The R.T. Davis Milling Co.’s Aunt Jemima brand of self-rising pancake mix was a big hit at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, thanks in part to the efforts of Nancy Green, the first of a series of women hired (after auditions) to promote the established brand, which had been named after a vaudeville tune of the day. (It is now owned by Pepsico’s Quaker Oats subsidiary.) Green’s popularity in the role won her a lifetime contract with the company which ended with her death in 1923, but now, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal]:

a lawsuit claims that Green’s heirs as well as the descendants of other black women who appeared as Aunt Jemima deserve $2 billion and a share of future revenue from sales of the popular brand.

If courts are to take statutes of limitation seriously, it is hard to see why such a suit does not deserve sanctions. If on the other hand courts are to begin ignoring statutes of limitation, Quaker might want to check into the packaging on its round box of breakfast oats, lest the heirs of William Penn (1644-1718) get any ideas. (& Debbi Baker, San Diego Union-Tribune; Amy Alkon, Advice Goddess)

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Nature magazine: one reason our retractions of flawed papers are slow and ambiguous is that we’re afraid authors will sue us [Retraction Watch]

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“It Has A Mission Creep Problem,” argues David Harsanyi, noting that large chunks of the Centers for Disease Control’s budget and attention now go “to temporary health scares and trendy crusades that often go well beyond any mission it should be pursuing.” Glenn Reynolds has more at USA Today on how the agency has far more on its plate than communicable disease these days, “having involved itself in everything from playground safety to smoking in subsidized housing.” (And binge drinking, and obesity, and suburban zoning, and….)

It seems that as government has gotten bigger, and accumulated more and more of its own ancillary responsibilities, it has gotten worse at its primary tasks. It can supervise snacks at elementary schools, but not defend the borders; it can tax people to subsidize others’ health-care plans but not build roads or bridges; and it can go after football team names but can’t seem to deal with the Islamic State terror group.

Earlier on the Centers for Disease Control and on director Thomas Frieden, who of course won fame before his CDC appointment for his activism as NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s health commissioner, crusading against salt, sugar, guns, and so forth. More: Chris Edwards chart at Cato; Nick Gillespie, Reason; Michael Tanner. (& welcome Instapundit/Glenn Reynolds, Craig Newmark/Newmark’s Door readers).

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Picking up on some provocative observations by Prof. Kenneth Stahl at Concurring Opinions, I’ve got a new post at Cato arguing that “libertarian analysis better explains what actually goes on in local government than does the standard progressive faith in the competence of government to correct supposed market failure.” Ilya Somin goes on to tackle the same question at Volokh Conspiracy. In a second post, Prof. Stahl explains why he thinks nuisance law, often cited by libertarians as a superior way of handling conflicts between adjoining land uses, doesn’t live up to such hopes in practice. Update: A third post by Stahl.

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Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on October 7, 2014

  • New report: “Schools Cut Back as Litigation Costs Eat into Budgets” [California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, PDF] “Swings too dangerous for Washington schools” [AP; Richland, Wash.]
  • “Appeals Court Ruling Paves Way for Gender Quotas in High School Sports” [Saving Sports, Ninth Circuit on Title IX] More: Alison Somin [Ollier v. Sweetwater Union School District]
  • “College and university administrators demolishing freedom of religion and association” [Bainbridge]
  • “Grenade Launchers: The Newest Must-Have School Supply” [Jason Bedrick/Cato, earlier]
  • “It was against the school policy for elementary kids to have Chapstick” [Amy Alkon; Augusta County, Va.] “Mom Tells Therapist About Briefly Leaving Kids Alone, Shrink Calls Cops” [Lenore Skenazy]
  • Disability and school discipline: “Wondering why a preschooler would ever need to be suspended? Here’s an explanation.” [Amy Rothschild, Greater Greater Washington]
  • Civic education needed: some Greendale, Wisc. parents and educators wonder why non-parents are allowed to vote on school matters [Lenore Skenazy]

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New Supreme Court term

by Walter Olson on October 6, 2014

Ilya Shapiro, Roger Parloff, Daniel Fisher, and Damon Root preview what’s on the docket.

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“The Federal Communications Commission will consider punishing broadcasters for using the Washington Redskins’ [name] on air, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said during a conference call with reporters, according to Reuters.” [Sports Illustrated] It won’t if it wants its actions to stand up in court, though [Eugene Volokh, and more on the role of frequent Overlawyered mentionee John Banzhaf]

More: Prof. Banzhaf responds in comments.

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The Indiana high court didn’t sanction an Indianapolis man who has sued several judges as well as many commercial defendants “but warned him that he could face fines and criminal charges if he files new lawsuits” and provided guidance aimed at strengthening the hand of judges “confronted with abusive and vexatious litigation practices” [ABA Journal, Indianapolis Star and more]

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“A federal judge in Southern California on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit that John Wayne Enterprises filed against Duke University in North Carolina. …The university objected last year when Wayne’s heirs tried to register the name ‘Duke’ to market bourbon and other alcoholic beverages.” [AP, earlier]

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If collecting workers’ comp payments premised on disability from knee and other injuries, it is best not to post photos on Facebook of your exploits continuing to race your BMX bike [Kent, Wash.; MyNorthwest.com]

P.S. You might face less scrutiny, per this L.A. Times account, if you’re a Los Angeles firefighter or police officer claiming injury on the job under a remarkably generous compensation scheme “that has cost taxpayers $328 million over the last five years.”

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From rxc in comments:

The engineer’s solution:

Everyone who participates in the regulated activity needs to purchase a simple push-button device which controls a separate panel with a red light and a green light. During the regulated activity, each participant must hold down the button on the controller that illuminates the green light, which shall remain visible to the other party(ies) at all times. If, at any time, a participant releases this button, the green light goes off, and a red light comes on. Optionally, a siren could start to sound, to summon outside assistance.

These days, with Wifi and Bluetooth, I bet you could make the controller wireless and small enough to easily hold in one hand, leaving the other hand free for other activites…

I bet the Chinese could get something set up in a few weeks, and have it in stores by Xmas!

Failure to use such a device is cause to dismiss later allegations that consent was not given.

Batteries not included.

Earlier on the California law here and here.

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Jacob Sullum traces how a gambling jackpot magically became a forfeiture jackpot (also from him, a history of how forfeiture law got so bad). The Washington Post followed up last month on its multi-part, front-page exposure of forfeiture law (Tim Lynch and Scott Shackford summarize some of its findings) with an op-ed from two former DoJ officials calling for abolition of the program they once helped run; Scott Greenfield has commentary on that as well as more generally on the costs of defense in forfeiture cases and on Nassau County, N.Y.’s resumption of the seizure of cars being driven by persons arrested for drunk driving, whether or not owned by those persons.

From today’s Washington Post: “Activists and Hill staffers meet to discuss curbs to asset-forfeiture laws”. And George Leef writes in Forbes: “Time For Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws To Meet The Same Fate As Jim Crow.”

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“Extremists will have to get posts on Facebook and Twitter approved in advance by the police under sweeping rules planned by the Conservatives.” [Telegraph] The Spectator joins other critics in noting that the idea, floated by Home Secretary Theresa May, could conceivably be used not only against proponents of violent Islamism but also (for example) radicals of right and left, Irish nationalists, and animal-rights protesters:

Labour’s ‘hate crime’ laws have already been used to pursue Christian street preachers criticising homosexuality and Englishmen being rude about Scots. This magazine was once contacted by the CID, which was ‘investigating’ an article about Islamic fundamentalism — the police were trying to establish if we had violated the parameters of argument defined by New Labour. Rather than repeal such laws, Mrs May seems to want to extend them.

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“Health privacy” was a feel-good, no-downside issue for politicos, but expect the arrival of more serious mass outbreaks of communicable disease to change that [Arthur Caplan, Wired]

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October 3 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 3, 2014

  • Posner smacks lawyers, vindicates objectors in Radio Shack coupon settlement [CCAF, Fisher, more]
  • “Germany To Consider Ban On Late-Night Work Emails” [Alexander Kaufman, Huffington Post]
  • 7th Circuit overturns Wisconsin John Doe ruling, sends back to state judges [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel] John Doe case prosecutor John Chisholm, via columnist Dan Bice, strikes back against source in office who talked to Stuart Taylor, Jr. [Taylor, Althouse]
  • Trial lawyer/massive Democratic donor Steve Mostyn also dabbles in Texas Republican primaries [Robert T. Garrett, Dallas Morning News; Mostyn's national spending from Florida and Arizona to New Hampshire and Minnesota]
  • Sad: immigration lawyer known for Iraqi Christian advocacy faces asylum fraud charges [Chicago Tribune]
  • Might have been entertaining had Bruce Braley opponent Joni Ernst in Iowa argued in favor of nullification, but that’s not what evidence shows [Ramesh Ponnuru]
  • California hobbles insurers with diverse-procurement regulations [Ian Adams, Insurance Journal]

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Hans Bader has some clarification on one issue on which there’s been widespread confusion, on which the California law does not go to the extreme some would have liked [San Francisco Chronicle letter to the editor; earlier]:

“New law redefines consent at college” (Sept. 29) claimed that California’s new “affirmative consent” law regulating college sex “says that a person cannot give consent if they are intoxicated.” But it does not say this. What it actually says is that “consent” is absent when “the complainant was incapacitated” due to alcohol.

Most intoxicated people are not legally deemed “incapacitated” and can consent, as law professor Anne Coughlin and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education have noted.

Many happily married people have sex after drinking. While some liberal Democrats who sponsored SB967 wanted to ban sex between intoxicated people, the final version of the bill does not do so.

Admittedly, the new law is disturbingly vague in other ways. Its co-sponsor, Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), said, “Your guess is as good as mine,” when asked how an innocent person could prove “affirmative” consent.

Hans Bader, Washington, D.C.

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…yet deplore the Citizens United decision, you might have a consistency problem [A. Barton Hinkle, syndicated]

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