Wednesday, November 6, 2013

State AGs in the Dock

Maryland Attorney General may soon not be the "parent of the country" he used to be.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

State attorneys general are a diverse bunch, and their posture on policy and legal issues often reflects that of the states they represent. Think about the response to the Affordable Care Act. Twenty-eight state attorneys general joined lawsuits challenging it, while many of the others were among its staunchest defenders.  But when the Supreme Court convenes Wednesday to hear argument in Mississippi v. AU Optronics, the state attorneys general will present a united front. That's not surprising given that the case presents a challenge to their authority and jurisdiction.

The issue before the court is whether a defendant sued by a state AG for restitution or damages incurred by injured consumers can move (or “remove”) the lawsuit from state to federal court. More broadly, the case offers the Roberts court an opportunity to limit the reach of state attorneys general.

When Congress enacted the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, it expanded federal jurisdiction to class actions and similar mass actions that involved the claims of 100 or more people. At the time, Congress noted that state courts often show bias against out-of-state defendants and keep cases of national importance out of federal courts.

In Mississippi v. AU Optronics, the court will decide whether a case that otherwise satisfies all of CAFA's requirements can still remain in state court merely because it was filed by a state attorney general instead of private plaintiffs. The AGs often file such cases, as the Mississippi attorney general did in this case, under the doctrine of parens patriae. That term literally means "parent of the country," but over time it has come to embody an undefined notion of jurisdiction by the state over issues of interest and importance to its citizens.

The Supreme Court has nibbled around the edges of defining when states can assert parens patriae jurisdiction, but has failed to offer precise boundaries for the scope of an AG's parens patriae authority. For example, it has said a state may bring an action to vindicate a “quasi-sovereign” interest, but has not clarified what constitutes such an interest.

In a 2010 case, the court described a state's interest in ensuring an equitable division of an interstate river as "precisely the type of interest that the State, as parens patriae, represents on behalf of its citizens.” The court has also noted that to assert its parens patriae authority, a state must "be more than a nominal party” and must "articulate an interest apart from the interests of particular private parties.” If the Supreme Court strictly applies those standards during the AU Optronics argument, the attorneys general might be in for a rough ride.

The claims against AU Optronics arise from allegations that a group of foreign companies conspired to fix the prices of LCD panels. As a result, the AG says, consumers paid inflated prices. The only connection to Mississippi is that some of the consumers of products with AUO’s panels hailed from the state. Mississippi wants restitution for those consumers' alleged overpayments.  

The Mississippi attorney general filed in state court, arguing that because its case is brought by the state as a parens patriae action, it is exempt from CAFA. AU Optronics responds that the statute expressly covers all cases “in which monetary relief claims of 100 or more persons are proposed to be tried jointly.”

There is no reason to believe CAFA meant to exempt lawsuits filed by state attorneys general. To the contrary, while the legislation was being considered, Congress rejected a proposed amendment that would have expressly excluded suits brought by state attorneys general. 

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Toronto mayor admits crack use, plans to keep job

TORONTO (AP) — Toronto Mayor Rob Ford acknowledged for the first time Tuesday that he smoked crack "probably a year ago" when he was in a "drunken stupor," but he refused to resign despite immense pressure to step aside as leader of Canada's largest city.

Ford said he loves his job and "for the sake of the taxpayers, we must get back to work immediately."

Allegations that the mayor had been caught on video smoking crack surfaced in news reports in May. Ford initially insisted the video did not exist, sidestepped questions about whether he had ever used crack and rebuffed growing calls to leave office.

The mayor was forced to backtrack last week after police said they had obtained a copy of the video in the course of a drug investigation against a friend of Ford's.

"Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine," Ford told reporters earlier in the day. "There have been times when I've been in a drunken stupor. That's why I want to see the tape. I want everyone in the city to see this tape. I don't even recall there being a tape or video. I want to see the state that I was in."

Later at a news conference, he said acknowledging the drug use made him feel as if he had "1,000 pounds off my back."

Authorities have said the video, which has not been released publicly, does not constitute enough evidence to charge the mayor with a crime.

Police have said they want to talk to the mayor, but his lawyer so far has declined.

Police spokesman Mark Pugush said Ford's acknowledgement of crack use will be passed on to investigators. Several Toronto city councilors called on Ford to step down, and Canada's justice minister urged him to get help.

The controversy has drawn comparisons to the 1990 arrest of then-Washington Mayor Marion Barry, who was videotaped smoking crack cocaine in a hotel room during an FBI sting operation. Barry served six months in federal prison for misdemeanor drug possession but later won a fourth term in 1994.

Earlier in the day, the 44-year-old Ford walked out of his office and asked reporters to ask him the question they first posed back in May. He then acknowledged he smoked crack but said: "Am I an addict? No. Have I tried it? Probably in one of my drunken stupors a year ago."

Municipal law makes no provision for the mayor's forced removal from office unless he is convicted and jailed for a criminal offense.

City Councilor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a member of Ford's executive committee, said he would put forward a motion asking Ford to take a leave of absence.

"My first reaction was 'Wow'," Minnan-Wong said. "He's lost the moral authority to lead."

Councilor Jaye Robinson said the mayor needs to step aside and address his problems.

"We have become a laughing stock of North America, if not the world," Robinson said.

Canadian Justice Minister Peter MacKay said it was "a sad day for the city of Toronto."

"As a human being, I think the mayor of Toronto needs to get help," MacKay said.

The populist Ford has been dogged by allegations of bad behavior since becoming mayor three years ago, promising to end what he called wasteful spending at city hall. His campaign galvanized conservatives in Toronto's outlying suburbs, where initiatives like downtown bike lanes were considered excessive and elitist.

The crack episode is not the first time Ford has been forced to admit drug use. During the campaign, he acknowledged after repeated denials that he was busted for marijuana possession in Florida in 1999.

Ford apologized over the weekend for excessive drinking. He said he should not have been "hammered" drunk in public when he appeared at a street festival in August, calling it "pure stupidity."

He also said he got "a little out of control" after St. Patrick's Day in 2012, when city hall security guards said they witnessed a "very intoxicated' Ford having trouble walking and swearing at aides.

The mayor has also been accused of making an obscene gesture from his car and texting while driving. In 2011, Ford angered the city's gay community by declining to attend Toronto's gay pride parade, breaking with tradition observed by three previous mayors.

Earlier this year, the mayor was fired from his cherished side-job as a volunteer high school football coach after he made disparaging remarks to a TV network about parents and their kids.

Also Tuesday, Ford's brother, Doug, criticized Police Chief Bill Blair for saying he was "disappointed" in the mayor after police recovered the tape last week. Doug Ford called the chief's comments "inappropriate" and "biased" and said Blair should step aside.

"We have the most political police chief we have ever seen," said Doug Ford, an influential city councilor. "The police chief believes he's the judge, the jury and the executioner."

Blair says he responded honestly when asked about his feelings after watching the video.

The allegations about Ford smoking crack surfaced when two reporters for the Toronto Star and one from the U.S. website Gawker said they saw the video but they did not obtain a copy. Ford vilified the Star, accusing the paper of trying to take him down.

The mayor has called on police to release the tape, but police said they are prohibited from doing so because it is evidence before the courts.

Police said the video will come out when Ford's associate and occasional driver, Alexander Lisi, goes to trial on drug and extortion charges. Lisi is accused of threatening two alleged gang members who had been trying to sell the video to the media.


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Sprint lends its wireless knowhow to new iPad-based point-of-sale

Sprint lends its wireless knowhow to new iPadbased pointofsale

Just in case your business hasn't adopted one of the multiple tablet-based payment systems that are out there already, Sprint and Vantiv, a merchant acquirer that offers payment processing services for retail, have come together for yet another option. Simply called Vantiv Mobile Checkout, the package includes an iPad, wireless connectivity thanks to Sprint, an encrypted credit card reader, a tablet stand, a cash drawer plus a receipt printer. As for the software, that's powered by NCR Silver, a company known for its iPad point-of-sale systems. The all-in-one deal is available through Sprint business channels at a reportedly "affordable startup cost," though we're not sure how much that is. Of course, scanners, Bluetooth printers and other accessories will cost extra. If your business could use a mobile option like this, head on over to the link to find out more.

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The truth about Samsung Knox for Android security

The truth about Samsung Knox for Android security

Credit: Alexander Shirokov

It was February 2013 when Samsung announced Knox, its containerization technology for higher-end Samsung Android devices. Knox is meant to create a virtual partition on Android devices that would insulate corporate-managed apps and data from attack, an approach pioneered by smaller companies such as Divide but not generally used in mainstream companies.

Knox is Samsung's way to get past IT's legitimate concerns over Android's generally weak security and join Apple's iOS and BlackBerry in the golden circle of trustworthy mobile devices. iOS is a sandboxed operating system, so it's natively designed to prevent interapplication malware and data leaks; the BlackBerry 10 OS goes further, with an explicit containerization technology called Balance that the company's proprietary management server can enable.

[ Mobile security: iOS vs. Android vs. Samsung SAFE vs. BlackBerry vs. Windows Phone. | Keep up on key mobile developments and insights via Twitter and with the Mobilize newsletter. ]

Fast-forward nine months. Though Samsung regularly touts Knox, the U.S. Defense Dept. certified it for government use, several vendors tout their support of it, and there've been many stories in the technology press describing it as a here-and-now option, the truth is it doesn't fully exist. When it does finally become available later this fall, enterprises will discover an unpleasant fact: You have to pay to use it, on top of the subscription fees charged by your mobile device management vendor.

What you need to actually use Knox
To use Knox, your device must support its virtualization technology at the hardware level, which restricts Knox to these Samsung devices: the Galaxy Note 3 "phablet," the Galaxy S III smartphone, the Galaxy S 4 smartphone, and the 2014 model of the Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet. Today, the Note 3 and S4 can run Knox, but only on some carriers' models: Sprint and Verizon for the S 4; AT&T and Verizon for the Note 3, if you install their Premier Suite updates. The Wi-Fi-only Note 10.1 also runs Knox.

Samsung says it will deliver updates to make Knox work on the S III and on other carriers' S 4 and Note 3 versions, but it also notes that each carrier decides when and if Knox compatibility is made available for the devices on its network. Not only do few devices support Knox, the carrier you use determines when or if those devices will actually be able to work with Knox. (Welcome to the fractured mess that is Android!)

You also need the Knox application and its included set of client apps, such as for email. That's only recently been made available in the Google Play store for download.

You need a Knox-compatible mobile management server, for which you pay a monthly fee per user to manage Android and iOS devices; the fee depends on the management features you select. You cannot use Knox with Microsoft's Exchange server, though it supports a base set of MDM protocols used by Apple and Google and is thus the "free" approach to MDM.

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Apple Store app gets updated, Passbook gift cards break U.S. exclusivity

A year ago almost to the day, the Apple Store app for iPhone added support for Passbook integrated Apple Store gift cards that you could buy and send via email. Apple has now pushed an update to the app that adds the feature for some new countries, including the UK, Canada and Australia. Perfect for that long distance holiday gift.

Buying a gift card in the app is pretty straight forward. You choose the color or design you want the person at the other end to see, enter the amount you want to give, add the relevant email addresses and messages and you're all set. They're not the easiest things to find though, so the best thing to do is a simple search for "gift cards" and it'll bring them up for you.

There's also "various improvements and performance enhancements," which is nice, but it's all about the gift cards. Grab the update from the App Store link below, and if you spot this in a country we didn't mention, shout out in the comments below and tell us where you are!


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Your Top Plays for Today

Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates his win against Roger Federer of Switzerland at the end their ATP World Tour Finals single tennis match at the O2 Arena in London Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates his win against Roger Federer of Switzerland at the end their ATP World Tour Finals single tennis match at the O2 Arena in London Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

Ryan Riess holds up two bricks of $100 bills after winning the World Series of Poker Final Table, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, in Las Vegas. Riess defeated runner up Jay Farber for an $8.4 million payout (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Phillipp Lahm, right, of Bayern Munich shoots past Daniel Kolar, left, of Viktoria Pilsen during their Champions League Group D soccer match between Viktoria Pilsen and Bayern Munich in Pilsen, Czech Republic, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Your Top Plays for Today: AP's Sports Guide



Novak Djokovic inflicts a three-set defeat on Roger Federer at the ATP Tour finals.


Ryan Riess, a 23-year-old American poker professional, takes out the $8.4 million World Series of Poker Main Event.


Defending champion Bayern Munich confirms place in last 16 of European Champions League, as does big-spending Manchester City, which snaps its run of continental failures.


LeBron James scores 35 points to lead Miami Heat to 104-95 win over Toronto Raptors, and in the process becomes fifth player in NBA history to score 10 points or more in 500 consecutive games


The Houston Astrodome, once a groundbreaking domed arena, faces the wrecking ball after voters refuse government redevelopment plan.

Associated PressSource:
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First Photo Released of "Sherlock" Season 3

Whetting fans appetites for the return of the popular BBC series, the network released the first official photo for "Sherlock" on Tuesday (November 5).

In the photo, a forlorn-looking Watson sits with a hot beverage at a diner while his partner stands just outside the window looking in.

The snapshot refers fans back to Sherlock's faked death from a rooftop fall in the season two finale. However, Watson was not in on the ruse, which explains his down expression in the pic.

Returning to U.S. audiences on January 19th at 10:00pm on PBS, the popular show stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the title character, with Martin Freeman playing his trusty sidekick.

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