Forget the drug war—the main battle now in the Emerald Triangle may be drought.
Josh HarkinsonJun. 30, 2015 6:00 AM
There were helicopters, SWAT teams, and nearly 100,000 marijuana plants yanked out of the ground, but last week's massive raid in Northern California's rugged Emerald Triangle was not your father's pot bust. Carried out by county law enforcement with no help from the DEA, it targeted private landowners—and not just because they were growing pot, police say, but because they were illegally sucking some 500,000 gallons of water a day from a section of the nearby Eel river that is now stagnant and moss-ridden.
In short, the cops say this was as much a water raid as a pot raid. One certainly could imagine, in this era of evolving attitudes toward marijuana, a shift in enforcement focus toward environmentally problematic grows on steep wooded hillsides or above sensitive salmon streams in an increasingly dry climate. These are not isolated issues: Among the growers targeted in last week's raid, according to the Lost Coast Outpost, were members of California Cannabis Voice Humboldt, a group working to bring growers into compliance with state and federal environmental laws.
A leading advocate for Northern California pot growers scoffs at the notion that the raid was environmentally motivated. "This isn't about the environment; this is about business as usual," says Hezekiah Allen, director of the Emerald Growers Association. Allen challenges the authorities' water use estimates, pointing out that the extensive reservoirs discovered at the grow sites could be eco-friendly ways of storing winter runoff for use during the summer growing season. He also questions the value of criminal raids at a time when the California Water Board is drafting a system of water-use permits and civil fines for pot farmers.
The raid suggests that even the most eco-conscious growers could face a reckoning once California legalizes cannabis and starts inspecting cannabis farms.
"There are 2,200 un-permitted water diversions for wine grapes in the Central Valley," he points out, citing a state report, "so I am curious when we are going to see the sheriff show up and chop down un-permitted vines. If we are agnostic about what the crop is, the same crime should lead to the same activity. That is all we are asking, just to be treated like any other crop."
Yet if state and local officials are to be believed (they did not respond to requests for comment), the raid suggests that even the most eco-conscious Emerald Triangle growers could face a reckoning once California (probably inevitably) legalizes cannabis and starts subjecting pot farms to agricultural inspections. Even with the the best land-use practices, many Emerald Triangle farms likely draw too much water from sensitive mountain streams and headwaters. Growers may find that it's cheaper and more eco-friendly to relocate to the Central Valley.
Or why stop there? Cannabis, indigenous to moist river valleys in Central and South Asia, uses about six gallons per day per plant. That's more than many other thirsty crops, such as cotton, which uses 10 gallons per plantfor the entire growing season. Which suggests that cannabis should be grown somewhere wet—somewhere other than California.
Allen doesn't see that happening. He argues that cannabis farming in the Emerald Triangle can be sustainable when farmers cultivate drought-tolerant Kush varieties from Afghanistan, and irrigate entirely with rainwater stored in tanks onsite. After all, no crop offers a greater financial yield per gallon of water. "If we step back and take a look at this industry and the jobs that it creates, California cannot afford not to grow cannabis in the 21st century," he says. "It's one of the most adaptable, resource-efficient ways of generating revenue on small farms."
In May 2014, the Reverend Jesse Jackson traveled from his home in Chicago to the Googleplex in Mountain View, California, to address the search giant's annual shareholder meeting. Technology isn't what you would call a core area for the 73-year-old civil rights leader, who carries an old-school flip phone and oversees a website, Rainbowpush.org, that looks like a relic from the GeoCities era. But Jackson had a bone to pick. Despite Google's mission to make the world's data "universally accessible and useful," it had been fighting for years to stop the release of federal data on diversity in its workforce. "There should be nothing to hide, and much to be proud of and promote," Jackson told the company's executives after politely requesting its diversity stats. "I ask you, in the name of all you represent, to pursue this mission."
Ask him anything! On Wednesday, July 1, Jesse Jackson will be on Reddit, answering your questions on this and other topics from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. ET (8:30-9:45 a.m. PT). Photo by John H. White, via Wikipedia Commons.
David Drummond, the company's only black high-level executive, sized up Jackson, who stood out amid the mostly white crowd. "Many of the companies in the Valley have been reluctant to divulge that data, including Google," he responded. "And quite frankly, I think we've come to the conclusion that we're wrong about that."
The exchange was the public culmination of some behind-the-scenes arm wrestling that was vintage Jesse Jackson. Drummond, 52, was an old friend of the reverend who had volunteered for his 1988 presidential campaign and helped launch Jackson's first tech initiative, the Silicon Valley Project, 11 years later. The two men had met quietly a month or so earlier at Google HQ, and again around the time of the shareholder meeting. Drummond knew Jackson would ask for the stats, and Jackson knew Drummond would agree to release them. Two weeks later, Google's senior vice president of people operations, Laszlo Bock, did just that. "Put simply, Google is not where we want to be when it comes to diversity," he said, upon revealing that the company's overall workforce was only 30 percent female, 3 percent Hispanic, and 2 percent black.
The former San Francisco mayor reflects on the long, strange trip.
Josh HarkinsonJun. 26, 2015 9:27 PM
Gavin Newsom officiates at the wedding of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, the first gay couple to be joined after the California Supreme Court declared same-sex marriages legal.
In 2004, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom unleashed a national political and legal tempest when he issued about 4,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples. At a time when gay marriage was expressly prohibited by California law, even many of Newsom's allies wondered aloud whether the rising Democratic star had effectively sabotaged his political career. Others grumbled that by forcing the hot-button issue into the presidential campaign, he'd handed a sharp weapon to the Republicans. During two political fundraisers in San Francisco that year, Barack Obama infamously refused to be photographed with Newsom.
But history was on Newsom's side. In 2008, the California Supreme Court struck down the state's same-sex marriage ban. Proposition 8, a subsequent, voter-backed constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage, was later invalidated by a federal appeals court in a decision the US Supreme Court allowed to stand. Friday's Supreme Court ruling has enshrined same-sex marriage as the law of the land, offering Newsom, now California's lieutenant governor, sweet vindication 11 years after he took his rogue stance. I spoke with Newsom on Friday afternoon.
When the feds come sniffing around, the app maker won't necessarily tell you about it.
Josh HarkinsonJun. 25, 2015 4:50 PM
Those requests are not uncommon. Over six months, according to Snapchat's first transparency report, published in April, it received 375 criminal legal requests for the United States. It complied 92 percent of the time—a rate higher than Yahoo, Twitter, Facebook, and Google. (Snapchat did not respond to specific questions I sent through its channel for media queries.)
"We use Snapchat for the types of things that we would not want to see, for example, on a LinkedIn profile."
What could the government possibly hope to get from an app that quickly deletes all of its content? A lot, it turns out. In addition to address book contacts, usernames, and phone numbers, Snapchat retains, for up to 30 days, content that hasn't yet been read by the intended recipients. That gives investigators plenty of time to obtain a warrant and start digging. They can also serve Snapchat with a preservation order, forcing it to maintain the data. And because Snapchat doesn't promise to alert users to government requests, the feds may be able to tap into Snapchat feeds undetected.
To be fair, Snapchat has improved markedly since EFF's last report, in 2014, in which it earned one out of six possible stars. This year's report looked at five categories, including the use of industry best practices, data-retention transparency, and support for user-friendly public policies. Snapchat's four-out-of-five score beat that of messaging competitors WhatsApp and Google, but the EFF gave five stars to Adobe, Apple, Credo Mobile, Dropbox, Sonic, Wikimedia, WordPress, Yahoo, and others.
A company whose raison d'être is privacy and security ought to have a perfect score, says Rainey Reitman, a co-author of the report. "We use Snapchat for the types of things that we would not want to see, for example, on a LinkedIn profile," she notes. "So I do think there are expectations that Snapchat will have the best security and privacy possible. I expect them to be a leader on these types of issues."
Westboro Baptist Church, the notorious group of religious extremists that is basically just one family, has said it will attempt to picket the funerals of people killed in the Charleston shootings. In recent tweets, Westboro has suggested the shooting was God's punishment for late pastor and state Sen. Clementa Pickney's having supported Hillary Clinton.
Protesting at funerals is a tactic the group has also tried (unsuccessfully) at burial services following other mass killings, including for victims of the Tucson shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing. But before the Kansas-based hate group can wave its familiar "God Sent the Shooter" signs for the TV cameras, it may have to overcome opposition from the hactivist group Anonymous.
"While it is doubtful these idiots will show up, it is critical that Anonymous have a well-prepared presence on the ground in Charleston," the group said in a press release announcing "Operation Shut Down Westboro Baptist Church." Coordinated by the Anonymous faction Operation Ferguson, which got its start with the Black Lives Matter protests, the effort will reportedly involve surrounding the Westboro protesters and blocking their signs.
Anonymous has periodically targeted Westboro since around 2011, when it hacked the group's website during a televised media interview. The following year, Anonymous helped block Westboro protesters who had shown up at the funeral of a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. In 2013, Anonymous garnered significant media attention when it "brandjacked" Westboro, creating a fake Facebook site for the group.
So far this week, Operation Ferguson has tweeted out links to personal information of Westboro members. One Anon also posted what could be construed as death threats against members of the church, though he has often drawn rebukes from other members of Anonymous, which tends to disavow violence.
On Tuesday, the Charleston City Council passed a temporary ordinance restricting all protests to at least 300 feet away from funerals.