Big Ideas: On partner homicide, fashion and e-cigarettes

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Crime,Fashion,PennAve,Joseph Lawler,Economy,Think Tanks,E Cigarettes,Magazine

Janine Zweig for the Urban Institute's MetroTrends blog: Just like O.J. Simpson's 1994 trial for the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson, Olympian Oscar Pistorius' trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp has catapulted intimate partner homicide back into the news. Simpson was acquitted of criminal charges, but was found liable for his former wife's death in a civil suit. Pistorius' guilt or innocence remains an unanswered question. ...

Regardless, the problem of a partner killing a loved one is real. And while the overall rate of homicide has declined, the proportion of female homicide victims that are killed by their intimate partners remains stubbornly high.

Women account for almost two-thirds (64 percent) of victims of intimate partner homicide. Among all murder victims, women are six times more likely than men to be killed by a current or former intimate partner.

In the time since Simpson’s trial, intimate partner homicide has increased for female victims, reversing a long trend of decline.

Say yes to legal redress

Emily Zanotti for R Street: Designers strive to inject fantasy and innovation into their fall ready-to-wear and couture lines, featured weeks ago in New York, last week in London and this week in Paris. The major fashion houses set the stage for style in the seasons to come. And then, consumers interested in being wallet-friendly fashionistas have created an ever-expanding market of “knockoff” fashion, allowing them to duplicate runway looks for a fraction of the price, shopping in their local mall instead of on Fifth Avenue. In an economy as unpredictable as ours, the market for consumer-driven fashion from stores like Forever 21, Zara, H&M, TopShop and ASOS seems nowhere near fading. ...

So how do designers, who work all year long in their chosen artistic field, protect the designs they create and preserve their own luxury? At least one group of designers has suggested expanding the scope of design patents — those [patents] given out to protect a product’s new and novel utility — into the realm of fashion, with the intent to protect their spin on age-old products, ready-to-wear and accessories, as a tech company would a new cell phone design.

The idea is, at least on its face, complex. Fashion rarely makes a leap forward in technology. ...

While a few designers have managed to invent a new clothing option – Diane von Furstenberg’s wrap dress comes to mind, celebrating [its] 40th anniversary at this year’s fashion week – those designers have often seen their work copied not by discount fashion retailers but by other high-end designers. ...

And designers who would most need to protect their work — upcoming and independent labels whose clothes are knocked off most often by consumer-driven fashion entities — would hardly be able to afford the time and fortune that initial paperwork and follow-up litigation would cost; no designer can afford to wait months for a single design to pass through a government initiation process, when runway shows are a bi-annual staple.

There are, of course, already means at a designer’s disposal, namely copyright protections, that can afford some measure of control over who gets to sell a knockoff of your design. While design patents have been and would be notoriously difficult to prove, copyrights – which protects an artist’s control over their work in print – have been litigated successfully, including against discount fashion retailers.

Vapid thinking about cigarettes

Leonard Gilroy for the Reason Foundation: Washington state and New Jersey are currently considering budget proposals that would impose additional taxes on e-cigarettes. These taxes would discourage smokers from switching, thereby ensuring that many more people continue to smoke cigarettes, which are far more harmful.

Washington state’s proposal, coming down to the wire amid the flurry of budget negotiations today and tomorrow in advance of the end of the legislative session on Thursday, would impose steep taxes in proportion to the nicotine level of vapor liquid. The premise, presumably, is that nicotine itself is harmful. But there is little evidence to support this premise. Meanwhile, heavy smokers require the high nicotine levels when they switch, so a tax that is proportional to nicotine levels would most discourage the very people who most need to switch.

The real reason for these taxes is to raise revenue. But both Washington state and New Jersey already impose sales taxes on e-cigarettes, e-liquids (the liquid “vaped” in e-cigarettes), batteries and other related products, so additional taxes seem disproportionate and punitive.

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