Tag Archives: opinions

We can do a deal if Canada respects America’s growth industries

(CNN)The newly announced preliminary trade deal with Mexico is a welcome breakthrough in the Trump administration’s trade strategy. It should benefit workers and consumers in both countries and should provide needed stability to the Mexican economy.

It’s a somewhat shocking turn of events that the Trump administration is closer to finalizing a trade deal with Mexico than with Canada. The newly elected Mexican president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has leftist leanings, but he wanted this deal confirmed. Ostensibly, he understands that Mexico needs access to the American consumer market for the economy to grow and for wages to rise as promised.
North of the border, trade negotiations with Canada have stalled over issues like tariffs on dairy products, steel and automobiles. The Canadians have also delayed progress by bringing up issues of climate change, labor safeguards, gender equity issues and so on. These issues are political nonstarters with the Trump administration and shouldn’t be part of trade deals that are meant to facilitate the free flow of goods and services across the border.
    We hope these get resolved quickly and in ways that lead to less encumbered North American trade. But one issue that US trade negotiators shouldn’t sweep under the rug is Ottawa’s disregard for American intellectual property — our computer software, drugs, movies and other patented or copyrighted products.
    This is a big deal because the technological breakthroughs, the creativity and invention that create intellectual property support 45.5 million American jobs — one-third of the workforce — and contribute $6.6 trillion to our GDP.
    Most Americans know that China is engaged in egregious ‎thievery of American IP. For the 14th consecutive year, the United States Trade Representative’s report on IP identifies far-reaching abuses in China, including forced technology transfers, trade secret theft, online piracy and counterfeiting, offline counterfeit manufacturing and export, and localization requirements that force companies to locate research and development facilities in China. The cost to American companies is in the hundreds of billions of dollars a year. But China is not a country that has a long history of respecting the rule of law.
    Canada is the surprise new addition to this year’s Priority Watch List for IP abuses. The United States Trade Representative’s report has placed Canada on the list because of concerns including, “poor border and law enforcement with respect to counterfeit or pirated goods, weak patent and pricing environment for innovative pharmaceuticals, deficient copyright protection, and inadequate transparency and due process regarding geographical indications.”
    Canada is not letting our customs officials stop pirated and counterfeit goods that flow through Canada into the United States — serving as an enabler to Chinese companies and other high-volume counterfeiters, according to a 2018 report released by the USTR. And there were no criminal prosecutions for counterfeiting by Canada in 2017, indicating it isn’t doing its own enforcing either.
    USTR also criticizes Canada for an ill-defined educational exception for copyrighted material, for denying remuneration to US creators and performers and for proposed changes that would further ratchet down the country’s prescription drug price controls.
    It’s a sad state of affairs when our relatively poor neighbor, Mexico, respects American property rights and patents more than our relatively rich one: Canada.

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    All this is happening while Trudeau and Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland accuse the United States of unfair trade practices and tariffs. As hypocritical as it sounds, the Canadians do have legitimate complaints about the new aluminum and steel tariffs imposed by the Trump administration, and in a new North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada, those tariffs should be eliminated.
    We desperately want to see a North American free trade zone with little or no tariffs across our borders, but that can’t happen if Canada continues to blatantly violate our IP protections. ‎Canada must be held to American standards on intellectual property, which in the medium and long run would advance investment, innovation and global technological prowess in both nations over the decades to come.
    ‎USTR Robert Lighthizer understands how critical IP protections are, noting that this year’s report on intellectual property rights “sends a clear signal to our trading partners that the protection of Americans’ intellectual property rights is a priority of the Trump administration.”
    It should be. On trade, no one wants Canada left out in the cold — but we can’t have a 21st century NAFTA trade deal if Canada keeps skimming off the top from our highest value-added industries.

    Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/29/opinions/us-mexico-trade-canada-in-cold-opinion-moore-kerpen/index.html

    Frigid Baltimore City schools: The racism we haven’t confronted

    (CNN)Earlier this week, amid freezing temperatures, students across Baltimore City returned from winter break to face unheated classrooms. About 60 schools — nearly one-third of the entire system — reported issues, leading to the closure of four schools on Wednesday and early dismissal in two others. The teacher’s union condemned the conditions as “unfair and inhumane.” And teachers quickly took to social media to post images of shivering students and thermostats registering harsh temperatures.

    The images brought back memories from when I worked as a Baltimore City educator at one of the schools affected this past week. My third year as a second grade teacher, around this time of winter, I remember waking up to the alarm on my phone, reaching to turn it off and checking my weather app: “7 degrees, fair/windy.”
    When I arrived at school, I found my classroom heater had stopped working. It was frigid. I taught two-digit subtraction and led a picture book read-aloud with students sitting criss-crossed on the class carpet, adorned in a colorful array of jackets, hats, scarves and gloves. These conditions lasted several days. Ultimately, my administration moved me temporarily to the library on the other side of the building, where heat was working.
      My students were understanding and compliant. We had done several lessons on the value of showing perseverance in the face of adversity. When I think back on that moment now, I think: No, this is wrong. You should be angry. You should demand better. You — we — should not accept this. But I also remember the short-term pragmatism: They were 7, I was the teacher and we had to get through the school day.
      Operating within such a strained system, there is pressure to be a good soldier. To carry on and make a way. To some extent, you have to adopt this mentality to do the job; otherwise you’ll become paralyzed with anger and hopelessness. And yet as a young, inexperienced teacher, many days I felt like an accomplice to a large-scale crime, all too aware of the inequity playing out around me but also the limitations of what I could do to combat it.
      There are many, structural layers shaping unequal educational opportunity in this country — disparate access to technology, high-quality curriculum and teachers, small class sizes, advanced coursework, summer enrichment opportunities, and more. But the recent reports from Baltimore highlight something more visceral and basic: the neglect of rock-bottom, foundational needs of human beings.
      And this problem isn’t unique to winter. The opposite issue emerges in the summer when students face scorching temperatures with unreliable or nonexistent air conditioning. A city of students go without running drinking water because of concerns of lead poisoning. (Administrators later replaced the running water with water bottles.) Cockroaches and rodents scurry across classroom floors.
      Nikole Hannah-Jones, New York Times journalist and New America fellow, tweeted, “I say it over and over, and I will say it again. Our children know how much we value them by the schools we build for them.” The recent reports out of Baltimore strike a chord precisely because the message they send to students and families of color is so plainly, unarguably egregious.
      How do we right these wrongs? Maryland state officials charge local fiscal mismanagement of dollars as city leaders point to the compounded effects of underfunding city schools for decades. There are valid questions around where promised school funding from a newly built casino in downtown Baltimore is going. We need clearer answers and accountability, but amid all this back and forth, children are freezing.
      To be sure, there have been small glimmers of hope and progress, the fruit of civil rights advocates’ efforts over the years. A major win came in 2013 when the Maryland General Assembly approved legislation to authorize $1 billion to renovate nearly two dozen city schools by 2021. The first two state-of-the-art schools of this initiative opened earlier this fall, and officials say they are moving ahead on time and within budget with the rest.
      As important as these developments are, they are small and slow, when children are still freezing. Now, Maryland education advocates are again mobilizing for another battle in Annapolis as state lawmakers seek to comprehensively overhaul the school funding system for the first time in 15 years. It is a critical moment for equity with potential for long-lasting impact.
      Even still, injecting financial resources and renovating buildings does not address the more fundamental, entrenched problem we all live with. Brown v. Board of Education teaches “separate but equal” is faulty doctrine; schools will never be truly equal if they are not integrated. And as Dr. Alvin Thornton, a Howard University professor, said in a recent interview, “Schools should not be asked to bear the load of desegregating our society. … If we want to have diverse schools, you must have diverse communities.” This work requires grappling with the legacies of white flight, redlining and discriminatory housing practices that have enabled the de facto segregation we see. Indeed, as several scholars have noted, housing policy is education policy.

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      In 1968, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to an audience at Grosse Pointe High School in Detroit, three weeks before he was assassinated. “America is still a racist country,” he said. “Now however unpleasant that sounds, it is the truth. … I do not see how we will ever solve the turbulent problem of race confronting our nation until there is an honest confrontation with it and a willing search for the truth and a willingness to admit the truth when we discover it.”
      A willingness to admit the truth when we discover it. Now is precisely such a moment for truth-telling that lasts beyond a news cycle — in Baltimore, in Maryland, and in our broader American community.

      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/04/opinions/winter-racism-education-opinion-carnock/index.html

      The FCC is about to create an ‘internet for the elite’

      (CNN)On December 14, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is set to vote to roll back the rules that uphold net neutrality — the principle that internet service providers (ISPs) must allow equal access to web content, regardless of the source.

      There’s a reason why most Americans despise the cable company. In recent years, Comcast, Dish Network and other consumer telecom giants have ranked near dead last in the Harris Reputation Quotient poll, the gold-standard favorability ratings for the nation’s most visible companies.
      The problem isn’t just the unauthorized account charges or repair technicians showing up outside the 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. service window. The problem is the underlying structure of the business model. Cable providers exert too much power over consumers by deciding what content they can and can’t access according to inscrutable and unpredictable pricing schemes.
        While these corporations are supposed to serve the function of a public utility, they clearly exist to serve the interests of their elite shareholders and executives — pursuing lax regulations and maximum profit rather than transparency or consumer choice.
        So why is the FCC trying to export the flawed and unpopular cable TV business architecture to the realm of internet service? The short answer is that corporate interests are using their extensive influence to promote an “internet for the elites.”

          What you need to know about net neutrality

        For all the legal debates about net neutrality, the issue is actually simple. Rather than accessing internet content as you see fit, you might have to purchase bundles of services and sites set by the opaque decisions of unaccountable for-profit firms.
        Imagine, for example, that you’re surfing online, and someone sends you a link to a hilarious cat video. When you click on it, you get a message from your internet provider: “We’re sorry, but you don’t have access to Web Video Service. Would you like to add it to your plan for $9.99 a month?”
        In Portugal, where there are currently no net neutrality rules enforced, this kind of data privileging is already the norm. ISPs there sell plans to access select bundles of websites; others can be accessed only at slow speeds or for additional money.
        Slower or selective internet access might sound like a “first world problem” — a mere inconvenience in the scheme of what the country is facing today. But there’s more than convenience at stake. The net neutrality question has important implications for the structure of our economy and society.
        Today’s telecoms are engaging in a high-tech version of the “vertical monopolies” — or fully consolidated supply chains — that Teddy Roosevelt and other trustbusters fought more than a century ago. Increasingly, the owners of internet infrastructure are buying up internet content too — think Comcast acquiring NBC and BuzzFeed, or Verizon buying Huffington Post and Yahoo.
        In the post-neutrality Wild West, there’s little keeping these companies from acting to privilege content from their own subsidiaries or even deny access to competitors’ services. This isn’t a paranoid pipe dream; consider Verizon’s attempts to block Google Wallet.
        Similarly, in a post-neutrality era, ISPs could become gatekeepers for online content and services, requiring companies to fork over cash to ensure their sites are accessible at prime speeds. This would create huge new advantages for the biggest entrenched companies relative to the scrappy young start-ups fueling innovation.
        Or consider an overtly political scenario. In a rural area with little or no competition among providers, it’s conceivable that a politically-motivated billionaire — on the left or the right — could buy up the ISP and limit access to information sources that don’t align with his or her point of view. The FCC’s proposal, which goes to extreme lengths in handicapping regulators, could make this possible.

          Identities stolen for net neutrality comments

        I’ve devoted my career to internet technology, including co-founding the open source software community Mozilla, because I believe in the promise of a web that is open, equitable and accessible to all. The internet is supposed to be an effective counterpoint to concentrated elite power.
        Even as our society has grown more partisan in recent decades, this vision of the internet has, refreshingly, transcended party and ideology. That’s why it’s not only progressive groups fighting to save net neutrality but also social conservatives, libertarians and business groups.
        In a major poll during the last round of FCC deliberations, 83% of self-described “very conservative” voters were concerned about the specter of ISPs gaining power to “influence content” online. Similarly, large majorities of conservatives believed Congress should make sure that cable companies don’t “monopolize the internet” or “reduce the inherent equality of the internet” through differential pricing.
        FCC Chair Ajit Pai is trying to make the end of net neutrality look like a fait accompli. He believes he cannot only undermine sensible federal rules but also pre-empt states from taking prudent action to protect residents and even restrict cities from creating their own municipal access services.

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        But he’s mistaken. There will be judicial pressure to overturn the FCC ruling. And by calling our members of Congress and making net neutrality a headline issue in the coming elections, we can also defend a fair and open internet through the legislative process.
        If there was one big lesson of the 2016 election — from Bernie’s insurgency to Trump’s election — it’s that both left and right are wary of concentrated elite power. Turning internet service over to unaccountable cable TV-style corporate control is one of the surest ways to strengthen elite power relative to everyone else.

        Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/12/13/opinions/importance-net-neutrality-opinion-baker/index.html

        Liu Xiaobo: His Name Will Be Remembered

        (CNN)On Thursday, if your foreign reporter inside a metropolitan Chinese city or perhaps a busy village organized a microphone to inquire about a pedestrian concerning the dying of Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident who won the Nobel Peace Prize while imprisoned, I wouldn’t be shocked when the response was: “Who? I have not heard about him!”

        Liu is going to be appreciated like a Chinese intellectual who negotiated using the military commanders, staying away from further bloodshed on Tiananmen Square. Early in the day hrs of June 4, 1989, he secured the safe passage of thousands of student protesters between tanks and encroaching soldiers. Next, he known as themself a survivor and witness from the doomsday of Communism.
        Liu is going to be appreciated as one of the authors of Charter 08, a manifesto initially printed on December 10, 2008, the 60th anniversary from the Universal Promise of Human Legal rights, following a name and elegance from Charter 77, that was a petition attracted up by authors and intellectuals in then-Czechoslovakia demanding their Communist government recognize fundamental human legal rights. Since Charter 08’s release, lots of people inside and outdoors China have signed the document promoting governmental reforms including separation of forces, freedom of speech, and rural-urban equality. His effort introduced him an 11-year sentence for “inciting subversion of state power.”
          Liu is going to be appreciated by having an “empty chair” – an easy, blue upholstered seat in Oslo’s city hall in the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. The citation and medal placed on the chair read: “The campaign to determine universal human legal rights and in China has been waged by many people Chinese, in China itself and abroad. With the severe punishment meted to him, Liu is just about the foremost indication of this wide-varying struggle for human legal rights in China.”
          And he’ll be appreciated like a poet, by another poet — his wife, Liu Xia. Later on generations, every man and lady seeking real love will remember his poem to her: “I am your lifelong prisoner, my love, I wish to reside in your dark insides, surviving around the dregs inside your bloodstream.”
          He’ll be appreciated like a patient dying recently-stage liver cancer. Liu’s final medical problem, after he was denied permission to depart the nation for treatment, was broadcast through the Chinese condition. However the media and internet of the country with 1.4 billion people remain silent. Chinese poet Meng Lang, residing in Taiwan, authored inside a poem for Liu in the final days: “Broadcast the dying of the nation, Broadcast the dying of the country, Hallelujah, only he’s returning to existence.”
          Already, some — like Human Legal rights Watch — are remembering Liu together with Carl von Ossietzky, a pacifist and fellow Nobel Peace Prize champion who died in 1938 under police child custody in Nazi Germany’s Berlin.
          At some point, Liu’s name will elegance a nationwide monument of the democratic China, for transcending fear with love prior to human dignity. Eventually, when nations become obsolete concepts and “national monuments” disappear in the earth, the name Liu Xiaobo, along with individuals of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Junior and Nelson Mandela, it’s still as vibrant because the brightest stars at night sky, inspiring the ever-long lasting enterprises of human freedom and dignity.
          Meanwhile, what they are called of individuals who imprisoned him and hastened his dying, along with the name of the brutal, and brief, authoritarian regime, is a mere footnote under Liu Xiaobo’s page within the history books.

          Find out more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/14/opinions/liu-xiaobo-remembered-oped/index.html

          White House chief usher: equal parts ringmaster, palace guard, and consigliere

          (CNN)Typically, the main usher from the White-colored House has not been somebody that is inconsistent with every administration it is a position that endures. The White-colored House chief usher like a fixture from the institution is really as American as apple cake.

          Chief ushers was once associated with the White-colored House itself. Now, their tenures are connected using the presidents who chose them. Loyalty has shifted in the office towards the officeholder.
          First lady Melania Trump recently announced that Timothy Harleth, who labored in the Trump Worldwide Hotel in Washington, would be the next White-colored House chief usher. He joins a select number of men, and something lady, who’ve held the task. Previously century there has been 18 presidents only eight chief ushers — Harleth would be the ninth.
            Such as the presidency, the main usher’s role has changed, and Harleth’s hire shows that the positioning, once over the political fray, has become more insular and much more partisan.
            “If only the positioning wasn’t political,” one former longtime residence employee explained on condition of anonymity. “We’ve George W. by way of thanking with this.Inch
            President George W. Plant, the staffer stated, declined to advertise someone already serving around the residence staff towards the esteemed position, rather hiring former Coast Guard Rear Admiral Stephen W. Rochon, forgoing tradition for the exact purpose of getting the White-colored House run with military precision.
            Replacing the main usher is unquestionably the prerogative associated with a first family, but generating the positioning with every incoming administration changes the character from the job and also the all-too-rare nonpartisan culture from the White-colored House residence staff.

              Usher: Job provides me with feeling of awe (The month of january 2017)

            The main usher’s job would be to make day-to-day White-colored House existence look easy — they are part ringmaster, part palace guard, part consigliere. The 132-room executive mansion is really a massive operation requiring an experienced manager who runs the show. The main usher supervises an employee close to 90, oversees the president’s personal and official occasions, and ensures public White-colored House tours run easily.
            In regards to a half-dozen ushers are responsible for the various “shops” within the White-colored House, including food and beverage, and housekeeping, and are accountable to the main usher that has a workplace around the White-colored House’s Condition Floor.
            Typically, chief ushers remained able for many years, no matter political party: Irwin “Ike” Hoover offered from 1909 to 1933 Howell G. Crim from 1938 until 1957, and much more lately Gary Walters offered from 1986 to 2007, employed by the Reagans, the Clintons and both Plant families.
            Jackie Kennedy am near to Chief Usher J.B. West that whenever he died, in 1983, she requested Nancy Reagan if the exception might be made that will permit him to be hidden at Arlington National Graveyard, though it may be restricted to service people as well as their families.
            The Reagans obliged, and Mrs. Reagan could relate. She loved Chief Usher Rex Scouten, who offered from 1969 to 1986, a lot that they named her beloved Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Rex, after Scouten.
            “This is really not really a job job,” Walters explained after i was researching a magazine around the good reputation for the residence staff.
            One evening, because he was pulling from the White-colored House front yard during George H.W. Bush’s presidency to visit a College of Maryland the game of basketball, he’d to show around before she got towards the finish of Pennsylvania Avenue as he got word the U . s . States would start bombing in Kuwait.
            “You won’t ever understood in one minute to another exactly what the conditions would be,” he stated.
            Reflecting on her behalf time in the White-colored House, former first lady Michelle Obama told talk show host James Corden, “You actually have no idea what you do not know until you are here,” which she’d miss the residence staff most.
            Following the 2016 election, she located the standard ending up in incoming first lady Melania Trump, also it would not be surprising if, in those days, she advised Mrs. Trump to employ a chief usher whom she knows and trusts. It is exactly what the Obamas did once they replaced Rochon with Angella Reid.
            The connection between your first family and also the chief usher is really crucial it might explain why the insular Trumps — who convey a premium on personal loyalty — such as the Obamas, hired somebody that didn’t serve the prior President and the family. But additionally there is a unlucky lack of institutional understanding using the departure of somebody like Reid.

              First female White-colored House usher has gone out

            Loyalty happens to be important for that residence staff. Chris Emery, who had been an usher although not the main usher, lost his position within the Clinton White-colored House after he helped Barbara Plant having a computer problem. The previous first lady was keen on Emery and understood he was good with computers. When she’d a problem while focusing on her memoir, she did not hesitate to him. Only later did she realize it had become an error — it had been considered a significant breach of protocol.
            For that Trumps to usher in someone like Harleth, who had been utilized by them within the private sector, helps make the issue of loyalty much more vital. It is a microcosm of the much bigger issue — the privatizing from the White-colored House.

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            Shortening the tenures of chief ushers is all about a convention gradually disappearing, but additionally about management. It’s difficult for any newcomer to operate household operations the way in which they should be run. We are a lengthy way in the day the Trumps leave 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but Harleth would be advised to talk to his predecessors on handling the controlled chaos of Inauguration Day.
            For that Nixons, Reagans, first Shrubbery, Carters and Clintons — and individuals who came before them — it had been understood that whomever held the task of chief usher once they moved in to the White-colored House ought to keep it. If little else, the main usher already in position already been through it essential to keep your house running easily.
            Since first people are approaching the main usher position as a kind of bespoke role, one targeted at their unique preferences, we are beginning to determine that tradition gradually dying. It is a loss for first families, the presidency, and also the nation.

            Find out more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/01/opinions/white-house-chief-usher-opinion-brower/index.html

            Will the ‘Apprentice’ tapes remain secret?

            (CNN)The presidential campaign has been jolted by the leak of a tape from the show “Access Hollywood” that caught Donald Trump bragging about his ability to kiss and grope women at will. Since he spent years as the star of “The Apprentice,” the question has arisen of whether that show has tapes that could affect the course of the election and if there are legal constraints that would prevent their release.

            On October 3, the Associated Press reported on interviews with people who were associated with “The Apprentice” and claimed “Donald Trump repeatedly demeaned women with sexist language” and “said he rated female contestants by the size of their breasts and talked about which ones he’d like to have sex with.”
              After much speculation about tapes, “Apprentice” producer Mark Burnett and his company’s owner, MGM, went so far as to issue a joint statement this week: “Mark Burnett does not have the ability nor the right to release footage or other material from ‘The Apprentice.’ Various contractual and legal requirements also restrict MGM’s ability to release such material.”
              That argument didn’t sit well with Barry Diller, the media entrepreneur, who backs Hillary Clinton. Diller told Politico, “There are no legal obligations. To who? For what? …They own the copyright. They can do whatever they want with it.”


              Phrases like “confidential” or “secret” are thrown around offices and companies as if their invocation alone will ward off prying eyes. To a court, these are just words. A court has the power to open up the books and the vaults of even the most secretive companies; all it needs is a case, and someone — or something — or some prosecutor — willing to bring it.
              The dilemma facing MGM and Burnett illustrates a modern concern for companies. Technology has allowed us to keep an unprecedented volume of records, video and otherwise. However, the fact that we are all just a lawsuit away from having to hand over incredibly sensitive and damaging information encourages a Snapchat approach: companies have every incentive to delete or “lose” records as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the safest company from the reach of discovery is the company with the fewest records, and the fewest scruples.

              Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/14/opinions/will-apprentice-tape-come-out-cevallos/index.html

              Philippine President’s shocking attack on U.S. ambassador — and democracy

              (CNN)Imagine a presidential election campaign in which a bombastic candidate campaigns by insulting people, and by making promises and threats that sound so outlandish that people think, surely, he must be exaggerating.

              Now imagine that candidate wins.


                The President is not content to attack judges, criminals, and others in government who might interfere with his plans. If Duterte doesn’t like you, whatever the reason, the future looks bleak. He has already declared that some journalists should be killed. And refused to apologize.
                If the business community thought they’d have a champion in the executive mansion they’re thinking again.
                On August 3, the President started to unveil his war on powerful business figures. “I am fighting a monster,” he said, “… believe me, I will destroy their clutches in our country.” Then he went on to name some of the “monsters” he planned to destroy, wealthy individuals in a number of industries.
                Among those he listed was Roberto Ongpin, chairman of of PhilWeb, a major publicly traded gaming technology firm. PhilWeb stock nosedived and Ongpin resigned.
                In this new world, Duterte decides who stays and who goes. If you want to stay, Duterte has to like you. Not all billionaires are monsters in his eyes. Gina Lopez, for example, a wealthy member of his Cabinet, doesn’t have to be destroyed because, “She’s a billionaire. But she’s a crusader,” the President explained. “She loves the country and she hates oligarchs.”
                Can the Philippines’ hard-won democracy survive the Duterte autocracy? We will see. But for voters in others countries, enticed by this global wave of alluring autocrats — including the United States and Donald Trump — the disturbing news from the Philippines is a cautionary tale. Sometimes the hyperbole of the campaign trail is not hyperbole. Sometimes what you hear on the trail is just a preview of worse to come.

                Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/10/opinions/philippine-president-opinion-ghitis/index.html

                Deadly hot air balloon crash raises legal issues

                (CNN)A hot air balloon believed to be carrying 16 people crashed in Texas after catching fire midflight on Saturday morning. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there were no survivors.

                The crash is under investigation and officials believe the balloon may have struck power lines. If 16 were killed, it would be the deadliest balloon accident in U.S. history.
                  We’re accustomed to hearing about plane crashes and there is an established body of law that determines who can be held liable and what kind of compensation survivors can receive in such cases. With balloon accidents, that isn’t as clear.
                  While hot air balloons are technically considered “aircraft,” they really aren’t a part of mainstream American life in the way other aircraft are. Developed in the 1700s, balloons were the first successful technology to carry a human in flight. Yet, most of us only see them in screensavers, or stock photos that come with our laptop computers. No one uses them to commute or to fly home for the holidays. For the most part, when a group of people get into a balloon, it’s for a recreational tour.


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                  Among 43 balloons that hit fixed objects during crashes, the second-most struck object was power lines (11), with trees coming in first (15). But even stranger, avoiding power lines also contributed to eight crashes, which is an argument for power lines being considered in the first place.
                  Among crashes of paid balloon rides, collisions with objects contributed to all five fatalities. Collisions specifically with power lines accounted for seven percent of the crashes, two fatalities and 10% of all injuries.
                  Driving a car is fraught with potential collisions. Crossing deer, pedestrians and other cars are just a few of the many dangerous moving items on the road. By contrast, the objects that pose a threat to an airborne balloon are limited, and most of them are fixed, like trees, buildings and the Earth itself. The fixed object that causes the greatest risk for catastrophe appears to be power lines. In addition to the impact, there’s the added risk of electrocution.
                  Generally, electric utilities may be liable for failing to insulate, warn about, properly maintain, de-energize, or place their wires.
                  That’s not to say that these are easy cases to win. There are many kinds of tragic encounters with power lines. Some are the fault of the utility. Some are not. While power lines are a common risk to balloons, court cases involving power lines and balloons are not a common occurrence. One Illinois case pops up again and again: Coleman v. Windy City Balloon Port.


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                  That case suggests that power line companies have no duty to warn balloonists of a known danger of electricity when the presence of the power lines was an open and obvious danger.
                  In addition, if a balloonist chooses to take a balloon up in bad weather and then misguides it into the lines, that’s not foreseeable by the utility company.
                  It seems utilities cannot be obligated to always make electric wires perfectly safe, either. To the court, requiring a utility to warn balloonists, insulate the power line and provide circuit breakers at all points on the line would impose an unreasonable, unachievable duty upon the entire system.
                  Balloon collisions with power lines are rare in the world of catastrophic litigation. That’s why there’s a dearth of cases on the topic. A single state court case from the late ’80s is hardly mandatory authority on the issue of liability. By contrast though, there are plenty of cases about the liability of electric and other companies when someone is injured by a power line, on the ground or in the air. These will provide guidance, but then again, ballooning is an unusual hobby that is controlled in part by humans, in part by Mother Nature, and not at all by passengers.
                  Whoever owned, operated and piloted the balloon will likely be the subject of a lawsuit, but then again, we don’t know what kind of waivers the passengers signed. Also, the operator may try to defend the case based upon some unforeseeable, unavoidable weather incident or equipment failure. In that event there could also be a potential products liability claim against the manufacturer of the balloon.
                  Ultimately, are balloon tours worth the risk? We tolerate a lot of highway fatalities due to motor vehicle accidents. This is because cars are essential to our way of life. The great danger of the automobile is outweighed by its even greater utility. Balloons are hardly essential; they’re barely a means of transportation.
                  If a recreational activity’s low utility is outweighed by the danger, that activity is eventually prohibited. Or, we say to those engaging in the activity: Balloon at your own risk. That’s fine for the balloonist who can appreciate the risk of a transoceanic solo flight to the island of Krakatoa. But the passengers who paid a lot of money for a tour may not really have an opportunity to appreciate that risk.

                  Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/31/opinions/balloon-accident-texas-cevallos/index.html