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Russian court fines Google for failing to store personal data on its users
Legal Network | 2023/11/16 16:50
A Moscow court on Tuesday fined Google for failing to store personal data on its Russian users, the latest in a series of fines on the U.S. tech giant amid tensions between the Kremlin and the West over the fighting in Ukraine.

A magistrate at Moscow’s Tagansky district court fined Google 15 million rubles (about $164,200) after the company repeatedly refused to store personal data on Russian citizens inside the country. Google was previously fined over the same charges in August 2021 and June 2022. The company declined to comment.

Google also was ordered to pay a 3 million ruble (about $32,800) fine in August for failing to delete allegedly false information about the conflict in Ukraine.

Russia can do little to collect the fine, however, as Google’s Russia business was effectively shut down last year after Moscow sent troops into Ukraine. The company has said it filed for bankruptcy in Russia after its bank account was seized by the authorities, leaving it unable to pay staff and suppliers.

Russian courts also have fined Apple and the Wikimedia Foundation, which hosts Wikipedia.

Since sending troops into Ukraine in February 2022, Russian authorities have taken measures to stifle any criticism of the military campaign.

Some critics have received severe punishments. Opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza was sentenced this year to 25 years in prison for treason stemming from speeches he made against Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

Sasha Skochilenko, an artist and musician from St. Petersburg, is on trial on charges of spreading false information about the military for replacing supermarket price tags with protest slogans. Prosecutors have asked for an eight-year prison sentence for her.


Grieving families confront Pittsburgh shooter at death penalty sentencing
Legal Network | 2023/08/03 17:37
Grieving families confronted the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter at his sentencing hearing Thursday, one day after a jury determined that capital punishment was appropriate for the perpetrator of the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.

The hearing at the federal courthouse in Pittsburgh got underway, with some 22 witnesses — survivors of the 2018 massacre and relatives of the 11 people who were fatally shot — expected to deliver victim impact statements.

U.S. District Judge Robert Colville was expected to formally sentence Robert Bowers to death later Thursday.

“Mr. Bowers, you met my beloved husband in the kitchen. Your callous disregard for the person he was repulses me,” testified Peg Durachko, wife of 65-year-old Dr. Richard Gottfried, a dentist who was shot and killed. “Your hateful act took my soulmate from me.”

Mark Simon, whose parents, Bernice and Sylvan Simon, were killed in the attack, testified he still has their bloodied prayer shawl. He said he remains haunted by the 911 call placed by his mother, whom Bowers shot while she was on the line.

“My parents died alone, without any living soul to comfort them or to hold their hand in their last moments,” said Simon, condemning “that defendant” as evil and cowardly and urging the judge to show him no mercy.

“You will never be forgiven. Never,” Simon told Bowers.

Bowers, a 50-year-old truck driver from suburban Baldwin, ranted about Jews online before carrying out the attack at Tree of Life synagogue on Oct. 27, 2018. He told police at the scene that “all these Jews must die” and has since expressed pride in the killings.

Jurors were unanimous in finding that Bowers’ attack was motivated by his hatred of Jews, and that he chose Tree of Life for its location in one of the largest and most historic Jewish communities in the nation so he could “maximize the devastation, amplify the harm of his crimes, and instill fear within the local, national, and international Jewish communities.” They also found that Bowers lacked remorse.

The jury rejected defense claims that Bowers has schizophrenia and that his delusions about Jewish people spurred the attack.

Bowers, who was armed with an AR-15 rifle and other weapons, also shot and wounded seven, including five responding police officers.

He was convicted in June of 63 federal counts, including hate crimes resulting in death and obstruction of the free exercise of religion resulting in death.


Texas is using disaster declarations to install buoys and razor wire
Legal Network | 2023/07/25 17:45
Wrecking ball-sized buoys on the Rio Grande. Razor wire strung across private property without permission. Bulldozers changing the very terrain of America’s southern border.

For more than two years, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has escalated measures to keep migrants from entering the U.S., pushing legal boundaries with a go-it-alone bravado along the state’s 1,200-mile (1,930-kilometer) border with Mexico. Now blowback over the tactics is widening, including from within Texas.

A state trooper’s account of officers denying migrants water in 100-degree Fahrenheit (37.7 Celsius) temperatures and razor wire leaving asylum-seekers bloodied has prompted renewed criticism. The Mexican government, some Texas residents along the border and the Biden administration are pushing back. On Monday, the U.S. Justice Department sued Abbott over the buoy barrier that it says raises humanitarian and environmental concerns, asking a federal court to require Texas to dismantle it.

bbott, who cruised to a third term in November while promising tougher border crackdowns, has used disaster declarations as the legal bedrock for some measures.

Critics call that a warped view. “There are so many ways that what Texas is doing right now is just flagrantly illegal,” said David Donatti, an attorney for the Texas American Civil Liberties Union.

Abbott did not respond to requests for comment. He has repeatedly attacked President Joe Biden’s border policies, tweeting Friday that they “encourage migrants to risk their lives crossing illegally through the Rio Grande, instead of safely and legally over a bridge.”

The Biden administration has said illegal border crossings have declined significantly since new immigration rules took effect in May.


Justices asked to hear dog toy dispute. Will they bite?
Legal Network | 2022/11/16 06:24
The company that makes Jack Daniel’s is howling mad over a squeaking dog toy that parodies the whiskey’s signature bottle. Now, the liquor company is barking at the door of the Supreme Court.

Jack Daniel’s has asked the justices to hear its case against the manufacturer of the plastic Bad Spaniels toy. The high court could say as soon as Monday whether the justices will agree. A number of major companies from the makers of Campbell Soup to outdoor brand Patagonia and jeans maker Levi Strauss have urged the justices to take what they say is an important case for trademark law.

The toy that has Jack Daniel’s so doggone mad mimics the square shape of its whisky bottle as well as its black-and-white label and amber-colored liquor while adding what it calls “poop humor.” While the original bottle has the words “Old No. 7 brand” and “Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey,” the parody proclaims: “The Old No. 2 on Your Tennessee Carpet.” Instead of the original’s note that it is 40% alcohol by volume, the parody says it’s “43% Poo by Vol.” and “100% Smelly.”

The toy retails for about $13 to $20 and the packaging notes in small font: “This product is not affiliated with Jack Daniel Distillery.”

The toy’s maker says Jack Daniel’s can’t take a joke. “It is ironic that America’s leading distiller of whiskey both lacks a sense of humor and does not recognize when it — and everyone else — has had enough,” lawyers for Arizona-based VIP Products wrote the high court. They told the justices that Jack Daniel’s has “waged war” against the company for “having the temerity to produce a pun-filled parody” of its bottle.

But Jack Daniel’s lead attorney, Lisa Blatt, made no bones about the company’s position in her filing.

“To be sure, everyone likes a good joke. But VIP’s profit-motivated ‘joke’ confuses consumers by taking advantage of Jack Daniel’s hard-earned goodwill,” she wrote for the Louisville, Kentucky-based Brown-Forman Corp., Jack Daniel’s parent company.

Blatt wrote that a lower court decision provides “near-blanket protection” to humorous trademark infringement. And she said it has “broad and dangerous consequences,” pointing to children who were hospitalized after eating marijuana-infused products that mimicked candy packaging.


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