery of the country. This was the advent of the “Dust Bowl” in the agricultural “heartland” of our country. The documentary I watched was “Ken Burns: The Dust Bowl” which I’ll link at the end of this guest blog. From 1930 through 1940 immense dust storms, with ever increasing frequency, began to plague this area along with a parching drought, devastating this formerly fertile region. As the farming economy shrank, children died and farm folk were driven into despair, it became apparent that this ecological disaster was brought about by the people who had worked the land into becoming among the most productive farmlands in the world. I watched this documentary, tearing up frequently at the human misery I saw and clenching my jaw in anger at the sheer cupidity that caused it. I was rediscovering a part of our history that I had known little about except for where it happened. By retelling this tale though I want to make a larger point. The Greeks had it right about humanity in general, in that as we have become masters of this planet, so many of us have so often been laid low by the hubris of thinking ourselves completely in control of our world and immune to the effects of nature. (more…)

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-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

It’s that time of year again. That time when many Christians imagine themselves persecuted by a secular “War on Christmas.” Interestingly, the “War on Christmas” has Christian roots. Pilgrims, who were strict Puritans, believed that “[t]hey for whom all days are holy can have no holiday.” Those holidays also included Christmas and Easter. Thanksgiving to the Pilgrims would have not been a holy day.

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The Thanksgiving Dilemma

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

John F. MacArthur writes, in his article The atheist’s Thanksgiving dilemma, that “Thankfulness is one of the distinguishing traits of the human spirit.” Many of us certainly know this feeling. Ironically, the article is subtitled: Whom to thank when there’s no recipient?

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This week, we posted the photo of a man who was caught on CCTV knocking out a 16-year-old girl from behind while she walked on a street in East London. The police have now arrested the man. He is Michael Ayoade, 34, who admitted that he punched the girl in what he says was a “misunderstanding on his part.” Ayoade ran up behind Tasneem Kabir as she walked to college and knocked her to the ground. He said that “she started it” because he had felt ‘intimidated’ by a look from the 16-year-old girl.

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Every Friday after Thanksgiving, stores demonstrate that claims of human evolution may be greatly overstated. From gunshots to smashed doors to stampedes to riots, shopping was again reduced to the lowest common denominator of humanity. The display of conspicuous (and chaotic) consumption is taking place at Walmarts as workers picket for fair wage and treatment outside.

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For those still following the absurdity unfolding around the family of ex-Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., we now have word that his decision to run for reelection (without campaigning) and then promptly resign will cost the taxpayers over $5 million — as if the taxpayers have not paid enough to the family of Jesse Jackson.

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Just when you thought that the Saudi Kingdom could not make things more demeaning for women, male guardians reportedly will now be informed of the movement of women in their family under an electronic monitoring system. Women are not allowed to drive or to travel without consent of a male, even a younger brother.

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I recently wrote an article how defamation and other laws were being used in the West to curtail free speech. We have another such example out of Italy. I have previously criticized the defamation laws in Italy which include prosecutions of criminal defendants and their families for criticizing police or prosecutors. Now, Italian journalists are on strike after politicians pushed forward a new law that would mandate jail for those who defame people in their stories — most obviously, the politicians themselves.

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Police are searching for former assistant attorney general James Cameron, 50, in Maine after the former prosecutor cut off his electronic monitoring bracelet and disappeared. The flight occurred after a federal appeals court upheld his conviction on seven of 13 counts for sending and receiving child pornography.

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Cornelio Garcia-Mata, 45, has the rare distinction of being sentenced to life in prison for drunk driving. Garcia-Mata has been arrested eight times for drunk driving and has been sentenced as a repeat offender to spend the rest of his days in prison.

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Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. This is my favorite holiday with all of the essential elements of joy: food, friends, and football. (more…)

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Turkey Torts (2012)

In celebration of Thanksgiving, I give you our annual Turkey Torts of a few potential and actual lawsuits from this holiday. Putting aside the regular murders occurring on this holiday by family members, the holiday continues to be replete with torts from deep-fried Turkeys to salmonella salads. The holiday gives personal injury lawyers a great deal to be thankful for.

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How Not To Fry Your Turkey

As noted on our annual Turkey tort posting, deep-fried turkey remains one of the main reasons for admissions in Emergency Rooms around the country. My friend who heads one of the largest Emergency Rooms in this area says that it is virtually all men with burn injuries. For those deep frying this holiday, here are a few cautionary tales.

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We appear to have another judge acting as a little Caesar from the bench and meting out his brand of justice. In Ohio, Stark County Common Pleas Judge Frank Forchione has sentenced Valerie Rodgers, 46, to making Thanksgiving dinner for three police officers on leave or unable to work. In addition to the dinner, she will be on one-year probation for felony assault and three misdemeanors. This follows another judge who sentenced a teen to ten years of church.

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Brian and Christa Caponi of Gulf Breeze Florida loved to watch their pet “Tom the Turkey.” It appears that their neighbor, Jacob Hayden Provo, 18, saw something more tangible: a Thanksgiving dinner.
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One of our readers in England sent me the video below showing this man attacking a 16-year-old girl in Plaistow in East London. Police are seeking the man in the attack which is both vicious and arbitrary. It is astonishing that the girl did not receive more serious injuries in hitting the sidewalk. She woke up in the ambulance. The man is obviously needs to be found before he attacks another victim.

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What? Is There A Problem Here?

I love this picture on Reddit since my dog Molly will immediately go for the softest surface in the house and there is nothing better than warm, freshly folded towels out of the laundry.

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There is an interesting case out of Chicago where a gang member has reached a settlement with the Chicago Police Department after filing a tort action for intentional infliction of emotional distress and false arrest. The $33,000 settlement followed a controversy over two Chicago police officers — Susana La Casa and Luis Contreras — taking gang member Miguel “Mikey” Castillo into a rival gangs territory and allowing the rival Latin King members to taunt and threaten him. The Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy is now seeking the dismissal of the officers.

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Warning: This story is really really gross. However, there is an intriguing (if icky) legal point but you have to wait for it. A Swedish woman has been charged with necrophilia in Gothenburg. Police discovered various skeleton parts and skulls in her apartment including a picture of her licking a skull. They accuse her of having sex with the skeletal remains. However, is that truly necrophilia?

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This video is the latest case of a person seriously injured by multiple taser hits from police. Angela Jones, 50, went into cardiac arrest after three hits from police at a routine traffic stop. Jones had objected to the police officers demanding to go through her purse and then tried to get back in her car when she was shot with the taser.

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Many civil libertarians refused to vote for President Barack Obama given his dismal record in the expansion of the security state, surveillance law, and assertions of unchecked executive power. The Administration went into radio silence on such issues during the campaign in an effort to win back liberals (as they did on medical marijuana) only to announce after the election that they would resume the same policies. The Democratic leadership has shown the same duplicity on civil liberties for years — including hiding knowledge of the Bush torture program and surveillance programs as well as blocking any meaningful investigations into those alleged crimes. Now, some Democrats have reportedly put that hypocrisy on public display again. Senator Patrick Leahy introduced the bill which, as originally written, required warrants for the reading of emails and was heralded by Democrats during the campaign as their showing of fealty to privacy and civil liberties. The Justice Department then took the bill and flipped it to serve as a sweeping denial of privacy rights . . . and some Senators are pushing on passage now that the election is over. The bill includes warrantless access to university email systems.

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