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What part of the First Amendment don't government officials get? On some days, most of it.
In Broward County, Florida, a mayor says reporters for a local newspaper have to register as lobbyists, the Sun Sentinel reports. At issue is a county code of ethics and Lauderhill Mayor Richard Kaplan's interpretation of it in an email to a reporter.
Though reporters do not necessarily consider what they do is lobbying, their work is provided to the editors who use their research to write editorials. Editors do try to influence the final decision making indirectly (which is communication by an means) which is lobbying according to the new law as I see it. It is this understanding that your research will be used in lobbying activities by editors that pay you, that I believe may include reporters in as lobbyist. I just don't want to risk the situation.
The mayor in this case certainly has the right not to talk to the media, but once reporters are required to register as lobbyists, they subject themselves to regulations and that's the part that probably runs afoul of the Constitution.
No matter to many of the commenters on the paper's site, most of whom invoke a political angle and prove again that many people are willing to defend the constitution right up to the point where it becomes politically distasteful to do so.
Meanwhile, in San Diego, a federal prosecutor is threatening "going after" newspapers, radio and TV stations because of ads they're running for illegal marijuana operations in a state that has legalized medicinal use of marijuana.
According to the Center for Investigative Reporting...
Federal law prohibits people from placing ads for illegal drugs, including marijuana, in "any newspaper, magazine, handbill or other publication." The law could conceivably extend to online ads; the U.S. Department of Justice recently extracted a $500 million settlement from Google for selling illegal ads linking to online Canadian pharmacies.
Duffy said her effort against TV, radio or print outlets would first include "going after these folks with ... notification that they are in violation of federal law." She noted that she also has the power to seize property or prosecute in civil and criminal court.
William G. Panzer, an attorney who specializes in marijuana defense cases, said publishers may have a reason to worry. Federal law singles out anyone who "places" an illegal ad in a newspaper or publication. Nevertheless, Panzer said he is not aware of a single appellate case dealing with this section of the law.
"Technically, if I'm running the newspaper and somebody gives me money and says, 'Here's the ad,' I'm the one who is physically putting the ad in my newspaper," he said. "I think this could be brought against the actual newspaper. Certainly, it's arguable, but the statute is not entirely clear on that."
Duffy, if she carries out her threat, would have a leg to stand on where TV and radio stations are concerned. TV/radio, regulated by the government, doesn't enjoy 1st Amendment protections that extent to an unregulated newspaper industry. But prosecuting a newspaper on the basis of content -- even advertising content -- might invite a constitutional challenge.
In this case, the law against placing illegal ads is equating the person placing the illegal ad with the organizations -- mostly alt-weeklies -- accepting it.
The even larger issue, of course, is a federal government essentially targeting a state's decision to legalize marijuana.(3 Comments)
A colleague told me of a visit to a Twin Cities hospital ER last weekend, which featured a waiting room full of people and little hope that a physical ailment would get treated quickly. Most of the people waiting for help, she said, were there for mental health issues.
Now, a new study out this week confirms that the growing number of ER visits for children is chiefly because of mental health woes.
"These patients are often in the emergency room for longer than many other patients, and need the most consultations," Dr. Zachary Pittsenbarger, of Chidren's Hospital Boston, tells LiveScience.com. "We need to find out why they are there, and whether they could be better served in an outpatient clinic."
Pittsenbarger is presenting his findings at a conference in Boston today.
He says the biggest likely problem for increased ER visits is parents can't find outpatient services for their children with mental health needs, a common complaint when MPR News took a look at Minnesota's mental health system more than seven years ago.
In one case we profiled then, a teenager had to wait three months for help, and that's not at all uncommon in this and many other states.
There is also, of course, the matter of fewer people with health insurance who have no other place to turn besides the ER, and a shorter, but still torturous, wait.
Lost in all the coverage of Occupy Wall Street, is a protest that has been quietly going on over the last two weeks (ending today) in Asheville, North Carolina -- the We Do campaign.
There, same-sex couples have gone to the Buncombe County Register of Deeds Office every day to request a marriage license. Every day, of course, they've been denied.(10 Comments)
By the end of the day -- maybe -- we'll know whether the Supreme Court wants to answer the question, "is this a violation of the separation of church and state?"
These are white crosses erected by a private group -- an association of state troopers from the Utah Highway Patrol -- on public land, the side of highways where officers were killed.
Of course, we see generic white crosses often where someone has died, as Nikki Tundel pointed out in her photo essay of makeshift memorials last year. If they're placed by the side of the road -- public land -- by private individuals, does that convey a government endorsement of a religion? The Supreme Court could settle that question once and for all.
The court is holding a hearing today to decide whether to accept an appeal of a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that, at least in the Utah case, ruled the practice unconstitutional.
If the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, it could overturn the test -- the "reasonable observer test," as it's known -- used to decide these things: does a symbol that is widely recognized as a religious symbol promote that religion.
Would a "reasonable observer" see it as promoting, in this case, Christianity? Or simply a spot where someone probably died?
In its request for the Supreme Court to take up the case, the Utah Highway Patrol Association says the cross is meant only to communicate, "the simultaneous messages of death, honor, remembrance, gratitude, sacrifice, and safety."
But in ruling the crosses do convey government endorsement of religion, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals said a cross "is not a generic symbol of death; it is a Christian symbol of death that signifies or memorializes the death of a Christian.