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NFL - Credit mrlaugh (flickr)Super Bowl XLV is coming up on February 6th, featuring the Green Bay Packers versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. Las Vegas odds favor the Packers by 3 points, but how many of us are going to make the trip to Vegas to bet on the big game? Most people are more likely to place their wagers in small-scale Super Bowl pools with friends or coworkers. But are these friendly wagers legal?

Many states, including Colorado, South Carolina, and Maine, provide exceptions to their usual gambling laws for social gambling.

Last week, President Obama ordered a review of US Regulations to remove rules perceived to be outdated, stifling job creation, and making our economy less competitive in the world marketplace. In an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, he described it as thus:

“This order requires that federal agencies ensure that regulations protect our safety, health and environment while promoting economic growth. And it orders a government-wide review of the rules already on the books to remove outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive. It’s a review that will help bring order to regulations that have become a patchwork of overlapping rules, the result of tinkering by administrations and legislators of both parties and the influence of special interests in Washington over decades.”

We’ve all used work e-mail for personal stuff, haven’t we? You know: connecting with college friends, organizing family reunions, and making appointments with our lawyers, right?

Wait a second….what was that last thing?

If you live in Northern California, take note: a state appeals court just ruled that an employee’s attorney-client e-mails that use his employer’s company e-mail account are not protected, confidential communications.

Trojan Horse by Marion E (sjsharktank on flickr)On Monday, Gabriel Saldana offered some social media privacy tips for stalking victims. His advice about quitting Facebook is on the mark, and not just for people victimized by stalkers. While Facebook is a popular gateway into a virtual world of friends, status updates, and likes, it may also serve as a social engineering Trojan horse for those seeking to do you harm.

Consider the following security questions that banks and other financial institutions often use to safeguard your account?

John Boehner - Contributions via Wired Influence TrackerWe’ve come a long way from a parking garage in Virginia. While some of our readers may already know of MapLight.org, I wanted to make special note of this terrific site that tracks the connection between money and politics, especially in light of recent reports that corporate contributions have surged to the new Republican leaders of the 112th Congress.

MapLight helps citizens hold their legislators accountable by creating an easy interface to drill down and research the relationship between campaign contributions made by lobbyists and corporations to specific lawmakers on the one hand, and the votes these legislators make for or against specific bills on the other. Users can follow the money trail in a variety of ways. If you have a specific bill you’re interested in, you can search for it, or also quickly access “Bills in the News.” For instance, check out the page for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act where you can track the total contributions made on either side of the bill, look at “$ Near Votes” which provides total contributions given to House members within 30 days of the vote, or review charts and graphs generated by this data for some interesting visuals.

Last month, President Barack Obama proclaimed January 2011 as National Stalking Awareness Month to raise awareness of stalking and to offer support to stalking victims and survivors. While stalking is a crime in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, many people underestimate its effects and consequences. President Obama acknowledged our heightened awareness of stalking and its prevalence since Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act in 1994; however, he noted that such criminal behavior is still often treated as being harmless.

The National Stalking Awareness Month website provides educational material for the public and resources for stalking victims. The website notes that unlike other crimes, stalking is not a single, easily identifiable crime but a series of acts—a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause him or her fear. Often, stalking behaviors may be understandable only to the stalker and victim, and appear harmless to others not familiar with the situation, making it difficult to recognize, investigate and prosecute.

Getting Organized Over Organized Crime

Like death and taxes, organized crime appears to be an unavoidable part of life around the world. Today’s FBI arrest of at least 100 alleged members of La Cosa Nostra on the East Coast is just the latest chapter in a real-life saga.

Would you rather be an educated organized crime buff, or do you prefer to be stuck in stereotypes from the movies (The Godfather), TV (The Sopranos), and fiction books? After all, criminal syndicates have been part of American life for centuries.

Don’t think that organized crime only involves New York’s ‘Five Families’ — the Bonnano, Columbo, Gambino, Genovese, and Luchese criminal syndicates accused today.

Gadsden Flag by Vikrum LexiconA hat-tip to Mary Minow for alerting readers via her Library Law Blog post last week that Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan introduced HR 67 on January 5, 2011 to extend the PATRIOT Act yet another year to February, 2012. Given the short amount of time available to renew the Act and that the renewal period is only a year, most feel the extension is likely to happen without much notice or pushback. Congress passed the original PATRIOT Act in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Much has been written about its provisions which, among other things, allow expanded use of National Security Letters, permitting the FBI to search telephone, email and other electronic records without first securing a court order. In particular, within the library community, alarm has been raised by provisions which grant law enforcement access to library patron records.

Patriot Act Resources

  • H.R.3162 – USA PATRIOT Act, Original 2001 Bill, 107th Congress

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Oregon Ducks v. USC Trojans :: Credit Neon TommyNCAA sanctions played a large role in this year’s college football season, most notably in the case of sanctions against the USC Trojans. USC was sanctioned for “lack of institutional control” with the loss of 30 scholarships, a two-year ban on participating in a bowl game, four years of probation, and the forfeiture of 14 games they had won from December 2004 through the rest of the 2005 season.

The NCAA investigation determined that while Reggie Bush was playing for USC, he allegedly accepted gifts, ranging from a rent-free home for his family to a car, from two sports marketers. The NCAA does not have the power to sanction Bush as a former player, although he did return his 2005 Heisman Trophy, without ever admitting wrongdoing.

A bill to abolish the death penalty in Illinois has cleared the House and the Senate, and is now in front of Governor Pat Quinn for approval. If he signs this bill, Illinois will become the 16th state to ban capital punishment.

You can view the bill on the Illinois General Assembly Site. From the synopsis, the bill:

“Amends the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963. Abolishes the death penalty. Provides that all unobligated and unexpended moneys remaining in the Capital Litigation Trust Fund shall be transferred into the Death Penalty Abolition Fund, a special fund in the State treasury, to be expended by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, subject to appropriation, for services for families of victims of homicide or murder and for training of law enforcement personnel. Amends the State Finance Act to create the Fund. Repeals the Capital Crimes Litigation Act. Provides for severability.”