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New Jersey Family Relocates To Colorado So Their Severely Ill Daughter Can Get Medical Marijuana | ThinkProgress

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Brian Wilson holds his 2-year-old daughter Vivian outside Gov. Chris Christie's office in 2013

Brian Wilson holds his 2-year-old daughter Vivian outside Gov. Chris Christie’s office in 2013


Brian and Meghan Wilson don’t want to leave their home state of New Jersey. They would prefer to remain near their families and friends — and they want their two-year-old daughter to be able to keep seeing her nationally renowned neurologist, who’s an expert at treating her rare form of epilepsy.

But, since progress on New Jersey’s medical marijuana policy has stalled, the family is being forced to relocate anyway. They’re going to Colorado to seek out treatment for their daughter, Vivian, who needs a liquefied marijuana strain in order to prevent her potentially fatal seizures.

The Wilsons have been fighting for policy reform in New Jersey for the past year. Although the state began issuing medical marijuana cards back in 2012, there were stringent limits for minors that prevented kids like Vivian from being able to take edible marijuana. “Please don’t let my daughter die,” Vivian’s dad implored Gov. Chris Christie (R) in August, pressuring the governor to approve legislation that would have expanded access to several strains of marijuana.

Christie ended up approving a weakened form of that legislation. But it wasn’t enough. Although kids with conditions like Vivian’s are now legally allowed to access edible marijuana, the dispensaries in the state aren’t producing those type of products, and the state’s health department has no plans to begin testing them. Christie says he’s “done expanding the medical marijuana law,” and recently rejected a bill that would have allowed families like the Wilsons to buy edible strains in other states and transport them home to New Jersey.

The Wilsons have tried to navigate New Jersey’s restrictive medical marijuana law. But they say the state laws don’t go far enough to help two-year-old Vivian — who must wear an eye patch, avoid direct sunlight, and stick to a special low-carb diet in an attempt to prevent potentially deadly seizures — and they can’t afford to wait it out. Treatment for Vivian’s condition still remains out of reach.

“I’m just ready to start the next chapter. If we get medicine that helps Vivi, that’s great. Who the hell cares we had to move?” Meghan Wilson told the Star-Ledger as her family prepared to board their flight to Colorado.

The Wilsons will join a growing number of “medical refugees” who have moved to Colorado to seek a so-called “miracle strain” of marijuana that can help treat pediatric epilepsy. About 180 other children like Vivian are currently receiving treatment from the same dispensary in Colorado Springs. More than 100 families have moved from 43 states to pursue this option for their severely ill children.

The so-called “Charlotte’s Web” strain is named after Charlotte Figi, the first child who tried the treatment after her parents exhausted all of their other medical options. After she started taking this strain of medical marijuana, Charlotte’s seizures immediately stopped, and the seven-year-old is now feeding herself, walking, and riding her bike. Her case helped convince CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta to reverse his position on the medical benefits of marijuana, admitting that he was “too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis.”


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 New Jersey Family Relocates To Colorado So Their Severely Ill Daughter Can Get Medical Marijuana | ThinkProgress.

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Jailed For Not Shoveling Your Sidewalk? That’s The Law In New York (On Paper, At Least)



Jailed For Not Shoveling Your Sidewalk? That’s The Law In New York (On Paper, At Least)

By Marcus Baram



Snowdrifts in Brooklyn, N.Y. Roxanne Palmer

Millions of New Yorkers who woke up this morning and groaned when they saw snowflakes falling from the sky yet again have another reason to complain: They could go to jail for not shoveling their sidewalk.

That’s right. Snow-weary New Yorkers who fail to shovel their sidewalk within four hours after the white stuff stops falling could be fined between $10 and $150 and/or sent to jail for up to 10 days.

At least, that’s the law. Tucked away, deep within New York state’s mind-numbingly tedious administrative code is a provision that states (emphasis added):

c. Any person  violating  any  provision  of,  or  regulation  adopted
pursuant to, subdivisions a and b of this section shall be punished by a
fine  of  not  less  than  ten  dollars  nor more than one hundred fifty
dollars, imprisonment for not more than ten days, or both.


Yet, similar to a much-derided regulation that prohibits restaurants in the city from serving water unless a customer asks for it, this rule also seems to be inconsequential. The city will not send you to jail if you don’t shovel your sidewalk, says Kimberly Dawkins, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Sanitation. And it never has, according to Dawkins and a search of newspaper databases.

But it does assess fines for the oversight. Not surprisingly, with several heavy storms that have blanketed the Northeast in the past seven weeks, this year has been a busy time for ticket agents.

So far, in the first two months of this year, 57 inches of snow have fallen. And the city issues 11,597 summonses related to snow removal across all five boroughs. That amount is more than double the 5,096 issued in all of 2013, when 24 inches of snow fell, and 667 in 2012, when only 7 inches fell.

So far, in just the first two months of 2014, non-shovel-ready New Yorkers have paid more in tickets related to snow removal than in all of 2013. So far in 2014, $251,767.49 has been paid on those tickets, compared to $240,549.62 in 2013, according to the Environmental Control Board, which has conducted 524 hearings on alleged violations.

Another law on the books seems just as impotent when it comes to punishing snow-removal slackers. Though the administrative code states that the city can bill you for shoveling your sidewalk, the Sanitation Department’s Dawkins explains that the agency “does not have the resources to implement this. Keep in mind that the Department of Sanitation is mandated to remove snow and ice from 6,300 street miles during a given snowstorm. That is the Department’s first priority.”

Jailed For Not Shoveling Your Sidewalk? That’s The Law In New York (On Paper, At Least).

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Analysts ponder cost of Facebook’s WhatsApp deal – The Washington Post

By Hayley TsukayamaPublished: February 20 

Facebook’s mega purchase of WhatsApp exposed the 10-year-old social network’s growing anxiety about losing relevance and staying on top of the social media world, analysts said.

Already the world’s largest social network, Facebook wants to be the leader in a field where it has struggled: mobile messaging.

The $19 billion deal could shore up Facebook’s weakening appeal among younger users and fortifies its growing strength on mobile devices and with photos. Still, industry analysts are concerned that Facebook may have overpaid for the messaging service — the deal values each of its 55 employees at more than $345 million — given that five-year-old WhatsApp has yet to develop a clear business model.

Wary investors initially sent Facebook’s stock falling Thursday before it regained ground.

Acquisitions are hardly the ideal way for Facebook to address its own weaknesses, analysts said.

“Doing these acquisitions is the third-best option, in our view,” wrote Pacific Crest analysts Evan Wilson and Brian Liang in a note Thursday. “We would rather see Facebook be successful organically or acquire these competitors earlier (and cheaper).”

Facebook has tried to launch its own messaging service to compete with the likes of WhatsApp and Snapchat, but Facebook Messenger never caught fire with its community of more than 1 billion users. WhatsApp has more than 450 million monthly users. SnapChat does not release user figures but is believed to have at least 30 million monthly active users.

“Facebook tried and largely failed, in our view, to develop Facebook Messenger into a product that would stem the growth of the mobile messaging services as a whole,” Wilson and Liang said. “It also tried and failed, in our view, to create products that would stunt the momentum of Instagram and Snapchat” — both of which the firm tried to buy. Instagram agreed to be acquired in 2012; Snapchat reportedly turned down a $3 billion bid from Facebook last year.

The purchase price was probably influenced by Facebook’s defensive mind-set and a desire to ensure that WhatsApp didn’t fall into the hands of a competitor, said Martin Garner, senior vice president of CCS Insight. Facebook will have little time to prove that the acquisition was worth a purchase price that amounts to more than 10 percent of its market capitalization, he said.

In WhatsApp, Facebook picks up a strong following in countries such as Brazil, India and Indonesia — all areas where Facebook is looking to grow. More of Facebook’s revenue comes from overseas than the United States, making an international footprint more important than ever.

Buying WhatsApp gives the company a short-term advantage in the messaging space, but it will still have to fight off increasing competition for a fickle social media audience that often hops from service to service.

“We are somewhat skeptical that [Facebook] can maintain its relevance and valuation over the long term based on its current product set,” Wilson and Liang said.

For WhatsApp users, both Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and WhatsApp chief executive Jan Koum have promised there will be few changes.

In a company blog post, Koum said the service will never include ads, something Instagram added shortly after Facebook bought it.

Maintaining WhatsApp’s privacy and security standards is clearly an important point for Koum, which people close to him attribute to his upbringing in Ukraine and to fears about something that more Americans may have begun to worry about: government surveillance.

“It’s a decidedly contrarian approach shaped by Jan’s experience growing up in a communist country with a secret police,” Jim Goetz wrote on Sequoia Capital’s Tumblr page. “Jan’s childhood made him appreciate communication that was not bugged or taped.”

Koum said in the post that he was unwilling to compromise on WhatsApp’s “core principles,” including its data-collection and advertising practices, when striking the deal.

“You can continue to use WhatsApp no matter where in the world you are, or what smartphone you’re using,” Koum wrote. “And you can still count on absolutely no ads interrupting your communication.”

 Analysts ponder cost of Facebook’s WhatsApp deal – The Washington Post.

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Salvation Army Donation: Big Bag of Pot – Pennsylvania outlet working with police to find owner

Salvation Army workers in New York.

(NEWSER) – How … generous? An act of charity may end badly for one donor to a Pennsylvania Salvation Army outlet. Sugarcreek Borough police say they were called when workers found a large plastic bag of marijuana among some donated clothes earlier this week. Police Chief Matt Carlson tells the Oil City Derrick he suspects the owner of the drugs has noticed them missing by now, if only because the bag contained a “substantial quantity” of pot. Police were working with store employees to determine who donated the clothes and when. The chief says this isn’t the first time officers have investigated an unusual item among donated clothing, saying, “We’ve had guns, … cash, … rings, and now marijuana.”

Salvation Army Donation: Big Bag of Pot – Pennsylvania outlet working with police to find owner.

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California Grants Law License to Illegal Immigrant by Joe Guzzardi

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California Grants Law License to Illegal Immigrant


With the California Supreme Court’s decision to allow illegal immigrant Sergio Garcia to practice law, the state has hit the nadir of insanity in eliminating distinctions between those here legally and those who are not.

136275 600 California Grants Law License to Illegal Immigrant cartoons

Gary McCoy / Cagle Cartoons

Garcia’s case dates back to 2009 when he first passed the California bar examination. His many allies argued that since Garcia came to the US as a child and has lived an exemplary life in the more than 20 years since his arrival including his graduation from Cal Northern Law School, the 36-year-old should be allowed to practice. But in August 2012, the Department of Justice issued an amicus brief stating that federal law prohibits granting professional licenses to illegal immigrants unless a state passes a law allowing it. The California Legislature passed such a law in September 2013; Governor Jerry Brown signed it in October.

The Supreme Court, the California legislature and Brown ignored other compelling points that should ban Garcia from practicing law. First, Garcia’s illegal presence in the US violates immigration law every day. Furthermore, Garcia can’t be legally employed in the US. No law firm, government entity or corporation can legally hire Garcia. Finally, Garcia cannot truthfully take an attorney’s oath of office since it requires that he will “…support the Constitution of the US…” a condition which Garcia has already violated.

During 2013, California cemented its well established tradition of catering to illegal immigrants. California’s level of disregard for federal law shocked even long-time immigration analysts. Last year, Brown signed bills that will allow illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses, and another that would protect many aliens from deportation. California is one of the first states to allow illegal immigrant university students to enroll at the lower in-state tuition rate. In January, AB 131 passed, allowing illegal immigrants to qualify for Cal Grant scholarships. Both in-state tuition and Cal Grants were originally intended for and available only to legal California residents.

Advocates hailed the California Supreme Court decision and hope that it will pave the way for similar opinions in other states. Two other cases are pending. In Florida Jose Godinez-Samperio, 26, and in New York Cesar Vargas, 30, aliens who have applied for law licenses, await state Supreme Court decisions.

Ten years ago, it would have been unimaginable that illegal immigrants would be given law licenses. But since 2007, the pro-immigration lobby has spent $1.5 billion and is more powerful than ever. Some critics persuasively argue that illegal immigrants are more influential than citizens. After all, the White House under intense pressure from the immigration lobby has issued a series of executive actions favorable to illegal immigrants that have circumvented Congress and rewritten immigration law.

Garcia, Godinez-Samperio, and Vargas are members of the DREAM Bar Association, a national group formed with guidance from the American Immigration Lawyers Association for the express purpose of advancing the collective causes of would be illegal immigrant lawyers. The association’s mission, according to its president Jose Magaña, is to urge all 50 states to pass legislation and promulgate rules that would ensure that illegal immigrant students “who have graduated from an ABA-accredited law school, meet the state bar’s character and fitness requirements, and successfully pass the bar examination are able to obtain a law license and fully utilize their legal education.”

If I had to bet on the outcome, I’d put my money on the DREAM Bar Association.






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 California Grants Law License to Illegal Immigrant by Joe Guzzardi.

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Tehran foodies flock to American-style burger joints – The Washington Post

Tehran foodies flock to American-style burger joints


TEHRAN — At the Garage Grill in an upscale Tehran neighborhood, classic rock plays from the speakers, and photos of Paul Newman, James Dean and hot rods line the walls. It could be an old-time American diner, except that its hamburger prices reflect a wealthier target market here.

Right next door, Dukkan Burger serves its fare on butcher paper, with plenty of Heinz ketchup and French’s mustard supplied on request. The clientele includes young women clutching designer purses, arriving with their dates in European luxury cars.

Greasy burger joints have been part of Tehran’s fast-food landscape for decades, even in the years just after the 1979 Islamic revolution, when any symbol of U.S. culture was denounced as an example of “Westoxification.” Those eateries were mostly in downtown working-class neighborhoods, serving laborers in need of a blast of calories or students watching their budgets.

Now, though, high-end burger restaurants are suddenly popping up across the city, making the gut-busting American institution — and the quest for the best burger — the latest trend in Tehran dining.

Facebook pages dedicated to local hamburger outlets debate their relative merits, comparing them to McDonald’s, In-N-Out, Burger King and other U.S. chains. That fascination with brands has resulted in such blatant rip-offs as McAli’s, Superstar — conspicuously similar in appearance to Carl’s Jr. — and even a place calling itself Five Guys.

After a string of restaurants catering to Tehran’s rich opened and closed in recent years, observers of the capital’s culinary scene say the rise of the quality burger is not surprising, especially given Iranians’ love of grilled meat.

“Burgers are very simple. It’s a promise that’s easy to deliver on,” said Payam Kashani-Nejad, the founder of Gumboo Guide, a Web site devoted to reviews of Tehran restaurants. “And it’s a big market.”

David Yaghoobi, until recently creative director at a top Iranian advertising agency and now based in London, noted that the burger, while well-known here, is still somewhat exotic, boosting its appeal.

“In Iran, most things foreign are considered high-end, and as a burger is considered foreign, maybe there is some of that, too,” he said.

It is no coincidence, then, that most of the new hamburger restaurants are in the affluent neighborhoods of northern Tehran, in the foothills of the snowcapped Alborz Mountains — places such as Niavaran, where Garage Grill and Dukkan could dare to open side by side.

“Our concept is purely American,” said Arash Farhadpour-
Shirazi, co-owner of Garage Grill. “Burgers and cars.”

The young male servers at Garage Grill wear T-shirts from a classic-car rally that the restaurant sponsored last year. A neon Route 66 sign hangs in the front door above the back half of a classic Austin Mini. The car’s front half and the front of an orange BMW 2002 double as the restaurant’s grills.

“It’s a short escape into a different environment,” Farhadpour-Shirazi said. “Iranians love the American style. The grass is greener in the U.S.”

In nearby Farmanieh, the most popular of Tehran’s new burger joints, Burgerland, was opened last year by the members of the Iranian underground band Barobax.

In 2010, Barobax produced the biggest domestic music hit in recent memory, the wedding staple “Soosan Khanoom.” But the group members say they started Burgerland because there is more money in the food business than in playing music.

Fans line up to take photos with them, but they deny that is the main reason Burgerland is perpetually packed.

“Maybe the first and second time people come it’s to see us, but if they didn’t like the food, they wouldn’t come again and again,” said Khashayar Moradi Haghgoo, who owns and runs the restaurant with his bandmates and cousins, Keivan Moradi Haghgoo and Hamid Forouzmand. He said Burgerland regularly sells 1,500 hamburgers a day, more than three times the output of most eateries included in this report.

Across town, in the western neighborhood of Shahrak-e Gharb, BurgerHouse sees itself as the pioneer of Tehran’s hamburger craze. In business for three years, owner Amir Javadi said no one else was selling quality burgers in the city when he opened, and then “this year, all of a sudden, burger joints started sprouting like mushrooms.”

BurgerHouse started as strictly takeout and delivery but accidentally became Tehran’s lone drive-in restaurant.

“We noticed that people would pick up their orders and then just sit in their cars and eat,” Javadi said. “There are extra costs for delivery, like the packaging, so we started giving the option of bringing trays to customers’ cars, and people got used to it.”

Every night, even during the freezing winter, the narrow street that is home to BurgerHouse is lined with cars of regulars waiting for their order numbers to appear on a screen above the tiny shop front.

To Javadi, the success of burgers in Tehran is unconnected to any particular cultural trends or preferences beyond the simple pleasures of the food itself.

“No one looks at a burger as something American or even foreign anymore,” Javadi said. “It’s one of the world’s favorite foods.”

 Tehran foodies flock to American-style burger joints – The Washington Post.

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Brewer Replies to Starbucks Letter With Snarky Note, $6 – Promises to stop calling one of its beers ‘Frappicino’

Brewer Replies to Starbucks Letter With Snarky Note, $6


By Newser Editors and Wire Services


Posted Dec 31, 2013 5:18 PM CST | Updated Jan 4, 2014 7:00 PM CST


This Jan. 3, 2012 file photo shows the Starbucks Coffee logo in Mountain View, Calif.


(NEWSER) – A small Missouri brewery has responded to a cease and desist letter from Starbucks by sending the coffee chain a check to cover what it calls the profit from use of the word “Frappicino”—a check for $6. Exit 6 Pub and Brewery in the St. Louis suburb of Cottleville named one of its brews the Frappicino, spelled slightly differently than the word Starbucks uses for its blended beverages. That prompted an attorney for Starbucks to send Exit 6 a letter on Dec. 9, which noted that the Seattle-based company “is the owner of a number of world-famous trademarks, including the well-known FRAPPUCCINO trademark.”

The letter also said that the words are “phonetically identical” and that Exit 6′s use of Frappicino “is likely to cause confusion, mistake.” In his sarcastic response letter, Exit 6 owner Jeff Britton also wrote that the brewery “never thought that our beer drinking customers would have thought that the alcoholic beverage coming out of the tap would have actually been coffee from one of the many, many, many stores located a few blocks away.” The letter said Exit 6 would no longer use the term “Frappicino” and would instead refer to its beer as “The F Word.” Britton said in a telephone interview that the new batch of “The F Word” sold out in three hours. He’s contemplating making more, based on the calls, emails, and Facebook messages of support he said he’s received from around the world.

 Brewer Replies to Starbucks Letter With Snarky Note, $6 – Promises to stop calling one of its beers ‘Frappicino’.

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Senate Democrats plan fast-track fix to reinstate lost unemployment benefits | World news |

Senate Democrats plan fast-track fix to reinstate lost unemployment benefits

• Democrats plan to make poverty and inequality election issues

• Senator Reed tells Guardian: ‘Many of these people are desperate’

Paul Lewis in Washington and Dominic Rushe in New York

Thursday 2 January 2014 12.27 EST

Harry Reid


Senate majority leader Harry Reid has indicated that the bill will quickly be put to a vote. Photograph: Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Democratic leaders in the Senate are planning to fast-track legislation to extend unemployment insurance, a move that would provide a lifeline to more than a million jobless Americans who lost their benefits five days ago.

Senator Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island whose bipartisan bill will ensure a three-month extension of the federal benefits program, told the Guardian the measure would stimulate the economy and alleviate what he called the “mental torment” suffered by those long-term unemployed who now feel abandoned.

The benefits, which apply to people who are unemployed for longer than six months, were left to expire on Saturday after a bipartisan budget deal on federal spending for the next two years failed to include a reauthorization of the program.

“On a human level, many of these people are desperate,” Reed said in an interview on Thursday. “It is the difference between being able to pay their mortgage or not. Many of these are people who have worked for decades. They had good jobs, and they’ve been sending out sending out thousands of résumés, but they’re in a job market that is terrible.”

Reed’s bill, which is co-authored by the Nevada Republican Dean Heller, will only extend the federal benefits until the end of March – a temporary fix designed to allow congressional committees to work on a more permanent solution for the long-term unemployed. It would be applied retroactively, reimbursing those who lost benefits over the last week.

In a clear sign that Democrats plan to make poverty and inequality major issues in this year’s Congressional mid-term elections, Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, told a reporter in his home state of Nevada earlier this week that the bill will be put to a vote when the Senate reconvenes on Monday.

A senior Democratic aide involved in the legislation said any vote may now be pushed back to Tuesday or Wednesday, to make room for the Senate’s confirmation of Janet Yellen as the chair of the Federal Reserve. But the bill remains a priority.

“We have a commitment that the unemployment insurance bill be one of the first things the Senate moves on,” the aide said.

Reed and Heller represent the two states – Rhode Island and Nevada – with the highest unemployment rates in the US. 

Reed said 49,000 people – many of whom once had successful, managerial jobs – had lost benefits in Rhode Island over the last week. “Their suffering is the kind of mental torment of someone whose future is suddenly uncertain,” he said. “You’re 40 or 50 years old and you’ve worked all your life, and suddenly you’re thinking: I may never get a job anything like the one I had when I was laid off.”

On Thursday, the Labor Department reported that 1.39m people received the special extended benefits during the week ending 14 December, under an extension enacted in 2008, at the start of the recession, in order to help people looking for work.

Last month the Labor Department announced the US unemployment rate had hit a five-year low of 7% in November, but long-term unemployment remains stubbornly high. The expiration of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program on 28 December means that, according to an estimate by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), only one in four unemployed Americans are receiving jobless benefits – the smallest proportion in half a century.

Democrats believe the issue could lose Republicans votes in this November’s midterm elections. Some of the highest rates of unemployment are in Republican-controlled states, and polls show the public supports reintroducing federal benefits for the long-term unemployed.

President Barack Obama is expected to make tackling economic inequality a major priority for 2014 and his administration has thrown its weight behind the Senate push to reintroduce the benefits program. Gene Sperling, the director of the White House’s National Economic Council, said on Wednesday the president was committed to providing support to the long-term unemployed – a move administration economists say would also boost the wider economy.

“Failing to extend emergency unemployment insurance through 2014 will negatively impact 14 million Americans – the 4.9 million workers who will see unemployment insurance cut off and the approximately 9 million additional family members they are supporting,” Sperling said. “But if Congress does the right thing and acts to extend emergency unemployment benefits through 2014, it is estimated to lead to 200,000 jobs and a fifth of a point of additional economic growth.”

Reed has spoken on the phone with Obama, who is on vacation in Hawaii, about the bill’s progress. “He thinks this is very important,” Reed said. “He’s particularly concerned about not only the human impact, but also the impact on the economy – the loss of jobs and the contraction of growth.”

In his brief remarks about the bill, Senate leader Reid told the Associated Press he was hopeful the bill would pass in the Senate, but was unsure if it would succeed in the Republican-controlled House. “I don’t predict anything in the House,” he said.

In the House, Democratic representative Sander Levin, the ranking member of the House ways and means committee, is working closely with the party’s whip, Steny Hoyer. However, congressional analysts believe the bill is unlikely to succeed without support from Republican leaders in the House, which has so far been absent.

“If it went to the floor in the House, I think it would pass easily,” said Judy Conti, a NELP congressional lobbyist.

If the Heller-Reed bill fails, Conti predicted that Democrats might seek to attach a provision to introduce the benefits to either the forthcoming Farm Bill or the Appropriations Bill. 

The Congressional Budget Office estimated on Tuesday that the Heller-Reed bill would cost £6.4bn. Around 1.3 million jobless Americans received their last payment on Saturday. On average, a further 72,000 Americans are projected to lose their unemployment insurance each week through the first half of the year. 

A recent study by the liberal Economic Policy Institute said that while it would cost roughly $25.2bn to continue the extensions, the economic stimulus would be significantly amplified because of the “multiplier” effect.

That is principally because research shows the long-term unemployed are likely to spend most if not all of their benefits on basic necessities, such as food and rent, thus boosting the economy.

Economist Heidi Shierholz, who jointly authored the study, said on Thursday that paying out unemployment insurance is consistently ranked as the second-most effective economic stimulus available to federal policy makers, after spending on food stamps.

“Those unemployment benefits were going straight back into the wider economy, increasing demand, and as of 28 December that has all been sucked out. The one thing I can say is the decision to allow these insurance benefits to expire cannot be based on economics.”

Senate Democrats plan fast-track fix to reinstate lost unemployment benefits | World news |

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The Scientific Odds That Using a Cell Phone Will Make You a Bad Driver – Emily Badger – The Atlantic Cities

The Scientific Odds That Using a Cell Phone Will Make You a Bad Driver

The Scientific Odds That Using a Cell Phone Will Make You a Bad Driver

Common sense suggests that any activity that pulls your eyes away the road will impair your ability to see what’s coming from the driver’s seat. If you’re looking up a phone number in your smart phone, you can’t look at the car in front of you. If you’re peering down into the fast food bag wedged between your legs, you’re probably not simultaneously scoping out your rear-view mirror.

So it probably won’t surprise you to learn that even people who are experienced drivers are more likely to crash while dialing a cell phone. Here, though, are some awfully specific risk ratios: An experienced driver doing this is about two-and-a-half times more likely to get in a crash or have a near-miss than if they weren’t fumbling with a phone at all. And the crash risk for novice drivers goes up more than eight-fold. Just reaching for a phone makes a novice driver seven times more likely to have a crash or close call.

These figures come from a new study just published by the New England Journal of Medicine. The results are particularly fascinating for how the researchers came up with them: The study recruited 42 freshly minted drivers in southwestern Virginia, and 109 more seasoned drivers in the Washington, D.C., area, who had, on average, 20 years of experience driving. The researchers outfitted their cars with a host of devices: GPS systems, sensors, cameras pointing toward the driver and outward at the road. All of this technology then continuously recorded what happened next, over a full year for the novices and 18 months for the other drivers.

“What’s remarkable about it is it allows you to objectively identify risks for a cash,” says Bruce Simons-Morton, one of the co-authors and an investigator with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “That’s because virtually every crash or near miss is associated with an elevated gravitational force.”

This occurs when a car suddenly stops or swerves. And these moments can be detected by an accelerometer placed in the car. Over the course of the study, these people got into 685 crashes or near misses (167 of them among the youngsters).

Thanks to all the technology, scientists have objective data about such risky events (a car suddenly swerved), the driver’s culpability (the forward-facing camera records what the driver sees), and the activity that may have led to it (the in-cab camera can capture burritos mid-bite or teenagers diving for an iPhone).

The young drivers, who were recruited within three weeks of earning their driver’s license, turn out to be tripped up by all kinds of “secondary” activities in the driver’s seat. They’re three times more likely to get in a crash when they’re eating, and four times more likely when they’re looking at roadside objects. They’re eight times more likely to get into trouble when reaching for an object other than a cell phone.

Experienced drivers, on the other hand, were only handicapped by one activity: dialing a phone. Talking on it or reaching for it didn’t hamper them. Talking by itself also didn’t drive up the risk for the younger drivers, as many people suspect. This may be because talking requires some cognitive demand, Simons-Morton says, but it doesn’t take our eyes off the road. And all of the activities that increased risk in this study did just that.

The findings suggest, among other things, that those of us who’ve been driving for a while are pretty good at multitasking.

Simons-Morton puts it a little differently: “I think what it means is that when you’re inexperienced, you’re not very good at multitasking, and you’re not very good at determining when, under what driving conditions, to engage in these tasks.”

Previous research also suggests that experienced drivers simply have a harder time taking their eyes off the road (which is a good thing).

“Some cognitive psychologists say there is no such thing as dividing one’s attention,” Simons-Morton says. “You’re either attending this or you’re attending that. But it is the case that experienced drivers tend to be uncomfortable when their eyes are off the road, and they tend to look back.”

Top image: George Fairbairn/

Emily Badger is a staff writer at The Atlantic Cities. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific Standard, GOOD, The Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. She lives in Washington, D.C.

The Scientific Odds That Using a Cell Phone Will Make You a Bad Driver – Emily Badger – The Atlantic Cities.

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Charged with theft, man arrested for plugging car into school’s outlet | Ars Technica

Charged with theft, man arrested for plugging car into school’s outlet

Georgia dad was arrested for plugging in Leaf during son’s tennis practice.

by Sean Gallagher - Dec 4 2013



A man in an Atlanta suburb was confronted by a police officer for plugging his electric car into an outside outlet at a school. Ten days later, he was arrested at home and charged with theft for taking about 5 cents worth of electricity “without consent.”

Kaveh Kamooneh plugged an extension cable from his Nissan Leaf into a 110-volt external outlet at Chamblee Middle School while his son was practicing tennis. A short time later, he noticed someone in his car and went to investigate—and found that the man was a Chamblee police officer. “He informed me he was about to arrest me, or at least charge me, for electrical theft,” Kamooneh told Atlanta’s Channel 11 News.

Kamooneh said that the car, when plugged into a 110-volt outlet, draws a kilowatt an hour. “Over an hour, that’s maybe eight or nine cents” worth of electricity, he said, depending on the rates. He was plugged in for less than 20 minutes, so he estimated the amount of power he drew from the school at less than 5 cents.

Sgt. Ernesto Ford of the Chamblee Police Department told 11 News that “a theft is a theft,” and that he would arrest anyone for charging their car from an outlet without permission.

Kamooneh plans to fight the criminal charges, which he sees as selective prosecution. “There’s no record of anyone being arrested for drinking water out of a tap,” he told 11 News. “People charge laptops or cell phones at public outlets all the time, and no one’s ever been arrested for that.”

 Charged with theft, man arrested for plugging car into school’s outlet | Ars Technica.


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