Matthew Feeney: Marijuana in Vending Machines Is the American Way

In April American Green,
part of the Tranzbyte Corporation, unveiled a marijuana vending
machine in Colorado intended for medical cannabis patients. The
company plans to install its ZaZZZ vending machine in Herbal
Elements, a medical marijuana dispensary in Eagle-Vail, Colorado.
Matthew looks at this means of helping customers make their own
choices in peace and relative privacy.

View this article.

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Ronald Bailey Reviews a Welcome to the Naked Future

“You have
zero privacy anyway. Get over it,” declared tech guru Scott McNealy
back in 1999. Fifteen years later McNealy’s statement is no longer
factually controversial. We all give up gigabytes of personal
information to Facebook, Foursquare, Google, AT&T—and that’s
just the voluntary stuff. In the past year, former government
contractor Edward Snowden has revealed that our own government has
been engaging in pervasive domestic spying, keeping track of
everyone we’ve called, for how long we spoke, and from where.
Privacy looks increasingly like a quaint mid-20th century
relic.

Ronald Bailey reviews The Naked
Future:
 What Happens in a World That
Anticipates Your Every Move?
, by Futurist Deputy
Editor Patrick Tucker. The book explores a more positive take on
how we can personally use the megabytes of information generated
and collected by our digital paraphernalia to help us live smarter,
healthier, and better lives, and maybe even regain some measure of
privacy. 

View this article.

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LAPD Acquires Two Drones

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has
acquired drones
. According to a short press
release
issued by the department, “no decision has been made
whether or not these vehicles will be used.” Last year Reason TV
released “Cops with Drones: Alameda Co., CA Weights Technology vs.
Privacy,” which takes a look at the issues surrounding law
enforcement’s use of these tools. 

The original release date was April 4, 2013, and the original
text is below.

For a long time, drones—unmanned aircraft—were used only by the
military. Now local law enforcement wants them for police work such
as surveillance and search-and-rescue missions. That in turn has
sparked a fierce debate over the balance between cutting-edge law
enforcement technology and the privacy rights of citizens.

In February, Reason TV covered an Alameda County, California,
public protection committee meeting in which Sheriff Gregory
Ahern
 announced that he planned on using a laptop-sized
drone (he prefers to call it an “unmanned aerial system”) for
search and rescue. “It’s mission specific to search areas for lost
children or elderly or Alzheimer’s patients to search an area that
it would be very difficult for our personnel to get to,” said
Sheriff Ahern.

Residents and civil liberties advocates are skeptical that drone
use would remain so narrowly defined for very long. At the
meeting, Linda
Lye
 of the American
Civil Liberties Union of Northern California
 took issue
with the sheriff’s submitted draft
of a privacy policy
. She said it’s not specific enough
about what the sheriff can and cannot do with drones.

“If the sheriff wants a drone for search and rescue then the
policy should say he can only use it for search and rescue,” said
Lye. “Unfortunately under his policy he can deploy a drone for
search and rescue, but then use the data for untold other purposes.
That is a huge loophole, it’s an exception that swallows the
rule.”

Lye urged the public protection committee not to approve the
drone until stricter safeguards were in place. She pointed out that
the safeguards were important because the technology will develop
very quickly—and possibly to a point where citizens don’t have
control of their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable
searches and seizures. Indeed, Alameda County could serve as the
baseline for police and sheriff’s departments across the country,
so getting it right there may affect all Americans.

The sheriff plans on applying for permission from the Federal
Aviation Administration to fly aircraft above 400 feet and plans to
pay for the drone with a federal grant. MuckRock.com made a Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA) request for the grant
made to the Department of Homeland Security in July 2012
. The
request revealed that Sheriff Ahern was looking to purchase a drone
equipped with a something called a “Forward Looking
Infrared camera.” These thermal-imaging devices detect
radiation given off by heat from people or animals, opening up a
wide variety of concerns.

Criminal law experts such as Laurie
Levenson
 of Loyola Law
School
 say law enforcement hasn’t been given enough legal
guidance on drones yet.

“If you say we’re going to use it for a manhunt, what do you
call a manhunt? If you say you want to use it to find missing
persons, well, how far can you go with that?” says Levenson. She
says that it’s a matter of drawing lines because it’s just too easy
to become Big Brother without them. What happens, for instance, if
police capture evidence of unrelated criminal activity while
searching for a lost toddler? Can they use that to trigger arrests
and prosecution?

Trevor
Timm
 of the Electronic
Frontier Foundation
 points out that it is very hard to
draw lines with police because, once police have a certain power,
they never want to give it up. “Police always seem to want to push
the boundaries as far as the law will take them and sometimes over
those boundaries,” says Timm.

He points to law enforcement and cell phone data as an
example. The
New York Times
 reported
 that in 2011, law
enforcement made 1.3 million demands of phone companies for
subscriber locations, text messages, and other information. Because
there weren’t strict privacy rules in place when mobile phones
first exploded onto the market, it made it that much easier for law
enforcement to obtain civilian data without search warrants or
users’ approval or even knowing about the requests.

“Generally there is this real friction between technology and
civil liberties and we haven’t really figured out how to deal with
it,” says Levenson. We don’t know how to deal with it because
technology is developing a lot faster than the law can keep up.
Government cameras are everywhere these days and the laws that deal
with them go back to the time of the framers of the Constitution.
“What did they know about drones?” asks Levenson.

About 8 minutes.

Written and produced by Paul Detrick. Camera by Alex Manning,
Zach Weissmueller, Tracy Oppenheimer, and Detrick.

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Richman on the U.S. Ruling Elite’s Disastrous Foreign Policy

Bowe BergdahlAmerica is not winning the War on Terror. It was
unwinnable from the start, primarily because its origins and nature
were viewed through a distorting nationalist and imperialist
ideology and thus were badly misunderstood, writes Sheldon Richman.
As a result, the U.S. government has killed countless innocent
Muslims, seen the lives of thousands of young Americans snuffed out
or ruined, and squandered obscene sums of money.

Things will look no better in 2016, so our troops should leave
now and save the lives that will otherwise be lost, argues
Richman.

View this article.

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More Gun Violence at Schools Doesn’t Mean We Should Panic

In the past couple of weeks, gun violence at the
University of California, Santa Barbara
and
Seattle Pacific University
resulted in the deaths of seven
innocent people. These criminal acts have also, inevitably, led to
new
calls for gun control
. However terrifying these stories are,
they need to be put in context. As Nick Gillespie pointed out in a
Reason TV program released in the wake of the mass shooting at
Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, there are
five basic facts about guns, schools, and violence that are worth
knowing.

“5 Facts about Guns, Schools, and Violence,” Written by
Nick Gillespie and produced by Amanda C. Winkler. Approximately
2:30 minutes.

Original release date was January 10, 2013. The original writeup
is below.

In the wake of December’s horrific mass shooting at Sandy Hook
Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Vice President Joe Biden
is chairing a panel of experts that will make gun-control
recommendations to President Barack Obama by the end of the month.
The president has said that enacting new restrictions on guns will
be one of his highest priorities.

No one wants to ever again see anything like the senseless
slaughter of 26 people — including 20 children – at a school. But
as legislators turn toward creating new gun laws, here are five
facts they need to know.

1. Violent crime — including violent crime using guns — has
dropped massively over the past 20 years.

The violent crime rate – which includes murder, rape, and
beatings – is half of what it was in the early 1990s. And the
violent crime rate involving the use of weapons has also declined
at a similar pace.

2. Mass shootings have not increased in recent years.

Despite terrifying events like Sandy Hook or last summer’s
theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, mass shootings are not
becoming more frequent. “There is no pattern, there is no
increase,” says criminologist James Allen Fox of Northeastern
University, who studies the issue. Other data shows that mass
killings peaked in 1929.

3. Schools are getting safer.

Across the board, schools are less dangerous than they used be.
Over the past 20 years, the rate of theft per 1,000 students
dropped from 101 to 18. For violent crime, the victimization rate
per 1,000 students dropped from 53 to 14.

4. There Are More Guns in Circulation Than Ever Before.

Over the past 20 years, virtually every state in the country has
liberalized gunownership rules and many states have expanded
concealed carry laws that allow more people to carry weapons in
more places. There around 300 million guns in the United States and
at least one gun in about 45 percent of all households. Yet the
rate of gun-related crime continues to drop.

5. “Assault Weapons Bans” Are Generally Ineffective.

While many people are calling for reinstating the federal ban on
assault weapons — an arbitrary category of guns that has no clear
definition — research shows it would have no effect on crime and
violence. “Should it be renewed,” concludes a definitive study,
“the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best
and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.”

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting is as horrifing a
crime as can be imagined. It rips at the country’s heart and the
call to action is strong and righteous. But as Joe Biden and his
panel of experts consider changes to gun laws and school-safety
policies, they need to lead with their heads and not just their
hearts.

Over the past dozen years, too many policies — the Patriot Act,
the war in Iraq, the TARP bailouts — have been ruled by emotion
and ideology.

Passing sweeping new restrictions on Second Amendment rights
won’t heal the pain and loss we all feel but just may create many
more problems in our future.

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Paul Feine on America’s Longest War: A Film About Drug Prohibition

Drug
prohibition has failed, says Paul Feine. Drug usage rates have not
declined, and illegal drugs are more available—and cheaper—than
ever before. At the same time, the costs of the drug war are
staggering. More than $1 trillion taxpayer dollars have been spent.
More than 50,000 SWAT raids occur each year. Hundreds of thousands
of non-violent drug offenders are wasting their lives away in
prison at our expense. And more than 60,000 people have been
murdered in Mexico over the past six years. America’s Longest
War 
provides a brief history of drug prohibition,
beginning with Nixon’s declaration of war in 1971 and ending with
Obama’s broken promise to allow states to determine their own
medical marijuana policies. 

View this article.

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The Onion Satirizes Police Brutality

not the onionThe satirical newspaper The Onion took a
crack at police brutality with a story headlined “New
Law Enforcement Robot Can Wield Excessive Force Of 5 Human
Officers
.” A handful of the new robots can do the work of a
whole precinct:

The tactical robotic units, known as the AP-12, are reportedly
equipped with on-board mechanisms to target both criminals and
innocent bystanders, and possess a variety of retractable
instruments that allow them to effortlessly subdue and restrain up
to four individuals at once. According to sources, just a dozen of
the new robots will be able to collectively carry out the physical
and psychological abuse typically spread out amongst the officers
of an entire precinct.

The robo-cop’s got furtive movements down:

“In many ways, these robots’ actions are indistinguishable from
those of our brave men and women in uniform,” McClintock added.

According to its designers, the AP-12 is outfitted with numerous
features that make it ideal for abruptly resorting to extreme
measures, including a highly sensitive motion detector that
perceives most gestures as an act of resistance necessitating
physical force.

And panic firing:

Engineers say the robot is also equipped with a sophisticated
audio command program that recognizes and subsequently ignores such
phrases as “Stop” and “I give up” and is programmed to apply
pressure to a prostrate suspect’s neck with a force of up to 500
PSI both before and after he’s stopped moving. Its operating system
is also reportedly loaded with advanced visual recognition software
that allows the robot to identify nearly any object in the
subject’s hand as a weapon, prompting it to rapidly empty the clip
on its extendable .40-caliber firearm.

And for those good cops worried about bad apples, the robot cop
won’t let itself be made out into one:

After doing so, the machine is configured to automatically place
a pistol on or near the disabled suspect while wirelessly
corroborating fabricated details of the confrontation with any
other on-scene units well ahead of a potential internal affairs
investigation.

Read about the rest of the
features
here, and Reason on the actual incidences of
police brutality that make this the best kind of satire,
believable, here.

h/t Jason J.

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California’s Parent Trigger Law Is (Finally) Helping Improve Public Schools

Lawmakers in California passed the Parent Trigger law back in
2010. The law allows parents of children attending failing public
schools to force major changes if half of the parents sign a
petition. Last year, parents of children attending Desert Trails
Elementary School in Adelanto, Calif., pulled the parent trigger
and transformed the school to a public charter school called Desert
Trails Preparatory Academy. “We’ve seen major, major progress…since
the beginning of the year,”
says Debra Tarver, executive director of Desert Trails Preparatory
Academy
.  

In other California school districts,
just the threat of Parent Trigger is helping parents get what they
want
.

Back in 2011, Reason TV covered the first ever attempt by
parents, with the help of the non-profit organization Parent Revolution, to use the
Parent Trigger. While the effort by parents at McKinley Elementary
to use the Parent Trigger ultimately failed, parents at other
California schools are figuring out how use the law to their
advantage, and at least seven other states have adopted some form
of the Parent Trigger.

“California’s Parent Trigger Law: Compton Parents Take
on the Public School System,” produced by Paul Feine and Alex
Manning. About 8:30 minutes.

Original release date was March 2, 2011. The original writeup is
below.

Last year, parents of students in failing California public
schools were given a reason to be hopeful when Sacramento
politicians passed something called the “parent trigger” law. The
way the law works is that if 51% of parents at a failing school
sign a petition, they can turn the school into a charter school,
replace the staff or simply use the petition as a bargaining chip
to initiate a conversation about change.

On December 7, 2010, with help from the non-profit group Parent
Revolution, parents of children attending McKinley Elementary in
Compton became the first group of parents to pull the parent
trigger. Their dream was to transform the school into a Celerity
charter school. Instead, the Compton parents were thrust into a
prolonged fight with supporters of the status quo: the Compton
Unified School District, the teachers’ unions, Gov. Jerry Brown and
Tom Torlakson, the newly elected Superintendent of Public
Instruction.

This is the story about a group of parents in Compton who are
fighting to give their children a better education.

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Veronique de Rugy Says Free the Horse Masseuses

Celeste Kelly, Grace Granatelli, and
Stacey Kollman make their living by providing massage services to
horses and other animals. For more than a decade, these three women
have supported themselves by doing what they love while alleviating
the pain of animals and bringing comfort to their owners. But if
established veterinarians and bureaucrats in the state of Arizona
and Maryland have their way, the women will not only be barred from
their chosen livelihood, they could face up to $3,500 in fines and
six months in jail. The therapists are in trouble because they lack
official licenses from their local State Veterinary Medical
Examining Boards. But obtaining a license is absurdly difficult.
And unfortunately, writes Veronique de Rugy, this abusive treatment
of American entrepreneurs isn’t confined to horse masseuses.
Unlicensed hairdressers, barbers, and hair braiders, too, were
under attack in Washington, Utah, the District of Columbia,
California, Mississippi, Minnesota, and Ohio before the Institute
for Justice step in.

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Baylen Linnekin on New York City’s Loser Soda Ban

SodaThis week the New York State Court of Appeals,
the state’s highest court, heard New York City’s appeal of the
city’s soda ban. The ban has already been soundly rejected
(“slammed down,” as one New York news station puts it) by two lower
courts in the state. It’s also faced furious opposition from
millions of New Yorkers and Americans around the country of all
political and ideological stripes, and has served to galvanize the
cause of food freedom like perhaps no other issue to date.

This week’s hearing served as a reminder that the ban may be on
its last legs. If the Court of Appeals upholds the lower court
rulings, writes Baylen Linnekin, then the ban is as dead as he
predicted it likely would be back in August.

View this article.

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