Following the rules wherever they lead? The newly installed alarms did promptly catch a guest smoking in a cleaning closet. [Independent]
ABC takes very seriously a complaint filed by a photographic model that Swedish automaker Volvo improperly degraded her image by allowing play-on-words copy into a promotion. She had signed broadly worded releases. [Good Morning America]
Since 1979 nineteen countries led by Sweden have banned corporal punishment by parents of kids in the home. A bill scheduled for debate today before the Massachusetts legislature would make that state the first to join the trend. (Laurel Sweet, “Bay State’s going slap-happy”, Boston Herald, Nov. 27; “Anti-spanking bill is folly” (editorial), Nov. 28; Stephen Bainbridge, Nov. 22 (New Zealand)). Earlier: Apr. 19, 2004 (U.K.); Feb. 14 and Feb. 24, 2007 (proposal in California).
More: such laws in both Sweden and New Zealand have been softened (i.e., made more lenient toward parents) by the interpolation of reasonableness standards, per Kiwi website Big News (via QuizLaw).
Whereas some might think prison is a place to teach inmates valuable lessons (“don’t stab people,” etc.), it appears more Swedish prisoners are learning the value of a good lawyer:
Court Upholds Prisoners’ Right to Porn
STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) — Convicted sex offenders in Sweden are free to read pornography in their cells following a court ruling that has angered the prison service.
The Supreme Administrative Court in Stockholm last week ruled that the Swedish Prison and Probation Service had no right to deny a rape convict access to his porn magazines.
Prison officials had argued that reading porn would interfere with the man’s rehabilitation program. They also said the magazines posed a security problem for staff and other inmates because they could increase the risk of the man relapsing into criminal behavior.
On the bright side, he’ll be blind when he’s finally released.
[David H. Baker, the Lighter Association's general counsel] said association members want mandatory standards to help reduce their legal liability. He explained that members often get sued for fires resulting from malfunctioning lighters. In many cases, he said, the lighter was destroyed in the fire, so there’s no proof of who made the lighter. But the easiest targets are the well-known brands such as Bic, Scripto and Swedish Match — companies that are members of the association, Baker explained.
Chinese off-brand import lighters are only 30% likely to meet voluntary industry safety standards, and manufacturers are not just facing the cheaper competition from the imports, but apparently also having to swallow liability from accidents caused by the more dangerous imports.
Now it’s a group of Italian female lawyers who are suing to suppress that particular variety of commercial speech. (Nick Pisa, “Parking is no joke as Italy’s women sue over beer ad”, Daily Telegraph (U.K.), Sept. 17). For earlier precedents in the U.S. (Stroh’s sued over “Swedish bikini team”) and Canada (Ontario vs. Molson’s and Labatt’s ads), see Carlin Meyer, “Sex, Sin, and Women’s Liberation: Against Porn-Suppression”, Texas Law Review, April 1994 (PDF), at footnote 314. Another example: RealBeer.com, July 16, 1999 (Venezuela).
The Boston Phoenix (“World of Pain”, Feb. 9) tells readers that “frankly, the primary reason” it isn’t going to run the Danish Muhammed cartoons:
Out of fear of retaliation from the international brotherhood of radical and bloodthirsty Islamists who seek to impose their will on those who do not believe as they do. …Simply stated, we are being terrorized, and as deeply as we believe in the principles of free speech and a free press, we could not in good conscience place the men and women who work at the Phoenix and its related companies in physical jeopardy. As we feel forced, literally, to bend to maniacal pressure, this may be the darkest moment in our 40-year publishing history.
Somewhere there’s probably an issue of vicarious/employer liability lurking in here — if printing the cartoons did lead to violence, the Phoenix’s owners might well end up having to pay. But of course the venerable alt-weekly’s stance is practically a profile in courage compared with that of editors, publishers, governments and university officials in many other places, including South Africa (bans publication of images), Sweden (reported to have shut down website carrying them), Canada’s Prince Edward Island (university confiscates student newspaper, edict forbids weblog comments) and so on (Michelle Malkin roundup, Feb. 9). Commentaries worth reading: Krauthammer, Kinsley, and, from a different perspective, a commenter at Andrew Sullivan’s. (More on the cartoons here and here.)
My op-ed on the litigation against Big Cola (see Feb. 2) draws an L.A. Times reader letter (Feb. 7). Also welcome Andrew Sullivan readers (Jan. 27). More by Sullivan: “Hey, these adverts are making me fat”, The Times (U.K.), Jan. 29; blog posts including Jan. 25 and Jan. 26. And see Philip Wallach, “There Are Deeper Pockets than ‘Big Soda'”, The American Enterprise, Dec. 15; John Luik, “Sponge Bob, Wide Pants?”, TCS Daily, Jan. 25; and Rogier van Bakel, Jan. 23.
On allegations of a link between food advertising and childhood obesity, see Todd Zywicki, Dec. 21 and links. According to John Hood (“Bill Won’t Stop War on Ads”, Carolina Journal, Nov. 11):
American children are now gaining weight even as they watch somewhat less commercial television than previous generations did. One study estimated that children saw about 15 percent fewer TV ads in 2003 than their counterparts did in 1994. Alas, that does not mean today’s kids are playing outside more. They simply have many more commercial-free alternatives such as premium cable, tapes and DVDs, and video and computer games.
Another unfortunate fact for advocates of regulating food advertising is that their pet idea has already been done to the max – that is, in the form of outright bans of ads targeting children – in places such as Sweden and Quebec. The obesity rate of Swedish children differs little from that of British children, however. The same is true in Quebec vs. other Canadian provinces.
Meanwhile, Jacob Sullum (“Dora the Exploiter”, syndicated/Reason, Jan. 25) comments on the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s suit against Viacom/Nickolodeon and Kellogg (see Jan. 20):
The plaintiffs say it’s not about the money. I believe them. This lawsuit, which CSPI and its allies plan to file under a Massachusetts consumer protection statute prohibiting “unfair or deceptive acts or practices,” is really about censorship. By threatening onerous damages, CSPI aims to achieve through the courts what it has unsuccessfully demanded from legislators and regulators for decades: a ban on food advertising aimed at children.
Earlier, Sullum reported on the CDC venturing into West Virginia to stalk obesity “vectors” (“Watching the Detectives”, syndicated/Reason, Aug. 26).