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Israel Halts Peace Talks After Palestinian Unity Move

Apr 24, 2014

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One day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was calling off his side's participation in the next session of peace talks with Palestinian leaders, Israel's cabinet has endorsed that decision and "unanimously decided to cut off contacts," The Associated Press writes.

The impetus, as we reported on Wednesday, is the announcement from the Palestine Liberation Organization and Hamas that they plan to form a national unity government within five weeks.

As the AP notes: "Israel is furious over Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' decision to form a unity government with the rival Hamas movement after a seven-year rift. Israel and the West consider Hamas a terrorist group."

Talks could always resume at some point, of course. The New York Times notes that "the Israelis said no talks would be held at least until the new unity government announced by the Palestinians takes shape." But it's difficult to envision the type of Palestinian government that might lead Israel to reverse its position. The Times adds that Israel said "it would not in any circumstances negotiate with a government that was backed by Hamas, the militant Islamic faction it considers a terrorist group."

The AP concludes that Israel's decision "appears to end a nine-month peace initiative by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The negotiating period is scheduled to end next Tuesday, though the sides had been trying to agree to an extension."

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To what musician do these very fashionable shoes belong? (Rich Fury)

The Sole Of A Band, April 24

Apr 24, 2014

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Baggy pants make different music than skinny jeans. Cowboy hats sound different than fedoras. T-shirt-and-jeans bands make a different noise than suit-and-tie bands. You can often look at a band's clothing and have a pretty good idea what it'll sound like.

But what about shoes? Over the last few months, I've been photographing the shoes of bands I see live, and more recently I've asked you to snap the soles of bands and send them our way. I got so many that your photos of shoes make up every single selection in this edition of The Sole of a Band. Here's how you play: I'll show you four shoe pics and play one piece of music, you just have to match the right sole to the song. Let's see you shine!

Email your photos to us at Be sure to tell us what the band is, where you took the photo, and how you'd like to be credited.

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Tweet Suits: Social Media And The Law

Apr 24, 2014

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In the past several years, as more and more people are connected through more and more social media, the idea of turning personal grievances into class actions is popping up, well, more and more.

In Virginia, a group that is against affirmative action in education went fishing for plaintiffs on websites recently, according to NPR. The group seeks college applicants who feel they were discriminated against.

In Utah, the American Civil Liberties Union posted a tweet on Twitter earlier this year seeking plaintiffs in a suit to protect the rights of same sex couples married there.

In Kentucky, Sen. Rand Paul took to email last year looking for plaintiffs — and donations — for a class action against the National Security Agency.

And in California, Tea Party organizations have come together in a class action alleging that the Internal Revenue Service treated them unfairly. They have created a website, Sue the IRS, that focuses on aspects of the suit.

According to a recent post on Law360, the action - which comprises tax and privacy issues - could be a test case for social media and the law. Citizens for Self-Governance, the group behind the case, is led by Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler. Such public activity could have repercussions for the case, reports Law360. "As the overlap of social media and class actions continues to escalate, this could be a great case to watch."

Hashtag Justice

Now that folks are posting and tweeting — and retweeting — complaints and grievances around the clock, is every negative experience a possible class action? If someone has a bad experience with a bank or someone gets food poisoning at a restaurant or someone has a problem with a prescribed medicine, they can immediately find others with similar outrages. Is social media making it easier for plaintiffs to band together?

"It is true that with social media, it may be easier for plaintiffs who want to pursue a case to find others who are similarly aggrieved, and who may want to join them as plaintiffs," says Shannon Liss-Riordan, a class action litigation lawyer in Boston. "But I don't think the mere fact that people are airing their grievances in a public format is in itself leading to more class action cases."

In order to get a case certified as a class action, Shannon says, "the courts require so much more than that a plaintiff can merely identify that others have a complaint about the same thing. There are very particular and stringent requirements that must be met, and the cases most likely to be certified are those that challenge a policy that, on its face, affects a large number of people."

Let's Tweet All The Lawyers

But one thing is for sure: Attorneys are turning to social media. In the same ways they have been using TV ads to find people who have been been done wrong by a certain medical circumstance or corporate practice, the legal profession is clamming for clients in the ocean of social media.

In Georgia, a lawyer sought plaintiffs — on a chiropractic message board — for a suit against for-profit education companies. In Missouri, a firm recently relied on Reddit to find investors who feel misled by a certain bitcoin mining hardware company.

In New York, attorney Rob Corbett posted on a Facebook page a while back: "I am helping investigate a new case about text message 'spammers.' I am looking for plaintiffs who have received unsolicited text message advertisements."

And on Twitter he tweeted in December 2012: "Did you ride on a doubledecker sightseeing bus in NYC between March 2009 and now? I am looking for plaintiffs for a class action suit."

When asked if his hunting has been successful, Rob says he can't really comment "because the litigation is pending."

His use of social media "really is just another way to get a message out to people I already know, from friends to clients, etcetera. I do not have a broad public looking at my sites. So really, it is just an easier way to shoot out a message."

Rob will say, however, that in the doubledecker bus case "I put it out over social media. In the end though, the plaintiff I found was a neighbor."

The Protojournalist: Experimental storytelling for the LURVers - Listeners, Users, Readers, Viewers - of NPR. @NPRtpj

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Mineral. (Courtesy of the artist)

StartSerenading... Again: Mineral To Reunite

by Lars Gotrich
Apr 24, 2014

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Lars Gotrich

New songs by The Jazz June and Sunny Day Real Estate, tours from American Football and Texas Is the Reason — it's a helluva time to be a '90s emo kid. Teased with a new Twitter account and rehearsal studio shots on Instagram, Mineral has caught reunion fever and will be touring select cities in September, including a stop at the mighty emo/pop-punk festival simply named Fest in Gainsville, Fla. These will be the band's first shows in 17 years.

In its short existence from 1994-1998, Mineral produced two albums near and dear to the endlessly earnest. The Power of Failing sealed the deal on the quiet-loud-quiet dynamic that'd permeate emo years following. "Gloria" and "If I Could" were raucous and joyous pop songs, guitars squealing over Chris Simpson's wistful vocals. The appropriately-titled swansong, EndSerenading, was a somber, slower record that took its cues from Codeine.

After Mineral broke up, members went onto form other bands like The Gloria Record and Pop Unknown, both with equally short discographies worth diving back into.

Chris Simpson offers a statement on the reunion:

Reconnecting with each other and this material for the first time in 17 years has been a real joy and pleasure. The shows will be the icing on the cake. We are grateful for the opportunity and looking forward to getting to play for all the people who have loved us all along as well as the many who have discovered us posthumously along the way.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be in my room yelling, "Cause I just want to be / Something more than the mud in your eyes / I want to be the clay in your hands." You know, for practice.

Tour Dates

Sept. 5: New York, N.Y. - Bowery Ballroom
Sept. 6: New York, N.Y. - Bowery Ballroom
Sept. 9: Washington, D.C. - Black Cat
Sept. 10: Boston, Mas.. - Brighton Music Hall
Sept. 11: Philadelphia, Penn. - Union Transfer
Sept. 12: Cleveland, Ohio - Grog Shop
Nov. 2: Gainesville, Fla. - The Fest 13

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Mineral. (Courtesy of the artist)

Lawyers Use High Court Petition To Highlight Prosecutorial Misconduct

Apr 24, 2014

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Lawyers for a computer support technician convicted of possessing ricin to use as a weapon are asking the Supreme Court on Thursday to hear his appeal, as a way to send a message about widespread prosecutorial misconduct.

The technician, Kenneth R. Olsen, says the Justice Department's failure to disclose an investigation that uncovered persistent misdeeds by a forensic expert who testified at his 2003 trial robbed him of a strong defense and violated his Fifth Amendment due-process rights. The forensic scientist was later fired "for incompetence and gross misconduct," the petition states. But in January 2013, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that prosecutors had presented so much evidence against Olsen at trial that the failure to turn over a report critical of the scientist wasn't material to the case.

Late last year, 9th Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski (joined by four others on the bench) unsuccessfully urged the whole court to reconsider. In a blistering dissent, Kozinski outlined nearly three dozen cases describing the government's failure to share information that would help defendants. The judge decreed there was an "epidemic" of such violations and that only courts could put an end to them.

Lawyers for Olsen — at two private law firms in Seattle, a Northwestern University legal clinic and the Williams & Connollly firm in Washington, D.C. — pepper their Supreme Court petition with pungent quotes from Kozinski, such as this one: "When a public official behaves with such casual disregard for his constitutional obligations and the rights of the accused, it erodes the public's trust in our justice system and chips away at the foundational premises of the rule of law."

The involvement of Williams & Connolly hearkens back to the failed corruption prosecution of the late Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder walked away from that case early in the Obama administration after an FBI agent blew the whistle and a series of evidence-sharing lapses came to light under prodding from Stevens' defense team at Williams & Connolly.

Since then, the Justice Department has played down incidents of misconduct by its prosecutors and agents. But a report last month by the Project on Government Oversight found that hundreds of DOJ lawyers had violated rules, laws or ethical standards. Lawmakers and some defense attorneys worry the department isn't doing enough to police its own ranks, and they've introduced legislation to empower the independent inspector general to investigate.

The Justice Department had no immediate comment on Thursday's filing, but the Solicitor General will have an opportunity to lay out the government's arguments in the coming weeks.

Olsen, who's been sentenced to more than 10 years in prison, may not be the most sympathetic figure. He never denied possessing ricin, arguing rather that he never intended to use it as a weapon against anyone else.

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