Sunday, February 28, 2010

Canada Wins Olympic Hockey Gold!!!

Team Canada has just captured Olympic hockey gold, with a stunning 3-2 overtime win over Ryan Miller and his never-say-die American team.

Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal for Canada at 7:40 of the gold medal game's overtime period.

The gutsy Americans battled back from a 2-0 deficit, forcing overtime with a Zach Parise goal that tied the game with only 24 seconds to go in the third period.

The American team wins silver medals with the loss.

But Canada gets gold - and the last laugh, this time around.

Simply awsome!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Early Reports From 8.8 Magnitude Chile Earthquake

Via Twitter:

First #tsunami predicted to hit #Peru in less than 45 mins. #quake#Chile

@DropsofreignBreaking news: Tsunami wave up to 9 feet recorded

@BreakingNews: #Chile President Michelle Bachelet says 6 deaths confirmed so far after quake, much damage - BNO News

@bccohan: Reports already coming in that buildings in Santiago, Chile that are 210 mi away from epicenter are wiped out. #prayersforchile

MONSTER EARTHQUAKE in Chile -13 times more powerful than the Haiti quake: #chile

KTthePEREZident Waves already 9 feet high off coast...I hope my uncle really is back from chile...

@ConservNewMedia: Claimed photo of an explosion in Chile following the 8.8 magnitude earthquake. City is not identified:
More at Twitter: #chile

As well, see this real-time stream from musician, @elliottyamin

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Reconciliation, Republican Style

It's all good - but only when they use it.

"If you've got 51 votes for your position, you win:"

Senator Judd Gregg , in a 2005 defense of the Republicans’ use of the budget reconciliation process - via Ezra Klein

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Batman Beats Superman

Pristine copies of two comic books that featured the debuts of Batman and Superman were sold this week for seven-figure sums at separate, record-breaking auctions.

On Monday, Superman had his brief moment of record-setting glory:

A rare copy of the first comic book featuring Superman sold Monday for $1 million, smashing the previous record price for a comic book.

A 1938 edition of Action Comics No. 1, widely considered the Holy Grail of comic books, was sold from a private seller to a private buyer, neither of whom released their names. The issue features Superman lifting a car on its cover and originally cost 10 cents.

The transaction was conducted by the auction site Stephen Fishler, co-owner of the site and its sister dealership, Metropolis Collectibles, orchestrated the sale.

Superman's record, however, was bested by Batman yesterday:

Heritage Auction Galleries said a 1939 comic book in which Batman makes his debut has sold at auction in Dallas for more than $1 million — setting a record for the amount paid for a comic.

The rare copy of Detective Comics No. 27 from 1939 went for $1,075,500 Thursday. A Heritage official said it was sold on behalf of an anonymous consignor and the buyer wished to remain unnamed as well.

Makes me wish I'd hung on to that overflowing box of comic books I once collected.

(Not that any of them dated back to the '30's. I'm not that old...)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ontario Human Rights Tribunal Orders Money Mart to Pay $30,000 for Failure to Investigate Harassment

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has increasingly become the judicial body to watch for developments in Ontario's employment law.

Most recently, in a decision released February 17, 2010, the Tribunal ordered National Money Mart Company to pay $30,000 in compensation to a former, one-year employee of the company who had been subjected to ongoing, serious sexual harassment by her workplace supervisor.

In its decision, the Tribunal emphasized the employer's failure to investigate serious incidents of harassment at a Money Mart outlet on Danforth Avenue in Toronto, despite repeated reports by the employee, a Customer Service Representative, as to ongoing sexual misconduct by her Branch Manager.

The claim was filed by Marjorie Harriott, a Toronto woman who worked as a customer service representative at a Toronto Money Mart store from April 2007 until she was fired in June 2008.

Harriott told the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal she was sexually harassed by her manager while she worked at a Money Mart store on Danforth Avenue, in the city's east end.

She told the tribunal that her supervisor would leer at her buttocks and breasts, make inappropriate comments, and touch her when there was no need — adding that the harassment was so unbearable that she suffered from panic attacks while she worked there.

Harriott said she and several other women who worked at the store complained repeatedly to the district manager in 2007 and 2008, but the manager didn't investigate the complaints.

The Tribunal's decision serves as an excellent primer on the law of sexual harassment applicable to Ontario's workplaces. Vice Chair Allan Whyte's discussion on the damages award, in particular, provides considerable guidance:

[149] I find that an appropriate total for the damages under the three headings above is $30,000. In my opinion, this is an appropriate level of compensation for the applicant, taking into account the three breaches of the Code involved, and allowing for the fact that I have found that her termination from employment was not an act of reprisal. The applicant submitted certain sexual harassment cases in argument which involved higher awards of general damages: see for example S.H v. M[…] Painting, 2009 HRTO 595 (CanLII), 2009 HRTO 595 (CanLII) ($40,000), and Smith, supra (total of $50,000). However, these cases involved situations either where the applicants left their employment because of the sexual harassment they were experiencing (or were reprised against) and such leaving was found to be tantamount to dismissal, as a result of which the damages were increased. In this case, I have found the termination of the applicant’s employment to not be an act of reprisal.

[150] I have also reviewed two other recent sexual harassment cases, Ratneiya v. Daniel & Krumeh, 2009 HRTO 1824 (CanLII), 2009 HRTO 1824 (CanLII) and Hill-Leclair v. Booth, 2009 HRTO 1629 (CanLII), 2009 HRTO 1629 (CanLII), both of which awarded damages for the infringement of the Code in the amount of $25,000. Neither of those cases contained the elements of poisoned work environment and a failure to investigate. In the Hill-Leclair case, the Tribunal observed as follows:

Historically, sexual harassment under human rights statutes has tended to attract a comparatively higher quantum of damages than simple discrimination, see: Domingues v. Fortino, 2007 HRTO 19 (CanLII), 2007 HRTO 19 (CanLII),2007 HRTO 19 (CanLII), 2007 HRTO 19 (CanLII), Sanford v. Koop, supra; Colvin v. Gillies Hillcrest Variety,2004 HRTO 3 (CanLII), 2004 HRTO 3 (CanLII), 2004 HRTO 3 (CanLII), 2004 HRTO 3 (CanLII). This can be rationalized by the vulnerability of victims, the heightened personal impact and the more severe dignity interests implicated.

[151] In terms of the liability of the respondents, counsel for the respondents agreed that in the event that I found that there was liability for Mr. Wade, the company agreed to be responsible for any such liability. I therefore find that the liability for the harassment and poisoned work environment damages awarded, which I assess at $22,500, is joint and several as between the company and Mr. Wade, whereas the liability for the failure to investigate in the amount of $7,500 is that of the company only.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Live Long and Prosper

In Canada, that is:

Newborn Canadians may live to celebrate nearly 81 birthdays on average, a Statistics Canada report on life expectancy suggests.

Tuesday's report on births and deaths showed life expectancy at birth reached 80.7 years for the three-year-period between 2005 and 2007, up 0.2 years from an average of 80.5 between 2004 and 2006.

In 1995 to 1997, life expectancy at birth was 78.4.

"People are living longer, longer than ever," said Shiang Ying Dai, senior analyst with Statistics Canada's health statistics division in Ottawa.

Amazing what a bit of socialized health care can do for you, isn't it.

Washington, are you listening?

FBI Issues Alert On Email Scam Targeting Lawyers reports on the latest variation on an all-too-familiar scam:

Two law firms in Honolulu were scammed out of $500,000 in an e-mail scheme that's apparently targeting the legal community.

During the past six weeks, six different law firms have been targeted, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which issued a warning today (PDF). Two of the six fell for the scheme and lost a total of $500,000.

The FBI reports that the scam begins with e-mail contact from a prospective client who is seeking legal representation in a civil matter, such as a divorce. The supposed client sends the law firm a cashier’s check for a retainer in an amount far exceeding the firm's rate.

When the law firm responds that the client has overpaid, the client requests and the unsuspecting firm sends a wire transfer with the refund. It's after the refund that duped firms learned that the cashier's checks are counterfeit.

In the current cases in Hawaii, scammers are asking that wire transfers be sent to accounts in South Korea, Taiwan, and Canada.

"Law firms and other professional service providers are cautioned to be on high alert when dealing with clients who come forth via the Internet," the FBI warns. Also, when dealing with wire transfers, firms should be sure the initial payment has fully cleared before issuing refunds.

It is interesting to see that there is a Canadian tie to this scam. Is Canada becoming the new Nigeria?

Bottom line:

Exercise genuine due diligence with email enquiries from all prospective overseas clients.

Good Shoes Required

Lisa Hutch provides a tutorial on finding your footing in your articling year.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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That "Hopey Changey" Thing

Dear Mr. President:

A Note About Resumes

Some human resources professionals apparently prefer to hire only dull people who can spell.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Social Media and the Flu

Best lament of the day (from one of our assistants who's been down with a nasty flu):
I was too sick to tweet.

Lawsuit: Pennsylvania School's Laptops Used to Spy on Students

A federal lawsuit alleges that a Pennsylvania school used laptop video cameras to spy on its students at their homes:

A suburban school district used webcams in school-issued laptops to spy on students at home, potentially catching them and their families in compromising situations, a family claims in a federal lawsuit.

Lower Merion School District officials said the laptops "contain a security feature intended to track lost, stolen and missing laptops," and that the feature was deactivated Thursday. Angry students already had put tape on their laptop cameras and microphones.

...The school district can activate the webcams without students' knowledge or permission, the suit said. Plaintiffs Michael and Holly Robbins suspect the cameras captured students and family members as they undressed and in other embarrassing situations, according to the suit.

Such actions would amount to potentially illegal electronic wiretapping, said Witold Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, which is not involved in the case.

...The Robbinses said they learned of the reported webcam images in November, when Lindy Matsko, an assistant principal at Harriton High School, told their son Blake that school officials thought he had engaged in improper behavior at home. The behavior was not specified in the suit.

"(Matsko) cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam embedded in minor plaintiff's personal laptop issued by the school district," the suit states. The behavior was not specified in the suit, which did not make clear whether the family had seen any photographs captured by school officials.

More here.

Professor Eugene Volokh comments:
If this was indeed done, and if it was done without adequately notifying the students and their parents, this was clearly tortious, likely a violation of the Fourth Amendment, and possibly a statutory violation as well (though I haven’t looked closely at the statutory details). It is also appalling — school officials spying on children in their parents’ homes without the children’s and parents’ permission. Who thinks up such things?
The Volokh commentary, however, also includes excerpts of the district school board's apparent denial of the students' allegations, which remain unproven:
The laptops do contain a security feature intended to track lost, stolen and missing laptops. This feature has been deactivated effective today....

Laptops are a frequent target for theft in schools and off school property. The security feature was installed to help locate a laptop in the event it was reported lost, missing or stolen so that the laptop could be returned to the student....

Upon a report of a suspected lost, stolen or missing laptop, the feature was activated by the District’s security and technology departments. The tracking-security feature was limited to taking a still image of the operator and the operator’s screen. This feature has only been used for the limited purpose of locating a lost, stolen or missing laptop. The District has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever....

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

Update: February 19, 2010

Associated Press: FBI Probing PA Webcam Case

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Which Cell Phones Emit the Most Radiation?

Blackberry and other smartphone addicts might be interested in the graphic below, via Web Pro News, and a new report from the Environmental Working Group, Limit Your Exposure to Cell Phone Radiation:

Analysis is here.

On Social Media and the Erosion of Privacy

Newsweek's Daniel Lyons may have just hit the nail on the head:

The real holy grail is your list of friends. With that information, marketers can start sending more targeted messages...

The genius of Google, Facebook, and others is that they've created services that are so useful or entertaining that people will give up some privacy in order to use them. Now the trick is to get people to give up more—in effect, to keep raising the price of the service.

These companies will never stop trying to chip away at our information. Their entire business model is based on the notion of "monetizing" our privacy. To succeed they must slowly change the notion of privacy itself—the "social norm," as Facebook puts it—so that what we're giving up doesn't seem so valuable. Then they must gain our trust. Thus each new erosion of privacy comes delivered, paradoxically, with rhetoric about how Company X really cares about privacy. I'm not sure whether Orwell would be appalled or impressed. And who knew Big Brother would be not a big government agency, but a bunch of kids in Silicon Valley?

Meanwhile, Canada's Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, is decidedly not amused: Privacy watchdog rebukes Google for Buzz

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Beck: "He's a Bad Guy - Shoot Him in the Head!"

Glen Beck opines on the capture of Taliban leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar:

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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From artist Jake Lewis,via Andrew Sullivan:

Law Blog Round-Up

The Cottage as Matrimonial Home

A recent blog by Andrew Feldstein discusses the Ontario family law decision in MacFarland v. MacFarland, where a family cottage was held to be a matrimonial home, notwithstanding that it was in the husband’s name, was an inheritance from his mother, and for the last years of the marriage the husband spent more time at the cottage than at home, while the wife hardly went there. The court made it patently clear, observes Feldstein, that just because the wife did not spend as much time as the husband at the cottage, this did not override the fact that there was family use that occurred up to the date of separation.

Olympic Fever

Jim Middlemiss’ legal blog observes that Canadian lawyers and firms have jumped on the Olympic bandwagon, most notably class action litigator David Klein, who announced that he dedicated his Olympic torch run to the survivors of Woodlands residential school that he represents; Blair Horn, a lawyer with Fasken Martineau DuMoulin and former gold medal winner, who also carried the Olympic torch; and Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt, who announced it was backing flag bearer Clara Hughes as sponsor.

Boss’s Orders Don't Amount to a New Job

A recent blog by Daniel Lublin notes that while there is typically no right to refuse reasonable directions from a manager, when those directions amount to a creating new job altogether, the employee may be able to claim constructive dismissal. In the Ontario case Gordon v. Tubs Ultimate Bath Store, the Plaintiff, a delivery driver, failed to show that when he was asked by his boss to start signing off when he picked up product for delivery, this amounted to creating a new job. “Mr. Gordon was not being asked to assume any new or additional liability that was inconsistent with his job-description as delivery driver,” said the judge.

- Bill Rogers, Toronto

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Not an Acceptable License Plate?

Apparently, IM GAY does not cut it on Oklahoma's highways. Lawsuit follows:

The Oklahoma Tax Commission, the organization that reviews and approves applications for personalized license plates in the Sooner State, has reportedly allowed the following to appear on the state’s plates: STR8FAN and STR8SXI.

But the Tax Commission has denied a college student’s request to put IM GAY on his license plate. The student, Keith Kimmel, 28, of Norman, has sued, arguing that the decision violates his First Amendment rights. Click here for the story, from the Oklahoman.

The backstory: The Oklahoma Tax Commission turned Kimmel down due to an internal rule against special license tags that “may be offensive to the general public.”

Via WSJ Law Blog

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Anyone Want To Buy a Recording Studio?

London's Abbey Road studios are for sale.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

Update: February 21, 2010

No, they're not.


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Is Social Media Killing Blogs?

Bottom line - it's faster and easier to tweet than to write.

Via Chris Crumm at Web Pro News, does Facebook provide a solution?
Is social media killing blogs?

No, but it's hard to say that use of sites like Facebook and Twitter (and now Google Buzz) don't lend to less blog posts being created. If nothing else, it’s simply a time issue. It is easy to push out a quick status update if you have something to say. It's easier than blogging. For longer-form content, blogs are generally the better option, which is one reason they are still alive and well. But if Facebook had a blog tab, the social network could cut into the Blogosphere even more, given its huge userbase, while establishing itself as a go-to place for blogging (another area in which Facebook could compete with Google, I might add. Don't forget that Google owns Blogger).

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Clinton, Lewinsky and Ken Starr

The former special prosecutor tells George Stephanopolous he's sorry it all happened, and accepts "thoughtful criticisms" of his tactical judgments in the Clinton investigation.

Nonetheless, he asserts "the matter had to be investigated because in our country, nobody is above the law."

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Scott Horton of Harpers on the former Vice President:
“I was a big supporter of waterboarding,” Cheney said in an appearance on ABC’s This Week on Sunday. He went on to explain that Justice Department lawyers had been instructed to write legal opinions to cover the use of this and other torture techniques after the White House had settled on them.

Section 2340A of the federal criminal code makes it an offense to torture or to conspire to torture. Violators are subject to jail terms or to death in appropriate cases, as where death results from the application of torture techniques. Prosecutors have argued that a criminal investigation into torture undertaken with the direction of the Bush White House would raise complex legal issues, and proof would be difficult. But what about cases in which an instigator openly and notoriously brags about his role in torture? Cheney told Jonathan Karl that he used his position within the National Security Council to advocate for the use of waterboarding and other torture techniques. Former CIA agent John Kiriakou and others have confirmed that when waterboarding was administered, it was only after receiving NSC clearance. Hence, Cheney was not speaking hypothetically but admitting his involvement in the process that led to decisions to waterboard in at least three cases.

What prosecutor can look away when a perpetrator mocks the law itself and revels in his role in violating it? Such cases cry out for prosecution. Dick Cheney wants to be prosecuted. And prosecutors should give him what he wants.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Data, Data, Data...

Our friend, Colm Brannigan, passed the link to this video along.

Bottom line - the world's existing data continues to grow exponentially. California mediator Victoria Pynchon argues that the net result of this ever-increasing document pile is an "impossibility of fully compliant document production:"

Saturday, February 13, 2010

We Are the World 2010

The newly released 2010 version is here.