Cannabis Tax To Fund Homeless Housing?

Compliments of SCPR

Last month, Los Angeles city officials approved a nearly $2 billion plan to solve its homelessness crisis by building more housing with support services for residents over the next decade.

Now the question is: how is the city going to pay for this?

The city’s budget analysts have narrowed their top funding ideas to nine. Several proposals involve new taxes and fees that would require voter approval. Among them is a plan to tax the sales and cultivation of medical marijuana at 15 percent, which would generate about $16.7 million a year. More revenue could come if the state decides to legalize recreational pot and the city decides to tax that too.

The idea that would create the most funds is a proposed $1 billion bond issue which would need the backing of two-thirds of voters to pass. The city would pay back the loan back investors over 30 years through property taxes. The cost to home owners? That would add about $51 to the tax bill for a $328,000 home in Los Angeles.

What all the proposals have in common is that they would be new funding sources. The ctChief Administrative Officer Miguel Santana told council members Wednesday that’s the only way the city can provide enough housing for city’s homeless population, which has climbed 12 percent in two years.

“Even as our economy improves, we do not anticipate to have an additional $1.78 billion over the next 10 years to dedicate for this purpose,” Santana said.

What’s also clear is that, given the size of the city’s homelessness crisis, a combination of resources is needed.

A couple proposals need only the approval of the Council and the mayor. Among them: a one-time payment that developers would make on new project, which would go toward building below-market-rate housing. This so-called “housing linkage” fee will be the subject of a $500,000 study that the city is planning to undertake this year.

Another idea is requiring developers to build housing for lower-income residents, and if they don’t want to, they could pay a fee instead.

“In turn the city would be able to take those fees and develop affordable housing elsewhere,” said Sharon Tso, the chief legislative analyst.

It’s unknown how much the fee would generate, but council member Mike Bonin, whose Westside district includes Venice, expressed concern over the idea.

“I’d be very reluctant to see an in-lieu fee that would get people out of building affordable housing in the coastal zone and the wealthier areas of town,” Bonin said. “I think we need to have affordable housing everywhere.”

Advocates for the business community and the homeless alike told council members Wednesday that whatever they choose, they should act now.

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Free Information For All: Ones Students Fight Against For Profit Publishing

Compliments of Washington Post 

Alexandra Elbakyan is a highbrow pirate in hiding.

The 27-year-old graduate student from Kazakhstan is operating a searchable online database of nearly 50 million stolen scholarly journal articles, shattering the $10 billion-per-year paywall of academic publishers.

Elbakyan has kept herself beyond the reach of a federal judge who late last year issued an injunction against her site, noting that damages could total $150,000 per article — a sum that Applied and Computational Harmonic Analysis, a journal in her database, could help calculate. But she is not hiding from responsibility.

“There are many ways to argue that copyright infringement is not theft, but even if it is, it is justified in this case,” she said in an instant-message interview via Google. “All content should be copied without restriction. But for education and research, copyright laws are especially damaging.”

Elbakyan is pursuing a master’s degree in the history of science while pursuing the worldwide liberation of knowledge from, as she sees it, the tyranny of for-profit publishers. Her ideology was shaped growing up in a former Soviet republic where access to information and the Internet was difficult.

She has even been compared to Robin Hood, although she said, “Sometimes I think it is not a good comparison, since what he was doing was illegal. And sharing books and research articles should not be illegal.”

Many academics, university librarians and longtime advocates for open scholarly research are closely following Elbakyan’s efforts. They believe she is finally giving academic publishers their Napster moment, a reference to the illegal music-sharing service that disrupted and permanently altered the industry.

“While we don’t condone fraud and using illegal sources, I will say that I appreciate how she is shining a light on just how out of whack the system is of providing easy access to basic information that our universities and scholars need to advance science and research,” said Heather Joseph, executive director of SPARC, an organization that advocates for open access to research. “This has been a problem for decades.”

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The Tables Have Turned, Now Apple Is The One Filing Requests

By Paris Finnie

Some may call it Karma, but it is a little more complex than that. Here are the facts and a recap of the current investigation. In December of 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife were accused of killing 14 people ( though witnesses claim they saw three people enter the building is another story). Farook was an owner of the Iphone 5C, which the government claims could provide crucial evidence to the investigation of the alleged shooters. The F.B.I then requested that Apple build a software hack that would allow backdoor access to the Iphone’s encryption.

For those who are unaware IOS has a couple security features to access the phone. The more popular is the finger print scan. The user places a finger over the home button on the bottom of the device. The other is a numeral password. The problem that The F.B.I. found, and the reason they sought Apple’s assistance, was if you enter the numerical password incorrectly to many times the entire phone’s data is erased. With such a high risk, our government was to taking any chances and had a court order drawn up for Apple to create a software breach.

Apple’s refusal to cooperate beget the massive public debate. Apple’s rationale for refusal was based upon how the governments  request jeopardizes user security. If the software breach were to fall into the wrong hands, which does often happen, anyone with a Iphone 5c or prior model would be at risk.

The governmental retort to Apple’s argument bolstered with the All Writs Act of 1789, claims IOS’ encrypted technology jeopardizes national security. If the government is to successfully protect the citizens. They can not be denied access to devices like cell phones. The arguments between Apple and The F.B.I. went back and fourth until this month, when The F.B.I. dropped the case and court orders against Apple because they had found an alternative means of accessing Farook’s Iphone.

Now that the Iphone 5C of accused Syed Rizwan Farook has been accessed, Apple is requesting the government release the methodology used to breach their security software. The F.B.I. to no surprise has not been cooperative and has denied any and all of Apple’s attempts to receive the pivotal information. There are rumors that a third party out of Israel known as Cellebrite was the company that assisted in the breach but neither Cellebrite or The F.B.I. have confirmed such collaborations.

Apple is placed in an awkward position due to the ambiguity of the breach. They are unaware if the software hack is Farook’s Iphone specific or if it is for general 5C models. If the F.B.I. continues to withhold their methods Apple may be forced to dig into the black market to find answers. There have been many instances of bugs and hacks of smaller magnitudes released to underground communities for their value. Like last year’s database leak of the Italian company who bought and sold software exploits. With so much scandal and the people caught in the middle of this tug of war, who is in the right?

Both parties are fighting for security, but neither want to work together to ensure it. Both parties have legitimate rationale, but neither can come to a compromise. So we the people are left with a quote most likely said by Tuco from The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. ” There are two types of people in this world: Those with with crucial information and those who need crucial information”

Source:

LA Times 
Smithsonian 
CNN

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Leaked Emails Reveal The Truth Of The Oil Business And Corruption.

Compliments of The Age 

A massive leak of confidential documents has for the first time exposed the true extent of corruption within the oil industry, implicating dozens of leading companies, bureaucrats and politicians in a sophisticated global web of bribery and graft.

After a six-month investigation across two continents, Fairfax Media and The Huffington Post can reveal that billions of dollars of government contracts were awarded as the direct result of bribes paid on behalf of firms including British icon Rolls-Royce, US giant Halliburton, Australia’s Leighton Holdings and Korean heavyweights Samsung and Hyundai.

The investigation centres on a Monaco company called Unaoil, run by the jet-setting Ahsani clan. Following a coded ad in a French newspaper, a series of clandestine meetings and midnight phone calls led to our reporters obtaining hundreds of thousands of the Ahsanis’ leaked emails and documents.

The trove reveals how they rub shoulders with royalty, party in style, mock anti-corruption agencies and operate a secret network of fixers and middlemen throughout the world’s oil producing nations.

Corruption in oil production – one of the world’s richest industries and one that touches us all through our reliance on petrol – fuels inequality, robs people of their basic needs and causes social unrest in some of the world’s poorest countries. It was among the factors that prompted the Arab Spring.

Fairfax Media and The Huffington Post today reveal how Unaoil carved up portions of the Middle East oil industry for the benefit of western companies between 2002 and 2012.

In part two we will turn to the impoverished former Russian states to reveal the extent of misbehaviour by multinational companies including Halliburton. We will conclude the three-part investigation by showing how corrupt practices have extended deep into Asia and Africa.

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Ethereum: The New And Improved Bitcoin

Compliments of NY Times 

A new virtual gold rush is underway.

Even as Bitcoin, riven by internal divisions, has struggled, a rival virtual currency — known as Ethereum — has soared in value, climbing 1,000 percent over the last three months.

Beyond the price spike, Ethereum is also attracting attention from giants in finance and technology, like JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft and IBM, which have described it as a sort of Bitcoin 2.0.

The rise of the relatively new virtual currency has been helped by abattle within the Bitcoin community over how the basic Bitcoin software should develop.

The fights have slowed down Bitcoin transactions and led some people to look for alternative virtual currencies to power their businesses. Enter Ethereum.

Like Bitcoin, the Ethereum system is built on a blockchain in which every transaction is recorded publicly. The promise of such a system is that it allows the exchange of money and assets more quickly and more cheaply than relying on a long chain of middlemen.

But Ethereum has also won fans with its promise to do much more than Bitcoin. In addition to the virtual currency, the software provides a way to create online markets and programmable transactions known as smart contracts.

The system is complicated enough that even people who know it well have trouble describing it in plain English. But one application in development would let farmers put their produce up for sale directly to consumers and take payment directly from consumers. There are already dozens of functioning applications built on Ethereum, enabling new ways to manage and pay for electricity, sports bets and even Ponzi schemes.

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The Dawn Of The Offended And Its Attribution To Systematic Censorship

By Paris Finnie

It seems as of late little can be said without risking a peers emotional disposition. News articles like F.B.I vs. Apple and Edward Snowden’s flee from country.  Go on to prove mass surveillance  systems and privacy are becoming major topics of debate. What these two  issue have in common however, serve a bigger interest. what is that?  Both aim to dismantle the ever diminishing power of the first amendment.

      Let us draw attention to a law in affect,  VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law prohibits employers and employment agencies, as defined in the statute, from discriminating based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. In a workplace, harassment directly violates that act. In a school, harassment directly violates that act. In an institution of any kind, harassment directly violates that act. The troubling factor to what in writing seems just, finds problems in its dis-ambiguity to state what exactly constitutes harassment.  For example pornography or discriminating expletives are clear, but what of a comment stating one liking to eating  meat? In some religions pork is considered taboo while in others beef is considered sacred. Can a religious devout take the meat lover in this case to court?

The law states that if is going to consider such a case then the a speech “must conclude not only that the speech was offensive, based on race, religion, sex, or some other attribute, but also that it was either ‘severe’ or ‘pervasive’ enough to create a hostile or abusive environment for the plaintiff and for a reasonable person.” Here lies the gray area. The accusation of  “severe” or “Pervasive” is extremely subjective and most administrators recognize this. So, instead of running a the risk of a lawsuit, it is better advised to cease “offensive” conversations all together. The logic although safe for business, mitigates diverse opinion. The outlet of speech is not only curtailed when under constant scrutiny of emotional dispositions, but also when under the looming shadow of government observation.

A study propagated by Washington Post took examines the effects of government surveillance on free speech.

Participants in the study were first surveyed about their political beliefs, personality traits and online activity, to create a psychological profile for each person. A random sample group was then subtly reminded of government surveillance, followed by everyone in the study being shown a neutral, fictional headline stating that U.S. airstrikes had targeted the Islamic State in Iraq. Subjects were then asked a series of questions about their attitudes toward the hypothetical news event, such as how they think most Americans would feel about it and whether they would publicly voice their opinion on the topic. The majority of those primed with surveillance information were less likely to speak out about their more nonconformist ideas, including those assessed as less likely to self-censor based on their psychological profile.
– Washington Post

In short, fear of potential government intrusion caused self-censorship. In a country that is based on democracy and equal representation, so they say, it would be impossible to expand and grow positively if the voices held by the minority are silenced. However, Herein lies the paradox.

The grey area of offensive statements and under representation sparks the controversial push and pull of our first amendment. Because you are of the minority you can instill a law to force my acceptance? Because we are at a disagreement you are offended? Because they may or may not be monitoring our interactions online you would rather not speak at all? Much less frequently are there compromises made from contrasting opinions and more so are there accusations of overstepped boundaries. Societies recent inability to converse upon taboo subjects is systematically censoring thoughts and opinions of the public. Those willing to take a stand and dissent sadly hesitate walking on eggshells to not end up the next Edward Snowden. The solution is not an easy one, but one thing is for certain. If we do not refocus upon the importance of our first amendment, George Orwell’s 1984 will seem less like  a fictional story  and more like a premonition.

Sources:
Washington Post
UCLA Law
Department of Labor 

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FBI Accesses Terrorist Phone Without Apple’s Help

By Paris Finnie

What you have heard is true, the United States Government has been able to access the Phone of Syed Rizwan Farook. The alleged shooter of the San Bernardo attacks that claimed over a dozen lives last year. The FBI has dropped the court mandate requesting google assist in the access of the shooters phone and claims they have accessed the stored data.

Below is the court filing detailing their access to the phone.

Read Here 

Sources
Washington Post 

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Easter Bombing Claims 70 Lives

Compliments of Reuters 

Pakistan has decided to launch a paramilitary crackdown on Islamist militants in Punjab, the country’s richest and most populous province, after an Easter Day bombing killed 70 people in the provincial capital Lahore, officials said on Monday.

Sunday’s suicide bombing at a public park was claimed by the Pakistani Taliban’s Jamaat-ur-Ahrar faction, which once declared loyalty to Islamic State. The group said it was targeting Christians.

The brutality of the attack, Jamaat-ur-Ahrar’s fifth bombing since December, reflects the movement’s attempts to raise its profile among Pakistan’s increasingly fractured Islamist militants.

At least 29 children enjoying an Easter weekend outing were among those killed when the suicide bomber struck in a busy park in the eastern city of Lahore, the power base of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Pakistan is a majority-Muslim state but has a Christian population of more than two million.

Pope Francis condemned the attack as “hideous” and demanded that Pakistani authorities protect religious minorities.

It was Pakistan’s deadliest attack since the December 2014 massacre of 134 school children at a military-run academy in the city of Peshawar that prompted a government crackdown on Islamist militancy.

Security and government officials told Reuters the decision had been made to launch a full-scale operation involving the paramilitary Rangers, who would have powers to conduct raids and interrogate suspects in the same way as they have been doing in the southern city of Karachi for more than two years.

The move, which has not yet been formally announced, represents the civilian government once again granting special powers to the military to fight Islamist militants.

“The technicalities are yet to be worked out. There are some legal issues also with bringing in Rangers, but the military and government are on the same page,” said one senior security official, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to share details of the plan.

One other military official and two government officials confirmed the decision on condition of anonymity.

“The PM ordered a joint operation of ‎the counter-terrorism department and Rangers in the border areas of Punjab against terrorists and their facilitators,” said one government official who attended a meeting with Sharif and Punjab officials on Monday.

The move is likely to be controversial in Punjab. In Karachi, the Rangers’ crackdown has drawn accusations of human rights abuses and the targeting of opposition politicians, though the rate of militant and criminal violence has dropped sharply since the paramilitary force arrived.

Sharif’s own party has long opposed any militarized operation against militants in its Punjab heartland.

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Can Brazil Stabilize In Time For The Olympics

Compliments of CNN

An increasingly uncertain political backdrop is sparking widespread, and sometimes violent, protests. The country is in the midst of its worst recession in 25 years. A massive corruption scandal involving its biggest company has engulfed numerous executives and politicians. Add to that the deadly Zika virus, and you have a country in crisis mode.

Concerns are rising over whether Brazil will be adequately prepared for this seminal global event. The International Olympic Committee told CNNMoney Friday that it is “very closely” watching the political events unfolding.

The Summer games begin August 5 in Rio de Janeiro, and the world spotlight will turn on a nation at a crossroads.

Brazil was awarded these Olympics games in 2009, when the country’s economy was booming. Now the country is battling a slew of social, economic and political challenges.

“This was going to be the coming out party for Brazil,” says Paulo Sotero, director of the Brazil Institute at the Wilson Center. “This will probably be a scaled down party.”

No one is saying the Olympics will be canceled. But there is the potential for more violent protests, a global travel warning ban is in effect advising pregnant women not to travel to Brazil and no one knows who will be president in August.

Millions of Brazilians have taken to the streets to demand the impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff.

The political uncertainty escalated this week. On Thursday Rousseff appointed the former president, Ignacio Lula da Silva, as her chief of staff — a move that would provide him with legal immunity from prosecution on corruption charges. Prosecutors have accused Lula of money laundering and identity fraud, claiming he covered up ownership of a vacation home.

Politicians, company execs and all types of elites have been embroiled in the gargantuan Petrobras scandal. And now, the next victims could be Rousseff and Lula.

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F.B.I Finds Third Party to Unlock Terrorist Iphone

Compliments of Venture Beat

Israel’s Cellebrite, a provider of mobile forensic software, is helping the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s attempt to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, California shooters, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported on Wednesday.

If Cellebrite succeeds, then the FBI will no longer need the help of Apple Inc, the Israeli daily said, citing unnamed industry sources.

Cellebrite officials declined to comment on the matter.

Apple is engaged in a legal battle with the U.S. Justice Department over a judge’s order that it write new software to disable passcode protection on the iPhone used by the shooter.

The two sides were set to face off in court on Tuesday, but on Monday a federal judge agreed to the government’s request to postpone the hearing after U.S. prosecutors said a “third party” had presented a possible method for opening an encrypted iPhone.

The development could bring an abrupt end to the high-stakes legal showdown which has become a lightning rod for a broader debate on data privacy in the United States.

Cellebrite, a subsidiary of Japan’s Sun Corp, has its revenue split between two businesses: a forensics system used by law enforcement, military and intelligence that retrieves data hidden inside mobile devices and technology for mobile retailers.

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