Tag Archives: Legal

legal

Should You Pay If Your Identity Is Stolen?

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data breachIdentity theft has been an increasingly serious problem for several years, something that’s unlikely to change soon. News stories about a data breach at some large retailer appear regularly, often affecting tens of thousands or even millions of customers. Last year there were almost 50% more data breaches than in 2013, a total of 1,500 separate attacks, more than four every day. The number of records lost or stolen grew by 78% from 2013 to 2014, to nearly one billion. On average, each data breach resulted in almost 700,000 records being compromised.

I have had my personal data ‘stolen’ twice, years apart from two different businesses and fortunately I didn’t have any negative impact other than minor inconvenience. Like most people, I assumed that merchants are responsible for the costs of fixing any problems caused by the data theft, but that’s not necessarily true. At my credit union, when they are notified of a third-party breach, they act “immediately to change account numbers and issue new credit and debit cards for members who were affected.”

However credit unions and other financial institutions often end up absorbing the costs of doing so because merchants are legally allowed to shift the costs of data breaches to others. Following the widely publicized data loss at Target two years ago, credit unions ended up paying over $30 million and issuing nearly five million new credit and debit cards to members. These costs are then passed along to the members, who had nothing to do with the problem (other than being a Target customer).

If this doesn’t seem fair, you can do something about it today. From my credit union:

“We’re calling on Congress to step up and protect credit union members by supporting The Data Security Act of 2015 (S. 961). This bill is a good start to addressing this critical issue by:

  • Strengthening merchant standards to be comparable with those of credit unions.
  • Mandating a federal notification requirement for merchants when breaches occur.
  • Providing a floor for data security standards nationwide.

Overall, this bill represents the best attempt so far at legislation to stop merchant data breaches.”

Contact your U.S Representative and Senators and voice your for this important effort. The Credit Union National Association has also created an online tool to facilitate sending an e-mail to your federal elected officials.

Lloyd’s of London Responds, Sort Of

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Almost two months ago, I wrote a post about a Lloyd’s of London underwriter issuing a commercial liability insurance renewal policy with a new liability exclusion clause for electromagnetic fields.

The clause excludes any compensation for claims:

“directly or indirectly arising out of, resulting from or contributed to by electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic radiation, electromagnetism, radio waves or noise.”

Read that post for more detail, including how Lloyd’s refused to provide anyone to answer some basic questions regarding the new exclusion.

Today, that same public relations contact referenced in the original piece, who told me there was no one at Lloyd’s who could comment for this story, contacted me to ask that I include the following, which she claimed would correct an inaccuracy: “Lloyd’s has not issued any requirements or guidance relating to a standard market-wide exclusion. It is a matter for the individual underwriters to agree [to] the terms of policies in accordance with their own commercial underwriting criteria and subject to any locally applicable laws.”

The first sentence is clear enough, however that second one puzzles me. To whose “terms of policies” would underwriters be agreeing? I await a reply from the PR lady. I should mention that I did find some awkward and possibly inaccurate phrasing in the final paragraph of the original story which could have been considered misleading. It was not intended and I have corrected it.

The Bombing of Earth First!

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Judi Bari's bombed car.On May 24, 1990 a bomb ripped through the car of Earth First! organizer Judi Bari as she and Darryl Cherney were driving through Oakland, CA. They were on their way to a rally in support of Redwood Summer, a campaign they were organizing to halt the logging of California’s old growth redwoods.

Ten years later, I produced a 5-hour radio special all about the bombing, FBI COINTELPRO activities targeting Earth First! organizers and many aspects of the civil rights lawsuit Judi and Darryl filed (spoiler alert: and won) against the FBI and others.

This 2-minute excerpt from the show features Judi providing a quick synopsis of the bomb plot. I will post the entire special, in segments, shortly.

Lloyd’s Won’t Discuss Their New EMF Exclusion Clause

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no questionsLast week, a couple of blogs noted that a recent commercial liability insurance renewal policy issued through a Lloyd’s of London underwriter contained a liability exclusion clause about electromagnetic fields.

The clause excludes any compensation for claims:

“directly or indirectly arising out of, resulting from or contributed to by electromagnetic fields, electro-magnetic radiation, electromagnetism, radio waves or noise.”

It is important that “radio waves” are explicitly included as they, specifically the microwave zone, are what enable wireless communications devices like cell phones, wi-fi, cordless phones etc.

After the policy holder made an inquiry seeking clarification about the exclusion language, CFC Underwriting LTD in London, the UK agent for Lloyd’s, sent the following:

“The Electromagnetic Fields Exclusion (Exclusion 32) is a General Insurance Exclusion and is applied across the market as standard. The purpose of the exclusion is to exclude cover for illnesses caused by continuous long-term non-ionising radiation exposure i.e. through mobile phone usage.”

Sharon Noble, Director of the Coalition to Stop Smart Meter Harm in British Columbia (Canada) brought the clause and CFC’s response to public attention.

My interpretation of this revealing statement is that CFC Underwriting, and perhaps all of “the market” has realized that the time has come to hedge against a future surge in “illnesses caused by continuous long-term non-ionising radiation exposure i.e. through mobile phone usage.” Why else would they refuse coverage “across the market as standard.”?

“Unfortunately, Lloyd’s doesn’t have a spokesperson who can talk about this so we’re going to have to decline.”

Lloyd’s of London describes itself as “the world’s specialist insurance market,” and they’ve insured and paid on a variety of unusual risks and catastrophic claims. Unlike many other insurance brands, Lloyd’s is not a company; it’s “a market where our members join together as syndicates to insure risks.” What they insure falls into seven broad categories: casualty, property, marine, energy, motor, aviation and reinsurance.

Reinsurance is the key here, as, among other things, it serves “to protect an insurer against very large claims.” Think tobacco, asbestos and climate change. And microwave radiation apparently, even though regulatory and health agencies around the world refuse to accept RF exposure as causing illness.

Lloyd's of London new blanket EMF exclusion language.

I was seriously intrigued at all of this and emailed an inquiry to the Lloyd’s press center stating that I wanted some more details about the exclusion. I told them that as I primarily produce radio, I’d want to capture the conversation on tape, but would also be happy to talk with someone off tape, but on the record.

Two hours later, I received a response from a woman at Prosek Partners, “a communications consultancy that delivers an unexpected level of passion, creativity and marketing savvy,” which apparently handles such issues for Lloyd’s. She wanted to know more about what exactly I was seeking and asked if I would “mind expanding on your request a bit?” so she could best determine how to help me. I obliged, sending back “Basically I’m interested in the 5 Ws, but why especially. I’d also like to how widely the exclusion is being replicated in Lloyd’s policies. Is there any sense internally at Lloyd’s about this being a first step that is likely to be copied industry wide? Was there any conversation pre/post release of the exclusion language with any wireless industry businesses?”

This afternoon (she apologized for the 24 hour ‘delay’) she wrote back to tell me “Unfortunately, Lloyd’s doesn’t have a spokesperson who can talk about this so we’re going to have to decline.”

Now I’m used to rejection as a reporter, but I couldn’t quite believe this and told her so in my reply, mentioning that their refusal to talk about the policy change would possibly “draw attention away from more important aspects of the story.”

The takeaway here is that an underwriter for Lloyd’s of London, the world’s largest insurance market place, has “across the market” refused to provide coverage for any claims arising from exposure to cell phones, wi-fi or any other source of electromagnetic frequency radiation. Lloyd’s has then refused to answer a media inquiry about why, claiming that there is no one “who can.” Hmmm…

Dafna Tachover update on Israeli Wi-Fi Court Case

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Symbol for no wifi.As I promised a couple of weeks ago, here is the full interview I did with Israeli attorney Dafna Tachover following her appearance in February before the Israeli Supreme Court. She was there to argue that a conditional injunction issued by the Court in 2014 regarding her petition to remove wi-fi from schools in Israel be made permanent. This interview doesn’t go into earlier aspects of the case, but one we did last year, does.

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No Fields Found.

Operation Paperclip – Bringing Nazi War Criminals to the U.S.

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Operation Paperclip (née Overcast) was a military intelligence plan, launched by the Office of Strategic Services, late in World War 2 to capture Nazi scientists and bring them to the United States. As Allied troops made their way toward Germany, led by the U.S., they began to seek out Nazi scientists. They wanted the scientists to help them identify weapons and other equipment which the U.S. would bring home for research and development. While the search was underway, some key people concurrently had the same revelation about the project.

Germany had put all of its resources for over a decade into the war, enabling its scientists to achieve unparalleled advances in aeronautics, especially rocketry, and the development of chemical and biological weaponry. Many of these advancements involved not only slave labor at concentration camps, but using the prisoners for human experimentation, practices which directly led to the creation of the Nüremberg Principles, which legally define war crimes. Now the U.S. military wanted all that expertise for its own purposes and was willing to do almost anything to get it.

Germany surrendered early in 1945, but the U.S. was already planning for its next war, possibly a “total war” with the Soviet Union. This fear, along with defeating Japan in the Pacific, were the key factors driving the pursuit of the German scientists. It was thought that German weapons could help end the Pacific war, but this ended up being irrelevant as the atomic bombs forced Japan’s hand in early August, 1945. The Soviet Union remained the sole reason for Operation Paperclip thereafter.

No one has written a more authoritative and exhaustive history of these events than Annie Jacobsen. Her book, Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists to America, incorporates information from U.S. and German archives and scores of books, government reports, articles and first-hand interviews and correspondence, to present a highly detailed look at how fears of the next war overshadowed atrocities committed in the one that just ended. Nazi scientists connected to human medical experiments and slavery at concentration camps, as well as horrific chemical and biological weapons research were welcomed warmly by the United States, where they inspired additional infamous ‘research.’

In our conversation, we discuss in great detail the origins of the program, some of the key people involved on both sides, some of the results from bringing the Nazis to the U.S. and what is still to be discovered about this shameful part of U.S. (and German) history.

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Update on Israel Wi-Fi Supreme Court Case

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no wifiThis a very brief teaser of a much bigger update to happen soon.

For over three years, Israeli attorney Dafna Tachover has been suing the state of Israel to remove Wi-Fi from Israeli schools due to health concerns and children suffering from electromagnetic hypersensitivity. She’s used a special petition that goes straight to the Supreme Court, which has seemed receptive to her arguments thus far, granting a preliminary (but not intermediate) injunction.

On February 11th at a ‘final’ hearing, the Court was unhappy to learn that the government lied, asserting that the Ministry of Education’s position on Wi-Fi in schools was in compliance with recommendations from the both the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Environmental Protection. So the Court immediately demanded affidavits from both ministries by February 26th, at which point Dafna will have 15 days to respond.

A final decision could arrive in March. If in favor of the plaintiffs, it would be a groundbreaking legal case and possibly a valid precedent that could be cited elsewhere. This short clip summarizes the key part of the February 11 hearing. It is part of a much longer interview I aim to post soon. You can also listen to a lot of background on this case from an interview we did (Dafna joins in at 27:30) in May 2014.

Author of new French radiofrequency protection law speaks

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IF

On January 29th, French lawmaker Laurence Abeille (Europe Ecologie-Greens) made history when her law regulating public exposure to radiofrequency radiation was adopted. The law (2) “on sobriety, transparency, information and consultation for exposure to electromagnetic waves” is the first such law in France and Ms. Abeille thinks the first in Europe at a national level.

The bill bans all wireless devices in “spaces dedicated to the care, resting and activities of children under 3 years,” primarily nurseries and daycare centers. In primary schools, wi-fi will be off by default and turned on only when no alternative is available. Within the next year, the national government will produce a report about people suffering from electromagnetic hypersensitivity and microwave ‘hot spots’ will need to have their levels reduced.

Laurence Abeille
     Laurence Abeille

Although significantly watered down from her original version filed two years ago, Ms. Abeille feels this is a very important first step to protecting the people of France, and especially children, from uncertain but potentially serious health effects from constant microwave exposure. We have a detailed discussion about the law, the struggle to get it passed, her plans to make sure it is properly implemented and how she wants to continue working on this issue.

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Europe Backs Away from Protecting the Electrohypersensitive

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sign warning nonionizing radiationThe European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is an advisory body, comprised of several bureaus and sections, designed to assist policy making at the European Parliament, Council and Commission.

Last year, its Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society section (TEN) started a process to create an opinion regarding how to alleviate the problems people who suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) face in daily life.  Discussion included how the EU currently handles the problem, why they should be more proactive and how.

In December 2014, the TEN Rapporteur, Bernardo Hernandez Barteller, produced a series of draft opinions which resulted in this finalized draft. Among many points, the final draft acknowledged that microwave radiation seemed causally linked to the symptoms experienced by electrohypersensitive people and that when away from these fields, people stopped suffering. The British research and advocacy group Powerwatch has produced a useful summary of the draft opinion.

Numerous EHS advocacy groups from across Europe joined forces and submitted a letter expressing their concerns about the issue and support for a strong opinion. It seemed like the draft would go to a plenary session of the full EESC for a vote on January 21, 2015. However, a counter-opinion written by EESC member Richard Adams, appeared and rapidly changed everything.

Adams’ counter-opinion took an extremely different approach to the issue of electrohypersensitivity, failing to address basic questions regarding the social and economic impacts imposed on EHS sufferers. It instead focused on how global and national health agencies refute linkage between exposure to microwave radiation and the wide variety of symptoms experienced by the electrohypersensitive. The counter-opinion does not dismiss the existence of the condition or the suffering of electrohypersensitive people, but suggests that instead of looking at avoiding microwave radiation, they should instead engage in talking therapy, specifically cognitive behavioral therapy, implying that these people really just have psychological problems. This widely outraged those who suffer from the condition, those who advocate on their behalf and scientists who feel that their work has demonstrated a strong link between exposure to microwaves and EHS.

At the final plenary session on January 21, both the Rapporteur’s opinion and Adams’ counter-opinion were introduced and then there was an opportunity for EESC members to speak. After roughly an hour of discussion, the vote was called. The counter-opinion was voted on first, however when this  was first mentioned early in the plenary, there seemed to be a tone of surprise in the voice of the official who announced this would happen. Listen for yourself and decide.

Just prior to the vote, an EESC member protested what he felt was a procedural error in that Mr. Adams was allowed to speak following the Rapporteur which is not supposed to happen. I am currently looking through the EESC rules and procedures and attempting to talk with those officials to try and determine if any irregularities did occur in the process. When I learn more, I will post it above.

The counter-opinion was approved 136-110 with 19 members abstaining which meant that the original opinion from the Rapporteur was simply dismissed without any vote.

I interviewed Richard Adams about a week after the vote to try and learn more about why he drafted his counter-opinion, why it focused almost exclusively on issues other than economic and social ones, what is his awareness of the literature regarding electrohypersensitivity and exposure to microwave radiation and what his counter-opinion would do to alleviate the daily problems that EHS people must face.

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EPA Sued Over Nanotechnology Pesticides

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The Center for Food Safety (CFS), in conjunction with several other groups, filed a lawsuit last week against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the agency’s failure to regulate new nanomaterial pesticides. The lawsuit results from several years of EPA inaction on a 2008 legal petition demanding that they regulate these pesticides.  George Kimbrell, a senior attorney with CFS said “Six years ago we provided EPA a legal and scientific blue print to address to regulate these novel materials under its pesticide authority. The agency’s unlawful and irresponsible delay ends now.”

Nanotechnology involves manipulating materials at the atomic and molecular level. Nanomaterials are so small that they cannot be seen with an ordinary microscope — a strand of human hair is 50,000 to 80,000 nanometers wide. Beyond being really really small, nanomaterials often behave differently because of their size, in ways that are unpredictable compared to the same material/s produced at a larger scale.

These unknown properties increase the potential for biological interaction and toxicity. If nanomaterials enter the blood stream, they can move freely through all organs and tissues. As Jaydee Hason, CFS senior policy analyst puts it, “Nanomaterials are novel technologies that pose unique risks unlike anything we’ve seen before.”

Nano-silver is the most common nanomaterial in consumer products, often used for its antimicrobial properties. However, since they are intended to kill bacteria, the products qualify as pesticides , which the EPA recognizes. In their petition six years ago, CFS identified 260 nano-silver consumer products, a number that is now over 400. While a definitive number is hard to find since there are no labeling requirements for nano-scale products, The Project on Emerging Nanotechnology says there over 1600 consumer products using nanotechnology.

According to the EPA, “silver nanoparticles have been incorporated into many consumer products…dietary supplements, laundry detergents, body soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, disinfectant sprays, kitchen utensils, clothing and children’s toys.”  This despite a lack of knowledge regarding “release of silver nanoparticles” from these products, how and where they may travel once loose, and an inadequate understanding of “the physico-chemical properties of nanoscale silver [regarding] transport, transformation, exposure, and bioavailability of this element.”

CFS is representing itself, its sister nonprofit, the International Center for Technology Assessment, as well as, Beyond Pesticides, the Center for Environmental Health, Clean Production Action, and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in the lawsuit.