Law and Daily Life: October 2010 Archives
Law & Daily Life - The FindLaw Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

October 2010 Archives

Halloween Safety Tips for Trick or Treaters

Happy Early Halloween. The costume-themed holiday is one that is sure to be filled with lots of treats, but sometimes there can be some tricks involved, too. As the nation's most secular holiday, Halloween has always drawn a range of participants for it's October 31st celebration date. There are, unfortunately, some increased safety risks that come with the holiday. So, in no particular order, here are some important Halloween safety tips for trick or treaters:

  • Costumes: There are a couple areas of concern when it comes to purchasing costumes, especially for children. First, make sure that all material is flame retardant. Second, although a witch or vampire may seem like a fun option for a young child, putting your son or daughter in a brightly colored costume is a much safer choice. Bright colors will alert motorist to his or her presence much easier than a dark color would. It is also a good idea to have children carry flashlights with them -- not only will this increase visibility to everyone, it will also help your son or daughter get to the candy faster!

Private Prisons Helped Draft Arizona's SB 1070

A democracy thrives on transparency. That is why a National Public Radio report out this week about the effect of private corporations on legislation is making such a stir. A NPR investigation reports that private prisons had a major influence on the the drafting of Arizona's controversial immigration law.

The private prison industry significantly influenced the way the Arizona Immigration Law, SB 1070, was written, according to NPR. Through meetings with a group known as ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), state legislators met and exchanged ideas with prison representatives as they prepared the bill. NPR reports that these meetings resulted in SB 1070, a highly controversial immigration law critics have said would lead to racial profiling.

Is Calif. Ban on Violent Video Games Legal?

Are violent video games analogous to literature, which is not restricted by age, or is that a silly comparison? The U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to hear a case regarding California's state ban on the sale of violent video games to minors.

Those in favor of the ban say it is important and necessary to protect the children. (You always hear a lot about "the children" around election time.) Publishers and filmmakers say the kids are going to be just fine, but restricting video games is wrong and could have a chilling effect. California officials and their defenders say the ban is important to protect children. Publishers and filmmakers argue that if the Supreme Court sides with California, the action could chill creativity in other media.

Wells Fargo Admits Foreclosure Filing Problems

The foreclosure crisis seems to be shifting into a new gear. The buzz now is all about documentation problems with foreclosure proceedings. Wells Fargo is admitting foreclosure filing problems of its own and suspending foreclosures in 23 states. In general, foreclosure is the right of a mortgage holder or other third-party lien holder to take ownership of the property and/or the right to sell the property.

Wells Fargo joins a growing list of banks facing legal problems over whether the bank followed the correct legal protocol when it processes foreclosures. Other banks that have already suspended foreclosures include GMAC Mortgage, JPMorgan Chase, Ally Financial, PNC Bank, Goldman Sachs' Litton Loan Servicing and Bank of America.

LimeWire Filesharing Site Shut Down for Good

And another one bites the dust. (And another one takes its place.)

A federal judge has ruled that file sharing service LimeWire must disable its main file sharing functions. LimeWire has been involved in lawsuits with U.S. record companies for over four years. The Recording Industry Association of America has accused the site of infringing on copyright. On October 26, Judge Kimba M. Wood of Manhattan's Federal District Court ruled that the main file sharing functions of the peer-to-peer ("P2P") site must be terminated. "[The site's] searching, downloading, uploading, file trading and/or file distribution functionality" must be shut down, Wood said.

White House Forms Internet Privacy Panel

Google Street View. Credit Cards. Online Banks. Facebook Places. More and more of our private information is online everyday.

As Internet privacy continues to evolve into a complex issue fraught with questions and concerns, the Obama administration is moving to take on the matter. The White House recently announced the formation of a subcommittee to advise the administration on internet related regulatory and legislative matters. The internet privacy panel will focus first and foremost on internet privacy. Commerce Department general counsel Cameron Kerry and assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, Christopher Schroeder, will co-chair the group.

Can You Be Fired for Taking Legal Drugs?

Employees are often subjected to drug tests, especially during the hiring process, to detect the presence of illegal drugs. But what happens if your prescription drugs cause a red flag to pop up on your test? Can you, should you, be fired for it? Plaintiffs who filed suits against the company Dura Automotive Systems say that is what happened to them.

Sue Bates is suing Dura Automotive after she was fired when a drug test revealed hydrocodone, according to the The New York Times. The painkiller, taken for back pain, was prescribed for Bates by her doctor. Bates says her firing was based on discrimination and invasion of privacy.

Lawsuit Against NCAA Seeks to Remove Athletic Scholarship Limits

The NCAA has been sued in a class-action lawsuit initially brought by a student-athlete who lost his scholarship and alleges a violation of federal antitrust laws.

The suit alleges that the NCAA, colleges and universities are part of a conspiracy that creates limits on athletic scholarships. Attorneys are suing over the scholarship limits and are seeking an injunction to prohibit the NCAA from continuing their limitations.

The NCAA, according to the lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California, is making money off of the backs of college students and simultaneously standing in their way of getting a better deal. Annual revenues for the NCAA were $614 million while the direct expenses for operating the games totaled $59 million.

No Appeal: Florida Gay Adoption Ban is Over

Last month, we noted the appeals court ruling in Florida declaring that state's gay adoption ban was unconstitutional. At the time, it appeared likely that the state Department of Children & Families or Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum would appeal the ruling to the Florida Supreme Court.

It never happened. When the deadline came, it was announced that neither party would appeal the ruling.

Boy Scouts Cases and Expressive Association

In September, the story of the Florida pastor who threatened to burn the Quran, the Muslim Holy Book, led to questions about the First Amendment and what speech, no matter how wrong it seemed, was still protected by the Constitution. This week, two stories were reported that could lead to similar questions about the First Amendment right of free association.

Both cases concern the Boy Scouts of America and the refusal of two different troops to accept adult volunteers as leaders in the association. In Dallas, Texas, the openly gay father of a Scout was asked to desist from his leadership role, as "avowed" homosexuals and atheists were not accepted as leaders in the Boy Scouts. In Matthews, North Carolina, a Mormon couple was also asked to step down from leadership positions when the church which sponsored their sons' scouting troops found they were not Christians, as required by that group. This example is ironic since in another situation, the Mormon Church was so entertwined with the Scouts, they were sued together in a case over molestation by a scout leader.

Cincinnati Public Schools in Voter Bribery Scandal

What's wrong with a public high school loading a van full of students during school hours, showing them sample ballots that only include democrats and then taking them to vote?

Nothing, according to the Cincinnati Public Schools system. The school system "expressly denies" that it did anything wrong. For a healthy dose of confusion, they then promised never to do anything like it again.

So what now? A lawsuit, naturally. Republican Thomas Brinkman and the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending & Taxes have filed a lawsuit against the Cincinnati Public Schools system. According to the lawsuit, the students who were all registered voters were taken to the polling stations "clearly with the intention of instructing [them] how to vote," and then given free ice cream afterwords. Brinkman called the ice cream voter bribery, FoxNews.com reports.

9th Cir. Stays End of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell'

It was off, now it is back on. This kind of situation is perhaps the exact one the Obama Administration was hoping to avoid by addressing the don’t ask don’t tell policy through a congressional repeal, rather than through the court system. Just a few days ago, the Pentagon had suspended implementation of don’t ask don’t tell after California Federal Judge Virginia Phillips had issued and injunction against its enforcement. As of October 20, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed the injunction and the situation.

After Judge Phillips issued her opinion in the case of Log Cabin Republicans v. U.S. finding don’t ask don’t tell to be unconstitutional, she also handed down an injunction prohibiting the military from enforcing the law. According to CNN, the government filed an application for an emergency stay to the appellate court on October 20. A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit has issued a stay, keeping the status quo in place until the court can hear the case.

DHS Using Social Sites to Find Immigration Fraud

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Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that they aren't actually after you.
- Joseph Heller - Catch 22

The Electronic Frontier Foundation received documents as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit regarding government surveillance on social networks. It turns out that the government has been tracking people using social sites to investigate matters including immigration fraud.

According to the documents, the government has used surveillance of social networks to investigate citizenship petitions. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security created a "Social Networking Monitoring Center" to analyze online communication during President Obama's inauguration.

Monitoring online conversations around the time of Obama's inauguration isn't that shocking, but using social networking to investigate citizenship is surprising. Apparently, the government is using sites like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to investigate fraudulent marriages obtained for the purpose of obtaining U.S. citizenship or residency.

Blogging Juror Creates Debate but Judge Gives OK

What happens when a juror starts a blog detailing his experience serving on a jury?

In the case of Bruce Slutsky, nothing. That's not to say that the blogging juror's actions serve as a fantastic example of modern jury conduct. But apparently Slutsky did a good enough job of walking the line between talking about his experience, without talking about the case. Slutsky started the blog www.bruceslutsky.com after he was called for jury duty in a civil case in New York State Supreme Court in Queens.

Justice Department Sues Michigan Blue Cross

A lawsuit was filed in the Eastern District of Michigan over accusations that Michigan Blue Cross violated some important antitrust laws. The Justice Department sued Michigan Blue Cross on charges that the healthcare provider was illegally negotiating contracts with Michigan hospitals with the stipulation that Blue Cross' rivals could not have the same or better rates.

Reuters reports that the lawsuit has some problems with Blue Cross' "most favored nation" clauses present in many of the company's contracts. The complaint alleges that the presence of such clauses have forced hospitals to increase their prices, while at the same time insulated Blue Cross Blue Shield from competition. The most favored nation clauses was in at least 70 of Michigan's 131 general acute case hospitals.

5 Times When You Have to be Paid for Not Working

There is a phrase in economics popularized by Milton Friedman that there ain't no such thing as a free lunch. The logic behind the principle is fairly simple -- it is impossible to get something for nothing. Perhaps that is the case, but there are times when you have to be paid for not working. So maybe there is, in fact, such a thing as a free breakfast or dinner.

To begin, an employer is required to compensate an employee for their work. Although the nature of the payment arrangement varies with the individual and the job field, there are laws that regulate paychecks. This post is not about overtime, benefits, or salary issues. It is about something much better, the five times you have to be paid for NOT working:

Fla. Healthcare Lawsuit Goes Forward

The jury may still be out on the big questions, but one judge and his opinion came in on October 14. A federal judge in Florida ruled he will allow that state's healthcare lawsuit taking on the Obama reform law to proceed. Judge Roger Vinson of the Federal District Court ruled the case challenging the constitutionality of the healthcare reform law may continue and even hinted as to his possible opinion on the end result.

A Reagan appointee, Judge Vinson found that, "There may be a first time for anything. But, at this stage of the case, the plaintiffs have most definitely stated a plausible claim," reported The New York Times. This case, brought by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, is one of twenty brought by AGs around the country. All but one of the challenging attorneys general are Republicans.

Citigroup Sued For Gender Bias

Pay women less, promote women less often, fire women first. That is a business model with a virtual guarantee for a gender bias lawsuit, and all also happen to be the claims against Citigroup. Citigroup is being sued for gender bias stemming from the company's large 2008 layoffs.

The Associated Press reports that Citigroup has always assumed a "boy club" mentality in their approach to middle and upper management hiring and promotions. The AP quotes the suit: "Given the disparity in the most senior-level positions, it is not surprising to find that the boys club filters down through the management ranks to effect all senior and junior level professional positions at Citigroup."

Obama to Appeal 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' Ruling

According to the Obama Administration, it's a matter of not how, but when. The issue at stake is "don't ask don't tell" and the President is committed to its demise. The problem is how exactly this will be accomplished, as there are several legal issues, as well as branches of government, that need to be confronted.

First is the unfortunate position the Department of Justice finds itself in of having to appeal a ruling striking down don't ask. As discussed in a prior post, Judge Virginia Phillips of the Federal District Court for the Central District of California handed down an injunction on October 12, prohibiting the military from taking any further action under don't ask. The Judge found that the law unconstitutionally infringed on the fundamental rights of gay service members.

Video Contest is ON on FindLaw.com

So you want to be a star and maybe even help other people at the same time? Move over YouTube, here comes FindLaw.

Maybe you have seen FindLaw's funny commercial letting people in on the best place to get help when "life gets legal." Now, it's your turn, and you have a chance to win $5,000 in the process. FindLaw wants everyone who found legal help on FindLaw.com to tell us their story on video. Anyone who enters the When Life Gets Legal Video Contest will be eligible for the prize money and will also be featured in the next FindLaw commercial.

Chef Mario Batali Sued in Wage Dispute

"The objective... is to achieve a comfort level between the cook/artist/performer and the customer/viewer/diner. And if we can achieve that, and the customers are happy and the cooks are happy, then we have a great experience." -Chef Mario Batali

Chef Batali allegedly left one aspect out of the equation, paying workers a legal wage. 27 workers are suing Del Posto, Batali's restaurant, in Manhattan federal court. It's not the first time. Batali and his partners are facing similar suits at their other restaurants.The recent lawsuit comes just after Del Posto was awarded a rare fourth star by The New York Times.

The workers in the lawsuit include busboys, waiters and other staffers who allege that Del Posto pooled workers' tips illegally in violation of state labor laws. The lawsuit alleges that the restaurant created a point system that determined how much each worker received in tips. For example, captains were allotted six points, while stockers received two points.

Golfer Lana Lawless Takes a Swing at the LPGA

It's been said that great accomplishments stand on the shoulders of the ones that came before. Nowhere is that more true than in the area of civil rights, where each new advance is based on the struggles of the past. On October 12, a lawsuit was filed in San Francisco that hopes to stand on the gains made by the legendarily colorful California politician, Jesse Unruh; although this link may take a bit of explanation. Transgendered golf champ Lana Lawless hopes to break through a barrier still standing in women's golf, and she hopes to use the accomplishment of Assembly Speaker Jesse "Big Daddy" Unruh to do it.

Lana Lawless has filed suit against the LPGA, the Long Drivers of America and various corporate sponsors over the rule requiring all women golfers competing in LPGA and now, all LDA events, to have been "female at birth." Lawless says this is discrimination and she wants the same shot at competition that others have. In her complaint, Lawless claims that under California law, she is considered a female and to discriminate against her is a violation of the state's civil rights law. The suit also claims the defendants have violated laws against unfair competition and interfered with her economic advantage.

Multistate Foreclosure Fraud Probe Widens

As of today, October 13, the attorneys general of every state, with the exception of Alabama, have joined the multi-state fraud probe into the actions of the mortgage loan service industry. The companies who are the focus of the investigation include Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase and Ally Financial. These lenders and others will be under the scrutiny of investigators who will examine claims they acted improperly or in some cases fraudulently, in their efforts to foreclose on properties and evict borrowers from their homes.

The Washington Post reports the fraud probe will begin with an examination of the "robo-signers," the lender's employees who signed off on thousands of foreclosures every month without reviewing the files as required by law. Indiana AG Greg Zoeller told the Post the investigation will also look into claims by attorneys for homeowners that lenders even forged signatures and improperly notarized documents.

Evicted Earl Family Breaks Back Into Home

As strange as this story may sound, it might become a whole lot more familiar over the following months given the current state of foreclosure fraud litigation. A family in Simi Valley, California, moved into their home on October 9, but they had to jimmy the locks to do it. The home belonging to the Earl family had been foreclosed on and sold, not once, but twice. However, the new owners are going to have a heck of a time moving in, the Earl family is all moved in and set up and their household includes nine kids, two cats and a dog.

The Earls, however, are not just your everyday squatters, reports AoL's HousingWatch. According the the Earls and their attorney, the original foreclosure fraud on their house made the resulting two sales invalid. To better understand the Earls' claim, it is best to start from the beginning.

Survey: Most Won't Buy House Due to Economy

In the current tough economic times, is the American dream changing, or fading away? A new survey says right now, most Americans are not interested in purchasing a home. In a demographically balanced national survey of over 1,000 people, FindLaw.com asked people if the current economic situation made them more likely, or less likely to buy a house. Most responded in the negative.

According to the FindLaw survey, nearly two-thirds of Americans say they are less likely to buy a house given the current state of the economy. Only about a quarter of people surveyed, 28%, say they are neither more likely nor less likely to buy a house because of the economy. Not surprisingly, the numbers of those affected by the economy increase as income decreases. According to those surveyed, people with annual incomes less than $50,000 were significantly more likely to say they are less inclined to buy a house than people with higher incomes.

Judge Issues 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' Injunction

U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips has issued an injunction prohibiting the enforcement of "don't ask, don't tell." The injunction orders the armed services to "immediately to suspend and discontinue any investigation, or discharge, separation, or other proceeding, that may have been commenced."

The order by Judge Phillips, a judge for the Central District of California, stems from a case brought by the Log Cabin Republicans challenging don't ask, don't tell, reports CNN. Judge Phillips ruled that the practice causes irreparable injury to the Fifth Amendment rights to due process and First Amendment rights free of speech of military service members.

Big Bro Broken: Webcam Spying Suit Settles

Have you been wondering what has been going on in the wonderful world of the Lower Merion School District webcam spying suit? Surely you remember the lawsuit brought by high school student Blake Robbins and his parents, after they discovered their high school had the ability to spy on Blake and every other student via webcams mounted on the school issued laptops. The spying came to light when a vice principal at Blake's school accused him of "improper behavior" and confronted him with a picture of him snapped by the webcam. Months later, it was revealed that the drug use the school believed was shown, was actually Blake popping Mike n' Ike candies during a study session.

The suit triggered by candy use, and which brought down an FBI investigation and discussions of a change in federal law, has finally settled, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Blake Robbins will receive $175,000 in trust. An additional suit by student Jalil Hasan will settle for $10,000. The Robbins' attorney will receive $425,000 in fees and costs. The insurance company, who also filed suit against the school district in an attempt to deny coverage, will end up paying a total of $1.2 million of the fees, costs and damage awards.

New Law Provides Technology Access for Disabled

Have you ever wondered how you would use 21st century communications if you were blind or deaf? Items like smartphones, tablet computers, the Internet, and other technology has become a part of everyday life for many people. However, it is quite difficult for the blind, deaf and visually impaired to make use of the technologies due to a lack of accommodations for their disabilities.

However, thanks to Senate Bill 3304, the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act, signed into effect by President Barack Obama, access to technology will become much easier. Obama signed the bill in the East Room of the White House surrounded by congressional leaders as well as Stevie Wonder, according to MSNBC.com. Obama said that the Act was noteworthy because of its scope and because the country took another step towards guaranteeing equal access, opportunity and respect on the 20 year anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. SB 3304 is expected to improve the quality of life for a total of 51 million people who are either blind, deaf, hard of hearing or who have difficultly seeing.

Vermont: Religious License Plates OK

John 3:16 is one of the more popular biblical verses -- often used in weddings and other Christian ceremonies, in addition to assuming more contemporary manifestations in the form of t-shirts, bracelets, and even magnets. So it would seem fitting that people may also want to express this verse on their license plate, right? JN36TN, the clever combination for a six character license plate was one way a Vermont resident attempted to express his religious beliefs on his license plate. Unfortunately before approval by the DMV, he needed approval by the Second Cicruit Court of Appeals.

Politics Daily reports on the religious license plates litigation that looked at whether or not religious messages were allowed to adorn a car's fender.

"In April 2004, Shawn Bryne applied for license plate 'JN36TN' which he intended as a reference to the biblical verse, John 3:16. His request was denied. So he sued the government asserting that the state's vanity-plates rules violated his First Amendment right to be free from religious discrimination."

The religious vanity plate denial was initially upheld under the rationale that the denial was neutral in its application (and therefore not discriminating specifically against religion or a singe religion), the decision has now been reversed.

Stolen Valor Act Under Consideration by Courts

The Stolen Valor Act may be heading for reconsideration in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California and to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Colorado. Then, experts say the law may go next to the Supreme Court.

The Stolen Valor Act, passed by Congress in 2006, makes it a crime to falsely claim to have won a military medal. The crime is punishable by up to one year in prison, reports the Associated Press. The aim of the law is to protect those who rightfully have won medals of honor in combat from having their accomplishments lessened by those who would lie about it. However, two federal courts have already said the law violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment.

The California case began in 2007 when a Pomona, Caifornia, water board official named Xavier Alvarez was charged for claiming in a public forum that he was a retired Marine who received the Medal of Honor. Alvarez apparently never served in the military. He pleaded guilty to the charge on the condition that he be allowed to appeal on First Amendment grounds. In August, the 9th Circuit ruled the law was unconstitutional.

NY: Ban Soda From Food Stamps Program

Will a carrot or a stick approach work best in New York? The city and state are petitioning the federal government to allow them to ban soda or other sugary drinks from the food stamps program. If the request is granted, this will be the first time the federal government has agreed to this type of waiver.

State and city health officials are trying to attack the health problems caused by obesity, reports NPR. Statistics say that 57 percent of adults and 40 percent of school kids are overweight or obese. The proposed waiver was announced by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and state Governor David Patterson on October 7. Under the proposal, the ban on soda would include drinks that have more than 10 calories per 8 ounces. Fruit juices that do not contain added sugar, milk and milk substitutes, even if they are sweetened, would be still be available for purchase with food stamps, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

US Deportations Reach Record Levels

The Obama Administration is looking to show it is taking a tough stand on illegal immigration. The statistics announced by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on October 6 showed 392,000 deportations in 2010, up 70 percent compared to 2008, the last year of the Bush administration.

The Associated Press reports that the focus is on a "by the book approach" that attempts to hone in on criminals for deportation. The statistics from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) say that 195,000 of those deported were convicted criminals. Another focus of enforcement has centered on employers who hire illegal workers. Again according to ICE, 3,200 employers suspected of hiring illegal immigrants were audited by the agency. This resulted in the debarment of 225 companies and individuals, and fines totaling $50 million, more than the entire Bush administration, ICE said.

Student Suspended for Nose Piercing, ACLU Sues

Religion clashing with school...an always popular topic that seems to find new twists every academic year. Freedom of Religion and the Establishment Clause seem to have an especially hard time in the classroom setting. The latest conflict comes out of North Carolina where a 14 year-old student was suspended for nose piercing. And now the American Civil Liberties Union sues.

Ariana Lacono has a nose piercing as part of a small religion known as the Church of Body Modification. The Church believes that believes piercings, tattoos, and other adornments are a vehicle for expressing their faith. Ariana's school prohibits piercings, tattoos, and other adornments because they believe it is a vehicle for distraction and disruption. The school dress code does have exceptions to the rules based on religious beliefs, but the lawsuit claims the school decided a piercing was not part of her practice. Ariana has been suspended from her North Carolina high school for four weeks already, missing 19 out of the 28 days of school so far.

Settlement Limits LA Teachers Seniority

The last hired, first fired approach that Los Angeles School District employs when budget cuts force layoffs may be getting a facelift. In what is being considered a landmark settlement, the Los Angeles Board of Education approved a settlement that limits LA teachers seniority, among other things.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the settlement would limit laying off teachers strictly on a seniority basis. The settlement would still take seniority into account, but would require layoffs based on senority to be distributed equally among schools to ensure that no school loses a disproportionate number of teachers at a given time. The Times quotes Professor David Gregory on the settlement: "This is a shifting of the tectonic plates. If this were to move forward every major district in the country is going to look to this as a model...it would be the most innovative system in the country...if it comes to pass."

Bank of America Suspends Foreclosures

The wave of foreclosure action continues as Bank of America has suspended foreclosures in 23 states. The bank suspended all foreclosure proceedings in 23 states in light of questions regarding whether documentation problems exist. Like several other banks, including GMAC Mortgage and JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America is accused of rushing foreclosures without properly reading and verifying the documents.

Foreclosure is a topic that comes up often in the FindLaw blogs. Generally speaking, foreclosure is the right of a mortgage holder or other third-party lien holder to take ownership of the property and/or the right to sell the property.

Red Light Camera Tickets to Include Other Violations?

Smile for the camera! Unfortunately, I am referring to a very unwanted photographer -- the dreaded red light camera that captures drivers crossing the line only to find a sizeable ticket with their picture attached weeks later in their mailbox. Red light cameras are an increasingly popular form of enforcement, especially in major cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. The cameras, which cost over $1 million a year to keep in operation, often carry tickets over $500 for violators.

The LA Times now reports that the intersection cameras may be put to work for more than just red light violations. The Times quotes City Controller Wendy Greuel: "The existing program equipment currently detects numerous other violations that impact driver safety and if cited would result in additional penalties and fines."

Did Racial Predatory Lending Fuel Housing Crisis?

Predatory lending is a form of financial lending that carries unreasonable fees, high interest rates, and unmanageable payment requirements. According to a new study published in the American Sociological Review, this practice, primarily aimed at minority groups in racially segregated neighborhoods, played a big factor in the U.S. housing crisis. The study looked at the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas.

Reuters reports on the racial predatory lending problem, "By definition segregation creates minority dominant neighborhoods, which, given the legacy of redlining and institutional discrimination, continue to be undeserved by mainstream financial institutions." The ultimate conclusion of the study was that living in a predominantly African-American area or Hispanic neighborhood were powerful predictors of foreclosures.

CA Sup Ct to Take Up School Insulin Injections

Schools in California are constantly under siege, facing a shortage of funds which in turn brings bigger classes, fewer teachers and a host of cutbacks. One cutback that seems to receive less attention than many others is the effect on school nurses. Once ubiquitous, school nurses have disappeared to a such a degree that a lawsuit heading to the state Supreme Court is looking at the legal issue of who can administer insulin injections to diabetic kids if no nurse is available.

The suit began back in 2007, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, with a dispute between the Department of Education and the American Diabetes Association. The Association claimed that California schools don't have enough nurses to care for diabetic children who are too young to test their own blood and inject insulin. The ADA wanted non-medical, but trained school personnel, to be allowed to administer the medicine.

HealthCare Reform: McDonald's to End Coverage?

Reports of the death of the McDonald's mini-care health plan may have been greatly exaggerated. The company is responding sharply today to reports that requirements under the healthcare reform law are causing the fast-food giant to cancel the mini plans it offers its hourly workers. Some news sources, acting on internal memos from the company, reported the cancellation. McDonald's denies the reports.

An ABC News report is covering the reaction of the company to a report in the Wall Street Journal that the "mini-med" plans are on their way out. "Media reports stating that we plan to drop health care coverage for our employees are completely false," said Steve Russell, a senior vice president and head of human resources for McDonald's, in a written response to the article.