Tag Archives: bill

California Pushes for Peddling with Helmets

Staff Editorial 

Two cities in California, San Francisco and Long Beach, make the list of the top 50 bike-friendly cities in the United States according to an online bicycle-oriented newspaper, Bicycling. California unfortunately tops another bike-oriented list. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, California has the highest number of cyclists killed in comparison to every other state, with 338 cyclists killed in collisions with motor vehicles between 2010 and 2012. These numbers led State Senator Carol Liu to introduce SB192, a bill that would require all cyclists, adults and minors, to wear a helmet or pay a $25 fine. If passed, California would become the first state to implement a law requiring those 18 years and older to wear a helmet. Continue reading California Pushes for Peddling with Helmets

USF Tangled Up In Copyright

SOPA photo illustration by Sean Culligan

The anti-piracy bills SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) introduced last year in congress triggered controversy among millions of Internet users and tech companies across the nation. The bills were designed to stop copyright violations online.

Websites with unauthorized streaming of copyright material would be shut down and website developers would be prosecuted. If convicted, they could face 30 years in prison.

The bills provoked many reactions among individuals across the country.

Andrew Garrett, senior at USF stated, ” I am strongly against these bills because of the loose definition of “illegal act.” According to SOPA/PIPA, any website that allows user uploaded material such as Facebook, Wikipedia, Google or Youtube can be taken down.”

One of the concerns regarding SOPA and PIPA is that it will increase the power of the government and corporations over online content.

“If the bill was passed, large corporations could use the government as their own hit man against websites,” said Garrett.

Some USF students have also compared the bills to Internet censorship in China where the government monitors and restricts media content.

USF Junior Ally Smart said, ” Imagine if we were only to receive one side of a story. Now imagine that you attempted to portray the other side of the story and you were thrown in jail. Where would our society be?”

When asked if she thought the proposed bills violate the rights to Freedom of Speech, Smart said, “ Absolutely. These bills wouldn’t shut down piracy websites, but they would instead cause serious issues for legitimate sites who would suffer the unintended damages.”

Media Studies Professor Dorothy Kidd agrees. Although she believes Internet intellectual property and the rights of writers, artists, musicians and performers are very important, she feels the bills are not designed to protect creators or citizen users of the Internet.

“It’s a law for the giant corporate holders of copyright not the professional or amateur creators, who by and large are not fully compensated for creation of content nor the majority of citizens who use the Internet,” Kidd said.

Kidd believes it is necessary to have a comprehensive discussion about the Internet. Citizens, software developers, small businesses, government and large corporations from around the world should be consulted.

“ There are many other important controversies including guaranteeing all citizens the right to communicate on the Internet, and protecting against surveillance and exploitation of content by corporations, criminals and governments…” Kidd added, “However, regulating the Internet only in the interests of the old media giants is not the way to go about improving our global means of communications.”

A new bill was proposed as an alternative to SOPA/PIPA called OPEN (Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act), which was presented by California Representative Darrell Issa and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden. Both senators are in opposition to the SOPA/PIPA bills.
Instead of giving online oversight power to the United States government, OPEN suggests the International Trade Commission (ITC), an agency responsible for fighting online piracy, be put at the helm. OPEN would also notify websites that they are violating copyright infringement instead of automatically shutting it down.
Many individuals feel this is more politically fair when it comes to dealing with piracy issues.

Lamar Smith, theTexas Congressman who proposed SOPA, announced his plan to remove the internet service provider (ISP) provision in SOPA in the beginning of January.

The ISP provision in SOPA allows the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to seek court orders requiring service providers to block subscriber access to foreign sites accused by the DOJ of copyright infringement.

Not long after, Smith also decided to remove the Domain Name System(DNS) requirements from the bill. Without the DNS provision, business companies and entertainment industries will no longer be able to obtain court orders to block site access from within the United States.

Despite the ISP and DNS provisions being removed from the bill, companies and citizens continue to protest the bill.

On January 18 websites like Wikipedia and Google went dark for 24 hours in opposition to SOPA/PIPA.

Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation said, ” The Wikipedia blackout is over. Our goal was to raise awareness about SOPA and PIPA and to encourage readers to make their voices heard– and we’ve been successful on both counts.” About 200 protesters also gathered in San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza the day of the blackout.

Before the protests, SOPA/PIPA had 80 Congress supporters and 31 opponents.

After the black out, the number of supporters dropped to 65 and the number of opponents had a significant rise by 70.

Millions of people made their voices heard on social media. Many newspapers and journalists wrote news stories featuring the Wikipedia blackout screen.
Although many companies and individuals see this as a victory, Hugo Lopez, politics major and senior at USF, said he had several concerns.

Lopez said, “One of the strangest things to me, besides this draconian law, is the fact that the general public knew nothing about this until Tumblr, Google, and Facebook brought it into their sites. We really need to be more vigilant about things like this and it scares me that only a few days before the vote did the general public care.”

Just a day after the Wikipedia and Google black out, the U.S. Justice Department and FBI shutdown Megaupload, a website that allowed users to anonymously upload and download copyright material.

Kim Schmitz, owner of Megaupload, was sentenced to 50 years in prison for helping share digital archives. Ally Smart found this shocking after hearing that Miguel Carano, a man who murdered, raped, and disposed of the body of his victim Marta Del Castillo, was sentenced to only 20 years of prison.

“I mean, granted, Schmitz helped divert millions (possibly billions) of profit away from already grotesquely rich companies. But did he personally embezzle the money? No. Carano murdered someone and got 40% of time,” Smart said.

Just two days after the black out, Congressman Smith stated that he is pulling SOPA from consideration until there is a wider agreement on the solution.

This is a huge success for SOPA’s opponents, but the bills are not dead. Both SOPA/PIPA are going to be revised and are scheduled to be voted on in the near future.

Five Ways Students Will Be Affected by Healthcare Reform

On March 21, 2010, Congress passed a healthcare reform bill that will drastically change many students’ lives. Here is the breakdown of what to expect from healthcare reform and how individual issues will affect USF students.

1.  Dependent Coverage

With the passing of the healthcare reform bill, young people can now be covered by their parents’ insurance provider until age 26. Previously, dependents could be kicked off their parents’ plans as early as age 19. This means that most students graduating from USF this year will not lose coverage after graduation.

2.  Small business tax incentives

Small business owners will now be given tax breaks if they offer their employees healthcare coverage. Many students graduating, especially in San Francisco’s booming small business community, will get jobs at independent companies or businesses. These employers could not afford health insurance coverage without the new tax breaks.

3. Regulation of insurance companies

Insurance companies will not be allowed to deny coverage due to “pre-existing conditions” and cannot drop people who develop a condition after accepting coverage. Pre-existing conditions can include cancer, pregnancy, autism, diabetes, and chronic illnesses. Students who have previously been denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions can reapply for health insurance and students who already have insurance cannot be dropped if they get in a car accident, develop and illness, require a medical procedure, etc.

4. State regulation

States are not allowed to reduce Medicare or Medicaid until 2014, when healthcare exchanges will be in full effect. These exchanges will create subsidized options for students and their families who do not have insurance and report an income of up to 400% of the poverty level to buy insurance. Until these exchanges are in place, every state’s Medicare and Medicaid can increase but cannot decrease. Some states have circumvented this rule. Arizona, for example, eliminated its children’s healthcare program the week prior to Congress passing the federal healthcare reform.

5. Abortions not covered

A pending Executive Order will eliminate the tax-payer funding for abortion coverage. Individuals must pay for abortions by using private insurance premiums.