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Tobacco industry trumps as India court cancels stringent health labeling rules

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – An Indian court on Friday quashed federal rules that mandated stringent graphic health warnings on tobacco products, lawyers involved in the case said, in a decision seen as a major victory for the tobacco industry and a setback for health advocates.

India’s Supreme Court last year ordered enforcement of the government’s 2014 federal rules that required 85 percent of a tobacco pack’s surface to be covered in health warnings, up from 20 percent earlier, despite protests by the tobacco industry.

At the same time, the top court had asked a court in southern Karnataka state to rule on the dozens of tobacco industry pleas that challenged the federal rules.

The High Court of Karnataka on Friday struck down the government’s 2014 notification, said Aradhana L, a lawyer at Poovayya Co, who represented tobacco companies including India’s ITC and Philip Morris International Inc’s Indian partner, Godfrey Phillips India Ltd.

The government lawyer in the case, Krishna S. Dixit, confirmed the rules had been struck down but said he would appeal in the Supreme Court.

Dixit said that for now the older federal rules mandating 20 percent warnings on packs will be in force. But, he added, ”the court has allowed us to remake the rules.

Similar battles between tobacco companies and authorities have played out around the world in recent years as governments try to discourage smoking.

India’s tobacco packaging rules were among the world’s most stringent and aimed at reducing tobacco consumption which kills more than 900,000 people a year. The World Health Organization estimates tobacco-related diseases cost India about $16 billion annually.

A government survey earlier this year found that 62 percent of cigarette smokers thought of quitting because of warning labels on the packets.

“The court is setting aside a proven strategy on improving public health. This is very disappointing,” said Sanjay Seth, head of tobacco control at non-profit Sambandh Health Foundation.

The tobacco industry, however, has maintained the rules were extreme. At one point last year, the industry briefly shut down its factories across India in protest and filed dozens of legal cases.(reut.rs/1Of3fKL)

It was not clear if the tobacco manufacturers, who currently print the mandated bigger health warnings, will stop doing so immediately, or if the government will step in to make a new rule.

Industry lawyer Sajan Poovayya cheered the move. “Bye Bye gruesome warnings on tobacco packages,” he said on Twitter after the verdict.

Reporting by Aditya Kalra; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Richard Balmforth

Q&A: How a Mother of Three With No Lawyer and No Computer Won at the Pa. Supreme Court

Shannon McGrath

When tasked with arguing a complicated issue of statutory construction before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, a law firm might call upon its most seasoned appellate lawyer and a small army of associates to spend countless hours poring over case law and legislative history using state-of-the-art of legal research software.

‘Big Spin’ benefits Scott Co.’s mental health court

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EFF to Court: Accessing Publicly Available Information on the Internet Is Not a Crime

EFF is fighting another attempt by a giant corporation to take advantage of our poorly drafted federal computer crime statute for commercial advantage—without any regard for the impact on the rest of us. This time the culprit is LinkedIn. The social networking giant wants violations of its corporate policy against using automated scripts to access public information on its website to count as felony “hacking” under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a 1986 federal law meant to criminalize breaking into private computer systems to access non-public information.

EFF, together with our friends DuckDuckGo and the Internet Archive, have urged the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to reject LinkedIn’s request to transform the CFAA from a law meant to target “hacking” into a tool for enforcing its computer use policies. Using automated scripts to access publicly available data is not “hacking,” and neither is violating a website’s terms of use. LinkedIn would have the court believe that all “bots” are bad, but they’re actually a common and necessary part of the Internet. “Good bots” were responsible for 23 percent of Web traffic in 2016. Using them to access publicly available information on the open Internet should not be punishable by years in federal prison.

LinkedIn’s position would undermine open access to information online, a hallmark of today’s Internet, and threaten socially valuable bots that journalists, researchers, and Internet users around the world rely on every day—all in the name of preserving LinkedIn’s advantage over a competing service. The Ninth Circuit should make sure that doesn’t happen.

Background: Bad Court Decisions Open Door to Abuse

The CFAA makes it illegal to engage in “unauthorized access” to a computer connected to the Internet, but the statute doesn’t tells us what “authorization” or “without authorization” means. This vague language might have seemed innocuous to some back in 1986 when the statute was passed, but in today’s networked world, where we all regularly connect to and use computers owned by others, this pre-Web law is causing serious problems

In some jurisdictions, the CFAA has metastasized into a tool for companies and websites to enforce their computer use policies, like terms of service (which no one reads) or corporate computer policies. But other courts—including the Ninth Circuit back in 2012—have rejected turning the CFAA “into a sweeping Internet-policing mandate.” The Ninth Circuit instead chose to “maintain[] the CFAA’s focus on hacking,” holding that violating a company’s or website’s terms of use cannot give rise to liability. The court recognized that basing criminal liability on violations of computer use policies would turn innocuous activities like checking the score of a baseball game at work or fudging your age on your social media profile into a felony offenses—and make criminals out of all of us.

Then in 2016, the Ninth Circuit reversed course and delivered two dangerously expansive interpretations of the CFAA in cases involving password sharing. Despite our warnings that the decisions would be easily misused, the court refused to reconsider either case, stressing that the decisions would be limited to their “stark” facts.

Within weeks after the decisions were reached, LinkedIn began using these two decisions in an attempt to get around the Ninth Circuit’s 2012 ruling—and to use the CFAA to enforce its terms of service prohibition on scraping and thereby block competing services from perfectly legal uses of publicly available data on its website.

One company targeted by LinkedIn was hiQ Labs, which provides analysis of data on LinkedIn users’ publicly available profiles. LinkedIn sent hiQ cease and desist letters warning that any future access of its website, even the public portions, were “without permission and without authorization” and thus violations of the CFAA. hiQ challenged LinkedIn’s attempt to use the CFAA as a tool to enforce its terms of use in court. hiQ won a preliminary injunction against LinkedIn in district court, and LinkedIn appealed.

The Problems with LinkedIn’s Position

As we told the court in our amicus brief, Linkedin’s interpretation of the CFAA is problematic for a number of reasons.

First, allowing a website to use the CFAA as a terms of service enforcement mechanism would do precisely what the Ninth Circuit in 2012 sought to avoid: it would “transform the CFAA from an anti- hacking statute into an expansive misappropriation statute” for enforcing the use of publicly available information across the Web. Accessing public information on the open Internet cannot—and should not—give rise to liability under a law meant to target breaking into private computers to access non-public information.

Second, imposing CFAA liability for accessing publicly available information via automated scripts would potentially criminalize all automated “scraping” tools—including a wide range of valuable tools and services that Internet users, journalists, and researchers around the world rely on every day. Automated scraping is the process of using Internet “bots”—software applications that runs automated tasks over the Internet—to extract content and data from a website. LinkedIn tried to paint all bots as bad, but as we explained to the Ninth Circuit, bots are an essential and socially valuable component of the Internet. The Web crawlers that power tools we all rely on every day, including Google Search and Amici DuckDuckGo and Internet Archive, are Internet bots. News aggregation tools, including Google’s Crisis Map, which aggregated critical information about the California’s October 2016 wildfires, are Internet bots. ProPublica journalists used automated scrappers to investigate Amazon’s algorithm for ranking products by price and uncovered that Amazon’s pricing algorithm was hiding the best deals from many of its customers. The researchers who studied racial discrimination on Airbnb also used bots, and found that distinctively African American names were 16 percent less likely to be accepted relative to identical guests with distinctively white names.

Third, by potentially criminalizing what are in fact everyday online tools, LinkedIn’s position violates the long held “Rule of Lenity,” which requires that criminal statutes be interpreted to give clear notice of what conduct is criminal.

Old Laws Can’t Do New Tricks

The CFAA is an old, blunt instrument, and trying to use it to solve a modern, complicated dispute between two companies will undermine open access to information on the Internet for everyone. As we said in our amicus brief:

The power to limit access to publicly available information on the Internet under color of the law should be dictated by carefully considered rules that balance the various competing policy interests. These rules should not allow the handful of companies that collect massive amounts of user data to reap the benefits of making that information publicly available online—i.e., more Internet traffic and thus more data and more eyes for advertisers—while at the same time limiting use of that public information via the force of criminal law.

LinkedIn’s Position Won’t Actually Protect Privacy

Both LinkedIn and the Electronic Privacy Information Center argue that imposing criminal liability for automated access of publicly available LinkedIn data would protect the privacy interests of LinkedIn users who decide to publish their information publicly, but that’s just not true. LinkedIn still wouldn’t have any meaningful control over who accesses the data and how they use it, because the data will still be freely available on the open Internet for malicious actors and anyone not within the jurisdiction of the United States to access and use however they wish. LinkedIn’s contractual use restrictions on automated access may provide an illusion of privacy—and deter law-abiding individuals and U.S.-based companies from using automated tools to access that data—but nothing more.

LinkedIn knows this. Its privacy policy acknowledges the inherent lack of privacy in data posted publicly and makes no promises to users about LinkedIn’s ability to protect it: “Please do not post or add personal data to your profile that you would not want to be publicly available.” LinkedIn shouldn’t be spreading misconceptions about the “privacy” of publicly posted data in court pleadings to advance its corporate interests.

LinkedIn Can’t Have Its Cake and Eat It, Too

The only way for LinkedIn to truly protect the privacy of its users’ is to make their profiles non-public—i.e., to put their information behind a username and password barrier. But instead its profiles are public by default. As LinkedIn itself admits, it benefits from that data remaining public and freely accessible on the Internet: open access on its platforms means more Internet traffic (and thus more data and more eyes for advertisers). As we told the court, “LinkedIn wants to ‘participate in the open Web’ but at the same time abuse the CFAA to avoid ‘accept[ing] the open trespass norms of the Web.’” We hope the court does not allow it.

“Internet +” makes an appearance in court

“Internet +” is the latest technological concept taking China by storm. “Internet +” combines the internet and information technology with traditional business models. Started in 2015, the “Internet +” trend shows no signs of slowing down. “Internet +” has been widely adopted by conventional enterprises dealing with consumer businesses and services. Recently, it caught the attention and imagination of the Chinese government. In a move to reap the benefits of “Internet +” for Chinese citizens, the Chinese judicial system took the initiative to launch its version of “Internet +”.

The adoption of internet technologies by Chinese courts is not unprecedented. In early 2009, the Shanghai No.1 Intermediate People’s Court established its online litigation service platform that provides online case filing and document delivery services. In 2015, the Zhengzhou Intermediate People’s Court attempted to hold a trial on Wechat (which is China’s equivalent to of Whatsapp, the instant messaging platform). Recently, in a hearing by the Guangzhou Yuexiu People’s Court, a witness was allowed to present via the video function of Wechat. 

The most significant tech-related development within judicial practice, is the establishment of the first internet court in China which specialises in handling internet-related cases. The court opened on 18 August 2017 in the city of Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. The city is currently the central hub of internet ecommerce in China and is where Alibaba Group is based.

The Hangzhou Internet Court (the “Court”) will adjudicate internet related disputes on its Online Dispute Platform (www.netcourt.gov.cn, the “Platform”). The Court follows the same rules as normal trials but implements all procedures via the internet on the Platform. The detailed regime has been clarified in the Trial Rules of the Hangzhou Internet Court Dispute Platform (the “Rules”). The establishment is recognised to be a meaningful reform in judicial practice, an area long considered as traditional and conservative. According to the Supreme People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China, big data, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies are expected to be applied in the future. With further development, AI can learn applicable laws and regulations and collect data or evidence from the litigating parties’ accessible databases. AI can also nudge judges towards any defects in evidence and predict potential judgments based on precedents for the judge’s reference. Using big data to analyse the nuances of disputes can help the government understand any underlying societal issues or economic trends.

The Court will mainly handle cases which fall within the jurisdiction of the people’s courts of first instance in Hangzhou, including disputes regarding online business activities (such as shopping services and microfinancing of loans), ownership and infringement of online copyright, online personal rights infringement, domain names and any other internet-related civil or administrative cases designated by the higher courts.

Important milestone

The establishment of the Court is considered to be an important milestone in the informatisation reform of China’s judicial system. The Court, with its successful launch, will serve as an important example for other courts looking to embrace technology. It is believed that more Chinese courts will follow suit and catch up with the many “Internet +” applications proliferating across China and worldwide.

All prosecution procedures in the court will be conducted via the Platform, including filing for litigation, accepting the case, paying litigation fees, delivering documents, mediating the case, submitting evidence, cross-examining the evidence, pre-trial hearing, the hearing itself, delivering the verdict and executing judgements. Moving procedures online is expected to improve the efficiency of hearing cases, reduce litigation costs and provide convenience to the parties involved. The Platform manifested how judicial rules and procedures can be perfected to fit an internet environment. 

In normal judicial practice, the preparation of supporting documents (such as identity certificates and evidence etc.) could be very time consuming and sometimes difficult, in particular, when a document needs to be obtained from administrative authorities. But, with the Platform, the registered parties can be verified via the online real name verification process, face recognition or the off-line verification system. If the dispute is related to online businesses, based on the information provided by the parties, the Platform can automatically import data from the corresponding online business platform to be used as evidence. The parties can also submit e-evidence to the Platform, which provides detailed guidance on how to do so.  

Similarly, with normal hearings, the hearing will often be recorded by clerks manually. This archaic process of writing and typing is time consuming and has the risk of being inaccurate, which means the process of reviewing and revising often takes a long time. With the Platform, the hearing can be videoed and the video itself can serve as the trial record. If written records are required, a Speech Recognition System can generate the trial records automatically, which can be reviewed and confirmed by the parties online. With further advancement, judges can even use artificial intelligence to draft judgements.

The Court is proving to be a success. As of 30 October 2017, which is around two-and-a-half months after its establishment, the Court has accepted 3515 cases and completed 1752 cases. The hearing usually takes around 28 minutes and the average litigation period is 52 days.

It is anticipated that the Court will continue to further its technological reach. On 30 October 2017, ten experts with legal and computer science background have been employed by the Court to form the Expert Advisory Committee. The experts will assist the Court in exploring the rules on internet litigation, defining standards for internet judicial practice and advising on the development of the Court.

Nick Beckett, Managing Partner of the Beijing Office, CMS
Image Credit: Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock

Oracle and Google are back in court over Android, again – Business …

  • Oracle on Thursday will try, once again, to get the courts to tell Google to hand over a lot of money.
  • In May 2016, a jury ruled in favor of Google, saying Google’s use of bits of Oracle code in Android constituted “fair use.”
  • Oracle appealed the verdict, however, and the first appeal hearing is scheduled to kick off Thursday.
  • The two have been duking it out in court for years, but so far, Oracle has not been awarded the multi-billion dollar judgment it’s seeking.

Last May, Oracle suffered a well-publicized loss in its years-long lawsuit against Google over Android. Oracle appealed the verdict and the first hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

The trial was watched closely by the computer industry and included testimony from a who’s who in Silicon Valley, including Alphabet CEO Larry Page, Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt, and Oracle CEO Safra Catz. At once point Oracle’s Larry Ellison even called Page “evil” over the situation.

While each side has won various stages of the legal fight, the upshot is: Google has yet to be told it is on the hook to pay Oracle for Java, much less the massive, multi-billion dollar fine Oracle has been hoping for.

If the appeals court upholds the last jury verdict, which found in favor of Google, that would likely severely hamper Oracle’s attempts to keep going on this case. Google had attempted to get the Supreme Court to jump into the case in 2015 and issue a definitive ruling, but the Supreme Court declined to do so at that time, leaving it to wind its way through the lower courts first.

The trial was so technical that the judge overseeing the trial, Judge William Alsup of the northern district of California, taught himself to code just to understand the case better, The Verge reported at the time.

Oracle and Google have been battling it out for years in two separate court cases over whether Google must pay Oracle billions of dollars for bits of code copied from Java (a programming language Oracle owns) and used in Android (the language Google controls).

At issue were parts of the code called application programming interfaces (APIs), the technology that allows different computer programs to talk to each other. In May 2016, a jury ruled that Google’s use of the disputed code was “fair use.”

These lawsuits caused a lot of hand-wringing in the software industry, with pro-Google sides worrying that if Oracle won the suit, it would be awful for the software industry. Those folks worried that an Oracle win would make APIs the subject of more lawsuits and make APIs more difficult to create and share.

For those in search of more details on Oracle’s potential next moves, a policy blog from the Computer Communications Industry Association called The Project-Disco blog has posted an interesting analysis of the case.

Both Oracle and Google declined comment.

Pa. Superior Court orders defendant to turn over computer password

A Luzerne County man charged with disseminating child pornography has been ordered by the state Superior Court to turn over his 64-character computer password so that the state Attorney General’s office can recover potential evidence against him.

Attorneys for Joseph J. Davis, 62, of Edwardsville said they will appeal the decision issued Thursday to the state Supreme Court, arguing that it violates their client’s right against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment.

It is the first time this issue has been raised in Pennsylvania’s appellate court system, and the case could have significant legal implications.

Davis, who has previously been convicted of child pornography charges, was arrested by agents from the AG’s office on Oct. 20, 2015, after an undercover investigation showed, they said, that he was sharing illegal images on a peer-to-peer file-sharing network. The agents were able to trace the images back to an IP address at Davis’ home which was registered to him.

While agents saw the images Davis was allegedly sharing on the network, they were never able to access his computer to find what images might exist there.

When they asked him to provide the password, agents later testified, Davis said, “’Why would I give that to you? We both know what’s on there. It’s only going to hurt me. No [expletive] way I’m going to give it to you.’”

Prosecutors filed a motion to compel production of the password with Judge Tina Polachek Gartley of Luzerne County Common Pleas Court, who granted it.

Although there is no Pennsylvania case law to point to, the AG’s office referenced federal opinions, as well as decisions from Florida and Massachusetts, in which courts have found that forcing disclosure of a password is acceptable “when the record establishes that the information communicated by the compelled act … is already known by the government.”

It is called the Foregone Conclusion Doctrine, which “focuses on whether the government already knows the testimony or information that is implicit in the act of production compelled by the court.”

To fit the doctrine, prosecutors wrote, they must also prove the computer requires a password, that Davis was the sole possessor of that password, and that it is authentic.

This case, the AG’s office wrote, fits the definition.

But Davis’ attorneys disagreed with that assessment.

“They don’t know, for sure, what’s on the computer,” said Mark Singer, from the Luzerne County Public Defender’s Office, which represents Davis.

In his brief to the Superior Court, the defense argued that if it was a “foregone conclusion” as to what existed on the computer, the prosecution would be able to point out with specificity what the file is and where it is located on the computer.

Instead, the brief continued, at the earlier hearing on the issue, the commonwealth conceded that they really ‘do not know what’ the computer contains.”

Forcing Davis to give up the password, Mr. Singer said, is tantamount to forcing him to testify against himself.

Sara Rose, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said Davis’ case deals with an unsettled area of the law.

“The courts have said you can’t go on a fishing expedition, but if you know what you’re looking for, they’ll uphold turning over the password,” Ms. Rose said.

The Superior Court’s opinion, she said, failed to get into the details of what, specifically, the commonwealth knew existed on the computer.

Instead, Superior Court Judge Kate Ford Elliott wrote in her 15-page opinion that “there is a high probability that child pornography exists on said computer,” given that the AG’s investigation determined a computer from Davis’ IP address used a file-sharing network 25 times in 2015 to share child pornography; that the computer was seized from Davis’ residence, and that he implied to agents “the nefarious contents of the computer on numerous occasions.”

But Ms. Rose argues that forcing Davis to “divulge the contents of his own mind, which will result in the government finding incriminating information, is problematic.

“The ACLU believes the Fifth Amendment should protect people’s rights to not answer questions about the passwords on their devices.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

East Mental Health overbilled Medicaid, court papers allege


Jeff Sturgeon covers business, banking, transportation and federal court. Phone: (540) 981-3251. Email: jeff.sturgeon@roanoke.com. Mail: 201 W. Campbell Ave., Roanoke, VA 24011.

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Drug court in Delta to start offering mental health services

GREENVILLE, Miss. (AP) — A drug court in Mississippi will start offering mental health services.

The Delta Democrat-Times reports that the services will be available in the 4th Circuit Drug Court in Washington, Sunflower and Leflore counties.

The court has received a three-year, $400,000 federal grant to cover the cost of hiring a mental health therapist, a peer support specialist and a supervising officer for drug court participants.

Judge Margaret Carey-McCray said she hopes the mental health program can begin by March.

In drug court, people who have problems with drug or alcohol abuse are sent to long-term rehabilitation facilities instead of prison. After completing the rehab program, participants are monitored through frequent drug testing and court appearances and are required to attend counseling.

Child porn case defendant must give agents the password to his computer, Pa. court says

A man accused of possessing child pornography must give investigators the password to unlock his heavily-encrypted computer, a state Superior Court panel ruled Thursday.

The ruling upholds an earlier order a Luzerne County judge issued against Joseph J. Davis.

In the state court’s opinion, President Judge Emeritus Kate Ford Ellliot rejected Davis’ argument that forcing him to surrender his password to the state attorney general’s office would violate his constitutional right against self-incrimination.

That right under the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution would not be breached in this case because the information being sought “is not testimonial in nature,” Elliott found.

She noted that investigators contend they have already determined from coding on the files that there is child porn on Davis’ computer, even though they haven’t been able to crack it to view the images. Also, Elliott cited claims by state agents that Davis has made statements acknowledging the device contains “nefarious” material, that he is the computer’s sole user, and that he is deliberately refusing to reveal the 64-character password.

“The record reflects that (Davis’) act of disclosing the password at issue would not communicate facts of a testimonial nature to the commonwealth beyond that which he has already acknowledged to investigating agents,” the judge wrote.

Davis, 62, of Edwardsville, was arrested after agents seized his desktop computer in 2015.

Elliott cited testimony from an agent that Davis told him he didn’t understand why possessing child porn is a crime. “His reasoning was that it is legal in other countries like Japan and the Czech Republic,” the agent testified. “He stated, ‘What people do in the privacy of their own homes is their own business.”

The agent said when he asked Jones for his password, Davis replied, “Why would I give that to you? We both know what’s on there. It’s only going to hurt me.”

Sex offender back in court on internet access issue

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Illinois Supreme Court’s health care ruling will cost city retirees – Chicago Sun

More than 20,000 city employees and retirees have been dealt a crushing blow that could cost them dearly, but end up saving Chicago taxpayers $130 million a year.

In a six-word ruling on Thanksgiving eve, the Illinois Supreme Court refused to hear the retirees’ appeal of a state Appellate Court ruling that essentially upheld Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s now-completed, three-year phase-out of retiree health care coverage and a 55 percent city subsidy for anyone who did not retire by Aug. 23, 1989.

Clint Krislov, an attorney representing the retirees, said the decision means those retirees are entitled only to bare-bones protections outlined by lower courts.

“For the city, this is a huge benefit. The amount they’re paying is dropped from $137 million a year to between $7 million and $8 million,” Krislov said Monday.

e888b_retireehealthcare Illinois Supreme Court's health care ruling will cost city retirees - Chicago Sun

State workers previously won a victory before the Illinois Supreme Court on their health care benefits, and city retirees had hoped for similar help. It was not to be. | Associated Press file photo

“What the [lower courts] have said is that all you get is what’s in the statute. You cannot rely on anything the city tells you unless you can prove that person had authority to bind the city.”

Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey refused to comment on the ruling while there is “still litigation pending.”

In December 2015, Circuit Judge Neil Cohen ruled that the four city employee pension funds have an obligation to provide and subsidize retiree health care with funds provided by the city, but only at levels outlined in 1983 and 1985 amendments to the state’s pension code.

That guaranteed subsidy amounts to $55-a-month for police and fire retirees not eligible for Medicare and $21 for those who are. For retirees covered by the Municipal Employees and Laborers pension funds, the guaranteed monthly subsidy amounts to just $25.

Cohen applied those benefits only to those city employees who had retired by Aug. 23, 1989. The appellate court subsequently expanded that umbrella to cover everyone hired by early 2003, including current city employees.

Last week’s ruling is particularly costly to roughly 10,000 city employees who started working for the city before April 1, 1986, and therefore did not qualify for Medicare.

They have been forced to choose between exorbitant premiums that, in some cases, are double their retirement checks or go without health insurance coverage at a time when they need it the most due to their age and declining health.

For years, Krislov has argued that the retirees’ claim to lifetime benefits was strengthened immeasurably when the state Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that health care benefits provided to state employees are a “permanent benefit” guaranteed by the state constitution.

But he never got a chance to make that case or the argument that promises made during city-sponsored retirement seminars should have been kept.

“The courts have let these people down. They and the mayor have ignored the most vulnerable among us who gave their lives and careers to the city and were assured they would have lifetime health care coverage,” Krislov said.

“The city basically said, ‘Sorry. We’ve changed our mind. Now, get lost.’ That’s terrible — especially for that group of people … who worked full-time, didn’t have side gigs, relied on the city’s promises because their city employment didn’t qualify them for the federal Medicare program.”

e888b_retireehealthcare Illinois Supreme Court's health care ruling will cost city retirees - Chicago Sun

Some city retirees resented the tone of an email Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent about eliminating their health care benefits. | Sun-Times file photo

Even before the Supreme Court ruling, retirees were furious about what they called a “heartless” 2015 email Emanuel wrote on one of his private accounts bragging about the retiree health care phase-out.

“Since when did Rahm Emanuel let a judicial ruling get in his way and not find a creative work-around solution?” venture capitalist Henry Feinberg wrote then.

Emanuel replied, “Never. Which is why I eliminated retiree health care. Only elected official to eliminate — not cut or reform — a benefit. Thank you very much. A $175 million saving!”

The mayor has said he “wasn’t bragging” as much as he was “acknowledging how we stabilized” skyrocketing health care costs.

Still, the bitterness lingers.

Two weeks ago, a police widow asked Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson after a luncheon address to the City Club how the city “justifies stripping” police widows and retirees of health benefits, which the woman said has led to “widow homelessness in some cases.”

Johnson called it “an embarrassment to me that that question even has to be raised because that’s not right.”

“There’s no reason that a police officer’s widow should be homeless after that person gave their life to serve the citizens of the city,” Johnson said that day.

“As a police officer who’s been involved in shootings and … injured myself, I know how traumatic that is and the financial burden that’s placed on families of police officers. … It’s my commitment and my pledge to you that we will never forget you.”

Illinois Supreme Court’s health care ruling will cost city retirees – Chicago Sun

More than 20,000 city employees and retirees have been dealt a crushing blow that could cost them dearly, but end up saving Chicago taxpayers $130 million a year.

In a six-word ruling on Thanksgiving eve, the Illinois Supreme Court refused to hear the retirees’ appeal of a state Appellate Court ruling that essentially upheld Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s now-completed, three-year phase-out of retiree health care coverage and a 55 percent city subsidy for anyone who did not retire by Aug. 23, 1989.

Clint Krislov, an attorney representing the retirees, said the decision means those retirees are entitled only to bare-bones protections outlined by lower courts.

“For the city, this is a huge benefit. The amount they’re paying is dropped from $137 million a year to between $7 million and $8 million,” Krislov said Monday.

e888b_retireehealthcare Illinois Supreme Court's health care ruling will cost city retirees - Chicago Sun

State workers previously won a victory before the Illinois Supreme Court on their health care benefits, and city retirees had hoped for similar help. It was not to be. | Associated Press file photo

“What the [lower courts] have said is that all you get is what’s in the statute. You cannot rely on anything the city tells you unless you can prove that person had authority to bind the city.”

Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey refused to comment on the ruling while there is “still litigation pending.”

In December 2015, Circuit Judge Neil Cohen ruled that the four city employee pension funds have an obligation to provide and subsidize retiree health care with funds provided by the city, but only at levels outlined in 1983 and 1985 amendments to the state’s pension code.

That guaranteed subsidy amounts to $55-a-month for police and fire retirees not eligible for Medicare and $21 for those who are. For retirees covered by the Municipal Employees and Laborers pension funds, the guaranteed monthly subsidy amounts to just $25.

Cohen applied those benefits only to those city employees who had retired by Aug. 23, 1989. The appellate court subsequently expanded that umbrella to cover everyone hired by early 2003, including current city employees.

Last week’s ruling is particularly costly to roughly 10,000 city employees who started working for the city before April 1, 1986, and therefore did not qualify for Medicare.

They have been forced to choose between exorbitant premiums that, in some cases, are double their retirement checks or go without health insurance coverage at a time when they need it the most due to their age and declining health.

For years, Krislov has argued that the retirees’ claim to lifetime benefits was strengthened immeasurably when the state Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that health care benefits provided to state employees are a “permanent benefit” guaranteed by the state constitution.

But he never got a chance to make that case or the argument that promises made during city-sponsored retirement seminars should have been kept.

“The courts have let these people down. They and the mayor have ignored the most vulnerable among us who gave their lives and careers to the city and were assured they would have lifetime health care coverage,” Krislov said.

“The city basically said, ‘Sorry. We’ve changed our mind. Now, get lost.’ That’s terrible — especially for that group of people … who worked full-time, didn’t have side gigs, relied on the city’s promises because their city employment didn’t qualify them for the federal Medicare program.”

e888b_retireehealthcare Illinois Supreme Court's health care ruling will cost city retirees - Chicago Sun

Some city retirees resented the tone of an email Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent about eliminating their health care benefits. | Sun-Times file photo

Even before the Supreme Court ruling, retirees were furious about what they called a “heartless” 2015 email Emanuel wrote on one of his private accounts bragging about the retiree health care phase-out.

“Since when did Rahm Emanuel let a judicial ruling get in his way and not find a creative work-around solution?” venture capitalist Henry Feinberg wrote then.

Emanuel replied, “Never. Which is why I eliminated retiree health care. Only elected official to eliminate — not cut or reform — a benefit. Thank you very much. A $175 million saving!”

The mayor has said he “wasn’t bragging” as much as he was “acknowledging how we stabilized” skyrocketing health care costs.

Still, the bitterness lingers.

Two weeks ago, a police widow asked Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson after a luncheon address to the City Club how the city “justifies stripping” police widows and retirees of health benefits, which the woman said has led to “widow homelessness in some cases.”

Johnson called it “an embarrassment to me that that question even has to be raised because that’s not right.”

“There’s no reason that a police officer’s widow should be homeless after that person gave their life to serve the citizens of the city,” Johnson said that day.

“As a police officer who’s been involved in shootings and … injured myself, I know how traumatic that is and the financial burden that’s placed on families of police officers. … It’s my commitment and my pledge to you that we will never forget you.”

Illinois Supreme Court’s health care ruling will cost city retirees – Chicago Sun

More than 20,000 city employees and retirees have been dealt a crushing blow that could cost them dearly, but end up saving Chicago taxpayers $130 million a year.

In a six-word ruling on Thanksgiving eve, the Illinois Supreme Court refused to hear the retirees’ appeal of a state Appellate Court ruling that essentially upheld Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s now-completed, three-year phase-out of retiree health care coverage and a 55 percent city subsidy for anyone who did not retire by Aug. 23, 1989.

Clint Krislov, an attorney representing the retirees, said the decision means those retirees are entitled only to bare-bones protections outlined by lower courts.

“For the city, this is a huge benefit. The amount they’re paying is dropped from $137 million a year to between $7 million and $8 million,” Krislov said Monday.

bb240_retireehealthcare Illinois Supreme Court's health care ruling will cost city retirees - Chicago Sun

State workers previously won a victory before the Illinois Supreme Court on their health care benefits, and city retirees had hoped for similar help. It was not to be. | Associated Press file photo

“What the [lower courts] have said is that all you get is what’s in the statute. You cannot rely on anything the city tells you unless you can prove that person had authority to bind the city.”

Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey refused to comment on the ruling while there is “still litigation pending.”

In December 2015, Circuit Judge Neil Cohen ruled that the four city employee pension funds have an obligation to provide and subsidize retiree health care with funds provided by the city, but only at levels outlined in 1983 and 1985 amendments to the state’s pension code.

That guaranteed subsidy amounts to $55-a-month for police and fire retirees not eligible for Medicare and $21 for those who are. For retirees covered by the Municipal Employees and Laborers pension funds, the guaranteed monthly subsidy amounts to just $25.

Cohen applied those benefits only to those city employees who had retired by Aug. 23, 1989. The appellate court subsequently expanded that umbrella to cover everyone hired by early 2003, including current city employees.

Last week’s ruling is particularly costly to roughly 10,000 city employees who started working for the city before April 1, 1986, and therefore did not qualify for Medicare.

They have been forced to choose between exorbitant premiums that, in some cases, are double their retirement checks or go without health insurance coverage at a time when they need it the most due to their age and declining health.

For years, Krislov has argued that the retirees’ claim to lifetime benefits was strengthened immeasurably when the state Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that health care benefits provided to state employees are a “permanent benefit” guaranteed by the state constitution.

But he never got a chance to make that case or the argument that promises made during city-sponsored retirement seminars should have been kept.

“The courts have let these people down. They and the mayor have ignored the most vulnerable among us who gave their lives and careers to the city and were assured they would have lifetime health care coverage,” Krislov said.

“The city basically said, ‘Sorry. We’ve changed our mind. Now, get lost.’ That’s terrible — especially for that group of people … who worked full-time, didn’t have side gigs, relied on the city’s promises because their city employment didn’t qualify them for the federal Medicare program.”

bb240_retireehealthcare Illinois Supreme Court's health care ruling will cost city retirees - Chicago Sun

Some city retirees resented the tone of an email Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent about eliminating their health care benefits. | Sun-Times file photo

Even before the Supreme Court ruling, retirees were furious about what they called a “heartless” 2015 email Emanuel wrote on one of his private accounts bragging about the retiree health care phase-out.

“Since when did Rahm Emanuel let a judicial ruling get in his way and not find a creative work-around solution?” venture capitalist Henry Feinberg wrote then.

Emanuel replied, “Never. Which is why I eliminated retiree health care. Only elected official to eliminate — not cut or reform — a benefit. Thank you very much. A $175 million saving!”

The mayor has said he “wasn’t bragging” as much as he was “acknowledging how we stabilized” skyrocketing health care costs.

Still, the bitterness lingers.

Two weeks ago, a police widow asked Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson after a luncheon address to the City Club how the city “justifies stripping” police widows and retirees of health benefits, which the woman said has led to “widow homelessness in some cases.”

Johnson called it “an embarrassment to me that that question even has to be raised because that’s not right.”

“There’s no reason that a police officer’s widow should be homeless after that person gave their life to serve the citizens of the city,” Johnson said that day.

“As a police officer who’s been involved in shootings and … injured myself, I know how traumatic that is and the financial burden that’s placed on families of police officers. … It’s my commitment and my pledge to you that we will never forget you.”

Sex offender from Normal back in court on internet access issue

eblunny@pantagraph.com

Sex offender from Normal back in court on internet access issue

eblunny@pantagraph.com

Big Tobacco finally tells the truth in court-ordered ad campaign

Smoking kills 1,200 people a day. The tobacco companies worked to make them as addictive as possible. There is no such thing as a safer cigarette.

Ads with these statements hit the major television networks and newspapers this weekend, but they are not being placed by the American Cancer Society or other health groups. They’re being placed by major tobacco companies, under the orders of the federal courts.

“The ads will finally run after 11 years of appeals by the tobacco companies aimed at delaying and weakening them,” the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, National African American Tobacco Prevention Network and the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund said in a joint statement.

“It’s a pretty significant moment,” the American Cancer Society’s Cliff Douglas said. “This is the first time they have had to ‘fess up and tell the whole truth.”

Related: Graphic smoking ads helped people kick the habit

The Justice Department started its racketeering lawsuit against the tobacco companies in 1999, seeking to force them to make up for decades of deception. Federal district judge Gladys Kessler ruled in 2006 that they’d have to pay for and place the ads, but the companies kept tying things up with appeals.

“Employing the highest paid lawyers in America, the tobacco companies used every tool at their disposal to delay and complicate this litigation to avoid their day of reckoning,” Douglas added.


1eee4_2017-07-28t22-41-32-666z--1280x720.nbcnews-ux-1080-600 Big Tobacco finally tells the truth in court-ordered ad campaign


“It has been a long fight,” said Robin Koval, CEO and president of Truth Initiative, a nonprofit established as part of a separate, 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between major U.S. tobacco companies and 46 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and five territories.

“They fought for 11 years to delay the truth.”

The tobacco companies won some significant gains. They won’t have to admit to having deliberately lied and manipulated in their advertising and promotional campaigns. They won’t have to include lurid images of what smoking does to people.

“Despite their claims to the contrary, the tobacco companies have not changed. Their continuing aversion to the truth is clear from how hard they fought the corrective statements, going so far as to seek removal of the phrase ‘here is the truth’,” the health groups said in their joint statement.

And they’ve managed to hold off running the ads until the media landscape has changed considerably, with many more Americans getting their news online and many fewer going to the major networks and newspapers where the ads will air.

Related: Smoking rate halved in 50 years. Is zero possible?

“The world has completely changed,” Koval said.

“Not as much will be seen by young people, who spend less and less of their time watching prime time television. That is an opportunity lost.”

Kessler’s scathing ruling made no bones about what the tobacco companies did. “Defendants have known many of these facts for at least 50 years or more. Despite that knowledge, they have consistently, repeatedly, and with enormous skill and sophistication, denied these facts to the public, to the Government, and to the public health community,” she wrote in her 2006 ruling.

1eee4_2017-07-28t22-41-32-666z--1280x720.nbcnews-ux-1080-600 Big Tobacco finally tells the truth in court-ordered ad campaign


1eee4_2017-07-28t22-41-32-666z--1280x720.nbcnews-ux-1080-600 Big Tobacco finally tells the truth in court-ordered ad campaign

“Moreover, in order to sustain the economic viability of their companies, Defendants have denied that they marketed and advertised their products to children under the age of eighteen and to young people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one in order to ensure an adequate supply of ‘replacement smokers,’ as older ones fall by the wayside through death, illness, or cessation of smoking,” she added.

“In short, Defendants have marketed and sold their lethal product with zeal, with deception, with a single-minded focus on their financial success, and without regard for the human tragedy or social costs that success exacted.”

Now, no serious scientist or doctor denies that smoking kills. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says cigarettes kill 480,000 Americans a year, and tobacco use costs $170 billion in direct medical costs and $156 billion in lost productivity.

Related: Ex-smokers come clean in CDC campaign

The ads themselves will be far from visually interesting. The court-mandated ruling is short and to the point, and the ads are based on words, not pictures.

The advocacy groups hope to do what they can to counter that. “We want to make sure that although the industry would like this to be invisible and unwatchable that we put this squarely on the radar screens of the American public,” Koval said.

The court specified more than 50 newspapers to carry the weekly full page ads, from the New York Times and USA Today to La Voz de Houston and the Northern Kentucky Herald. It also requires the companies to place five ads a week for a year on the three major networks – NBC, ABC and CBS.

Some of the statements people will see in newspapers and on television:

  • Altria, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard, and Philip Morris USA intentionally designed cigarettes to make them more addictive.
  • Cigarette companies control the impact and delivery of nicotine in many ways, including designing filters and selecting cigarette paper to maximize the ingestion of nicotine, adding ammonia to make the cigarette taste less harsh, and controlling the physical and chemical make-up of the tobacco blend.
  • When you smoke, the nicotine actually changes the brain – that’s why quitting is so hard.
  • Secondhand smoke kills over 38,000 Americans each year.
  • Secondhand smoke causes lung cancer and coronary heart disease in adults who do not smoke.
  • Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, ear problems, severe asthma, and reduced lung function.
  • There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

“I certainly hope for the many people who will see them that this will remind them of things that, frankly, have been forgotten over time,” Koval said.

“People have forgotten over time all of the practices of the tobacco industry, not only the fact that they lied about the products but also the fact that the products they were selling to the American people were engineered to be addictive as possible.”

Related: E-cigarette ads target kids, CDC says

Douglas says it’s not clear what the impact of the ads will be.

“I think it’s going to anger some people,” he said. “I think people get angry and they don’t want to give their hard earned bucks to Big Tobacco.”

The companies are now using “the same playbook” to promote e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products, which they are marketing as less harmful alternatives to cigarettes, Douglas said.

“They recruit some great minds globally in media communications, science, law, medicine,” he said.

For instance, he said, Philip Morris is promoting a new, heated cigarette that doesn’t burn. “That is not an e-cigarette. But Philip Morris would be delighted for the general public to be very confused about all of these things and buy everything the company sells,” Douglas said.

Related: Fresh look at cancer shows smoking still main cause but obesity is catching up

The groups are hoping the Food and Drug Administration will use what powers it has to restrict the marketing of new products in the future. Congress won’t let FDA ban cigarettes.

1eee4_2017-07-28t22-41-32-666z--1280x720.nbcnews-ux-1080-600 Big Tobacco finally tells the truth in court-ordered ad campaign


1eee4_2017-07-28t22-41-32-666z--1280x720.nbcnews-ux-1080-600 Big Tobacco finally tells the truth in court-ordered ad campaign

Koval urges people not to be fooled by the sophisticated marketing techniques.

“The tobacco companies are trying to convince people that they have changed, that they are trying to create harm-reduced products and some are saying things about seeing a world where people no longer smoke combustible tobacco,” Koval said.

“If they really wanted a world where people no longer used combustible tobacco, they could do that tomorrow. They could stop selling their deadly products.”

Computer game comes thanks to 2 Supreme Court justices

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court’s first female justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, has helped teach millions of students civics through computer games created by an organization she founded. Now, with a push from the Supreme Court’s first Hispanic justice, Sonia Sotomayor, the group has translated one of its games into Spanish.

The group iCivics, which O’Connor founded in 2009 after her retirement from the Supreme Court, now has 19 computer games that were played by 5 million students last year. Sotomayor, who grew up speaking Spanish at home, joined the organization’s board in 2015. One of her first initiatives has been to try to make iCivics games more accessible to students learning English and others struggling with reading, she has said.

O’Connor and Sotomayor never served together on the high court, but they have found a common calling in advocating for civics education in schools.

“For me, civic education is the key to inspiring kids to want to become and stay involved in making a difference,” Sotomayor said at an event in September at Washington’s Newseum.

Games created by iCivics teach students concepts from how the nation’s court system works and how laws are made to how presidential campaigns work and what it’s like to be on a jury. Sotomayor has predicted iCivics “will change America” and may be O’Connor’s “longest-lasting legacy.”

The game iCivics has been updated in Spanish and is called “Do I Have a Right?” In it, players run a law firm. They listen to potential clients’ stories, decide if their constitutional rights have been violated and, if so, match the clients with lawyers who can help. The game was first released in 2011, and iCivics says it has been played nearly 9 million times.

The Spanish language update is aimed at the almost 10 percent of public school students, about 4.6 million students, who are classified as English-language learners. The majority of them come from homes where Spanish is spoken.

On a recent Thursday morning, students in Phoebe Sherman’s 11th grade U.S. history class at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Washington were some of the first to play the updated game. The students, almost all of them immigrants from Central America who are in a class of English-language learners, spent time answering the question “What is a right?” and coming up with examples before playing the game in pairs.

Some pairs chose to play in English while others chose Spanish. Some groups switched back and forth while playing. Aside from the Spanish translation, the game’s new version also includes other updates for students struggling with English: a glossary that explains legal and other terms and an optional voiceover in the English game.

Zayra Granados, 17, who moved to the United States from El Salvador four years ago, was playing the game in Spanish. She read a question about whether a newspaper could be required by law to publish only happy news or if it had a right to publish a story about homelessness. The newspaper could publish the story about homelessness, she concluded.

“People have to know what is happening in their country,” she said.

By the end of the period, she and her partner had just eked out a winning record, with their law firm winning eight cases and losing seven. She was happy about the wins.

“I want to learn about laws and stuff so I can know my rights,” she said.

iCivics’ executive director, Louise Dube, said her organization hopes to make all of its games available with modifications for English-language learners, though they don’t yet have a timetable. Making changes to the current game cost $400,000, and they’ll have to raise money to make more games available, she said.

O’Connor, who is now 87, said in a statement that her goal is to reach every student in America through iCivics.

“To do that, we need to be able to address the needs of all learners, including those who struggle with reading,” she said. “I am delighted with the new game.”

This computer game comes thanks to 2 Supreme Court justices

The Supreme Court’s first female justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, has helped teach millions of students civics through computer games created by an organization she founded. Now, with a push from the Supreme Court’s first Hispanic justice, Sonia Sotomayor, the group has translated one of its games into Spanish.

The group iCivics, which O’Connor founded in 2009 after her retirement from the Supreme Court, now has 19 computer games that were played by 5 million students last year. Sotomayor, who grew up speaking Spanish at home, joined the organization’s board in 2015. One of her first initiatives has been to try to make iCivics games more accessible to students learning English and others struggling with reading, she has said.

O’Connor and Sotomayor never served together on the high court, but they have found a common calling in advocating for civics education in schools.

“For me, civic education is the key to inspiring kids to want to become and stay involved in making a difference,” Sotomayor said at an event in September at Washington’s Newseum.

Games created by iCivics teach students concepts from how the nation’s court system works and how laws are made to how presidential campaigns work and what it’s like to be on a jury. Sotomayor has predicted iCivics “will change America” and may be O’Connor’s “longest-lasting legacy.”

The game iCivics has updated in Spanish and is called “Do I Have a Right?” In it, players run a law firm. They listen to potential clients’ stories, decide if their constitutional rights have been violated and, if so, match the clients with lawyers who can help. The game was first released in 2011 and iCivics says it has been played nearly 9 million times.

The Spanish language update is aimed at the almost 10 percent of public school students, about 4.6 million students, who are classified as English-language learners. The majority of them come from homes where Spanish is spoken.

On a recent Thursday morning, students in Phoebe Sherman’s 11th grade U.S. history class at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Washington were some of the first to play the updated game. The students, almost all of them immigrants from Central America who are in a class of English-language learners, spent time answering the question “What is a right?” and coming up with examples before playing the game in pairs.

Some pairs chose to play in English while others chose Spanish. Some groups switched back and forth while playing. Aside from the Spanish translation, the game’s new version also includes other updates for students struggling with English: a glossary that explains legal and other terms and an optional voiceover in the English game.

Zayra Granados, 17, who moved to the United States from El Salvador four years ago, was playing the game in Spanish. She read a question about whether a newspaper could be required by law to publish only happy news or if it had a right to publish a story about homelessness. The newspaper could publish the story about homelessness, she concluded.

“People have to know what is happening in their country,” she said.

By the end of the period, she and her partner had just eked out a winning record, with their law firm winning eight cases and losing seven. She was happy about the wins.

“I want to learn about laws and stuff so I can know my rights,” she said.

iCivics’ executive director, Louise Dube, says her organization hopes to make all of its games available with modifications for English-language learners, though they don’t yet have a timetable. Making changes to the current game cost $400,000 and they’ll have to raise money to make more games available, she said.

O’Connor, who is now 87, said in a statement that her goal is to reach every student in America through iCivics.

“To do that, we need to be able to address the needs of all learners, including those who struggle with reading,” she said. “I am delighted with the new game.”

———

Follow Jessica Gresko on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jessicagresko

Hubbell: Mental health court ‘a great experiment’

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