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Quote of the Day - The particular human chain we're part of is central to our individual identity. - Elizabeth Stone
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Practical Tips To Deal With Identity Theft

Possibly some 110,000 people have become victims of identity theft. Here are some tips I got in an email from a highly respected judge, who thought I (and you) needed to think about:

1. The next time you order checks have only your initials (instead of your first and middle names) and last name put on them. If someone takes your checkbook, then they will not know if you sign your checks with just your initials or your first name, but your bank will know how you sign your checks.

2. When you are writing checks to pay your credit card accounts, don't list the complete account number on the "Memo" line. Instead, just put the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the number, and anyone who might be handling your check as it passes through all the check processing channels (or afterward) won't have access to it.

3. Put your work phone number on your checks instead of your home phone. If you have a P.O. Box, then use that address instead of your actual home address. If you don't have a P.O. Box, then use your work address. Never print your social security number on your checks. You can add it if it is absolutely necessary, but it's not a good idea. If you have it printed, anyone can get it.

4. Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine. Copy both sides of each license, credit card, and the rest of its contents. That way, you'll know what you had in your wallet and all of the account and phone numbers to call and cancel your cards if you need to. Keep the photocopies in a safe place. You should also carry a photocopy of your passport while traveling, and store it separate from your luggage.

Here's some critical information to limit the damage in case identity theft happens to you or someone you know:

1. Cancel your credit cards immediately. The key is having the toll-free numbers and your card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them.

2. File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where your credit cards, etc., were stolen. This report proves to credit providers you were diligent, and this is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one).

But, here's what is perhaps most important of all:

3. Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your identifying information was stolen, and they should contact you by phone to authorize new credit.

Here are the numbers you need to contact when your wallet, etc., has been stolen:

1.) Equifax: 888-766-0008. This company has a host of identify theft advice, and lots of links.

2.) Experian (formerly TRW): 888-397-3742. But do more. Experian says fraud alerts must be submitted in writing.

3.) TransUnion: 800-680-7289. This company also provides an entire Fraud page dedicated to helping you in the event your identity is stolen.

4.) Social Security Administration (fraud line): 877-438-4338. The SSA also has some more identity theft advice.

Last week was National Consumer Protection Week, but it's never too late to learn how to protect yourself.

Do you know where your wallet is?

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, February 17, 2005 at 12:44. Comments Closed (1) |

MSM Attacks Blogs. Ask Yourself Why Before Reaching A Conclusion.

On the way into work yesterday, NPR featured two stories on blogs. The first one discussed the relationship of blogs and MSM, an acronym for "mainstream media" a.k.a. print and broadcast media. MSM does not include blogs.

That was basically the thrust of the NPR piece: Blogs are not journalism.

Well .... of course not. Bloggers have struggled with the issue of whether they are journalistic in nature. By the way, read through that last link to PressThink by Jay Rosen. He's the Chair of New York University's Department of Journalism and has some very worthwhile thoughts on all aspects of the press, as well as some of his guest bloggers.

So, if blogs are not journalism, what are they? Well ... they're journalism.

Huh?

Think about it. What is journalism?

Is journalism the neat and tidy package that the grey lady group would have us believe? MSM is not just the Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle and the like.

It's also the National Enquirer, the Star Magazine, and the host of other unmentionables that we all see on magazine rack, even those wrapped in brown paper bags (don't open that last link at work).

NPR takes blogging to task for damaging the careers of public figures.

Pot? Kettle? I don't see the difference. MSM cannot truly make that claim with a straight face.

Politicians and the fourth estate have always had an uneasy relationship.

But for MSM to attack blogs as not truly journalism misses the point. Blogs are journalism, and blogs are not. Just in the same way that MSM is not truly just "reporting" the facts. Every fact printed or broadcast by MSM is filtered.

Filtered through the eyes of the reporter, copywriter, editor, producer, owner, advertiser and even filtered through your eyes - the readers and listeners. It can't be any other way.

Blogs are not that different. But there is one significant difference, and that difference is what bothers MSM, and why we get cranky reports like the ones on NPR, where MSM reporters criticize blogs as not truly worthy of the mantle of journalism. I would caution those reporters, and NPR, to be careful how high they hold that mantle.

The difference between blogs and MSM is the elimination of most of the middlemen. When you read blogs, such as this one, you get the "reporter." You don't get the copywriter, editor, producer and owner in the way, paring down what I write.

The only two filters are you and me.

Sure, there's a big ad up there, and maybe some would say that ad influences what I write, but I don't think so. Unlike a newspaper, the ad doesn't pay me enough. If I lost the ad, I'd still be writing, and hopefully, you'd still be reading. But if a newspaper, magazine, TV or radio station lost all their ads, they'd stop. There would be nothing more for you to read, listen to or watch.

MSM is particularly troubled because blogs are media, and certainly fall within the broad definition of journalism. Most blogs fall outside the "grey lady" definition of journalism. But there are blogs that are considered mainstream. "MSB," I guess. Mainstream Blogs. Certainly those are the most popular.

Within the blogosphere, there are opinions. But they're easy to spot. I'd say a lot easier to spot than the opinions offered to us by the grey lady gang, while they oblige us to accept their reporting as factual, when in reality, they're simply disguising their filtered opinions as facts. Between MSM journalism and blogs, I'll take blogs. I can readily see the blogger's perspective, and separate the fact from the opinion.

I guess it comes down to this: MSM essentially argues that we should "take their word for it" because we're not smart enough to figure it out on our own. I disagree. I think we (you) are smart enough to separate fact from opinion. That's the argument proffered on NPR. Don't read (or listen or watch) blogs because they're full of opinion.

Do you really think that MSM presents news to us without also interjecting their opinion?

Yes, the same is true about blogs. But, there are others out there likewise considered within the definition of journalism.

After all, if you have a legal question, who would you rather hear the answer from? A newspaper reporter who asked a lawyer?

Or from a lawyer who's also a highly respected law professor?

Plus, if you'd like, you can comment directly to me, the writer, and post your comments (written or audio) to the very same article you want to comment on. Try doing that on a newspaper article, TV or radio broadcast.

Are blogs a conversation? You bet.

But they're much more than that. Watch out MSM, you haven't seen anything yet.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, February 16, 2005 at 11:17. Comments Closed (3) |

And We Were Just A Mouse Click Away

The full Ninth Circuit dodged a bullet today and decided not to decide the internet jurisdiction case between Gator and L.L. Bean.

The case has two very interesting aspects. First, from a procedural standpoint, it's the long arm of the law. Can California haul a company into one of its courts if it doesn't have an agent here and doesn't pay taxes? In the original three-judge ruling, the Ninth Circuit allowed California courts to decide cases involving a company doing business in the state via the internet, despite not having an agent here and not paying taxes in California. As noted below, that decision no longer has the force of law.

The second question before the court was the legality of Gator's pop-up advertising program that presented computer users with Eddie Bauer gift certificates when they visited an L.L. Bean website.

Instead of tackling these issues head on, the Ninth Circuit said the case is moot due to a settlement between the parties. Gator agreed to stop using pop-ups, leaving open the jurisdictional question. In the trial court below, the case was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, and was appealed. Given today's decision on that appeal, that question remains unanswered.

Judge Fletcher and two other judges wanted to answer that question and filed a dissent. She wrote, "If we find this appeal moot, we will not be frugally guarding the scarce resources of the federal courts. Rather, we will be wasting them in a spectacular fashion."

In the first hearing on the appeal from the trial court, three Ninth Circuit judges thought that California could exercise general jurisdiction over L.L. Bean, but those "thoughts" are no longer law, having been vacated by today's en banc decision "not to decide."

We're left to wonder what will ultimately be the law in this circuit and wanting for guidance over whether California can exercise jurisdiction over companies doing business in the state via the internet.

If you were on the Court, how would you decide? Should L.L. Bean expect to be dragged from Maine into court here in California?

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, February 15, 2005 at 18:22. Comments Closed (0) |

MIPTC Gets The Vermont Supreme Court To Correct Its Opinion

Some time ago, back in January, MIPTC complained about the Vermont Supreme Court's use of the word surficial. In fact, MIPTC alerted the Vermont Supreme Court about its mistake.

Lo and behold, the Court's Reporter of Decisions sent a handwritten response dated February 18, 2005, to MIPTC and advised that he had made the change. When I checked the online opinion, though, the mistake still appeared. I suspect it will appear corrected in the print edition.

Reporter of Decisions Larry Abbott wrote, "Done. ... Thanks for bringing this to our attention."

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, February 15, 2005 at 16:40. Comments Closed (0) |

Will Tort Reform Or A Tsunami Suit Lead To Safety? Sign Up Now.

Tort reform is tough when you're not the chancellor of Germany or Austria.

President Bush has been pushing his agenda for some time, and there are those who oppose it. Whether you support it or not, the issue is now squarely in front of us.

In what's likely to be the first of many, there's a new lawsuit by German and Austrian individuals who lost relatives in the tsunami. They're suing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Tsunami Warning Center and a hotel chain for not providing warnings about the tsunami.

As you probably already suspect, there's a website dedicated to a tsunami class action lawsuit. The two suits do not appear to be related.

Apart from whether you support tort reform or not, there's a practical side to all of this, and it's available to you immediately. You don't need to wait for the consequences of whether the lawsuit or tort reform will make the world a safer place.

You can learn more about the physical and natural effects of the tsunami from the International Tsunami Information Center, and if you're traveling to an area near the ocean, you may want to sign up to get earthquake (tsunami) warnings from PubSub.

Be safe out there.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, February 14, 2005 at 12:07. Comments Closed (1) |

Who's On First, What's On Second And I Don't Know Is On Third

"Stealing movies leaves a trail. The only way not to get caught is to stop."

That's the message that the Motion Picture Association of America want people who download movies to get. Apparently, the MPAA got a Court order to take over LokiTorrent.com. When it did, it posted this message: "You can click, but you can't hide."

That message may be more literal than downloaders think. As part of the MPAA's case against LokiTorrent, the file server owner was ordered by the Court to give up his computer server logs and data.

Some 750,000 users registered on LokiTorrent. That user data is now in the hands of the movie industry.

Late last week, the MPAA announced that it initiated round two of litigation against several other sites, including host indexes for BitTorrent, eDonkey and DirectConnect and some individual computer users.

According to the MPAA, if you want to download movies, you can go to MovieLink, CinemaNow or MovieBeam.

It's easier to just turn on the radio. We already know the players.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, February 13, 2005 at 13:05. Comments Closed (2) |

Can I Have Some Salt With My Diesel Exhaust?

If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you likely know I occasionally enjoy a good cigar. But not with my food. Or, for that matter, anybody else's food.

Many of you don't either, even in Tasmania. But I'm getting slightly off track.

You'll understand, then why it was a bit surprising to read that the Washington Supreme Court doesn't agree. They decided not to enforce a local ban prohibiting smoking in restaurants in favor of a state statute that allowed businesses to make the the decision whether to allow smoking or not. I'll get to the legal issue in a moment, but one immediately interesting aspect of reading this case was who disagreed with the Washington Supreme Court:

The American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the AMA, and a lesser-known group, Americans for Non-smoker's Rights, along with a host of other amicus curiae.

To understand this decision, we begin at the beginning. The State of Washington enacted the "Clean Indoor Air Act" back in 1985. So what does the act prevent?

Smoking indoors in a public place. Or so it would seem.

Don't get too far ahead: there's an exception for restaurants.

The local health board in Tacoma was not too happy with the exception, and passed a stricter ban that prevented smoking in restaurants. The Entertainment Industry Coalition in Washington challenged this ordinance enacted by the health board: "{S}moke free air is mandated in all indoor public places, including a presumptively reasonable minimum distance . . . of twenty-five (25) feet from entrances, exits, opening windows and ventilation intakes . . . ."

The EIC claimed that the state's Clean Indoor Air Act allowed restaurants to designate smoking areas, but the ordinance eliminated their ability to do so under state law. They screamed "conflict preemption," arguing that a local agency cannot enact legislation that prohibits what is permitted by state law.1 State law, they said, has to control.

The health board countered with a novel argument. It claimed that by allowing business owners to determine whether and where to designate smoking areas, the state impermissibly delegated its legislative authority to private parties. I would have added to that argument that if the state had delegated such authority to private parties, then the health board's regulation of such conduct was within its legislative authority to regulate local activity. That last argument likely would have lost, too.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer printed an article about the decision this past Thursday. It featured an interesting statistic not cited by the Washington Supreme Court:

"Sitting in a smoky bar exposes people to more air pollution than sitting behind a diesel truck at rush hour, according to a study published in the September issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine."

Just think. When you eat at a restaurant in Washington, you might as well just sit outside at a truck stop.

Footnote

1 If you're following that bouncing ball, here's where we are: An ordinance regulating an exception to a ban. In other words, the health board tried to eliminate a loophole in the state's smoking ban statute. back

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, February 12, 2005 at 09:50. Comments Closed (0) |

Woburn Redux?

This article regarding the indictment of W.R. Grace in Montana happened to catch my eye as I just finished writing a response to A Civil Action by Jonathon Harr for my CivPro class. My professor made it required reading for the semester and I am glad that he did. It was nice to spend a little time away from the casebooks reading a novel and still feel like I was learning and being productive. However, in the end, I was left wanting to know what really happened in Woburn. For an interesting follow-up check out the following site sponsored by W.R. Grace.

Hopefully the people of Libby, MT have had the opportunity to read Mr. Harrís book since it provides at least a glimpse of what lies ahead. Even though this indictment is not a civil case, I would imagine that the people of Libby are just as invested in the outcome as the people of Woburn were two decades ago.

The indictment lays out a host of counts including the to-be-expected USEPA violations and a less obvious count of wire fraud. It also includes data regarding cancer levels in Libby that appears intriguing. This case should be one to watch.

In the end, didnít a crafty U.S. government take down Al Capone for tax evasion?

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by Michel J. Ayer on Friday, February 11, 2005 at 20:58. Comments Closed (0) |



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