Smartphone Theft Bill Fails to Pass Senate (Update)

Update, 2:34 p.m.: State Senator Mark Leno discusses the vote with SF Weekly.

A bill requiring tech companies to install mandatory kill-switches in smartphones and tablets -- which would disable the devices if they are stolen -- fell two votes shy of passing in the Senate today.

State Senator Mark Leno and District Attorney George Gascon say they may try resurrecting the bill later. Smartphone theft doubled nationwide in the past year, which lends credence to Leno and Gascon's claim that it's a global epidemic.

See also: Smartphone theft is a multi-billion dollar industry.

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City Attorney Dennis Herrera Sues Landlords for Illegal Airbnb Conversions

City Attorney Dennis Herrera
City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed separate lawsuits against two rapacious landlords today, each a perfect allegory of tech despoiling the city.

In both cases, the defendants evicted long-term residents from their property under the Ellis Act, a controversial state law that allows landlords to push out tenants in order to withdraw their property from the rental market. Herrera accuses these property owners of using the law as a ruse; rather than go out of business, they converted the property into commercial rentals for tourists, which they advertised on such platforms as Airbnb,, and

To make matters worse, two of the tenants are disabled.

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PG&E To Be Arraigned for Pipeline Blast

Categories: Law & Order

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The fiery blaze in San Bruno.
Pacific Gas & Electric Company will get its day in court Monday, when it faces a litany of criminal charges over a natural gas pipeline that exploded in San Bruno four years ago.

Earlier this month a federal grand jury indicted the company for 12 safety law violations, alleging it kept slipshod records and relied on erroneous information when evaluating the pipeline.

Because of their negligence, PG&E officials may have been culpable for the fiery blaze that left 8 dead and scores injured, and destroyed 38 homes. The utility might have to cough up $6 million in fines and face court-mandated oversight. No specific executives are accused of misdeeds.

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Smartphone Theft Jumped 94 Percent in One Year, Consumer Reports Says

Categories: Law & Order, Tech

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The next potential target.
After two years of hammering statistics, badgering telecom companies, and decrying the rise of smartphone theft in San Francisco, District Attorney George Gascon says he's been vindicated.

According to a Consumer Reports projection issued today, smartphone theft skyrocketed nationally, from 1.6 million robberies in 2012 to 3.1 million in 2013. That's a flabbergasting 94 percent uptick.

The news follows yesterday's press release battle between anti-theft crusaders and the CTIA, a trade group representing telecom companies. The CTIA opposes new legislation being enacted in four states to require all smartphone manufacturers to equip their products with anti-theft "kill-switches."

Phone companies argue that such security devices should be optional, rather than baked into every phone.

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Appeals Court Overturns Conviction of Hacker/Troll Weev

Categories: Law & Order, Tech

Andrew "Weev" Auernheimer
The Arkansas hacker who became a more pugnacious disciple of Aaron Swartz can go free, a federal appeals court ruled this morning.

The news prompted giddy headlines throughout the tech blogosphere, many of which treated Andrew "Weev" Auernheimer as a cause celebre. "Weev Is Free!" TechCrunch trumpeted. "Hacker Weev's Chilling Conviction Is Overturned," said the more measured headline on Huffington Post.

Journalists have assiduously followed the hacker's case since 2012, when a New Jersey jury convicted him of gathering the personal data of 140,000 iPad users from a publicly available AT&T site, and leaking it to Gawker. Weev said he wanted to expose flaws in AT&T's privacy settings, and maintained, in an impassioned speech delivered the day of his sentencing, that he'd been sent to jail "for arithmetic."

His obdurate stance and flamboyant media persona drew international attention, as did the timing of the case; it roughly coincided with the prosecution of famed hacker Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide before he could be tried for downloading academic articles from JSTOR. Both Weev and Swartz were tried under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a controversial law originally meant to discourage hackers from drilling past a firewall. In recent years, the government has used it to go after renegade programmers who feel compelled to make information accessible to the public.

That was the crux of Weev's case: It put a law on trial, in the guise of an individual. In the end, Weev's polarizing, trollish, douchebag personality was less important than the conflict he represented.

But the three-judge appeals panel managed to completely overlook that debate, when it vacated Weev's conviction this morning.

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Police Traffic Citations Soar -- Just as Clandestine Internal Memo Said They Should

Categories: Law & Order
Is increased police enforcement keeping the streets safer for the likes of this walking man?
Based upon news coverage thus far, 2014, is the year of the vehicle-vs.-pedestrian incident (we have been implored to cease using the malleable term "accident.").

Blaming hapless pedestrians for their own plights -- You! Put away the phone and walk! -- would appear to be solely the domain of contrarians looking to stir the pot. That being said, the number of incidents, let alone fatalities, is still low enough that it's hard to draw strong conclusions on what's going on. The sample size is just too small.

In any event, one conclusion that's not in doubt is that the cops have ratcheted up enforcement.This glut of tickets, headline writers assure us, is to "Curb Pedestrian Deaths." Good luck there.

But, it warrants asking, what if that's not the only reason this is happening?

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Nidra Stubbs: Cops Arrest Driver Who Allegedly Killed Pedestrian in Hit-And-Run

Categories: Law & Order

Nidra Stubbs
San Francisco police have arrested the driver who they say was responsible for killing 82-year-old Oi Yeung as she walked through Visitacion Valley last month.

Officer Albie Esparza says police arrested 31-year-old Nidra Stubbs at her home on April 10 in connection to the hit-and-run collision. On March 20, Yeung was walking east on Visitacion when a driver in a white SUV Durango struck her.

After hitting the victim, the driver made a U-turn and slowly drove by the scene before speeding off again.

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Supervisor John Avalos Calls for Hearings on Body-Mounted Police Cameras

Categories: Law & Order

Supervisor John Avalos
The public outcry that followed a group of San Francisco police officers' fatal shooting of Alejandro Nieto is now reverberating through city government.

Supervisor John Avalos invoked Nieto at a Board of Supervisors hearing yesterday, at which he urged other city departments to accelerate the process of installing body-mounted cameras on San Francisco police officers.

These devices might have clarified the murky details surrounding the Nieto's death, or discouraged officers from using force to quell the protests at City College -- another incident that Avalos cited before fellow supervisors.

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S.F. Cops Have Killed 83 People Since 1980

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Love em or hate em

Complaints of San Francisco police misconduct are at a 21-year low. Knowing that, you'd think San Francisco constables are more popular than they've been since the alcalde days.

But it's hard to buy into that notion when it appears that public mistrust of San Francisco cops is soaring, especially as of late. Last month, an officer shot and killed 28-year-old Alejandro Nieto, who was armed with a Taser; an angry march on the Hall of Justice materialized where police cars were vandalized. More recently, cops have been receiving anonymous death threats.

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Sailor Claims America's Cup Terminated Him for Being Gay, Sues

Categories: LGBT, Law & Order
Larry Jacobson claims his boss exclaimed "That's our poof!" in reference to him...
Oracle Team USA's comeback in the America's Cup -- remember all that? -- was, at the time, described as "stirring," "inspirational," and, essentially, the greatest thing since sliced yachts.

Not much before or since has been much fun; in fact it's been stirringly and inspirationally bad. 

And now this: A gay local sailor last month filed suit against the overarching America's Cup Race Management and America's Cup Event Authority, claiming he was dismissed from his position as a "VIP Spectator Boat Captain" following displays of homophobia from his superiors seemingly ripped from a low-grade 1970s sitcom. 

Larry Jacobson is described in the suit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, as "an openly gay experienced amateur sailor and boat captain"; his website refers to him as an "award-winning author" and "motivational speaker." He would, sadly, be in need of motivation following his decision to give his bosses and their wives a copy of his book, The Boy Behind the Gate, described within the suit as retelling Jacobson's "experiences sailing around the world in a sail boat over a six year period with his same-sex romantic partner." 

At this point, Jacobson claims, his tenure with the America's Cup struck a reef. 

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