Google Voice Phone Management System Arrives : Can also be Combined with Google’s GOOG 411 to Find and Connect with Local Businesses by Phone for Free

Some readers are no doubt familiar with Google’s free Goog 411 “find and connect to a business by phone service” – dial from any phone 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411):

So how about the new Google Voice?

Jeff Bertolucci at PC World in his June 26, 2009 article Hands On With Google Voice -This Is Really Cool reviews “Google’s long-awaited Google Voice phone management service that finally became available this week to a lucky few” writing:

Google Voice provides a single phone number, such as 415-555-1212, for all your cell, home, and work numbers, and lets you manage your voice services online. Unlike a landline service, a Google Voice number isn’t tied to a geographical location. Unlike a cellular service, it’s not linked to a specific handset. And unlike a VoIP line, it’s not matched with an IP address. Rather, it’s tied to you. So if you move, change jobs, or switch wireless carriers, your Google Voice number stays with you. One drawback: you can’t port your current number to Google Voice, although that option may be added in the near future, the company says.

This isn’t a Skype-type service either. You don’t use your computer to make phone calls, and there’s no additional software or hardware to install or buy. (You can, however, use the Click2Call feature from the Google Voice website to place calls.) Is it perfect? No, it’s got a few quirks, and the myriad of configuration options can be confusing at times. But Google’s onto something big here. A service that helps manage the multiple phone lines in our lives should have universal appeal.” [emphasis added]

Read the rest of Bertolucci’s review of Google Voice.

Unfortunately, Google Voice is open to use at the moment by invitation only.

Click here to sign up at Google for a Google Voice invite.

USA Environmental Legislation : American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 Passes U.S. House of Representatives and Heads to the U.S. Senate

The United States – which is far behind Europe in environmental legislation, and which is learning hard energy lessons in the automotive industry – is moving forward on clean energy, as the U.S. House of Representatives on June 26, 2009 passed Barack Obama’s “Clean Energy Bill“, (H.R. 2998, printed June 27, 2009, also known as the “Waxman-Markey Bill”, official short title “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009”, 1201 pages in the .pdf version) which now goes to the Senate, where, in this author’s view, it will still be subject to some amendment, but will surely pass.

As written at WikiNews:

The final vote was 219-212, with only 8 Republicans voting for the legislation, and 44 Democrats voting against it. The resolution addresses the “greenhouse effect,” and calls for a 17% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, and an 83% reduction by 2050. In addition, the legislation will establish new requirements for utilities, and various incentives for “going green.”

The Wikipedia writes:

The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES) is an energy bill in the 111th United States Congress that would establish a variant of a cap-and-trade plan for greenhouse gases to address climate change. The bill was approved by the House of Representatives on June 26, 2009 by a vote of 219-212, but has not yet been approved by the Senate.[1][2]

This vote was the “first time either house of Congress had approved a bill meant to curb the heat-trapping gases scientists have linked to climate change.….[3]

Internationally, the House’s passage of the ACES bill “established a marker for the United States when international negotiations on a new climate change treaty begin later this year.[4]

Proponents and opponents of the bill tend to concentrate on the specific provisions of the bill, whereas the most important impact of the bill – if passed by both houses of Congress and signed by President Obama – will be its clear message to American corporations and inhabitants that they have to start to think and act realistically with respect to energy and the environment, as has been the case in the European Union already for a great number of years.

Those in America who oppose sensible legislation on energy and the environment need to be reminded – time and again- that the collapse of the American automotive industry is a direct cause of the stubborn failure by US institutions and citizens to accept the energy realities.

UPDATE:

John M. Broder writes at the New York Times in House Passes Bill to Address Threat of Climate Change:

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who was in Washington on Friday to meet with Mr. Obama, strongly endorsed the bill even though it fell short of European goals for reducing the emissions of heat-trapping gases.

Mrs. Merkel, a longtime advocate of strong curbs on emissions, has been pushing the United States to take a leading role before the climate negotiations, set for December in Copenhagen.

Cybercrime and Cybersecurity : Cyberspace and Cyberwar : Russia for International Treaty : USA for Law Enforcement Cooperation : European Convention

Arms control for cyberspace?

In a “futuristic” June 27, 2009 article at the New York Times titled U.S. and Russia Differ on a Treaty for Cyberspace, John Markoff and Andrew E. Kramer point to the growing threat of cyberwar:

Officials around the world recognize the need to deal with the growing threat of cyberwar. Many countries, including the United States, are developing weapons for it, like “logic bombs” that can be hidden in computers to halt them at crucial times or damage circuitry; “botnets” that can disable or spy on Web sites and networks; or microwave radiation devices that can burn out computer circuits miles away.

Markoff and Kramer write that the United States and Russia have differing views on achieving cybersecurity:

The United States is trying to improve cybersecurity by building relationships among international law enforcement agencies. State Department officials hold out as a model the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, which took effect in 2004 and has been signed by 22 nations, including the United States but not Russia or China.

But Russia objects that the European convention on cybercrime allows the police to open an investigation of suspected online crime originating in another country without first informing local authorities, infringing on traditional ideas of sovereignty. Vladimir V. Sokolov, deputy director of the Institute for Information Security Issues, a policy organization, noted that Russian authorities routinely cooperated with foreign police organizations when they were approached.

Read the entire article.

European Commission Puts Economies of Struggling Britain and Ireland in the Same Category as Latvia : German Economy may be on the Upswing

We remain worried about the national finances of Latvia and see the threat of devaluation as a strong concern, but now breathe a sigh of relief to see that the Latvian government is in good company.

(See Financial Times Alphaville and Latvia Economy Watch on the economic situation in Latvia).

The June 24, 2009 headline from Gary Duncan at The Times Online reads European Commission Puts Economies of Struggling Britain and Ireland in the Same Category as Latvia, as the governments of Britain and the Irish Republic are facing similar economic problems caused by overspending, the impact of the credit crisis and the extent of the current world recession.

The long-term proposed solution to the world’s financial problems – and also the major bone of contention in Europe – is increased regulation of the financial industry. We agree that more regulation is necessary and indeed inescapable.

Hans-Jürgen Schlamp at Spiegel Online International writes that Europe is split over the financial crisis and that the United Kingdom and Ireland are resisting the push from continental European countries for more regulation of the financial sector:

London and Dublin, in particular, are blocking anything that could create problems in their respective financial industries. This is understandable, given the fact that Great Britain and Ireland have very few other future-proof industrial sectors. But this path is immensely dangerous for Europe.

“We have absolutely no risk management today,” says David Wright, deputy director general of the European Commission. According to Wright, there were no warning signals before the financial meltdown because “the necessary mechanisms simply do not exist.” Wright believes that it is high time for change.

In fact, the UK and Ireland are in much same boat as Latvia and will have no choice but to adopt sounder and more restrictive financial policies in the future.

We need merely to read (via the Edward.Hugh.Blog) an older (2007) International Monetary Fund (IMF) statement on the Latvian economy – as a representative example – to see that the present problems have been a longer time in the making:

Statement by IMF Mission to Latvia on 2007 Article IV Consultation Discussions
Press Release No. 07/87, May 4, 2007

The following statement was issued on April 27 in Riga by Ms. Rachel van Elkan, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission chief for Latvia:

“The IMF mission visited Riga during April 17-27 to hold the 2007 Article IV consultation discussions on economic prospects and policies….

Latvia, like other recent EU entrants, has benefited from an accession-related boost to income convergence. Closer integration with the rest of Europe in goods, financial, and labor markets, as well as through access to substantial EU grants, has helped create favorable investment opportunities and attract large inflows of foreign financing. Consequently, capital and technology stocks and consumption and living standards have risen. Employment opportunities—in Latvia and abroad—have allowed citizens to acquire new skills and work experience. As a result, Latvia has enjoyed very rapid convergence in income levels over the past decade.

Recently, however, fast credit and wage growth has caused the economy to diverge from a balanced and sustainable growth path, with domestic demand outstripping Latvia’s supply capacity. As a result, overheating has intensified, bringing higher price and wage inflation, a sharply wider current account deficit, and greater external indebtedness. Rapid credit growth in euros has left large currency mismatches on the balance sheets of households and corporates and a boom in housing prices that has diverted resources from the tradable sector. A pervasive “buy now-pay later” mindset has settled in and is heightening systemic risk. These developments, if not tackled firmly, will thwart a recovery of export growth.

There is an urgent need for decisive action to unwind overheating pressures and narrow external imbalances by sharply curtailing domestic demand. Notwithstanding actions by the Bank of Latvia to raise risk awareness, recent pressure on the lats [the Latvian currency] signals growing investor impatience with the limited policy response so far. A comprehensive strategy is therefore needed to curb domestic spending and wage growth, and moderate real estate prices to rebalance incentives for investing in tradables sectors.

The authorities’ recent anti-inflation plan is a significant first step, and signals their recognition of the severity of macroeconomic conditions. In our view, however, the high level of imbalances and vulnerabilities warrants more decisive and comprehensive action. We therefore urge the Government, FCMC, and the Bank of Latvia to demonstrate unwavering commitment to a policy that would generate an appreciable near-term adjustment in the current account. A substantial front-loaded fiscal adjustment is essential to begin to counter demand buoyancy while helping convince the private sector of the government’s willingness to shoulder its share of the burden. A strong communication strategy is also needed to signal the need for credit and wage restraint by the private sector. The mission’s main recommendations are detailed below.

Fiscal policy: Against the balanced budget targeted in the anti-inflation plan, we consider that a headline general government surplus of 2¼ percent of GDP in 2007 and 4 percent of GDP in 2008 is appropriate. This could be achieved by saving in full revenue overperformance, restraining current and capital expenditures, and abstaining from cuts in taxes, including the personal income tax. Introducing medium-term budgeting, anchored within a conservative revenue envelope, can help balance the need for expenditure restraint with improvements in public sector efficiency. To enhance fiscal transparency and sustainability, all large public investment projects should be evaluated and prioritized within a single unified framework

Credit and prudential policies: Sharply curtailing and improving the risk profile of new lending is essential to mitigating macroeconomic and financial stability risks. Rebalancing incentives governing credit growth is therefore essential. The mission supports the effective implementation of the credit-restraining measures in the anti-inflation plan, including fully documenting legal income to secure a loan, establishing a comprehensive register of all loans, and requiring a 10 percent minimum downpayment. We also welcome the recent reimposition of limits on banks’ open positions in euros. Additional regulatory measures are also needed to slow credit growth and induce banks to internalize systemic risk in real estate and currency markets. The FCMC, working with the Bank of Latvia, should increase its emphasis on monitoring systemic risk through more frequent on-site inspections of large banks and ensuring that foreign banks tailor their credit-risk models to the Latvian context.

Real estate policies: Rebalancing the structure of the economy away from the nontradables sector, especially real estate, is essential to underpin needed current account adjustment. The mission welcomes the increase in real estate taxation envisaged in the anti-inflation plan, as well as the periodic reassessment of cadastral values, beginning in 2007. To be effective, however, enforcement of real-estate related taxation should be stepped up. To further relieve overheating in the construction sector, it will be necessary to significantly scale back government capital expenditure (planned at 5 percent of GDP for 2007).

Labor market policies: Efficient labor utilization is critical to expand aggregate supply and contain surging wage costs, which are contributing to overheating and undermining Latvia’s competitiveness. The greater flexibility allowed in the use of fixed-term employment contracts introduced in the 2006 Amendment to the Labor Law is welcome, and further steps to facilitate mobility between jobs and regions are needed. The recent decision to allow unfettered labor market access to the newest EU members may help relieve bottlenecks, and wider temporary access should also be considered. Public sector wage agreements should not provide grounds—through demonstration effects—for increases in private wages in excess of productivity. Social partners should secure a broad consensus for appropriate wage restraint. Shifting to higher value-added products requires increasing employer involvement in setting education curricula, and prioritizing EU structural funds to developing human resources, entrepreneurship, and innovation in traditional and new export sectors.”

IMF EXTERNAL RELATIONS DEPARTMENT
Public Affairs Media Relations

Phone: 202-623-7300 Phone: 202-623-7100

Fax: 202-623-6278 Fax: 202-623-6772

By contrast, as written at Spiegel Online International, the German economy may be on the road to recovery, and as Germany goes, so – in the long term – goes Europe. But, as written in that article, there are no grounds for euphoria. National governments must get their finances in order, and that will take some time.

Hat tip to CaryGEE.

The Witness Problem : Human Memory is Fallible and Vulnerable : Which Sense Organ Gives the Most Reliable Testimony? The Eye or the Ear?

Human memory is fallible and vulnerable, which has special consequences for the law.

The Stanford Journal of Legal Studies has a review by Laura Engelhardt of The Problem with Eyewitness Testimony, a talk by Barbara Tversky, Professor of Psychology and George Fisher, Professor of Law, writing:

In a presentation sponsored by the Stanford Journal of Legal Studies, George Fisher placed Barbara Tversky’s research on memory fallibility into the context of police investigations and jury verdicts, discussing the relevance of such research to our system of justice….

and concluding:

The courts’ reliance on witnesses is built into the common-law judicial system, a reliance that is placed in check by the opposing counsel’s right to cross-examination—an important component of the adversarial legal process—and the law’s trust of the jury’s common sense. The fixation on witnesses reflects the weight given to personal testimony. As shown by recent studies, this weight must be balanced by an awareness that it is not necessary for a witness to lie or be coaxed by prosecutorial error to inaccurately state the facts—the mere fault of being human results in distorted memory and inaccurate testimony.

The familiar problems summarized in the Engelhardt review are exacerbated by new studies relating to the fallibility and vulnerability of the brain when forced to choose between conflicting senses.

If our brain is faced with a conflict of senses in which sight gives us one answer and hearing gives us another answer, which sense prevails – audio or visual?

Natalie Angier at the New York Times Science Basics in her article, When an Ear Witness Decides the Case, informs us of a new aspect to human fallibility – sensory conflict:

Spoken clearly, the sounds “dah” and “bah” are easy to distinguish. Yet if you play a film clip in which the soundtrack says “dah” while the image on the screen shows a mouth saying “bah,” people will swear they heard “bah.”

If you ask people to count the number of times that a light flashes, and you flash the light seven times together with a sequence of eight beeping tones, people will say the light flashed eight times.

When confronted with conflicting pieces of information, the brain decides which sense to trust. In the first scenario, those clearly percussing lips could never be articulating a “d,” and so vision claimed the upper hand. But on matters that demand a temporal analysis, and making sense of similar sounds in a sequence, the brain reflexively counts on hearing.

Such and similar evidentiary problems in the law can lead to wrongful convictions.

Happy Father’s Day – on the Third Sunday in June, but not Everywhere, as it is Celebrated on Different Days in Different Countries

Today is Happy Father’s Day in many countries of the globe, but not everywhere. Take a look at the Wikipedia article on Father’s Day for a history and a world view.

Motorists and Cyclists : Bicycles and Law : Law Enforcement : Radfahren und das Recht : Know Your Laws : Die gesetzlichen Bestimmungen kennen

Lawyer On a Bike writes about bicycles and the USA:

The bicycle is a two wheeled, human powered vehicle that offers no crash protection. Cyclists are at the mercy of cars. Between 1932, when bicycle crash fatality statistics were first kept, until 2002, there have been 47,000 deaths of cyclists from bicycle related injuries. 90% of all cycling deaths from a collision with a car. In 66% of the situations the crash occurred due to a traffic law violation. In 66% of the situations the immediate cause of death was a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) Safety Facts for the year 2003 provide that:

  • 622 pedalcyclists were killed in traffic crashes
  • 46,000 pedalcyclists were injured in traffic crashes
  • 23 percent of all pedalcyclists killed were under age 16

The Law Pundit is both a cyclist and a motorist. Indeed, we are domiciled in the incomparable wine-growing region of the Mosel, Saar and Ruwer, which is real “bicycle country”. As written at FlyHahn.com, The Official Tourist Information for Frankfurt-Hahn Airport (HHN):

Cycling Heaven & Car-Free Cycling Days

Car-Free Cycling Day of the Happy Mosel
Car-Free Cycling Days

The Moselle holiday region offers boundless cycling enjoyment: More than 1,000 kilometres of outstanding cycle paths, shimmering rivers, the varied cultural wine growing landscape, romantic towns and villages and the hospitality of the people make your cycling vacation an unforgettable experience. A well signposted network of nearly level cycle tracks and rural roads stretches into the neighbouring countries of Luxembourg and France.

On five Sundays during the year the streets in the Moselle holiday region are turned into an El Dorado for cyclists: Happy Moselle (Sunday after Pentecost), Saar Pedal (3rd Sunday in May), Ruwer Active (3rd Sunday in August), Summer Biking on the Nims and the Sauer (4th Sunday in August) and ‘Schromp macht Spass auf dem Maifeld’ (every second year in the spring) are car-free cycling days that offer fun and a happy cycling experience.”

The auto-free “Happy Mosel” Sunday is the world’s longest wine street festival, when all the roads on the Mosel River between Cochem and Schweich are blocked to automobile traffic.

As written by Iris Reiff from the 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office at Spangdahlem Air Base in Make way for bikers at Happy Mosel — 17 years of the world’s longest wine street festival in announcing this year’s Happy Mosel on the now past May 3:

The Mosel valley will become the Eldorado for bicyclers for the 17th year in a row, May 3, when roads between Cochem and Schweich belong to cyclists and walkers only. The 140-kilometer stretch will be closed to vehicle traffic between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m., transforming this area into a recreational roadway.

According to organizers, more than 100,000 people are expected to participate in this unique multicultural sporting event. Happy Mosel is the longest wine street festival in the world.

There were in fact ca. 100,000 participants – and during the day five bone fractures but no fatalities.

Biking has much greater hazards on days when vehicle traffic is running normally.

In densely populated Germany, there are 70 million bicycles – considerably more than the 41 million registered motor vehicles, and in the year 2007 there were 79,000 injured bicycle riders – of whom 425 were fatalities – in accidents where bicycle riders themselves were legally at fault fully half the time.

See in this regard Bicycle Law. For German law, see Fahrrad-Recht.

A recent article about the “untold running battle” between bicycle riders and motorists caught our eye (Der unsägliche Kleinkrieg, ADAC Motorwelt, Heft 4, April 2009), especially since we were in the pedestrian area of a town center in Germany today for not more than ten minutes – just walking through – and encountered no fewer than six bicycle riders riding the wrong way on a one way street, two of these riding much too fast and recklessly weaving through pedestrians and dangerously swerving to avoid hinderances with a lack of care about the rest of the world that sadly often marks German cyclists.

We could also mention yesterday, when we had brake our car dangerously fast not to hit a bicycle coming up the road around a very sharp corner toward us – the wrong way on a one-way street. We glanced furtively in our back mirror to make sure the car behind us did not back-end our car because of our emergency braking, caused by the bike rider. The bicyclist continued on – dangerously close to us and to parked cars – as if he or she had not a care in the world.

Bicycle riding can be dangerous and bicycle riders often think that uncaring and reckless motorists are at fault for this danger – this is surely one well-known aspect of the running battle between bicyclists and motorists – but the ADAC, Germany’s premier automobile club of 16 million members, points to numerous facts which suggest that bicycle riders are often also their own worst enemy on the roads.

Many cyclists appear to place the obligation of safety almost solely on the car-driving motorists to look after THEM, as if bicyclists had no duty of safety at all, either to themselves or to others. Why is that?

In the ADAC guest column to that same ADAC magazine, there is an article by psychoanalyst Dr. Wolfgang Schmidbauer titled Multiple Persönlichkeiten im Straßenverkehr (“Multiple Personalities in Street Traffic”). Schmidbauer points out that the personality of a car driver manifested in a large air-conditioned 4-wheel vehicle is completely different than the personality which surfaces when that same person rides a bicycle (we might add here that yet another, distinctly different personality surfaces when that same person mounts a motorcycle).

Schmidbauer states that bicycle riders – even those who are otherwise motorists – frequently slip into a new identity when they get on to their bicycles. In that new identity, they “individualize” the traffic laws, i.e. often flagrantly and regularly ignoring and violating the most basic traffic dictates – not stopping at stop signs, riding down one-way streets the wrong way, not signalling turns, running red traffic lights, riding on the street and blocking traffic unnecessarily even though a bike path is available right next to the thoroughfare, talking on their mobile cell phones while riding and blocking traffic because of their unawareness of the world around them, and often being a hinderance or a nuisance to normal traffic.

The immense scope of the problem that Schmidbauer correctly identifies is substantiated by the comments to the ADAC articles made by apparently non-reformable cyclists (“Unverbesserliche”) at the German bicyclists forum, Velomobilforum.de, where, it seems to this reader, that they do not understand the scope of the problem. The issue is also not one of motorists vs. bicyclists, but rather one of cyclists attitudes.

Our own description for many bicyclists in Germany – based upon our over one million car miles on German roads – is “militant”, and we ourselves are both a “sensible” cyclist and a “caring” motorist with loved ones in the family who also ride bicycles, so that we see this problem from both sides, including the view that reckless drivers who endanger bicyclists should be heavily fined and their driver’s licenses be revoked. But let us turn to the cyclists, who are not as innocent as they appear to think they are.

Schmidbauer correctly pinpoints the underlying and errant psychology of cyclists as seeing themselves as the “good” and “little” guys and motorists as the “big” and “evil” ones – a mistaken psychological frame of mind which the cyclists then think – erroneously – entitles them to special rights. We all can recognize this extremely dangerous psychology via the often anonymous religious fanatics who have falsely convinced themselves that their alleged belief excuses them from normal civilized behavior. In fact, the result of such a psychological frame of mind is often a type of internal anarchy combined with barbarian behaviour – for which there is in fact no supportable human or legal justification.

Excepting the all-too-many aggressive automobile rowdies who are a menace to everyone, including cyclists, therer are many normal, law-abiding motorists who ALSO have their problems with many bicycle riders. Indeed, many an average law-abiding motorist regards many cyclists as being overtly aggressive on the streets, largely irresponsible and uncaring with respect to other persons or vehicles in traffic, and indeed as either ignorant of the traffic laws or unwilling to abide by them. The ADAC article states that in one college city alone – Münster, Germany – the bicyclists run intentionally through red traffic lights an estimated 13,000 times – per day, in spite of the 20,000 traffic tickets issued to cyclists in that city per year. Just imagine what one of those red-light running bicycle militants would say to a car driver who drove intentionally through a red light. Many such cyclists live with a false double standard of the traffic world.

The situation is magnified million-fold throughout Germany, partly because there is no way for pedestrians or motorists to identify militant cyclists and it is this anonymity which often makes cyclists virtual terrorists on two wheels. Barring a direct confrontation with police, they are able to engage in unlawful and aggressive behavior on the roads without great fear of detection or punishment.

In the United States the Federal Highway Administration of the Department of Transportation has issued materials on Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety, including college course materials on Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation, of which the Introduction to Lesson 24 provides inter alia:

Experience has shown that developing bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly communities requires a comprehensive approach that includes more than simply engineering and constructing bike lanes and sidewalks. This comprehensive approach includes:

  • Engineering—designing and constructing roads for bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • Education—teaching or training bicyclists, pedestrians, motorists, and other road users.
  • Enforcement—ensuring that all road users follow traffic laws and rules of the road.
  • Encouragement—providing incentives beyond physical infrastructure.
  • Evaluation—confirming that the intended outcomes have been produced.

One aspect of the problem is that in Germany there is no official bicycle registration (only private registration, e.g. online at Finde Mein Rad) and bicycles do not have license plates. So how would you identify and report a bicycle rowdy or someone who was endangering motor vehicle traffic participants or pedestrians through their illegal bike riding?

In the United States of our childhood, bikes in our city had to be taken to the local fire department for registration, where one also obtained a bicycle license plate, which was affixed to the back of the bicycle. This ability to identify cyclists or bicycles is not present in modern Germany, and so, bicyclists are anonymous – and many of them behave that way! Anonymity breeds barbarism.

One aspect of the solution is therefore to implement mandatory bicycle registration and official bicycle license plates in Germany.

This would not only reduce the blind aggressive militancy prevalent among many bicycle riders but it would necessarily also improve bicycle etiquette AND SAFETY in general because bicyclists and/or their bicycles would be identifiable to car drivers, pedestrians and witnesses.

Such a possibility of identification would also contribute to reduce the tremendous and inexcusable amount of bicycle theft in Germany (estimated at 400,000 per year in 2005), which is enabled by the absence of bicycle registration and by the lack of bicycle license plates.

It is such a simple solution that we are amazed that Germany has not implemented something like it.

Another area that needs substantial improvement pertains to the knowledge of bicycle law. Since no license is required in countries like Germany to ride a bicycle, many bicycle riders have very little knowledge of traffic regulations or “riding etiquette”. They ride their bicycles as if they were on a distant planet.

Classes of instruction on bicycle law and etiquette should be mandatory and “bicycle licenses” should be issued to bike riders only after passing traffic and etiquette tests.

After all, even now, persons riding a bicycle in Germany can be heavily fined for traffic infractions – rightly so, because negligent or reckless bike riding can pose a substantial danger to others. Bicyclists can even lose their motor vehicle driving license for riding a bicycle while intoxicated beyond a certain legally prescribed level (blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.16 or more).

Given the severity of penalites that one can incur, anyone driving or riding any type of bicycle or vehicle on the streets should have a license to do so.

What is a Maquila or a Maquiladora? Mexican Border Factories Employ Thousands and Account for a Great Share of Mexican Exports but At What Cost?

A quote in the previous LawPundit posting uses the term maquila (short for maquiladora).


Map of the maquiladora plants in Mexico from The Cutting Edge
The Wikipedia under maquiladora tell us that:

A maquiladora or maquila is a factory that imports materials and equipment on a duty-free and tariff-free basis for assembly or manufacturing and then re-exports the assembled product, usually back to the originating country. A maquila is also referred to as a “twin plant”, or “in-bond” industry. Nearly half a million Mexicans are employed in maquiladoras.

The term “maquiladora”, in the Spanish language, refers to the practice of millers charging a “maquila”, or “miller’s portion” for processing other people’s grain….

During the later half of the sixties, maquiladora industries rapidly expanded both geographically and economically and by 1985, had become Mexico’s second largest source of income from foreign exports, behind oil. Since 1973, maquiladoras have also accounted for nearly half of Mexico’s export assembly. Between 1995 and 2000, exports of assembled products in Mexico tripled, and the rate of the industry’s growth amounted to about one new factory per day. By the late twentieth century, the industry accounted for approximately 25 percent of Mexico’s gross domestic product, and 17 percent of total Mexican employment. However, profits generated from maquiladoras are typically sent back to the United States, or other investor-based countries, and therefore, maquiladoras do not promote direct economic development within Mexico.

Since globalization and physical restructuring have contributed to the competition and advent of low-cost offshore assembly in places like Taiwan, China, and countries in Central America, maquiladoras in Mexico have been on the decline since 2000: According to federal sources, approximately 529 maquiladoras shut down and investment in assembly plants decreased by 8.2 percent in 2002. Despite the decline, there still exist over 3,000 maquiladoras along the 2,000 mile-long United States–Mexico border, providing employment for approximately one million workers, and importing more than $51 billion in supplies into Mexico. As of 2006, maquiladoras still account for 45 percent of Mexico’s exports. Maquiladoras, in general, are best represented among operations that are particularly assembly intensive.“

We also found some legal analysis online of maquiladoras as well as related economic articles and materials, including several posters who regard maquiladoras as sweatshops:

  • Truett, Lila J. and Truett, Dale B., NAFTA and the Maquiladoras: Boon or Bane?. Contemporary Economic Policy, Vol. 25, No. 3, pp. 374-386, July 2007. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=993979 or DOI: 10.1111/j.1465-7287.2006.00043.x

  • Covington M. Wall, Mexico Economic Crisis, Fiat Peso Currency Skating on Thin Ice Mexico Jun 02, 2009 – 03:28 AM

    GDP fell 8.2% in the first quarter of this year alone directly impacting the unemployment rate officially around 5.1% in the first quarter up from 3.7% a year ago. The hardest hit segments of the economy have been the auto and maquiladora industries. Domestic auto sales have contracted close to 25% and auto exports have fallen nearly 41%. Exports as a whole have fallen sharply, by some estimates around 45%, due to the severity of the economic crisis in the US which because of NAFTA is México’s largest trading partner. The US is also the destination of nearly 80% of goods traded internationally. In addition to oil exports the US has also been the primary destination for migrant labor receiving nearly 500,000 annually but off sharply this year along with remittances sent by migrants. Remittances alone, which amount to roughly 30% of GDP, make up a large part of direct foreign investment. Direct foreign investment in the 1Q of this year totaled 2.6 billion USD and is 36% lower by some estimates compared to 2008 figures which totaled 21 billion for the entire year. [emphasis added]

    Continued deterioration of macroeconomic conditions is causing officials to frantically try to find ways to bolster the economy in order to hedge off an economic melt down thus avoiding a repeat of the last great crisis in 1995.

  • Patrick J. Kelly, Mexico Maquiladoras and NAFTA (March 2001)
  • Editorial, Lucinda Vargas, Senior Economist, Maquilaportal.com, NAFTA, the U.S. Economy and Maquiladoras

  • Mexican Taxation of Maquiladoras, UnderstandMexico.com
  • Discover the Cost-Saving Benefits of Mexico Manufacturing with Maquiladoras, MadeInMexico.com
  • Gil Villagrán, MSW, Maquiladoras-NAFTA’s Sweatshops, (gvillagran [at] casa.sjsu.edu)
    Saturday May 2nd, 2009 12:41 PM

  • Mike Westfall, Maquiladoras–American Industry Creates Modern-Day Mexican Slaves, The Cutting Edge, The Edge of Labor, June 8th, 2009, who writes:

    NAFTA has been a disaster for the working people and the communities in which they live in all three nations. Today we clearly see that the results of NAFTA have led to a much weaker America with devastated and shuttered manufacturing communities. Mexican wages have dropped, and almost 20 million more Mexicans now live in poverty. American business leaders have been quick to seize upon the opportunity to take advantage of these desperate workers.

    It is common knowledge that many U.S. politicians get hefty campaign contributions from industry. The only NAFTA winners have been the companies and politicians.

  • Vic Kolenc, Hundreds hungry for NAFTA business, El Paso Times, 06/12/2009 12:00:00 AM MDT

  • Niñas de la maquila: malos tratos y abuso, Vanguardia.com.mx, por El Universal , 14-Junio-2009 (10:03 a.m.)

  • Maquila Solidarity Updates, Maquila Solidarity Network

  • Maquilaportal.com

Foxconn & Hon Hai Precision Industry : China’s Largest Exporter Opening Dell Assembly Plant in Mexico on the Border of the United States and Mexico

The future is always in the making and it behooves us to look carefully at international economic developments, especially when they take place on our own borders.

What company known to you is the manufacturer of, among other things, iPods, iPhones, Macbooks, Playstations, Wii’s, Xbox 360s, Nokia and Motorola cell phones, Kindles, and motherboards for Intel, Dell and HP?

You’ve heard of them, right? Foxconn is China’s biggest exporter, where it employs about a half a million people, and it is one of the world’s largest OEM manufacturers of electronics and computers. As we read at Philip Elmer-DeWitt’s Fortune Apple 2.0 blog:

Although it keeps a relatively low profile in the United States, Foxconn is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of electronics and computer components. It built many of the first generation iPhones, as well as MacBook Pros, MacBook Airs, iPod nanos and Mac Minis.

It also makes motherboards for Intel (INTC), Dell (DEL) and HP (HPQ), Playstations for Sony (SNE), Wii’s for Nintendo, Xbox 360s for Microsoft (MSFT), cell phones for Motorola (MOT) and Kindles for Amazon (AMZN).

Foxconn employs nearly half a million people and does most of its manufacturing in mainland China. It was China’s largest exporter in 2007.

Foxconn is the trade name of Taiwan-based and Hong Kong-centered Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd., a company founded by and still run by CEO Terry Guo (Terry Tai-Ming Gou, traditional Chinese: 郭台銘; pinyin: Guō Táimíng). The 2008 Fortune Global 500 ranked Hon Hai – with $51.828 billion in revenues – 132nd among all the firms of the world and 8th among electronics concerns. We became interested in this conglomerate because it is the OEM manufacturer of an ALDI camera that we own (see PremierImage.com.tw).

Foxconn is involved in an interesting and significant story just breaking on the border between the United States and Mexico.

It all began with golf.

Phyllis Eileen Banks writes about the still unincorporated community of Santa Teresa (near El Paso, Texas) in New Mexico as follows:

According to Roadside History of New Mexico by Francis L. and Roberta B. Fugate, “In the early 1970s, professional golfer Lee Trevino was one of the principal backers in the design and construction of a golf course and country club known as Santa Teresa.” It was originally planned with luxury homes and an airport for fly-in golfers. Later Trevino withdrew but growth continued.

Since then, Santa Teresa has been made a Port of Entry to Mexico, but you are going to have trouble finding that at Google Maps or Google Earth. The development is perhaps too new.

As written by Jose Z. Garcia of New Mexico State University in The Sunland Park-Santa Teresa Project: An Interview With Jerry Pacheco at the blog La Politica: New Mexico!, the area is booming:

The South Mesilla Valley is today, arguably, the biggest economic development project in New Mexico history, driven by two major factors: first, is the $5 billion expansion of El Paso’s Ft. Bliss, which is causing West El Paso to spill over into New Mexico between El Paso and Anthony, and, to a lesser extent into the Chaparral area. The second is the growth of Cd. Juarez on the West Side, between Anapra and the Santa Teresa border crossing, which promises to create all kinds of business synergies on the U.S. side.

In his analysis of developments, Garcia refers to:

Jerry Pacheco, executive director of the International Business Accelerator, a consulting firm for businesses considering locating in the Southern Dona Ana County region…. [who] points to three inter-related projects, begun within the past year, that are going to transform the Santa Teresa-Sunland Park region profoundly.

The first of these is Foxconn.

Garcia writes:

First, Foxconn, the largest manufacturer of electronic and computer equipment in the world, has just completed phase one of its assembly plant, located on the Mexican side of the border just yards away from the border and from the crossing at San Jeronimo-Santa Teresa. Foxconn is assembling desktop computers and servers for Dell at this facility–the largest maquila plant in Mexico….

By the end of the year there should be 5000 workers and depending on the state of the economy, thousands more to come, up to 30,000 workers according to current plans. With that many workers, West Juarez is assuredly going to go through a boom in low-cost housing, commercial development, and urban sprawl. On the U.S. side there will be a reciprocal demand for more upscale housing for managers, trucking facilities for the increased traffic at the port and more businesses serving the Juarez maquila sector, like Expeditors.

A key strategic reason for Foxconn to locate at San Jeronimo was the availability of ample space on both sides, very near the border crossing, and the presence of a user-friendly international border crossing. Expeditors International, a large logistic services company, has constructed a facility on the U.S. side of the fence, across from Foxconn, from which they will supply Foxconn with the inventory of parts needed to assemble Dell computers….

Read the rest of Garcia’s posting here
.

We find this business confluence of China, Mexico and the United States to be significant because it shows how the traditional political and commercial borders have become increasingly interconnected in our globalized modern world.

EU Election Results for the European Union Parliament : 27 Countries : 736 Members of Parliament (MEPs) : Representing 492 Million Citizens of Europe

The TouchTable : Like a Giant iPhone : A Very Serious High Tech Toy for Military and Law Enforcement : Also Useful for Firms & Private Households

Have you seen this? Fantastic.

The TouchTable®.

If you want an incredible modern high tech coffee table – a touch table is it. The cost is still quite high, but we definitely want one of these for Christmas. Just imagine keeping track of your client legal cases or your sales force or your cash flow or your product chain or your investments by use of one of these things. We can already see a touch table in every law firm and corporate board room in the country, although the high-end income households will surely be among the first to get these things as the “newest toy”. And we see a large market for this table among football coaches – for obvious reasons.


The above video
from Wired Science at PBS shows the TouchTable from Touch Table, Inc. The touch table is a very serious information-focused toy which is already used for military analysis, military intelligence and for law enforcement purposes. TouchTable is essentially a very large touch-screen system on a table-like horizontal surface, which allows one or multiple users to navigate large amounts of data and information via software applications that visualize and analyze selected data and information – and allow touch navigation within that data. The TouchTable is the fantastic prerequisite, but equally fantastic software is also required.

In the video, Touch Table CEO Rocky Roccanova shows Wired TV’s Ziya Tong how the TouchTable works and shows some stunning examples of its application to things like the question of whether Iran is building nuclear weapons, or how world air travel can be viewed in real time, or how city crime locations can be viewed and analyzed by police departments.

Owners of the table include such far off places as the City of Moscow.

For R&R (rest and relaxation), you can even convert TouchTable into a virtual pool table.

Here is what Touch Table Inc. writes about TouchTable TT45:

TouchTable TT45

The TouchTable TT45 is a small group collaboration system for visualization, navigation and analysis of data. Functioning as a mobile presentation and input device, the TT45 displays data on a touch-sensitive table surface. People gather around the table and manipulate this displayed information using simple hand gestures.

TouchTables aid in decision making by replacing the traditional classroom style lecture environment with a shared group experience. When gathered around the table, everyone in the group has equal access to the displayed information and menu system allowing control of the discussion to flow naturally. This shared experience increases each participants understanding, resulting in faster, more confident decision making.

Additional TouchTables can be networked to allow synchronized remote collaboration. This means that different groups can connect to the network and share data over long distances. Each device on the network displays the same information and is updated concurrently. Control of the displayed information can be handed off as needed and shared among groups as the discussion warrants. This shared virtual space allows all groups of users to contribute, regardless of their physical location.

Hat tip to Dennis B.

France Strikes Out on its Three Strikes Law Against Digital Piracy as the French Constitutional Council Affirms Individual Right to Internet Access

The Constitutional Council of France – a uniquely French legal body which is neither a court nor composed of judges – struck down the French Three Strikes Law against digital piracy as contrary to “French constitutional principles”. As Peter Sayer of IDG News Service notes:

France’s highest legal authority has ruled as unconstitutional a government plan to cut off, without trial, Internet users accused of copyright infringement.

The so-called “three strikes” law would have handed over the power to disconnect surfers to a newly created High Authority for the Distribution of Works and the Protection of Rights on the Internet (Hadopi). It was approved by the French Parliament in April but has not yet been signed into law.

Liberté, égalité, fraternité

The idea of “individual liberty” is one of the core principles of world democracy and is integrally tied to the French Revolution more than 200 years ago, so that we were surprised to see France pass a law by which Internet access could be denied to file-sharers by an administrative body.

As we wrote about the French “Three Strikes Law” at LawPundit in France Defies European Union and Passes Controversial Anti-Piracy Three Strikes and You’re Out Creation and Internet Law Against Illegal File-Sharing :

We presume that a compromise political and legal solution will be the recognition of Internet access as a fundamental right of EU citizens, provided that they do not engage in illegal activities via that very same Internet. We see no direct confrontation to be necessary here.

Eric Pfanner at the New York Times writes about the decision of the Constitutional Council:

The council said the proposal was contrary to French constitutional principles, like the presumption of innocence and freedom of speech. The latter right “implies today, considering the development of the Internet, and its importance for the participation in democratic life and the expression of ideas and opinions, the online public’s freedom to access these communication services,” the council said.

As written at CNet Digital Media News by Steven Musil:

The council said “free access to public communication services on line” was a human right that only a judge should have the power to disconnect.

Nate Anderson at ars technica goes into the legal details in his French court savages “three-strikes” law, tosses it out, pointing out that a critical flaw in the Three Strikes Law was the fact that the USER had to prove that he had not illegally engaged in file-sharing in order to retain his or her threatened cut-off from Internet access:

[B]ut the burden of proof was on the Internet user….

In its ruling [.pdf here (in French)], this was precisely the issue that the Council zeroed in upon, going all the way back to the French Revolution to stress the wrongheadedness of the HADOPI approach.

Moreover, whereas under section nine of the Declaration of 1789, every man is presumed innocent until has has been proven guilty, it follows that in principle the legislature does not establish a presumption of guilt in criminal matters,” wrote the Council. This basic principle applies “to any sanction in the nature of punishment, even if the legislature has left the decision to an authority that is nonjudicial in nature.”

The court also made a strong statement about freedom of speech: “Freedom of expression and communication is so valuable that its exercise is a prerequisite for democracy and one of the guarantees of respect for other rights and freedoms and attacks on the exercise of this freedom must be necessary, appropriate and proportionate to the aim pursued.

Andrew Orlowski at The Register concluded:

Hadopi (the acronym of the French government agency after whom the three strikes law was named) created a penalty of suspending an individual’s internet connection for two to twelve months if they repeatedly downloaded unlicensed copyright material from the internet.

The [Constitutional Council] found several parts of Hadopi unconstitutional, violating the citizen’s right to free speech, and the presumption of innocence….

Freedom of expression and communication is all the more valuable that its exercise is a prerequisite for democracy and one of the guarantees of respect for other rights and freedoms and that attacks on the exercise of this freedom must be necessary, appropriate and proportionate to the aim pursued,” they wrote.

The breadth of the finding effectively guts the law – so it’s back to square one for copyright enforcement in France.

Or is it?

IFPI counsel Shirla Perlmutter told the World Copyright Summit that the French Government would resubmit the law to Parliament, taking account of the [Council’s] objections.

“Our understanding is that a new version of the bill will maintain the same graduated response, but transfer powers executed by Hadopi to a special court….

That essentially takes the teeth out of the Three Strikes Law and is a political setback for the French President. As written by Jose Vilches at Techspot:

The decision is a setback for President Nicholas Sarkozy, who argued that the law was crucial to protecting artistic creation in the digital era, and a huge victory to everyone opposing it. With the uproar this so-called “three strikes” law has caused in France, and an earlier measure passed by the European Parliament prohibiting EU governments from cutting off a user’s Internet connection without a court order, it seems unlikely that other European countries will propose similar laws.

Deadline Alert : USA Importer Security Filing & Additional Carrier Requirements Interim Final Rule (ISF 10+2) to require Advance Cargo Info

Michael Laden writes at gtnews.com about the impending deadline for implementation of the Importer Security Filing Rule of US Customs & Border Protection (CBP):

We are nearing the half way mark of a one-year non-enforced phase-in of this rule and, unless otherwise delayed, on 26 January 2010 the CBP will begin full enforcement of this new requirement. If a company is not ready on this date, it might be a very painful and expensive experience. The most important take-away from this article is the heightened sense of urgency and anxiety about this looming deadline, especially if a company hasn’t filed its first ISF yet.

We recently registered at gtnews and just read the important May 19, 2009 article by Michael Laden of TRG Direct who writes in Importer Security Filing – Is Your Company Ready? that “[c]ompanies importing into the US must take stock of the new Importer Security Filing rule, which will incur steep penalties for non-compliance. (Bobsguide writes, by the way, about gtnews.com [free registration required] that “gtnews is the word’s largest network of corporate treasury professionals. It is an unrivalled resource for treasury practitioners and those who do business with them.“)

The impending rule discussed by Michael Laden is the Importer Security Filing and Additional Carrier Requirements Interim Final Rule, also known as the ISF 10+2 Rule because it requires 10 data elements from the importer and 2 from the carrier.

To help prevent terrorist weapons from being transported to the United States, vessel carriers bringing cargo to the United States are required to transmit certain information to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) about the cargo they are transporting prior to lading that cargo at foreign ports of entry. This interim final rule requires both importers and carriers to submit additional information pertaining to cargo to CBP before the cargo is brought into the United States by vessel. This information must be submitted to CBP by way of a CBP-approved electronic data interchange system. The required information is reasonably necessary to improve CBP’s ability to identify highrisk shipments so as to prevent smuggling and ensure cargo safety and security. These regulations specifically fulfill the requirements of section 203 of the Security and Accountability for Every (SAFE) Port Act of 2006 and section 343(a) of the Trade Act of 2002, as amended by the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002. DATES: Effective Date: This rule is effective on January 26, 2009.” [links added by LawPundit]

The 10 plus 2 “data elements” are found in the April 1, 2009 Testimony of Acting Commissioner Jayson P. Ahern, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, before the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Homeland Security, on Cargo and Container Security:

The CBP Importer Security Filing covers the following key areas:

  1. Ten unique data elements from importers not currently provided to CBP 24 hours prior to foreign loading of cargo,
    • Manufacturer (or supplier) name and address
    • Seller (or owner) name and address
    • Buyer (or owner) name and address
    • Ship to name and address
    • Container stuffing location
    • Consolidator (stuffer) name and address
    • Importer of record number/foreign trade zone applicant identification number
    • Consignee number(s)
    • Country of origin
    • Commodity Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States number
  2. Two additional data elements provided by the carriers, including the Vessel Stow Plan, which is currently utilized by the vessel industry to load and discharge containers, and Container Status Messaging, which is currently utilized by the vessel industry to track the location of containers and provide status notifications to shippers, consignees and other related parties.”

The time allotted for industry comment on the rule expired on June 1, 2009, and the one-year delay on enforcement of compliance ends on January 26, 2010, only about six months away, so time is getting short for importers to fully implement this act.

Ahern testified in detail about the rule as follows:

Advance Information

CBP has recognized Congress’ mandate that we collect more and improved advanced information for cargo shipments. CBP, in fact, requires advanced electronic cargo information as mandated in the Trade Act of 2002 (including the 24-Hour Rule for maritime cargo). Advanced cargo information on all inbound shipments for all modes of transportation is evaluated through the Automated Targeting System (ATS) before arrival in the United States.

The function of ATS is to provide information to support the decisions of CBP officers working in Advance Targeting Units (ATUs) at our ports of entry and CSI ports. The system provides a uniform review of cargo shipments, identifies the highest threat shipments, and presents data in a comprehensive, flexible format to address specific intelligence threats and trends. ATS uses a rules-based program to highlight potential risk, patterns, and targets. Through rules, ATS alerts the user to data that meets or exceeds certain predefined criteria. ATS uses national targeting rule sets to provide threshold targeting for national security risks for all modes: sea, truck, rail, and air. CBP is continually striving to improve the ATS system by convening regular “rules conferences”. The conferences are attended by our intelligence officers and representatives from various seaports and land border ports who update risk indicators and ensure that the most current intelligence and trends are factored into ATS.

CBP has been working with importers for several years to put in place a rule that would ensure that we had timely access to the information necessary to perform a proper analysis of the risk posed by particular shipments. After that effort began, Congress endorsed it– the SAFE Port Act mandated that CBP obtain additional advanced cargo information to enhance our ability to perform risk-based targeting prior to cargo being laden on a vessel overseas.

As many of you know, CBP announced an Interim Final Rule (IRF) in January 2009 that requires importers and carriers to electronically submit additional information on cargo before it is brought into the United States by vessel. Since then, CBP has received tens of thousands of Importer Security Filing (ISF) filings, hundreds of vessel stow plans and millions of container status messages that have already yielded some promising results.

The additional data elements that DHS is receiving under the importer security filing rule are critical to ensuring that we have the best information available about where a container originated, who filled it with goods, where this may have occurred, and what types of goods are being shipped.

The trade’s input during the consultative process as well as its participation in the Advance Trade Data Initiative was instrumental in the successful crafting of the rule. CBP made several significant changes to the proposed rule based on feedback received during its consultation with industry partners, the Departmental Advisory Committee on Commercial Operations (COAC), and other federal entities. These changes include a year-long delayed compliance period, considerable flexibilities associated with six of the data requirements, and a commitment to accept additional comments from industry until June 1, 2009 and then initiate a structured review to reexamine the rule’s impact on industry. Based upon this review, DHS will determine whether to eliminate, modify, or maintain these requirements.

LawPundit Posting "Who Killed the Electric Car" at the New York Times Headlines Around the Web

The June 8, 2009 LawPundit posting “Who Killed the Electric Car” was featured at the New York Times Headlines Around the Web in connection with the Wikipedia as follows:

Who Killed the Electric Car?

This posting is a logical sequel to our LawPundit posting on Unnecessary Patent Encumbrance of Large Automotive NiMH Batteries : What is Required are Draconian Penalties for the Greedy Patent Holders.

As written at the Wikipedia:

Who Killed the Electric Car? is a 2006 documentary film that explores the creation, limited commercialization, and subsequent destruction of the battery electric vehicle in the United States, specifically the General Motors EV1 of the 1990s. The film explores the roles of automobile manufacturers, the oil industry, the US government, the Californian government, batteries, hydrogen vehicles, and consumers in limiting the development and adoption of this technology.

It was released on DVD to the home video market on November 14, 2006 by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment….

The movie deals with the history of the electric car, its development and commercialization, mostly focusing on the General Motors EV1, which was made available for lease in Southern California, after the California Air Resources Board passed the ZEV mandate in 1990, as well as the implications of the events depicted for air pollution, environmentalism, Middle East politics, and global warming.

The film details the California Air Resources Board‘s reversal of the mandate after suits from automobile manufacturers, the oil industry, and the George W. Bush administration. It points out that Bush’s chief influences, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, and Andrew Card, are all former executives and board members of oil and auto companies. They were eliminated from the GM Line in 1999.

A large part of the film accounts for GM’s efforts to demonstrate to California that there was no demand for their product, and then to take back every EV1 and dispose of them. A few were disabled and given to museums and universities, but almost all were found to have been crushed; GM never responded to the EV drivers’ offer to pay the residual lease value ($1.8 million was offered for the remaining 78 cars in Burbank before they were crushed). Several activists are shown being arrested in the protest that attempted to block the GM car carriers taking the remaining EV1s off to be crushed.

The film explores some of the reasons that the auto and oil industries worked to kill off the electric car. Wally Rippel is shown explaining that the oil companies were afraid of losing out on trillions in potential profit from their transportation fuel monopoly over the coming decades, while the auto companies were afraid of losses over the next six months of EV production. Others explained the killing differently. GM spokesman Dave Barthmuss argued it was lack of consumer interest due to the maximum range of 80–100 miles per charge, and the relatively high price.

The film also showed the failed attempts by electric car enthusiasts trying to combat the cancellation of EV1 and the surviving vehicles. Towards the end of the film, a deactivated EV1 car #99 was found in the garage of Petersen Automotive Museum, with its former owner invited for a visit.

The film also explores the future of automobile technologies including a deeply critical look at hydrogen vehicles and an upbeat discussion of plug-in hybrid electric vehicle technologies, with examples such as Tesla Roadster. The end of the film mentioned the upcoming sequel titled Revenge of the Electric Car.”

Read the rest of the Wikipedia article here.