STLR Link Roundup – February 12, 2014

District Courts Disagree on Constitutionality of NSA Call Tracking Program

Two December rulings show stark disagreement by courts on whether the National Security Agency’s call tracking program violates the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.  The program collected time records and phone numbers of every call made in the U.S to be searchable on a database by the NSA.  Judge Richard Leon of the District Court for the District of Columbia called the program an “indiscriminate” and “arbitrary invasion,” agreeing with the plaintiff’s contention that the program was an outrageous breach of privacy, freedom of speech, freedom of association, and due process.  By contrast, Judge William Pauley III of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit, and found the program was lawful and constitutional, relying on a disputed NSA argument that such a program could have been used to stop the 9/11 attacks.

Merck Agrees to Settle NuvaRing Lawsuits for $100 Million

Merck announced that it would settle the thousands of pending lawsuits regarding the birth control NuvaRing and whether its marketing minimized the elevated risk of blood clots to users, compared to other birth control methods, for $100 million.  95% of the approximately 3,800 eligible plaintiffs would have to agree to the settlement proposal, in which Merck admits no wrongdoing.  The settlement is a tiny fraction of what other pharmaceuticals have paid in similar cases, but proving liability against the NuvaRing device is more difficult than competing products.  Bayer has paid out $1.6 billion over blood-clot related lawsuits over its Yaz and Yasmin birth control pills.

Europe Closer to Approving Genetically Modified Corn

The European Union is verging on authorizing the cultivation of an insect-resistant type of corn.  While the majority of member countries are opposed to genetically modified crops, there were not enough votes to oppose the authorization.  The modified corn, developed jointly by DuPont Pioneer and Dow Chemical, is designed to improve yields by resisting pests and would be used mostly for animal feed.  However, despite acceptance in most major industrial nations, Europeans are suspicious of the health and environmental implications of cultivating GMOs.

Kentucky Senate Passes Bill to Allow Students to Fulfill Language Requirement by Learning Computer Programming

The Kentucky Senate passed a bill to allow students to count programming classes to fulfill the foreign-language requirements in public schools.  The measure, which now goes to the state House, expands the definition of foreign languages to include programming.  The goal is to allow students to learn a skill that would eventually allow them to pursue careers in the technology field.  Currently it is difficult for students to fit programming into their curriculum due to their courseload being crowded with general requirements such as math and English, and the measure would allow more students to take programming classes.


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