Tag Archives | Human Rights

Pot Is Making Colorado So Much Money They Literally Have To Give Some Back To Residents

Jeffrey Beall (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Jeffrey Beall (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Via High Times/Kristen Wyatt  AP:

DENVER (AP) — Colorado’s marijuana experiment was designed to raise revenue for the state and its schools, but a state law may put some of the tax money directly into residents’ pockets, causing quite a headache for lawmakers.

The state constitution limits how much tax money the state can take in before it has to give some back. That means Coloradans may each get their own cut of the $50 million in recreational pot taxes collected in the first year of legal weed. It’s a situation so bizarre that it’s gotten Republicans and Democrats, for once, to agree on a tax issue.

Even some pot shoppers are surprised Colorado may not keep the taxes that were promised to go toward school construction when voters legalized marijuana in 2012.

“I have no problem paying taxes if they’re going to schools,” said Maddy Beaumier, 25, who was visiting a dispensary near the Capitol.

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Another State Fights War on Solar and Energy Efficiency

Via Mary Anne Hitt at EcoWatch

Despite poll after poll showing that Americans want more clean energy, Indiana legislators are pushing bills that would reduce energy efficiency and make it harder for Hoosier state residents to go solar, just as the solar industry is getting on its feet in the state.

Last week, Indiana’s Senate Utilities Committee heard from a packed room about its bill that would let utilities set energy efficiency goals. Last year the state decided to end the popular Energizing Indiana efficiency program. Now some in the legislature have created Senate Bill 412, which is very one-sided in favor of utilities who sell electricity and doesn’t protect the average person from monopoly interests.

Energy efficiency is a proven tool to lower electricity bills and save money for people across the state.

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The Dark Side Of Open Data: It’s Not Only How Much You Publish, But How And Why

Alexey Kljatov (CC BY 2.0)

Alexey Kljatov (CC BY 2.0)

Federico Guerrini via Forbes:

A few days ago, the World Wide Web Foundation established by Sir Tim Berners-Lee released the second edition of the Open Data Barometer, a report on the impact and prevalence of open data initiatives around the world. Turns out the UK government is the “most transparent” in the world, when it comes to public access to official data, with US and Sweden in second and third place respectively.

That’s fantastic, isn’t it? Opening the data (which already belongs to the public, as it is produced with taxpayers’ money) can expose corruption and abuse, provide new insights on sensitive topics, help engage citizens in important debates, improving, in the end, the overall quality of democracies. So, kudos to the British and God forgive the Kenyans, whose country has fallen from to 22nd to 49th in the Barometer’s rankings. Shame on them.

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First Head Chopped Off with New Saudi King – Saudi’s Chop off Heads for Murder, Rape, Witchcraft

Salman bin Abdull aziz December 9, 2013

Salman bin Abdull aziz December 9, 2013

The AP via The New York Times:

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia on Monday executed a man convicted of raping several girls in a case that has captured the kingdom’s attention and marks the first beheading carried out under the newly enthroned King Salman.

The Interior Ministry said Moussa al-Zahrani was executed in the city of Jiddah. The ministry statement, carried by the official Saudi Press Agency, said al-Zahrani was convicted of luring underage girls, intoxicating them, forcing them to watch pornographic videos and then physically and sexually assaulting them.

His alleged victims were children assaulted in 2011 in a string of attacks in Jiddah.

The case has caused a stir on social media — which is unusual in Saudi Arabia for cases of violent crimes — in part because al-Zahrani claimed his innocence throughout the trial and two later appeals.

Last year, al-Zahrani appealed in a 20-minute video for Saudi King Abdullah, who died on Friday, to intervene.

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C.I.A. Officer in Leak Case, Jeffrey Sterling, Is Convicted of Espionage

Land of the free?

Land of the free?

Matt Apuzzo writes at The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Jeffrey A. Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, was convicted of espionage Monday on charges that he told a reporter for The New York Times about a secret operation to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program.

The conviction is a significant victory for the Obama administration, which has conducted an unprecedented crackdown on officials who speak to journalists about security matters without the administration’s approval. Prosecutors prevailed after a yearslong fight in which the reporter, James Risen, refused to identify his sources.

The case revolved around a C.I.A. operation in which a former Russian scientist provided Iran with intentionally flawed nuclear component schematics. Mr. Risen revealed the operation in his 2006 book, “State of War,” describing it as a mismanaged, potentially reckless mission that may have inadvertently aided the Iranian nuclear program.

On the third day of deliberations, the jury in federal court in Alexandria, Va., convicted Mr.

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Ranking The States From Most To Least Corrupt

Harry Enten writes at FiveThirtyEight:

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara ripped into the political culture in Albany on Thursday during a news conference detailing the arrest of New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on corruption charges. Indeed, cynics (including this writer) weren’t surprised that yet another of New York’s public officials landed in hot legal water.

But is Bharara being too tough on the Empire State’s public servants? Is the New York capital really that corrupt? The truth is, there are different ways to measure corruption, and they point in different directions. Here are four measures (I’ll go through each below).

We can look at the absolute number of public officials convicted in federal court on corruption. On that score, New York was No. 1 from 1976 to 2010 with 2,522 convictions. California was No. 2, Illinois No. 3, Florida No. 4 and Pennsylvania No. 5. Yet it’s clear from this list that the most corrupt states are also the states with the biggest populations.

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Building Moral Robots, With Whose Morals?

BEAR, or Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot, is designed to help soldiers in need. But other robots could take on roles as combatants. Credit Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center

BEAR, or Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot, is designed to help soldiers in need. But other robots could take on roles as combatants.
Credit Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center

I certainly wouldn’t trust the politicians or corporate money-mongers. Heather Goldstone proposes three sources: The Geneva Convention, Asimov’s Laws of Robotics, and/or The Ten Commandments. Whose morals would you want AI to model?

Via at WCAI:

Giving robots morals may sound like a good idea, but it’s a pursuit fraught with its own moral dilemmas. Like, whose morals?

Stop and look around you right now. You’re sitting in front of a computer and, chances are, there’s a phone or some other “smart” device in your vicinity. As our devices get more capable, and we become more reliant on them, there’s increasing hand-wringing over whether our relationships with technology have gone awry.

In some circles, the conversation has a particular urgency to it – because they’re talking about whether or not robots could – or should – be entrusted with life and death decisions, and whether such robots could ever be conferred with anything comparable to our morals.

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An Hereditary Meritocracy

Images Money (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Images Money (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Via The Economist:

The children of the rich and powerful are increasingly well suited to earning wealth and power themselves. That’s a problem.

“MY BIG fear,” says Paul Ryan, an influential Republican congressman from Wisconsin, is that America is losing sight of the notion that “the condition of your birth does not determine the outcome of your life.” “Opportunity,” according to Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, “is slipping away.” Marco Rubio, a Republican senator from Florida, thinks that “each element” of the sequence that leads to success “is eroding in our country.” “Of course you have to work hard, of course you have to take responsibility,” says Hillary Clinton, a former first lady, senator and secretary of state, “but we are making it so difficult for people who do those things to feel that they are going to achieve the American dream.” When discussing the chances of ordinary Americans rising to the top, politicians who agree about little else sound remarkably similar.

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Psychopath vs. Empath: the War Between Truth and Deception

good_vs_evil_by_flyinfrogg

Gary ‘Z’ McGee writes at Waking Times:

“The supreme mystery of despotism, its prop and stay, is to keep men in a state of deception, and cloak the fear by which they must be held in check, so that they will fight for their servitude as if for salvation.” –Baruch Spinoza

Are you fighting for your servitude as if for your salvation? Then you have been well-deceived. You have been sheeple-compromised. Your thoughts are not your own. Your actions are not your own. You are in all ways a conditioned puppet who is under the delusion that it is free, and the psychopaths of the world are your uncompromising puppet masters. The questions you need to be asking yourself are these: “Am I willing to do what it takes to become free? Am I ready for the uncomfortableness of undeceiving myself? Would I rather be slapped by the truth or kissed with a lie?

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The Davos oligarchs are right to fear the world they’ve made

wef-logo

Seumas Milne writes at The Guardian:

The billionaires and corporate oligarchs meeting in Davos this week are getting worried about inequality. It might be hard to stomach that the overlords of a system that has delivered the widest global economic gulf in human history should be handwringing about the consequences of their own actions.

But even the architects of the crisis-ridden international economic order are starting to see the dangers. It’s not just the maverick hedge-funder George Soros, who likes to describe himself as a class traitor. Paul Polman, Unilever chief executive, frets about the “capitalist threat to capitalism”. Christine Lagarde, the IMF managing director, fears capitalism might indeed carry Marx’s “seeds of its own destruction” and warns that something needs to be done.

The scale of the crisis has been laid out for them by the charity Oxfam. Just 80 individuals now have the same net wealth as 3.5 billion people – half the entire global population.

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