SEATTLE (AP) – The city of Seattle is warning more than 300 medical marijuana businesses that their days could be numbered.
Officials have sent letters to medical marijuana growers, processors and dispensaries reminding them they need to either shut down or be licensed by the state by next summer.
The problem is that the Legislature hasn’t yet created a licensing system to allow sales of medical marijuana.
How to regulate pot for medical use is expected to be a hot topic when lawmakers go back into session in January. Officials fear the unregulated cannabis is competing with Washington’s new, highly taxed recreational market.
Some lawmakers, including Rep. Chris Hurst, an Enumclaw Democrat who heads the House committee that oversees the marijuana industry, have urged the city to crack down on its proliferation of medical pot shops, and the U.S. attorney’s offices in Seattle and Spokane have long said the state’s unregulated medical pot system isn’t tenable.
The Seattle City Council voted last year to give medical marijuana businesses that opened before Nov. 16, 2013, time to obtain state licenses, anticipating that the Legislature would adopt such a licensing scheme. But it also said medical pot dispensaries opening after that date would not be tolerated.
Nevertheless, dozens have opened in the city since then, city records show. In their letters this month, two city departments – Planning and Development, and Finance and Administrative Services – warned: "If you began operating after November 16, 2013 and do not have a state issued license, you are in violation of city law and can be subject to enforcement action."
The letters worried medical marijuana advocates who say they fear patients will have a harder time finding cannabis.
"We’re urging the Legislature to adopt a legal framework that can allow the two programs – adult use and medical – to exist side-by-side," said Kris Hermes, a spokesman for Americans for Safe Access. "In the meantime, the city of Seattle should back off its stringent stance on requiring medical marijuana businesses to obtain a license that doesn’t yet exist."Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Some of the harvest from industrial hemp crops grown in Kentucky as part of a pilot program will be tried out for stable bedding.
Seeds were released to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture in time for late-May and early-June planting.
The trial involved the planting of 13 different varieties to assess their performance and the quality of the fiber produced.
It is understood most of the fields have just been harvested in the trial, which has used the skills of tertiary institutions across Kentucky.
Researchers intend to assess the crop for a variety of uses, including as stable bedding for horses. Some of the crop will be tested for use in textiles and biofuelsRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Published: 23:01 EST, 20 October 2014 | Updated: 23:01 EST, 20 October 2014
By David Alexander
WASHINGTON, Oct 21 (Reuters) – Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan hit an all-time high in 2013 despite years of counter-narcotics efforts that have cost the United States $7.6 billion, the U.S. government watchdog for Afghanistan reconstruction spending said on Tuesday.
The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime reported that Afghan farmers grew an "unprecedented" 209,000 hectares (516,000 acres) of opium poppy in 2013, surpassing the previous high of 193,000 hectares (477,000 acres) in 2007, said John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction.
"In past years, surges in opium poppy cultivation have been met by a coordinated response from the U.S. government and coalition partners, which has led to a temporary decline in levels of opium production," Sopko said in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other top U.S. officials.
"The recent record-high level of poppy cultivation calls into question the long-term effectiveness and sustainability of those prior efforts," he said.
Afghanistan produces more than 80 percent of the world’s illicit opium, and profits from the illegal trade help fund the Taliban insurgency. U.S. government officials blame poppy production for fueling corruption and instability, undermining good government and subverting the legal economy.
The United States has spent $7.6 billion on counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan since launching the programs following the start of the 2001 war, it said.
Sopko said the U.N. drug office estimated the value of poppy cultivation and opium products produced in Afghanistan in 2013 at about $3 billion, a 50 percent increase over the $2 billion estimated in 2012.
"With deteriorating security in many parts of Afghanistan and low levels of eradication of poppy fields, further increases in cultivation are likely in 2014," Sopko said in the letter.
He said affordable deep-well technology brought to Afghanistan over the past decade had enabled Afghans to turn 200,000 hectares (494,000 acres) of desert in southwestern Afghanistan into arable land, much of it devoted to poppy production.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, in a letter responding to the findings, said the rise in poppy cultivation and decline in eradication efforts by provincial authorities was "disappointing news." It said U.S. officials were helping Afghans develop the ability to lead and manage a long-term counter-narcotics effort.
The embassy said the fight against poppy cultivation had had an impact on growers, resulting in a change in where the crop is planted.
"Essentially, poppy cultivation has shifted from areas where government presence is broadly supported and security has improved, toward more remote and isolated areas where governance is weak and security is inadequate," it said.
Michael Lumpkin, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, said in a response letter that the Pentagon had supported counter-narcotics operations by other U.S. government agencies but was not responsible for managing poppy eradication programs.
"In our opinion, the failure to reduce poppy cultivation and increase eradication is due to the lack of Afghan government support for the effort," Lumpkin said. (Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/reuters/article-2801111/Despite-costly-U-S-effort-Afghan-poppy-cultivation-hits-new-high.html#ixzz3Gp3QqGkw
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Originally posted on This "IS" Hell and I can see "YOU" from here!:
(NEWSER) – Adolf Hitler apparently relied on a stunning array of drugs while ruling Nazi Germany, including one made popular by the show Breaking Bad: crystal meth.
According to a 47-page U.S. military dossier, a physician filled the Fuhrer with barbiturate tranquilizers, morphine, bulls’ semen, a pill that contained crystal meth, and other drugs, depending on Hitler’s momentary needs, the Daily Mail reports. By this account, Hitler downed crystal meth before a 1943 meeting with Mussolini in which the Fuhrer ranted for two hours, and took nine shots of methamphetamine while living out his last days in his bunker.
The dossier’s allegations will be considered in a British TV documentary this weekend called Hitler’s Hidden Drug Habit, the Times of Israel reports.
Just who was Hitler’s dealer? Named Theodor Morell, he succeeded as a Berlin doctor despite his unconventional methods and controversial past. Revelations that he had treated…
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Published: Sept 23, 2014 4:31 p.m. ET
Newly-leased space in Glasgow will nearly double size of current operations
BRIDGEWATER, N.J., Sep 23, 2014 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Amneal Pharmaceuticals LLC (www.amneal.com), one of the largest generic drug suppliers in the U.S., has signed a lease for a second location in Glasgow, Kentucky that will nearly double the size of its national sales and distribution center.
Tony Hodges, Vice President for Global Logistics, discussed Amneal’s latest growth plans in the state at a Glasgow-Barren County Chamber of Commerce breakfast on September 12. The company was honored as the 2014 Industry of the Year, chosen by Chamber members, during the event.
Amneal acquired the lease at 40 Aberdeen Drive in the former Carhartt Building from Aphena Pharma Solutions, a medication packaging firm and Amneal supplier, which announced it will cease operations in Glasgow at the end of the month. The building will be refurbished to create a 120,000 sq. ft. warehouse and 6,000 sq. ft. of offices to support logistics. When the expansion is complete, the company’s Glasgow operations will occupy a total of 221,000 sq. ft.
Since 2007, Amneal’s Kentucky sales and distribution capabilities have grown dramatically (see Figure 1 here). Upon acquiring Akyma Pharmaceuticals that year, the company moved into its 3,000 sq. ft. offices at 104 Hippocrates Way and 30,000 sq. ft. warehouse in nearby Fountain Run. In 2010 Amneal consolidated distribution logistics and sales operations in-state rather than relocating these critical functions near its headquarters and manufacturing plants in metro New York by leasing a much-larger 115,000 sq. ft. facility at 118 Beaver Trail.
Amneal has invested over $6.6 million in Glasgow and created jobs for 80 Kentuckians to date, exceeding this year’s goal. Figure 2 (view here) shows actual employment growth from 2008-2014. Once the Aberdeen Drive expansion is complete, the generic maker will employ over 90 local residents.
For its earlier project, Amneal secured multi-year tax incentives through the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) and the Kentucky Business Investment (KBI) program. The company also obtained an economic development loan from the Glasgow/Barren County Industrial Development Economic Authority, forgivable if agreed-upon headcount growth commitments are met. The KEDFA/KBI grant and Glasgow/Barren County loan were key factors in Amneal’s decision to remain and expand in Kentucky.
Although the financial incentives Amneal has received over the past several years are important, the company is also reaffirming its commitment to Glasgow due to its people.
“From our first opportunity to get to know Akyma’s employees prior to acquiring that business, we have been impressed with the work ethic, integrity, common sense, commitment to success and positive attitude of Kentucky’s citizens,” said Jim Luce, Amneal’s Executive Vice President-Sales & Marketing, who oversees the entire Kentucky operation. “The economic incentives definitely played a critical role in our decision to continue growing in Kentucky, though incentives and nice buildings aren’t worth anything without superb people. And finding all three in Glasgow, it was easy to commit our long term future here.”
About Amneal Pharmaceuticals LLC
Amneal Pharmaceuticals LLC is a U.S.-based manufacturer of generic pharmaceuticals. Known as “Generic’s New Generation,” Amneal prides itself on its unwavering commitment to quality, meaningful business relationships, and innovative approach to maximizing value for all stakeholders. Extensive investment in R&D, an intelligently aggressive expansion strategy, and focus on vertical integration are key contributors to the company’s impressive growth over the past several years. Amneal is headquartered in Bridgewater, New Jersey with manufacturing, R&D, packaging, sales and distribution facilities throughout the U.S., as well as abroad. For more information, visit www.amneal.com.
SOURCE: Amneal Pharmaceuticals LLC
Amneal Pharmaceuticals LLC
Executive Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Cheryl Lechok Communications, LLC
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After nearly two years orbiting Earth, the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B space plane landed in California. What was the mysterious spacecraft doing in while in orbit?
By Elizabeth Howell, LiveScience October 17, 2014
After spending nearly two years in orbit on a secret mission, the U.S. Air Force‘s mysterious X-37B space plane landed today (Oct. 17) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The unmanned, reusable vehicle logged an unprecedented 675 days in space, but very little is known about the record-setting flight….
The X-37B, also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle, touched down at the Vandenberg Air Force Base today at 9:24 a.m. local Pacific Time (12:24 p.m. EDT). It was the third in a series of flights that the Air Force has conducted using its two X-37B planes.
This most recent flight, called OTV-3, was the third one to make it into orbit and was the longest mission, at 675 days. The program’s inaugural mission launched in April 2010 and lasted 225 days. The space plane’s second mission lasted 469 days. [Flying Saucers to Mind Control: 7 Declassified Military & CIA Secrets]
Recommended: Are you scientifically literate? Take our quiz
"I’m extremely proud of our team for coming together to execute this third safe and successful landing," Col. Keith Balts, commander of the 30th Space Wing, headquartered at Vandenberg, said in a statement.
But what has the space plane actually been doing in orbit? The top-secret nature of the X-37B missions has sparked a number of conspiracy theories. Here are some ideas about the X-37B’s purpose:
While the United States military has plenty of surveillance satellites in orbit, some people have suggested that the X-37B has high-tech monitoring gear designed to keep an eye on certain regions of Earth. "X-37B is probably carrying prototype reconnaissance gear, for spying on the Middle East and other sensitive geopolitical regions," said ExtremeTech.com. So what’s the advantage of using a space plane to spy instead of a satellite? The plane likely can move to a region of interest faster than a satellite can, Business Week reported, although others have pointed out that the fuel requirements for doing this would likely be prohibitive.
While conspiracy theorists have jumped on this notion, Popular Mechanics dumped cold water on the idea. "Changing a spacecraft’s orbital plane requires a great amount of thrust — so using something like the X-37B as a bomber would mean changing its orbit to fly over targets, and that would eat up its limited fuel supply," Popular Mechanics stated, quoting University of Maryland professor Mark Lewis, a former Air Force chief scientist.
Interfering with other satellites
Another idea is that the X-37B is, in the style of James Bond, supposed to take out other satellites that are making the U.S. government nervous. But, unless the plane is somehow conducting these nefarious activities from far away while not moving around very much, some suggest this is unlikely. "It would be very easy to trace that sort of activity back to the U.S. government since governments and amateurs alike can easily track the X-37B," the Daily Beast reported.
Spying on the Chinese space station
Just before the X-37B launched, BBC and Spacefllight Magazine published reports suggesting that the orbit of the vehicle is close enough to watch what’s going on with China’s Tiangong-1 space station. Space analyst Jim Oberg, however, told BBC that this would be impossible. "They are in orbits which cross the equator about 90 degrees apart. They crisscross each others’ paths at thousands of meters per second. Any observation from one to the other is impossible," he said.
Deploying spy satellites
Perhaps instead of interfering with satellites, the X-37B sends out its own. The space plane’s 2011 mission, at the least, carried it over the same regions of the Earth repeatedly, similar to the motions of satellites, so perhaps it released probes into a similar orbit. In a New York Times report, several amateur observers watching the space plane said that it flies over the same area of the planet every four days, which is expected of a reconnaissance satellite.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
By Chris Cillizza October 14
Roll Call newspaper — Fix alum! – broke the news Tuesday afternoon: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has stopped its TV advertising for the final three weeks in the Kentucky Senate race.
That decision effectively leaves Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes on her own and is rightly read as a sign that national Democrats believe the race is effectively over.
"The DSCC has now spent more than two million in Kentucky and continues to make targeted investments in the ground game while monitoring the race for future investments, but is currently not on the air in the state," confirmed a DSCC official.
The DSCC’s decision to pull out of Kentucky, a race in which they had spent months insisting was closer than most public polls showed it, is a recognition that in a year in which the Senate map and the national political climate are tilted against them, the party’s best chances to hold the majority now rests in trying to hold onto their endangered incumbents.
One Democratic strategist closely following the Kentucky race insists that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) is still beatable but that Senate Democrats have to prioritize sitting Senators at this point in the election cycle. "The DSCC action is less about the viability of the race, and probably the recognition that, in tough years the priority — in the House AND the Senate — is protecting the incumbents," said the source. "In other words, defense not offense."
Another Democratic consultant tracking the McConnell-Grimes contest largely agreed, noting that pulling money out of Kentucky means "you can play in Georgia, which is within the margin and the trend lines are going the right way, expand buys in Arkansas, Alaska, North Carolina, Colorado, Iowa and Louisiana, which are all neck and neck, and then gamble on a wildcard like South Dakota."
That same Roll Call story noted that the DSCC had just bought its first advertising time of the election cycle in Georgia where Michelle Nunn (D) remains surprisingly competitive against businessman David Perdue (R). And, last week the DSCC dropped $1 million in South Dakota, a Democratic open seat race where former Gov. Mike Rounds (R) is underperforming and former Republican Sen. Larry Pressler, who is running as an independent, and former congressional candidate Rick Weiland (D) are now within striking distance.
All of the DSCC’s moves come as its Republican counterpart — the National Republican Senatorial Committee – is spending an additional $7.4 million on ad buys in six states: South Dakota, Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa and New Hampshire. Last week, the NRSC announced it was pulling its TV commitment from Michigan’s open seat.
The reality of the Kentucky Senate race is that the electorate is simply locked in, polarized to the point where persuadable voters are non-existent. "McConnell has consistently held a mid-single digit lead which in a race that is so well-litigated there are very few movable voters," said one Democratic operative. "Plus, its Kentucky." (President Obama won just 38 percent in the state in 2012 and his approval numbers there nowadays would be lucky to break 30.)
In short, this was a difficult race from the start that got even more difficult when a) McConnell dispatched a tea party primary opponent with relative ease and b) Obama’s numbers in the state never stopped trending downward. It’s uniquely possible that Grimes could lose by only a point or two — at which point the second guessing of the DSCC’s decision would begin in earnest. But, getting Grimes to 48 percent is easy; getting her over 50 percent in an election cycle like this one in a state like Kentucky is a lot less easy. All of the election models had begun to agree on this point; probabilities of a McConnell win ranged from 75 percent to better than 99 percent in the three main models.
With Kentucky now effectively off the map, the Senate playing field is now comprised almost entirely of Democratic -held seats. (Georgia’s open seat and Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts are the two exceptions.) If you assume Democratic-held open seats in West Virginia and Montana are gone and that South Dakota remains a long shot, then Democrats need to find a way to win four of these six races: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana and New Hampshire. If they are able to upset Roberts in Kansas, they need to split those six races to keep the majority.
That’s a tall task. How tall? President Obama averaged 45.6 percent of the vote in those six states in 2012 even while he was winning reelection convincingly.
Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Originally posted on KRQE News 13:
[anvplayer video="362374" /]
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The one-time presidential candidate who is now in the medical marijuana business said pot could be the answer for Ebola. Former Governor Gary Johnson first made comments about marijuana and Ebola on the FOX Business Network on Monday.
“We actually believe we have efficacy with regard to treating Ebola,” Johnson said before the anchor stopped him.
Someone posted the video online, saying it’s an example of a marijuana advocate getting carried away.
“You want to make it easier for people to use cannabis and apply it to Ebola… not as a cure,” Stuart Varney said, hosting the program.
“No, potentially as an actual cure,” Johnson responded.
Potentially, but Johnson told KRQE on the phone Tuesday, he is not saying it is the cure.
“No one is making this claim,” he said. “There are those that would love to have the opportunity to provide this…
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In the last few years the corporate agenda has led the legalization movement of cannabis right thru the processes of capitalism, all nice, and tied up with a pretty bow on the “bag”.
There is a serious problem with this.
First of all I am not anti-capitalist. In fact it would be my pleasure to be able to walk in my local town drug store and purchase an ounce of Herb and pay the taxes on that purchase as well.
I would probably be the first person in line in Cave City when the store opened if that were possible. I would also love to see a Cannabis Café on the corner of Broadway and First Street.
That being said I can compare the legalization of corporate cannabis with the “Wet” vote that just passed in my town.
Before the town went “wet” there were a couple/few people around the area that served the locals occasionally. Yes, it is illegal, but in my opinion it shouldn’t be because taxes have already
been paid on that product by the “bootlegger” when he bought it from the store. At any rate, the people who “served” us were good people and were hurting no one. They were just trying to
get by day by day like most of the rest of us and provide a service. Point is, now that the town is “wet” there will be no more business for the “bootlegger” who is just a small town
person trying to make a dollar…not a million dollars. Although this is not a totally accurate comparison because alcohol is already taxed and regulated it is still illegal for someone to buy and
resell or even serve someone alcohol in this county with the exception of a couple of wet restaurants we had previously.
I find it ironic that a city could legalize alcohol consumption in a couple of restaurants, with the purchase of an alcohol license of course, even though that the county itself remains dry.
Corporate cannabis will not give us the right to grow for personal use,or to be able to sell at the vegetable market like fresh oregano, catnip, white sage, etc.,
If we continue to “legalize” in the current fashion only corporate driven companies will be allowed access to the growth, processing and marketing of cannabis much the same as alcohol is now.
The “legalize, tax and regulate” push was very convenient for corporate America.
That is why that either repeal or re-legalization must be the avenue we take to ensure that we have our own personal rights to this plant restored. If “legalize, tax and regulate” wins we will loose
our rights to this plant forever. Laches will rule.
Another thing to consider is the fact that just because something is produced in a corporate environment does not necessarily mean that it is a good product.
Look at all the recalls that have been issued on the cars we drive everyday which were issues that have proven to be fatal in a lot of instances.
With a new market emerging such as the one we have with cannabis is it imperative that we retain our own personal rights to the plant AND that any corporate products which are
produced and sold from cannabis are ensured to be safe whether it be for medical or recreational purposes. And just like the farmer’s market on Saturdays it will be “buyer beware”
when purchasing home grown or made items.
Be smart. Do not give up your personal rights in order to let the government regulate everything and then assume because it is government regulated that it is safe.
Just read the side effects on prescriptions. That right there will explain to you how interested the government is in your safety. Regulation although needed in some
form or fashion cannot be relied upon to ensure your safety when purchasing or using any type of food or prescription medicine or herbal remedies. So don’t let them take away
your personal rights under the guise of health and safety regulations. That is just a farce.
Cannabis/Hemp is a wonderful plant that can be used for so many things. It is a treasure that God gave us to use. We need to make sure the government does not take yet another
human right away from us. If the laws governing cannabis/hemp are completely repealed then it will be free for everyone. I can put my “flower” in the kitchen window and
Pharma’s can produce their own version of cannabis medicines, as well the recreational use will support many café’s, etc.,
Freedom for everyone to use and enjoy… and be thankful for.
Fight for freedom from the prohibition of your freedoms!
smkRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
I do not know how well any of you are following the health news day to day but it has not been good for quite a while now.
I previously wrote a story concerning the 1918 “Flu Pandemic” which as it turns out was biological warfare. The reason I was
so interested in the subject is that my Grandmother, whom I never had the chance to meet, died in 1919 of the “Flu Pandemic”.
I did not come to be until 1960. My Father was 18 month’s old when she succumb to this horrible “Flu”.
EBOLA has been unleashed, by whatever means – either naturally or the planned demise of yet another group of people – and “it”,
like the killer virus of 1918 knows no boundary’s.
There are also other virus’ on the rise which are a real threat as well. The main three are:
This is a very serious situation and I hope everyone is paying close attention and planning to take appropriate precautions when
A “facebook friend” of mine named Moses N. lives in Uganda, Africa. After not having heard from him for a while I sent him a message
to see how things were. The reply was:
October 2nd, 6:54am
hi sweelie how are you
STILL ALIVE – DONT FEEL GREAT – WORRYING ABOUT THIS EBOLA THING GOING ON…ITS HERE IN THE US NOW.
stay safe sweet love u so much
THANKS U TOO – WE WILL KEEP IN TOUCH AS LONG AS WE CAN.. SEND ME MESS EACH DAY.
i will dia
Hey, just checking on you over there….Ebola??? It’s not looking good from any side. Other stuff going on too. Please stay safe – take care of yourself and as many as you can….Peace/Luv
9 hours ago
THERE you are!
You doing alright over there?
Are YOU SICK????
I saw your status update – please mess me so i know your still with us! Much Love to you and all…
Chat Conversation End
(Mose’s highlighted in yellow)
Note that the last thing he said to me was “hi”… This is NOT his usual way of greeting me as you can see from a previous conversation…
The most heart wrenching was his status which reads:
11 hrs ·
maberg is now here in uganda.Ebola is on the door knocking banange stop shaking hands to each other (broken english)
I have not gotten any further messages from him and have been watching to see if he is o.k.
So there it is, straight from Uganda to me – Marberg is there and so is Ebola – what next?
Please join me in saying a prayer to your creator for these people in their (and our) hour of need.
DO NOT TAKE THIS LIGHTLY! IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU!
Now look at these related articles:
2002 American Medical Association study concludes Ebola and Marberg best bio-weapons choice for use against populace -
Mathematics of the Ebola outbreak reveal near-impossibility of global containment: it’s already too late
Have ‘FEMA coffins’ been stockpiled to meet CDC requirements for disposing of bodies during a pandemic?
Ebola outbreak may already be uncontrollable; Monsanto invests in Ebola treatment drug company as pandemic spreads
Be aware and be prepared! What is actually going on is usually not reported on the evening news!
smk.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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Originally posted on ShereeKrider:
January 22, 2014 at 12:28am
Written by: Rev. Mary Thomas-Spears
How many of us understand or know that part of the story? This is one reason why that they had no problems with killing American Natives to take what they wanted.
While we have been taught that the founding fathers were here to divorce Great Britain… Nice twist isn’t it?
We were told the Boston Tea Party was about freeing us from Taxation with out representation handed down by the Crown through Imports also. Although we are now Double Taxed all the way to the grave through the Crown.
So how did this happen?
You should ask the Vatican.
You say you do not know what I am talking about… “through the…
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Originally posted on stevenhager420:
Look in the shadows around the edges of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, and you might find some useful information. I find the meeting at Ben Wade’s the morning after pretty fascinating.
Although Lincoln had been elevated to the Presidency by a shaky alliance of two dozen Republican Congressmen and Cabinet members, and he went along with their War to End Slavery, he refused to follow their tack when it came to treating the South as a banana republic with zero representation and tons of new taxation afterwards, which is why he vetoed the Wade-Davis Bill and was planning a secret peace agreement.
Lincoln had just started his second term when the war drew to a close, which meant he was going to be in control for a long time. And that is why Lincoln had to go.
Thaddeus Stevens is often…
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Originally posted on twicebaked in washington:
This week I was given a totally different way to try cannabis. Dried, activated, aeroponically grown cannabis root. I’d never heard of such a thing either. I was told it was super high in CBDs (cannabidiol): the anti-inflammatory, immunosuppressive, antibacterial, antispasmodic (among other things) part of cannabis that makes it such a valuable medicine. I was also told that I would not be getting high from this and that it would counteract the effects of any medicine that had THC in it. I was ready to try it.
There were two things that I wanted to experiment with. First, I wanted to see how it affected me and if it was good for pain and discomfort. Second, I wanted to see if the CBD root would actually counteract a dose of THC.
I will be honest and tell you that I kind of did my experimenting a little backward. I…
View original 338 more words
Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes are vying to be coal’s true champion. But are they merely perpetuating an industry’s mythology?
How Kentucky’s struggling miners view the country’s most expensive Senate race
By Luke Mullins October 2, 2014 6:00 AM Yahoo News
These days, Bobby Spare feels like the last man standing.
The 59-year-old engineer began working in eastern Kentucky’s coal fields 38 years ago, like his father and grandfather before him. With nothing more than a high school diploma, Spare landed a job with a local mining company and soon earned his engineer’s license. It was a fickle industry; bonuses one year, pink slips the next. But for nearly four decades, it provided a stable, middle-class living for Spare and his six children. Even during the tough years, Spare never lost faith that coal would keep the region’s economy afloat. Today, however, he isn’t so sure.
The headquarters of B&W Resources, the mining company Spare works for, is a one-story building in Clay County, a verdant slice of Kentucky carved out of the Appalachian foothills. Trucks carrying up to 42 tons of coal rumble past the office and dump their cargo into 100-foot-high piles. Inside the building, Spare fixes himself a cup of coffee and explains that he’s never seen the industry so defeated. Coal production in eastern Kentucky has plummeted to its lowest levels in a half-century, and nearly half of the region’s mining jobs have vanished since midyear 2011. The collapse has been particularly painful here in Clay County, which, according to the New York Times, "just might be the hardest place to live in the United States," on account of its high unemployment, meager household incomes, and short life expectancies. It’s one of the poorest counties in the nation.
“It’s an important election. You might not be able to
fix the business, but you can probably stop it
from getting worse.” – Bobby Spare
For Spare, the root cause of the meltdown is obvious. "Federal regulations coming out of Washington," he says. "They’re really making it tough to stay in business." So he’s paying close attention to the upcoming Senate race, which, Spare believes, could be the last chance to save coal communities from extinction. "It’s an important election," he says. "You might not be able to fix the business, but you can probably stop it from getting worse."
Amid public dissatisfaction with President Obama and the direction of the country, the 2014 midterm elections have emerged as a high-stakes battle for control of the U.S. Congress. And while every inch of the electoral map remains precious, no campaign has garnered more attention than the showdown in the Bluegrass State. A victory for Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell is essential to the GOP’s plans to take over Congress and install the 72-year-old lawmaker as Senate majority leader. But the race also offers Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, a 35-year-old Democrat, the opportunity to knock off the five-term incumbent and leading obstacle to Obama’s agenda. Interest in the election has stretched far beyond coal country; individuals and outside groups are reportedly on track to pour more than $100 million into the campaign, which would make it the most expensive Senate race in American history.
"Having both Senate control and the majority leader position at stake has made the McConnell-Grimes race the highest-profile this year," says Nathan Gonzales, of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report.
The election may very well hinge on a single question: Which candidate do voters trust will help coal workers like Bobby Spare? Both sides have prominently featured coal workers in televised ads and blasted Obama’s "war on coal," as they muscle to position themselves as the industry’s true champion. Grimes’s campaign calls McConnell an out-of-touch creature of Washington who sat idly by as Kentucky’s coal mines atrophied. McConnell’s supporters argue that putting Grimes in the Senate would give President Obama another liberal ally for his anti-coal crusade.
Coal’s starring role in the season’s most anticipated campaign underscores a fundamental tension at the heart of Kentucky politics. Although once the linchpin of the state’s economy, the coal industry has deteriorated beyond recognition. Today, coal-mining jobs represent less than 1 percent of Kentucky’s employment base; if every employed coal miner in the state took a seat inside the University of Kentucky’s basketball stadium, about half of the arena would remain empty. And there’s nothing in the near-term outlook to alter the industry’s trajectory. Still, Kentucky’s coal fields remain as important to the state’s cultural identity as horses and bourbon, and news of mass layoffs and shuttered mines has only enhanced coal’s political power. As a result, politicians like McConnell and Grimes have designed their campaigns to perpetuate the coal mythology, rather than address the most pressing needs of communities like Clay County.
When the telephone rings, Chad Thompson grabs the receiver and listens intently.
"Was it methamphetamines or barbiturates?" he asks.
“Coal has just died here, and we haven’t replaced
it with anything.” – Chad Thompson
The caller explains that her son has been arrested for drug use; she’s terrified and confused. Thompson jots down her son’s name and number, and he promises to contact him with information about treatment. "I understand completely what you guys are going through," Thompson says. "We’ll get him leveled out."
As the head of Clay County’s government-funded substance abuse program, Thompson fields calls like this all day long. Drugs "just took over this town," Thompson says. Pain pills, such as oxycodone and Percocet, were for years the option of choice. But in recent months, Thompson has seen a disturbing trend toward more illicit drugs, like crystal meth and heroin. Once the locals get a taste of the hard stuff, he says, "it’s not going to be pretty."
Thompson knows what he’s talking about. He began smoking pot at age 12 and by his early 20s he was stealing scrap metal from his family’s mining supply company to finance his habit of pain pills and cocaine. It was only after his best friend died of an overdose that he got clean and received approval from the local government to launch the substance-abuse program. For Thompson, who has lived in Clay County his whole life, the drug epidemic is little more than a symptom of the crippling despair that now permeates the area.
"There’s nothing here," he says. "Coal was it, man."
Although tiny Clay County, population 21,000, was never a coal-mining mecca like nearby Harlan or Pike Counties, the industry long served as its economic backbone, employing an average of more than 1,500 mine workers annually from 1975 to 1990. "There were coal companies here that had 500 employees all by themselves," says Robert Stivers, the Republican president of the Kentucky State Senate, who grew up in Clay County. For years, Stivers says, pickup trucks crowded convenience store parking lots each morning, as workers purchased their traditional miners’ lunches of bologna sandwiches, MoonPies, and cans of Pepsi. By December 1994, the local unemployment rate was just a touch above the national average.
Coal jobs paid high wages and required little training, so many young men dropped out of high school to work in the mines. "There was very little education," says Frank O’Connor, an economics professor at Eastern Kentucky University. "There was an attitude that ‘I can go work in the mines and get good money, so why spend my time going to school?’" But coal did more than put clothes on the backs of residents. Clay County officials used coal-tax revenues to fund infrastructure projects, like building a new water treatment plant, a county executive office building, and an emergency response center, Stivers says. "We were doing really well until about five years ago," he says. "Then it just stopped."
Over the past several decades, advances in mechanized drilling technology made the industry less dependent upon workers. "We [still] pull a lot of coal out of the ground; what’s changed is how we do it," says Christopher R. Bollinger, a University of Kentucky economics professor. "We don’t do it with a lot of guys climbing down a hole anymore." Meanwhile, the reserves of easily accessible coal in eastern Kentucky hollowed out.
Then, in the early 2000s, energy companies began widespread use of a novel drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — to access natural gas reserves that had previously been locked deep underground. The resulting boom in production drove down natural gas prices, creating a cheap alternative to coal. At the same time, the Obama administration’s environmental regulations made coal more expensive to mine and less attractive for power plants to burn. In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency tightened the permitting guidelines for new coal mines in eastern Kentucky, making it harder to open additional mines. And in 2014 the agency proposed a rule forcing existing coal-fired power plants to slash carbon-dioxide emissions. Together, these free-market and political forces enabled cleaner-burning natural gas to undercut coal’s standing as America’s go-to source of energy. By 2012, for the first time in history, natural gas was generating just as much electricity as coal.
As production plunged, the flow of coal-tax revenues to eastern Kentucky dropped roughly 35 percent from 2011 to 2013. Laid-off miners couldn’t find work because of their limited educations. And with few other employers in the area, the jobless rate in Clay County surged above 15 percent by February 2013. Many locals began drawing government assistance and found comfort in drugs. Thompson has kept written records on 120 Clay County residents who have been through his substance abuse program over the past year. Half of them haven’t finished high school, and not a single one has a job. "Coal has just died here, and we haven’t replaced it with anything," he says.
“To lay a good man off?
Oh, God, it’s hard to sleep
at night. Because you’re
not just laying him off,
you’re laying off his
wife and children.” – John Liperote
From 2008 to 2012, the median household income in Clay County was just $22,000, leaving one in three residents below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census. Only 7 percent of Clay County residents over the age of 25 hold a bachelor’s degree or higher; the national rate is 29 percent. Almost half of women in Clay County are obese, while the life expectancy of area men is seven years shorter than the national average, according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Today, cars with bumper stickers reading "If You Don’t Like Coal, Don’t Use Electricity" drive past empty storefronts along the main drag of Manchester, Kentucky, the seat of Clay County’s government. Law enforcement choppers buzz the surrounding mountains in search of marijuana growers. About the only way for Clay County residents to build a better life is to move elsewhere — a possibility that Thompson, who is married and has a young son, is reluctantly considering. "I love it here, I want to be buried up in those hills," he says. "But I don’t know if I can stay."
Twelve hundred feet up in the eastern Kentucky mountains, LJ Bowling drives his pickup truck along a winding dirt path and comes to a stop at the mining site. A hulking machine, known as a "superior highwall miner," presses its massive drill into the side of the mountain, shaves coal onto a conveyer belt, and carries it into the daylight. Workmen wear earplugs to protect themselves from the deafening schunk schunk schunk, as forklift operators load the black minerals onto trucks.
Bowling, a B&W Resources mining site manager, says the $8 million machine has become increasingly useful given the current regulatory environment. The highwall miner can access coal seams without having to remove the entire mountaintop, like traditional strip mining requires. As a result, regulators are more willing to approve hightop mining projects. "This is supposed to be the future," Bowling says.
The emergence of highwall mining is just one way that President Obama’s regulatory agenda has become a present — and troubling — part of life for eastern Kentucky’s coal workers. In the 1970s, the permitting process for new mines took between 30 and 60 days, coal workers say. Today, thanks in part to the Obama administration’s more detailed permitting requirements, the waiting could last a year — or more. Woody Asher, B&W Resources director of engineering, says he’s seen permit applications hung up for as long as five years. "When you can’t get a permit from the EPA, you can’t work," he says. Many coal companies now hire outside consultants to ensure their applications comply with the new permitting requirements, which puts additional downward pressure on profits. Regulators occasionally appear at mine sites and hassle workers over trivial issues, Bowling says. "It seems like a personal vendetta," he says.
Coal workers in Clay County see little nuance in the factors behind the industry’s decline. "When you see Obama trying to take the coal industry down to its knees, it really hurts," says Greg Caldwell, a B&W Resources leasing agent.
“Barack Obama has been a disaster. I guess that’s what we get for electing someone with no experience. He was only two years into his first big job when he started campaigning for the next one. Sound familiar?” – Mitch McConnell
Obama is wildly unpopular in Kentucky. In the 2012 presidential election, Republican Mitt Romney took 61 percent of the state’s vote, carrying 116 out of 120 counties. Nearly half of residents strongly disapprove of Obama’s job performance. Kentucky’s socially conservative voters are turned off by Obama’s liberal agenda but also, in some cases, by his race. Al Cross, political columnist and professor at the University of Kentucky, says his review of exit polls from the 2008 presidential election shows that about 15 percent of Kentucky’s electorate voted on some sort of racial basis. "Most of that was white racism because we were only 7 percent black in this state," Cross says. And even though he’s not on the ballot, the president has become a towering figure in Kentucky’s fiercely contested Senate race.
Instead of a technical debate over coal policy differences, the McConnell-Grimes race has become a battle over who’s better positioned to stand up to the president. McConnell’s campaign has worked tirelessly to link Grimes to Obama. Grimes was elected as Kentucky’s secretary of state in 2011; it’s her first time in public office. "Barack Obama has been a disaster," McConnell told a cheering-and-jeering crowd in early August at an annual political picnic held at Fancy Farm, in western Kentucky. "I guess that’s what we get for electing someone with no experience. He was only two years into his first big job when he started campaigning for the next one. Sound familiar?" McConnell’s supporters argue that Grimes is an Obama ally who lacks both the standing and the inclination to block the president’s anti-coal agenda.
Grimes has struggled to distance herself from Obama. "Senator, you seem to think that the president is on the ballot this year," Grimes said at the same event. "He’s not. This race is between me and you." It didn’t help that Grimes held a high-end fundraiser in April with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada and a vocal supporter of the president’s environmental policy. Although Grimes’s campaign pledged to use the event to draw attention to how federal regulations have hammered Kentucky’s fossil-fuel industry, a recording of her 11-minute speech, released by Politico, showed that she didn’t once say the word "coal."
The Grimes campaign argues that McConnell fell asleep on the job during his three decades in Washington. The senator, Grimes’s supporters argue, has been more interested in inflaming partisan extremism than fighting to save Kentucky’s coal jobs. "When it comes to our Kentucky coal miners, well, Mitch McConnell doesn’t care," Grimes told the crowd at the Fancy Farm event.
In recent years, coal issues have come to play an increasingly pivotal role in Kentucky politics. Just ask Ben Chandler. The four-term Democratic incumbent lost his House seat in 2012 after his Republican opponent, Andy Barr, blasted him for voting in favor of President Obama’s cap-and-trade bill, which was designed to lower greenhouse gas emissions from sources like coal. The tactic’s effectiveness was surprising because the 19-county congressional district did not have a single active coal mine.
“Senator, you seem to think that the president is on the ballot this year. He’s not. This race is between me and you.” – Alison Lundergan Grimes
The phenomenon has puzzled economists. After all, Kentucky’s economy is not nearly as dependent upon coal as McConnell’s and Grimes’s campaign ads suggest. At its peak in 1948, coal mining employed more than 75,000 people in Kentucky. But although the state remains the nation’s third largest coal producer, mining employment dipped below 12,000 by the end of 2013. Today, coal miners represent less than 1 percent of the state’s employment base. "To put it into perspective, do you know how many people work for the University of Kentucky? About 20,000," says Bollinger, the University of Kentucky economics professor. "So don’t tell me [that the coal industry is] huge." In Clay County, coal miners have been all but wiped off the map. By 2013 there was an average of only 56 still employed in the area.
Moreover, as coal jobs have receded, the state’s economy has actually become healthier because it has expanded into other sectors like manufacturing, health care, and financial services. "A diversified economy is a better economy," Bollinger says. "Be careful about putting all your money on one horse, because that’s what Detroit did." Coal has certainly helped broaden the state’s economic footprint. Because the short distances from mines to power plants reduce transportation costs, Kentucky has the second lowest energy prices in the county. "This is the first thing Governor [Steve] Beshear brings up when he meets with any foreign or domestic company: If you come to Kentucky you will have reliable and affordable electricity," says Bill Bissett, the president of the Kentucky Coal Association.
In addition, the focus on coal has overshadowed an issue that’s perhaps even more important to Clay County’s future: education. Only six in ten people in Clay County have a high school diploma; that’s significantly less than the national average, which is nearly nine out of 10 people. "The economy has changed and it’s changed toward higher skill workers," Bollinger says. "The entire country has kept up; Clay County hasn’t."
But in Kentucky, coal’s political power has less to do with economic data than it does with cultural identity. "It’s always been a way of life," Bobby Spare says. "This area would be nothing without it."
Support for miners touches every part of the state. Kentucky voters take pride in the state’s mining history and have sympathy for the hardships in coal country. "They read about the 8,000 coal miners losing their jobs, and that has an impact," Cross says. "The job losses have actually made it easier for the coal interests to get the voters on their side."
Coal’s clout has been further bolstered by a seismic shakeup of the industry’s traditional political alliances. For as long as people have pulled coal out of Kentucky’s foothills, mine workers and company operators have found themselves on opposing sides of political issues. That began to change around the time of Obama’s election. "Since the industry has come under the largest attack it has ever been under, the wagons have circled and the miners are in harness with the operators," Cross says. By working together, miners and operators have been able to rally support for their agenda more effectively than either side could individually.
John Liperote comes from a Pittsburgh mining family. He and his brothers purchased B&W Resources in 2008, just before everything fell apart. He has great affection for the local workforce. "If you treat them fair, they’ll give you the shirt off their back," he says. But the slower permitting process and regulatory headaches have made business tough, he says, and B&W Resources recently had to let people go. "To lay a good man off? Oh, God, it’s hard to sleep at night," Liperote says. "Because you’re not just laying him off, you’re laying off his wife and children."
Despite the smaller payroll, Liperote still worries about the company’s future. "I’m concerned for our very survival," he says. "We’ve done all we can. We can’t cut any more." Keeping McConnell in Washington, he believes, is his best chance of survival.
Liperote’s employees agree. "If you vote for Alison Grimes, you’re voting for Obama," says Caldwell, the B&W leasing agent. "She’s going to be [Obama's] puppet. She’ll do whatever Obama and Harry Reid tell her." Grimes campaigned in Clay County in early July; she made protecting the coal industry a central theme of her two-day, eight country swing through eastern Kentucky.
McConnell isn’t terribly popular in Kentucky either; about half of the state’s voters view him unfavorably. Still, Bobby Spare considers McConnell a fierce ally of coal workers, even though his tenure in Washington has coincided with thousands of job losses. "He’s the minority leader of the party; there’s only so much he can do," Spare says. "It would’ve been ten times worse if he hadn’t been there." In 2008, McConnell led a filibuster to kill the cap-and-trade bill, the strongest anti-global-warming legislation ever to reach the Senate floor. He’s sponsored bills that would streamline the permitting process for mines and block the EPA from introducing new carbon emission standards on power plants. In 2013, he secured $5.2 million in grants to retrain out-of-work coal miners. If McConnell is elected and Republicans take control of the Senate, McConnell’s new post as majority leader would make him an even stronger opponent of Obama’s agenda, Spare says.
The degree to which McConnell’s message has resonated in coal country spells trouble for Grimes. Although Clay County is a Republican stronghold, many other coal-producing counties tend to vote Democratic in statewide elections, thanks to longstanding political allegiances. Grimes needs to do well in these counties to get to Washington. But in May’s Democratic primary, Grimes underperformed in coal country. In Harlan County, for example, Grimes received only 60 percent of the vote even though she was running essentially unopposed.
Eastern Kentucky’s coal-producing counties "have been part of the Democratic base in this state since the Depression, and now McConnell has blown a hole in it," Cross says. "[McConnell] may have blown the hole, but the charge was set by Obama."
After a summer of hammering Grimes as Obama’s conspirator, McConnell is holding onto a 4-point lead in the race, according to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll. Grimes’s campaign is scrambling to decouple her from the president as Election Day approaches. In mid-September, they released a new ad in which the candidate fires a rifle and says, "I’m not Barack Obama. I disagree with him on guns, coal and the EPA."
Either way, the election is unlikely to have any bearing on life in Clay County. The problems in the coal industry are too severe and too structural for a single campaign season to overcome.
Still, residents here aren’t ready to give up. Margy Miller is a member of a volunteer group called "Stay in Clay," which is designed to try to halt the exodus of promising young people from the area. The group has obtained funding for local improvements; they’ve rebuilt swinging bridges, painted murals, and launched a storytelling theater. Miller’s ultimate goal is to turn the area’s breathtaking mountains and rustic charm into a tourist destination, which, she hopes, could replace some of the jobs and tax revenue that coal once provided.
"Everybody asks us, why don’t you leave?" Miller says. "I don’t know how to explain it, but we just love it. And if we stayed here through all of those boom and busts, then we must be the most resilient place in the nation."
Luke Mullins is a senior writer at Washingtonian magazine. He can be reached at @lmullinsdc.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The Bureau of Labor Statistics headline this morning reads: “Payroll employment increases by 248,000 in September; unemployment rate declines to 5.9%.”
How can this be? US corporations are investing in buying back their own stocks, not in new business ventures that produce new jobs.
According to the Census Bureau’s Poverty Report, US real median family income has declined to the level of twenty years ago. Consumer credit and real retail sales are not growing. Construction is limited to rental units. Construction shows 16,000 new jobs, half of which are “specialty trade contractors” or home remodelers.
The payroll jobs report lists 35,300 new jobs in retail trade. How is this possible when J.C. Penny’s, Macy’s, Sears, and the dollar store chains are in trouble and closing stores, and shopping centers are renting space by the day or hour?
At a time when there is a surfeit of office buildings and only 500 new jobs in “heavy and civil engineering construction,” the jobs report says 6,000 new jobs have been created in “architectural and engineering services.” What work are these architects and engineers doing?
The 4,900 computer systems jobs, if they exist, are likely short-term contracts from 6 to 18 months. Those who have the jobs are not employees but “independent contractors.”
The payroll jobs report gives an unusually high number–81,000–of “professional and business services” jobs of which 60,000 are “administrative and waste services,” primarily “temporary help services.”
“Health care and social assistance” accounts for 22,700 of the new jobs, of which 63 percent consist of “ambulatory health care services.”
“Performing arts and spectator sports” gave the economy 7,200 jobs, and 20,400 Americans found employment as waitresses and bartenders.
State governments hired 22,000 people.
Let’s overlook the contribution of the discredited “birth-death model” which overstates on average the monthly payroll jobs by at least 50,000, and let’s ignore the manipulation of seasonal adjustments. Instead, let’s assume the numbers are real. What kind of economy are we looking at?
We are looking at the workforce of a third world country with the vast bulk of the jobs in low-pay domestic service jobs. People working these part-time and independent contractor jobs cannot form a household or obtain a mortgage.
As John Titus, Dave Kranzler and I have shown, these jobs are filled by those aged 55 and over who take the low paying jobs in order to supplement meager retirement incomes. The baby boomers are the only part of the US labor force whose participation rate is rising. Of the claimed new jobs in September, 230,000 or 93 percent were jobs filled by those 55 and older. Employment of Americans of prime working age (25-54) declined by10,000 jobs in September from the August level.
As John Titus, Dave Kranzler and I have shown, these jobs are filled by those aged 55 and over who take the low paying jobs in order to supplement meager retirement incomes. The baby boomers are the only part of the US labor force whose participation rate is rising. Of the claimed new jobs in September, 230,000 or 93 percent were jobs filled by those 55 and older. Employment of Americans of prime working age (25-54) declined by 10,000 jobs in September from the August level.
- More bad news from the US jobs front
- Millions jobless, GOP heads for recess
- 18 signs economic crisis accelerating
- Unwarranted gift to US corporations
- Nearly 102mn Americans are jobless
- The real unemployment numbers in US
A new study in the journal Addiction lays out what the vast research on marijuana has revealed over the last 20 years, highlighting the drug’s adverse effects, both acute and chronic. Though researchers have been studying the effects of marijuana for decades, the science has really exploded just in the last 20 years, due in part to better study methods, and also spurred by the growing interest in legalization. The new study maps out exactly what marijuana does and does not do to the body and brain, both in the short and long terms. What’s clear is that marijuana has a number of adverse effects over years of use – in certain people, anyway. What’s not so clear is how policy should be informed by the science. But the researchers suggest that with increasing legalization should come increasing public awareness of the sometimes-serious effects of chronic use.
The acute effects aren’t so bad: No one has ever died from a natural marijuana overdose, the study found. (N.B. This is not true for synthetic marijuana, which can be very dangerous.) Driving while high on marijuana does seem to double the risk of a car crash, which is of course heightened if there is also alcohol in the system. Marijuana has been linked to low birth weight when it is used during pregnancy. Otherwise, acute effects mainly include anxiety, paranoia (especially among new users), dysphoria, cognitive impairment, and psychotic symptoms (especially in people with a family history of psychosis). These particular side effects seem to have risen over the last 20 years, which may be due to the fact that the THC content in marijuana has also risen over that time.
Dried marijuana bud. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Over the long term, things get a little worse. It’s important to point out that in epidemiological studies, it can be very difficult to tease out whether cause and effect is actually at play, or whether there’s something else going on. But the authors have gone to great lengths to separate causation from correlation, combing the data for studies that point strongly to cause and effect. Here’s what they found:
- Marijuana can be addictive. But only for some people. About 10% of all users seem to develop dependence syndrome, and for those who start in adolescence, the number is more like 1 in 6. Withdrawal syndrome is also a real phenomenon, with depression, anxiety, insomnia, and appetite disturbance being the main symptoms, which can often be severe enough to have an effect on daily life.
- Marijuana use is linked to adverse cognitive effects. In particular, the drug is linked to reduced learning, memory, and attention. It hasn’t been entirely clear whether these effects persist after a person stops using the drug, but there’s some evidence that it does. One study found a reduction in IQ of 8 points in long-time users, the greatest decline being in people who’d started using as teenagers and continued daily into adulthood. For people who began in adulthood and eventually stopped using, a reduction in IQ was not seen a year later.
- Marijuana may change brain structure and function. There’s been an ongoing debate about whether marijuana actually changes the brain, but recent evidence has suggested that it is linked to changes in the hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex. It’s unclear, however, how long these effects last, whether they’re linked to behavioral changes, and whether they reverse after a person stops using the drug.
- Regular use is linked to an increased risk of psychotic symptoms. That marijuana is linked to increased psychotic symptoms (e.g., delusions, hallucinations, disordered thinking) is fairly clear. But again, it’s been a chicken-and-egg problem, since it’s hard to show whether causation is at play, and which way the connection goes. However, it’s likely that the relationship actually goes both ways: Marijuana may lead to psychotic symptoms, and early psychotic symptoms may increase the likelihood that a person will smoke marijuana (particularly if there’s a family history of psychotic disorders).
- Marijuana is linked to lower educational attainment. When pot smoking begins in adolescence, people tend to go less far in school – but again, a causal relationship hasn’t been demonstrated.
- Marijuana may (or may not be) be a gateway drug. Regular teenage marijuana users are more likely to use other drugs in the future – but again, researchers don’t know whether the link is causal.
- Marijuana is probably – but modestly – linked to schizophrenia. The study found that marijuana is connected to a doubled risk of a schizophrenia diagnosis in the future. Many previous studies have suggested this connection, but, as always, showing causality is hard. The new study cites a number of well-executed studies that suggest a causal relationship between marijuana and schizophrenia. The authors estimate that marijuana use may double the risk of schizophrenia from 7 in 1000 non-users to 14 in 1000 marijuana users. On the upside, they point out that users who quit using the drug after a first psychotic episode have fewer psychotic symptoms and better social functioning moving forward, compared to people who have a psychotic episode but continue using.
- Marijuana may be linked to testicular cancer. Its connection to other forms of cancer is not very consistent, but there’s some evidence of an increased risk of testicular cancer in long-term marijuana users.
- Regular users may have cardiopulmonary issues. Regular marijuana users have a higher risk of developing chronic bronchitis. Marijuana “probably” increases the risk of heart attack in middle age, but it’s hard to know for sure, since many users also smoke cigarettes.
So the chronic effects of marijuana are becoming clearer, though some areas need more work. As the authors point out, none of this is to argue for or against the legalization of marijuana, which is gaining so much speed (and, of course, criticism) across the country. The authors are careful not to weigh in, except to say that if marijuana is legalized or decriminalized, it should be done with a number of safeties in place. As study author Wayne Hall, Director and Inaugural Chair at the Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research at The University of Queensland, tells me, “Given that Colorado and Washington State have decided to legalise, the governments in these states should aim to regulate sales in ways that minimise the harms arising from use. This should certainly include informing users about the risks of use and doing what is possible to discourage uptake by adolescents.”
He stresses that methods to discourage new users, especially young ones, should be implemented by the government in as many ways as possible. “Regulation of cannabis,” says Hall, “should learn from experiences with alcohol and tobacco and use in limiting the number of heavy users by using taxation, limiting promotion of cannabis use and restricting where cannabis can be sold and by whom.” As more states debate the prospect of legalization, looking to the science may help them make some of the hard decisions. Or, of course, it could make the conversations that much more complex.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
An Ordinance to restore the natural Human Right to grow and use plants for the basic necessities of life.
Whereas in the State of California, the People of the County of Lake do hereby Find, Declare and Ordain as follows:
When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for people to reaffirm and reestablish the fundamental human rights with which they are naturally endowed, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s origins entitle them, and to recognize a decent respect for the opinions of humankind, requires that they should declare the causes which compel them to come forward toward the reestablishment of those rights.
We hold these truths to be self-evident:
That all humans beings are created equal. That human beings are naturally endowed with certain rights, and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and that to secure these rights, governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, and that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to re-declare and reestablish the inherent human rights that would intrinsically correct such governmental negligence, and to reconstitute such in a form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Therefore, in accordance with the 9th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America,
"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.",
and also in accordance with the California State Constitution, Article 1 Declaration of Rights, Section 21.:
…"This declaration of rights may not be construed to impair or deny others retained by the people.",
and, also as consistent with County of Lake Ordinance No. 2267 in relation to private property rights, and, whereas disregard and contempt for certain human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of humankind, and, whereas in a world which human beings endeavor to enjoy freedom of speech and belief, and where freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of peoples everywhere, be it here proclaimed that it has become necessary to reaffirm and specifically re-constitute the self evident inherent freedom to grow and use plants as described herein:
Section 1., Findings:
That human beings are naturally endowed with the fundamental self evident right to have and grow the natural plants of this earth, and the naturally occurring seeds thereof, to be used for their own needs as individuals in pursuit of life and in effort to live, and that such basic human rights have been recognized and acknowledged to exist, and that these rights are held in perpetuity outside of the constitutional responsibility of a government to protect an individual’s right to engage in commerce.
That all County of Lake residents residing within the unincorporated areas of the County who exercise the rights described in Section 1. of this Act at their residence within said area, and are compliant with Section 2.(a), and are gardening outside (outdoors) or in a greenhouse (and not withstanding any generally applicable urgency ordinance(s) specifically relating to water conservation), are, as accorded in the paragraphs above, necessarily exempt from any County permitting or other County ordinances that would limit an individual’s home gardening efforts or abilities in conjunction with Section 1.
That any law, to the extent that it would specifically deny or disparage the human rights as described in Section 1. of this Act is unconstitutional by both the Federal Constitutions 9th Amendment, and also by the State Constitutions Article 1 Declaration of Rights, Section 21, and by the fact that such self evident human rights are held in perpetuity by the People.
Section 2., Responsibilities:
Should neighbor complaints that are not related to Section 2.(a) herein, or that are not related to a specific medically verifiable toxic health risk to the public arise as an official complaint to the County as a result of an individual(s) exercising the rights as described in Section 1., and Section 1.(a), (and not withstanding any effected party choosing to seek remedy and or reparations by way of litigation through civil proceedings), all the effected parties shall be directed to mediation provided for by the County of Lake, and if resolution between the effected parties cannot be achieved in a reasonable effort to mediate (to be determined by the appointed mediator), the effected parties shall then continue mediation at their own expense (to be equally divided between the effected parties) until a resolution between the parties can be agreed upon, or until one of the effected parties withdraws from the mediation.
All who exercise the rights described in Section 1., and Section 1.(a) of this Act, shall take reasonable care to prevent environmental destruction, and are responsible to mitigate any possible foreseen negative impacts on the natural environments, and all persons who neglect such practices shall be subject to the authority designated under Section 2.(b) herein, but such remedies are to be used to help individuals come into compliance with this section and not to unreasonably burden individuals who exercise the rights described in Section 1.
The County of Lake Environmental Health Department shall administer over individual circumstances that may arise related to Section 2. and Section 2.(a) herein, but all such administrative authority and compliance inquiries shall be restricted to circumstances where a verifiable neighbor (or resident of the county) complaint in writing and signed by the complainant has been officially registered with the county.
Section 3., Special Circumstances:
Any law, to the extent that it would specifically deny or disparage the Human Rights as described in Section 1. of this Act, (and not withstanding an individual in violation of using illegal gardening chemicals, including but not limited to, certain pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers), is to be set aside unless it can be determined that the individual circumstance is occurring within the context of "commerce" related activities as defined herein, or if an individual’s violation(s) of Section 2.(a) of this Act are to the extent of violating a criminal statute.
This Act shall not apply in circumstances where (a) private rental or lease agreement(s) (contract) exist(s) pertaining to the occupancy and or use of any private land unless such is otherwise specifically enumerated within said agreement(s) (contract), or unless the agreement(s) (contract) does not specify any conditions or agreement pertaining to outside (or greenhouse) home gardening.
Section 4., Definitions:
(a) For the express purposes of this Act, the word "commerce" shall be taken to mean:
The buying and selling of goods or services in any form, and in direct reference to the exchange of United States currency (or other such legally recognized tender) for such goods or services.
(b) For the express purposes of this Act, the words phrased as "compliance inquiries" shall be taken to mean:
A written and delivered inquiry, and an in person inquiry as to responding to (a) specific complaint(s), and to which access to inspect private property shall only be in circumstances where the respondent has voluntarily agreed to and granted such access, or where on an individual basis, a court order has provided for such access.
(c) For the express purposes of Section 1. of this Act, the words phrased as "to be used for their own needs" shall be taken to mean:
For use as food, medicine, fiber, fuel, building materials, environmental damage mitigation or other environmental concerns, privacy, aesthetics or ambiance, spiritual/religious requirement, (or other) basic necessities of life.
(d) For the express purposes of Section 1. of this Act, the word "natural" and the words phrased as "naturally occurring" shall be taken to mean:
Plant species and varieties of such that have evolved in nature through the traditional pollination and cross pollination processes, be that by wind/weather, or animal (including human) assistance.
(e) For the express purposes of Section 1.(a) and Section 3.(a) of this Act, the word "greenhouse" shall be taken to mean:
Any structure where the sun’s light can penetrate at least 80% of the roof (ceiling or top) surface and that is intended for and used for growing plants in.
Section 5., Severability:
If any provision of this Act or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid, such invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications of the Act which can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to this end the provisions of this Act are severable. The People of the County of Lake hereby declare that we would have adopted this Act irrespective of the invalidity of any particular portion thereof.
Originally posted on HelloBeautiful:
There were 25 rounds fired at a 42-year-old Black man who was said to be carrying a .22-caliber rifle in Jennings, Missouri. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar claims the man attempted to fire the rifle at officers who were chasing him after the man struck a police car with his vehicle. Belmar says the man’s rifle jammed. This man’s name hasn’t been released, but you know what has? A single fact that he’s got a lengthy criminal record.
The shooting happened Wednesday night in Jennings, Missouri, less than five miles from the site of the fatal Ferguson police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown that sparked weeks of passionate protests, demanding answers around Brown’s untimely death. While there’s still no peace in Ferguson, or around the U.S., where many Black people, especially men, fear losing their lives…
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WASHINGTON – Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is worried that "political correctness" is hindering the U.S. response to the Ebola virus and suggested that the spread of the deadly disease could be more serious than the government is saying.
"It’s a big mistake to underestimate the potential for problems here worldwide," Paul said. "I really think that it is being dominated by political correctness and because of political correctness we’re not really making sound, rational, scientific decisions on this."
"…We should not underestimate the transmissibility of this," Paul, an ophthalmologist, said. "It’s a big mistake to downplay it and act as if ‘oh, this is not a big deal, we can control all this.’ This could get beyond our control."
Health officials across the country are urging people not to panic about an Ebola outbreak as details emerge about the first patient diagnosed in the U.S. The CDC says every hospital in America has a plan in place to stop the disease in its tracks.
The potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate appeared on the radio program of conservative Laura Ingraham, who asked on her show "why did Obama let the Ebola virus into the United States?"
She accused the administration of making "false assurances" about the Ebola crisis, comparing it to the roll-out of Obamacare, the breakdown of security at the White House, and the emergence of the Islamic State terrorists in Syria and Iraq.
On the broadcast, Paul said shutting down flights from Ebola-affected areas in Africa to the United States should be considered "a realistic option" to stop the disease’s spread.
"You probably do want to limit travel," he said.
The senator questioned whether the administration should be sending American troops to help Africans contain the Ebola outbreak, suggesting the soldiers are being put at risk.
"You also have to be concerned about 3,000 soldiers getting back on a ship," he said. "Where is disease most transmittable? When you’re in a very close confines on a ship. We all know about cruises and how they get these diarrhea viruses that are transmitted very easily and the whole ship gets sick. Can you imagine if a whole ship full of our soldiers gets Ebola?"Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Originally posted on Fortune:
This post is in partnership with Time. The article below was originally published at Time.com
By Katy Steinmetz, TIME
(TIME)–Election Day this year will be big on pot.
The battle over legalizing recreational marijuana in California—the big enchilada that may tilt legalization not only in the U.S. but other countries—is already being set for 2016. But while many reformers’ eyes are focused on the next presidential election, this year’s votes on marijuana initiatives have the power to shape that fight.
Here are the races to watch in November.
Alaska: Legalization with tax and regulation
A 1975 Alaska Supreme Court ruling found that the right to privacy in the state included the right to grow and possess a small amount of marijuana at home. Though opponents have still fought over whether possessing marijuana is legal—sometimes in court—reformers are hoping that a long history of quasi-legalization and a noted libertarian…
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Originally posted on TIME:
Golden State residents can now petition a judge to temporarily remove a close relative’s firearms if they fear their family member will commit gun violence, thanks to a new safety measure signed into California state law Tuesday by Democratic governor Jerry Brown.
Under the “Gun Violence Restraining Order” law, a successful petition would allow a judge to remove the close relative’s guns for at least 21 days, with the option to extend that period to a year, pending an additional hearing, according to Reuters. The law is the first of its kind in the U.S., and will be an extension of existing legislation that temporarily prohibits people with domestic violence restraining orders from owning firearms.
“If it can save one life, one family from that agony, it will be worth it,” said Democratic California Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, during the bill’s debate. Many Republic state senators argued that the law…
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Originally posted on TIME:
While the international news has been one depressing event after another this summer, there’s been an encouraging shift in one of the most important issues facing the world: the battle against illegal drugs. It’s worth remembering that the death toll from the Mexican drug war over the past seven years is almost equal to the number of people who have died in Syria’s ongoing civil war.
The latest hopeful move involves the Global Commission on Drug Policy’s 2014 report, which came out on Sept. 9. The commission’s members read like a Rolodex of elder statesmen, including former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan; former Latin American Presidents like Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil and Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico; former U.S. officials like ex-Secretary of State George Shultz; and businessmen and intellectuals like Virgin megamogul Richard Branson and novelist Mario Vargas Llosa.
That makes their conclusion all the more radical. The commission has…
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Originally posted on TIME:
Superman’s father, Jor-El, was a leading scientist who tried for years to warn his fellow inhabitants that their home planet, Krypton, was about to explode. But they didn’t take the necessary actions until it was too late.
Something similar is happening with global warming on our planet. In some ways, Al Gore is our Jor-El. (Gore-Al?)
At first, people were captivated by his warning about warming. An Inconvenient Truth won an Oscar, Gore won a Nobel Peace Prize, and global warming was on everyone’s mind.
But not for long. It’s been eight years since the documentary came out, but despite accumulating scientific evidence, not much has happened to address global warming, until recently.
The United Nations Climate Summit last week, with more than 120 world leaders, galvanized everyone’s attention again. More than 400,000 people from around the world marched through the streets of Manhattan to raise awareness of global warming.
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Power plants top Kentucky’s biggest sources of climate pollution, according to just-released data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
There’s no surprise there.
But a prominent chemical plant in Louisville’s Rubbertown area — Dupont Louisville Works — is in the top ten biggest climate polluters in Kentucky for its emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, which the EPA say are actually more potent than carbon dioxide when it comes to heating up the atmosphere.
The EPA released its fourth year of Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program data, detailing greenhouse gas pollution trends and emissions broken down by industrial sector, geographic region and individual facilities. In 2013, reported emissions from large industrial facilities nationwide were 20 million metric tons higher than the prior year, or 0.6 percent, driven largely by an increase in coal use for power generation, the agency said.
That figure intrigued me because conventional wisdom is that we’ve been burning more natural gas (which has less impact on the climate) and less coal.
There is a lot of data to look at, and this is just my first crack at it. I started by doing a quick search of top emitters in Kentucky and Indiana, then top emitters in Louisville Metro, or Jefferson County.
Kentucky Utility’s Ghent plant topped all of Kentucky’s largest industrial sources of a several greenhouse gases, with 12.8 million metric tons released in 2013, the most current year for which the data is available. That’s up 12 percent from the year before. LG&E’s Mill Creek plant in Louisville ranked third, with 7.9 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, a 20 percent decrease since 2010, according to the data.
But Dupont, the long-time Rubbertown chemical plant, ranked 7th, emitting 4,1 million tons, nearly all of that hydrofluorocarbons. That number was down from about 6 million pounds in 2011.
So what are hydrofluorocarbons and what impact do they have on the climate?
From the EPA:
Unlike many other greenhouse gases, fluorinated gases have no natural sources and only come from human-related activities. They are emitted through a variety of industrial processes such as aluminum and semiconductor manufacturing. Many fluorinated gases have very high global warming potentials (GWPs) relative to other greenhouse gases, so small atmospheric concentrations can have large effects on global temperatures.
HCFCs can have a global warming potential of between 140 to 11,700 times that of carbon dioxide, EPA says. The larger the global warming potential, the more warming the gas causes, according to EPA. The agency explains it this way: "For example, methane’s 100-year GWP is 21, which means that methane will cause 21 times as much warming as an equivalent mass of carbon dioxide over a 100-year time period."
Statewide rankings for Kentucky:
1) Ghent power plant, 12.8 million metric tons.
2) Paradise power plant, 12.1.
3) Mill Creek power plant, 7.9.
4) H.L. Spurlock power plant, 7.8.
5) Trimble County power plant, 7.3.
6) Shawnee power plant, 7.2.
7) Dupont Louisville Works chemical plant, 4.1.
8) R.D. Green power plant, 3.6.
9) East Bend power plant, 3.5.
10) Coleman power plant, 3.3.
Two southern Indiana power plants ranked among the top ten greenhouse gas emitters in Indiana:
1) Gibson power plant, 16 million metric tons.
10) Clifty power plant, 5.8 million metric tons.
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Patient who recently returned from Liberia tested positive at a hospital in Dallas, Texas, health officials say.
Last updated: 01 Oct 2014 00:57
A patient being treated at a Dallas hospital has tested positive for Ebola, the first case of the disease to be diagnosed in the United States, federal health officials announced.
Officials at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said the unidentified patient is being kept in isolation and that the hospital is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations to keep doctors, staff and patients safe.
The patient is a Liberian national who was admitted on Sunday, a government official told Al Jazeera.
The hospital had announced a day earlier that the patient’s symptoms and recent travel indicated a case of Ebola, the virus that has killed more than 3,000 people across West Africa and infected a handful of Americans who have traveled to that region.
Infographic: Just how deadly is Ebola?
Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, held a news conference at the centre’s headquarters in Atlanta late on Tuesday.
“The infected person came from Liberia on September 19 and began to develop symptoms on September 24. He first sought care on the 26th of September and on the 28th was admitted in Texas,” Frieden said.
"Blood samples tested positive for Ebola… The Ebola test is highly accurate," Frieden said, adding: "There is no doubt in my mind that we will stop it here (in the US)."
The CDC has said 12 other people in the US have been tested for Ebola since July 27. Those tests came back negative.
Four American aid workers who have become infected while volunteering in West Africa have been treated in special isolation facilities in hospitals in Atlanta and Nebraska, and a US doctor exposed to the virus in Sierra Leone is under observation in a similar facility at the National Institutes of Health.
The US has only four such isolation units but the CDC has insisted that any hospital can safely care for someone with Ebola.
According to the CDC, Ebola symptoms can include fever, muscle pain, vomiting and bleeding, and can appear as long as 21 days after exposure to the virus.
Jason McDonald, spokesman for the CDC, said health officials use two primary guidelines when deciding whether to test a person for the virus.
"The first and foremost determinant is have they traveled to the region (of West Africa)," he said.
The second is whether there’s been proximity to family, friends or others who’ve been exposed, he said.
US health officials have been preparing since summer in case an individual traveler arrived here unknowingly infected, telling hospitals what infection-control steps to take to prevent the virus from spreading in health facilities.
People boarding planes in the outbreak zone are checked for fever, but symptoms can begin up to 21 days after exposure.
Ebola is not contagious until symptoms begin, and it takes close contact with bodily fluids to spread.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The former U.S. congressman and perennial presidential candidate tells National Journal that he’s "real pleased" with American secessionist groups.
/p>((Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images))
September 30, 2014 Secessionists across the world were inspired by Scotland’s energetic attempt at independence from the United Kingdom earlier this month. Ron Paul, as it turns out, joined them.
In an essay on his eponymous institution’s website Sunday, the former U.S. congressman from Texas wrote that any supporters of freedom should cheer secessionism because it allows for smaller government—a constant mantra for the libertarian and perennial presidential candidate, who didn’t previously realize there were more than a handful of secessionist groups in the United States.
"I was real pleased with that, and a bit surprised," Paul told National Journal. "But then, on second thought, you think, ‘Why not? Why not more?’ "
Fringe groups calling for states and regions to secede from the U.S., such as the Second Vermont Republic and the Alaskan Independence Party, gained more publicity in the weeks leading up to the Scottish referendum. As the outsized federal government continues to encroach on individual rights, Paul said, he thinks there will be a groundswell of these movements.
"It’s something that I think is going to grow, because the failure of the federal government is going to get much worse," he said. "When the bankruptcy evolves, and maybe some of these pension funds are confiscated, and the wars never end, and bankruptcy comes forth, people [will say], ‘Hey, we’re getting a bad deal from this. Why don’t we leave?’ "
He added: "I think it’s inevitable people wanting to leave will be there, and the numbers will grow."
Realistically, though, Paul said he doesn’t think any of these groups could actually succeed. Despite the founders’ own deep belief in secession—they gained America’s independence from Europe, after all—he said the Civil War set the precedent that secession would carry "very, very bad" results.
"By our history, the heavy hand of the federal government would come down," Paul told National Journal. "They’d probably shoot ‘em."
In typical fashion, Paul argued that the principle of secession was more important than what could actually happen in reality. It’s the threat, he said, that’s important to keep the federal government in check.
"I think what is most important is we have a concrete right to secede," Paul said. "Even if we never had any secession, or any state declare independence, we would be so much better off, because there would always be this threat. Once the threat of a state leaving was removed, it was just open-door policy for the federal government to expand itself and run roughshod out over the states because the states couldn’t do much."
Given that his son, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., will likely run for president in 2016 with a much better chance of winning than his father ever had, the elder Paul’s willingness to share his reasonably radical views seem imprudent, if not unexpected. In an election cycle that has often equated the politics of Ron and Rand, this latest remark is sure to annoy the potential 2016-er’s supporters.
For Rand’s sake, it’s fortunate that Ron didn’t express his support for the Texas Nationalist Movement or any other secessionist groups in the U.S. Before he’d back Texan independence, he joked, "I better check out and see who’s running Austin before we decide about that."Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Posted: Sep 22, 2014 4:54 PM CST Updated: Sep 22, 2014 5:37 PM CST
By Lawrence Smith – email
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Right now, it’s against federal law to use cannabis oil – a marijuana extract – even for medical purpose, but Louisville Congressman John Yarmuth is co-sponsoring a bill that would change that.
If the bill passes, using cannabis oil for medical purposes would no longer put you in danger of landing at the federal courthouse facing drug charges.
Suzanne De Gregorio’s son, Alex, suffers from autism and epilepsy.
She believes cannabis oil can help control the seizures that have hindered his development.
"Children with epilepsy, they’re finding that it can calm the seizures," she said.
Suzanne is using cannabis oil – or CBD oil – right now to help control the after-effects of chemotherapy for breast cancer.
It’s legal because the oil imported from overseas, but Suzanne wants to see more research before trying it on her son.
"This is for me. I don’t give it to him because you really need a neurologists involvement," she said.
Kentucky has approved research into CBD oil for treatment of seizures, but the trials have stalled because the federal government still considers it a controlled substance.
For her son’s sake, De Gregorio is trying to change that.
"He’s suffered tremendously in his life. I mean the pain, the screams. You wouldn’t believe it. And I promised him when he was very little I’m going to find am answer. I’m going to make this better for you somehow, some way," she said.
Now Rep. John Yarmuth (D-3rd Dist.) has signed onto a bill being pushed by De Gregorio that would decriminalize CBD oil and hemp for medical use.
"The idea that we as a federal government have classified hemp in the same category that we classify heroin makes absolutely no sense, and it’s preventing some very, very important therapies from reaching many of our needy citizens," said Yarmuth.
The bill is called the Charlotte’s Web Act; named after a Colorado girl, Charlotte Figi, whose seizures led to development of a non-intoxicating marijuana extract.
"I believe this could be that answer. I hope it is. I want at least have the right to find out," said De Gregorio.
Yarmuth says the bill will not likely be considered until the next session of Congress. Supporters say they’ll keep pushing.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Posted: Thursday, September 25, 2014 11:13 am
Conflict in the Middle East loomed large in a town hall meeting in Bowling Green with Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green.
The fight against Islamic State militants is one that America and other nations and Muslims need to be involved in, Guthrie said. “I think it’s in our interest to destroy them,” he said.
Guthrie has been hosting town halls throughout the 2nd District and on Wednesday stopped at the Knicely Conference Center. He faces Democratic challenger Ron Leach, a retired Army major from Brandenburg, in the November election.
The authorization of military force approved by Congress in 2001 would arguably cover actions that President Barack Obama is taking in Iraq and Syria now against the Islamic State, Guthrie said. However, he said he has voted to make that authorization more narrow.
It would be best for Congress to vote on authorization for new military action, Guthrie said. Congress already has authorized the arming and training of the Free Syrian Army, he said.
Arming and training the Syrians is important because if Syria becomes a haven for the Islamic State militants, they can wait out opposition, Guthrie said.
The militants are known by various names: the Islamic State in Syria, or ISIS; the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant, or ISIL; and the Islamic State.
“They’re well-funded, they’re well-organized and they’re evil,” Guthrie said. “And so we have to have boots on the ground. So the question is, ‘Whose boots are they going to be?’ ” he said. “I want it to be the Syrians’, and that’s why I voted for that.”
Updating his audience on legislative in Congress, Guthrie said the House of Representatives isn’t the cause of a lack of legislation being passed – the Senate is.
The House has passed more than 360 bills now waiting in the Senate, he said.
“So we don’t expect the Senate to pass every bill we pass,” Guthrie said. “That’s not how the Constitution works. They’re an independent body. They can do their own thing. We’d just like for them to pass something.”
When both the Senate and the House pass a version of a bill, the two groups are usually able to work out a compromise, he said.
The thing he’s most proud of during his time in the House is the reauthorization this year of the Workforce Investment Act, Guthrie said.
He said he hopes that, with the implementation of the redeveloped act, more people will be able to find work.
“Just helping people improve themselves through that program, I think that would be my proudest thing,” he said.
Guthrie also spoke about a bill he has sponsored to draw attention to Alzheimer’s research.
The bill would require the National Institutes of Health to submit an annual Alzheimer’s research budget proposal to Congress.
Guthrie said his bill would allow the National Institutes of Health to give Alzheimer’s attention similar to that given to developing cures for AIDS and cancer.
“We need to have that same effort with Alzheimer’s,” he said.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Just as Attorney General Eric Holder prepares to step down from his post, he appears more open than ever to the argument for rescheduling marijuana as a less dangerous, more beneficial drug.
"I think it’s certainly a question we need to ask ourselves, whether or not marijuana is as serious of a drug as heroin," Holder said in an interview with Yahoo global news anchor Katie Couric, released on Thursday. "Especially given what we’ve seen recently with regard to heroin — the progression of people from using opioids to heroin use, the spread and the destruction that heroin has perpetrated all around our country. And to see by contrast, what the impact is of marijuana use. Now it can be destructive if used in certain ways, but the question of whether or not they should be in the same category is something that we need to ask ourselves and use science as the basis for making that determination."
Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, along with heroin and LSD. Schedule I drugs, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, have a "high potential for abuse" and "no currently accepted medical use."
Yet science clearly indicates otherwise about marijuana. A growing body of research has demonstrated its medical potential. Purified forms of cannabis can be effective at attacking some forms of aggressive cancer. Marijuana use has also been tied to better blood sugar control and may help slow the spread of HIV. Legalization for medical purposes may even lead to lower suicide rates and fewer pain pill overdoses.
The Schedule I classification hinders federal funding for further research into the benefits of cannabis. Columnist Jacob Sullum recently wrote in Forbes that moving marijuana to Schedule III or below could make it easier for university researchers to look into the drug’s full potential.
While marijuana use would still be illegal under federal law, recategorizing it could also remove some of the financial burdens that state-licensed marijuana businesses currently face.
A provision of the federal tax code prohibits any business that "consists of trafficking in controlled substances," which include Schedule I and II drugs, from making tax deductions. Because of this, pot shops cannot deduct traditional business expenses like advertising costs, employee payroll, rent and health insurance from their combined federal and state taxes. Dispensary owners face effective tax rates of 50 to 60 percent — and in some states, those rates soar to 80 percent or higher. The tax rule would no longer apply to pot businesses if marijuana were moved to Schedule III or lower.
To date, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use, while Colorado and Washington remain the only two states to have legalized it for recreational use.
On whether he thinks marijuana should be decriminalized at the federal level, Holder told Couric, "That’s for Congress to decide."
"I think we’ve taken a look at the experiments that are going on in Colorado and Washington, and we’re going to see what happens there, and that’ll help inform us as to what we want to do on the federal level," Holder added.
"For you, the jury is still out?" Couric asked.
"Yeah," Holder said, "it is."
Holder’s statements to Couric on the potential rescheduling of marijuana appear to follow a continuing evolution of his views on the drug. Under the Obama administration, the DEA and several U.S. attorneys have raided hundreds of marijuana dispensaries that were compliant with local laws in states like California and Colorado. But it was Holder who announced in 2013 that the Department of Justice would allow Colorado and Washington to implement their new laws legalizing and regulating the possession, use and sale of marijuana.
More recently, Holder said that the Obama administration would be "more than glad" to work with Congress to re-examine how cannabis is scheduled. He even said in April that he’s "cautiously optimistic" about how the historic changes in Colorado and Washington were working out.
"It’s refreshing to hear these remarks from the attorney general, especially since the science couldn’t be any clearer that marijuana doesn’t meet the criteria for being classified as a Schedule I substance," said Tom Angell, chairman of the advocacy group Marijuana Majority, after the Couric interview. "Numerous studies confirm marijuana’s medical value, and if the administration is serious about taking an objective look at this issue, rescheduling is very achievable by the time this president leaves office. They can do this administratively without any further action from Congress."
Neill Franklin, a retired police officer turned executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, also praised Holder’s comments. He said he hoped the attorney general’s successor "will recognize the war on drugs for what it is: the single biggest problem afflicting our criminal justice system and the central civil rights issue of our time."Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Together, Charles and David Koch control one of the world’s largest fortunes, which they are using to buy up our political system. But what they don’t want you to know is how they made all that money
By Tim Dickinson | September 24, 2014
The enormity of the Koch fortune is no mystery. Brothers Charles and David are each worth more than $40 billion. The electoral influence of the Koch brothers is similarly well-chronicled. The Kochs are our homegrown oligarchs; they’ve cornered the market on Republican politics and are nakedly attempting to buy Congress and the White House. Their political network helped finance the Tea Party and powers today’s GOP. Koch-affiliated organizations raised some $400 million during the 2012 election, and aim to spend another $290 million to elect Republicans in this year’s midterms. So far in this cycle, Koch-backed entities have bought 44,000 political ads to boost Republican efforts to take back the Senate.
What is less clear is where all that money comes from. Koch Industries is headquartered in a squat, smoked-glass building that rises above the prairie on the outskirts of Wichita, Kansas. The building, like the brothers’ fiercely private firm, is literally and figuratively a black box. Koch touts only one top-line financial figure: $115 billion in annual revenue, as estimated by Forbes. By that metric, it is larger than IBM, Honda or Hewlett-Packard and is America’s second-largest private company after agribusiness colossus Cargill. The company’s stock response to inquiries from reporters: "We are privately held and don’t disclose this information."
But Koch Industries is not entirely opaque. The company’s troubled legal history – including a trail of congressional investigations, Department of Justice consent decrees, civil lawsuits and felony convictions – augmented by internal company documents, leaked State Department cables, Freedom of Information disclosures and company whistle-blowers, combine to cast an unwelcome spotlight on the toxic empire whose profits finance the modern GOP.
Under the nearly five-decade reign of CEO Charles Koch, the company has paid out record civil and criminal environmental penalties. And in 1999, a jury handed down to Koch’s pipeline company what was then the largest wrongful-death judgment of its type in U.S. history, resulting from the explosion of a defective pipeline that incinerated a pair of Texas teenagers.
The volume of Koch Industries’ toxic output is staggering. According to the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute, only three companies rank among the top 30 polluters of America’s air, water and climate: ExxonMobil, American Electric Power and Koch Industries. Thanks in part to its 2005 purchase of paper-mill giant Georgia-Pacific, Koch Industries dumps more pollutants into the nation’s waterways than General Electric and International Paper combined. The company ranks 13th in the nation for toxic air pollution. Koch’s climate pollution, meanwhile, outpaces oil giants including Valero, Chevron and Shell. Across its businesses, Koch generates 24 million metric tons of greenhouse gases a year.
The Koch Brothers – Exposed!
For Koch, this license to pollute amounts to a perverse, hidden subsidy. The cost is borne by communities in cities like Port Arthur, Texas, where a Koch-owned facility produces as much as 2 billion pounds of petrochemicals every year. In March, Koch signed a consent decree with the Department of Justice requiring it to spend more than $40 million to bring this plant into compliance with the Clean Air Act.
The toxic history of Koch Industries is not limited to physical pollution. It also extends to the company’s business practices, which have been the target of numerous federal investigations, resulting in several indictments and convictions, as well as a whole host of fines and penalties.
And in one of the great ironies of the Obama years, the president’s financial-regulatory reform seems to benefit Koch Industries. The company is expanding its high-flying trading empire precisely as Wall Street banks – facing tough new restrictions, which Koch has largely escaped – are backing away from commodities speculation.
It is often said that the Koch brothers are in the oil business. That’s true as far as it goes – but Koch Industries is not a major oil producer. Instead, the company has woven itself into every nook of the vast industrial web that transforms raw fossil fuels into usable goods. Koch-owned businesses trade, transport, refine and process fossil fuels, moving them across the world and up the value chain until they become things we forgot began with hydrocarbons: fertilizers, Lycra, the innards of our smartphones.
The company controls at least four oil refineries, six ethanol plants, a natural-gas-fired power plant and 4,000 miles of pipeline. Until recently, Koch refined roughly five percent of the oil burned in America (that percentage is down after it shuttered its 85,000-barrel-per-day refinery in North Pole, Alaska, owing, in part, to the discovery that a toxic solvent had leaked from the facility, fouling the town’s groundwater). From the fossil fuels it refines, Koch also produces billions of pounds of petrochemicals, which, in turn, become the feedstock for other Koch businesses. In a journey across Koch Industries, what enters as a barrel of West Texas Intermediate can exit as a Stainmaster carpet.
Koch’s hunger for growth is insatiable: Since 1960, the company brags, the value of Koch Industries has grown 4,200-fold, outpacing the Standard & Poor’s index by nearly 30 times. On average, Koch projects to double its revenue every six years. Koch is now a key player in the fracking boom that’s vaulting the United States past Saudi Arabia as the world’s top oil producer, even as it’s endangering America’s groundwater. In 2012, a Koch subsidiary opened a pipeline capable of carrying 250,000 barrels a day of fracked crude from South Texas to Corpus Christi, where the company owns a refinery complex, and it has announced plans to further expand its Texas pipeline operations. In a recent acquisition, Koch bought Frac-Chem, a top provider of hydraulic fracturing chemicals to drillers. Thanks to the Bush administration’s anti-regulatory agenda – which Koch Industries helped craft – Frac-Chem’s chemical cocktails, injected deep under the nation’s aquifers, are almost entirely exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Koch is also long on the richest – but also the dirtiest and most carbon-polluting – oil deposits in North America: the tar sands of Alberta. The company’s Pine Bend refinery, near St. Paul, Minnesota, processes nearly a quarter of the Canadian bitumen exported to the United States – which, in turn, has created for Koch Industries a lucrative sideline in petcoke exports. Denser, dirtier and cheaper than coal, petcoke is the dregs of tar-sands refining. U.S. coal plants are largely forbidden from burning petcoke, but it can be profitably shipped to countries with lax pollution laws like Mexico and China. One of the firm’s subsidiaries, Koch Carbon, is expanding its Chicago terminal operations to receive up to 11 million tons of petcoke for global export. In June, the EPA noted the facility had violated the Clean Air Act with petcoke particulates that endanger the health of South Side residents. "We dispute that the two elevated readings" behind the EPA notice of violation "are violations of anything," Koch’s top lawyer, Mark Holden, told Rolling Stone, insisting that Koch Carbon is a good neighbor.
Over the past dozen years, the company has quietly acquired leases for 1.1 million acres of Alberta oil fields, an area larger than Rhode Island. By some estimates, Koch’s direct holdings nearly double ExxonMobil’s and nearly triple Shell’s. In May, Koch Oil Sands Operating LLC of Calgary, Alberta, sought permits to embark on a multi-billiondollar tar-sands-extraction operation. This one site is projected to produce 22 million barrels a year – more than a full day’s supply of U.S. oil.
Charles Koch, the 78-year-old CEO and chairman of the board of Koch Industries, is inarguably a business savant. He presents himself as a man of moral clarity and high integrity. "The role of business is to produce products and services in a way that makes people’s lives better," he said recently. "It cannot do so if it is injuring people and harming the environment in the process."
The Koch family’s lucrative blend of pollution, speculation, law-bending and self-righteousness stretches back to the early 20th century, when Charles’ father first entered the oil business. Fred C. Koch was born in 1900 in Quanah, Texas – a sunbaked patch of prairie across the Red River from Oklahoma. Fred was the second son of Hotze "Harry" Koch, a Dutch immigrant who – as recalled in Koch literature – ran "a modest newspaper business" amid the dusty poverty of Quanah. In the family legend, Fred Koch emerged from the nothing of the Texas range to found an empire. But like many stories the company likes to tell about itself, this piece of Kochlore takes liberties with the truth. Fred was not a simple country boy, and his father was not just a small-town publisher. Harry Koch was also a local railroad baron who used his newspaper to promote the Quanah, Acme & Pacific railways. A director and founding shareholder of the company, Harry sought to build a rail line across Texas to El Paso. He hoped to turn Quanah into "the most important railroad center in northwest Texas and a metropolitan city of first rank." He may not have fulfilled those ambitions, but Harry did build up what one friend called "a handsome pile of dinero."
Harry was not just the financial springboard for the Koch dynasty, he was also its wellspring of far-right politics. Harry editorialized against fiat money, demanded hangings for "habitual criminals" and blasted Social Security as inviting sloth. At the depths of the Depression, he demanded that elected officials in Washington should stop trying to fix the economy: "Business," he wrote, "has always found a way to overcome various recessions."
In the company’s telling, young Fred was an innovator whose inventions helped revolutionize the oil industry. But there is much more to this story. In its early days, refining oil was a dirty and wasteful practice. But around 1920, Universal Oil Products introduced a clean and hugely profitable way to "crack" heavy crude, breaking it down under heat and heavy pressure to boost gasoline yields. In 1925, Fred, who earned a degree in chemical engineering from MIT, partnered with a former Universal engineer named Lewis Winkler and designed a near carbon copy of the Universal cracking apparatus – making only tiny, unpatentable tweaks. Relying on family connections, Fred soon landed his first client – an Oklahoma refinery owned by his maternal uncle L.B. Simmons. In a flash, Winkler-Koch Engineering Co. had contracts to install its knockoff cracking equipment all over the heartland, undercutting Universal by charging a one-time fee rather than ongoing royalties.
It was a boom business. That is, until Universal sued in 1929, accusing WinklerKoch of stealing its intellectual property. With his domestic business tied up in court, Fred started looking for partners abroad and was soon doing business in the Soviet Union, where leader Joseph Stalin had just launched his first Five Year Plan. Stalin sought to fund his country’s industrialization by selling oil into the lucrative European export market. But the Soviet Union’s reserves were notoriously hard to refine. The USSR needed cracking technology, and the Oil Directorate of the Supreme Council of the National Economy took a shining to Winkler-Koch – primarily because Koch’s oil-industry competitors were reluctant to do business with totalitarian Communists.
Between 1929 and 1931, Winkler-Koch built 15 cracking units for the Soviets. Although Stalin’s evil was no secret, it wasn’t until Fred visited the Soviet Union, that these dealings seemed to affect his conscience. "I went to the USSR in 1930 and found it a land of hunger, misery and terror," he would later write. Even so, he agreed to give the Soviets the engineering know-how they would need to keep building more.
Back home, Fred was busy building a life of baronial splendor. He met his wife, Mary, the Wellesley-educated daughter of a Kansas City surgeon, on a polo field and soon bought 160 acres across from the Wichita Country Club, where they built a Tudorstyle mansion. As chronicled in Sons of Wichita, Daniel Schulman’s investigation of the Koch dynasty, the compound was quickly bursting with princes: Frederick arrived in 1933, followed by Charles in 1935 and twins David and Bill in 1940. Fred Koch lorded over his domain. "My mother was afraid of my father," said Bill, as were the four boys, especially first-born Frederick, an artistic kid with a talent for the theater. "Father wanted to make all his boys into men, and Freddie couldn’t relate to that regime," Charles recalled. Frederick got shipped East to boarding school and was all but disappeared from Wichita.
With Frederick gone, Charles forged a deep alliance with David, the more athletic and assertive of the young twins. "I was closer with David because he was better at everything," Charles has said.
Fred Koch’s legal battle with Universal would drag on for nearly a quarter-century. In 1934, a lower court ruled that Winkler-Koch had infringed on Universal’s technology. But that judgment would be vacated, after it came out in 1943 that Universal had bought off one of the judges handling the appeal. A year later, the Supreme Court decided that Fred’s cracker, by virtue of small technical differences, did not violate the Universal patent. Fred countersued on antitrust grounds, arguing that Universal had wielded patents anti-competitively. He’d win a $1.5 million settlement in 1952.
Around that time, Fred had built a domestic oil empire under a new company eventually called Rock Island Oil & Refining, transporting crude from wellheads to refineries by truck or by pipe. In those later years, Fred also became a major benefactor and board member of the John Birch Society, the rabidly anti-communist organization founded in 1958 by candy magnate and virulent racist Robert Welch. Bircher publications warned that the Red endgame was the creation of the "Negro Soviet Republic" in the Deep South. In his own writing, Fred described integration as a Red plot to "enslave both the white and black man."
Like his father, Charles Koch attended MIT. After he graduated in 1959 with two master’s degrees in engineering, his father issued an ultimatum: Come back to Wichita or I’ll sell the business. "Papa laid it on the line," recalled David. So Charles returned home, immersing himself in his father’s world – not simply joining the John Birch Society, but also opening a Bircher bookstore. The Birchers had high hopes for young Charles. As Koch family friend Robert Love wrote in a letter to Welch: "Charles Koch can, if he desires, finance a large operation, however, he must continually be brought along."
But Charles was already falling under the sway of a charismatic radio personality named Robert LeFevre, founder of the Freedom School, a whites-only libertarian boot camp in the foothills above Colorado Springs, Colorado. LeFevre preached a form of anarchic capitalism in which the individual should be freed from almost all government power. Charles soon had to make a choice. While the Birchers supported the Vietnam War, his new guru was a pacifist who equated militarism with out-of-control state power. LeFevre’s stark influence on Koch’s thinking is crystallized in a manifesto Charles wrote for the Libertarian Review in the 1970s, recently unearthed by Schulman, titled "The Business Community: Resisting Regulation." Charles lays out principles that gird today’s Tea Party movement. Referring to regulation as "totalitarian," the 41-year-old Charles claimed business leaders had been "hoodwinked" by the notion that regulation is "in the public interest." He advocated the "barest possible obedience" to regulation and implored, "Do not cooperate voluntarily, instead, resist whenever and to whatever extent you legally can in the name of justice."
After his father died in 1967, Charles, now in command of the family business, renamed it Koch Industries. It had grown into one of the 10 largest privately owned firms in the country, buying and selling some 80 million barrels of oil a year and operating 3,000 miles of pipeline. A black-diamond skier and white-water kayaker, Charles ran the business with an adrenaline junkie’s aggressiveness. The company would build pipelines to promising oil fields without a contract from the producers and park tanker trucks beside wildcatters’ wells, waiting for the first drops of crude to flow. "Our willingness to move quickly, absorb more risk," Charles would write, "enabled us to become the leading crude-oilgathering company."
Charles also reconnected with one of his father’s earliest insights: There’s big money in dirty oil. In the late 1950s, Fred Koch had bought a minority stake in a Minnesota refinery that processed heavy Canadian crude. "We could run the lousiest crude in the world," said his business partner J. Howard Marshall II – the future Mr. Anna Nicole Smith. Sensing an opportunity for huge profits, Charles struck a deal to convert Marshall’s ownership stake in the refinery into stock in Koch Industries. Suddenly the majority owner, the company soon bought the rest of the refinery outright.
Almost from the beginning, Koch Industries’ risk-taking crossed over into recklessness. The OPEC oil embargo hit the company hard. Koch had made a deal giving the company the right to buy a large share of Qatar’s export crude. At the time, Koch owned five supertankers and had chartered many others. When the embargo hit, Koch had upward of half a billion dollars in exposure to tankers and couldn’t deliver OPEC oil to the U.S. market, creating what Charles has called "large losses." Soon, Koch Industries was caught overcharging American customers. The Ford administration in the summer of 1974 compelled Koch to pay out more than $20 million in rebates and future price reductions.
Koch Industries’ manipulations were about to get more audacious. In the late 1970s, the federal government parceled out exploration tracts, using a lottery in which anyone could score a 10-year lease at just $1 an acre – a game of chance that gave wildcat prospectors the same shot as the biggest players. Koch didn’t like these odds, so it enlisted scores of frontmen to bid on its behalf. In the event they won the lottery, they would turn over their leases to the company. In 1980, Koch Industries pleaded guilty to five felonies in federal court, including conspiracy to commit fraud.
With Republicans and Democrats united in regulating the oil business, Charles had begun throwing his wealth behind the upstart Libertarian Party, seeking to transform it into a viable third party. Over the years, he would spend millions propping up a league of affiliated think tanks and front groups – a network of Libertarians that became known as the "Kochtopus."
Charles even convinced David to stand as the Libertarian Party’s vice-presidential candidate in 1980 – a clever maneuver that allowed David to lavish unlimited money on his own ticket. The Koch-funded 1980 platform was nakedly in the brothers’ self-interest – slashing federal regulatory agencies, offering a 50 percent tax break to top earners, ending the "cruel and unfair" estate tax and abolishing a $16 billion "windfall profits" tax on the oil industry. The words of Libertarian presidential candidate Ed Clark’s convention speech in Los Angeles ring across the decades: "We’re sick of taxes," he declared. "We’re ready to have a very big tea party." In a very real sense, the modern Republican Party was on the ballot that year – and it was running against Ronald Reagan.
Charles’ management style and infatuation with far-right politics were endangering his grip on the company. Bill believed his brothers’ political spending was bad for business. "Pretty soon, we would get the reputation that the company and the Kochs were crazy," he said.
In late 1980, with Frederick’s backing, Bill launched an unsuccessful battle for control of Koch Industries, aiming to take the company public. Three years later, Charles and David bought out their brothers for $1.1 billion. But the speed with which Koch Industries paid off the buyout debt left Bill convinced, but never quite able to prove, he’d been defrauded. He would spend the next 18 years suing his brothers, calling them "the biggest crooks in the oil industry."
Bill also shared these concerns with the federal government. Thanks in part to his efforts, in 1989 a Senate committee investigating Koch business with Native Americans would describe Koch Oil tactics as "grand larceny." In the late 1980s, Koch was the largest purchaser of oil from American tribes. Senate investigators suspected the company was making off with more crude from tribal oil fields than it measured and paid for. They set up a sting, sending an FBI agent to coordinate stakeouts of eight remote leases. Six of them were Koch operations, and the agents reported "oil theft" at all of them.
One of Koch’s gaugers would refer to this as "volume enhancement." But in sworn testimony before a Texas jury, Phillip Dubose, a former Koch pipeline manager, offered a more succinct definition: "stealing." The Senate committee concluded that over the course of three years Koch "pilfered" $31 million in Native oil; in 1988, the value of that stolen oil accounted for nearly a quarter of the company’s crude-oil profits. "I don’t know how the company could have figures like that," the FBI agent testified, "and not have top management know that theft was going on." In his own testimony, Charles offered that taking oil readings "is a very uncertain art" and that his employees "aren’t rocket scientists." Koch’s top lawyer would later paint the company as a victim of Senate "McCarthyism."
By this time, the Kochs had soured on the Libertarian Party, concluding that control of a small party would never give them the muscle they sought in the nation’s capital. Now they would spend millions in efforts to influence – and ultimately take over – the GOP. The work began close to home; the Kochs had become dedicated patrons of Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, who ran interference for Koch Industries in Washington. On the Senate floor in March 1990, Dole gloatingly cautioned against a "rush to judgment" against Koch, citing "very real concerns about some of the evidence on which the special committee was basing its findings." A grand jury investigated the claims but disbanded in 1992, without issuing indictments.
Arizona Sen. Dennis DeConcini was "surprised and disappointed" at the decision to drop the case. "Our investigation was some of the finest work the Senate has ever done," he said. "There was an overwhelming case against Koch." But Koch did not avoid all punishment. Under the False Claims Act, which allows private citizens to file lawsuits on behalf of the government, Bill sued the company, accusing it of defrauding the feds of royalty income on its "volume enhanced" purchases of Native oil. A jury concluded Koch had submitted more than 24,000 false claims, exposing Koch to some $214 million in penalties. Koch later settled, paying $25 million.
Self-interest continued to define Koch Industries’ adventures in public policy. In the early 1990s, in a high-profile initiative of the first-term Clinton White House, the administration was pushing for a levy on the heat content of fuels. Known as the BTU tax, it was the earliest attempt by the federal government to recoup damages from climate polluters. But Koch Industries could not stand losing its most valuable subsidy: the public policy that allowed it to treat the atmosphere as an open sewer. Richard Fink, head of Koch Company’s Public Sector and the longtime mastermind of the Koch brothers’ political empire, confessed to The Wichita Eagle in 1994 that Koch could not compete if it actually had to pay for the damage it did to the environment: "Our belief is that the tax, over time, may have destroyed our business."
To fight this threat, the Kochs funded a "grassroots" uprising – one that foreshadowed the emergence, decades later, of the Tea Party. The effort was run through Citizens for a Sound Economy, to which the brothers had spent a decade giving nearly $8 million to create what David Koch called "a sales force" to communicate the brothers’ political agenda through town hall meetings and anti-tax rallies designed to look like spontaneous demonstrations. In 1994, David Koch bragged that CSE’s campaign "played a key role in defeating the administration’s plans for a huge and cumbersome BTU tax."
Despite the company’s increasingly sophisticated political and public-relations operations, Charles’ philosophy of regulatory resistance was about to bite Koch Industries – in the form of record civil and criminal financial penalties imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Koch entered the 1990s on a pipeline-buying spree. By 1994, its network measured 37,000 miles. According to sworn testimony from former Koch employees, the company operated its pipelines with almost complete disregard for maintenance. As Koch employees understood it, this was in keeping with their CEO’s trademarked business philosophy, Market Based Management.
For Charles, MBM – first communicated to employees in 1991 – was an attempt to distill the business practices that had grown Koch into one of the largest oil businesses in the world. To incentivize workers, Koch gives employees bonuses that correlate to the value they create for the company. "Salary is viewed only as an advance on compensation for value," Koch wrote, "and compensation has an unlimited upside."
To prevent the stagnation that can often bog down big enterprises, Koch was also determined to incentivize risk-taking. Under MBM, Koch Industries books opportunity costs – "profits foregone from a missed opportunity" – as though they were actual losses on the balance sheet. Koch employees who play it safe, in other words, can’t strike it rich.
On paper, MBM sounds innovative and exciting. But in Koch’s hyperaggressive corporate culture, it contributed to a series of environmental disasters. Applying MBM to pipeline maintenance, Koch employees calculated that the opportunity cost of shutting down equipment to ensure its safety was greater than the profit potential of pushing aging pipe to its limits.
The fact that preventive pipeline maintenance is required by law didn’t always seem to register. Dubose, a 26-year Koch veteran who oversaw pipeline areas in Louisiana, would testify about the company’s lax attitude toward maintenance. "It was a question of money. It would take away from our profit margin." The testimony of another pipeline manager would echo that of Dubose: "Basically, the philosophy was ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t work on it.’"
When small spills occurred, Dubose testified, the company would cover them up. He recalled incidents in which the company would use the churn of a tugboat’s engine to break up waterborne spills and "just kind of wash that thing on down, down the river." On land, Dubose said, "They might pump it [the leaked oil] off into a drum, then take a shovel and just turn the earth over." When larger spills were reported to authorities, the volume of the discharges was habitually low-balled, according to Dubose.
Managers pressured employees to falsify pipeline-maintenance records filed with federal authorities; in a sworn affidavit, pipeline worker Bobby Conner recalled arguments with his manager over Conner’s refusal to file false reports: "He would always respond with anger," Conner said, "and tell me that I did not know how to be a Koch employee." Conner was fired and later settled a wrongful-termination suit with Koch Gateway Pipeline. Dubose testified that Charles was not in the dark about the company’s operations. "He was in complete control," Dubose said. "He was the one that was line-driving this Market-Based Management at meetings."
Before the worst spill from this time, Koch employees had raised concerns about the integrity of a 1940s-era pipeline in South Texas. But the company not only kept the line in service, it increased the pressure to move more volume. When a valve snapped shut in 1994, the brittle pipeline exploded. More than 90,000 gallons of crude spewed into Gum Hollow Creek, fouling surrounding marshlands and both Nueces and Corpus Christi bays with a 12-mile oil slick.
By 1995, the EPA had seen enough. It sued Koch for gross violations of the Clean Water Act. From 1988 through 1996, the company’s pipelines spilled 11.6 million gallons of crude and petroleum products. Internal Koch records showed that its pipelines were in such poor condition that it would require $98 million in repairs to bring them up to industry standard.
Ultimately, state and federal agencies forced Koch to pay a $30 million civil penalty – then the largest in the history of U.S. environmental law – for 312 spills across six states. Carol Browner, the former EPA administrator, said of Koch, "They simply did not believe the law applied to them." This was not just partisan rancor. Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, the future Republican senator, had joined the EPA in bringing suit against Koch. "This settlement and penalty warn polluters that they cannot treat oil spills simply as the cost of doing business," Cornyn said. (The Kochs seem to have no hard feelings toward their one-time tormentor; a lobbyist for Koch was the number-two bundler for Cornyn’s primary campaign this year.)
Koch wasn’t just cutting corners on its pipelines. It was also violating federal environmental law in other corners of the empire. Through much of the 1990s at its Pine Bend refinery in Minnesota, Koch spilled up to 600,000 gallons of jet fuel into wetlands near the Mississippi River. Indeed, the company was treating the Mississippi as a sewer, illegally dumping ammonia-laced wastewater into the river – even increasing its discharges on weekends when it knew it wasn’t being monitored. Koch Petroleum Group eventually pleaded guilty to "negligent discharge of a harmful quantity of oil" and "negligent violation of the Clean Water Act," was ordered to pay a $6 million fine and $2 million in remediation costs, and received three years’ probation. This facility had already been declared a Superfund site in 1984.
In 2000, Koch was hit with a 97-count indictment over claims it violated the Clean Air Act by venting massive quantities of benzene at a refinery in Corpus Christi – and then attempted to cover it up. According to the indictment, Koch filed documents with Texas regulators indicating releases of just 0.61 metric tons of benzene for 1995 – one-tenth of what was allowed under the law. But the government alleged that Koch had been informed its true emissions that year measured 91 metric tons, or 15 times the legal limit.
By the time the case came to trial, however, George W. Bush was in office and the indictment had been significantly pared down – Koch faced charges on only seven counts. The Justice Department settled in what many perceived to be a sweetheart deal, and Koch pleaded guilty to a single felony count for covering up the fact that it had disconnected a key pollution-control device and did not measure the resulting benzene emissions – receiving five years’ probation. Despite skirting stiffer criminal prosecution, Koch was handed $20 million in fines and reparations – another historic judgment.
On the day before Danielle Smalley was to leave for college, she and her friend Jason Stone were hanging out in her family’s mobile home. Seventeen years old, with long chestnut hair, Danielle began to feel nauseated. "Dad," she said, "we smell gas." It was 3:45 in the afternoon on August 24th, 1996, near Lively, Texas, some 50 miles southeast of Dallas. The Smalleys were too poor to own a telephone. So the teens jumped into her dad’s 1964 Chevy pickup to alert the authorities. As they drove away, the truck stalled where the driveway crossed a dry creek bed. Danielle cranked the ignition, and a fireball engulfed the truck. "You see two children burned to death in front of you – you never forget that," Danielle’s father, Danny, would later tell reporters.
Unknown to the Smalleys, a decrepit Koch pipeline carrying liquid butane – literally, lighter fluid – ran through their subdivision. It had ruptured, filling the creek bed with vapor, and the spark from the pickup’s ignition had set off a bomb. Federal investigators documented both "severe corrosion" and "mechanical damage" in the pipeline. A National Transportation Safety Board report would cite the "failure of Koch Pipeline Company LP to adequately protect its pipeline from corrosion."
Installed in the early Eighties, the pipeline had been out of commission for three years. When Koch decided to start it up again in 1995, a water-pressure test had blown the pipe open. An inspection of just a few dozen miles of pipe near the Smalley home found 538 corrosion defects. The industry’s term of art for a pipeline in this condition is Swiss cheese, according to the testimony of an expert witness – "essentially the pipeline is gone."
Koch repaired only 80 of the defects – enough to allow the pipeline to withstand another pressure check – and began running explosive fluid down the line at high pressure in January 1996. A month later, employees discovered that a key anticorrosion system had malfunctioned, but it was never fixed. Charles Koch had made it clear to managers that they were expected to slash costs and boost profits. In a sternly worded memo that April, Charles had ordered his top managers to cut expenditures by 10 percent "through the elimination of waste (I’m sure there is much more waste than that)" in order to increase pre-tax earnings by $550 million a year.
The Smalley trial underscored something Bill Koch had said about the way his brothers ran the company: "Koch Industries has a philosophy that profits are above everything else." A former Koch manager, Kenoth Whitstine, testified to incidents in which Koch Industries placed profits over public safety. As one supervisor had told him, regulatory fines "usually didn’t amount to much" and, besides, the company had "a stable full of lawyers in Wichita that handled those situations." When Whitstine told another manager he was concerned that unsafe pipelines could cause a deadly accident, this manager said that it was more profitable for the company to risk litigation than to repair faulty equipment. The company could "pay off a lawsuit from an incident and still be money ahead," he said, describing the principles of MBM to a T.
At trial, Danny Smalley asked for a judgment large enough to make the billionaires feel pain: "Let Koch take their child out there and put their children on the pipeline, open it up and let one of them die," he told the jury. "And then tell me what that’s worth." The jury was emphatic, awarding Smalley $296 million – then the largest wrongful-death judgment in American legal history. He later settled with Koch for an undisclosed sum and now runs a pipeline-safety foundation in his daughter’s name. He declined to comment for this story. "It upsets him too much," says an associate.
The official Koch line is that scandals that caused the company millions in fines, judgments and penalties prompted a change in Charles’ attitude of regulatory resistance. In his 2007 book, The Science of Success, he begrudgingly acknowledges his company’s recklessness. "While business was becoming increasingly regulated," he reflects, "we kept thinking and acting as if we lived in a pure market economy. The reality was far different."
Charles has since committed Koch Industries to obeying federal regulations. "Even when faced with laws we think are counterproductive," he writes, "we must first comply." Underscoring just how out of bounds Koch had ventured in its corporate culture, Charles admits that "it required a monumental undertaking to integrate compliance into every aspect of the company." In 2000, Koch Petroleum Group entered into an agreement with the EPA and the Justice Department to spend $80 million at three refineries to bring them into compliance with the Clean Air Act. After hitting Koch with a $4.5 million penalty, the EPA granted the company a "clean slate" for certain past violations.
Then George W. Bush entered the White House in 2001, his campaign fattened with Koch money. Charles Koch may decry cronyism as "nothing more than welfare for the rich and powerful," but he put his company to work, hand in glove, with the Bush White House. Correspondence, contacts and visits among Koch Industries representatives and the Bush White House generated nearly 20,000 pages of records, according to a Rolling Stone FOIA request of the George W. Bush Presidential Library. In 2007, the administration installed a fiercely anti-regulatory academic, Susan Dudley, who hailed from the Koch-funded Mercatus Center at George Mason University, as its top regulatory official.
Today, Koch points to awards it has won for safety and environmental excellence. "Koch companies have a strong record of compliance," Holden, Koch’s top lawyer, tells Rolling Stone. "In the distant past, when we failed to meet these standards, we took steps to ensure that we were building a culture of 10,000 percent compliance, with 100 percent of our employees complying 100 percent." To reduce its liability, Koch has also unwound its pipeline business, from 37,000 miles in the late 1990s to about 4,000 miles. Of the much smaller operation, he adds, "Koch’s pipeline practice and operations today are the best in the industry."
But even as compliance began to improve among its industrial operations, the company aggressively expanded its trading activities into the Wild West frontier of risky financial instruments. In 2000, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act had exempted many of these products from regulation, and Koch Industries was among the key players shaping that law. Koch joined up with Enron, BP, Mobil and J. Aron – a division of Goldman Sachs then run by Lloyd Blankfein – in a collaboration called the Energy Group. This corporate alliance fought to prohibit the federal government from policing oil and gas derivatives. "The importance of derivatives for the Energy Group companies . . . cannot be overestimated," the group’s lawyer wrote to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in 1998. "The success of this business can be completely undermined by . . . a costly regulatory regime that has no place in the energy industry."
Koch had long specialized in "over-the-counter" or OTC trades – private, unregulated contracts not disclosed on any centralized exchange. In its own letter to the CFTC, Koch identified itself as "a major participant in the OTC derivatives market," adding that the company not only offered "risk-management tools for its customers" but also traded "for its own account." Making the case for what would be known as the Enron Loophole, Koch argued that any big firm’s desire to "maintain a good reputation" would prevent "widespread abuses in the OTC derivatives market," a darkly hilarious claim, given what would become not only of Enron, but also Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and AIG.
The Enron Loophole became law in December 2000 – pushed along by Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, giving the Energy Group exactly what it wanted. "It completely exempted energy futures from regulation," says Michael Greenberger, a former director of trading and markets at the CFTC. "It wasn’t a matter of regulators not enforcing manipulation or excessive speculation limits – this market wasn’t covered at all. By law."
Before its spectacular collapse, Enron would use this loophole in 2001 to help engineer an energy crisis in California, artificially constraining the supply of natural gas and power generation, causing price spikes and rolling blackouts. This blatant and criminal market manipulation has become part of the legend of Enron. But Koch was caught up in the debacle. The CFTC would charge that a partnership between Koch and the utility Entergy had, at the height of the California crisis, reported fake natural-gas trades to reporting firms and also "knowingly reported false prices and/or volumes" on real trades.
One of 10 companies punished for such schemes, Entergy-Koch avoided prosecution by paying a $3 million fine as part of a 2004 settlement with the CFTC, in which it did not admit guilt to the commission’s charges but is barred from maintaining its innocence.
Trading, which had long been peripheral to the company’s core businesses, soon took center stage. In 2002, the company launched a subsidiary, Koch Supply & Trading. KS&T got off to a rocky start. "A series of bad trades," writes a Koch insider, "boiled over in early 2004 when a large ‘sure bet’ crude-oil trade went south, resulting in a quick, multimillion loss." But Koch traders quickly adjusted to the reality that energy markets were no longer ruled just by supply and demand – but by rich speculators trying to game the market. Revamping its strategy, Koch Industries soon began bragging of record profits. From 2003 to 2012, KS&T trading volumes exploded – up 450 percent. By 2009, KS&T ranked among the world’s top-five oil traders, and by 2011, the company billed itself as "one of the leading quantitative traders" – though Holden now says it’s no longer in this business.
Since Koch Industries aggressively expanded into high finance, the net worth of each brother has also exploded – from roughly $4 billion in 2002 to more than $40 billion today. In that period, the company embarked on a corporate buying spree that has taken it well beyond petroleum. In 2005, Koch purchased Georgia Pacific for $21 billion, giving the company a familiar, expansive grip on the industrial web that transforms Southern pine into consumer goods – from plywood sold at Home Depot to brand-name products like Dixie Cups and Angel Soft toilet paper. In 2013, Koch leapt into high technology with the $7 billion acquisition of Molex, a manufacturer of more than 100,000 electronics components and a top supplier to smartphone makers, including Apple.
Koch Supply & Trading makes money both from physical trades that move oil and commodities across oceans as well as in "paper" trades involving nothing more than high-stakes bets and cash. In paper trading, Koch’s products extend far beyond simple oil futures. Koch pioneered, for sale to hedge funds, "volatility swaps," in which the actual price of crude is irrelevant and what matters is only the "magnitude of daily fluctuations in prices." Steve Mawer, until recently the president of KS&T, described parts of his trading operation as "black-box stuff."
Like a casino that bets at its own craps table, Koch engages in "proprietary trading" – speculating for the company’s own bottom line. "We’re like a hedge fund and a dealer at the same time," bragged Ilia Bouchouev, head of Koch’s derivatives trading in 2004. "We can both make markets and speculate." The company’s many tentacles in the physical oil business give Koch rich insight into market conditions and disruptions that can inform its speculative bets. When oil prices spiked to record heights in 2008, Koch was a major player in the speculative markets, according to documents leaked by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, with trading volumes rivaling Wall Street giants like Citibank. Koch rode a trader-driven frenzy – detached from actual supply and demand – that drove prices above $147 a barrel in July 2008, battering a global economy about to enter a free fall.
Only Koch knows how much money Koch reaped during this price spike. But, as a proxy, consider the $20 million Koch and its subsidiaries spent lobbying Congress in 2008 – before then, its biggest annual lobbying expense had been $5 million – seeking to derail a raft of consumer-protection bills, including the Federal Price Gouging Prevention Act, the Stop Excessive Energy Speculation Act of 2008, the Prevent Unfair Manipulation of Prices Act of 2008 and the Close the Enron Loophole Act.
In comments to the Federal Trade Commission, Koch lobbyists defended the company’s right to rack up fantastic profits at the expense of American consumers. "A mere attempt to maximize profits cannot constitute market manipulation," they wrote, adding baldly, "Excessive profits in the face of shortages are desirable."
When the global economy crashed in 2008, so did oil prices. By December, crude was trading more than $100 lower per barrel than it had just months earlier – around $30. At the same time, oil traders anticipated that prices would eventually rebound. Futures contracts for delivery of oil in December 2009 were trading at nearly $55 per barrel. When future delivery is more valuable than present inventory, the market is said to be "in contango." Koch exploited the contango market to the hilt. The company leased nine supertankers and filled them with cut-rate crude and parked them quietly offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, banking virtually risk-free profits by selling contracts for future delivery.
All in, Koch took about 20 million barrels of oil off the market, putting itself in a position to bet on price disruptions the company itself was creating. Thanks to these kinds of trading efforts, Koch could boast in a 2009 review that "the performance of Koch Supply & Trading actually grew stronger last year as the global economy worsened." The cost for those risk-free profits was paid by consumers at the pump. Estimates pegged the cost of the contango trade by Koch and others at up to 40 cents a gallon.
Artificially constraining oil supplies is not the only source of dark, unregulated profit for Koch Industries. In the years after George W. Bush branded Iran a member of the "Axis of Evil," the Koch brothers profited from trade with the state sponsor of terror and reckless would-be nuclear power. For decades, U.S. companies have been forbidden from doing business with the Ayatollahs, but Koch Industries exploited a loophole in 1996 sanctions that made it possible for foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies to do some business in Iran.
In the ensuing years, according to Bloomberg Markets, the German and Italian arms of Koch-Glitsch, a Koch subsidiary that makes equipment for oil fields and refineries, won lucrative contracts to supply Iran’s Zagros plant, the largest methanol plant in the world. And thanks in part to Koch, methanol is now one of Iran’s leading non-oil exports. "Every single chance they had to do business with Iran, or anyone else, they did," said Koch whistle-blower George Bentu. Having signed on to work for a company that lists "integrity" as its top value, Bentu added, "You feel totally betrayed. Everything Koch stood for was a lie."
Koch reportedly kept trading with Tehran until 2007 – after the regime was exposed for supplying IEDs to Iraqi insurgents killing U.S. troops. According to lawyer Holden, Koch has since "decided that none of its subsidiaries would engage in trade involving Iran, even where such trade is permissible under U.S. law."
These days, Koch’s most disquieting foreign dealings are in Canada, where the company has massive investments in dirty tar sands. The company’s 1.1 million acres of leases in northern Alberta contain reserves of economically recoverable oil numbering in the billions of barrels. With these massive leaseholdings, Koch is poised to continue profiting from Canadian crude whether or not the Keystone XL pipeline gains approval, says Andrew Leach, an energy and environmental economist at the business school of the University of Alberta.
Counter intuitively, approval of Keystone XL could actually harm one of Koch’s most profitable businesses – its Pine Bend refinery in Minnesota. Because tar-sands crude presently has no easy outlet to the global market, there’s a glut of Canadian oil in the midcontinent, and Koch’s refinery is a beneficiary of this oversupply; the resulting discount can exceed $20 a barrel compared to conventional crude. If it is ever built, the Keystone XL pipeline will provide a link to Gulf Coast refineries – and thus the global export market, which would erase much of that discount and eat into company profit margins.
Leach says Koch Industries’ tar-sands leaseholdings have them hedged against the potential approval of Keystone XL. The pipeline would increase the value of Canadian tar-sands deposits overnight. Koch could then profit handsomely by flipping its leases to more established producers. "Optimizing asset value through trading," Koch literature says of these and other holdings, is a "key" company strategy.
The one truly bad outcome for Koch would be if Keystone XL were to be defeated, as many environmentalists believe it must be. "If the signal that sends is that no new pipelines will be built across the U.S. border for carrying oil-sands product," Leach says, "that’s going to have an impact not just on Koch leases, but on everybody’s asset value in oil sands." Ironically, what’s best for Koch’s tar-sands interests is what the Obama administration is currently delivering: "They’re actually ahead if Keystone XL gets delayed a while but hangs around as something that still might happen," Leach says.
The Dodd-Frank bill was supposed to put an end to economy endangering speculation in the $700 trillion global derivatives market. But Koch has managed to defend – and even expand – its turf, trading in largely unregulated derivatives, once dubbed "financial weapons of mass destruction" by billionaire Warren Buffett.
In theory, the Enron Loophole is no longer open – the government now has the power to police manipulation in the market for energy derivatives. But the Obama administration has not yet been able to come up with new rules that actually do so. In 2011, the CFTC mandated "position limits" on derivative trades of oil and other commodities. These would have blocked any single speculator from owning futures contracts representing more than a quarter of the physical market – reducing the danger of manipulation. As part of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, which also reps many Wall Street giants including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, Koch fought these new restrictions. ISDA sued to block the position limits – and won in court in September 2012. Two years later, CFTC is still spinning its wheels on a replacement. Industry traders like Koch are, Greenberger says, "essentially able to operate as though the Enron Loophole were still in effect."
Koch is also reaping the benefits from Dodd-Frank’s impacts on Wall Street. The so-called Volcker Rule, implemented at the end of last year, bans investment banks from "proprietary trading" – investing on their own behalf in securities and derivatives. As a result, many Wall Street banks are unloading their commodities-trading units. But Volcker does not apply to nonbank traders like Koch. They’re now able to pick up clients who might previously have traded with JPMorgan. In its marketing materials for its trading operations, Koch boasts to potential clients that it can provide "physical and financial market liquidity at times when others pull back." Koch also likely benefits from loopholes that exempt the company from posting collateral for derivatives trades and allow it to continue trading swaps without posting the transactions to a transparent electronic exchange. Though competitors like BP and Cargill have registered with the CFTC as swaps dealers – subjecting their trades to tightened regulation – Koch conspicuously has not. "Koch is compliant with all CFTC regulations, including those relating to swaps dealers," says Holden, the Koch lawyer.
That a massive company with such a troubling record as Koch Industries remains unfettered by financial regulation should strike fear in the heart of anyone with a stake in the health of the American economy. Though Koch has cultivated a reputation as an economically conservative company, it has long flirted with danger. And that it has not suffered a catastrophic loss in the past 15 years would seem to be as much about luck as about skillful management.
The Kochs have brushed up against some of the major debacles of the crisis years. In 2007, as the economy began to teeter, Koch was gearing up to plunge into the market for credit default swaps, even creating an affiliate, Koch Financial Products, for that express purpose. KFP secured a AAA rating from Moody’s and reportedly sought to buy up toxic assets at the center of the financial crisis at up to 50-times leverage. Ultimately, Koch Industries survived the experiment without losing its shirt.
More recently, Koch was exposed to the fiasco at MF Global, the disgraced brokerage firm run by former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine that improperly dipped into customer accounts to finance reckless bets on European debt. Koch, one of MF Global’s top clients, reportedly told trading partners it was switching accounts about a month before the brokerage declared bankruptcy – then the eighth-largest in U.S. history. Koch says the decision to pull its funds from MF Global was made more than a year before. While MF’s small-fry clients had to pick at the carcass of Corzine’s company to recoup their assets, Koch was already swimming free and clear.
Because it’s private, no one outside of Koch Industries knows how much risk Koch is taking – or whether it could conceivably create systemic risk, a concern raised in 2013 by the head of the Futures Industry Association. But this much is for certain: Because of the loopholes in financial-regulatory reform, the next company to put the American economy at risk may not be a Wall Street bank but a trading giant like Koch. In 2012, Gary Gensler, then CFTC chair, railed against the very loopholes Koch appears to be exploiting, raising the specter of AIG. "[AIG] had this massive risk built up in its derivatives just because it called itself an insurance company rather than a bank," Gensler said. When Congress adopted Dodd-Frank, Gensler added, it never intended to exempt financial heavy hitters just because "somebody calls themselves an insurance
In "the science of success," Charles Koch highlights the problems created when property owners "don’t benefit from all the value they create and don’t bear the full cost from whatever value they destroy." He is particularly concerned about the "tragedy of the commons," in which shared resources are abused because there’s no individual accountability. "The biggest problems in society," he writes, "have occurred in those areas thought to be best controlled in common: the atmosphere, bodies of water, air. . . ."
But in the real world, Koch Industries has used its political might to beat back the very market-based mechanisms – including a cap-and-trade market for carbon pollution – needed to create the ownership rights for pollution that Charles says would improve the functioning of capitalism.
In fact, it appears the very essence of the Koch business model is to exploit breakdowns in the free market. Koch has profited precisely by dumping billions of pounds of pollutants into our waters and skies – essentially for free. It racks up enormous profits from speculative trades lacking economic value that drive up costs for consumers and create risks for our economy.
The Koch brothers get richer as the costs of what Koch destroys are foisted on the rest of us – in the form of ill health, foul water and a climate crisis that threatens life as we know it on this planet. Now nearing 80 – owning a large chunk of the Alberta tar sands and using his billions to transform the modern Republican Party into a protection racket for Koch Industries’ profits – Charles Koch is not about to see the light. Nor does the CEO of one of America’s most toxic firms have any notion of slowing down. He has made it clear that he has no retirement plans: "I’m going to ride my bicycle till I fall off."Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
University of Kentucky researchers today harvested the university’s first hemp crop in decades – and one of the first legal crops used in research trials.
“It was a good growing season for many crops, not just hemp,” said David Williams, UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment agronomist and co-project lead. “Precipitation was excellent this year and more than adequate for growth. The only downside to the growing season was that we planted a little bit late, but I don’t think that had much effect on the crop.”
UK’s research plot, planted May 27, was one of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s pilot studies to reintroduce hemp production in Kentucky. UK’s study was conducted in conjunction with Eastern Kentucky University and Kentucky State University.
“This crop will yield significant data about production techniques, which varieties do best in Kentucky and which of the many uses of hemp are most likely to succeed here,” said Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who has championed the cause of returning hemp production to the commonwealth.
Kentucky was a national leader in hemp production before the crop was outlawed in the United States due to its similarity to marijuana. Many agricultural advances have occurred since then, so research trials were necessary to determine the crop’s viability in an ever-changing agricultural economy.
UK researchers used a sickle bar mower to harvest the crop in the same manner that hay is harvested.
“Our plan was to simply lay the crop on the ground where the elements will begin to break down or ‘ret’ the hemp,” said Rich Mundell, co-project lead and an agronomist in the Kentucky Tobacco Research Development Center. “Because the hemp was very tall (about 10 feet) we felt the sickle bar mower would do a better job than a more commonly used disc mower.”
UK’s research project included 13 different varieties managed for either fiber production or seed production.
After the harvest, researchers will analyze and compare the different varieties to find one that’s best suited for the state and then present the results to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A U.S. marijuana advocacy group took steps Wednesday to begin raising money for a campaign to legalize recreational pot use in California in 2016, a move with potential to add a dose of extra excitement to the presidential election year.
The Marijuana Policy Project filed paperwork with the California secretary of state’s office registering a campaign committee to start accepting and spending contributions for a pot legalization initiative on the November 2016 state ballot, the group said.
The measure would be similar to those passed in 2012 by voters in Colorado and Washington, the first U.S. states to legalize commercial sales of marijuana to all adults over 21.
California, long the national leader in illegal marijuana production and home to a thriving, largely unregulated medical marijuana industry, is one of the 21 other states that currently allow marijuana use only for medical reasons. The drug remains illegal under federal law.
"Marijuana prohibition has had an enormously detrimental impact on California communities. It’s been ineffective, wasteful and counterproductive. It’s time for a more responsible approach," Marijuana Policy Project Executive Director Rob Kampia said. "Regulating and taxing marijuana similarly to alcohol just makes sense."
The Washington, D.C.-based group also has established campaign committees to back legalization measures in Arizona, Massachusetts and Nevada in 2016.
Voters in Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia will weigh in on marijuana legalization in November.
Seattle tosses out marijuana tickets
In 2010, California voters rejected a ballot initiative seeking to legalize recreational pot. The measure, just like the medical marijuana law the state approved in 1996, was the first of its kind. But along with opposition from law enforcement and elected officials, Proposition 19 faced unexpected resistance from medical marijuana users and outlaw growers in the state’s so-called Emerald Triangle who worried legalization would lead to plummeting marijuana prices.
Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Mason Tvert predicted no such divisions would surface this time around.
Legal pot, murky jobs: Marijuana laws put workers in tough spot
Citing his group’s experience in Colorado and the advantage of aiming for a presidential election year when voter turnout is higher, Tvert said legalization supporters would use the next two years to build a broad-based coalition and craft ballot language that addresses concerns of particular constituencies.
"Obviously, it’s a whole different landscape in California, where it will cost probably as much or more to just get on the ballot as it did to run a winning campaign after getting on the ballot in Colorado," he said.
League of California Cities lobbyist Tim Cromartie, whose group opposed the state’s 2010 pot legalization initiative and until this year fought legislative efforts to give the state greater oversight of medical marijuana, said Wednesday that it was too soon to say what kind of opposition, if any, would greet a 2016 campaign.
Lynne Lyman, California director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said her group expects to play a major role in the legalization effort and already has started raising money. Lyman said the goal is to have an initiative written by next summer. She estimated that a pro-legalization campaign would cost $8 million to $12 million.
Even though California would be following in the steps of other states if a 2016 initiative passes, legalizing recreational marijuana use there would have far-reaching implications, Lyman said.
"When an issue is taken up in California, it becomes a national issue," she said. "What we really hope is that with a state this large taking that step, the federal government will be forced to address the ongoing issue of marijuana prohibition."Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
KTVA Anchorage reporter Charlo Greene profanely quit her job at the station in the middle of last night’s newscast. Greene made the announcement immediately following a story on a medical marijuana business, and the revelation that she is the business’s owner.
Greene ended her segment with this:
"Now everything you’ve heard is why I, the actual owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club, will be dedicating all of my energy toward fighting for freedom and fairness, which begins with legalizing marijuana here in Alaska. And as for this job, well, not that I have a choice but, fuck it, I quit."
Greene’s organization is fighting for the passage of Ballot Measure 2, which would legalize recreational amounts of marijuana in Alaska. And, not incidentally, create business for Greene—with Alaska laws as they are, medical marijuana dispensaries currently operate in a legal gray area.
After Greene’s abrupt resignation, KTVA’s news director issued a statement:
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We sincerely apologize for the inappropriate language used by a KTVA reporter during her live presentation on the air tonight. The employee has been terminated.
News Director – KTVA 11 News
Robert Ransdell has angered residents with his anti-Semitic signs in the town of Florence. The white supremacist says his message is well-received among supporters.
Thursday, September 18, 2014, 7:10 PM
White supremacist Kentucky candidate Robert Ransdell offended many this week with his campaign signs for the U.S. Senate.
Robert Ransdell, whose name won’t appear on Kentucky ballots, is nonetheless running a write-in campaign for the U.S. Senate based on the slogan “With Jews We Lose.”
The sentiment did not go over well with many residents of the northern Kentucky town of Florence, where signs emblazoned with the anti-Semitic message popped up this week.
“It’s ignorance. Complete ignorance and hate,” said a resident named Drea, who gave only her first name for fear of retribution, WLWT-TV reported.
Ransdell, a coordinator for the Cincinnati-based National Alliance — which the Southern Poverty Law Center considers a Neo-Nazi group — says he has no hope of winning against incumbent GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, or Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes.
But that isn’t his intention, he says. His goal is to spread his white supremacist doctrine.
Robert Ransdell, a coordinator of the Cincinnati-based National Alliance, which is considered a Neo-Nazi group, is running a Kentucky write-in campaign for the U.S. Senate. His slogan is ‘With Jews We Lose.’
“For years White Nationalist(s) have (been) looked on with disgust as various anti-White lemmings and creeps have taken it upon themselves to decide what people will read and be exposed to,” Ransdell wrote on the supremacist site Stormfront.
But by Wednesday, the campaign signs had been removed after the property owner said he had not been contacted for permission to post the placards.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
It may be an off-year election, but it’s a big one for drug policy reform. In seven weeks, voters across the country will have a chance to accelerate the unprecedented momentum to legalize marijuana and end the wider drug war. In fact, there are more drug policy reform questions on the ballot this November than ever in American history. Voter initiatives — primarily reforming or repealing marijuana laws — appear on the ballots in seven states, at least 17 municipalities and one U.S. territory. To help you keep score at home, here’s an overview, starting with the highest-profile measures.
Oregon: Passage of Measure 91 will make the Beaver State the third to legalize marijuana for adults outright. Like the historic laws adopted in Colorado and neighboring Washington two short years ago, this initiative would legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults 21 and older and create a statewide system to regulate production and sales. And similar to Colorado’s law, Measure 91 would allow adults to cultivate small amounts of marijuana under controlled circumstances. In this entirely vote-by-mail election, the initiative has already been endorsed by the Pacific Northwest’s largest daily paper and would likely boost efforts across its southern border to end marijuana prohibition in California two years from now.
Alaska: The other statewide marijuana legalization initiative, Measure 2, is closely modeled on Colorado’s Amendment 64 and tracks many of the elements in Oregon’s prospective law. Alaska was something of a marijuana reform pioneer as possession and cultivation of small amounts for personal use in a private residence has been protected under the Alaska Constitution since the 1970s. Alongside Oregon in 1998, Alaska was among the first states to legalize medical marijuana. With a deep-rooted respect for personal freedom, Alaska would become the first red state to legalize marijuana for adult use, no doubt raising eyebrows across the political spectrum.
Florida: Amendment 2 is the only statewide medical marijuana initiative on the ballot this year, and it’s one to watch. Victory would make Florida, with its huge population and bell weather status in American politics, the very first southern state to adopt a medical marijuana law. With 23 other medical marijuana states and super-majority support nationally, passage of Amendment 2 would effectively settle any lingering questions on public acceptance of marijuana as medicine. It’s going to be a challenge, though, since Florida law requires 60% to pass a voter initiative. While polls indicate enormous support, casino mogul Sheldon Adelsoncontributed a few million dollars to stop it as Amendment 2 is associated with Charlie Crist’s comeback gubernatorial campaign. Adelson’s intervention has created the first well-funded opposition to a statewide marijuana reform campaign ever.
California: On the heels of reforming its harshest-in-the-nation Three Strikes law in 2012, Californians are now poised to refine six low-level, nonviolent offenses, including simple drug possession, from felonies to misdemeanors. Proposition 47 would then dedicate the savings — likely more than $1 billion a year — to schools, victim services, and mental health treatment. With retroactive sentencing and expungement provisions, the impact of Prop 47 in California on wasteful corrections spending and individual lives would be profound and surely resonate across the country.
District of Columbia: Earlier this year, the D.C. Council adopted the nation’s most far-reaching marijuana decriminalization law. In November, voters in the nation’s capital will decide whether to go even further. Initiative 71 makes it legal for adults over the age of 21 to possess and cultivate small amounts of marijuana. While District law prevents the ballot initiative from addressing the sale of marijuana, the D.C. Council is considering a bill that would tax and regulate marijuana within the District. D.C. has the highest per capita marijuana arrest rates in the U.S. with enormous racial disparities as police target African Americans for 91 percent of these arrests. Initiative 71 will be the first marijuana reform campaign fought primarily on the issue of the drug war’s ongoing toxic impact on black communities.
Other races: Voters in municipal elections from the Northeast to Micronesia will weigh in November 4 on a range of marijuana focused issues.
· Guam: Voters could make this U.S. territory the first to adopt medical marijuana. Thebinding referendum would allow for dispensaries regulated by the Department of Public Health and Social Services.
· Maine: By a wide margin in 2013, Portlanders chose to eliminate criminal penalties for adult possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. In seven weeks, voters in York, South Portland, and Lewiston will tackle the same question.
· Michigan: In the last two years, residents of seven cities have voted to remove local penalties for adult possession of small amounts of marijuana in a private residence. As of now, a whopping 11 other cities (with apparently more to come) will have the chance to follow suit this year.
· New Mexico: Last month, the City of Santa Fe became the first in the state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. On the ballot in November, voters in Bernalillo (Albuquerque) and Santa Fe Counties will decide if their county should affirm decriminalization efforts.
Public opinion has shifted dramatically over the last decade in favor of reforming marijuana laws and dismantling the egregious excesses of the drug war. And elected officials have begun to take notice. The U.S. House has voted five times in recent months to let states set their own marijuana policies while Senators Rand Paul and Cory Booker have introduced similar bi-partisan legislation in the U.S. Senate in addition to a cluster of other long-overdue criminal justice reforms. When the dust settles on November 5, the momentum for change in this country will only have accelerated.
Stephen Gutwillig is the Deputy Executive Director for Programs of the Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s leading organization working to promote alternatives to the failed war on drugs.
Follow Stephen Gutwillig on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SWGinLA
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Marc Emery is commonly known as the ‘Prince of Pot,’ which is a title he got from years of pot activism and, of course, pot smoking. Beyond his protesting, which got him arrested more than a few times, Marc Emery was a successful weed-seed seller, which became a lucrative business quite quickly. His cash flow got him noticed by the DEA, who extradited him from Vancouver to the US, where Marc was sentenced to five years in prison. 28 hours after his release, VICE’s Damian Abraham went to meet up with Marc at his welcome home party in Toronto. We also met with his co-accused, ‘Marijuana Man,’ and his wife Jodie, back at the Cannabis Culture HQ in Vancouver. This is the Cult of Marc Emery.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
The Associated Press September 6, 2014
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Freight trains loaded with volatile crude oil crisscross seven Kentucky counties on a weekly basis, carrying loads that emergency management officials in the state know little about.
As many as five CSX Corp. trains carry oil from the upper Great Plains’ Bakken shale fields into Boyd and Greenup counties in northeastern Kentucky. A similar number rolls through Henderson, Webster, Hopkins, Christian and Todd counties in the western part of the state. In all, CSX sends the trains along more than 200 miles of track in Kentucky.
WDRB-TV in Louisville reported (bit.ly/1Cz6r0m) that the trains bypass the state’s largest cities but skirt areas along the Ohio River near the Ohio and West Virginia borders and pass directly through Henderson, Hopkinsville and other cities in western Kentucky.
Until earlier this year, railroads had no obligation to notify communities where large quantities of that oil rumbled past their schools, homes and businesses. The limited disclosures shed some light on the routes of trains carrying flammable oil extracted through hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," of rock formations in North Dakota.
"They don’t tell us what days, what cars — other than it’s going to be a million gallons," said Larry Koerber, Henderson County’s emergency management director. "And they’re only doing it because they’re required by law."
In May, the U.S. Department of Transportation ordered railroad companies to inform each state in which individual trains carry 1 million gallons of Bakken crude oil. The move came after several derailments in the U.S. and Canada "demonstrated the need for emergency action to address unsafe conditions or practices in the shipment of petroleum crude oil by rail."
Oil-by-rail shipments have increased in recent years as oil is extracted from an area where the existing pipeline network can’t keep up with demand. There were 407,761 carloads of crude oil shipped last year in the U.S., up from 9,500 in 2008, according to the Association of American Railroads.
Federal inspectors have determined that Bakken is more flammable than other crude oil — a result of a higher gas content, lower flash and boiling points and a higher vapor pressure — and the tank car most commonly used to ship it is "not an adequate container" if a derailment occurs.
CSX is the only railroad operator in Kentucky with oil volumes large enough to warrant telling the state.
The company has agreed to safety measures, including new braking systems for trains with at least 20 carloads of crude oil; increased inspections of rail lines carrying longer trains; lower speeds in congested areas; and funding for first responders. A company spokeswoman said in a statement that CSX met a July 1 deadline for more track inspections, lower speed limits and installing monitors to detect problems with train wheels.
The company asked all states through which it ships Bakken crude to agree to withhold some information from the public, according to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.
In Todd County, near the Kentucky border with Tennessee, the same railroad runs through Trenton and Guthrie, said Tim Pulley, the county’s top emergency management official. Those cities account for about 15 percent of all residents of the 12,500-person county, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Pulley said he was unaware that trains carrying crude oil were passing through Todd County until he met in early August with CSX officials.
"The track goes right through the heart of both of them," Pulley said. "That’s a big chunk of our population."
A CSX train derailed on the line near Guthrie in 2011, sending as many as 20 cars into nearby fields but causing no injuries.
Christian County emergency management director Randy Graham said he has requested 19 copies of oil-train education videos from CSX to give to fire departments in the area.
"We’ve just got to have a lot more area that would have to be partitioned off and people evacuated and that type of thing," Graham said.
Information from: WDRB-TV, http://www.fox41.comRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Aug 26, 2014, 7:46 PM ET
Mitt Romney is coming to Kentucky to raise money for U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the latest in a string of high-profile politicians getting in on one of the country’s most competitive midterm races.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee, won Kentucky with more than 60 percent of the vote. President Barack Obama remains unpopular in Kentucky, and McConnell — who is battling Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in the toughest re-election campaign of his 30-year career — has spent millions trying to convince voters Grimes supports Obama’s agenda.
"Governor Romney wanted to take the country in a different direction than President Obama in 2012, and Senator McConnell is proud to have his support as Kentuckians are given another opportunity to do that this November," McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore said.
Romney will visit Lexington on Oct. 2 for a McConnell fundraiser. Kentucky native and Alliance Resource Partners CEO Joe Craft will co-host the event along with his fiancee, former Bush administration appointee Kelly Knight.
The Lexington Herald-Leader first reported the news.
"I think any imagery that conjures up presidential politics of 2012 is helpful for Republicans," said Scott Lasley, a political science professor at Western Kentucky University.
A spokeswoman for Grimes called Romney a "pioneer of outsourcing" and said it was appropriate for him to campaign with McConnell, calling them a "one-two punch that can only further devastate Kentucky’s middle class."
The race is being closely watched nationally as Republicans try to take the Senate during the last two years of Obama’s term.
Grimes has distanced herself from Obama while stressing her ties to other prominent Democrats. Former President Bill Clinton, who carried Kentucky twice in presidential elections, has visited the state twice, including speaking to an overflow crowd in Hazard earlier this month. And Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has campaigned for Grimes in Louisville.
Moreover, her campaign announced Tuesday that she had gotten the endorsement of former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who stressed that Washington needs more leaders who will work in a bipartisan manner.
"I know that Alison will be one of those leaders," Albright said in a news release.
McConnell also has gotten some high-profile help: In March, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appeared at a fundraiser for the senator. And former President George H.W. Bush sent a fundraising email to McConnell supporters over the weekend.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
By Amy O’ Connor | September 8, 2014
Specialty brokers looking to get insurers hooked on emerging industry
The legal marijuana industry in the United States is experiencing tremendous growth.
Legal cannabis markets in the United States are expected to grow 700 percent over the next five years, according to an industry report titled, “The State of Legal Marijuana Markets 2nd Edition,” published by The ArcView Group.
The report values the U.S. legal marijuana market, which comprises all states that have active and open sales of cannabis to people legally allowed to possess it under state law, at $1.53 billion. The national market is projected to grow 68 percent to $2.57 billion by the end of 2014.
The five-year national market potential is $10.2 billion, according to ArcView. Gains will stem from increased demand in existing state markets, as well as from new state markets coming online within a five-year horizon.
As individual states try to determine where they stand on the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana use, insurers are also evaluating this segment and what coverages – if any – they are prepared to offer to the businesses selling and growing medical or recreational cannabis products.
Those who specialize in this class say agents and brokers shouldn’t be deterred by the stigma that goes along with it; instead they should learn about the segment’s needs so they can take advantage of growing business opportunities.
The legalization of marijuana for recreational use in both Colorado and Washington has led to a slew of new business ventures in both states. The Associated Press reported in December 2013 that the state of Washington received nearly 1,700 business applications between when the license application window opened on Nov. 13, 2013, and mid-December for those looking to grow, process or sell cannabis under the new recreational marijuana law.
Marijuana sales in Colorado totaled $15.3 million for the first five months of the year, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue, and the Denver Post reported the state has seen record tourism numbers so far in 2014.
Whether they are a grower, dispensary owner, supplier or processor, marijuana entities looking to sell to the public are now businesses that need insurance, says Ed Kuhn, president of Creative Edge Nutrition (CEN) and the newly formed Wellness Medical Protection Group/Liability Insurance Solutions.
“These business owners need help figuring out issues like: Where can I set up a dispensary? What are the state regulations? What is my workers’ comp liability? And what are the liabilities that other businesses have like theft, fire, business interruption, etc. They have unique issues and those need to be seen and be addressed,” he says. “They have a lot of investment dollars going into this industry and they are concerned about what happens to their investment dollars if they are shut down or don’t obey state regulations.”
Insurance coverage requirements can include and are not limited to: workers’ compensation, business interruption, theft, products liability, cargo insurance, BOP coverage, equipment breakdown, and cyber liability – particularly for those medical marijuana dispensaries that store patients’ personal information.
There is also opportunity for agents beyond the marijuana-related businesses themselves because they work with vendors that welcome the expertise an agent that specializes in the marijuana industry can offer, says Mike Aberle, vice president of sales and marketing for Next Wave Insurance Services, the program administrator for the marijuana-focused entity MMD Insurance.
“It is a brilliant marketing campaign. Most of these people also have businesses outside cannabis and they made money before this,” says Aberle. “The agent, by promoting that they do this segment, can also get other policies from those working with the [marijuana entity] but have nothing to do with cannabis except for how they work with the operations.”
Aberle says MMD’s core program started with indoor/outdoor cultivators and retailers and has since grown to cover the businesses that work with them like construction, security and supply companies.
“These ancillary businesses can help you feed your company based on a single classification, which is cannabis. And if you are an agency that relies on referrals, then hopefully those people will turn around and refer you to other industry business owners too,” he says.
Cannarisk, a division of BIM Agency, a Washington-based construction insurance brokerage, is the result of agent Matt Gunther’s figuring that as the marijuana industry became more accepted, the businesses that sell products would need insurance.
“I am 36 years old and I felt like insurance was an old man’s game, particularly on the commercial side. I realized as recreational goes legitimate, just like in construction, it will be required to have insurance,” says Gunther. “This is unprecedented and unchartered territory and nobody knows what the risks are ahead of us. It makes sense for state and local governments to require liability insurance to protect the public.”
Cannarisk launched in Washington state in early 2014 around the time producers, growers and retailers were getting licensed. It is focused on serving medical and recreational marijuana-related businesses in the state. Gunther says being located in the state has proven to be a big advantage.
“We are trying to establish ourselves as a local face that understands the business and provides the needed services. We also provide additional value because we can be a wholesale access point for retail agents too,” he says.
Gunther says right now they are just targeting the recreational facilities that must carry insurance, not the medical facilities because insurance is optional for them. He has found that many medical facilities don’t want to pay the cost even though premiums are low for the medical dispensaries.
Recreational growers, however, are required to disclose their growing locations by Washington state law, which Gunther says his agency has been able to use to its advantage.
“We can convey to the growers that their locations are public information and people know where you are growing your product. Now you really have an exposure,” he says.
Creative Edge Nutrition sees opportunity on the medical side. The health, wellness and alternative treatments company entered into a joint venture with RXNB Inc. in June to offer marijuana liability insurance in North America through The Wellness Medical Protection Group (WMPG).
Kuhn heads the new venture, which offers medicinal marijuana coverage for the grow and harvest of product, extracts, facilities, landlords, dispensaries and the medicinal prescriber. Coverage is available through Lloyd’s of London. He says WMPG’s coverage is available through its CANNAPROTECT program for all medical marijuana-related areas, including anti-aging and aesthetic treatments, cash-based practices, and alternative treatment facilities.
WMPG will be mainly focused on medical cannabis practices but will also cover recreational facilities in Washington and Colorado.
“We think there will always be two segments of the market – the prescription-quality marijuana that is only available through the medical side, and recreational that isn’t used for ailments,” says Kuhn.
Not surprisingly, Kuhn says insurance markets are currently more comfortable with covering the medical side because it is a more established industry with more controls in place. He says he has heard from carriers that will not work with recreational facilities at this time.
“Carriers are spooked by the lack of a federal position and if they have big limits exposed and something happens in Washington or Colorado, it could be huge for them,” he says. “Markets feel more comfortable with medical marijuana because it is dispensed through a physician.”
Cannarisk’s Gunther says he didn’t expect there to be much competition from other agencies because of the exposures, which has so far turned out to be true. He says the reaction from the rest of the industry toward this segment – particularly carriers – has been skeptical and prudent. He said they are working with a “limited number of carriers,” with three main ones really willing to insure the risk.
“There are a few on the outskirts looking in. They are being very cautious, as they should be, because how do you measure the risk?” he says. “But these [business owners] are professionals. There is a misconception from people in other states that these are all stoners starting a business, and that is not the case at all. These are professionals who are extremely educated and they are opening up with the desire to work with a local broker.”
MMD’s Aberle says it is customary for states to start with legalizing medical marijuana before they will look at the recreational side. These frequent changes and unknowns in the industry are a put-off to carriers, he says. Lloyd’s has been the only carrier Aberle has found that will be flexible in adjusting the coverage and limit options on a needed basis.
“If I were to request as many changes as I have made in a given year with another carrier, they would have dropped the program. This industry has so many changes and needs all the time that you have to be consistently moving forward,” he says.
MMD has also received requests from states, counties, cities, and policy departments for its loss guidelines and has lent its expertise to answer questions about the role insurance will play in the development of a legitimate marijuana industry. As state government or regulatory agencies set certain insurance standards, Aberle says the industry will play a big part. However, carriers’ leeriness in offering the required limits or coverages can make it difficult for the marijuana industry to move forward.
“We will continue to work with these people to help carve out a proper industry. … We have had to do a lot of work in the insurance industry and show a lot of data to say this is a viable business and you will be profitable writing,” he says. “We have also had to work with cities and states to show them that certain insurance options are just not available because there is no carrier willing to do it.”
Products completed or products liability coverage is an area that makes carriers nervous, says Aberle, and it is also a coverage that is required of all recreational operations in both Washington and Colorado.
MMD launched the coverage for recreational facilities on a claims-made form in January, though it always offered the coverage for medicinal facilities on an occurrence form. Aberle says carriers were more comfortable offering the coverage on a claims-made basis for the marijuana industry.
Aberle is encouraged by the movement he’s seen from other carriers that haven’t written this class in the past, but for now they are mostly “window shopping.”
“They want to know about it because it sounds cool and the industry loves to talk about it and know more and that’s a great thing,” he says. “For us, it is has gone from ‘can we even mention we are writing it?’ to ‘we love telling everyone about it.’ The carriers still won’t write the business, but they love hearing about it.”
Editor’s Note: The marijuana products and facilities in this article were photographed at Top Shelf Cannabis in Bellingham, Wash.
O’Connor is associate editor of MyNewMarkets.com.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
By Jack Brammer
firstname.lastname@example.org September 6, 2014
FRANKFORT — Under a broiling sun Thursday in front of the Kentucky Capitol, House Republican Leader Jeff Hoover explained and expounded on his vision for a Republican-led state House.
With about 20 candidates from the Grand Old Party behind him, Hoover talked about overhauling the tax code, repealing an expansion of Medicaid under "Obamacare," passing "right-to-work" legislation that would allow people to work in businesses that have unions without joining the union, creating medical review panels to curb frivolous lawsuits, and implementing a host of other conservative proposals.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he was glad Hoover held the news conference — the last one of a three-day media tour in the state to tout House Republican candidates.
"It’s a waste of time for them. The House is going to stay Democratic," Stumbo predicted.
An intense political struggle is underway in the Bluegrass State for control of the state House in the Nov. 4 elections.
Democrats have dominated it since 1921, but Republicans have been steadily gaining on them in the last 20 years.
In 1994, Democrats outnumbered Republicans 71-29 in the House. That dipped to 64-35 in 2004. This year, it stands at 54-46.
Democrats and Republicans agree on at least one thing: Much is at stake.
Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, is concerned his last two years in office could by stymied if Republicans control both the House and Senate. Republicans took over the Senate in 2000 and maintain a solid grip on the upper chamber.
Beshear, who has been on the campaign trail for House Democratic candidates, dismissed the House GOP’s media tour and "Handshake with Kentucky" legislative platform as "the same old stuff they have touted for years."
"They want to reduce taxes on the wealthy and put more of the tax burden on the middle class," Beshear said. "They want to take away health care for 500,000 Kentuckians who just got it, many for the first time. They do not support the minimum wage. To me, it’s the same-old same-old."
Hoover, a Jamestown attorney who concedes that he would like to replace Stumbo as House speaker, said the future of Kentucky is at stake.
"The people will have to decide if we are going to continue the status quo of high unemployment," Hoover said. "Are we going to do things differently? Are we going to change the landscape to create more jobs?"
Stumbo, who has been House speaker since 2009, said Kentuckians need only look at what has happened in other states where "radical Republicans" took over in recent years to understand what’s at stake.
"You have teacher strikes, labor unrest, economic development halts," Stumbo said. "Kentucky is coming out of a major national recession that started with Republicans. We don’t want to go back."
Stumbo especially scoffed at two major pledges in the House Republican "Handshake" platform: ending corruption in the Kentucky House and passing a constitutional amendment that would presumably block implementation of parts of the federal health care law.
"They want to pass a constitutional amendment to prohibit any person or employer being forced to participate in a care system. That’s unconstitutional," he said.
Stumbo noted that the Affordable Care Act, which the U.S. Supreme Court has declared constitutional, includes a penalty provision for people who do not get health insurance.
"The Republicans want to opt out of federal law," Stumbo said. "That’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard. Sounds like they want to boost states’ rights when we had things like slavery."
Hoover laughed when told Stumbo said the GOP amendment was unconstitutional.
"My understanding is that other states have passed or proposed such legislation," Hoover said. "I hear a lot of Kentuckians say they have real problems with mandated coverage. I threw it out there and it’s something we’re going to look at."
Hoover and GOP leaders also want to repeal an expansion of Medicaid that Beshear implemented under the federal health law, saying Kentucky could face a financial crisis if the move isn’t reversed.
As of July 31, more than 521,000 Kentuckians had enrolled in coverage through Kynect, the health insurance exchange created by Beshear under the federal law. The majority of those enrolled received Medicaid, the government-funded insurance program for the poor and disabled.
The percentage of adults without health insurance in Kentucky has dropped from 20.4 percent last year to less than 12 percent, the second largest decline among the states since the federal law took effect in January, according to a Gallup poll released last month.
The federal government is paying the entire cost of the expansion for the first few years, but that drops to 90 percent in coming years.
"Where are we going to pick up the cost for this? $300 million? $500 million? $600 million?" Hoover asked. "Somebody has to talk about picking up the cost."
Stumbo also derided the GOP’s pledge to end corruption in the Kentucky House.
Hoover this week regularly mentioned the ongoing sexual harassment scandal in the House when talking about the GOP pledge.
Sexual harassment lawsuits have been filed against former Democratic Rep. John Arnold of Sturgis. Democrat Will Coursey of Symsonia in Graves County, who is in a tight re-election fight, also has been sued on allegations that he retaliated against a Legislative Research Commission employee after she made claims about his behavior.
Both Arnold and Coursey deny any wrongdoing.
Stumbo said it’s odd that Republicans are talking about ending corruption. He highlighted three controversies involving Republicans:
■ State Rep. Ben Waide of Madisonville is under state indictment for alleged campaign finance violations but claims he did nothing wrong.
■ U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield of Hopkinsville is under investigation by a House ethics panel over allegations that his wife — a lobbyist for the U.S. Humane Society Legislative Fund — improperly lobbied him on behalf of legislation he is sponsoring related to show horses. He has said there was no wrongdoing.
■ Ernie Fletcher, who was governor from 2003 to 2007, was indicted in a state hiring scandal. Fletcher issued several pardons and the investigation was ended by an agreement in 2006 between Fletcher and Stumbo, who was then attorney general.
Besides a war of words on issues, the House Democrats and Republicans are conducting vigorous campaigns and trying to raise as much money as possible to pay for them.
Western Kentucky, where Republicans have gained ground in recent House elections, continues to be a prime potential spot for Republican victories, said Hoover.
He also noted that the 39th House District race in Jessamine and parts of Fayette County seems to be extremely tight.
In that race, Democrat Russ Meyer and Republican Jonah Mitchell, both of Nicholasville, are seeking to replace Democrat Bob Damron, who is running for Jessamine County judge-executive.
Last month, WHAS-TV in Louisville and CN2’s Pure Politics reported that at least six Republican state House candidates had complained that they were the targets of telephone polls that gave positive statements about the Democratic candidate before listing "possible criticisms" of the Republican candidate.
Stumbo acknowledged that Democrats have "tested" messages. "They are truthful," he said.
It’s possible the Nov. 4 elections could produce a 50-50 split in the House, but Stumbo and Hoover downplay the possibility.
"I believe if we can even get close to 50, there would be some Democrats in the House who would switch to Republicans," Hoover said.
Stumbo said "terrible gridlock" has occurred in states where an even split has occurred.
Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.comRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Posted Online: Sept. 06, 2014, 5:31 pm
His gait is slow, and his eyelids often battle against the weight of sleep. Benton Mackenzie struggles, pausing to rest on each step as he climbs to the main floor of his parents’ two-story home, tucked between Eldridge and Long Grove. His eyes close and his back hunches from the effort as he finally reaches the top step. Enveloped in a heavy blanket, the 48-year-old takes halting steps towards the dining room table. He stops to arrange a stack of pillows on his chair then sinks down, his face clenched in pain, the shape of his tumors obvious beneath the folds of his gray sweatpants.
The bulbous cysts are painful reminders of an aggressive form of cancer he has tried to combat by growing marijuana and self-treating with cannabis oil. Benton says the oil — which has low amounts of THC, the psychoactive chemical that makes smokers high — has kept his tumors at bay for more than four years. Illegal in Iowa, his actions drew the attention of Scott County prosecutors.
In May, a Scott County jury convicted Benton, wife Loretta and their son, Cody, 22, of marijuana charges related to 71 plants and paraphernalia found at the home the family shares with Benton’s parents.
"He wasn’t bothering anybody, he wasn’t even telling anybody. And here’s all these people who are salivating over this," his mother, Dorothy "Dottie" Mackenzie, 75, said. "It has gotten to be a joke."
The family is scheduled to be sentenced at 2 p.m. Tuesday in Davenport before Scott County Judge Henry Latham II.
Benton maintains that his crime was nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or more precisely, the wrong state.
Scott County attorney Mike Walton has said he had no choice but to prosecute, given Benton’s prior convictions, including possession of magic mushrooms in 2000 and a 2010 cannabis arrest. In the latter case, Benton maintained he was producing oil for treatment that was more effective than rounds of painful chemotherapy. "Those are his reasons for breaking the law," Mr. Walton said.
Benton continues to defend those reasons with scripture, medical research and by citing the spread of medical marijuana laws around the country. "It is not lawful to stand idly by while somebody else suffers," he said.
Recently back from a trip to Portland, Ore. — where he can buy cannabis oil for medical use — Benton said he was struck by the difference in attitudes, compared to Iowa, where he is currently required to live due to probation restrictions. "It was very refreshing, and overwhelming at the same time," he said. "We weren’t prepared for that much reception."
Oregon’s Medical Marijuana Act was passed in 1998. About 65,000 medical marijuana cards are issued to state residents for conditions ranging from cancer and epilepsy to post traumatic stress and Alzheimer’s, according to the Oregon Health Authority. The state also is gearing up to vote in November over whether to legalize recreational marijuana.
The trip to Portland — which Judge Latham did not object to — was hard on Benton, whose plane ride was made bearable by morphine-based painkillers.
"It was torture," he said. "It’s almost getting to the point where if I don’t take first class, I just can’t fit in the seat."
Benton draws the blanket tighter around his shoulders as he talks, his voice at times reaching barely above a whisper.
His parents’ home around him is cheerfully decorated, brimming with antiques, framed family pictures and paintings done by his brother.
But the quiet family scene was interrupted last June when heavily armed police officers swarmed outside.
Loretta answered the door to guns pointed in her face and shouts of "Get on the floor!" the family said.
"They’ve actually treated this family like we’re some sort of a mafia family or something," Loretta said. "The kind of gusto they put into it … I mean, 20 SWAT agents at 5:45 a.m.?"
Loretta gave up her job to care for Benton after his diagnosis with angiosarcoma in 2011 and, during the recent trial, plumped pillows, fetched water, juggled doctor visits and accompanied him to the hospital after he suffered dizziness and hallucinations.
She spoke excitedly about the family’s trip to Portland. "It’s been amazing. They’ve had the freedom for so many years to innovate with cannabis science. I mean, everybody had their own recipe for tinctures and oils: ‘Use this stuff for burns; use this stuff for aches and pains.’ And, it all works."
After landing, they went to a local dispensary to get cannabis oil and cannabis juice, the taste of which Benton likened to wheat grass or "grass clippings."
They were not allowed to bring the cannabis products back to Iowa.
Frustratingly for the family, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed into a law a medical marijuana bill in May that only allowed epileptics and their caregivers to legally purchase cannabis oil.
"That’s the nature of the bill," Benton said. "With the oil that I need — if I had epilepsy I could bring it back."
Since the Mackenzie family was convicted, supporters have collected more than 16,000 signatures to petition Gov. Branstad to pardon the family.
Jimmy Centers, a spokesman for the governor, declined to comment on whether Gov. Branstad would consider a pardon, saying it was "premature to offer an opinion on a case" prior to sentencing.
Portland provided the Mackenzies a brief reprieve from thinking about the case.
They were invited to speak on the Internet-based show "Cannabis Common Sense," hosted by Paul Stanford.
Loretta ended up doing most of the talking after Benton started to nod off, drained of energy from taking stronger doses of oil than he was used to so he could make up for treatment time lost.
"Every time I’m forced to be without it, or am just without it, it takes so much more coming back to be as effective as it was before," he said.
In Iowa, it’s clear that the family’s paranoia about being targeted by police has not lessened since the trial. At one point during dinner, conversation among the four adults abruptly halted as they strained to watch a black SUV drive slowly past the house.
"They still drive around here," Dottie said, shaking her head.
They had brief relief last month when prosecutor Patrick McElyea dropped charges against Dottie and husband Charles "Chuck" Mackenzie, 76, saying there was no evidence to suggest they hosted a drug house.
The aging couple said they repeatedly declined plea deals offered by prosecutors, in the hope of going to trial and telling their son’s story.
Despite showing up to court in a wheelchair and bandages, Benton’s medical condition was kept secret from jurors, as were his reasons for growing the cannabis plants.
Judge Latham prohibited Benton from using his medical condition as a legal defense, based on the 2005 Iowa Supreme Court decision in State v. Bonjour, in which an AIDS patient arrested for growing marijuana was barred from using a medical defense.
Benton repeatedly challenged Judge Latham’s decision, pointing to Bible passages, such as Genesis 1:29, to argue that God created "seed-bearing plants" — including cannabis — for human use.
"He has never been one to let rules stop him if the rule is stupid," Dottie said. "Rules always had to make sense to Ben."
The family dreams of one day moving to Oregon, where Benton could legally grow and purchase marijuana to manage his cancer.
Plans are cloudier if the sentencing puts them in prison jumpsuits. With the extensive care and treatment Benton requires, the family can’t imagine what imprisonment would mean for them.
"I’m certain that Ben’s case is not the only case of somebody who is using marijuana to treat medical issues," Loretta said. "People are too scared to fight, and I think, if anything, they’re looking at this and saying ‘Wow.’ I think some people will come out of the closet."
Chuck, thinks marijuana has been unfairly demonized at the expense of those who need it.
"People are afraid of it — you see people, you say marijuana, and they equate it with somebody laying down on a street corner, smoking," Chuck said. "And that’s not what this is about."
For now, Benton remains in pain, his family praying for a miracle. He says he is waiting for the "punchline" to all of this.
"I think it’s built to a point where it has to make a change," Benton said. "Something is going to happen because of it. It’s un-ignorable."
Months ago, the isolationism of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was so extreme that I said he might as well be President Bashar Assad’s man in Washington, referring to the Syrian dictator and murderer at a time when Rand Paul was following the policy of Ron Paul of extreme non-intervention. Times have changed, or shall I say Rand Paul’s calculations have changed, so his positions have changed.
Now Sen. Paul mocks President Obama over the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and vows to be a super-hawk going after ISIS. I guess when it’s time to raise campaign money for a presidential campaign, and time to court neoconservatives, and time to appeal to a GOP that does not favor extreme isolationism, the new Rand Paul now debates the old Rand Paul, while he throws under the bus the principled stand of the only true Ron Paul.
When Rand Paul suggests that Obama has created a "jihadist wonderland," can he deny every jihadi in the world would have spent recent years cheering Rand Paul’s extremism isolationism? He not only reveals a lack of depth and commitment on national security, and reveals the kind of shallow opportunism that voters reject in politicians today, but he abandons the long legacy of the principled foreign policy of Ron Paul.
Regarding Iraq, I agreed with Ron Paul and opposed the invasion of Iraq by Bush 43, while on some other issues I disagreed with his noninterventionism. But Ron Paul, unlike Rand Paul, took a highly principled position, which I respect.
At various times Rand Paul has been against action on Syria before he was for it. He was for cutting aid to Israel before he was against it. At one point, he appeared to be for and against action against Iran at the same time. Rand Paul’s views on national security are like the old soap opera "As the World Turns." What will Rand Paul believe tomorrow about war and peace? Who knows? In presidential politics, unlike Ron Paul, it is political calculation that determines Rand Paul’s military policies in what may be titled "As Rand Paul Turns."
Folks, the gentleman from Kentucky is not ready to be commander-in-chief, not even close. He makes Barack Obama look like British Prime Minister Winston Churchill by comparison. And now he throws Ron Paul’s foreign policy position under the bus, which will not persuade neoconservatives or mainline Republicans that he is ready to be commander-in-chief, but may persuade many Ron Paul supporters that like father is not always like son.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. Contact him at email@example.com.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
By Jordan Fifer and Jeff Sturgeon | The Roanoke Times
A group of protesters who unfurled a large banner criticizing coal magnate Jim Justice and the practices of his Roanoke-based mining company caused a spectacle in downtown Roanoke on Thursday morning, prompting a large police and fire response to take down the display.
Five people were brought away in handcuffs after the sign was strung between two midrise buildings shortly after 9 a.m., spanning busy Jefferson Street.
The sign was in protest of Justice, who lives in West Virginia but bases his company Southern Coal Corp. in Roanoke, three doors down from where the banner was hung. Southern Coal has been the target of state and federal regulators and activists for numerous documented environmental problems at 30 company mines in five states, including Virginia.
“JIM JUSTICE PROFITS APPALACHIA PAYS,” read black letters on one side of the large white banner, while the reverse claimed, “JIM JUSTICE: TOXIC SPILL BILLIONAIRE.”
The five — identified as Rebecca Marie Holmes, 23, of Wise County; Heather Glasgow Doyle, 30, of Blacksburg; Kyle Scott Gibson, 28, of Wise County; William E. Blevins, 32, of Wise County; and Catherine Ann MacDougal, 27, of Gloucester, Massachusetts — were charged with interfering with the property rights of the building owners, a misdemeanor, police spokesman Scott Leamon said. Each was granted a $1,500 secured bond but remained in jail as of Thursday afternoon.
Three groups with an environmental bent, two of them Appalachia-focused, claimed to have had a role in the banner incident. One, Mountain Justice, describes its goal as to “seek to save our mountains, streams and forest from greedy coal companies,” according to its website.
Another group, Radical Action for Mountain People’s Survival, also known as RAMPS and based in West Virginia, describes itself as “a non-violent direct action campaign” against strip mining. The third group that said it had a role, Rising Tide North America, based in San Francisco, is “confronting the root causes of climate change,” its website says.
D. Steele, a 23-year-old from Matewan, West Virginia, who gave only his first initial, said he was with RAMPS. As the demonstration wrapped up, he said the group aimed “to make Jim Justice be accountable for his unfair business and environmental practices.”
As of July, federal regulators were tracking 277 unabated or uncorrected environmental violations dating to 2011 at Justice company mines in Virginia, West Virginia, Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee, said a spokesman for the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, a federal agency that polices mine operators. “Civil penalties are piling up,” Chris Holmes said.
The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy has begun proceedings to seize money placed in safekeeping by the company to guarantee reclamation of disturbed mined land at four Wise County locations. The Justice companies are appealing that state action, and Justice has said reclamation of those mines would be premature.
Justice, who could not be reached Thursday, has said most of the 277 violations were paperwork-related. “I’m cleaning it up,” he said in July.
In the view of the Roanoke protesters, Justice is an environmental scofflaw.
“He chooses the cheapest practices at the expense of his own employees,” said 32-year-old Erin McKelvy of Lee County, who said she belongs to Mountain Justice and came out to support the cause. “For somebody who’s a billionaire, you would think he would be able to do a good job, pay off his debts and clean up the messes he’s made.”
Police and fire crews closed about a block off Jefferson Street between Campbell Avenue and Church Street for about 90 minutes while they removed the banner and escorted the protesters down from atop two buildings.
The protesters “had attached themselves to the base of the banner, using their weight to anchor it, and declined to move,” Leamon said.
The owner of one of the buildings asked police to remove the sign, he said.
Roanoke Fire-EMS Deputy Chief Jeff Beckner, who was on one of the roofs, said the protesters offered no resistance during their arrests.
Police confiscated climbing equipment in bookbags including carabiners, yellow safety vests and rope, police Sgt. J.H. Bowdel said. A photo posted on Facebook showed the protesters wearing the vests on the roof.
“Everyone made sure to take all the necessary precautions to protect themselves and everyone else,” Steele said.
No one was injured, he said, describing the incident as a deliberate public act to try to create public pressure without regard to what he called “the legality of the tactics.”
The protest became a midmorning spectacle, with perhaps 60 to 70 workers and pedestrians milling about and stopping to take photos.
Some said they supported the protesters’ efforts but were unsure what the cause was about. A few said though they supported the right to protest, it should be done in a safe way.
“You got to realize that you got this hanging up right here and it’s caused a lot of businesses problems, and also you got the law involved over something stupid hanging up,” said Roger Simmons of Roanoke. “If that thing falls down and lands on a car, you’re going to have a big accident right now.”
Asked about any public safety risk of the protesters’ efforts, McKelvy said people should be more worried about the message the group was spreading.
“The public safety concern is what Justice and his company is doing,” she said.
- Justice mining company loses lawsuit over layoff in Wise County
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Posted: Monday, August 25, 2014 7:13 pm | Updated: 10:48 pm, Mon Aug 25, 2014.
Though the bumper stickers might have made one think they were at a political rally, local law enforcement, farmers and officials from both major parties toured one of two industrial hemp plots Monday in Christian County.
For the first time in 50 years, the research crop was planted in June at Davis Farms in Pembroke and Rachel McCubbin’s llama farm in northern Christian County.
Two months later, both plots have shot up out of the ground. Much higher than knee-high in July, the Davis Farm plot towered well above even the tallest of those in attendance.
Hemp is illegal in the U.S. because of its similarity to the more-potent marijuana. The plot is one of many pilots planted across the state before the official start of summer.
With the support of both Democrats and Republicans, research plots of the crop were legalized through a provision in the federal farm bill. Kentucky, once a leader in industrial hemp production, ordered seeds from Italy bound for pilots across the state, but they were held up for more than a month in a customs battle with federal agencies. The state’s department of agriculture eventually filed suit in federal court to release the seeds and got them back after agreeing to additional paperwork.
The office of Sen. Rand Paul and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture hosted the tour.
McCubbin, Paul’s deputy state director, said her crop did not do as well after a summer with little rain. However, with more testing she said the crop could bring business to Kentucky.
“It’s not illegal to purchase or repurpose these hemp products. They can sell it all day long but our farmers cannot grow it here.”
Attendees also included Democratic Hopkinsville mayoral candidate and former state senator Joey Pendleton and former Democratic representative Fred Nesler, who now works for the agriculture department.
“We do know our state is ripe for growing it (and) we do know there are farmers willing to grow it,“ Nesler said. “There’s people out there that are interested in growing this crop.”
Although not officially endorsing hemp in Kentucky, local law enforcement officials are opening themselves up to the possibilities industrial hemp could bring to the state’s economy.
Hemp can be used in everything from food to construction materials. Although hemp products are not illegal, U.S. farmers have not been permitted to grow hemp until now. Instead, products like hemp bath products, clothing and insulation are made from hemp grown in other countries, with much of it coming from Canada. The Davis Farm plot will test the crop’s potential to be used for fiber and may be used to create a concrete-like mixture that is more weather-resistant than cement.
Christian County Sheriff Livy Leavell questioned law enforcement’s job ahead, specifically how the department would differentiate between marijuana and hemp. In size and shape the plants are identical, and both contain the hallucinogenic causing chemical THC.
“If we pull over an 18-wheeler full of hemp, how do we know the difference?” Leavell asked.
Although hemp does not contain enough THC to produce a high, when tested using a chemical that reacts to the presence of THC by a Trenton police officer, hemp tested positive.
“I don’t envy your job,” McCubbin said to law enforcement representatives present.
Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission member Katie Moyer said while the similarities in live plants may be uncanny, legal hemp growers would have necessary paperwork showing origin, destination and purpose.
Additionally, the state gives GPS coordinates of licensed growers’ plots to state police.
“Every trucker has a bill of lading,” Moyer said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re transporting Oreos or hemp.”
Moyer said it is also unlikely that hemp will be transported in its raw form as it will be baled and processed before shipping.
Reach Margarita Cambest at 270-887-3231 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
You may be eligible to grow pot for the federal government. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) posted a listing on Tuesday night requesting proposals from people fit to “cultivate, grow, harvest, analyze and store” cannabis for research.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), an NIH branch specializing in researching drug abuse and addiction, will lead the project. It is looking for growers who can help them manufacture new methods for growing cannabis plants modified with different doses of tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol, the psychoactive and medicinal components of marijuana, respectively.
But in order to grow cannabis for the feds, farmers must comply with many stipulations. First, you must officially register with the DEA in order to be eligible to develop and manufacture marijuana. You must also have at least 12 acres of a “secure and video monitored outdoor facility” to grow pot on and a greenhouse at least 1,000 square feet in size to grow and sustain cannabis plants.
To be eligible, you must also demonstrate to the Food and Drug Administration and the DEA that you have a storage vault capable of storing roughly 400 to 700 kilograms of cannabis materials. The listing also says that participants might be required to "design, develop, manufacture, analyze, store and distribute" cannabis extracts for clinical research, and manufacture cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practices) cannabis cigarettes. Potential vendors must live in one of the two states where farmers can grow marijuana legally in the United States, Washington or Colorado.
In 18 states cannabis has been decriminalized, while 23 states have laws allowing eligible residents to purchase medical marijuana.
The agency said that it made the listing into a bidding competition because its marijuana farm contract will be expiring soon. It “anticipates” that vendors will receive a one-year contract with four-year options following a successful first year. “It’s a free and open competition—we will consider proposals from any responsible offers,” NIDA told Newsweek.
By Paula Mejia
Filed: 8/28/14 at 5:45 PMRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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