Tag Archives: Law

Colorado approves retroactive reversal of marijuana convictions

Colorado approves retroactive reversal of marijuana convictions Colorado approves retroactive reversal of marijuana convictions

The Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled that residents there convicted of marijuana possession before recreational weed was legalized may be eligible to have those decisions overturned.
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As of January 1, 2014, adults from Colorado are legally allowed to buy up to one ounce of marijuana under the state Constitution’s recently passed Amendment 64. But with upwards of 9,000 marijuana possession cases being prosecuted each year before then, a huge chunk of the state’s population is now left wondering how the newly enacted law impacts previously decided court rulings.

Earlier this month on March 13, the three judges of the state’s appeals panel said that part of an earlier decision in a case against a Colorado woman sentenced in 2011 for marijuana possession should be vacated.

In making their decision, the appellate court wrote that there could be post-conviction relief if “there has been significant change in the law.”

“Amendment 64, by decriminalizing the personal use or possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, meets the statutory requirement for ‘a significant change in the law’ and eliminates and thus mitigates the penalties for persons convicted of engaging in such conduct,” the judges opined.

A spokesperson for Colorado Attorney General John Suthers has since told NPR that the office will likely appeal the court’s latest ruling, but if it stands then it will set the stage for a substantial number of residents to have their convictions reversed.

This month’s ruling doesn’t affect everyone, though. The appeals court weighed in particularly on the case of Brandi Jessica Russell, a Colorado woman who was sentenced in August 2011, to serve two concurrent four-year terms of supervised probation, 192 hours of community service and a suspended sentence of 90 days in jail after being convicted of possessing a small amount of marijuana, marijuana concentrate and methamphetamine.

Attorneys for Russell filed an appeal shortly after, but it wasn’t heard by the court system until after Amendment 64 went into effect on December 10, 2012. Since then lawmakers have allowed for the first legal, recreational marijuana dispensaries in the United States to operate across Colorado, and the state is expected to reap millions of dollars in taxes from those sales by the end of the year. And because Russell’s case was still up in the air at that point, the appeals court said her conviction should be tossed.

“Defendant contends that Amendment 64 should be applied retroactively and that her convictions for possession of marijuana concentrate and possession of less than one ounce of marijuana should be vacated. We agree,” the court wrote.

Brian Emeson, an attorney for Russell, told the Denver Post that “It’s a decision that certainly represents the will of the citizens of this state.”

Brian Vicente, a pro-marijuana activist who helped write Amendment 64, told the Associated Press that the ruling was a “huge victory” that could affect hundreds of people who were sentenced to jail terms for petty marijuana offenses in recent years and sought appeal.

Critics of the decision fear that, if not fought, it could open the door for citizens to challenge other convictions unrelated to the drug.

“Well-established retroactivity law in Colorado indicates that statutory changes are prospective only unless the General Assembly or the voters clearly indicted an intent to require such retroactive application,” he said in a statement earlier this month.

Source: RT

IP address does not constitute a person, judge rules in copyright suit

IP address does not constitute a person judge rules in copyright suit IP address does not constitute a person, judge rules in copyright suit

A Florida judge has ruled that a copyright holder may not sue a person because their computer was used to illegally download content. It’s the latest in a series of decisions making it more difficult for so-called copyright trolls to sue alleged pirates.
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When a copyright holder – whether it be Warner Bros., Interscope records, or another media company – tries to file suit against internet users who downloaded their content without paying, they generally identify that user with their computer’s IP address. That method of using an IP as the computer’s fingerprint has been a reliable legal method since piracy became commonplace over 10 years ago.

Yet judges have become more familiar with the intricacies of piracy as time has gone on, with a number of recent rulings deciding that an IP address alone is not enough to determine whether someone downloaded something illegally. Florida District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro has become the latest to fall on that side of the issue.

Malibu Media, a pornography distributor that filed more than 1,000 suits in 2013 alone, asked Ungaro to issue a subpoena against a suspected pirate known only by their IP address. The user, “174.61.81.171,” was accused of sharing Malibu Media content without the company’s permission. However, Ungaro pressed the company to explain how they gained the evidence against 174.61.81.171.

According to TorrentFreak, Malibu Media explained that its software was able to ascertain that the downloader was in a residential address and not a WiFi hotspot, meaning they had to be guilty of downloading the movie. Not so, according to Ungaro, who wrote that even if Malibu Media can prove that a specific internet connection was used, that does not prove who was sitting at the keyboard.

Plaintiff has shown that the geolocation software can provide a location for an infringing IP address; however, Plaintiff has not shown how this geolocation software can establish the identity of the Defendant,” she wrote. “There is nothing that links the IP address location to the identity of the person actually downloading and viewing Plaintiff’s videos, and establishing whether that person lives in this district.”

Thus Judge Urgano dismissed the case, marking what could be an important landmark for wrongly accused pirates who could find themselves on the hook for fines in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Even if this IP address is located within a residence, the geolocation software cannot identify who has access to that residence’s computer and who would actually be using it to infringe Plaintiff’s copyright,” she wrote, as quoted by TorrentFreak.

The ruling does not apply to all future cases, although it is the latest in a trend that no longer favors copyright holders. Late last year, Judge Stephanie Rose ruled that a copyright holder may not sue hundreds of suspected pirates in Iowa based only on their IP addresses. Plaintiffs have created such scenarios by asserting that if one person downloads a torrent link, they do so by linking to other users, thereby creating a conspiracy.

Although each plaintiff has alleged that the defendants in each case were in the same swarm based on the same hash value, participation in a specific swarm is too imprecise a factor absent additional information relating to the alleged copyright infringement to support joinder,” the judge wrote, adding that the idea of conspiracy is “implausible at best.”

While more judges seem to be becoming more sympathetic, scores of people will still be forced to reckon with companies like Malibu Media. The company, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, intimidates people into paying thousands of dollars, even if they’re innocent of copying or uploading movies illegally.

Among the titles on that list are many adult films with very embarrassing titles. The lawyers then send a copy of the court filing to the subscriber along with a demand for money,” the digital rights group explained. “The threat is obvious – either pay up, point a finger at a friend of family member, or be named in a public lawsuit as a habitual user of hardcore porn.”

Source: RT

Second Amendment group claims Connecticut ‘does not have the balls’ to enforce gun law

Second Amendment group claims Connecticut ‘does not have the balls’ to enforce gun law Second Amendment group claims Connecticut ‘does not have the balls’ to enforce gun law

In Connecticut, tens of thousands of gun owners are believed to be committing felonies by not registering their weapons in compliance with a new state law. Second Amendment advocates, however, say authorities “don’t have the balls” to enforce it.
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Legislation enacted after the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT requires that gun owners registered military-style rifles and high-capacity magazines with state officials by the end of last year. But only a few weeks after that deadline came and went, journalist Dan Haar of The Hartford Courant newspaper wrote that as many as 350,000 assault weapons remained unregistered and that “Connecticut has very likely created tens of thousands of newly minted criminals.”

Connecticut Carry, a non-profit organization devoted to protecting the United States Constitution’s right to bear arms, is now daring law enforcement officials to act. The group has previously tried to spread their pro-gun message by selling yard signs with slogans such as “Repeal the 2013 Gun Ban” and through a campaign that resolved around the mantra of “No Guns = No Money.” This week, the organization published a statement denouncing the new-fangled registration rules, while at the same time encouraging authorities to “shit or get off the pot.”

“The anti-gun legislators and officials are scared to implement their tyranny because they know that they did not have any sort of‘consent of the governed,’” reads part of the release.

“Now, State officials look down the barrel of the laws that they created, and it is very probably that they now tremble as they rethink the extremity of their folly. Connecticut Carry calls on every State official, every Senator, and every Representative, to make the singular decision: Either enforce the laws as they are written and let us fight it out in court, or else repeal the 2013 Gun Ban in its entirety.”

infant with gun Second Amendment group claims Connecticut ‘does not have the balls’ to enforce gun law

When Harr wrote about the upwards of hundreds of thousands of newly-created criminals for the Courant last month, he reached out to State Sen. Tony Guglielmo (R-Stafford), who acknowledged at the time that, “If you pass laws that people have no respect for and they don’t follow them, then you have a real problem.”

If Connecticut Carry’s dare can carry any clout, state officials are indeed in for a challenge. Prosecuting upwards of even a few thousand residents who may have been fully law-abiding up until last year is likely to take time and effort, and the maximum sentence of five years that could be imposed against anyone found in violation of the new registration rule would without a doubt leave no room for other criminals inside state prisons should every guilty party end up behind bars.

But more than a year after a lone gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook and killed over two dozen people, not everyone across the state seems to favor a return to more lax firearm laws. Just last week, a local gun dealer in Woodbridge, CT made headlines after the shop’s Facebook page posted an image of an infant child with her hands on a rifle double her own size. After the image began to go viral, the social media administrator for Woodbridge Firearms Trading Post removed the image.

“The fact is, the state does not have the balls to enforce these laws. The laws would not survive the public outcry and resistance that would occur,” Connecticut Carry Director Ed Peruta said in a statement this week.

Should the state chose to act, however, then the gun rights group says they’ve got no more than a few weeks. Connecticut Carry’s statement includes an ultimatum of source demanding that the state legislature “completely repeal these immoral edicts and let the residents of Connecticut return to their rightfully owned property and former exercise of constitutional rights and practices without any threat of State violence” by May 7.

If the laws are enforced, the statement ended, “Connecticut Carry stands ready to do whatever it takes and whatever it can do to represent and defend anyone impacted by the State’s violence.”

“As citizens of Connecticut, we have a right to bear arms. With that right comes responsibility,” added Rich Burgess, the president of the group. “The responsibility to stand in defense of ourselves and our fellow citizens is paramount.”

Source: RT

Limit surveillance to ‘terrorist communication,’ says outgoing NSA boss

Limit surveillance to ‘terrorist communication’ says outgoing NSA boss Limit surveillance to ‘terrorist communication,’ says outgoing NSA boss

General Keith Alexander, the soon-to-be departed chief of the NSA, admitted Thursday in front of a congressional committee that the massive intelligence agency may be open to extracting less, or more targeted metadata from communication companies.
Continue reading «Limit surveillance to ‘terrorist communication,’ says outgoing NSA boss»

Classified documents leaked last summer by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the intelligence agency currently compels at least three major telephone providers – Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T – to turn over call information on millions of Americans. Among that information, known as metadata, is the duration of the call, the time the call was made, who the phone call was to, and where it originated.

Snowden disclosed a trove of secret information about US intelligence activity to the press, but the collection of phone metadata has been perhaps the most controversial, in part because of its sheer breadth.

Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) was among those hoping to find more when, at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, he asked Alexander how the metadata is collected and stored.

Chairman, I think there are three options that you put on the table,” Alexander replied. “You mentioned the government holding it, the ISPs holding it. I think there is yet another option where we look at what data you actually need and only get that data.

Can we come up with a capability that just gets those that are predicated on a terrorist communication? I think you have those three options that I’ve put on the table,” he continued. “Those are three of the ones that I think need to be clearly discussed and the merits from both sides, they have pros and cons on the agility that you would have with the program.”

Alexander was referring to possible reforms to the NSA set forth by US intelligence and law enforcement leaders earlier this week. US President Obama, who has said he is open to reforming the surveillance programs after public scrutiny, tasked the attorney general and other administration officials to propose theories on how the phone metadata collection program could remain in use.

The most radical proposal, according to anonymous sources who spoke to the Wall Street Journal, would be to entirely abandon the collection of telephony metadata. Officials are also considering turning that vast datalog over to a government agency other than the NSA – either the FBI or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, perhaps.

Alexander’s testimony seemed to indicate that the scenario the administration is taking most seriously is leaving the trove metadata with the phone company, with the NSA only forcing the company to handover information about numbers thought to be involved in a web of terrorism.

It’s impossible to guess exactly what Alexander’s intentions are, though, because of the general’s reputation as a surveillance hawk. One unnamed intelligence source told the Washington Post in 2013 that Alexander organized the mass collection of Iraqi telecommunication information as a measure against terror attacks on US troops there. That official implied that Alexander had brought the same approach stateside.

Rather than look for a single needle in the haystack, [Alexander’s] approach was, ‘Let’s collect the whole haystack,’” he said. “Collect it all, tag it, store it…And whatever it is you want, you go searching for it.”

Alexander, the public face of the NSA, has kept that stance even in the face of public pressure and questions from lawmakers. He said in October that the NSA could scale back the eavesdropping on foreign leaders, but that the indiscriminate interception should continue, even if the data is turned over to a third party.

I would love to give this hornet’s nest to someone else, to say: ‘You get stung by this.’ But don’t drop it, because that’s our country, and if you drop it, the chance of that a terrorist attack gets through increases,” he said.

Previous reports indicated that the outgoing Alexander would relinquish his position as director by March or April 2014. Administration sources insisted that plans for his departure had been in the works before the Snowden leak, but the agency has been dogged by question and criticism for more than six months.

The true tragedy in all this is the way the press has articulated [the NSA] as the villains when what they are doing is protecting the country and [doing] what we have asked them to do,” Alexander said.

Source: RT

Florida woman forced to use city utilities instead of private solar panels, rainwater

Florida woman forced to use city utilities instead of private solar panels rainwater Florida woman forced to use city utilities instead of private solar panels, rainwater

A Cape Coral, Florida woman living “off the grid” was ordered last week by a magistrate to hook up to utilities to comply with city codes or risk eviction from her home.
Continue reading «Florida woman forced to use city utilities instead of private solar panels, rainwater»

Special Magistrate Harold S. Eskin ruled Thursday that Robin Speronis violated city codes by refusing to connect to the Cape Coral’s water system. Eskin ordered Speronis to pay for water service, adding that her sewer access would be capped until she did, The News-Press reported.

“I am in compliance,” Speronis told the News-Press. “I’m in compliance of living … you may have to hook-up, but you don’t have to use it. Well, what’s the point?”

In addition, her alternative source of energy must be approved by the city, Eskin ruled. The city contends that using rainwater and solar energy violates the International Property Maintenance Code, which is used in many US and Canadian communities. It “states that properties are unsafe to live in if they do not have electricity and running water,” according to Off The Grid News, though Speronis has both electricity and water.

florida off grid utilities Florida woman forced to use city utilities instead of private solar panels, rainwater

Eskin also pointed out that several liens were placed on her home given Speronis had used drains but without paying water bills.

“This resident provided testimony at the code compliance hearing that she has been living in the home for the past year and using the city’s wastewater system without paying for the service,” said Connie Barron, a spokeswoman for Cape Coral.

Yet the Magistrate said the city abused its authority by not giving Speronis proper notice of the supposed violations. Speronis was given an eviction notice in November.

City spokeswoman Barron said the sewer would have been capped sooner, but the city decided to wait for the code hearing. The city had actually overlooked Speronis’ setup until she did an interview with a local television station regarding her living arrangements.

Eskin did admit, though, that the city’s code may be obsolete.

“Reasonableness and code requirements don’t always go hand-in-hand … given societal and technical changes (that) requires review of code ordinances,” said Eskin, who actually dropped two of three counts against Speronis.

Speronis’ attorney posited that there’s a conflict in the city’s code, given Speronis has been ordered to hook up to the water system despite city officials’ admittance that she does not have to use it.

“It was a mental fistfight,” Speronis’ attorney Todd Allen said of Eskin’s review of the case. “There’s an inherent conflict in the code.”

For her part, Speronis said she does not intend to hook up to the city’s water system, vowing to appeal the Magistrate’s ruling.

“I know how to live off the grid completely and in a sanitary way,” Speronis said in response to the city’s action, according to The News-Press. “That’s what seven months living in the woods taught me. I do have an alternative toilet from my days of living in the woods.”

The Cape Coral resident said she will dispose of waste just as dog owners do for pets. She also plans to collect wastewater in containers for use in her garden.

Speronis already collects rainwater for bathing and other uses, all while generating electricity with solar panels.

“What happens in the courtroom is much less important than touching people’s hearts and minds,” she told Off The Grid News. “I think that we are continuing to be successful in doing just that and I am so pleased — there is hope! [Friday] morning, as I took my two hour walk, there was a young man, unknown to me, who drove by me, tooted his horn and said, ‘Robin, congratulations on your victory yesterday, keep up the fight and God bless you.’ That is beautiful.”

Source: RT

‘Six Californias’ plan to split up most populous US state gets green light

Six Californias 1024x541 ‘Six Californias’ plan to split up most populous US state gets green light
A wealthy US investor got the go-ahead for his campaign to carve up California into six separate states, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. Critics call the plan just another scheme for the wealthy to hoard tax dollars.
Continue reading «‘Six Californias’ plan to split up most populous US state gets green light»

While initiatives to split up America’s most populated state have been floated since at least around the time of the Civil War, Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Tim Draper, may just have the clout and connections to pull it off.

Draper, who has made a fortune investing in internet startups, like Skype and Hotmail, believes that California is simply too populated and diverse to adequately address the demands of its residents, according to Draper’s plan.

Vast parts of our state are poorly served by a representative government dominated by a large number of elected representatives from a small part of our state, both geographically and economically,” the plan reads.

The initiative aims to carve up the state of some 38 million inhabitants into “six smaller state governments, while preserving the historical boundaries of the various counties, cities and towns.

With the current structure, California is “ungovernable,” Draper told USA Today.

“‘Six Californias’ allows a refresh,” he added.

If Draper’s plans for California become a reality, the bulk of the state’s wealth, centered on Silicon Valley, home to a number of household tech names, including Google and Facebook, and South California, which is the seat of Hollywood and the US entertainment industry.

Jefferson, North California, West California and South California would be forced to fight over a dramatically reduced tax pie.

Six Californias chart layout ‘Six Californias’ plan to split up most populous US state gets green light

Tax haven California-style?

Instead of redressing the myriad problems now affecting the citizens of California, however, Draper believes carving up the state is the answer.

In a recent interview, the managing partner for Draper Fisher Jurvetson said California’s poorest regions “are not happy” because the system is “not working for them.”

So if they had their own state, I believe all of those states would become wealthier. And I believe by managing their own state, they will become much more successful,” Draper told Time.

Although Draper’s plan encourages “regional cooperation,” the six-state scheme will also create competition between the states, which, according to the plan, “will lead to better and more responsive governance.

That means that states with high-growth sectors, like the proposed state of Silicon Valley, which in 2012 ranked eighth in global GDP rankings, according to the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, and the state of Central California, home of Hollywood, would have an unfair advantage when it comes to collecting tax revenue.

Indeed, critics say the ‘Six Californias’ campaign is nothing more than a scheme for making sure that the taxes of wealthy individuals like Draper gets ‘redistributed’ inside their own affluent neighborhoods.

The proposed initiative comes at a time when an increasing number of corporations – many of them from Silicon Valley – are hiding their tax dollars overseas, avoiding the tax man altogether.

The top 10 corporate tax avoiders happen to be tech companies:

1. Microsoft, $76.4 billion
2. IBM, $44.4 billion
3. Cisco Systems, $41.3 billion
4. Apple, $40.4 billion
5. Hewlett-Packard, $33.4 billion
6. Google, $33.3 billion
7. Oracle, $26.2 billion
8. Dell, $19.0 billion
9. Intel, $17.5 billion
10. Qualcomm, $16.4 billion
Source: Bloomberg, August 2013

Draper’s initiative will require at least 807,615 petition signers, or 8 percent of the total votes cast in the 2010 gubernatorial elections, by July 18 to make it on to the November ballot.

 

Source: RT

Exxon CEO: Don’t frack in my backyard

Exxon CEO says Dont frack in my backyard Exxon CEO: Dont frack in my backyard

The CEO of ExxonMobil – the top producer of natural gas in the US – has joined a lawsuit that challenges the construction of a water tower connected to hydraulic fracturing operations near his Texas home, given that it may reduce the property value.
Continue reading «Exxon CEO: Don’t frack in my backyard»

CEO Rex Tillerson and other plaintiffs claim the hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – project will cause unwanted noise and traffic associated with trucking water from the 160-foot tower to the drilling site, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The tower will provide water “to oil and gas explorers for fracing [sic] shale formations leading to traffic with heavy trucks on FM 407, creating a noise nuisance and traffic hazards,” according to the lawsuit. The water tower is owned by Cross Timbers Water Supply Corporation.

Tillerson’s lawyer claims the noise, traffic, and actual fracking does not bother the ExxonMobil CEO, stating that it is the possible depreciation of his $5 million property in Bartonville, Texas that he is worried about.

Fracking is the controversial process of injecting water, sand, and various chemicals into layers of rock, in hopes of releasing oil and gas deep underground. Fracking in a single well can take millions of gallons of freshwater.

Tillerson himself has excoriated fracking regulations amid the practice’s boom across the country.

“This type of dysfunctional regulation is holding back the American economic recovery, growth, and global competitiveness,” he said in 2012, Reuters reported.

In another 2012 interview – with the Council on Foreign Relations – Tillerson said that natural gas production today has been revamped with new technologies, “so the risks are very manageable.”

Yet fracking’s popularity with energy behemoths like ExxonMobil is finding resistance across the US based on more than property values and noise complaints.

Fracking is exhausting water supplies in areas of the country that are suffering from chronic shortages, including Texas.

The practice has also been linked to an upsurge of earthquakes in many areas of the nation.

A recent study showed that the fetus of pregnant woman living within a 10-mile range of a fracking well is in much greater danger of congenital heart defects (CHD) and neural tube defects (NTD).

Another recent study found that chemicals used in fracking are suspected of being endocrine disruptors, which “could raise the risk of reproductive, metabolic, neurological and other diseases, especially in children who are exposed to” the materials.

On Thursday, a letter signed by over 1,000 doctors and health professionals was sent by Environment America to President Barack Obama, highlighting many other damaging health and environmental effects associated with fracking.

The group’s concerns about fracking included drinking water contamination, carcinogenic air pollution, acute and chronic health effects, and greenhouse gas emissions.

“Given this toll of damage, the prudent and precautionary response would be to stop fracking,” the letter reads. “Instead, the oil and gas industry is seeking to expand fracking at a frenzied pace, even into areas that provide drinking water for millions of Americans.”

Those living within a half-mile of a fracking site “had a higher excess lifetime risk of developing cancer than people living farther away,” the letter says.

For its part, ExxonMobil told The Wall Street Journal that it “has no involvement” in Tillerson’s lawsuit.

As ThinkProgress points out, there is reason to believe that Exxon’s oil and gas development projects have compromised human health and the environment, much less hurt property values.

One recent example is the company’s spill of up to 7,000 barrels of tar sands oil in a neighborhood of Mayflower, Arkansas nearly one year ago. Locals are still suffering from dizziness, headaches, and nausea – prompting many to move away if their homes aren’t already severely damaged.

“I have friends who still live here. They don’t have a place to go. They have small children…and they’re all sick,” one Mayflower resident told RT recently.

ExxonMobil pays Tillerson $40.3 million a year.

Source: RT

Gun production in US sets new record with 30 percent increase

Gun production in US sets new record with 30 percent increase Gun production in US sets new record with 30 percent increase

Gun makers in the United States produced a record number of weapons in 2012, as new government data suggests Democratic presidents may actually be a boon to firearms manufacturers.
Continue reading «Gun production in US sets new record with 30 percent increase»

According to numbers released by US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, more than 8.5 million guns were produced in 2012, compared to about 6.5 million in 2011. That’s a 31 percent increase, and the highest number recorded since the agency began tracking gun production in 1986.

Interestingly, a 2013 study by the National Opinion Research Center found that gun ownership per household has actually declined to its lowest level in more than 30 years, so what accounts for the high sales? According to one gun advocate, it’s President Barack Obama.

“Barack Obama is the stimulus package for the firearms industry,” Dave Workman, senior editor of Gun Mag, a print and online publication of the 2nd Amendment Foundation, told Bloomberg News. “The greatest irony of the Obama administration is that the one industry that he may not have really liked to see healthy has become the healthiest industry in the United States.”

As noted by Bloomberg, more than 26 million were produced during Obama’s first term alone. Former President George W. Bush, a Republican, was in office for eight years before 28 million guns were manufactured.

Bill Clinton’s Democratic presidency, which saw the government mandate background checks for gun purchases, also boosted firearms makers, who produced 33 million firearms over eight years. During George H.W. Bush’s one term, 16 million guns were made.

Even gun control advocates find some truth to the idea that Democratic presidents help cause a surge in gun sales. According to Brian Malte of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, gun advocates have “demonized” Obama in order to sell more firearms to a smaller consumer base.

“We see the percentage of households owning guns declining,” he said to Bloomberg, “and that indicates that those who already own guns are buying more of them.”

Obama generally avoided the gun control debate during his first term, but he came out in favor of reforms after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre that saw 20 children killed by a gunman.

Although Congress has failed to pass legislation on the federal level, some states have forged ahead with their own gun control initiatives. California, for example, recently signaled its intention to implement its “microstamping” gun law, which requires manufacturers to imprint gun data on bullet casings when they’re fired. This has caused some gun makers to pull various models from the market.

Regardless, the latest government data seems to dovetail with the financial results of gun makers like Smith & Wesson, which experienced record sales during its 2013 fiscal year. As RT reported last year, the manufacturer said its sales of $588 million were a 43 percent increase over the previous fiscal year.

Whether or not such high-level sales can continue remains to be seen, but background check data seems to suggest 2013 it’s possible. The FBI conducted more than 21 million background checks related to gun sales in 2013, a seven percent increase over 2012.

Source: RT

Freedom to discriminate? Controversial Arizona bill takes step toward becoming law

Freedom to discriminate Freedom to discriminate? Controversial Arizona bill takes step toward becoming law

The Arizona state Senate approved legislation Wednesday permitting businesses in the state to refuse service to potential customers based on an owner’s religious beliefs, infuriating equal rights advocates who claim the bill legalizes LGBT discrimination.
Continue reading «Freedom to discriminate? Controversial Arizona bill takes step toward becoming law»

The bill, known officially as Senate Bill 1062, was approved by the Republican-controlled Senate, which voted along strict party lines. State Democrats proposed eight amendments to the bill in an attempt to stop what they decried as discrimination against the gay and lesbian community, but each of those efforts failed.

The most polarizing part of the bill reads, in part:

“’Exercise of religion’ means the practice or observance of religion, including the ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.”

State Senator Steve Yarbrough, the bill’s sponsor, said he has been pressing for the bill because of a New Mexico state Supreme Court ruling that allowed a gay couple to sue a photographer for refusing to take pictures at their wedding.

The bill’s opponents say that Yarbrough and other social conservatives are trying to portray themselves as martyrs as they aim to pass a vague law that would leave widespread discrimination unchecked.

The Arizona Republic reported that the bill, which has a counterpart in the state House of Representatives known as HB 2153, was written by the conservative Center for Arizona Policy and Alliance Defending Freedom – a non-profit Christian lobby group that dedicates funding to the pro-life movement and has long opposed marriage equality.

The bill now heads to the desk of Republican Governor Jan Brewer. She has five days to sign or veto the bill. If she chooses to ignore it, it will automatically become law. While the governor has given little indication about which way she is leaning, Brewer has forged her reputation as a conservative on similar hot button social issues like immigration and abortion.

EJ Montini, a columnist with the Arizona Republic, said that SB 1062 sets a dangerous precedent for people of various backgrounds.

Essentially what it would do is allow people to refuse service to people who may be gay, who may be of certain religious affiliations – we don’t know, there could be a lot of exposure in this particular bill- only because they have a particular religious belief,” he said. “We really have no issue like this in Arizona and this is extremists in the legislature essentially appeasing zealots out in the community…It is the most ungodly way to view religious freedom.”

While Arizona would be the first state in the US to approve such a bill, other right-leaning states including Idaho, South Dakota, and Kansas have considered similar legislation. A number of the bills have come in response to the federal government’s recent announcement that same-sex couples will be given the same treatment as heterosexual couples under current tax law.

Source: RT

NSA plans to expand collection of American phone metadata

NSA plans to expand collection of American phone metadata1 NSA plans to expand collection of American phone metadata

Lawsuits waged at the United States government over the National Security Agency’s controversial phone data collection program may actually cause the NSA to hold onto information even longer, a new report reveals.
Continue reading «NSA plans to expand collection of American phone metadata»

A handful of lawsuits have been filed against the US government and the administration of President Barack Obama since last June when former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA has been routinely compelling the nation’s telecommunications companies for the metadatapertaining to millions of Americans. Pres. Obama has since submitted to calls for reforming that program, and even instructed Congress recently to find an alternative approach to storing metadata. According to the Wall Street Journal, however, the NSA may have to hold onto that data for a little bit longer.

On Wednesday this week, WSJ journalists Devlin Barrett and Siobhan Gorman wrote that that the lawsuits filed against the Obama administration over the NSA program may cause some rather unintended consequences to occur. Because the NSA may have to argue those cases in court, they wrote, any intelligence it collected that pertains to the plaintiffs may have to be retained indefinitely pending trial.

Currently, the NSA is obligated to purge metadata from its systems after about five years. Speaking to the Journal, one official said on condition of anonymity that those records are removed from the database about twice a year.

But because those records may become evidence in the lawsuits, the paper alleged, the NSA may be forced to postpone a data purge until after the federal courts consider the cases against the bulk metadata collection program.

“A particular concern, according to one official, is that the older records may give certain parties legal standing to pursue their cases, and that deleting the data could erase evidence that the phone records of those individuals or groups were swept up in the data dragnet,” Barrett and Gorman wrote.

An attorney with one of those plaintiffs that have sued the administration over the NSA program — Patrick Tommey of the American Civil Liberties Union — told the Journal that “It’s difficult to understand why the government would consider taking this position, when the relief we’ve requested in the lawsuit is a purge of our data.”

But Cindy Cohn, a lawyer and legal director for co-plaintiffs at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, acknowledged to the paper, “If they’re destroying evidence, that would be a crime.”

Both the ACLU and EFF filed lawsuits against the administration within days of Mr. Snowden’s first major NSA revelation last June. The EFF has been fighting against the NSA’s alleged spy programs since 2008 when it challenged the government’s “illegal and unconstitutional program of dragnet communications surveillance” on behalf of a former AT&T customer. When Snowden’s early June leak showed that telephone lines administered by competitor Verizon were being sent to the NSA, though, the ACLU again filed suit.

“As an organization that advocates for and litigates to defend the civil liberties of society’s most vulnerable, the staff at the ACLU naturally use the phone — a lot — to talk about sensitive and confidential topics with clients, legislators, whistleblowers and ACLU members,”ACLU legal fellow Brett Kaufman wrote when the suit was filed. “And since the ACLU is a VBNS [Verizon Business Network Services] customer, we were immediately confronted with the harmful impact that such broad surveillance would have on our legal and advocacy work.”

After the Verizon revelation, the EFF’s Cohn told the Washington Post that the NSA leaks had been a“tremendous boon” to previously filed legal challenges. Speaking to the Journal this week, though, she said the issue should have been brought before the courts long ago.

“I think they’re looking for any way to throw rocks at the litigation,” she said. “To the extent this is a serious concern, we should have had this discussion in 2008.”

Source: RT