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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ku Leuven News: Electronic cigarettes offer smokers a realistic way to kick their tobacco smoking addiction. In a new study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, scientists at KU Leuven report that e-cigarettes successfully reduced cravings for tobacco cigarettes, with only minimal side effects.

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) were developed as a less harmful alternative to tobacco cigarettes. They contain 100 to 1,000 times less toxic substances and emulate the experience of smoking a tobacco cigarette.

In an 8-month study, the KU Leuven researchers examined the effect of using e-cigs ("vaping") in 48 participants, all of whom were smokers with no intention to quit. The researchers' goal was to evaluate whether e-cigs decreased the urge to smoke tobacco cigarettes in the short term, and whether e-cigs helped people stop smoking altogether in the long-term. read more

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Andy Coghlan, New Scientist: A genetic analysis of 409 pairs of gay twins has provided the strongest evidence yet that gay people are born gay. The study clearly links sexual orientation in men with two regions of the human genome that have been implicated before, one on the X chromosome and one on chromosome 8. The finding is an important contribution to mounting evidence that being gay is biologically determined rather than a lifestyle choice. In some countries, such as Uganda, being gay is still criminalised, and some religious groups believe that gay people can be "treated" to make them straight. "It erodes the notion that sexual orientation is a choice," says study leader Alan Sanders of the NorthShore Research Institute in Evanston, Illinois. read more

Monday, November 17, 2014

Zahra Hirji, The Olympian: More than 40 percent of frac sand producers in Wisconsin have broken state environmental rules in recent years, according to a new report. This isn't the case of a "few bad apples" disregarding the law, said Bobby King, an organizer who contributed to the report by the Land Stewardship Project, an advocacy group. "It's an industry that's willing to routinely violate rules that are designed to protect communities, protect air quality, protect water quality," he said. Wisconsin is the nation's top producer of silica sand, a key ingredient used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The state is home to 135 active mines, processing and transport facilities. That's up from only seven facilities in 2010. read more

Friday, November 14, 2014

Stephen Dinan, The Washington Times: Four men flew from Istanbul through Paris to Mexico City in late August, where they were met by a Turkish-speaking man who stashed them in a safe house until their Sept. 3 attempt to cross into the U.S. over the border with Mexico.

Their capture by the Border Patrol in Texas set off a fierce debate over the men's intentions, with some members of Congress saying they were terrorist fighters. Homeland Security officials, including Secretary Jeh Johnson, countered that they were part of the Kurdish resistance which, like the U.S., is fighting the Islamic State's advance in Iraq.

But whether the men are linked to anti-U.S. jihadists or not, they admitted to being part of a U.S.-designated terrorist group, and their ability to get into the U.S. through the southern border -- they paid $8,000 each to be smuggled into Texas -- details the existence of a network capable of bringing terrorists across the border. read more

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

WWII vet returns to the town he fought in to find that he's become a local legend. read more


But wait! There's more!

Ms. Petersilia further observes that "CCPOA-sponsored legislation was successful more than 80 percent of the time" during the ‘80s and ‘90s, including most notably California's aggressive three-strikes initiative passed in 1984. Following the 2010 elections, one CCPOA lobbyist boasted "we should be able to develop a good contract with this governor given the fiscal times the state's in, and we should have no trouble getting it ratified. We have such good relationships, and we were right in so many races, that we've got a lot of friends over there." Thus, while the state's pro-incarceration laws swell union membership and dues revenue, the CCPOA is able to successfully lobby for more generous compensation for their membership. As of July 2006, the average CCPOA correctional officer earned $73,248 a year -- more than the average salary of an assistant professor with a PhD at the University of California ($60,000 per year in 2006). With overtime, it is not uncommon for California correctional officers to earn over $100,000 a year. A Los Angeles Times investigation found that 6,000 correctional officers earned more than $100,000 in 2006, with hundreds earning more than legislators and other state officials.

Prison guards also enjoy pensions calculated using the favorable 3%-at-50 formula. An officer who retires at 50 takes as his pension a percentage of his last year's salary equal to three times the number of years worked. (For example, an officer who retires at age 50 after 30 years on the job will receive 90% of his salary during retirement (3 x 30 years). More on this subject here.) Since the maximum retirement benefits are 90 percent, working past 30 years is basically working for free. Teachers, by contrast, receive a pension calculated as 2.5 percent of their salaries per year of employment at age 63.


I encourage everyone to read the whole article to get an understanding of what California voters have been facing while ATTEMPTING to implement reform. The courts are against us (at least in terms of unions), Govern Moonbeam Brown is against us, and of course the unions are against us. We made a huge mistake with the 3 strikes law in the 1990s (thank G_d that was finally scrapped in 2012). One can only hope we learned a valuable, yet costly (in terms of money and bodies), lesson.

Fighting back will be all the Lawyers, Judges, Probation Officers, Special Masters, Policeman, DEA Agents, Wardens, and Prison Guards whose job prospects will diminish.

True criminal justice reform has been fought tooth and nail by the prison guard's union. Worse, the prison guard pension SCANDAL has helped bankrupt California. If there's anything that could really help out California to that degree, it's raining in the CCPOA's power and influence over California's CJS and political system in general:

The growth of California's incarceration system, and the decline of its quality, tracks the accession to power of the state's prison guards union, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association ("CCPOA"). The CCPOA has played a significant role in advocating pro-incarceration policies and opposing pro-rehabilitative policies in California. In 1980, CCPOA's 5,600 members earned about $21,000 a year and paid dues of about $35 a month. After the rapid expansion of the prison population beginning in the 1980s, CCPOA's 33,000 members today earn approximately $73,000 and pay monthly dues of about $80. These dues raise approximately $23 million each year, of which the CCPOA allocates approximately $8 million to lobbying. As Ms. Petersilia explains, "The formula is simple: more prisoners lead to more prisons; more prisons require more guards; more guards means more dues-paying members and fund-raising capability; and fund-raising, of course, translates into political influence."

The CCPOA has used this political influence to advance a highly successful pro-incarceration agenda. Alexander Volokh writes in his article, Privatization and the Law and Economics of Political Advocacy, 66 Stanford Law Review 1197 (2008):

many of [CCPOA's] contributions are directly pro-incarceration. It gave over $100,000 to California's Three Strikes initiative, Proposition 184 in 1994, making it the second-largest contributor. It gave at least $75,000 to the opponents of Proposition 36, the 2000 initiative that replaced incarceration with substance abuse treatment for certain nonviolent offenders. From 1998 to 2000 it gave over $120,000 to crime victims' groups, who present a more sympathetic face to the public in their pro-incarceration advocacy. It spent over $1 million to help defeat Proposition 66, the 2004 initiative that would have limited the crimes that triggered a life sentence under the Three Strikes law. And in 2005, it killed Gov. Schwarzenegger's plan to "reduce the prison population by as much as 20,000, mainly through a program that diverted parole violators into rehabilitation efforts: drug programs, halfway houses and home detention."


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