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The Colorado Supreme Court Just Ruled You Can Get Fired For Smoking Pot Even When You're Not At Work

| Mon Jun. 15, 2015 12:51 PM EDT

The Colorado Supreme Court just ruled that employees can be fired for smoking marijuana even when they aren't at work, according to the Denver Post.

The 6-0 decision comes nine months after the state's highest court heard oral arguments in Brandon Coats' case against Dish Network. Coats, who had a medical marijuana card and consumed pot off-duty to control muscle spasms, was fired in 2010.

Coats challenged Dish and its company policy, claiming that his use was legal under state law. The firing was upheld in both trial court and the Colorado Court of Appeals.

When the case went to the Colorado Supreme Court, legal observers said the case could have significant implications for employers across the state.

They also noted that the ruling could be precedent-setting as Colorado and other states wrangle with adapting laws to a nascent industry that is illegal under federal law.

So here's the deal: Marijuana is legal in Colorado but it's illegal under federal law. Even though the DOJ has not prosecuted recreational users, businesses are still allowed to fire people for unlawful behavior.

tl;dr:

Here's the full ruling:

 

 

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Rachel Dolezal Resigns as Spokane NAACP President

| Mon Jun. 15, 2015 12:51 PM EDT

Rachel Dolezal, the president of Spokane, Washington's NAACP chapter, resigned on Monday.

"In the eye of this current storm, I can see that a separation of family and organizational outcomes is in the best interest of the NAACP," Dolezal wrote in a Facebook post. "It is with complete allegiance to the cause of racial and social justice and the NAACP that I step aside from the Presidency and pass the baton to my Vice President, Naima Quarles-Burnley."

Dolezal's decision comes just days after her biological parents came forward and accused her of lying for years about being African American.

"I have waited in deference while others expressed their feelings, beliefs, confusions and even conclusions—absent the full story," she wrote in her official letter of resignation. "I am consistently committed to empowering marginalized voices and believe that many individuals have been heard in the last hours and days that would not otherwise have had a platform to weigh in on this important discussion."

Dolezal is also chair of Spokane's Office of Police Ombudsman Commission, and Spokane officials are currently investigating whether she lied about her race in order to secure that appointment.

To read her resignation notice in its entirety, jump here.

Sharon Van Etten's Anguished Territory

| Mon Jun. 15, 2015 12:46 PM EDT

Sharon Van Etten
I Don't Want to Let You Down
Jagjaguwar

When it comes to harrowing beauty, Sharon Van Etten's music has no peer. Following last year’s dazzling album Are We There, this stunning five-song EP of gorgeous chamber pop returns to the same anguished territory, plumbing the depths of damaged relationships and massive self-doubt with unsparing candor. The desperate sentiments of the title track or "I Always Fall Apart" might veer into melodramatic excess if not for Van Etten's understated but wonderfully expressive singing, which lends a ring of plainspoken truth to the darkest scenarios. Despite the mournful vibes, I Don't Want to Let You Down is ultimately exhilarating, simply because it’s thrilling to see a gifted artist in full command of her substantial powers.

Will Republicans Repeal Obamacare if They Win Next Year?

| Mon Jun. 15, 2015 11:24 AM EDT

Sarah Kliff argues that if Obamacare survives King v. Burwell, then it's here to stay. There are no further legal challenges that could kill it. Political momentum to repeal it is waning. And most important, the number of enrollees is growing:

Obamacare now has a large and growing constituency: an estimated 10.2 million Americans get coverage through the health law's marketplace (and millions more through Obamacare's Medicaid expansion).

....As more and more people sign up for Obamacare — the Congressional Budget Office expects 24 million people to sign up by 2024 — the politics of repealing Obamacare become worse and worse. The constituency that the law has already developed just keeps growing.

This helps explain why Republicans are tripping over themselves to come up with plans to replace Obamacare's insurance subsidies should the Supreme Court rule against them. Those proposals implicitly acknowledge that it would be bad for Republicans to allow millions of Americans' tax subsidies to dry up, even though legislators still staunchly oppose the law.

I've made exactly this argument myself, so you'd think I'd be in total agreement. But if anything, I think I'm more nervous than I was a year or two ago. I keep expecting Republican fury over Obamacare to wane, but it never seems to. It seems to be every bit the white whale it was six years ago, and it promises to be a big applause line in the 2016 presidential campaign yet again.

So how could repeal happen? Easy. Republicans will control the House in 2017, so that's no problem. Maintaining control of the Senate (narrowly) is a distinct possibility. There's also a perfectly reasonable chance of having President Walker in the Oval Office, and we all know he'd be perfectly happy to sign a repeal bill.

But even in a minority, Democrats would filibuster a repeal, wouldn't they? Sure. But so what? Republicans would simply make it part of a budget bill and pass it by reconciliation, which requires only a simple majority. Any Senate parliamentarian who isn't a hack would determine that this is a violation of the rules, but all that means is that Republicans need to install a hack as parliamentarian who will do what they want. They've done it before, after all. Problem solved. Obamacare repealed.

Now, granted, Republicans have to win both the Senate and the White House for this to happen. The odds are probably against that, but not by a lot. It's well within the realm of possibility. And that would leave only a very thin reed to stand on: the fact that repealing Obamacare would immiserate millions of people and once again turn health care into a living hell for the poor.

Would that be enough to give Republicans pause? I wish I still believed it would be. But I don't. A harsh streak of just plain meanness has taken over the GOP in recent years, and I haven't seen any sign that it's fading away. Maybe this is merely partisan bitterness on my part. I sure hope so. But as near as I can tell, they'd actively enjoy making the lives of the poor ever more harsh in order to save the rich from paying a few taxes. I sure hope we don't get to find out.

Greece Talks Once Again (Yawn) Coming Down to the Wire

| Mon Jun. 15, 2015 10:31 AM EDT

Once again, talks with Greece are coming down to the last hour:

Last-ditch talks aimed at breaking the impasse between Athens and its international creditors have collapsed in acrimony with European Union officials dismissing Greece’s latest reform package as incomplete in a step that pushes the country closer to leaving the eurozone.

What had been billed as a last attempt to close the gap between Alexis Tsipras’s anti-austerity government and the bodies keeping debt-stricken Greece afloat was halted late on Sunday after less than an hour of negotiations in Brussels.

You can click the link for more details, but the story is pretty much the same as always. Greece wants to accept modest reforms (a bit higher VAT here and there, some reforms to reduce tax evasion) while the Europeans and the IMF want bigger concessions, including cuts to pensions.

So either Grexit really is close, and we're all going to find just how bad it really is, or else—as usual—everyone is waiting until literally the last second to make the concessions necessary on both sides. Both the chief economist of the IMF and the head of the ECB are urging compromise as I write.

Want to follow this in real time, just like a soccer match? The Guardian has you covered! Just click here. At this particular moment there appears to be a fair amount of table thumping between Greek members of the European Parliament and Mario Draghi. Mostly theater, as near as I can tell.

Let John Oliver and Helen Mirren Convince You to Finally Read America's Damning Torture Report

| Mon Jun. 15, 2015 9:16 AM EDT

Last December, the Senate Intelligence Committee released its long-awaited torture report, which provided overwhelming evidence interrogation methods used after the attacks on September 11th to be largely ineffective and inhumane. Despite this, most Americans have yet to even skim the report's findings and continue to believe torture tactics can successfully lead to reliable information.

"Torture is one of those things that is advertised as something that works, but doesn't like a Ford truck or those weird bottles of Horny Goat Weed available at your local bodega," John Oliver explained on the latest Last Week Tonight. "But maybe the reason that so many of us innately believe that torture works is that it does on TV all the time. Look at 24."

On Sunday, Oliver implored viewers to start paying attention—he even recruited the help of actress Helen Mirren to eloquently read some of the report's most horrifying details—as Senators John McCain and Dianne Feinstein currently have the chance to pass a bill seeking to permanently ban specific torture methods for good.

"America should not be a country that tortures people because it is brutal. It is medieval and it is beneath us," he said.

 

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Is the Leading Nutrition Science Group in Big Food's Pocket?

| Mon Jun. 15, 2015 6:05 AM EDT

Figuring out whom to trust for nutritional advice can be a daunting task; new findings on everything from the dangers of sugar to the health benefits of leftover pasta seem to come out every day, and the "experts" behind them often have ulterior motives.

According to a report released today, even venerable nutritional science organizations and the journals they publish can't be trusted. Public health lawyer Michele Simon explores how corporate interests influence the findings of one of these research organizations: the American Society for Nutrition. The nearly 90-year-old nonprofit, comprising 5,000 scientists and experts, publishes the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and claims to "bring together the world's top researchers, clinical nutritionists and industry to advance our knowledge and application of nutrition for the sake of humans and animals." But according Simon, the group's coziness with corporate sponsors calls its research into question.

Here are some of Simon's findings:

  • ASN's financial backers include many from the food and beverage industry. Their "Sustaining Partners," or financial donors of $10,000 or more, include the likes of Coca-Cola, Cargill, Monsanto, the National Dairy Council, and the Sugar Association.
     
  • These financial donors often sponsor ASN's events at conferences. For example, PepsiCo, DuPont, and the National Dairy Association sponsored ASN sessions at last year's annual Experimental Biology conference on topics like bone health and the science behind low-calorie sweeteners. Companies paid ASN as much as $50,000 for sponsorship of separate ASN satellite sessions.
     
  • ASN's leaders have had past ties with Big Food. Simon found that the people leading ASN frequently have ties to food corporations. For example, Roger Clemens, who formerly led ASN's public information committee, served as a "Scientific Advisor" for Nestlé USA for more than two decades. And past ASN President James O. Hill has reported personal fees from Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and the American Beverage Association.
     
  • ASN's stances on policy often go against established science. In April of last year, for example, the ASN's American Journal of Clinical Nutrition came out with a statement defending processed foods. "There are no differences between processing of foods at home or at a factory," it read. It went on to say that terms like "minimally processed" and "ultra processed" impart value and do not "characterize food in a helpful manner." These assertions contradict myriad findings that increasingly show the adverse health effects of processed foods. The ASN also came out against the Federal Drug Administration's proposal to label added sugars on Nutrition Facts labels. It commented on the FDA's proposal that "a lack of consensus remains in the scientific evidence of the health effects of added sugars alone versus sugars as a whole." It added that labeling added sugars will not improve consumers' food choices and health. This, too, goes against the findings of organizations like the World Health Organization and the American Heart Association.

Are We Really In Control of Our Own Outrage? The Case of Social Media and Tim Hunt.

| Sun Jun. 14, 2015 12:23 PM EDT

British scientist Tim Hunt. We all know his story by now, don't we? Here's a quick refresher:

  1. In 2001 he won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
  2. In 2015, speaking in Korea, he decided to make a Sheldonian1 joke about women in the lab. "Let me tell you about my trouble with girls ... three things happen when they are in the lab ... You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticize them, they cry."
  3. Social media immediately erupted into a firestorm. Within days he was fired by University College London and the European Research Council and had essentially been exiled from the scientific community in Britain.

There's no disagreement about either the inappropriateness of Hunt's remark or the insufficiency of his "explanation" the next day. What I'm more interested in, however, is the binary nature of the punishment for this kind of thing. As recently as 20 years ago, nothing would have happened because there would have been no real mechanism for reporting Hunt's joke. At most, some of the women in the audience might have gotten together later for lunch, rolled their eyes, and wondered just how much longer they were going to have to put up with this crap. And that would have been that.

Today, remarks like this end up on social media within minutes and mushroom into a firestorm of outrage within hours. Institutions panic. The hordes must be appeased. Heads are made to roll and careers ended. Then something else happens to engage the outrage centers of our brains and it's all forgotten.

Neither of these strikes me as the best possible response to something essentially trivial like this. Ignoring it presumes acceptance, while digital torches and pitchforks teach a lesson that's far too harsh and ruinous, especially for a first-time offense.

The fact that media outlets had limited space and were unlikely to report stuff like this hardly made it right to ignore it in 1995. Likewise, the fact that social media has evolved into an almost tailor-made outrage machine for every offensive remark ever uttered doesn't make it right to insist on the death penalty every time someone says something obnoxious.

I'm whistling into the wind here, but why do we allow the current state of the art in technology to drive our responses to things like this? Hunt deserved a reprimand. He deserved to be mocked on Twitter. That's probably about it. He didn't deserve the guillotine. One of these days we're going to have to figure out how to properly handle affairs like this based on their actual impact and importance, not their ability to act as clickbait on Facebook. We all have some growing up to do.

1Sheldonian (Shell • doe’ • nee • un) adj. [TVE < OE sheldon, valley with steep sides] 1. awkward, socially inept behavior, esp. among male scientists toward women.

Charts: Here’s How Much We’re Spending on the War Against ISIS

| Sun Jun. 14, 2015 6:05 AM EDT

As the White House considers opening operating bases in Iraq and deploying troops to bolster support for Iraqi forces against ISIS, including one in ISIS-held territory, the cost of airstrikes in the region continues its steady rise.

The Department of Defense has spent more than $2.7 billion—some $9 million per day—since the United States began operations against the so-called Islamic State last August. To put that in perspective, the DOD is on pace to spend a little more than $14 million per day to combat ISIS in fiscal year 2015. That's minuscule compared to the roughly $187 million the Defense Department is still spending on the Iraq War each day.

The result? More than 6,200 targets damaged or destroyed in the course of nine months, according to the DOD. Roughly two-thirds of that spending, or a little more than $1.8 billion, came from the Air Force, with air operations costing $5 million per day. 

The newly released DOD data comes as the House passed a $579 billion defense spending bill for the coming fiscal year. Here's the breakdown:

 

Every Four Years, We Vote For Our Heart's Desire

| Sat Jun. 13, 2015 6:37 PM EDT

After listening to Hillary Clinton's official announcement speech, Ezra Klein has a question:

Clinton name-checked almost every center-left policy idea in existence: universal pre-k, guaranteed paid sick days, massive investments in clean energy, rewriting the tax code, raising the minimum wage, and so on....Many of these ideas are good. But there's a Democrat in the White House right now. He supports these ideas, too. And yet, they languish in press releases and stalled legislation. How will Hillary Clinton make them law?

Well, yeah, that's a good question. It's also a good question for the Republican nominee, who will probably have to face a Democratic Senate, and at the very least will have to face Democratic filibusters. That means a Republican president might be able to cut taxes, but not a whole lot more.

I dunno. Maybe that's enough for Republicans. Get in a few tax cuts, appoint some conservative judges, and prevent anything new from happening. Nobody's ecstatic, but everybody's satisfied.

In any case, I doubt it's an issue for Hillary either. As near as I can tell, Americans seem to vote for president based almost solely on affinity. That is, they vote for whoever says the right things, with no concern for whether those things are obviously impossible or little more than self-evident panders. It's kind of amazing, really. Most voters seemingly just don't care if presidential candidates are lying or stretching or even being entirely chimerical. They merely want to hear the desire to accomplish the right things. Every four years, they really do take the word for the deed.

I suppose it's like that everywhere, not just America.