By Doug Porter
The Supreme Court is at the core of the news about struggles for human dignity and rights this week. The bad news is they’re hearing a case today challenging the part of the Voting Rights Act that forces places with a history of discrimination to get approval before they make any change in the way elections are held.
The last time such a case was argued before the court (2009) Chief Justice John Roberts opined that the law’s past success “is not adequate justification to retain the pre-clearance requirements.” The court sidestepped the question of the law’s constitutionality with that decision, but many observers believe that won’t be the case this time around.
The good news on the judicial front is the increasing support for gay rights as the court nears the dates to hear arguments about marriage equality and the Defense of Marriage Act. Yesterday word seeped out through the New York Times that 75 prominent Republican party members were submitting a brief in support of gay rights.
Tomorrow, according to reports in both Bloomberg News and Fortune, dozens of high profile American companies will weight in with their own document arguing that such laws “send an unmistakable signal that same-sex couples are in some way inferior to opposite-sex couples, a proposition that is anathema to amici’s commitment to equality and fair treatment to all.”
Bloomberg reports that the companies involved in the effort will also argue that bans on same-sex marriage in 41 states are harmful to workplace morale and recruiting.
A larger group of companies — more than 200, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) — is also poised to side with gay- rights advocates in a second Supreme Court case, involving a federal law that defines marriage as a heterosexual union. Under that law, known as the Defense of Marriage Act, legally married gay couples can’t claim the federal tax breaks and other benefits available to opposite-sex spouses.
Locally Qualcomm is among the companies joining these efforts.
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Meanwhile, the Huffington Post is up with a story this morning (Headline: PRYGATE) about NFL teams doing their best to sniff the gayz at this week’s Combine, an event where teams get the opportunity to look at up and coming talent. From Huffpo:
“[Teams] ask you like, ‘Do you have a girlfriend?’ Are you married?’ Do you like girls?’” Kasa told CJ and Kreckman of ESPN Radio Denver on Tuesday. “Those kinds of things, and you know it was just kind of weird. But they would ask you with a straight face, and it’s a pretty weird experience altogether.”
The comments come a day after Mike Florio of NBC Sports and ProFootballTalk told radio host Dan Patrick that NFL teams were extremely curious about the sexual orientation of Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o. Te’o, of course, has been dogged by such questions since the Lennay Kekua bombshell dropped last month.
“Here’s the elephant in the room for the teams and it shouldn’t matter, but we have to step aside from the rest of reality and walk into the unique industry that is the NFL,”Florio said to Patrick. “Teams want to know whether Manti Te’o is gay. They just want to know. They want to know because in an NFL locker room, it’s a different world. It shouldn’t be that way.”
Manchester to Pass on Buying LA Times
The news that the Tribune Company, owner of the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers had hired investment bankers to oversee selling their dead tree journalism division contained one news nugget that should please local Times readers. From Reuters:
A sale of its eight major newspapers, which also include The Baltimore Sun, has been widely expected since Tribune emerged from a four-year bankruptcy process late last year.
U-T San Diego owners, Doug Manchester and John Lynch, whose names had been in the mix, will not make a bid. Lynch said in an email on Tuesday, the U-T, formerly the Union-Tribune, “will not participate in any auction,” declining to comment further.
Tribune’s newspapers are profitable and estimated to be worth $623 million, according to a report by its financial adviser Lazard.
How Could They Tell?
Associated Press and other news agencies yesterday reported on class action lawsuits being filed against Anheuser-Busch claiming the brewer was watering down its products, including Budweiser, Michelob and other brands. From AP:
The suits were filed in Pennsylvania, California and other states on behalf of consumers allegedly cheated out of the beverage’s stated alcohol content. Budweiser and Michelob each boast being 5 percent alcohol, while some “light” versions are said to be just over 4 percent.
Lead lawyer Josh Boxer of San Rafael, Calif., said Tuesday the suits are based on information from former employees at some of the company’s 13 U.S. breweries. Boxer said water is added just before bottling, and cuts the stated alcohol content by 3 to 8 percent.
The multinational Anheuser-Busch InBev calls the claims groundless, and says its beers fully comply with labeling laws
That Swirling Sound….
Is the sound of cash going down the drain at Edison International, the parent company of Southern California Edison, operator of the troubled San Onofre nuclear plant. The Los Angeles Times reported this morning that cost of the year long shut down of the facility exceeded $400 million in 2012 alone. And that’s not all the bad news:
The hefty price tag for the darkened plant includes inspections, repairs and purchasing replacement power.
Edison International officials fielded questions Tuesday from analysts about the plant’s extended shutdown and the possibility that federal regulators will require the plant to go through a lengthy license amendment process before returning to service.
The utility also indicated Tuesday that the company has looked into what repairs could be done to restore both units to full power, and was told by the steam generator manufacturer, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, that the job of replacing “significant portions” of the system could take more than five years to complete.
The Silicon Valley of Drones
The Federal Aviation Administration estimates there could be as many as 10,000 drones flying over the U.S. by the end of the decade as they are tasked with setting up the rules and regulations for opening up the skies to unmanned aircraft by 2015. NPR had a story up yesterday about the competition underway to acquire the designation as one of six drone test sites around the country.
Experts like Peter Singer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, say current drone technology is where the computer was in 1980: The unmanned aerial devices have minimum functions and are mostly used by the military. But then computers got smaller, and the industry figured out endless uses for them. That’s what’s happening now with drones.
Testing the airspace is only one aspect of the story.
The possible uses, and economic potential, for drones may be clear, but the other big issue surrounding them — privacy — is less so. Singer, the drone expert at Brookings, says that while the FAA is equipped to handle the safety aspect of drones, it can’t deal with privacy.
“It’s not in their space to handle. And they would be the one first to say, ‘We can’t do this alone,’ ” he says.
Those privacy issues have already caused the FAA to delay the test site program. Congress is just beginning to talk about privacy legislation. And nearly two dozen states are considering bills limiting police use of drones.
About Those San Diego Tourism Dollars…
Tourism industry officials made advertising for the San Diego region the focus of their presentation before the City Council at an informational hearing on Monday. They’re seeking to generate political pressure to force the Mayor to sign off on releasing funds collected that are part of a 39 year marketing deal between the City and the Tourism Marketing District.
In 2013 ConVis will spend $1,874,314 on sales. Approximately 83 percent of that will go towards paying salaries for its staff. The document shows $1,187,113 to be paid in wages, $108,657 for “commissions and incentives”, and $255,325 on taxes & benefits.
Other projected sales expenses include $259,137 for “events, travel, and entertainment”, and $48,250 on professional fees and services.
As for the marketing operation, the non-profit’s main objective, ConVis set aside $3,713,148 for that task. Of that $790,074 will go to salaries, taxes and benefits for marketing employees. The remainder pays for advertising costs — $1,966,067, research — $346,254, events, travel and entertainment –$91,596, printing & distribution — $5,871, and dues & subscriptions –$5,228
On This Day: 1827 – New Orleans held its first Mardi Gras celebration. 1922 – The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the 19th Amendment that guaranteed women the right to vote. 1970 – Jefferson Airplane was fined $1,000 for using profanity during a concert in Oklahoma City. 1973 – The American Indian Movement occupied Wounded Knee in South Dakota.
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