Josh Harkinson

Josh Harkinson


Born in Texas and based in San Francisco, Josh covers tech, labor, drug policy, and the environment.

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NRA Pushes Bill to Outlaw Anti-Smoking Programs

| Thu Feb. 7, 2013 4:16 AM PST

The National Rifle Association is worried that Kansas might try to discourage gun ownership. So it is throwing its weight behind a bill that would prevent the state from spending money lobbying against "any legal consumer product"—a category that includes, among other things, tobacco and junk food.

Although State Bill 45, debated yesterday by a state Senate committee, focuses on lobbying efforts at the state and local level, a broad interpretation of the language could prevent Kansas from spending anything on programs that discourage the use of harmful products. The bill could "scuttle public health campaigns and other proven public health programs," the Topeka Capital-Journal reported yesterday, citing testimony from a Democratic senator and a representative from the American Cancer Society.

How Industrial Pot Growers Ravage the Land: A Google Earth Tour

| Wed Feb. 6, 2013 4:06 AM PST

No place in America is better known for marijuana growing than Northern California's Humboldt County. The same forgiving climate and rugged terrain that gave rise to ancient redwoods (and decades of frenzied clear cutting) has brought about a "green rush"—of pot growers looking to tend rows of Afghani Goo or Sour Diesel strains in remote canyons or ridge-lines far beyond the reach of the feds.

Erstwhile loggers can earn much more than they ever did splitting trees. By one recent estimate, cannabis accounts for more than a quarter of Humboldt County's $1.6 billion economy, a share that's likely to grow with the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in nearby Washington state. But the pot economy's need for land and water has sparked a whole new wave of environmental problems.

In this video, made with hi-res satellite images from Google Earth, Anthony Silvaggio, an environmental sociologist with Humboldt State University's new Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research, exposes the extent of the devastation wrought on private forest land by industrial-scale grows:

Texas Police Chief Talking Gun Control When Officer Is Shot

| Mon Feb. 4, 2013 4:06 AM PST
Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead

When Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead visited Capitol Hill last week to push for tighter gun control measures, he had some unwanted help from a felon back in Texas, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports:

At 5 p.m. Tuesday, Halstead was meeting with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, in Washington, D.C., to discuss gun control concerns of the Major Cities Chiefs Association…

At that time, his concerns were being played out at a Haltom City auto shop, where one of his officers and personal friend—21-year veteran John Bell—was shot [in the head] by a convicted felon being pursued by Haltom City police.

This should serve as a compelling illustration of why our country needs tighter gun control laws. But then, so should the murder of 20 elementary schoolers by a maniac with an assault rifle—and we all know how far that has gone to sway people like Cornyn.

If anybody can change the minds of Republican senators, however, it's probably somebody like Halstead, who represents a "cowboy town" in what's arguably the most pro-gun state in America. "We almost see every week where we have officers being ambushed by people who have no right to possess those weapons," Halstead told the Star-Telegram.

Halstead's Major City Chiefs Association is part of a coalition of nine national police organizations that supports a ban on semi-automatic assault rifles and high-capacity magazines and advocates expanded background checks.

For more on what police officers think about gun control, read my story on how the NRA recruits cops with freebies paid for by gun companies.


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