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About – The New Jim Crow

The New Jim Crow is a stunning account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States, one that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then relegated to a permanent second-class statusdenied the very rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement. Since its publication in 2010, the book has appeared on theNew York Timesbestseller list for more than a year; been dubbed the secular bible of a new social movement by numerous commentators, including Cornel West;and has led to consciousness-raising efforts in universities, churches, community centers, re-entry centers, and prisons nationwide. The New Jim Crow tells a truth our nation has been reluctant to face.

As the United States celebrates its triumph over race with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of black men in major urban areas are under correctional control or saddled with criminal records for life. Jim Crow laws were wiped off the books decades ago, but today an extraordinary percentage of the African American community is warehoused in prisons or trapped in a parallel social universe, denied basic civil and human rightsincluding the right to vote; the right to serve on juries; and the right to be free of legal discrimination in employment, housing, access to education and public benefits. Today, it is no longer socially permissible to use race explicitly as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt. Yet as civil-rights-lawyer-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander demonstrates, it is perfectly legal to discriminate against convicted criminals in nearly all the ways in which it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans. Once labeled a felon, even for a minor drug crime, the old forms of discrimination are suddenly legal again. In her words, we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.

Alexander shows that, by targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness.

The New Jim Crowchallenges the civil rights communityand all of usto place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.

Click here to read an excerpt from the Introduction.

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About – The New Jim Crow

A Brief History of the Drug War | Drug Policy Alliance

This video from hip hop legend Jay Z and acclaimed artist Molly Crabapple depicts the drug wars devastating impact on the Black community from decades of biased law enforcement.

The video traces the drug war from President Nixon to the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws to the emerging aboveground marijuana market that is poised to make legal millions for wealthy investors doing the same thing that generations of people of color have been arrested and locked up for. After you watch the video, read on to learn more about the discriminatory history of the war on drugs.

Many currently illegal drugs, such as marijuana, opium, coca, and psychedelics have been used for thousands of years for both medical and spiritual purposes. So why are some drugs legal and other drugs illegal today? It’s not based on any scientific assessment of the relative risks of these drugs but it has everything to do with who is associated with these drugs.

The first anti-opium laws in the 1870s were directed at Chinese immigrants. The first anti-cocaine laws in the early 1900s were directed at black men in the South. The first anti-marijuana laws, in the Midwest and the Southwest in the 1910s and 20s, were directed at Mexican migrants and Mexican Americans. Today, Latino and especially black communities are still subject to wildly disproportionate drug enforcement and sentencing practices.

In the 1960s, as drugs became symbols of youthful rebellion, social upheaval, and political dissent, the government halted scientific research to evaluate their medical safety and efficacy.

In June 1971, President Nixon declared a war on drugs. He dramatically increased the size and presence of federal drug control agencies, and pushed through measures such as mandatory sentencing and no-knock warrants.

A top Nixon aide, John Ehrlichman, later admitted: You want to know what this was really all about. The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what Im saying. We knew we couldnt make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.Nixon temporarily placed marijuana in Schedule One, the most restrictive category of drugs, pending review by a commission he appointed led by Republican Pennsylvania Governor Raymond Shafer.

In 1972, the commission unanimously recommended decriminalizing the possession and distribution of marijuana for personal use. Nixon ignored the report and rejected its recommendations.

Between 1973 and 1977, however, eleven states decriminalized marijuana possession. In January 1977, President Jimmy Carter was inaugurated on a campaign platform that included marijuana decriminalization. In October 1977, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use.

Within just a few years, though, the tide had shifted. Proposals to decriminalize marijuana were abandoned as parents became increasingly concerned about high rates of teen marijuana use. Marijuana was ultimately caught up in a broader cultural backlash against the perceived permissiveness of the 1970s.

The presidency of Ronald Reagan marked the start of a long period of skyrocketing rates of incarceration, largely thanks to his unprecedented expansion of the drug war. The number of people behind bars for nonviolent drug law offenses increased from 50,000 in 1980 to over 400,000 by 1997.

Public concern about illicit drug use built throughout the 1980s, largely due to media portrayals of people addicted to the smokeable form of cocaine dubbed crack. Soon after Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, his wife, Nancy Reagan, began a highly-publicized anti-drug campaign, coining the slogan “Just Say No.”

This set the stage for the zero tolerance policies implemented in the mid-to-late 1980s. Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates, who believed that casual drug users should be taken out and shot, founded the DARE drug education program, which was quickly adopted nationwide despite the lack of evidence of its effectiveness. The increasingly harsh drug policies also blocked the expansion of syringe access programs and other harm reduction policies to reduce the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS.

In the late 1980s, a political hysteria about drugs led to the passage of draconian penalties in Congress and state legislatures that rapidly increased the prison population. In 1985, the proportion of Americans polled who saw drug abuse as the nation’s “number one problem” was just 2-6 percent. The figure grew through the remainder of the 1980s until, in September 1989, it reached a remarkable 64 percent one of the most intense fixations by the American public on any issue in polling history. Within less than a year, however, the figure plummeted to less than 10 percent, as the media lost interest. The draconian policies enacted during the hysteria remained, however, and continued to result in escalating levels of arrests and incarceration.

Although Bill Clinton advocated for treatment instead of incarceration during his 1992 presidential campaign, after his first few months in the White House he reverted to the drug war strategies of his Republican predecessors by continuing to escalate the drug war. Notoriously, Clinton rejected a U.S. Sentencing Commission recommendation to eliminate the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences.

He also rejected, with the encouragement of drug czar General Barry McCaffrey, Health Secretary Donna Shalalas advice to end the federal ban on funding for syringe access programs. Yet, a month before leaving office, Clinton asserted in a Rolling Stone interview that “we really need a re-examination of our entire policy on imprisonment” of people who use drugs, and said that marijuana use “should be decriminalized.”

At the height of the drug war hysteria in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a movement emerged seeking a new approach to drug policy. In 1987, Arnold Trebach and Kevin Zeese founded the Drug Policy Foundation describing it as the loyal opposition to the war on drugs. Prominent conservatives such as William Buckley and Milton Friedman had long advocated for ending drug prohibition, as had civil libertarians such as longtime ACLU Executive Director Ira Glasser. In the late 1980s they were joined by Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, Federal Judge Robert Sweet, Princeton professor Ethan Nadelmann, and other activists, scholars and policymakers.

In 1994, Nadelmann founded The Lindesmith Center as the first U.S. project of George Soros Open Society Institute. In 2000, the growing Center merged with the Drug Policy Foundation to create the Drug Policy Alliance.

George W. Bush arrived in the White House as the drug war was running out of steam yet he allocated more money than ever to it. His drug czar, John Walters, zealously focused on marijuana and launched a major campaign to promote student drug testing. While rates of illicit drug use remained constant, overdose fatalities rose rapidly.

The era of George W. Bush also witnessed the rapid escalation of the militarization of domestic drug law enforcement. By the end of Bush’s term, there were about 40,000 paramilitary-style SWAT raids on Americans every year mostly for nonviolent drug law offenses, often misdemeanors. While federal reform mostly stalled under Bush, state-level reforms finally began to slow the growth of the drug war.

Politicians now routinely admit to having used marijuana, and even cocaine, when they were younger. When Michael Bloomberg was questioned during his 2001 mayoral campaign about whether he had ever used marijuana, he said, “You bet I did and I enjoyed it.” Barack Obama also candidly discussed his prior cocaine and marijuana use: “When I was a kid, I inhaled frequently that was the point.”

Public opinion has shifted dramatically in favor of sensible reforms that expand health-based approaches while reducing the role of criminalization in drug policy.

Marijuana reform has gained unprecedented momentum throughout the Americas. Alaska, California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts, Washington State, and Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana for adults. In December 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legally regulate marijuana. In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans legalize marijuana for adults by 2018.

In response to a worsening overdose epidemic, dozens of U.S. states passed laws to increase access to the overdose antidote, naloxone, as well as 911 Good Samaritan laws to encourage people to seek medical help in the event of an overdose.

Yet the assault on American citizens and others continues, with 700,000 people still arrested for marijuana offenses each year and almost 500,000 people still behind bars for nothing more than a drug law violation.

President Obama, despite supporting several successful policy changes such as reducing the crack/powder sentencing disparity, ending the ban on federal funding for syringe access programs, and ending federal interference with state medical marijuana laws did not shift the majority of drug policy funding to a health-based approach.

Now, the new administration is threatening to take us backward toward a 1980s style drug war. President Trump is calling for a wall to keep drugs out of the country, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made it clear that he does not support the sovereignty of states to legalize marijuana, and believes good people dont smoke marijuana.

Progress is inevitably slow, and even with an administration hostile to reform there is still unprecedented momentum behind drug policy reform in states and localities across the country. The Drug Policy Alliance and its allies will continue to advocate for health-based reforms such as marijuana legalization, drug decriminalization, safe consumption sites, naloxone access, bail reform, and more.

We look forward to a future where drug policies are shaped by science and compassion rather than political hysteria.

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A Brief History of the Drug War | Drug Policy Alliance

Political crime – Wikipedia

In criminology, a political crime or political offence is an offence involving overt acts or omissions (where there is a duty to act), which prejudice the interests of the state, its government, or the political system. It is to be distinguished from state crime, in which it is the states that break both their own criminal laws or public international law.[1]

States will define as political crimes any behaviour perceived as a threat, real or imagined, to the state’s survival, including both violent and non-violent oppositional crimes. A consequence of such criminalisation may be that a range of human rights, civil rights, and freedoms are curtailed, and conduct which would not normally be considered criminal per se (in other words, that is not antisocial according to those who engage in it) is criminalised at the convenience of the group holding power.

Thus, there may be a question of the morality of a law which simply criminalises ordinary political dissent,[2] even though the majority of those who support the current regime may consider criminalisation of politically motivated behaviour an acceptable response when the offender is driven by more extreme political, ideological, religious or other beliefs,

At one extreme, crimes such as treason, sedition, and terrorism are political because they represent a direct challenge to the government in power. Espionage is usually considered a criminal act.[3] But offenders do not have to aim to overthrow the government or to depose its leaders to be acting in a way perceived as “political”. A state may perceive it threatening if individuals advocate change to the established order, or argue the need for reform of long-established policies, or engage in acts signifying some degree of disloyalty, e.g. by burning the nation’s flag in public. But the scope of such crimes can be rather less direct.

Structural functionist criminologists recognise that states invest their resources in maintaining order through social conformity, i.e. a particular culture is encouraged and maintained through the primary social discourses which may include religious, economic, social, or other less formal concerns. Any interference with the media of communication or the sets of meanings embedded in the communications themselves may be perceived as a threat to the political authority of the state. Hence, whether in hard copy or electronically, if individuals distribute material containing uncensored information which undermines the credibility of state-controlled news media, this may be considered threatening.

Moreover, even an offence against non-governmental institutions, persons, or practices may be deemed political. Violence or even discrimination against an ethnic or racial group, as well trade union strikes or picketing against private employers, can be perceived as a political crime when those in power see such conduct as undermining the political (and economic) stability of the state. In this context, note that the Law Enforcement Code of Conduct passed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police says in part: “The fundamental duties of a police officer include serving the community, safeguarding lives and property, protecting the innocent, keeping the peace and ensuring the rights of all to liberty, equality and justice” (cited in Robinson, 2002). This code requires that police behave in a courteous and fair manner, that they treat all citizens in a respectable and decent manner, and that they never use unnecessary force. When they do, it is argued that this constitutes a crime (e.g. as an assault) and, if it is institutionalised, then over time, the use of unnecessary force become a state crime.

Marxist criminologists argue that most political crime arises from the efforts of the state to reproduce the structures of inequality: racism, sexism, ethnic preference as well as class advantages. Thus, states will protect property rights and reduce the rights of trade unions to represent the interests of the poor. Even war could be grounded in the problems of local capitalists in wealthy countries in the effort to move raw materials, profits and jobs in a globalised political economy, and opposing such a war will be a political crime. Marxists do not dispute that, for a society to function efficiently, social order is necessary. But they consider that, in all societies, one class, usually characterised as the “ruling class”, gains far more than other classes. Marxists agree with functionalists that socialisation plays a crucial role in promoting conformity and order. However, unlike the latter, they are highly critical of the ideas, values and norms of “capitalist ideology”. Modern Marxists point to education and the media as socialising agencies, which delude or “mystify” the working class into conforming to a social order, which works against its real interests. Thus, all controls which directly or indirectly explit the criminal law to control access to the discourses are political crimes.

Miller says that one of the defining characteristics of power in modern history has been the rationalisation and bureaucratisation of law. Legal codification, or at least debates over the merits of legal codification, became an almost global phenomenon in the nineteenth century as state power was centralised. In particular, the rationalisation of criminal law standardised not just the concept of crime, but was adopted as the means to eliminate the “deviant” as a threat to a modern, uniform, moral standard. In this, the religious establishment began to play a new role in defining “evil” in which threats to the political or social norm became as dangerous as threats to religious orthodoxy. Thus, political speech became one of the most likely activities to be criminalised. The freedom of association and to meet may also be criminalised if the purpose is to express oppositional political views.

Because a political offender may be fighting against a tyrannical government, treaties have usually specified that a person cannot be extradited for a political offense. Thomas Jefferson wrote:[4]

People convicted or suspected of certain crimes classified as terrorism by the government of their country (or some foreign countries) reject that classification. They consider that their fight is a legitimate one using legitimate means, and thus their crimes should be more appropriately called political crimes and justify special treatment in the penal system (as if they were soldiers in a war and therefore covered by the Geneva Convention). States tend to consider the political nature of the crimes an aggravating factor in the sentencing process and make no distinction between the terrorists and “ordinary” offenders, e.g. the convicted murderers of Action Directe consider themselves political prisoners.

Where there is no clear separation between the state and the prevailing religion, the edicts of the church may be codified as law and enforced by the secular policing and judicial authorities. This is a highly functionalist mechanism for enforcing conformity in all aspects of cultural life and the use of the label “crime” adds an extra layer of stigma to those convicted.

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Political crime – Wikipedia

Environmental Crimes – UNICRI

Environmental crimes

UNICRI considers environmental crime, including its links with other forms of crime, a serious and growing danger for development, global stability and international security.

Since 1991, UNICRI has contributed to combating crimes against the environment and related emerging threats through applied research, awareness and capacity-building initiatives. UNICRI has built a strong international network of experts and practitioners from major international organization, law enforcement agencies, NGOs and academic entities active in the field.

Environmental crimes encompass a broad list of illicit activities, including illegal trade in wildlife; smuggling of ozone-depleting substances (ODS); illicit trade of hazardous waste; illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing; and illegal logging and trade in timber. On one side, environmental crimes are increasingly affecting the quality of air, water and soil, threatening the survival of species and causing uncontrollable disasters. On the other, environmental crimes also impose a security and safety threat to a large number of people and have a significant negative impact on development and the rule of law. Despite these issues, environmental crimes often fail to prompt the appropriate governmental response. Often perceived as victimless and incidental crimes, environmental crimes frequently rank low on the law enforcement priority list, and are commonly punished with administrative sanctions, themselves often unclear and low.

The involvement of organized criminal groups acting across borders is one of many factors that have favoured the considerable expansion of environmental crimes in recent years. Led by vast financial gains and facilitated by a low risk of detection and scarce conviction rates, criminal networks and organized criminal groups are becoming increasingly interested in such illicit transnational activities. These phenomena fuel corruption and money-laundering, and undermine the rule of law, ultimately affecting the public twice: first, by putting at risk citizens health and safety; and second, by diverting resources that would otherwise be allocated to services other than criminal activities.

The level of organization needed for these crimes indicates a link with other serious offences, including theft, fraud, corruption, drugs and human trafficking, counterfeiting, firearms smuggling, and money laundering, several of which have been substantiated by investigations. Therefore, environmental crimes represent today an emerging form of transnational organized crime requiring more in-depth analysis and better-coordinated responses at national, regional and international levels.

The first research projects conducted by UNICRI addressed the issue of environmental law, and in particular explored the limits and potentials of applying criminal law in crimes related to environment. In June 1998, UNICRI organised in Rome a seminar on international environmental conventions and the administration of criminal law. Since then, the Institute has focused on the involvement of organized criminal groups in environmental crime.

To increase awareness of the threat of environmental crime, UNICRI contributed to the organization of the conference entitled Illicit trafficking in waste: a global emergency (Rome, December 2011), with the participation of the Ministry of the Environment of Italy, parliamentarians, international partners such as the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), and many stakeholders involved in countering trafficking in and dumping of toxic waste. To enhance understanding of the dynamics of environmental crime, the Institute implemented a research and data collection project focused on the dumping of illegal waste and hazardous materials, including e-waste, and the involvement of organized crime.

In partnership with several research institutes, civil society organizations, and municipalities, UNICRI has launched a process for consultation at the international level on the involvement of organized crime in environmental crime, with a view to identify a set of recommendations for more effective policies and actions at the national, regional and international levels. To that end, the Institute, in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has organized an international conference in Italy on 29 and 30 October 2012 (see dedicated section).

UNICRI has implemented several international and regional applied-research projects related to the illegal trade and trafficking goods having an adverse impact on the environment, including e-waste, illicit pesticides and precious metals (see dedicated sections).

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Environmental Crimes – UNICRI

Users of Crypto Site Where Dead CEO Lost $196M Are Preparing Suit

QuadrigaCX has about two weeks left to its stay to raise the money it owes before anyone can sue, but a judge just appointed law firms to its customers.

Making Moves

Remember that cryptocurrency exchange that said it lost $196 million of its customers’ money when CEO Gerald Cotten died — prompting conspiracy theories Cotten faked his own death?

Well, those 115,000 customers just lawyered up.

Ticking Clock

Michael Wood, a justice on Nova Scotia’s Supreme Court, issued a ruling Tuesday that QuadrigaCX customers would be represented by two law firms, Miller Thomson as well as Cox & Palmer, in the event of a class-action lawsuit, according to CoinDesk.

So far, no one has filed suit against QuadrigaCX — though the users’ new lawyers can start preparing one, according to CoinDesk. On Feb. 5, the courts approved a 30-day stay at the company’s request. That leaves QuadrigaCX with about two more weeks to settle the matter and come up with $196 million on its own before anyone can sue.

Next Steps

Once the stay expires on March 7, the crypto exchange may try to have it extended. But that appeal would come before Judge Wood.

Given his move to prepare QuadrigaCX customers for a potential lawsuit, Wood may decide that QuadrigaCX was given enough time and open up the floor to any lawsuits.

READ MORE: Judge Appoints Law Firms to Represent QuadrigaCX Customers [CoinDesk]

More on QuadrigaCX: Indian Hospital Fires Back at Rumors That Crypto CEO Faked Death

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Users of Crypto Site Where Dead CEO Lost $196M Are Preparing Suit

Lab-Grown Meat Could Be Worse for the Environment

The benefits of lab-grown meat will depend on scientists' ability to produce it sustainably, and right now, we don't know if that's even possible.

Growing Change

Meat farming is a major contributor of the greenhouse gases driving climate change. To ensure we never have to choose between a livable planet and a juicy hamburger, scientists are attempting to efficiently grow convincing imitation meat in the lab using everything from volcano-dwelling microbes to stem cells.

But new research suggests the efforts of those scientists might be in vain — it turns out that growing meat in the lab might actually do more damage to the environment than producing it the traditional way.

Meat Market

For their study, published Tuesday in the journal Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, researchers from the Oxford Martin School compared the potential impact on the global temperature over the next 1,000 years of three cattle farming methods and four potential methods for growing meat in the lab.

Their comparison revealed that yes, lab-grown meat could be better for the environment — but it won’t be better by default.

“The climate impacts of cultured meat production will depend on what level of sustainable energy generation can be achieved, as well as the efficiency of future culture processes,” researcher John Lynch told the BBC. “If the lab-grown meat is quite energy intensive to produce then they could end up being worse for the climate than cows are.”

Apples and Oranges

The methane emitted by cattle also has a different kind of impact on the environment than the carbon dioxide that scientists might pump into the atmosphere while producing meat in the lab.

“Per tonne emitted, methane has a much larger warming impact than carbon dioxide,” researcher Raymond Pierrehumbert said in a press release. “However, it only remains in the atmosphere for about 12 years whereas carbon dioxide persists and accumulates for millennia.”

Ultimately, this research reveals that it’s still too soon to know whether lab-grown meat could actually solve our agriculture-caused climate woes — which means we might still be headed toward a future in which we need to trade at least some of our steaks for salads.

READ MORE: Cultured Lab Meat May Make Climate Change Worse [BBC]

More on lab-grown meat: To Feed a Hungry Planet, We’re All Going to Need to Eat Less Meat

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Lab-Grown Meat Could Be Worse for the Environment

New Gadget Detects Lifeforms From Long Distances

A new tool called the TreePol spectropolarimeter could someday scan for extraterrestrial life without picking up any false positives.

Upgrading SETI

A new scientific instrument with the extraordinary name “TreePol spectropolarimeter” can be used to detect the presence of lifeforms from several kilometers away.

And while right now the device is best used for spotting faraway plants, a high-powered version of the tool could someday serve as the most reliable means of searching for extraterrestrial life to date, according to a press release published Tuesday by The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).

Advanced Search

Often, when scientists talk about which exoplanets or moons might harbor life, they weigh factors like water, atmospheric oxygen, and the presence of organic molecules. But that opens the door to all kinds of false positives — there’s an underwater lake on Mars, for instance, but that doesn’t mean anything lives there.

But TreePol detects light that’s been rotated after bouncing off molecules found only in living things. The tool was specifically built to detect foliage, but can also detect light that bounced off of most living things on Earth, according to the press release.

Long Shot

It’s possible that the molecules that make up whatever extraterrestrial life might exist out there doesn’t interact with light in the same way as life on Earth. But the important distinction here is that nothing else on Earth does — nothing will trigger TreePol’s sensors except for living things.

Right now, the team is preparing to test whether TreePol could be used to analyze crops from a plane or satellite, slowly ramping up the distance over which TreePol scans. If those tests work, the scientists will investigate whether they can use it to scan the cosmos, perhaps by sending TreePol up to the International Space Station.

READ MORE: Reliable method for detecting extraterrestrial life is used on Earth for the first time [NWO Newsroom]

More on extraterrestrial life: Scientists Need to Solve These Two Mysteries to Find Life on Mars

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New Gadget Detects Lifeforms From Long Distances

Scientists Found a “River of Stars” Flowing Through the Milky Way

New research has uncovered a stellar stream comprising 4,000 stars flowing through the Milky Way remarkably close to the Earth.

Flow On

The Milky Way is home to a variety of star clusters. Most of the time, its gravity quickly pulls these clusters apart, but some clusters have enough mass to remain stuck together, and sometimes the clusters form stellar streams, which are river-like stretches of stars that orbit the galaxy.

Now, researchers have identified a billion-year-old stellar stream comprising nearly 4,000 stars — and it’s remarkably close to our Sun.

Close Encounter

In a study published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics on Thursday, a team from the University of Vienna details its discovery of this new stellar stream, which is approximately 1,300 light-years long and 160 light-years wide.

The team discovered the stream using data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite, and according to researcher João Alves, it’s been hiding in plain sight.

“Astronomers have been looking at, and through, this new stream for a long time, as it covers most of the night sky, but only now realize it is there,” he explained in a press release.

“As soon as we investigated this particular group of stars in more detail, we knew that we had found what we were looking for: A coeval, stream-like structure, stretching for hundreds of parsecs across a third of the entire sky,” researcher Verena Fürnkranz said. “It was so thrilling to be part of a new discovery.”

Down River

The researchers are already looking ahead to what new insights they may be able to glean from this river of stars, positing that it could lead to new information on how galaxies gain their stars, the discovery of new exoplanets, and an improved understanding of the Milky Way’s mass and gravitational field.

“Finding things close to home is very useful,” Alves said. “It means they are not too faint nor too blurred for further detailed exploration, as astronomers dream.”

READ MORE: Astronomers Have Detected a Previously Unnoticed ‘River of Stars’ Flowing Past Earth [Science Alert]

More on stellar streams: Dark Energy Survey Discovers Remnants of Other Galaxies Within Our Own

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Scientists Found a “River of Stars” Flowing Through the Milky Way

Japan Sends Robot Into the Nuclear Hell of the Fukushima Reactor

A robot just physically examined the radioactive fuel at the damaged Fukushima Nuclear Reactor. It's the first step toward an ongoing cleanup mission.

Nuclear Probe

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) just sent a robot into one of the reactors of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which was destroyed by a tsunami back in 2011.

The robot made contact with the melted fuel, picking it up and putting it back down to determine whether it was solid enough to cart away during a future mission, according to Ars Technica.

Image Credit: TEPCO

The Claw

Fukushima won’t be fully decommissioned for another 30 to 40 years. But this robotic mission is the first step toward determining how other robots will go about cleaning it up.

In this case, the robot was able to pick up small chunks of the radioactive fuel at five of the six test sites, all of which were located inside one of the power plant’s three damaged reactors. TEPCO published a video of the process taken by the robot’s built-in camera, in which you can see a robotic claw position itself around and pick up small pieces of fuel.

Catch and Release

None of the radioactive fuel left the reactor along with the robot when the mission was over. But that wasn’t the plan. Rather, this mission marks the first time that a robot has been able to physically examine Fukushima’s fuel.

The team hopes to start retrieving some of the deadly fuel in 2021, now that they know it can be physically lifted.

READ MORE: Japanese utility makes first contact with melted Fukushima fuel [Ars Technica]

More on Fukushima: A $320 Million Ice Wall Still Can’t Contain Radioactive Water Near Fukushima

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Japan Sends Robot Into the Nuclear Hell of the Fukushima Reactor

WHO Says UN Should Reclassify Marijuana as Less Dangerous

New Class

Marijuana could soon be reclassified on an international scale.

In 1948, the United Nations (UN) established the World Health Organization (WHO) to serve as its conduit to all things health-related. Now, the agency is recommending that the UN reclassify marijuana to a less restrictive narcotics schedule — a move that could have a huge impact on public health worldwide.

Narcotics Treaty

Under the UN’s Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, an international treaty that regulates the production and sale of certain drugs, cannabis is listed as a Schedule IV drug. Thats the most restrictive class, reserved for drugs that have “particularly dangerous properties.”

Earlier this month, the WHO published new recommendations to the UN regarding the classification of marijuana in the medical journal The BMJAccording to the WHO, there’s growing evidence that cannabis has medical applications, and the UN should reschedule the plant to take into account these applications.

Medical Marijuana

The WHO’s proposal to reclassify marijuana could go before the UN’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs as soon as March, at which point 53 countries will have the option of voting on it.

Although a vote to reclassify wouldn’t make cannabis legal everywhere overnight, it would mark a major shift in how political leaders view the drug — which could have a huge impact on the drug’s use for medical purposes.

Scientists have already noted potential uses for cannabis to treat everything from psychosis and epilepsy to heart disease and Alzheimer’s, but researching these links hasn’t been easy given marijuana’s legal status.

If governments decide to revisit their cannabis laws in the wake of a UN reclassification, it might be easier for researchers to gain approval — and funding — for their marijuana-focused studies, meaning we could see a dramatic increase in the number of cannabis-based medical treatments in the future.

READ MORE: In Historic Announcement, the World Health Organization (WHO) Proposes Removing Cannabis From Most Dangerous Drug Category [Good News Network]

More on marijuana: New Senate Bill Would Legalize Marijuana Nationwide

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WHO Says UN Should Reclassify Marijuana as Less Dangerous

Trump Signs Directive: Space Force Will Be Run By Air Force

President Donald Trump signed Space Policy Directive 4 (SPD-4) today, organizing all military space functions under a new Space Force.

Space Force 2.0

U.S. President Donald Trump signed a directive today that organizes all military space functions under a new Space Force. The Space Force will be run entirely under the current U.S. Air Force — at least for the time being.

That means a future Space Force would function more like the Marine Corps, which is part of the Navy, than an entirely separate branch of the military — which is what the Trump administration first suggested back in June.

A More Popular Approach

The news comes after Trump signed an executive order in December, calling for the creation of a “U.S. Space Command” to streamline and consolidate space operations.

The plans still have to receive Congress approval before its creation, but organizing it under the Air Force could be a way to warm lawmakers up to the idea, as Defense News suggests.

Agreeable Idea

The Washington Post points out that the Directive could also be a more agreeable idea to the Pentagon as it would create far less bureaucracy.

Today’s news doesn’t necessarily rule out future plans for a standalone Space Force military branch. But it could save military officials a headache in the near future.

READ MORE: Trump approves plan to create Space Force, but puts it under Air Force control, as Pentagon officials had wanted [The Washington Post]

More on Space Force: The US May Soon Have The World’s First Space Force

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Trump Signs Directive: Space Force Will Be Run By Air Force

Vampire Clinic That Sold Young Blood to the Wealthy Closes Shop

Bad Blood

Ambrosia Health, the controversial clinic that sold transfusions of young, healthy people’s blood, has “ceased patient treatments,” according to the company’s website.

The decision to stop taking patients comes after an official statement from FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb this week, which described the company’s practices as a dangerous scam.

Dr. Acula

Ambrosia claimed its transfusions of a younger person’s blood could reverse health problems and extend a person’s life — a controversial and unproven notion.

The company never published the results of its self-funded clinical experiments, and recent evidence suggests that these transfusions could have been dangerous from the start.

Vampire Empire

It’s unclear whether Ambrosia plans to resume operations in the future or if the FDA’s warning rang the company’s death toll. Futurism reached out to the company with questions, and this article will be updated if we hear back.

Either way, the wealthy will need to get their controversial medical treatments somewhere else for the time being.

READ MORE: ‘Young blood’ company Ambrosia halts patient treatments after FDA warning [NBC]

More on Ambrosia Health: The FDA Warns: Transfusions of Young Blood Are a Dangerous Scam

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Vampire Clinic That Sold Young Blood to the Wealthy Closes Shop

Elon Musk: Bitcoin Is “Brilliant” And “Paper Money Is Going Away”

Tesla CEO Elon Musk shared his thoughts on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies during a podcast interview with ARK Invest.

“Seriously?”

Elon Musk is talking cryptocurrency. The real Elon Musk, not one of those Twitter scammers.

On Tuesday, Tesla’s CEO sat down for a podcast interview with ARK Invest, a tech investment firm. In addition to chatting about electric vehicles and self-driving cars, the interviewers decided to throw Musk an “off-topic” question about cryptocurrencies.

After an initially incredulous response — “Crypto, seriously?” — Musk went on to elaborate on his thoughts about crypto and Bitcoin in particular — and while he sees the value in both, don’t expect Tesla to get involved in the space any time soon.

Pros and Cons

During the interview, Musk admitted that he thinks “the Bitcoin structure is quite brilliant” and that there might be “some merit to Ethereum as well and maybe some others.”

He went on to discuss the uses of the cryptocurrency with ARK Invest founder Cathie Wood, who noted that “there were $1.3 trillion worth of transactions in bitcoin, and we don’t see it here because it’s not for pizza or Coke.”

“It might be for coke,” Musk deadpanned, in an apparent drug joke, prompting laughs from his interviewers.

“We figure it’s business-to-business in Africa where it is prohibitively expensive to convert from one nation’s currency to another,” Wood continued. “It really is very important. It’s money over IP for them. It’s free transmission of money, and that’s really important to opening up the world.”

“It bypasses currency controls,” Musk said. “Paper money is going away, and crypto is a far better way to transfer value than pieces of paper, that’s for sure. That has its pros and cons.”

Tesla Coin

As for whether Tesla would ever get involved in crypto, Musk doesn’t see that happening any time soon.

His company’s primary goal is to “accelerate the advent of sustainable energy,” according to Musk, and as he noted during the interview, mining cryptocurrencies is computationally energy intensive.

“I’m not sure it would be a good use for Tesla resources to get involved in crypto,” he concluded.

“Just to clarify,” ARK Invest analyst Tasha Keeney asked later, “Tesla’s not going to start selling bitcoin anytime soon?”

“No, we’re not,” Musk replied.

READ MORE: Elon Musk Calls Bitcoin ‘Brilliant,’ Better Than Paper Money for Value Transfer [CoinDesk]

More on crypto: Fake Elon Musks Clutter Twitter With Crypto Scams

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Elon Musk: Bitcoin Is “Brilliant” And “Paper Money Is Going Away”

Australian License Plates Can Now Include Emoji

As of March 1, drivers in Queensland, Australia will be able to include one of five emoji in their license plates — a startling break from tradition.

License to Emoji

It’s the natural evolution of the vanity license plate: emoji.

As of March 1, drivers in Queensland, Australia will be able to include one of five emoji in their license plates: laughing out loud, winking face, sunglasses, heart eyes, and the classic smiley face.

“For quite some time we’ve seen that you can support your favourite team or your favourite town with a symbol on your number plate,” Royal Automobile Club of Queensland spokeswoman Rebecca Michael told 7News Brisbane. “And using an emoji is no different.”

Cool Sunglasses Face

If you drive a vehicle in Queensland, you can pre-order your own customized plate right now on the website of government-approved plate vendor Personalised Plates Queensland (PPQ.)

Drivers will like need to pay a fee somewhere between $160 to $500 in Australian dollars to get the new emoji, according to 7News.

Mo’ ‘Mojis, Mo’ Problems

One problem remains: police could be thrown off by the unusual new plates.

“How do you write down the emoji in your number plate after an accident?” Queensland Law Society president Bill Potts asked the Brisbane Times.

READ MORE: Queensland drivers set to get emoji number plates [new.com.au]

More on license plates: A “Smart” License Plate: To Buy or Not to Buy?

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Australian License Plates Can Now Include Emoji

India Just Swore in Its First Robot Police Officer

Indian police just swore in KP-Bot as a sub-inspector. The robot police officer will work behind the front desk and direct visitors as needed.

RoboCop

India just swore in its first robotic police officer, which is named KP-Bot.

The animatronic-looking machine was granted the rank of sub-inspector on Tuesday, and it will operate the front desk of Thiruvananthapuram police headquarters, according to India Today.

Action Figure

The robot was welcomed aboard with a salute from Pinarayi Vijayan, the Chief Minister of Kerala. India Today reports that the robot “responded with a perfect salute,” which presumably just means that it didn’t karate chop its own head off in the process.

Aside from the symbolic gesture of integrating robotics into the police force, KP-Bot doesn’t do much. At the moment, it can sit behind a police station’s front desk, recording complaints and directing visitors to the correct department as needed.

It can also salute at higher-ranked officers, according to India Today. In the future, it may be integrated with facial recognition software or the capability to detect bombs.

Quit While Ahead

KP-Bot is also for some reason gendered, with Assistant Deputy of police Manoj Abraham explicitly declaring that the inanimate object is a woman.

“Women empowerment and gender equality were kept in mind while deciding on the gender of the first robot,” said Loknath Behra, the Director General of Police. “Also, the fact that most front office jobs are managed by women was considered.”

READ MORE: India’s first RoboCop: Kerala Police inducts robot, gives it SI rank [India Today]

More on police robots: Dubai Wants Robots to Make up 25% of Its Police Force by 2030

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India Just Swore in Its First Robot Police Officer

Google: Secret Nest Microphone “Never Intended to Be a Secret”

Earlier this month, Google inadvertently revealed that its home security device, Nest, contained a secret microphone. Now it says secrecy was a

End of an Error

People who use Google’s home security device, Nest Guard, got some surprising news earlier this month when the company announced that the device could now be used as a smart assistant.

That was startling because Google Assistant devices use voice recognition, and the company had never disclosed that Nests had built-in microphones. Now the search giant is admitting they do — and saying its failure to mention the microphone was an “error.”

Telescreen

According to the spokesperson, the microphones were never enabled and had been added to Nest devices in case the company decided to implement sound-based features. The spokesperson described a hypothetical use to Business Insider in which a Nest Guard might detect the sound of broken glass during a break-in.

“The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs,” a Google spokesperson told Business Insider on Tuesday. “That was an error on our part.”

Ministry of Search

Google has a fraught history with privacy advocates. In 2010, for instance, it got busted sweeping up Wi-Fi data with its Street View cars. And earlier this year, France fined the tech giant $57 million for privacy violations. And now, framing a secret microphone hidden in customers’ homes as an “error,” whether or not the microphone was active, doesn’t click.

Google acknowledging wrongdoing is a nice start, but there are no brownie points to be had for framing the company’s decision as an error only after it came to light anyway.

READ MORE: Google says the built-in microphone it never told Nest users about was ‘never supposed to be a secret’ [Business Insider]

More on Google: Google Wins Lawsuit Over Facial Recognition Technology

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Google: Secret Nest Microphone “Never Intended to Be a Secret”

EPA: Low Doses of Toxins, Radiation Could Actually Be Healthy

The EPA has proposed a rule change that would trade a cautious approach to regulating low-doses of chemicals for one that's far more flexible. 

Toxic Changes

In April, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new standards for how it studies the health impacts of low doses of chemicals, trading in a previously cautious approach for one that’s far more flexible.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times published a deep dive into the work that went on behind the scenes to get this proposed rule change added to the Federal Register — and the damage it could do to public health if adopted.

Current Standard

For decades, according to the LA Times’ excellent explainer, U.S. federal agencies have adhered to what’s known as the linear no-threshold model when regulating and studying toxic chemicals and radiation. This model assumes that if a substance is harmful at any level, it’s harmful at all levels, with the level of harm increasing or decreasing depending on the level of exposure.

This model ensured that the public wouldn’t be exposed to potentially harmful substances even if research didn’t conclusively prove that a low level of exposure would, in fact, be harmful.

That was important because, in some cases, various studies of the same chemical at the same low dose have reached different conclusions. One might assert that the low dose is harmful, another that it has no effect, and still another that the dose is actually beneficial to the human body, a phenomenon known as hormesis.

Hormesis D’oeuvre

It’s true that some dangerous substances really are beneficial at low doses. Small doses of tamoxifen, for example, can help treat breast cancer, but at higher doses, the chemical can actually cause uterine cancer.

However, while hormesis might be useful in a clinical setting, it’s not an effective way to regulate chemicals that could reach the public at large, according to David Jacobs, a public health professor at the University of Minnesota.

“There is no way to control the dose a person gets from an industrial or agricultural chemical,” Jacobs told the LA Times. “It’s not being doled out in pills and monitored by a physician who can lower it if the patient isn’t responding well.”

The Holy Grail

On April 30, the EPA posted a proposed rule titled “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” for comment in the Federal Register. It removes linear no-threshold as the default model for estimating low-dose impacts, instead giving the EPA the authority to test other models, including hormesis.

Ten months later, the EPA has yet to announce a final date for deciding on the proposed rule. But if it’s adopted, public health experts told the LA Times they expect it to “tie the EPA up in knots” and possibly even result in new standards for everything from our air to our drinking water.

“Industry has been pushing for this for a long time,” David Michaels, a professor of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University, told the newspaper. “Not just the chemical industry, but the radiation and tobacco industries, too.”

“This is industry’s holy grail,” he concluded.

READ MORE: Scientist Says Some Pollution Is Good for You — a Disputed Claim Trump’s EPA Has Embraced [Los Angeles Times]

More on the EPA: The EPA Just Removed Climate Change From Their Climate Change Website

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EPA: Low Doses of Toxins, Radiation Could Actually Be Healthy

Elon Musk: Teslas Will Be Fully Self-Driving By Next Year

Full Autonomy

According to Elon Musk, Tesla’s cars are nearly ready for fully autonomous driving.

“I think we will be feature complete — full self-driving — this year,” Musk told Cathie Wood and Tasha Keeney of ARK Invest in a podcast on Tuesday. “Meaning the car will be able to find you in a parking lot, pick you up and take you all the way to your destination without an intervention, this year.”

Car Naps

By next year, you’ll be able to take a nap behind the wheel, Musk claimed in the same interview.

“My guess as to when we would think it is safe for somebody to essentially fall asleep and wake up at their destination? Probably towards the end of next year,” he said.

And he’s willing to stand by his words: “I would say I am of certain of that,” he said. “That is not a question mark.”

Big Promises

Musk is no stranger to making big promises. As it stands right now, Tesla’s Autopilot can make lane changes, and navigate highway ramps — but it still can’t handle most other roads.

In October, Tesla dropped the “full self-driving” mode from the Model 3, with Musk claiming it was “causing too much confusion” in a tweet.

The race to have cars take over all driving functions is on. Alphabet’s Waymo launched a robo-taxi service in Arizona in December.

But even Waymo’s cars require human safety drivers to take control on multiple occasions throughout a single ride.

READ MORE: Elon Musk Promises a Really Truly Self-Driving Tesla in 2020 [Wired]

More on Tesla: Teslas Are Getting a “Party and Camping Mode”

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Elon Musk: Teslas Will Be Fully Self-Driving By Next Year

Scientists Used Gene Therapy to Cure Deafness in Mice

A new gene therapy tested on mice can treat a specific kind of congenital deafness by repairing a faulty inner-ear protein.

Three Deaf Mice

About half of the time someone is born totally deaf, it’s because of their genetic makeup. Those people are typically treated with cochlear implants, but now researchers from Europe and the U.S. are looking at gene-based treatments as well.

Deaf mice treated with a new kind of gene therapy developed the ability to hear almost as well as healthy mice, according to research published Tuesday in the journal PNAS — findings that suggest gene therapies may someday help with previously-untreatable conditions.

Ear Genes

The mice had what’s called DFNB9 deafness, the type that accounts for between two and eight percent of gene-related cases of human deafness. In DFNB9 deafness, a protein called otoferlin can’t perform its usual role of transmitting sound information gathered by the fine hairs in the inner ear.

But after altering the deaf mice’s genomes with specially-crafted viruses, the mice were able to hear almost as well as mice that were born with functioning otoferlin.

Step One

Even after altering the same specific gene in mice as what causes DFNB9 deafness in humans, it’s too soon to say that these gene-editing viruses can be used to treat people. There’s a long road between animal experiments and human clinics.

There’s more reason to be wary of this treatment. According to a conflict of interest statement in the PNAS article, one researcher from the University of Florida stands to profit if this virus-based technology takes off — so it’s worth waiting to see if the work holds up in further studies.

READ MORE: Gene therapy durably reverses congenital deafness in mice [Pasteur Institute Newsroom via MedicalXPress]

More on gene therapy: New CRISPR Gene Editing Experiment Slows Down Hearing Loss

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Scientists Used Gene Therapy to Cure Deafness in Mice


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