Fast Food Workers Planning Strikes, Supreme Court Declines To Hear Obamacare Challenge, French Increasing Military Presence in CAR: P.M. Links

  • The French are increasing their military presence in the

    Central African Republic
    ahead of an expected United
    Nations-backed intervention intended to restore order in the
    country that has been experiencing increasing unrest and disorder
    since rebels removed President Bozize from power in March.
  • The Supreme Court declined to hear
    Liberty University’s challenge
    to Obamacare without
    comment.

  • Fast food workers
    in around 100 cities will hold a strikes this
    Thursday over wages.
  • Egypt’s
    new draft constitution
    will free the military from civilian
    oversight.
  • A new study claims that a quarter of teens have been involved
    in
    sexting
    .
  • The trial of
    two former cops in California
    accused of beating a homeless man
    to death began today.

Follow Reason and Reason 24/7 on
Twitter, and like us on Facebook.
  You
can also get the top stories mailed to
you—
sign
up here.
 

Have a news tip? Send it to us!

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/02/fast-food-workers-planning-strikes-supre
via IFTTT

ObamaCare Is Working Fine (As Long As No One Tries to Use It)

In an
op-ed
for USA Today published yesterday evening,
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius touted recent
progress the Obamacare tech team has made on repair efforts to the
health law’s troubled online insurance portal, HealthCare.gov.

“The site is running faster, it’s responding quicker and it can
handle larger amounts of traffic,” Sebelius wrote.

But please, she gently suggested, try to avoid rushing to
experience the improvements all at once. Even after saying that
“the system is now working smoothly for the vast majority of
users,” Sebelius also warned that those who prefer to shop online
“may want to visit HealthCare.gov in off-peak hours when there is
less traffic.”

So the online experience is working fine as long as no one*
actually uses it?

Some improvements do seem to have been made, but given the near
total failure of the initial rollout, that’s a pretty low bar. And
even still, it seems pretty clear that the new and improved
HealthCare.gov still has a few kinks to work out, even on the
front-end user experience that was supposed to be significantly
improved.

ProPublica’s Charles Ornstein
chronicled his own test
of the reformed website this morning
and found “long delays loading pages, an endless circle of tasks
(some already completed) and ultimately an error message.” His
test-run ended with an unhelpful, grammatically incorrect apology,
“Sorry theres [sic] a problem with our system,” and a
recommendation that he log out and try again in 30 minutes. Others,

including Reason‘s Nick Gillespie
, are reporting
similar
glitches
in their attempts to use the site. 

Maybe these folks are just part of the minority of users still
expected to experience trouble. More likely, however, is that the
front end of the site still has some significant problems. And
remember: That’s the portion of the system that the tech repair
team prioritized, and was by now supposed to be working
smoothly for the vast majority of users.

With 30 to 40 percent of the site, including critical insurer
payment systems, yet to be completed and tested, you can bet these
problems will continue. Not only because it clearly takes longer
than expected to excise flaws from the system, but because
lingering problems with the portion that’s already been built will
take time and energy away from constructing and testing the
portions of the system that have yet to be put in place. The
administration delayed the Spanish language version of site from
its initial planned opening, and just last week announced
that the federally run small business exchange that was
supposed to open last month would be
postponed by a year
. The team working on Obamacare is already
reported to be working around the clock on repairs; even if they
don’t burn out from the weeks of long hours, it’s inevitable that
building additional functionality and putting it through the paces
will fall by the wayside if the existing troubles aren’t fixed.

Even now, just a day after the relaunch, it seems likely that
the performance goals the administration was shooting for have not
actually been hit: On a press call this afternoon, a spokesperson
for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid
Services
 backed
away from the 50,000 simultaneous users
 figure that
officials provided just yesterday.

If the administration does eventually meet its performance
goals, however, it remains to be seen whether they will be enough.
In the days following the launch of the exchanges, federal
officials falsely claimed that the sole cause of the system’s
dysfunction was too much traffic. But as we get closer to the
deadline for signing up for coverage that begins next year, traffic
loads could add to the system’s problems. The rebuilt system is
supposed to be able to handle about 50,000 concurrent users, but
when the site launched, there were as many as 250,000 people trying
to log on all at once. If a flood of users does try to sign up in
the next few weeks, that could be a problem. 

So if demand for enrollment is high, the system is liable to
crash again, resulting in more of the kind of frustrations we’ve
already seen. On the other hand, if demand is low, then that
suggests a different set of problems—minimal interest in the
insurance being sold on the exchanges, and, as a result, smaller
risk pools made up of sicker individuals who will be more expensive
to insure. Either way, in other words, it won’t really
work. 

*No, I don’t literally mean “no one.” 

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/02/obamacare-is-working-fine-as-long-as-no
via IFTTT

Leaked U.N. Document Highlights Drug War Dissent

An internal U.N.
document leaked to The Guardian offers a

rare glimpse
of disagreement about drug policy among member
states, several of which are advocating a less violent approach.
The document, a draft of a policy statement scheduled to be
released next spring, suggests a breakdown in the international
consensus supporting the forcible suppression of politically
disfavored pharmacological tastes:

Ecuador is pushing the UN to include a statement that recognises
that the world needs to look beyond prohibition. Its submission
claims there is “a need for more effective results in addressing
the world drug problem” that will encourage “deliberations on
different approaches that could be more efficient and
effective.”

Venezuela is pushing for the draft to include a new
understanding of “the economic implications of the current
dominating health and law enforcement approach in tackling the
world drug problem”, arguing that the current policy fails to
recognise the “dynamics of the drug criminal market.”…

Norway wants the draft to pose “questions related to
decriminalisation and a critical assessment of the approach
represented by the so-called war on drugs.” Switzerland wants the
draft to recognise the consequences of the current policy on public
health issues. It wants it to include the observation that member
states “note with concern that consumption prevalence has not been
reduced significantly and that the consumption of new psychoactive
substances has increased in most regions of the world.” It also
wants the draft to “express concern that according to UNAids, the
UN programme on HIV/Aids, the global goal of reducing HIV
infections among people who inject drugs by 50% by 2015 will not be
reached, and that drug-related transmission is driving the
expansion of the epidemic in many countries.”

The EU is also pushing hard for the draft to emphasise the need
for drug-dependence treatment and care options for offenders as an
alternative to incarceration.

“Drug users should be entitled to access to treatment, essential
medicines, care and related support services,” the EU’s submission
suggests. “Programmes related to recovery and social reintegration
should also be encouraged.”

With the exception of Ecuador, this is pretty mild stuff,
especially at a time when former presidents of Latin American
countries have publicly called
for
 an end to the war on drugs and two U.S. states, along
with Uruguay, have taken a big step in that direction by legalizing
marijuana. But in the context of U.N. policy statements, which are
usually organized around mindless mantras like “A Drug-Free World
by 2000,” these deviations from prohibitionist orthodoxy seem
almost radical.

“The idea that there is a global consensus on drugs policy is
fake,” Damon Barrett, deputy director of Harm Reduction
International, tells The Guardian. “The differences
have been there for a long time, but you rarely get to see them. It
all gets whittled down to the lowest common denominator, when all
you see is agreement. But it’s interesting to see now what they are
arguing about.”

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/02/leaked-un-document-highlights-drug-war-d
via IFTTT

Arizona Battles Feds, Again, Over D.C.'s Restrictive Forest-Use Rules

Not Abandoned propertyState and federal officials in
Arizona are fighting just the latest skirmish in a long-running war
over just how restrictive rules should be over human use of forest
and desert areas. The locals want fewer and uniform restrictions,
while their D.C. counterparts like to play “What will we cite
people for this week?” with campers, hunters, and pretty much
anybody who likes the outdoors. The most recent battle is over a
federal rule-switch, requiring hunters to move their camps every 72
hours. Decades-long practice, as the Arizona Game and Fish
Department points out, is to allow campers to stay in place for 14
days.

The terse U.S. Forest Service
press release
(PDF) that set off the latest kerfuffle reads as
follows:

Flagstaff, Ariz. – The Coconino National Forest is
asking all northern Arizona -bound hunters to refrain from leaving
their trailers unattended in the forest during the upcoming hunting
season. In previous seasons, law enforcement officers have found
numerous trailers parked in the forests for the purpose of
reserving a location for the entire hunting season and also because
the individuals did not want to haul their trailers back and
forth.

Parking a trailer in the forest for this purpose violates Forest
Service regulations. If trailers are left unattended for more than
72 hours, the Forest Service considers them abandoned property and
may remove them from the forest. Violators can also be cited for
this action. Enforcing these regulations protects the property and
allows recreational users equal access to national forests.

This regulation applies to all national forests in northern Ar
izona, including the Coconino, Kaibab and Prescott forests.

Unmentioned in the press release is that this is a change in
long-standing policy. Everybody in Arizona knows that you’re
supposed to shift your camp every two weeks. This is to deter
people from simply moving into the forest permanently.

It doesn’t really work. Plenty of drifters, modern mountain
(wo)men, and adventurous types live scattered through the desert
and forest in tents, campers, trucks. and caves. Most stick it out
during the pleasant weather before moving on, but a few set up

fairly elaborate habitations
and stay for years. One of my
friends (who I’ll write about in detail another time) used to work
for a year or two, and then take to the wilderness. He lived in one
of my tents for a few months after a wildfire cut him off from his
main camp.

But you’re not supposed to do that. So the two-week rule has a
rationale behind it. You can camp, so long as you stop short of
digging a root cellar or building a chimney. Parking in the forest
during the hunting season and “reserving a location” isn’t really
an issue because, you know, the forest is big enough for frigging
mountain men to hide out in on illegal homesteads.

In a
very nice letter
(PDF) to the Forest Service, Larry D. Voyles,
Director of Arizona Game and Fish, points out that hunting and
fishing is actually on the decline across the country, and his
department is actually trying to get more people to go out
in the forest by reducing and simplifying rules and
restrictions.

Having worked as a game warden for more than 30 years, I am
aware that many hunters are forced to hunt in chunks of days. Keep
in mind that some hunters wait for years, if not decades to be
drawn for a particular big game tag. There are many times when a
hunter may be in camp for a few days, have to leave for work, and
then return a few days later to finish his or her hunt.

So running the risk of a citation or even having expensive gear
lifted by the feds is a bit of a downer, however unlikely it is
that one or another green-uniformed dickhead will stumble across
the camp. He pleasantly requested that the feds return to a uniform
14-day rule across all of Arizona’s forests.

No dice. The Game and Fish folks
sent out a warning
last month that “the Department has met
repeatedly with staff from the affected national forests to repeal
this enforcement approach, with no success.” With the sheriffs
departments from Yavapai and Coconino counties, the state developed
a
placard
for people to put on their vehicles, explicitly telling
rangers that trucks and trailers have not been abandoned,
although Game and Fish warns that the feds may well ignore
them.

As I mentioned, this is not the first confrontation between
Arizona and federal officials over land-use rules. During the
government not-so-shutdown, Coconino County deputies
cut the chains on the gate
of a facility closed by the Forest
Service because the closure was causing traffic jams. Sheriffs

went head-to-head with the Forest Service over road closures
.
And now the whole Arizona Sheriffs Association adopted a formal
resolution saying its members oppose and
won’t help the feds enforce their restrictions, including the new
72-hour rule
.

The way things are going, I’m waiting for the first ranger with
an attitude to get trussed and thrown over somebody’s hood. You
don’t even need a tag for them.

Have I mentioned that I’ve
written a novel about wilderness-living hermits, crazed rangers and
general shenanigans
?

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/02/arizona-and-feds-face-off-again-over-lan
via IFTTT

Arizona Battles Feds, Again, Over D.C.’s Restrictive Forest-Use Rules

Not Abandoned propertyState and federal officials in
Arizona are fighting just the latest skirmish in a long-running war
over just how restrictive rules should be over human use of forest
and desert areas. The locals want fewer and uniform restrictions,
while their D.C. counterparts like to play “What will we cite
people for this week?” with campers, hunters, and pretty much
anybody who likes the outdoors. The most recent battle is over a
federal rule-switch, requiring hunters to move their camps every 72
hours. Decades-long practice, as the Arizona Game and Fish
Department points out, is to allow campers to stay in place for 14
days.

The terse U.S. Forest Service
press release
(PDF) that set off the latest kerfuffle reads as
follows:

Flagstaff, Ariz. – The Coconino National Forest is
asking all northern Arizona -bound hunters to refrain from leaving
their trailers unattended in the forest during the upcoming hunting
season. In previous seasons, law enforcement officers have found
numerous trailers parked in the forests for the purpose of
reserving a location for the entire hunting season and also because
the individuals did not want to haul their trailers back and
forth.

Parking a trailer in the forest for this purpose violates Forest
Service regulations. If trailers are left unattended for more than
72 hours, the Forest Service considers them abandoned property and
may remove them from the forest. Violators can also be cited for
this action. Enforcing these regulations protects the property and
allows recreational users equal access to national forests.

This regulation applies to all national forests in northern Ar
izona, including the Coconino, Kaibab and Prescott forests.

Unmentioned in the press release is that this is a change in
long-standing policy. Everybody in Arizona knows that you’re
supposed to shift your camp every two weeks. This is to deter
people from simply moving into the forest permanently.

It doesn’t really work. Plenty of drifters, modern mountain
(wo)men, and adventurous types live scattered through the desert
and forest in tents, campers, trucks. and caves. Most stick it out
during the pleasant weather before moving on, but a few set up

fairly elaborate habitations
and stay for years. One of my
friends (who I’ll write about in detail another time) used to work
for a year or two, and then take to the wilderness. He lived in one
of my tents for a few months after a wildfire cut him off from his
main camp.

But you’re not supposed to do that. So the two-week rule has a
rationale behind it. You can camp, so long as you stop short of
digging a root cellar or building a chimney. Parking in the forest
during the hunting season and “reserving a location” isn’t really
an issue because, you know, the forest is big enough for frigging
mountain men to hide out in on illegal homesteads.

In a
very nice letter
(PDF) to the Forest Service, Larry D. Voyles,
Director of Arizona Game and Fish, points out that hunting and
fishing is actually on the decline across the country, and his
department is actually trying to get more people to go out
in the forest by reducing and simplifying rules and
restrictions.

Having worked as a game warden for more than 30 years, I am
aware that many hunters are forced to hunt in chunks of days. Keep
in mind that some hunters wait for years, if not decades to be
drawn for a particular big game tag. There are many times when a
hunter may be in camp for a few days, have to leave for work, and
then return a few days later to finish his or her hunt.

So running the risk of a citation or even having expensive gear
lifted by the feds is a bit of a downer, however unlikely it is
that one or another green-uniformed dickhead will stumble across
the camp. He pleasantly requested that the feds return to a uniform
14-day rule across all of Arizona’s forests.

No dice. The Game and Fish folks
sent out a warning
last month that “the Department has met
repeatedly with staff from the affected national forests to repeal
this enforcement approach, with no success.” With the sheriffs
departments from Yavapai and Coconino counties, the state developed
a
placard
for people to put on their vehicles, explicitly telling
rangers that trucks and trailers have not been abandoned,
although Game and Fish warns that the feds may well ignore
them.

As I mentioned, this is not the first confrontation between
Arizona and federal officials over land-use rules. During the
government not-so-shutdown, Coconino County deputies
cut the chains on the gate
of a facility closed by the Forest
Service because the closure was causing traffic jams. Sheriffs

went head-to-head with the Forest Service over road closures
.
And now the whole Arizona Sheriffs Association adopted a formal
resolution saying its members oppose and
won’t help the feds enforce their restrictions, including the new
72-hour rule
.

The way things are going, I’m waiting for the first ranger with
an attitude to get trussed and thrown over somebody’s hood. You
don’t even need a tag for them.

Have I mentioned that I’ve
written a novel about wilderness-living hermits, crazed rangers and
general shenanigans
?

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/02/arizona-and-feds-face-off-again-over-lan
via IFTTT

Researcher Falsely States That Energy Drinks Contain More Caffeine Than Coffee

Research by radiologists at the University of
Bonn
finds
that caffeine in energy drinks has cardiovascular effects
similar to those
of caffeine in other beverages. That’s not terribly surprising, but
it is bound to be seen in a sinister light given the media-driven
scare
 about these products, especially because one of the
researchers incorrectly states that energy drinks contain more
caffeine than coffee does. “The amount of caffeine is up to three
times higher than in other caffeinated beverages like coffee or
cola,”
said
 Jonas Dorner, who together with his collaborators
presented the findings of a heart imaging study at a meeting of the
Radiological Society of North America. “There are many side effects
known to be associated with a high intake of caffeine, including
rapid heart rate, palpitations, rise in blood pressure and, in
the most severe cases, seizures or sudden death.”

The implication is pretty clear: Energy drinks pose a
potentially deadly threat because they contain so much caffeine.
Yet the drinks that Dorner and his colleagues gave their 18
subjects contained 32 milligrams of caffeine per 100 milliliters,
compared to 76 milligrams per 100 milliliters for
Starbucks coffee
. So Starbucks coffee contains more than twice
as much caffeine per milliliter as energy drinks, as opposed to
one-third as much, as Dorner suggests. That’s a pretty big
mistake—and one that is likely to be repeated in future coverage of
this issue because it jibes with the attention-grabbing claim that
energy drinks are more dangerous than other caffeinated
beverages.

In any event, the effects observed by Dorner and his colleagues
are not very alarming:

Compared to the baseline images, results of cardiac MRI
performed one hour after the study participants consumed the energy
drink revealed significantly increased peak strain and peak
systolic strain rates (measurements for contractility) in the left
ventricle of the heart. The heart’s left ventricle receives
oxygenated blood from the lungs and pumps it to the aorta, which
distributes it throughout the rest of the body.

“We don’t know exactly how or if this greater contractility of
the heart impacts daily activities or athletic performance,” Dr.
Dorner said. “We need additional studies to understand this
mechanism and to determine how long the effect of the energy drink
lasts.”

The researchers found no significant differences in heart
rate, blood pressure or the amount of blood ejected from the left
ventricle of the heart between the volunteers’ baseline and second
MRI exams.

“We’ve shown that energy drink consumption has a short-term
impact on cardiac contractility,” Dr. Dorner said. “Further studies
are needed to evaluate the impact of long-term energy drink
consumption and the effect of such drinks on individuals with heart
disease.”

In other words, this study does not document any harmful or
lasting effects from consuming energy drinks. And if caffeine poses
a risk to people with heart disease, that risk presumably would be
greater in the case of coffee, which supplies a bigger dose. If the
caffeine in coffee does not scare you, there is no reason, aside
from alarmist press coverage, why the caffeine in energy drinks
should.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/02/researcher-falsely-states-that-energy-dr
via IFTTT

Jerry Brito on Cellphones in Airplanes

AirplaneWhen it was announced last
month that the Federal Aviation Administration was relaxing the
rules on personal electronic devices during take-off and landing on
commercial passenger flights, Americans rejoiced. No longer would
we have to suffer the indignity of staring blankly at the tray
table before us for the 15 minutes it takes a flight to reach
cruising altitude, or worse, touch ink-stained dead tree bits to
occupy ourselves. Yet, notes Jerry Brito, when the Federal
Communications Commission soon thereafter similarly announced that
it to was reconsidering its prohibitions on in-flight cell phone
use, all hell broke loose. Let’s give it a try before freaking out,
he suggests.

View this article.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/02/jerry-brito-on-cellphones-in-airplanes
via IFTTT

Cops in Iceland Fatally Shoot First Person Ever in Their History

ísland?From the island that was once the location,
a
millennium ago,
of maybe the closest a society’s come to pure
libertarianism comes news that Iceland’s had its
first police shooting
in history.
Via euronews
:

According to an Icelandic news agency, an armed man in
his fifties had been making threats to his neighbours, prompting
police to evacuate the apartment building where he lived.

Shortly after 05:00 am local time the man started to fire shots
from a window. Police returned fire. According to eyewitnesses,
some sort of smoke bomb was thrown into the apartment through a
broken window. Armed police entered the apartment of the gunman at
around 06:00 am and the man was shot in the process. He was taken
out in a stretcher and taken to hospital before being pronounced
dead.

Other European countries have similar track records. Police in
Germany
shot 85 rounds
in all of 2011. Iceland, though, is different.
Unlike much of Western Europe, the country is “awash with guns.”
It also has one of the lowest violent crime rates in the world. But
strict gun laws aren’t useful in preventing police shootings
anyway—witness
Chicago
, the number of puppycides
that enter the news cycle, and the
various

police

shooting

stories

that

involve

no

firearms
, except the police’s.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/02/cops-in-iceland-fatally-shoot-first-pers
via IFTTT

Same-Sex Marriage Now Legal in Hawaii, Dozens of Couples Marry

Dozens of
same-sex couples got married in Hawaii today after a law legalizing
gay marriage came into effect at midnight.

Hawaii is the fifteenth state to legalize gay marriage.

From
Reuters
:

(Reuters) – Dozens of same-sex couples tied the knot in Hawaii
early Monday as a new law allowing gay couples to marry went into
effect at midnight.

Between 30 and 40 couples were being married at the Sheraton
Waikiki Hotel in Honolulu starting just after midnight local time
(0500 ET), a hotel employee, who asked not to be named, told
Reuters.

Three hours later, the ceremonies were still being performed and
no protesters had shown up, the employee said. Photos posted on
social media sites depicted flowers and chandeliers, wedding
dresses and Hawaiian shirts, and leis on celebrating guests.

Follow these stories and more at Reason 24/7 and don’t forget you
can e-mail stories to us at 24_7@reason.com and tweet us
at @reason247.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/02/same-sex-marriage-now-legal-in-hawaii-d
via IFTTT

A. Barton Hinkle Says Obama Puts a Happy Face on a Federal Mess

Obama smirks“What we
know,” said President Obama to a business group a few days ago, “is
that our—our fiscal problems are not short-term deficits. Our
discretionary budget, that portion of the federal budget that isn’t
defense or Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid, the entitlement
programs, is at its smallest level in my lifetime, probably since
Dwight Eisenhower. We are not lavishly spending on a whole bunch of
social programs out there.” A. Barton Hinkle says you could call
this Obama’s version of the old joke: “Aside from that, Mrs.
Lincoln, how did you like the play?” And his minimization of
reality isn’t limited to fiscal matters.

View this article.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/02/a-barton-hinkle-says-obama-puts-a-happy
via IFTTT