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April 27, 2012

America's biggest movie pirate is a WWII veteran who sends the films to soldiers overseas

You just know the movie industry is reading this article with like a thousand lawyers and trying to figure out a way to go after Big Hy without seeming like complete assholes. At 92, Movie Bootlegger Is Soldiers’ Hero - NYTimes.com
“Big Hy” — his handle among many loyal customers — would almost certainly be cast as Hollywood Enemy No. 1 but for a few details. He is actually Hyman Strachman, a 92-year-old, 5-foot-5 World War II veteran trying to stay busy after the death of his wife. And he has sent every one of his copied DVDs, almost 4,000 boxes of them to date, free to American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the United States military presence in those regions dwindling, Big Hy Strachman will live on in many soldiers’ hearts as one of the war’s more shadowy heroes. “It’s not the right thing to do, but I did it,” Mr. Strachman said, acknowledging that his actions violated copyright law. “If I were younger,” he added, “maybe I’d be spending time in the hoosegow.” Capt. Bryan Curran, who recently returned from Afghanistan, estimated that from 2008 to 2010, Mr. Strachman sent more than 2,000 DVDs to his outfits there. . . .

April 25, 2012

Anti-choice activists are planning another frame-job of Planned Parenthood

Are anti-abortion activists framing Planned Parenthood? - The Week
Planned Parenthood clinics in at least 11 states have noted suspiciously similar walk-ins in recent weeks by young women asking remarkably similar questions, and suggesting they want an abortion only if they are pregnant with a girl. The apparently coordinated series of "hoax visits" has Planned Parenthood bracing for another "propaganda campaign" by anti-abortion activists who selectively edit secretly videotaped visits to "promote misinformation about Planned Parenthood and our services," spokeswoman Chloe Cooney tells The Huffington Post. Are we about to see a new series of "sting" videos? Here's what you should know: What happens in these "hoax visits"? "Patient privacy laws prohibit Planned Parenthood from offering specific details about the visits and where they occurred," says Laura Bassett at The Huffington Post, but the script is always the same: A woman walks into the clinic, says she's pregnant, then asks a series of provocative questions, including how soon she can find out the baby's sex, how it could be done, and whether she can schedule an abortion if she's carrying a girl. . . .

April 15, 2012

Exposing ALEC: How Conservative-Backed State Laws Are All Connected

Exposing ALEC: How Conservative-Backed State Laws Are All Connected - Nancy Scola - Politics - The Atlantic
To itself, ALEC is an organization dedicated to the advancement of free market and limited government principles through a unique "public-private partnership" between state legislators and the corporate sector. To its critics, it's a shadowy back-room arrangement where corporations pay good money to get friendly legislators to introduce pre-packaged bills in state houses across the country. Started in the mid-1970s, ALEC's existence has been long known but its practices, largely, have not; the group hasn't been eager to tie its bills in Wisconsin to those in Ohio to those in North Carolina. Nine months ago, though, a website called ALEC Exposed went live, showcasing more than 800 so-called model bills contributed by, the site's creators say, a still-anonymous whistleblower. Beyond the bills themselves, the group built out a wide-ranging, sometimes confusing wiki aimed at documenting which legislators take part in the group, which corporations support it, and where the bills go once they leave ALEC. Lisa Graves is executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, the group that built ALEC Exposed. She's also a former Justice Department official in both the Clinton and Bush administrations. Said Graves on a call this week, "We built out the material using Google, the Internet Archive and the Wayback Machine, primary records that were previously on ALEC's website, old old Lexis news clips, and the tobacco library," as in the digital archive run by the University of California of San Francisco as part of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement of the late '90s. "There was a lot of material out there that was just not widely known." Having the bills all in one place painted a certain picture. "If it's voter ID, it's ALEC," observed Doug Clopp, deputy director of programs at Common Cause. "If it's anti-immigration bills written hand-in-glove with private prison corporations, it's ALEC. If it's working with the N.R.A. on 'Shoot to Kill' laws, it's ALEC. When you start peeling back state efforts to opt out of the regional greenhouse gas initiative, it's ALEC." Adopted first in the states, by the time these laws bubble up to the national level, they're the conventional wisdom on policy. . . .