M. Alex Johnson – Journalist at Large

An analog journalist in a digital world

Posts Tagged ‘california

Sometimes, you do a story just for the picture

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130206-san-diego-accident-crash.photoblog600

(Jody Taylor/Sixty5 Media via NBC San Diego)

Driver stuck in midair after car rams California clinic (NBC News)

Written by Alex

February 6, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Can you even copyright porn in the first place?

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Over at msnbc.com’s Open Channel blog, I have a follow-up to a story I did last year explaining how law firms threaten to sue people who allegedly illegally download porn — and out them as porn fans in court documents — unless they settle for a few thousand bucks.

One of those people has a new counter-strategy: She argues in a suit filed this week that porn is obscenity, and obscenity is ineligible for copyright. Therefore, porn can’t be copyrighted, so even if she did download it without paying — which she denies — it’s not “piracy” in the first place:

Open Channel: Internet piracy suit asks: Can you even copyright porn?

Do you think that’s a legitimate argument? Read the full piece and let me know in the comments.

Written by Alex

February 3, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Reporting: New diet rules curb Meals on Wheels

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Cross-posted from msnbc.com, where it originally appeared.

Federal guidelines meant to help Americans eat healthier foods are straining Meals on Wheels and other nonprofits already laboring to make sure the elderly get enough to eat at all.

Lanakila Meals on Wheels in Honolulu, Hawaii, already has a waiting list of 90 people, most of them elderly, who have asked for food the organization can’t afford to provide.

The program can always use more volunteers, but what it really needs now is money. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alex

November 29, 2011 at 10:16 am

Police Blotter of the Day: Bay Area man accused of skinning, eating bobcat

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Where I come from, that verb would be “applauded for.”

Investigators said the bobcat made five of Henry Arnibal’s 50 roosters into a tasty meal.

Arnibal was not pleased with the bobcat eating his roosters, so the Morgan Hill man shot the big cat with a .22-caliber rifle and turned the tables, Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Steve Lowney said.

Prosecutors said Arnibal used tools to skin the bobcat before eating it.

Eating a bobcat is not illegal, but it is against the law to kill one, Lowney said.

Prosecutors said Arnibal was high on methamphetamine when he killed and ate the bobcat.

Full story (KCRA-TV of Sacramento, Calif.)

Written by Alex

November 15, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Development of a news story: Is Obama’s high-speed rail a ‘train to nowhere’?

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Over at msnbc.com, I have a piece looking at the status of President Obama’s ambitious project to bring high-speed rail — think Japan’s bullet trains — to most of the country by 2034.

The assignment was to write about the ballooning costs estimates for the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco project, which has been widely covered. So the challenge was to find A) a new angle on a story everyone already knows about and B) a way to make an infrastructure budget story — a known click repellent — interesting.

The first part was relatively easy: Let’s put the California project into a national context and see what, if anything, it says about Obama’s overall plan. The second part was a little harder.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alex

November 7, 2011 at 9:30 am

Police Blotter (and Mugshot) of the Day: Naked fugitive nabbed in corral full of horses

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“A 44-year old fugitive sits behind bars in Madera, facing a number of charges, including indecent exposure, after he was caught naked inside a horse corral.

“Deputies nabbed David Ramirez Lopez of Madera inside the corral near his neighbor’s mailbox in full view of traffic and children playing nearby.

“… Lopez showed obvious signs of being under the influence, including a strong odor of alcohol and slurred speech.”

Full story (KSEE-TV of Fresno, Calif.)

Written by Alex

August 4, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Reporting: Challenges to red light cameras span U.S.

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Video: NBC's Kerry Sanders reportsCross-posted from msnbc.com, where it originally appeared. To read it in context, with all information boxes and art, click here.

In more than 500 cities and towns in 25 states, silent sentries keep watch over intersections, snapping photos and shooting video of drivers who run red lights. The cameras are on the job in metropolises like Houston and Chicago and in small towns like Selmer, Tenn., population 4,700, where a single camera setup monitors traffic at the intersection of U.S. Highway 64 and Mulberry Avenue.

One of the places is Los Angeles, where, if the Police Commission gets its way, the red light cameras will have to come down in a few weeks. That puts the nation’s second-largest city at the leading edge of an anti-camera movement that appears to have been gaining traction across the country in recent weeks.

A City Council committee is considering whether to continue the city’s camera contract over the objections of the commission, which voted unanimously to remove the camera system, which shoots video of cars running red lights at 32 of the city’s thousands of intersections. The private Arizona company that installed the cameras and runs the program mails off $446 tickets to their registered owners.

The company’s contract will expire at the end of July if the council can’t reach a final agreement to renew it.

Opponents of the cameras often argue that they are really just revenue engines for struggling cities and towns, silently dinging motorists for mostly minor infractions. And while guidelines issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration say revenue is an invalid justification for the use of the eyes in the sky, camera-generated citations do spin off a lot of money in many cities — the nearly 400 cameras in Chicago, for example, generated more than $64 million in 2009, the last year for which complete figures were available.


Federal camera guidelines
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says red light cameras and other automated traffic controls should:

• Reduce the frequency of violations.
• Maximize safety improvements with the most efficient use of resources.
• Maximize public awareness and approval.
• Maximize perceived likelihood that violators will be caught.
• Enhance the capabilities of traffic law enforcement and supplement, rather than replace, traffic stops by officers.
• Emphasize deterrence rather than punishment.
• Emphasize safety rather than revenue generation.
• Maintain program transparency by educating the public about program operations and be prepared to explain and justify decisions that affect program operations.

Source: Speed Enforcement Camera Systems Operational Guidelines, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration


Los Angeles hasn’t been so lucky.

Read the rest of this entry »

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