One of the central arguments is that the FCC cannot impose common carrier rules on Internet access because it can’t be defined as a “telecommunications” service under Title II of the Communications Act. The ISPs argued that Internet access must be treated as a more lightly regulated “information service” because it involves “computer processing.”

“No matter how many computer-mediated features the FCC may sweep under the rug, the inescapable core of Internet access is a service that uses computer processing to enable consumers to ‘retrieve files from the World Wide Web, and browse their contents’ and, thus, ‘offers the ‘capability for… acquiring,… retrieving [and] utilizing… information.’ Under the straightforward statutory definition, an ‘offering’ of that ‘capability’ is an information service,“ the ISPs wrote.

215 women in Northern Ireland have signed an open letter declaring they have broken the law on abortion and sent it to the public prosecution service

“In an open letter sent to the public prosecution service, 215 women said they have either taken abortion pills themselves or helped women procure them – which is illegal according to Northern Ireland’s strict abortion laws.”

“The letter comes in response to a court case which began in Belfast last week (19 June 2015), which saw a mother in her thirties accused of supplying ‘poison’ (known abortion pills Mifepristone and Misoprostol) for her daughter to have a miscarriage.”

“The woman – who cannot be named to ensure her daughter’s identity is protected - faces two charges of unlawfully procuring a medical abortion medicine, known for its use in terminating pregnancies.”

“The ongoing case is extremely rare in Northern Ireland, and led pro-choice group Alliance For Choice to release the open letter.”

“Goretti Horgan, one of the signatories, explained: 

“It’s the first time, to our knowledge, that someone has actually gone past preliminary enquiry for assisting an abortion.”

“It’s unfair because hundreds of women have been doing it for years.”

“We thought the only way to get this message across was to tell the truth which is that hundreds and hundreds of women in Ireland have done exactly this. If it’s not for themselves, they do it for daughters, nieces, sisters and friends.”

“Abortion is legal in Northern Ireland, but only if a woman can prove her life is at risk.”

“Women are unable to have legal abortions if they are victims of rape or incest, given a diagnosis of foetal abnormality, or their health is at risk from pregnancy.”

“Around 4,000 women … leave the country to seek abortions elsewhere each year.”

“Many more order ‘illegal’ pills online from websites such as Women on Web which provide World Health Organisation-approved abortion pills, such as Mifepristone and Misoprostol.”

“But in Northern Ireland, helping others take these pills carries the risk of a lengthy jail sentence, and the 1861 Offences Against the Persons Act carries a penalty of life imprisonment for women who have illegal abortions.”

“Horgan, who has helped women procure abortion pills by letting them use her credit card and address, said that the letter’s signatories want to “join the woman in the dock” and will start handing themselves in to the police if no action is taken.”

“We hope that some of us will be arrested, if not all of us.”

“They should be prosecuting all of us.”

“Detective Superintendent Andrea McMullan said: 

“Police are aware of the letter and are assessing its contents.

“Abortion is a very emotive issue and as police our role is to uphold the law. It would depend on the specific circumstances of an incident as to whether or not an offence has been committed and each case would be investigated on its own merit.”

“Police would remind the public not to take prescription drugs that have not been prescribed to them. The taking of any prescription drug is potentially harmful if used without appropriate medical supervision.” 

“Suzanne Lee, a 25-year-old from Belfast, previously spoke to Telegraph Wonder Women about illegally buying abortion pills when she was a 22-year-old student at University College Dublin.”

“She said the idea of being arrested for her abortion has crossed her mind, especially since she’s spoken out publicly about it and now helps women in the Republic of Ireland buy abortion pills online.”

“It’s illegal for me to help.” 

“It wouldn’t be great to go to prison. But at the same time I’d rather have that hanging over me than wondering whether women are going to drink bleach, or throw themselves down the stairs.”

"I don’t think the Government has the guts to bring charges against me.”

'Arrest us’: Northern Irish women want to be prosecuted for breaking abortion laws (The Telegraph)

French Cheesemakers Crippled by EU Health Measures

American cheesemakers aren’t the only ones being challenged by onerous health regulations and financial pressures. Via Newsweek

French Cheesemakers Crippled by EU Health Measures

President Charles de Gaulle famously remarked on the impossibility of governing a country that produced so many cheeses. But that was in 1962. Today it might be just as hard to govern the country, but it has nothing to do with cheese – because 90% of the producers have either gone to the wall or are in the hands of the dairy giants. This is thanks to a mixture of draconian health measures in Brussels, designed to come down hard on raw milk products, and hostile buyouts by those who want to corner the market.

Unpasteurised milk, which gives a unique earth-and-fruit flavour, has been gradually marginalised on false public health pretexts after intense lobbying by the food processing industry, to the detriment of the consumer but the incalculable advantage of those producing cheese made with pasteurised milk. 

France produces more than 1,000 different types of cheese and is the second biggest consumer in Europe, after Greece. But products made with lait cru, or unpasteurised milk, now make up only 10% of the market, compared with 100% 70 years ago. The cheese war is particularly savage in Camembert, an area where there are now only five authentic local producers left. It has fallen victim to a culture that favours a production line that can churn out 250,000 Camembert cheeses a day.

“The big industrial producers will not tolerate the existence of other modes of production. They are determined to impose a bland homogeneity upon the consumer – cheese shaped objects with a mediocre taste and of poor quality because the pasteurisation process kills the product,” says Véronique Richez-Lerouge, founder of France’s Unpasteurised Cheese Association, which lobbies to protect traditional raw-milk varieties.

“The multinationals don’t care a fig and with the complete cooperation of the powers-that-be have swept aside 2,000 years of know-how, and now the great cheeses of France are on the road to extinction,” says Richez-Lerouge, who recently published France: Your Cheese is Going Down the Drain. “The small guys just get crushed underfoot by companies like Lactalis with its €15bn turnover and Bongrain (€4.4bn). French cultural heritage and freedom of choice for the consumer are at stake here.”

The industrial fromagers have also succeeded, by legal force, in hijacking the Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) bandwagon and now pasteurised, industrially fabricated cheeses make up nearly half of this protected enclosure, thus further threatening an endangered species. AOP Cantal is now 70% pasteurised; Ossau-Iraty from the Basque region is 80%, and Fourme d’Ambert is a staggering 97%.

Read the full story.

(Photo ©2015

There are an estimated 4,500 federal criminal statutes — and innumerable regulations backed by criminal penalties that include incarceration. Even if none of these were arcane, which many are, their sheer number would mean that Americans would not have clear notice of what behavior is proscribed or prescribed. The presumption of knowledge of the law is refuted by the mere fact that estimates of the number of federal statutes vary by hundreds.

Penn scientists identify patterns of RNA regulation in the nuclei of plants

In a new study done in plants, University of Pennsylvania biologists built on earlier work in which they cataloged all the interactions that occur between RNA and the proteins that bind to it. This time, they looked exclusively at these interactions in the nuclei, and simultaneously obtained data about the nuclear RNA molecules’ structure. By combining these datasets, their findings give a global view of the patterns that can affect the various RNA regulatory processes that occur before these molecules move into the cytoplasm, where they are translated into the proteins that make up a living organism.

In addition, the researchers have provided a vast, publically available set of data that other scientists can use to address questions about any genes and regulatory mechanisms that interest them, gaining a better understanding of the dynamics of the journey from DNA to protein.

Brian D. Gregory, an assistant professor in Penn’s School of Arts & Sciences’ Department of Biology, was senior author on the work, which will appear in the journal Molecular Cell.

Caption:  In a new study done in plants, University of Pennsylvania biologists give a global view of the patterns that can affect the various RNA regulatory processes that occur before these molecules move into the cytoplasm, where they are translated into the proteins that make up a living organism. Credit: University of Pennsylvania

First Jobs Regulated Away

Child labor laws seem like a good thing.  We don’t want kids abused in sweatshops.  But as always, government’s rules create unintended, bad effects too.  Laws meant to keep kids out of sweatshops now keep strapping teenagers out of air-conditioned offices.
Net Neutrality: Triumph of the Ruling Class

A triumph of “free expression and democratic principles”? How stupid do they think we are?

It’s been painful to watch the gradual tightening of government control in the name of net neutrality. The Federal Communications Commission’s decision to rewrite the rules and declare the Internet as a public utility seals the deal. It cartelizes the industry and turns a “Wild West” into a planned system of public management — or at least intends to.
All the rest is a veneer to cover what is actually a power grab.

This whole plot has had all the usual elements. It has a good name and its supporters say it is about stopping private and public control. It’s had the backing of all the top names in content delivery, from Yahoo to Netflix to Amazon. It’s had the quiet support of the leading Internet service providers. The decision to impose the rule has been declared by a tiny group of unaccountable bureaucrats operating with the support of the executive lame duck.

The opposition, in contrast, has been represented by small players in the industry, hardware providers like Cisco, free-market think tanks and disinterested professors, and a small group of writers and pundits who know something about freedom and free-market economics. The public at large should have been rising up in opposition but people are largely ignorant of what’s going on.

Here’s what’s really going on. The incumbent rulers of the world’s most exciting technology have decided to locked down the prevailing market conditions to protect themselves against rising upstarts in a fast-changing market. To impose a new rule against throttling content or using the market price system to allocate bandwidth resources protects against innovations that would disrupt the status quo.

What’s being sold as economic fairness and a wonderful favor to consumers is actually a sop to industrial giants who are seeking untrammeled access to your wallet and an end to competitive threats to market power.
One person I know compared the move to the creation of the Federal Reserve itself: the creation of an industrial cartel in the name of improving the macroeconomic environment. That’s a good comparison.

Let’s back up and grasp the position of the large content providers. Here we see the obvious special interests at work. Netflix, Amazon, and the rest don’t want ISPs to charge either them or their consumers for their high-bandwidth content. They would rather the ISPs themselves absorb the higher costs of such provision. It’s very clear how getting the government to make price discrimination illegal is in their interest. It means no threats to their business model.

By analogy, let’s imagine that a retailer furniture company were in a position to offload all their shipping costs to the trucking industry. By government decree, the truckers were not permitted to charge any more or less whether they were shipping one chair or a whole houseful of furniture. Would the furniture sellers favor such a deal? Absolutely. They could call this “furniture neutrality” and fob it off on the public as preventing control of furniture by the shipping industry.

But that leaves the question about why the opposition from the ISPs themselves (the truckers by analogy) would either be silent or quietly in favor of such a rule change. Here is where matters get complicated. After many years of experimentation in the provision of Internet services — times when we went from telephone dial up to landlines to T1 connections to experimenting with 4G data coverage — the winner in the market (for now) has been the cable companies. Consumers prefer the speed and bandwidth over all existing options.

But what about the future? What kind of services are going to replace the cable services, which are by-and-large monopolies due to special privileges from states and localities? It’s hard to know for sure but there are some impressive ideas out there. Costs are falling for all kinds of wireless and even distributed systems.

If you are a dominant player in the market — an incumbent firm — you really face two threats to your business model. You have to keep your existing consumer base onboarded and you have to protect against upstarts seeking to poach consumers from you. A rule like net neutrality can raise the costs of doing business but there is a wonderful upside to this: your future potential competitors face the same costs.

As an established player in the market, you are in a much better position to absorb higher costs than those barking at your heels. This means that you can slow down development, cool it on your investments in fiber optics, and generally rest on your laurels more.
But how can you sell such nefarious plan? You call it a vote for the “open internet” that will “preserve the right to communicate freely online.” But when you look closely at the effects, the reality is exactly the opposite. It closes down market competition by generally putting government in charge of deciding who can and cannot play in the market. It erects massive new barriers to entry for upstart firms while hugely subsidizing the largest and most well-heeled content providers.

So what are the costs to the rest of us? It means absolutely no price reductions in internet service. It could mean the opposite. Watch your bills. I predict that it is not going to be pretty. It also means a slowing down in the pace of technological development due to the reduction in competition that will immediately follow the imposition of this rule. In other words, it will be like all government regulation: most of the costs will be unseen but the benefits will be concentrated in the hands of the ruling class.

There is an additional threat to how to the FCC has reclassified the internet as a public utility. It means a blank check for government control across the board. Think of the medical marketplace, which is now entirely owned by a non competitive cartel of industry insiders. This is the future of the internet under net neutrality.

If you look at how all this shakes out, this is really no different from how most every other sector in life has come to be regulated by the state, from food to money to medicine to education. It always shakes out this way, with sleepy public believing the propaganda, an elite group of insiders manipulating the regs for their own benefits, a left-wing intelligentsia that is naive enough to believe platitudes about fairness, and a right wing that is mostly ignorant and for sale to the highest bidder.

No, I don’t believe that this ruling means the end of times for the internet.

But it does mean that progress going forward in the digital age will be slowed compared with what it would otherwise be. Future generations will laugh in bemusement: it was the dawn of a new age and yet they believed it could be controlled the same as all that came before. Fools.
5 Reasons the FDA’s Ban on Trans Fat Is a Big Deal
Government doesn't always know best about your health or nutritonal science.
By Walter Olson

1. It’s frank paternalism. Like high-calorie foods or alcoholic beverages, trans fats have marked risks when consumed in quantity over long periods, smaller risks in moderate and occasional use, and tiny risks when used in tiny quantities. The FDA intends to forbid the taking of even tiny risks, no matter how well disclosed.

2. The public doesn’t agree. A 2013 Reason-RUPE poll found majorities of all political groups felt consumers should be left free to choose on trans fats.  Even in heavily governed places like New York City and California, where the political class bulldozed through restaurant bans some years back, there was plenty of resentment.

3. The public is also perfectly capable of recognizing and acting on nutritional advances on its own. Trans fats have gone out of style and consumption has dropped by 85 percent as consumers have shunned them.

But while many products have been reformulated to omit trans fats, their versatile qualities still give them an edge in such specialty applications as frozen pizza crusts, microwave popcorn, and the sprinkles used atop cupcakes and ice cream. Food companies tried to negotiate to keep some of these uses available, especially in small quantities, but apparently mostly failed.

4. Government doesn’t always know best, nor do its friends in “public health.” The story has often been told of how dietary reformers touted trans fats from the 1950s onward as a safer alternative to animal fats and butter.

Public health activists and various levels of government hectored consumers and restaurants to embrace the new substitutes. We now know this was a bad idea: trans fats appear worse for cardiovascular health than what they replaced. And the ingredients that will replace minor uses of trans fats – tropical palm oil is one – have problems of their own.

5. Even if you never plan to consume a smidgen of trans fat ever again, note well: many public health advocates are itching for the FDA to limit allowable amounts of salt, sugar, caffeine, and so forth in food products. Many see this as their big pilot project and test case.

Three Myths about Net Neutrality Regulation

With president Obama announcing yesterday that he wants the internet regulated as a public utility, many so-called net neutrality advocates celebrated. Unfortunately, their celebration is likely unwarranted because, in fact, government regulation will likely threaten, not improve, net neutrality and internet openness. Here are a few myths proponents of net neutrality regulation will proclaim:

Myth #1: Regulation is necessary because there is insufficient competition for broadband

Proponents often say that one reason why the Internet should be treated as a pubic utility because consumers face little choice in their internet provider, in fact it is commonly claimed in most instances it’s a monopoly. However, this is patently false. As Dr. Christopher Yoo of the University of Penn points out:

The most recent data collected by the FCC indicate that as of December 2012, 99 percent of US households live in census blocks with access to two or more fixed line or mobile wireless broadband providers capable of providing the benchmark speeds of 3 Mpbs down stream and 768 kpbs upstream. Some 97 percent have access to three or more providers. Faster service tiers are also becoming more competitive. For example, 96 percent of US households have access to two or more providers offering service at the higher standard of 6 Mpbs downstream and 1.5 Mbps upstream, and 81 percent have access to three or more. Even at the highest tear reported (10Mpbs downstream and 1.5 Mpbs upstream), 80 percent have access to two or more providers and 48 percent have access to three or more.

Yoo further points out that there is more competition coming from close substitutes to broadband like wireless LTE providers. He concludes:

Although these markets are not perfectly competitive, empirical studies indicate that markets with three firms are workably competitive, with most of the competitive benefit occurring with the entry of the second or third firm and minimal benefits resulting from entry into markets that already have three to five firms. One must also bear in mind that regulation is costly and typically falls short of replicating the performance of a perfectly competitive market. Regulation thus turns on a comparison of second-best outcomes. Although the poor performance of unregulated monopoly justifies the significant cost of regulation, an unregulated oligopoly performs sufficiently better at some point tips the balance in favor of deregulation.

Myth #2: Without regulation, net neutrality is almost certainly going to be destroyed as ISPs will create internet fast-lanes, which will make it impossible to access content from new start-ups

This myth ignores the fact that fast-lanes are not even all that profitable for ISPs. As Timothy Lee pointed out in a 2008 paper for the Cato Institute:

The fundamental difficulty with the “fast lane” strategy is that a network owner pursuing such a strategy would be effectively foregoing the enormous value of the unfiltered content and applications that comes “for free” with unfiltered Internet access. The unfiltered internet already offers breathtaking variety of innovative content and application, and there is every reason to expect things to get even better as the availabe bandwidth continues to increase. Those ISPs that continue to provide their users with faster, unfiltered access to the Internet will be able to offer all of this content to their customers, enhancing the value of their pipe at no additional cost to themselves.

In contrast, ISPs that chose not to upgrade their customers’ Internet access but instead devote more bandwidth to a proprietary “walled garden” of affiliated content and applications will have to actively recruit each application or content provider that participates in the “fast lane” program. In fact, this is precisely the strategy that AOL undertook in the 1990s. AOL was initially a propriety online service, charged by the hour, that allowed its users to access AOL-affiliated online content. Over time, AOL gradually made it easier for customers to access content on the Internet so that, by the end of the 1990s, it was viewed as an Internet Service Provider that happened to offer some propriety applications and content as well. The fundamental problem requiring AOL to change was that content available on the Internet grew so rapidly that AOL (and other proprietary services like Compuserve) couldn’t keep up. AOL finally threw in the towel in 2006, announcing that the proprietary services that had once formed the core of its online offerings would become just another ad-supported web-site. A “walled garden/slow lane” strategy has already proven unprofitable in the market place. Regulations prohibiting such a business model would be suprlusage.

We already have evidence that ISPs cannot even profit from such a slow-lane strategy in the past. It seems that net neutrality as we know it today is only the result of the market process. Why would regulation even be necessary to maintain it?

Myth #3: Regulating the Internet as a public utility will simply enforce net neutrality, it wouldn’t do anything else

This simply ignores the history of regulation and rich literature on how the regulatory process works. If one gives the FCC so much power to control the internet, there is nothing stopping companies like Comcast from lobbying the FCC to selectively force regulations, write regulations in their favor, or use regulations to erect barriers to entry to potential competitors. This is what is what public choice economists call “regulatory capture." If the FCC is allowed to regulate, the internet may be put in the hands of lobbyists, bureaucrats, and politicians who will use the regulations to benefit their interests. 

Regulatory capture has happened in many, many other similar instances. For example, with the Interstate Commerce Commission was originally created in 1887 to regulate the railroads using strikingly similar rationale to current net neutrality enthusiasts: they wanted to prohibit giving "undue or unreasonable preference or advantage” to particular customers. However, by the 1920s the ICC started establishing minimum and maximum rates, by the thirties congress gave it power to regulate truckers specifically to stop competition with the railroads. By 1970, it was being described by a Ralph Nader group as “primarily a forum at which transportation interests divide the national transportation market.” Effectively, the ICC became a means of promoting a transportation cartel.

Proponents of regulation ignore the possibility that regulation can be used by special interests capturing regulators as a means to stop regulation. Such an unintended consequence can be observed in history, why would it not happen with the internet?

In sum, regulation is likely not necessarily to encourage competition and internet fairness, and in fact will likely lead to a less fair, less open internet due to public choice reasons. Giving politicians, bureaucrats, and lobbyists control of the internet is not a good idea.


IRS Steals $29,000 from Innocent Dairy Farmer

In February 2012, two government agents came to Randy’s farm. The IRS, they told him, had seized the farm’s entire bank account, containing more than $60,000. When Randy sold milk at farmer’s markets, customers often paid him in cash, and he and his wife, Karen, deposited those cash payments in the account. The government seized the account because the Sowers deposited the cash in amounts under $10,000.

So here we are in 2015 with this massive, wondrous, global network called the Internet. It’s empowering billions of people, rich and poor, with a universe of knowledge and opportunities. While virtually everyone is going online for virtually everything, from education and entertainment to shopping and employment, here come the troglodyte regulators with their 80-year-old hammers, once again, planning to “fix” it for us. No thanks.
Meet The Fisherman Who Faces 20 Years In Prison For Losing Three Fish

Consider the case of John Yates of Holmes Beach, Florida. In 2007, a state law enforcement officer boarded Yates’s ship in the Gulf of Mexico to inspect his catch of more than 3,000 fish. The officer accused Yates of catching 72 undersized red groupers and ordered him to bring the ship ashore, where he—along with several federal agents carrying weapons—counted only 69 groupers. Yates was accused of disposing of evidence by throwing fish overboard. Yates believes the fish were incorrectly counted, but even if the officer was correct, what happened next was bizarre.

A federal prosecutor charged Yates with violating the “anti-document-shredding” provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act passed in the wake of the Enron accounting scandal. The prosecutor argued that the statute prohibits the destruction of tangible evidence, and because 69 rather 72 groupers were counted upon re-inspection, Yates had likely run afoul of the law. The anti-shredding violation is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.