Dozens of prominent Republicans — including top advisers to former President George W. Bush, four former governors and two members of Congress — have signed a legal brief arguing that gay people have a constitutional right to marry, a position that amounts to a direct challenge to Speaker John A. Boehner and reflects the civil war in the party since the November election. The document will be submitted this week to the Supreme Court in support of a suit seeking to strike down Proposition 8, a California ballot initiative barring same-sex marriage, and all similar bans. The court will hear back-to-back arguments next month in that case and another pivotal gay rights case that challenges the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act. Legal analysts said the brief had the potential to sway conservative justices as much for the prominent names attached to it as for its legal arguments. The list of signers includes a string of Republican officials and influential thinkers — 75 as of Monday evening — who are not ordinarily associated with gay rights advocacy, including some who are speaking out for the first time and others who have changed their previous positions.
The Senate Judiciary Committee seems all but certain to start voting on an assault weapons ban and other gun curbs next week, Congress’ first roll calls in response to the Newtown, Conn., slayings of 26 students and staff at an elementary school in December. The Democratic-written bills largely follow President Barack Obama’s proposals for limiting gun violence, which have been opposed by the National Rifle Association and generated little support from congressional Republicans. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the committee chairman, said Monday that the panel would consider a bill by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., banning assault weapons and ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds, a Leahy measure toughening federal penalties for illegal trafficking of guns, including up to 30-year sentences for people buying firearms they know will be used in crimes, and a measure by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., increasing federal grants for school safety measures such as installing surveillance equipment. Leahy said the panel would also consider still evolving legislation expanding the requirement for federal background checks for gun purchases, which are now required only for transactions by federally licensed gun dealers.
Internet service providers have launched a more coordinated effort to deal with subscribers who illegally download movies, TV shows and music. AT&T, Cablevision, Verizon Communications, Comcast, and Time Warner Cable have put into place an alerts with “six strikes,” with various degrees of penalty for subscribers accused of piracy. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act already requires ISPs to notify users of piracy complaints made by media companies. But the new system, dubbed the Copyright Alert System, brings the major ISPs under one uniform program and for the first time involves a progressively assertive series of six alerts, starting with a letter or email about the infraction and escalating to where it may slow down a user’s Internet connection. The program will be driven by intelligence gathered by the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America, the trade groups for the music and media companies. Verizon’s FiOS says it plans to slow down the Internet speeds of repeat offenders on the sixth time they are notified. Comcast won’t slow down Internet speeds but it will ask repeat offenders to watch an educational video.
Apple Inc has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit that said customers were charged when their children inadvertently downloaded certain applications from the company’s online store, a court filing showed. Under the proposed settlement, Apple could potentially end up paying around $100 million as it has agreed to provide a $5 iTunes store credit to as many as 23 million affected customers, the court filing said. The final settlement figure may vary. Also, those claiming $30 or more from Apple may choose to receive a cash refund instead of an iTunes store credit, according to the filing. The lawsuit, filed by five parents in 2011, involved allegations surrounding purchases in certain downloaded apps, which plaintiffs claim were made by children without the knowledge or permission of the account holder. The lawsuit also alleged that “Apple failed to adequately disclose that third-party Game Apps, largely available for free and rated as containing content suitable for children, contained the ability to make In-App Purchases.” The proposed settlement requires court approval. The court will hear the settlement on March 1.
Macy’s Inc Chief Executive Terry Lundgren testified on Monday he was so appalled when Martha Stewart told him in 2011 that she was starting a new alliance with rival J.C. Penney Co Inc that he hung up the phone and has not spoken to her since. Lundgren, testifying on Monday in the trial of two Macy’s lawsuits over the alliance, said Stewart told him of the deal the night before J.C. Penney announced it. J.C. Penney said on December 7, 2011, that it would launch Martha Stewart boutiques in about 700 of its department stores in 2013. It also bought 17 percent of her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Macy’s, which has its own deal with Martha Stewart, sued her company in January 2012 for breach of contract, and later sued J.C. Penney as well. Macy’s says it has the exclusive right to sell Martha Stewart products in certain product categories, including cookware and bedding. The two cases were consolidated for a non-jury trial before Justice Jeffrey Oing in New York state court in Manhattan.