Wednesday Links: Adiós Google News, Sandy Hook Gun Lawsuit, and Russia’s Economic Woes

Multiple national theater chains are declining to screen The Interview (the controversial James Franco-Seth Rogen comedy about the assassination of Kim Jong-un) after the group responsible for the Sony hack threatened violence against any theaters showing the film. Cowards.

Google News announced last week that it was shutting down the Spanish version of its service, in response to a new Spanish law that allows (requires?) publications in the country to charge Google for featuring their content. Spanish journalists claim that the law is needed to protect their intellectual property, but since Google only uses snippets from the articles it links to, and the company makes no money from the service, that claim is specious. Following Google’s announcement, the Spanish Newspaper Publisher’s Association (AEDE) called for the government to prevent the closing of Google News Spain, claiming that it would hurt their businesses. (Gee, a little late for that, isn’t it?) Google News Spain is now offline.

A pickup truck formerly owned by a Texas plumber is now being used by Islamic militants fighting in Syria’s civil war. The truck, still displaying the business name and phone number for Texas City-based Mark-1 Plumbing, is seen in a photo posted online by the Islamist Ansar al-Deen Front. The company is now receiving threats from people who are apparently stupid enough to believe that a company in Texas just decided one day to donate one of its trucks to some Islamic militants. On the lighter side, the company is receiving some hilarious Google+ reviews.

Nine families of Sandy Hook victims are suing the manufacturer and distributor of the rifle used in the shooting, as well as the store that sold it to perpetrator Adam Lanza’s mother. What’s next, suing General Motors because some old fart decides to drive his Buick into a crowd of people?

– Apparently, socialism isn’t working out too well for Venezuela’s poor, who are facing high inflation, long checkout lines in grocery stores, and shortages of essential goods like diapers and laundry detergent. The country’s economic situation isn’t helped by the recent collapse in oil prices (Venezuela is a founding member of OPEC and its economy is highly dependent on petroleum exports).

– On a similar note, Russia’s economy is reeling from the double whammy of collapsing oil prices and economic sanctions imposed by the west, with the country’s currency, the Ruble, experiencing rapid devaluation. While I’m tempted to take delight in Russia’s (and particularly Putin’s) misfortune (few countries are more deserving of some bad karma), I’m afraid that what’s bad for Russia is ultimately bad for the world. Here’s hoping that Russia’s economy can rebound before it drags the rest of Europe down with it.

– And finally, the town of South Pittsburg, Tenn., has instituted a new social media policy effectively banning anyone associated with the town from speaking negatively about it online. The Internet has responded in its typical fashion, by creating fake Twitter accounts for the town’s mayor and commissioner, and sending out tweets like “They say it is hard to find jobs for retards, but Chief Dale Winters does a great job filling our fire department with them.

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