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March 2020
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During The Outbreak: All Sports Are eSports Now

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The COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world, and in many cases shutting it down, has become so pervasive so as to even dominate the headlines here at Techdirt. To say the outbreak has altered our way of life would be a massive understatement. Social distancing, shutdown states, stuck in our homes, jobs reduced and gone; this whole thing has become a nightmare.And it impacts even areas of our life that we enjoy, but are less important than others, such as sports. Professional and college sports have basically taken an unwanted holiday, shutting down in an effort to partake in killing this virus off. It's been strange for fans like me, who wake up on Saturdays and have to find legit ways to watch sporting events that took place years and years ago as a substitute for live broadcasts. And if you think there aren't a great many people who are starved for live sporting content, you need only look to what is going on in the autoracing world, where it's basically all become eSports now.We'll start with Formula 1 Racing, which pivoted from its canceled live races into using video games as a substitute, using current and former drivers behind the virtual wheels.

Interestingly, because some drivers are pretty good behind a virtual wheel and others aren’t, the competition will “be configured in such a way to encourage competitive and entertaining racing,” which is a gentle way of leading into the fact rubbish drivers will be given advantages like “reduced vehicle damage, and optional anti-lock brakes and traction control for those less familiar with the game.”The races are going to be held on the same days as actual races were supposed to go down, which means the first one should be running any minute now (at time of posting), since the Bahrain Grand Prix was meant to be held today.
These races are being broadcast over the internet and a whole bunch of people are watching them. It's somewhat gratifying to see that real drivers driving virtual cars in a game realistic enough to get people to suspend the notion that they're watching video games somewhat has become a thing. All the more cool is how this is helping fans of the sport limp along through this epidemic while still being able to watch a version of the races and racers they love.But that pales in comparison to what NASCAR is about to pull off. Having created its own ad-hoc race using NASCAR video games and, again, real drivers, the whole thing was watched by enough people that the broadcast channels are going to pick it up and televise the next races.
The first eNASCAR iRacing Pro invitational Series event, held on Sunday, was—like Formula 1's move to video game competition—a chance for both drivers and fans to get some kind of racing fix in these weird and challenging times. In first place was three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin, and nearly one million people watched it on Fox, so now a whole season of it, called FOX NASCAR iRACING, is going to take place.
And just to drive the point home that this is all about giving people a sense or simulacrum of their normal Sunday experience, Fox is bringing in the normal television commentators into the virtual "booth", including Jeff Gordon.To say that this whole episode the past several weeks has been surreal seems like it lacks punch. Still, it's been interesting to watch eSports fill the void for us, helping us try to pantomime normalcy in a world gone mad.

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posted at: 12:00am on 27-Mar-2020
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Appeals Court Says No Immunity For Cops Who Shot A Man Standing Motionless With His Hands In The Air

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Federal judges continue to trip over themselves in their hurry to extend qualified immunity to law enforcement officers. No matter how egregious the violation -- and how simply wrong it appears to reasonable human beings -- cops can usually escape judgment by violating rights in new ways, ensuring there's no precedent that would make them aware they shouldn't do things like destroy someone's house after they've been given permission (and a key!) to enter.This decision [PDF] from the Fifth Circuit (and the Fifth Circuit can be the worst about protecting the government from citizens it has aggrieved, stinging dissents from Judge Willett notwithstanding) involves officers who shot a man holding a knife. Given that judges seem to believe any weapon real or perceived that "threatens" an officer makes ensuing homicides wholly justifiable, this refusal by the court to bless the actions of reasonably-scared cops is more surprising than it should be.The description of the events leading up to the shooting would seem to be laying groundwork for a QI-based dismissal:

In 2015, after a domestic dispute between Flores and his wife at Flores’s mother’s home, Flores’s mother called 9-1-1 for assistance. According to the 9-1-1 call transcript, Flores’s mother told the dispatcher that Flores beat up his wife and had “gone crazy”. Deputies Vasquez and Sanchez were dispatched to the residence in separate vehicles. While in route, dispatch advised Vasquez and Sanchez that Flores was upset, and that Flores wanted to commit “suicide by cop.” Vasquez was also informed that Flores had a knife.
The next paragraph, however, points to subverted expectations:
Twelve minutes elapsed between Vasquez’s arrival and the officers’ fatal shots at Flores. During those twelve minutes, the deputies had a number of encounters with Flores, and ultimately deescalated the situation. It was only after Flores was standing nearly thirty feet from the deputies, motionless, and with his hands in the air for several seconds that the officers looked at each other and then decided to shoot Flores. The officers each fired a shot, and Flores fell to the ground.
The Fifth Circuit says too many factual disputes remain unresolved. And one of the disputed facts is the officers' own testimony, which says something a cellphone camera recording of the incident does not: that officers were in danger of being attacked when they decided to shoot Flores as he stood motionless thirty feet away with his hands in the air.
Most significantly, the officers assert that “Deputies Vasquez and Sanchez were in imminent fear of death or serious bodily injury by the actions of Gilbert Flores at the time of the fatal shots.”
But the officers can't explain how they were in "imminent fear" when nothing about Flores' actions at the point he was shot indicated he was an imminent threat.
Flores had a knife, not a gun; was several feet away from the officers, the house, and the vehicle; had his hands in the air in a surrender position; and stood stationary in the officers’ line of sight. Under these facts taken in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, we conclude that the district court correctly identified material factual disputes as to whether the officers violated Flores’s Fourth Amendment rights.
There is no automatic grant of qualified immunity because these officers should have known killing someone in a situation like this would be unlawful.
A reasonable officer would have understood that using deadly force on a man holding a knife, but standing nearly thirty feet from the deputies, motionless, and with his hands in the air for several seconds, would violate the Fourth Amendment.
With this rejection, there's probably a settlement on the horizon for the survivors of the shooting victim. The district court refused to dismiss the suit and the Fifth Circuit Appeals Court says the lower court's reasoning is sound and the right of citizens to not be killed by cops when they don't pose a threat is clearly established. Chalk up a win for the citizens, who, far too often, come out on the losing end when qualified immunity is in play.

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posted at: 12:00am on 27-Mar-2020
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