So maybe Iran’s not going to kill that American game developer after all

The BBC reports today the Iranian government has overturned the death sentence against the Iranian-American game developer who Tehran accuses of being a spy.

Judges had found the verdict against Amir Mirzai Hekmati was “not
complete” and referred his case to an affiliate court, a judiciary
spokesman said.

In January, Mr Hekmati was convicted of “co-operating with a
hostile nation, membership of the CIA and trying to implicate Iran in

The US has urged Iran to release him.

The Tehran Times published Hekmati’s purported confession, in which he is said to have told Iranian intelligence agents that he worked with Kuma, a games company that produces the free-to-play Kuma/War series. Kuma/War games are based on real-life combat incidents and the series’ developers usually take their inspiration from the United States’ wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, although the most recent Kuma/War mission is based on the death of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi.

The Iranian government has claimed that Hekmati told interrogators that Kuma/War is part of a U.S. propaganda campaign to manipulate public opinion in the Middle East.

The U.S. government has also denied that Hekmati is a spy and had demanded his release.

Whether the Iranian government actually has evidence that he is a spy or is simply holding Hekmati, who has also served in the U.S. Marines, as a captive/bargaining chip during the current international tensions between the United States and Iran remains to be seen.

President Obama is today scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss what strategies, which could include actual military options, may be employed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. 

(Via Kotaku)

Violent games: Read the Daily Bulletin article

I was on furlough/vacation when the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association.

The 7-2 ruling affirmed video games enjoy the same First Amendment protections as cinema, literature and theater while overturning a California law that banned the sale of violent video games to minors.

Inland Valley Daily Bulletin colleague Mediha Fejzagic DiMartino wrote the following article on the court’s ruling. Her piece first published on on June 27. Read it after the jump.

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“Call of Duty” battles continue in legal system

News today on the legal battle between Activision and Electronic Arts over the former lead creators of the highly-lucrative “Call of Duty” series. reports a new legal filing from Activision reveals the publisher is demanding $400 million from its rival. Activision claims that Electronic Arts improperly courted Infinity Ward founders Jason West and Vince Zampella in 2009, while the pair were still working on CoD: Modern Warfare 2 and under contract to Activision.

The nasty lawsuits between Call of Duty publisher Activision and the ousted lead creators of that hit series got nastier today with accusations that the president of rival EA was instrumental in trying to “hijack” the Call of Duty developers.

And there’s more mud being slung. Activision also says the makers of Modern Warfare gleefully sabotaged the sister studio behind this year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Activision spelled this out in a legal filing today through which they intend to add Medal of Honor and Battlefield publisher EA — their Coke-vs-Pepsi rival — to their lawsuit against Jason West and Vince Zampella, the founders of original CoD studio Infinity Ward. West and Zampella were fired by Activision in March for alleged acts of insubordination, just months after the studio the men founded finished and released the huge hit Modern Warfare 2.


(After this story was originally filed, Kotaku heard back from both West and Zampella’s attorney and a spokesperson for EA. Both shot down the claims, the attorney calling them “a pathetic mash-up of false and reckless assertions.” EA called them “deliberate misdirection” but declined to specifically address the actions the company is accused of having taken.)

Infinity Ward, of course, developed the original Call of Duty game. Pretty much anyone reading this post remembers the first CoD game was a World War 2-themed FPS that emerged as a rival to EA’s “Medal of Honor” series. The first CoD came out way back in 2003 with an outstanding single-player campaign, something some gamers (the ones who considered to be lacking in more recent CoD offerings. 

“Medal of Honor: Allied Assault” and its expansion packs were good games in their own right, but “CoD” improved upon the other series by placing players in the midst of American, British and Soviet units. In this writer’s view, CoD and CoD 2 provided more immersive experiences than MoH games, which sometimes made it seem as if the player was in the role of the only soldier fighting the Nazis.

But that’s all in the past. The real-life fighting also includes allegations that West and Zampella tried to sabotage another studio’s marketing efforts. Treyarch, the alleged target, has developed other CoD titles, including the most recent offering, “Black Ops.”

Kotaku reports the case is expected to proceed in mid-2011. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether legal scholars will view either sides’ filings as examples of innovative legal strategies or whether the publishers’ attorneys will be accused of basically rehashing and repackaging previous efforts.

Deal would lead to California mine supplying rare-earth metals market


As you may know, Tech Out is affiliated with the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and The Sun of San Bernardino. The writers who contribute to this blog usually post about games, movies and other topics related to consumer electronics and entertainment. Those topics will continue to be Tech Out’s focus, but I would also like to use this space to spotlight some of the technology and science coverage at the Daily Bulletin and Sun, as well as our sister papers within the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.
Today’s issue of the Daily Bulletin includes business editor Rebecca Cho’s article on Molycorp’s tentative deal with Tokyo-based Hitachi Metals to produce neodymium magnets. Molycorp is based in Colorado, but its mine in Mountain Pass, Calif. is the only place in the United States for the mining of rare earth metals.
Rare earth metals are used in the manufacture of products ranging from hybrid cars to cruise missiles. 

Molycorp expects to place its Mountain Pass mine, the only mine for rare earth minerals in the United States and the company’s site for the mining of neodymium, back into full operation by the end of 2012, following an eight-year hiatus.

“The automotive industry worldwide is the biggest user of rare earth permanent magnets,” said Jack Lifton, a strategic metals consultant with Technology Metals Research in Carpentersville, Ill. “This is very important to that industry that the manufacturing of these magnets continue … (and) the supply of such magnets goes uninterrupted.”

The growing clamor over fuel efficient and electric cars has brought a concern that the manufacturing of the vehicles, which use rare earth metals, could bring on a global supply shortage of resources. Nearly all of the world’s rare earth metals, about 97 percent, are mined in China.