The Real Criminals of Reality TV

Reality television has given instant fame to people who otherwise wouldn’t have public attention. More people tuned in to Here Comes Honey Boo Boo than the Republican National Convention of 2012. However, reality television shows that were once popular are falling apart under the weight of that fame. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo was canceled a couple of days ago because Anna Cardwell’s mother was reportedly dating the girl’s molester. TLC canceled the show amid controversy that the show’s producers exploited the family for their own gain.

honey boo boo reality tvHoney Boo Boo is not the only reality television show that has come under fire. Police arrested the celebrities of “Sons of Guns” for child abuse and child rape. The stars of The Real Housewives of New Jersey (RHNJ) plead guilty to mortgage and bankruptcy fraud earlier this year. Should television producers have the legal duty to check whether their stars are criminals?

Child abuse and child molestation are not issues that producers can ignore. If teachers have an obligation to report abuse, adults who also work with children could take on the same duty. Putting legal red tape on the production of reality television might also force producers to inquiry into the well-being of their stars. If RHNJ had disclosed that they weren’t as wealthy as their show portrayed, RHNJ stars might not have been placed in a possible where fraud was a good idea.

On the other hand, it would be difficult for television producers to check whether their stars are doing something illegal. Honey Boo Boo was easier because there were photographs of June Shannon spending the night out with the man accused of molesting Shannon’s daughter. Catching child abuse behind closed doors is more difficult if the child doesn’t come forward. Moreover, people who commit abuse or fraud are likely to hide what they are doing, so producers would have to take time out of their actual jobs to catch suspicious behavior that they might not know exists.

Decadence Is the Price We Pay

Opponents of reality television are convinced reality television contributes to the moral decay of society. Reality television definitely highlights the ugly side of American culture. When the focus of these shows is on child beauty pageants and the life money can buy, the United States does appear superficial.

However, that doesn’t mean reality television shouldn’t exist. I could give all kinds of reasons about the First Amendment, but I think there are more interesting reasons to keep reality television around.

The first problem with eliminating “moral decay” in reality television is that moral decay is vague. Moral decay is like pornography. Everyone knows it when they see it, but even Supreme Court Justices would have a difficult time defining what it is. Second, shows that would be considered moral decay could still have value. Honey Boo Boo rebuked stereotypes that all southerners were against homosexuality when June Shannon said that “everybody’s a little gay.”

Television might be debasing and vulgar, but unlike politicians, these shows are at least honest about what they stand for. As long as television networks avoid supporting criminals, we might even consider lowering the bar so that people on television might be more honest with audiences.

Beware Drug-Laced Halloween Candy

Halloween is supposed to be scary, but not like this. Discovering that a child’s candy has been laced with drugs is a kind of fright that no one should have to experience.

halloween candyHave you heard the story about the little girl who ate the poisoned candy? How about the story of the boy who cut his mouth on a razor blade hidden in his candy bar? These and similar stories have been around for several decades. In reality, there have been few reports of poisoned Halloween candy and many of the stories have actually turned out to be false. However, it has happened. For example, in 2000, a man was convicted of tampering with Snickers bars by sticking needles inside the candy, which resulted in a child cutting himself with the needle before eating it.

Even though there are very few reports of this nature, parents are still scared about the contents inside their children’s Halloween candy. Checking candy and ensuring its safety is not a difficult process. You can check the safety of your children’s candy without having to send it through a technical x-ray or manually going through each candy bar. Checking Halloween candy includes looking for any evidence of tampering or looking for anything that appears to be suspicious or handmade by a stranger.

Helpful tips for parents this Halloween:

  1. Always warn your children that you or another authorized adult must check their candy before they eat it. If temptation is a problem, give them your own candy to eat as a snack while they are out trick-or-treating.
  2. Caution your children not to eat any opened candy, handmade candy, or drink any beverages that were offered to them while trick-or-treating.
  3. Examine each candy under bright lights and check for any lumps, opened areas, ripped wrappers, loose wrappers, or stapled parts.
  4. Check candy from manufacturers or brands you have never heard of.
  5. Throw away handmade candy or candy that has been placed manually in twist wrappers.
  6. Throw away any fruit that was given out as a treat.
  7. Try to go to neighborhoods and houses that you are familiar with or have gone to in the past.

Since it is very easy to obtain marijuana and other drugs these days (especially with the less strict marijuana laws in, Washington, Colorado, and other states), ingesting pot in candy can easily lead to overdoses in children. Even though drug-laced candy can be tough to spot and there have been very little incidents of these incidents, worried parents should always check all Halloween candy to ensure that the packaging hasn’t been tampered with or opened by a stranger.

Making False Claims of Ebola Is a Felony

Amidst the growing concern surrounding the deadly Ebola virus, there are some who seem to find it amusing to trick the authorities and others into believing that they are infected with the virus. However, it is hardly amusing to play on people’s fears about Ebola by making false statements. If you make such false statements, you will be charged with a felony.

ebola hazmat suitOne such instance was the case of a man who was arrested on a misdemeanor drunken-driving charge in Georgia and upon his arrival at Cobb County Jail, told the paramedic that he recently arrived from Liberia (one of the countries that are most infected with Ebola) and was experiencing symptoms of the virus. He also said he was in Nigeria, Brussels, and Virginia during his recent trip.

As a result of these statements, the man was isolated, the jail was put on lockdown, and the jail refused new inmates. But after testing the man for Ebola, it was discovered that he did not have the virus, and he had not made any trips outside the U.S. since 2005. The man now faces three counts of felony charges.

Another similar incident occurred on a U.S. Airways flight to the Dominican Republic from Philadelphia. A passenger sneezed and made a joke, stating that he had recently travelled to Africa, thereby implying to his fellow passengers that he might have Ebola. As a result of his statements, a hazmat team dressed in blue protective suits with hoods and clear plastic face masks, boarded the plane and removed him. Upon testing the man, it was discovered that he did not have a temperature, and did not have Ebola.

Still another example of false claims of Ebola occurred in a courtroom in Fort Lauderdale, FL, where an arrestee communicated to police that he had Ebola. Shortly afterwards, Fire Rescue hazmat responders donned with protective suits took the man to be tested for the virus at a medical center, where it was determined that he did not have Ebola. Had he actually been infected with Ebola, a minimum of 250 people, including 150 inmates and 100 corrections officers, could have been exposed to the virus.

In light of these and other similar hoaxes, clearly intended to scare people and to create a disturbance, it should be well publicized that anyone making these kinds of false statements will be charged with a felony, and suffer the consequences.

This is a very serious matter that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Making false statements about having a deadly, contagious disease is likely to cause panic, fear, and hysteria in everyone around. In the event that someone near you claims to have the symptoms of Ebola, here are the symptoms: fever greater than 101.5°F, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, pain in the abdomen, and bleeding or bruising without any known cause.

Peeping Toms Can Legally Take Photos up Women’s Skirts

Hey ladies, you know that creepy guy who tries to peek up your skirt ? Well it’s now legal for him to take a photo of you as well.

upskirt photos legalOne such creep, Christopher Hunt Cleveland, was arrested last June at the Lincoln Memorial on two counts of attempted voyeurism. Park police were suspicious of Cleveland when they spotted him taking photos of women on the steps above him rather than the giant statute of the bearded man. When police searched Cleveland’s camera and car, they found several hundred photos of women’s “private parts.”

At this point, most would expect a plea bargain if not an outright conviction. Unfortunately for decent people, Cleveland’s lawyer convinced Judge Juliet McKenna to suppress the evidence. Judge McKenna ruled that Cleveland’s photographs could not be used as evidence against him because “there is no evidence Mr. Cleveland positioned his camera in any way or employed photographic techniques or illumination, so as to capture images that were not already on public display.” In other words, the photographs were inadmissible as evidence because somehow the women’s crotches were already visible to the naked eye. Score one for the perverts.

Halfway across the country, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals came to a similar, although slightly different, conclusion. Ronald Thompson was arrested in 2011 after he was caught taking underwater pictures of children in swimsuits. Although police couldn’t charge him with child pornography (the children were clothed), they did try to convict him under a statute which prohibited improper photography or visual recording acquired in public for sexual gratification.

In an 8-1 decision, the Court ruled that the law banning improper photography for sexual gratification violated the free speech clause of the Constitution. The Court agreed that the law was trying to protect citizens from dirty sexual thoughts, but regulation of thoughts is exactly what the First Amendment is designed to protect against.

Is It Always the Woman’s Fault?

Although the two cases and the outcomes were similar, the two courts took two different paths to arrive at these disturbing results. Internet commentators have condemned both rulings as cases that destroy women’s privacy. The outrage is understandable, but criminal prosecution isn’t the route society should take to stop this kind of behavior.

The D.C. Court ruled that the voyeur’s photos were not evidence of a violation of the law because the pictures were not depictions of anything illegal. Judge McKenna didn’t rule that women have no privacy, but that their privacy had not been violated. Indeed, it would be odd if the judge had ruled that women have no privacy because Judge McKenna is only a trial level judge without the authority to make that kind of ruling. Moreover, Judge McKenna is a women; it’s hard to argue that “male privilege” was a factor when the decision comes from a judge who might one day be on the wrong end of her own ruling.

The Texas case is a different beast altogether. Unlike Cleveland, Thompson was already guilty of violating a law. The Appeals Court overturned the law his conviction was built on because the law itself violated free speech. The free speech argument is particularly clever because it subtly shifts the focus of the case from the women’s privacy to the defendant’s right to express himself. In D.C., women’s privacy wasn’t violated. In Texas, women’s privacy was a secondary concern.

What Now?

If criminal prosecution isn’t the answer, what is? Free speech only limits government action. If you feel your privacy has been violated, you’re free to bring a lawsuit yourself. Such a lawsuit could produce a court order to make the pervert stop. The problem is that the camera guy would have to take pictures of the same woman repeatedly for her to bring suit, and voyeurs like Cleveland target different women every day.

On the other hand, if someone like Thompson is taking pictures at a private facility like a water park, the business itself can ban the pedophile from entering. If someone is taking pictures of you or you see someone taking pictures at a restaurant or private park, you should definitely complain to management and/or the owners.


How Wellness Programs Might Result in Employment Discrimination Lawsuits

Employers beware: the EEOC is bringing lawsuits against businesses that use wellness programs to discriminate against disabled employees. The EEOC claims that employers are using wellness programs to subject employees to medical tests unrelated to job performance in an effort to discriminate against disabled employees.

wellness programsIn August 2014, the EEOC filed a suit against Orion Energy Systems for discriminating against Wendy Schobert. The EEOC alleges that Orion shifted premium costs to Schobert after Schobert refused to participate in Orion’s wellness program. When Schobert complained, Orion fired her. Earlier this month, the EEOC filed a second wellness program lawsuit against Flambeau, Inc. The EEOC alleges that Flambeau violated the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) by cancelling employee Dale Arnold’s medical insurance after he refused to complete biometric tests and health risk assessments.

Due to the popularity of wellness programs, the EEOC is expected to file more wellness program suits in the near future. Kaiser Family Foundation reports that about 94% of businesses with over 200 workers and 63% of smaller employers offer wellness programs. A RAND Employer Survey shows that 80% of employers with wellness programs screen their employees for health risks for program planning purposes.

Ironically, the federal government is partly responsible for the recent rise of wellness programs. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, offers 30% to 50% tax credits to employers who get their employees to meet health goals. Many employers believe the EEOC’s recent lawsuits constituted a bait and switch by the federal government: Obamacare incentives them to create these wellness programs for their employees, but then the EEOC sues the employers for implementing wellness programs in a manner that saves employers on insurance costs.

Doing the Right Thing without Being Punished for It

Health employees are obviously a good thing. The employee lives longer, the employer doesn’t have to change employees as often, and everyone saves money when people don’t need medical attention. The question becomes: how does an employer get ACA tax credits without triggering an ADA lawsuit?

First, an employer cannot defend against an EEOC lawsuit by claiming that the employer had to comply with the ACA. The ACA’s tax credits are completely voluntary. Employers aren’t mandated to create wellness programs. If an employer is slapped with a lawsuit after implementing a wellness program, the employer can’t argue that the employer was entrapped because the ACA is voluntary while the ADA is not.

Okay, so employers can’t argue that they can’t comply with both laws. Employers should probably avoid creating wellness programs that will result in a discrimination lawsuit. Let’s examine what Flambeau and Orion Energy System did wrong.

Flambeau and Orion both attempted to subject their employees to unwanted medical tests. An employer might want these tests to see what kind of program they need and to see how expensive their insurance will be. The problem is that the ADA only permits medical tests on employees if the tests are related to work performance. Insurance coverage and employee health are typically not work related. Employers cannot, and should not, compel employees to take medical exams.

In the EEOC’s collective minds, shifting medical insurance costs from the employer to the employee violates the ADA’s rule on medical tests. Raising costs on an employee who refuses to undergo an exam is viewed as employee retaliation because the employer is adversely affecting an employee who stands up for an ADA right.

If an employer decides to create a wellness program, the employer should make the program completely voluntary. The employer should avoid forcing employees to pay the premiums if the employees refuse to undergo a test. It is likely that health insurance might be higher, so the employer must consider the costs of a possible EEOC lawsuit against higher insurance if the employer implements a wellness program and an employee refuses to comply with medical exams. Obamacare might want employers to promote good health among employees, but no good deed goes unpunished.