Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Moving to a New Home!

Blogspot is a great place to start a blog. I've learned a lot. I finally found myself wanting to do a a little more with the site's appearance than I could do here, though, and now have a Wordpress blog called Half A Bubble at its very own domain, . It's up and running and ready for guests. You'll recognize the micrometer and bubble logo when you get there. I hope you'll visit me at my new home and continue to keep your eye on the proliferation and abuse of Taser and other electroshock and even more exotic weapons worldwide.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Britain's Prisoners to be implanted with tracking chips. American cops envious.

clockwork orange implantable microchip UK Britain human rfidViddy well, my droogies, this is how it begins. It's said that liberty is first lost in prisons and public schools. The Independent reports that Brits have taken that to heart and, in a scheme that would have Hitler's SS drooling with envy, plan to surgically implant RFID chips under the skin of thousands of offending citizens so they can be tracked like cattle. A Ministry of Justice official confirms that the department hopes to extend the range of the chips through satellite tracking similar to the system used to trace stolen vehicles. All options, and British civil liberties, are on the table.

"We have... worried about the practicalities and the ethics,” a senior minister said, “but when you look at the challenges facing the criminal justice system, it's time has come." They'll set ethics aside if it only affects their underclass. Ken Jones, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) wants to use chips and GPS technology to monitor and keep sex offenders from "forbidden" zones like primary schools. This is a ploy to gain approval by first implanting only the worst of the worst. Afterwards, wider use will be less likely to outrage the public.

There are objections. Shami Chakrabarti, director of the National Council for Civil Liberties, said: "If the Home Office doesn't understand why implanting a chip is worse than an ankle bracelet, they don't need a human-rights lawyer; they need a common-sense bypass. Degrading offenders in this way will do nothing for their rehabilitation and nothing for our safety, as some will inevitably find a way round this new technology." Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, said the proposal would not make his members' lives easier and would degrade their clients. "The system works well enough as it is. Knowing where offenders are does not mean you know what they are doing. This is the sort of daft idea that comes up from the department every now and then, but tagging people the way we tag pets cannot be the way ahead. Treating people like pieces of meat does not represent an improvement in the system."

Who will profit? The parent company of US market leader VeriChip Corporation has sold animal radio tags for more than a decade. It claims its chips are used at more than 5,000 healthcare, security, government and industrial locations, and has sold 2,000 chips for implantation in humans.

Where else is this making inroads? In the USA, the states of Wisconsin and North Dakota have banned human-implanted ID chips, and California may soon be the third to do so. An April 2005 post on the website Prison Planet points out that the global aspect of RFID chipping isn't well known but claims it's used in Russia, Switzerland, China, Ecuador, Italy, Spain, Argentina, Canada, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, Germany, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Africa, and South Korea. Not all of those societies are known for their stellar human rights records. Will British citizens be pleased to join their company?

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Heidi Gill Followup: triggerman cop won't appear, charges dropped, officials backpedal madly.

heidi gill taser richard kovach warren ohioAn earlier post describes Warren policeman Richard Kovach's unwarranted, prolonged, repeated tasering of Heidi Gill on September 2nd of last year. This week the Warren (Ohio) Tribune-Chronicle and the Coshocton Tribune reported that charges against Heidi were dropped because Kovach refused to testify, and a charge against her of felony assault on a police officer was dismissed because Kovach was the subject of an internal investigation and unavailable to testify.

Heidi was seated alone in a vehicle waiting for a ride home when attacked. For this she earned taser burns and a concussion, and was charged with falsification, resisting arrest, criminal damaging and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. This is the typical official response to police misbehavior- charge the victim with anything to muddy the water, delay proceedings, and drive up legal fees. Refuse to admit wrongdoing even when it's captured by your own cruiser dash cam and splattered all over TV and the internet- watch the video here.

Kovach is on a downhill roll: he was fired Dec. 6 by Warren Safety-Service Director Doug Franklin after appealing a 10-day suspension for wrongdoing during a traffic stop of another police officer’s son. Franklin fired Kovach, a 13-year veteran, for dishonesty, claiming he lied during the investigation into the Aug. 23 traffic stop of Timothy Brown II. Brown's filed a federal lawsuit naming the City of Warren, its Police Department, and Kovach both as an individual and in his official capacity, claiming his Fourth and 14th Amendment rights were violated.

Kovach's actions during Gill’s arrest are under investigation by the FBI. Gill’s attorney, Mark Hanni, said he has prepared a federal lawsuit against Kovach, the Warren Police Department and the city of Warren, and plans to file the $15 million action next week.

Officials are circling the wagons to protect Kovach and, failing that, to wash their hands of the incident. Warren Law Director Traci Timko Rose sought dismissal of the charges against Heidi without prejudice, meaning they can be refiled later. Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association attorney S. Randall Weltman advised that his client would not testify, and if subpoenaed, would invoke his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. OPBA lead defense attorney Dominic Vitantonio recommended Kovach not take the stand because the FBI probe is ongoing and Kovach’s firing is heading to arbitration.

This case is a good example of the problems tasers create. Handguns leave large, bleeding holes that can't be concealed or litigated away, so they're unlikely to be used unless the situation truly requires it. Tasers, originally touted as a less- lethal option one step below shooting, allow cops to attack anyone for any reason without producing a corpse. This encourages misuse and allows city and police officials to dissemble and play the litigation game they know so very well.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Who's Infringing Now? Sauce for the Goose is Sauce for the Gander.

tata nano parodyIn a surprising turnabout, Tata Motors, manufacturers of the new Nano automobile, has been named as respondent in a case before the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) by Lucasfilm and interested parties connected with the 1970s hit sitcom Mork and Mindy.

The complaint alleges that the name of the recently introduced subcompact automobile “Tata Nano” was misappropriated from properties of interest to each party. Complainants contend that they are the lawful proprietors of certain trade and service marks (only slightly altered for use by the respondent) by priority of adoption and on the basis of continuous and extensive use, and request an immediate cease-and-desist order for use of the name.

The complaint points out that the automobile's first name (Tata) closely resembles a simple dehyphenated retrogradation of the acronym AT-AT applied to the elephantine troop carrier/gun platform appearing in the first Star Wars film, which predates the release of the smaller vehicle by more than thirty years. Unnamed co-complainants connected with the Mork and Mindy series charge that the vehicle's second name (Nano) is remarkably similar to the farewell salute uttered by the show's star at the close of virtually every episode, all of which were produced twenty to thirty years before the new car's introduction.

Attorneys for the complainants insist that their case is unaffected by the recent engagement of Mork and Mindy star Robin Williams as spokesmodel for the new vehicle's television marketing push in the United States. We would have called representatives of the respondents for their comment but that's a very long-distance call, they talk funny, and it's the weekend, and you know how that goes. Besides, this is a parody.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

If I can't call those tatas, is this still called a bra?

braless tatasAfter publishing the last post I realized that I couldn't possibly have been the first guy to come up with that clever title, so I Googled the term “Bodacious Tatas”. Surprise! The first site on the page references the principal investment holding company of the Tata Group, the maker of the Tata Nano automobile. In 2000, Tata Sons complained to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) that someone had registered the domain name bodacious- tatas dot com, misappropriated the trademarked name Tata, and was using it in bad faith at some risk to Tata Sons.

From Wikipedia (a bit dated): WIPO is an agency of the United Nations. Unlike other branches of the United Nations, WIPO has significant financial resources independent of contributions from its Member States. In 2006, over 90% of its income was expected to be generated from the collection of fees under the intellectual property application and registration systems it administers. Deep pockets. Interesting and important work. I'm not sure how this august body was convinced to use its clout to hammer a porn site.

I don't know how much impact an internet domain belonging to a porn site can have on a monster international holding company. WIPO thought investors might believe that Tata Sons were somehow affiliated with, had given its blessing to, or licensed its trademark to the porn site promoter. It seems to me that very few significant investors are quite that stupid. Regardless, ICANN yanked the domain.

Interesting stuff. The company adopted the name “TATA” in 1917. I suppose it was impossible to determine whether hooters (no copyright infringement intended, there) were called tatas earlier than that. Even if they were I doubt anyone thought to copyright the name, and I really don't suppose anyone tattooed any trademarks anywhere. To avoid any association with boobies or porn sites, will they call that fabric thing you can put on the front of a Tata to avoid stone chips in the paint something other than a bra? Ah, it's still a cool little car.

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Bodacious Tatas- Cheap, Cute, Perky. Oh, yeah.

bodacious tatasI couldn't resist. Motor Torque Magazine reports on the much awaited launch of India's Tata Nano automobile. Not having a history of ripping customers off with unnecessary options, Tata Motors chairman Raman Tata designed the car himself to fulfill a need instead of to create one. Detroit, pay attention. This thing will get its owners from point A to point B affordably and keep them dry and comfortable doing it.

The 33bhp 0.6-liter car will cost the equivalent of $2,500. It's been designed to make four-wheel automotive transport available to those in developing countries. Beats the ubiquitous mopeds and motorbikes hands-down. The twin-cylinder petrol engine drives the rear wheels through a four-speed manual gearbox. Standard models don't have air conditioning or power steering. Airbags are not included, belts are. There is no passenger-side mirror, and only one windscreen wiper. Wheels are pushed as far into the car´s corners as possible, to maximize interior space.

Remember when you could buy an automaker's base model- a stripper- brand new, for next to nothing? You got vinyl seats, but you got them cheap. You can't buy much of a used car here in the US for this kind of money now. US consumers, automakers and regulatory agencies take note- this thing is shiny enough, roomy enough, fast enough, and safe enough to serve as a first car for many. Though it's not enough car for the highway, it's a good city car, a grocery getter. It's not overtly sexy, it's not overhyped, it's just right. Let's hope the Nano has a good start, brisk sales, and a minimum of quality problems. If it does, I predict a cult following for this new people's car. It'd be nice to see automotive Form Follow Function for a change.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Taser Toys, Mp3s - and an Opportunity!

Taser Mp3 toyHorace Smith, Daniel B. Wesson, or Samuel Colt would never have made pink revolvers. But then, sales were good, and they weren't in a slump driven by miserable press. Handguns are supposed to kill people- nobody whined that gunshot deaths were accidents.

Tasers are different. The law enforcement market is increasingly twitchy about the very public liabilities of electroshock weapons. They're easy to abuse, make awful news and videos, and the jury is still out on immediate and long-term medical and neurological effects, including death. In response Taser International is aggressively courting the civilian market. This is great news: police abuse of tasers makes such killer video, I can't wait to see YouTube flooded with home-made taser videos.

Taser is a regular exhibitor at CES- the Consumer Electronics Show. This year (the Globe and Mail reports), Playboy Playmates signed autographs at their booth- Miss June 2004 Hiromi Oshima, Miss October 2005 Amanda Paige, Miss October 2006 Jordan Monroe and Miss September 2007 Patrice Hollis, decked out in Taser t-shirts, signed autographs beside a sign that read: “If you love her, protect her.” No mention of the threat of privately owned tasers being turned against female victims- you know, like police tasers have been. Cheaper than roofies?

Don't Tase Me, Sis! Fox News reports that watered-down (weaker shock, shorter range) versions of the weapons are sold at parties where bored affluent white housewives fondle Lady Tasers smoothly molded in colors and sized for the petite hand. They look FABULOUS. You can carry the pink one to church and keep the leopard-print one in the nightstand. Rawrrrr, ladies.

The company also unveiled a new Taser holster equipped with a built-in 1 GB MP3 player. No. Really. I don't know if it's called the iShok, or the iShokU, or what.

I think they're missing some marketing bets, nonetheless. Here's a hint or two for free. Maybe the next version of the Grand Theft Auto video game can include tasers. Maybe Barbie and Bratz dolls can be accessorized with really cute holsters and lady tasers. Maybe Elmo needs a taser- Elmo got to stay strapped.

Here's an idea I haven't given away. Ringtones sell like hotcakes, right? Half A Bubble Off Plumb is in negotiations with several artists and music companies to market a mix tailored to the electroshock-savvy consumer who wants the hottest iShok sound, and plans to sell the mix online (as Mp3's) and at kiosks in malls across America. We'll be ready to roll out for Valentine's day. Check out our first playlist:

Hit Me With Your Best Shot- Pat Benetar

Janie's Got A Gun- Aerosmith

Earl's Got to Die- The Dixie Chicks

Shock the Monkey- Peter Gabriel

Shell Shock- Heart

Live Wire- Motley Crue

Great Balls of Fire- Jerry Lee Lewis (for those below-the-belt hits)

Electricity-Elton John- or Suede, for that matter

High Voltage- AC/DC

Take My Breath Away- Berlin

High Tension Wire- Dead Boys

Shockaholic- Kinky Machine

...and Anything by Son Volt, of course

We're looking for partners. If you have some hot favorites, or if you're a high-voltage DJ with his own mix, leave a comment. Our attorneys will contact you!

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Monday, January 7, 2008

Tasered? Dead? Must be Excited Delirium- yeah, that's the ticket.

taser excited delirium deathNews reports of post-tasering deaths sometimes claim that victims die not from the taser shot but from “Excited Delirium.” The term appears in today's article in the Columbus Dispatch describing the December, 2006 post-taser death of Briant Parks at the hands of three officers, one of whom tasered him twice. Another tasered him eight times for a period of 45 seconds. There were no drugs or alcohol in his system. He's dead.

Don't fret, the cops are OK- the police take care of their own. An investigation by the division's critical-incident response team, made up of veteran homicide detectives, found that the officers acted within division policy. Thank goodness for carefully written policies. Amazingly, a Franklin County grand jury cleared them of criminal wrongdoing.

Excited delirium is not a medical or psychological diagnosis. It's a catch-all invented by cops, coroners, and taser salesmen to refer to the state you're in when you've been terrified, chased, tackled, beat up, sat on, pepper-sprayed and/or electroshocked and die in police custody.

Both NPR and Wikipedia report this statement by Eric Balaban of the American Civil Liberties Union: "I know of no reputable medical organization — certainly not the AMA [American Medical Association] or the APA [American Psychological Association] — that recognizes excited delirium as a medical or mental-health condition." He's right. It's not recognized by professional medical associations, and you won't find it listed in the chief psychiatric reference book. Balaban charges that police use the diagnosis "as a means of white-washing what may be excessive use of force and inappropriate use of control techniques by officers during an arrest."

Excited delirium can't be found in an autopsy. It's solely an operational definition- it's the name for what you die from if you die after you've been electroshocked into submission. If there are no witnesses, only the police can describe what happened, and civil liberties groups fear the diagnosis is used to cover up police abuse and keep lawsuits from cutting into taser manufacturer's profits.

What's the moral of this story? Next time a gang of thug cops run you down and taser you over and over, remain calm. Take deep, slow breaths. Go to your Happy Place. Chant your mantra. Don't get excited, don't get delirious- you might kill yourself despite the peace officers' best efforts on your behalf.

Oh- and here's a link so I can check to see that Haloscan trackbacks work. Good site tho, LOL.

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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Will Ireland's Garda and PSNI tasers at least be molded in appropriate colors?

ireland garda PSNI taserWorldwide arms dealer Taser International has been busy exporting their lucrative brand of American craziness. Vampires haunt blood banks. TI pitches sales to troubled markets. They've scored bloody good hits in Ireland.

Today's Guardian Unlimited reports that the Police Service of Northern Ireland will be issued Tasers this week. They'll be available only to 'highly trained firearms officers' from the PSNI's Special Operations Branch during a pilot program the PSNI claims has been confirmed by the Human Rights Adviser to Northern Ireland's Policing Board as in compliance with the Human Rights Act.

The Policing Board insisted, however, that tasers should not be deployed until the completion of an Equality Impact Assessment, and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) has claimed Tasers could potentially violate Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The PSNI site lists the Use of Taser EQIA as Planned for 2007 / 2008. The assessment is not complete and the tasers are on the street. The Policing Board controls nothing, certainly not the PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Ord. One wonders whether the planned statement will do anything but ensure that all citizens are equally likely to be tasered into submission at a cop's whim.

There's been discussion for some months, as you can see on the web.

In January 2007 Northern Ireland News (I'm guessing this is the “conservative” voice among news outlets there) seemed to be solidly in favor of electroshock weapons, as is evident in this aggressive paragraph:

“There will be a shock in store for those attempting to evade justice early next year as Northern Ireland gears up with controversial Taser stun guns - and there'll be no hiding place in London either.”

Weapons haven't brought justice to Northern Ireland historically, and there seems to have been too many weapons laying about there for some time. Justice doesn't come out of the barrel of a gun. Mao Tse-Tung thought Love did, but that hasn't worked out so well either.

In April 2007, across the border, Tanaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Michael McDowell, TD, authorized the use of tasers by the Garda Emergency Response Unit (ERU). There is some hope that they will, at least at first, be restricted by policy to the upper end of the use-of-force continuum and not allowed to slip to an option of first response as they have in the US:

“Circumstances under which less lethal weapons could legitimately be used are limited to circumstances where this is necessary to avoid the use of firearms. The use of firearms is permitted only to repel serious attacks on Gardai, members of the public or property, or in the arrest or re-arrest of persons involved in serious offences. Strict conditions are laid down, including a requirement in all cases that all other means of achieving the purpose in question have been exhausted, before firearms may be used. The test which currently applies to the use of less lethal weapons, that their use is necessary to avoid the use of firearms, is therefore a high one.”

Of course, that's how they were first presented here, too. Now American police routinely taser anyone they wish- unconscious, restrained, pregnant, underage, mentally unstable, non-threatening- even when they greatly outnumber the victim and have other options. Note that the "search" function of the An Garda Siochana website doesn't work, and I can't find any mention of tasers there.

In June 2007 the Irish Times ( reported that the North's Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde said he was considering deploying 12 tasers in a pilot scheme even though assessments were not complete. The Policing Board in Belfast accused him of ignoring its objections. Chairman Sir Des Rea said: "This Board has not reached a view on the use of Taser. It will do so as and when the Equality Impact Assessment is complete... the decision should be left until that is completed but the chief constable has made his decision in terms of his operational responsibility."

Sinn Fein Board member Martina Anderson said the PSNI had heard from a range of groups concerned about the impact of Taser. "Many of them are telling you that issuing Tasers is inappropriate, absolutely not acceptable until an equality impact assessment is complete and its conclusions are taken into account. You are totally ignoring... the views expressed by those organisations."

In October 2007 Patricia Lewsley, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (the organization is called NICCY) said Chief Constable Sir Hugh Ord's decision to introduce Tasers into Northern Ireland must be reversed, and that she believes he may be in breach of both advice from the Policing Board and the European Convention on Human Rights.

It's sad to see that police in Ireland behave no better than their American and Canadian counterparts, and that Irish politics responds to this threat to civil liberties no better than our own has. Having forgotten who their employers truly are, police do whatever they wish regardless of objections. Hugh Ord probably never intended to wait for or comply with the Equality Impact Assessment. Police officials North and South seem to fully understand that once tasers are issued, even on a limited basis, the foot is in the door and electroshock weapons are there to stay.

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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Good Press, Bad Press, and Post-Taser Deaths

taser teeTry as I may I can't find the source of the aphorism “There's no such thing as bad publicity as long as they spell your name right”. If you know who said that, please tell me- it's making me crazy. The proverb popped into my head in connection with Taser International's recent legal shot across Daily Kos' bow over the phrase “Taser Death” that appeared in a post on that blog. I know the phrase is used widely all over the news and the web; I confirmed that with this Google search. Taser International just needs some relief from recent publicity, and Kos is a high profile blog. Who else are they going to bother for using that in a headline- Google? The Globe and Mail, for heaven's sake? They have huge legal departments and might fight. Maybe it worked. Kos seems to have pulled the post.

Good publicity or bad, the pictured tee shirt appeared in Time Magazine Online's '50 Top 10 Lists of 2007'. The featured phrase, uttered by an obtrusive heckler at a John Kerry appearance, promoted the (trademarked) proper noun Taser to a popular verb in the international lexicon. You can now conjugate TI's flagship product- tase, tased, will tase, has tased, had tased, etc. You can be tased in America, Canada, England, France, Germany, Japan- the word spans languages and cultures.

What kind of publicity does that generate? They're selling tons of Tasers to law enforcement and military outfits worldwide, for good or ill (Do mercenaries buy these? Unfriendly foreign military organizations? Will American troops be tased like American citizens are?) so maybe that's great publicity among potential customers. The same thing happened, after all, with the words guillotine, garotte, sap, and napalm- all nouns, names of infamous weapons promoted to verbs- and the manufacturers of those items turned a tidy profit in their day.

On the other hand, maybe that's bad publicity among us, the public, the people who end up being the targets, the people who now and again die, post-tasering. Maybe I'm thinking of the wrong quotation after all. Maybe enough protest can nick their profits, slow domestic taser proliferation, and restrict improper use. I know another proverb about publicity, attributed to the Irishman Brendan Behan: There's no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Taser International cranky about wording of blog headlines

taser intimidationTwo of the Canadian blogs listed in our Taser Blogroll in the right sidebar (Creative Revolution and Crimes and Corruption of the New World Order) have reported that the Editor in Chief of a third blog (Daily Kos) has received objections from Taser International regarding a November 14, 2007 post about the videotaped post-tasering death of Robert Dziekanski at the hands of the RCMP at Vancouver airport. See that post here. See my own post about it here. Intimidation doesn't work particularly well in the blogosphere. I am sure that Daily Kos' legal team will respond appropriately.

I understand that the manufacturer objects to the phrase “taser death” in the headline and considers it 'inaccurate, misleading, and... made with reckless disregard as to its truth'. They cite 'defamation, trade libel, and irreparable damage' to their company and its products.

Many reports of deaths following taser deployment claim contributing factors including drug use, pre-existing medical conditions, adrenaline rush, and the oft-cited, never explained, clinically resonant neologism “excited delirium”, which seems to me to have been invented for the occasion by taser apologists. That's why this blog always refers to such deaths as “post-tasering” events. Nothing about this implies post hoc, ergo propter hoc argument, it's merely a factual statement of timing. Temporal sequence does not imply causality. We'll leave statements of causality to medical professionals. If there haven't been enough of those to help you make up your mind, wait. The weapons are now common and we're hearing from more and more coroners and medical examiners about their effects on victims varying widely in age, sex, and reproductive and medical condition. It's not like the FDA tested and approved these things before they spread like enthusiastic bunnies. We the People are uncompensated guinea pigs for these medical trials and there'll be another post-tasering event soon enough. We'll let the data speak.

Taser International may also feel that their trademark name has been devalued by the widespread use of the word taser (lower case “t”), but success carries with it the benefit and stigma of name recognition. I don't know how many newsworthy incidents have involved other brands of electroshock weapons; certainly competitors may wish they had equally overwhelming national and international market share. You may eat gelatine, cover cuts with adhesive plasters, and use photocopies, but you almost certainly ask for Jello or a Band-Aid or make Xerox copies whether or not you are careful to check the brand. When you hear the phrase “Don't Tase Me, Bro!” you don't think of something called a stun gun or cattle prod or electric dog collar, you think of a Taser (tm), because, well, that's what it was, and the national media reported it as such.

Certainly print, television, and radio news outlets have deeper pockets than bloggers. They also have larger legal staffs; it's unlikely that CNN, CBS, or Reuters will receive letters of complaint. Nor will Mr. Dziekanski be writing letters to either the RCMP or Taser International because, you see, he died- not necessarily because of, but certainly after, he was tased.

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