Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley

April 23 2014 9:00 PM

Georgia Gov. Signs “Guns Everywhere” Bill Allowing Guns in Bars, Schools, and Churches

The problem in Georgia isn’t that you can’t own a gun. The problem, you see, is that once you do own a gun you can’t take it absolutely everywhere you want to. But what to do about those pesky restrictions on where you can, and cannot, pack heat? Problem solved. On Wednesday, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill that doesn’t cramp gun owners’ gun-toting style so much by vastly expanding where firearms can be legally carried in the state.

House Bill 60, dubbed by critics as the “guns everywhere” bill, now allows Georgians to legally carry firearms perhaps not everywhere, but pretty close. Imagine for a second where would be the worst possible places to add guns to the mix? If you answered: bars, schools, churches, and government buildings, you could be a politician in Georgia.

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Here’s more on the bill from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

The bill, which takes effect July 1, also legalizes the use of silencers for hunting, clears the way for school staffers to carry guns in school zones and lets leaders of religious congregations choose whether to allow licensed gun holders inside. And it allows permitted gun owners to carry their weapons in government buildings – including parts of courthouses – where there is no security at the entrance.

“People who follow the rules can protect themselves and their families from people who don’t follow the rules,” Deal told the AJC. “The Second Amendment should never be an afterthought. It should reside at the forefronts of our minds.” And now, at church, in the classroom and sitting at a bar, it certainly will.

In an interview with the AJC this week Deal took care to remind voters that this bill was forged with the spirit of compromise and restraint and voters “shouldn’t forget what got left out of the bill.” “Among the controversial proposals that didn’t survive were the ‘campus carry” provision, which would have legalized the carrying of guns on [college] campus, and changes that would have required houses of worship to allow guns unless leaders ban them. (Instead, religious leaders can ‘opt-in to allow guns into their congregations),” the AJC writes. Lest you thought this was a partisan problem, not a Georgia problem, according to the AJC, state Sen. Jason Carter, the democratic nominee in the governor’s race, also voted for the bill.

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April 23 2014 7:40 PM

Chelsea Manning Officially Granted Name Change, But Will Still Be Treated As Male Prisoner

The Army solider formerly known as Bradley Manning was sentenced to prison last August for the largest data breach in U.S. history. Manning, who leaked some 700,000 documents to Wikileaks while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2010, said at the time of her sentencing that she wanted to live as a woman and changed her name to Chelsea Manning. On Wednesday, a Kansas judge officially granted Manning’s name change request legally changing her name to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning. Manning will be issued a new birth certificate with her new name, Reuters reports.

The judge’s decision will allow for Manning’s military records to be changed, but, the Associated Press reports, it “doesn't compel the military to treat the soldier previously known as Bradley Edward Manning as a woman. That includes not being moved from the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, where Manning is serving a 35-year prison sentence, to a prison with a woman's unit, or receiving the counseling and hormone treatment she seeks.” The army did not oppose Manning’s petition for a name-change in court.

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Manning did not appear at the hearing, which lasted only a minute or so, according to the AP, but called the ruling “an exciting day” in a statement. Manning has also petitioned the Army for hormone replacement therapy while in prison, but the military has maintained that it doesn’t provide the procedure. “Manning has filed a grievance with the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks commander at Fort Leavenworth over the lack of a response to her request for comprehensive treatment for her gender identity disorder, including specialized gender counseling and hormone replacement therapy,” the AP. reports.

April 23 2014 6:52 PM

F.C.C. Proposes New “Net Neutrality” Rules

The Federal Communications Commission is on the verge of an about face on so called “net neutrality.” On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported the FCC is set to put forward a proposal that would allow content companies to pay for preferential access to consumers online. The practice of allowing certain companies faster, uninterrupted access to users had been prohibited by the FCC, but a U.S. federal court of appeals recently struck down that provision forcing the FCC to rewrite its rules on net neutrality.

The new set of proposed rules, as the Wall Street Journal reports, “would prevent the service providers from blocking or discriminating against specific websites, but would allow broadband providers to give some traffic preferential treatment, so long as such arrangements are available on ‘commercially reasonable’ terms for all interested content companies. Whether the terms are commercially reasonable would be decided by the FCC on a case-by-case basis.”  That would give companies such as Netflix, Google and Facebook the ability to pay to ensure their content reaches end users ahead of others. This marks a turnaround in the FCC’s previous policy on net neutrality, which the New York Times describes as “the principle that Internet users should have equal ability to see any content they choose, and that no content providers should be discriminated against in providing their offerings to consumers.”

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Here’s more on some of the concerns that arise from the changes from the Washington Post:

The draft proposal could change before it is brought to a vote next month, but it is sure to spark an outcry from consumer advocates who say the practice would give Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner Cable too much power over the experience of Web users. Another concern is that under the system being proposed by the FCC, large Web companies like Facebook and Google would have an unfair advantage over startups that can't afford to pay for priority access into U.S. homes.
The FCC's proposed rules would not allow telecom firms to block Web sites. On a case-by-case basis, the agency would watch for practices that are anti-competitive; for instance, if Verizon threatened to slow down Netflix, which competes with Verizon's Redbox Instant video and FiOS television service, the FCC could potentially weigh in. Broadband firms could begin to strike deals for preferential treatment on their networks, according to the source, as long as agreements between the firms are considered "commercially reasonable." 

April 23 2014 5:28 PM

Army Commander Who Failed to Properly Report Sexual Misconduct Now Works at the Pentagon

While Maj. Gen. Michael T. Harrison Sr. was commander of U.S. Army forces in Japan, he let what the Washington Post describes as a “pile” of sexual misconduct complaints—including “having an affair with a subordinate, of drunken and inappropriate behavior with other women at a military club and lastly, of sexual assault”—against a colonel accumulate without taking significant action. Specifically, he waited "months" to report the sexual assault allegation to investigators. When the case came to light, Harrison was suspended and found to have violated Army rules. And then:

Despite the suspension and rebuke, the Army brought Harrison back to the Pentagon to take another important position, as director of program analysis and evaluation for an Army deputy chief of staff. He received an administrative letter of reprimand in December for mishandling the sexual-assault case and other complaints, but remains on active duty.

Harrison announced his plans to retire last week, shorly before the Army released a copy of its report about his actions in response to a Post Freedom of Information Act request. His lawyer says the timing is a coincidence.

April 23 2014 5:05 PM

The Rise of the Prison-Industrial Complex in One GIF

David Mendoza aka Senator Mendoza aka The Mendoza Line aka @superchundy documents the drastic increase in imprisonment rates between 1978 and 2012 in visual form. It's like a kids' flipbook by someone who hated kids and wanted them to be depressed. Click that last link for the full experience but here's a preview:

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Senator Mendoza

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Senator Mendoza

And it gets even more purple-r! FWIW the national homicide rate fell considerably over the same period. Please use these two data points and your own barely-veiled racial grudges to conduct a civil and respectful debate in the comments.

April 23 2014 3:20 PM

The National Weather Service Has a Mascot Named "Owlie Skywarn" and Today it Took a Picture of Itself on the Subway

The National Weather Service has a mascot named "Owlie Skywarn" who teaches children how to be safe during severe weather. Owlie Skywarn has a Twitter account. Today Owlie took a ride on the Washington D.C. subway and posted a "selfie" picture of his...her...owlself to Twitter.

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What a world. What a world. The woman on the right knows what I'm talking about.

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h/t @mgold

April 23 2014 11:42 AM

Much-Hyped Philadephia Drug Bust Uncovers a Few Prep-School Dealers, Lacrosse Stick, Not a Lot of Drugs

Both the New York Times and Washington Post yesterday gave some serious e-ink to a drug bust that was announced personally by the district attorney of Montgomery County, which encompasses several well-to-do Philadelphia suburbs. Taking cues from the DA, the Times wrote that an "extensive drug ring" at area prep schools had been taken down, while the Post described a "nationwide drug smuggling operation":

In terms of intricacy and ambition, it appears more suited for the business pages than the crime blotter. But its objective, according to authorities in Montgomery County, Pa., couldn’t have been more simple: saturate eastern Pennsylvania schools in drugs, expand the clientele base and always keep supply pumping.

The DA called it "a network to push poison into our educational institutions and take over drug distribution on the Main Line." Here are the quantities of drugs that authorities seized: eight pounds of marijuana, 23 grams of cocaine, and 11 grams of ecstasy. Between 11 arrested suspects.  

Eight pounds! 23 grams! If each person in the "ring" split those amounts equally, they would each have had enough to supply 10 regular marijuana users for a few months and ten regular cocaine users for, like, a day. Here's a recent story from Fort Wayne about the seizure of 582 pounds of marijuana and a recent Los Angeles Times story about the seizure of 3,000 pounds of cocaine.

What I'm saying is, that is not a national news amount of drugs. That is someone's friend J-Dawg who can get you weed.

To be fair to the authorities, they did find three guns, which illustrates at least some level of potential criminal seriousness (although there was apparently no suggestion at the press conference that any of the accused used or planned to use the guns). Also, they put a lacrosse stick on the table displaying seized items during the press conference. Really.

April 23 2014 10:23 AM

Rand Paul Has Long History of Saying Jimmy Carter Was Better on Spending Than Ronald Reagan

Rand Paul, by most accounts, would like to be the Republican Party's nominee in the 2016 presidential election. He also has a libertarian, isolationist background that has lately been causing him problems with the hawkish party establishment in re: foreign policy. Today Mother Jones documents what could be an even bigger pain for Paul: his long history of comparing Ronald Reagan—who some conservatives literally want to carve on Mount Rushmore and whose presidential library hosted a 2011 GOP primary debate—unfavorably with Jimmy Carter, who is a freakin' Democrat. Specifically, Paul has said often that Reagan had a worse record on containing government spending than his White House predecessor:

"Why did the deficit rise [under Reagan]? Because spending rose more dramatically under Reagan than it did under Carter. Well, you say, 'Reagan's a conservative, Carter's a liberal.' Not necessarily always what it seems."
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Check out the MoJo piece for many more examples, backed up with video clips that Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz's staffs are currently bookmarking/watching over and over on the flatscreen in the office conference room. 

April 22 2014 6:25 PM

The Spanish Activist Who Tricked Banks Out of $700,000, Gave It Away, and Disappeared

Enric Duran is a "former table-tennis coach" who by his account took nearly $700,000 from 39 banks in Spain between 2006 and 2008 by applying for loans he didn't intend to pay back, gave the money to anti-capitalist activists, and put out a video announcing what he'd done. He was arrested; last February, he skipped bail and has gone into hiding. The Guardian found him for a short interview about his situation and the burgeoning distaste for capitalism in Spain.

"I don't see legitimacy in a judicial system based on authority, because I don't recognise its authority," he said.
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His actions, he said, were at the vanguard of a worldwide debate on the economic crisis. The timing pushed the anti-capitalist movement into the light, just as many Spaniards were seeking alternatives to a system that had wreaked havoc on their lives.
While the same actions would probably be better understood in today's Spain, he said that they would not be needed. The anti-capitalist movement has grown from a fringe movement to one supported by thousands of Spaniards, he said, evidenced by the 70 or so social currencies in use across the country and widely supported movements such as the indignados.

Duran's timing was superb, as he seems to have been finishing up his work/theft just as the 2008 economic crisis devastated his country. As for the veracity of his claim to have given the stolen loot away, the Washington Post points to this video put out by activists who say they received "expropriated" money.

April 22 2014 5:08 PM

Per Nate Silver, New Yorkers Get to Work Later Than Anyone Else in the Country

In a piece posted today, Nate Silver uses data from the American Community Survey to figure out the earliest- and latest-rising metropolitan areas in the country. The latest median time of work arrival is in New York at 8:24 a.m. The earliest: Hinesville, Ga. at 7:01 a.m. Check out the post for Silver's breakdown of national trends (college and tourist towns get up late) as well as this entertaining piece of self-biography:

A decade or so ago, when I was a consultant living in Chicago, I didn’t have it so easy. Work in Chicago begins a little earlier than in New York — about 20 minutes earlier, relative to the local time zone. My bosses nevertheless tolerated me rolling into the office at a bit past 9 a.m. But sometimes I’d travel to cities such as St. Louis and Omaha, Neb., to visit clients. Meetings as early as 6 or 7 a.m. were not uncommon; I was “relieved” from one project after a client caught me nodding off in a meeting.
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For the record, I once attended a meeting with Nate Silver. It was in the afternoon and he did not fall asleep.

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