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Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christmastime In Pittsburgh

Christmastime In Pittsburgh

Greater Pittsburgh still has a police problem. It bubbled into the evening news again yesterday. Pittsnurgh is the city who entitles their police to brutalize its citizens and then arrest them if they complain about it to teach them not to talk back.
Fourteen months ago, in the wee small hours of the morning of October 12, 2018, in a bar in Pittsburgh named Kopy’s four blotto drunk cops named Brian Martin, David Honick, Brian Burgunder and David Lincoln, under color of authority, attacked four Pagan Motorcycle Club members named Frank Deluca, Michael Zokaites, Erik Heitzenrater and Bruce Thomas for sport. For a way to top off the night. The cops asked for and got uniformed reinforcements. Then the department as a whole tried to prosecute the Pagans and coverup the crime. The drunk cops were never disciplined.
One of them, David Lincoln and Lincoln’s wife who is named Deborah Siwik, are suing the bar and Pagans Frank DeLuca and Michael Zokaites for assault and battery, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, conspiracy and loss of consortium – which means that after participating in the beating Detective Lincoln could no longer sexually enjoy Ms. Siwik and his binge drinking had nothing to do with that. It was all the Pagans fault. It is a frivolous suit. It is part of well-organized conspiracy to prevent the Four Pagans from finding justice and to punish the bar for not allowing the owner of the bar to let the police destroy surveillance and casual video of the incident.
The way criminal justice works in America is as a test of comparative wealth and power. The police, with unlimited resourses are allowed to stall until the victim or accused runs out of money and that is what is happening here.
It is also what will happen to a woman named Keaira Booker. She held the press conference yesterday after she filed a cuivil rights lasuit against North Braddock, Pennsylvania police sergeant Larry Butler, North Braddock Police Chief Isaac Daniele, two cops who successfully concealed their identies from and the Borrough of North Braddock. The town is named for the British Gneral who almost lost Pennsylvania to the French in 1755 and commanded George Washington’s first combat.
ooker, who is an “activist” observed a traffic stop, legally parked and started video recording the police. Generally, nothing infuriates police more than to have their official conduct scrutinized. That is why Detective Lincoln and the very itchy Ms. Siwik are really suing Kopy’s. Kopy’s didn’t destroy the evidence and now Detective Lincoln has a certain inutility.
Booker complains that Sergeant Butler ordered to move when he observed her recording him. After the conclusion f the traggice stop he pulled her from her can, had her cuffed, had her car towed and arrested her with improper parking, refusing to provide ID, obstructing an investigation and resisting arrest. She was held in local custody for several hour before being released. Police eventually dropper the charges.
Her suit alleges Butler arrested her “to justify or mask his impropriety,” The suit complains the defendants “collectively subverted the judicial process” by falsely charging Booker and detaining her for hours.
She ialleges excessive force, false arrest, assault and battery and failure to train the police. She wants compensatory and punitive damages.

Fake News - Texas - As of 10:30 Pacific Time, KWTX has not corrected or retracted its story.

Texas television station KWTX ran a libelous story last night.
Waco celebrity and self-described journalist Rissa Shaw reported that she had exclusively “obtained classified information about a secret meeting that recently took place between biker gangs which led to confidential law enforcement memos about possible hits on officers stemming from 2015’s deadly biker brawl.
“According to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the situation, within the last two weeks, memos were sent to several local law enforcement agencies about a meeting between two top biker groups – the Bandidos and the Outlaws – seeking revenge against police.”
“The DPS, (Texas Department of Public Safety) the Waco Police Department, the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office and several judges” have confirmed to Shaw that there are ”credible” threats “that the Bandidos and the Outlaws were attempting to hire Bolivian nationals to carry out three hits on officers: Two in Waco, and one in Florida.”
Shaw also reports that she “attempted to make contact with both the Bandidos and the Outlaws through their websites, but had not heard back as of Thursday night.”

No Meeting

Friday morning The Aging Rebel contacted Bill Morian, club counsel for the Bandidos Motorcycle Club for comment on Shaw’s story. Morian uneqivacably denied that there had been a meeting of high ranking members of the Bandidos and the American Outlaws Association within the last month.
The assertion that the two clubs met to plot the assassination of three policemen in two states is both ludicrous and irresponsible. Shaw appears to have simply made the story up. Not a single source in the report is attributed.
At the bottom of her report, below the inframammary accusations, she states, “A spokesman for the DA’s office told KWTX Thursday they know nothing about these memos or threats.
Reporters often make similar accusation against motorcycle clubs. Generally, news outlets are allowed to report even flamboyant lies if a court finds they made a good faith effort to report the truth and they correct their inaccuracies as soon as they become aware of them.
There are exceptions. In 2011 the Vagps Motorcyle club, represented by Los Angeles attorney Joe Yanny, successfully sued officials in Riverside County, California for damages resulting from slanderous statements made by those officials. In general, the only absolute defense against libel is that disputed statement is provably true.
As of 10:30 Pacific Time, KWTX has not corrected or retracted its story.


Monday, December 23, 2019


THE AIM/NCOM MOTORCYCLE E-NEWS SERVICE is brought to you by Aid to Injured Motorcyclists (A.I.M.) and the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM), and is sponsored by the Law Offices of Richard M. Lester. If you’ve been involved in any kind of accident, call us at 1-(800) ON-A-BIKE or visit
Compiled & Edited by Bill Bish,
National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM)
“Motorcycles require specific-and in some cases different-requirements of roads, and we need an open dialogue between the motorcycle community, infrastructure experts, and the federal government to discuss these challenges,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) upon sponsoring the bipartisan Motorcycle Advisory Council Reauthorization Act, H.R. 5234.
Rep. Gallagher, alongside Reps. Chris Pappas (D-NH), Troy Balderson (R-OH), and Harley Rouda (D-CA), introduced H.R. 5234 in the U.S. House of Representatives on November 21, 2019 to direct the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to reauthorize the Motorcyclist Advisory Council (MAC) at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for six years.  The MAC, whose authorization under the FAST Act of 2015 expires along with surface transportation programs in FY2021, provides DOT with critical firsthand knowledge on infrastructure and road safety measures and serves as the only official forum for motorcyclists to discuss motorcycle issues with the federal government.
H.R. 5234, if enacted, would require the volunteer body to submit reports to DOT every two years.  DOT then would have 60 days to review the council’s recommendations and submit a report to Congress.
The measure would also clarify the membership of MAC “to include 12 members, including 5 highway engineering experts from state or local governments, 1 state or local traffic safety engineer who is a motorcyclist, one roadway safety data expert on crash testing and analysis, and 1 representative from each of the following groups: a national association of State transportation officials, a national motorcyclist foundation, a national motorcyclist association, a national motorcycle manufacturing association, and a national safety organization.”
U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and U.S. Representative Peter Welch (D-VT) introduced companion bills in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives on November 14, 2019 “to reform the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) by mitigating harmful environmental impacts of the corn ethanol mandate and advancing the next generation of biofuels that actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” according to a press release issued by Sen. Udall’s office.
The GREENER Fuels Act (Growing Renewable Energy through Existing and New Environmentally Responsible Fuels Act) would phase out the corn ethanol mandate and immediately reduce the amount of ethanol in fuel by as much as 1 billion gallons by capping the amount of ethanol that can be blended into conventional gasoline at 9.7 percent.
Such legislation is important to motorcycle riders, in particular, because none of the nation’s 22 million motorcycles and ATVs are certified by the EPA to operate on gasoline that contains more than 10% ethanol (E10), and using fuel containing greater than 10% ethanol can damage fuel systems and violate manufacturers’ warranties.
In a fresh take on a previous UCLA study we reported on earlier this year, reports that “A study conducted by the Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behavior (INHB) has concluded that motorcyclists are less stressed and more fulfilled than their four-wheeled counterparts,” adding that “The study originally set about trying to find out if bikers were constantly riding in fear of being involved in an accident, but inadvertently proved the opposite!  The results center around a certain hormone called cortisol that is released in the brain when we become anxious.  Scientists found that bikers would produce 28% less cortisol during testing than drivers on the same course.”
The study was conducted by the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of California, Los Angeles, in a controlled manner, with 50 motorcyclists and 50 car drivers making their way around a closed course for 20-minutes.  During this time, the team measured the user’s heart rate, cortisol, and adrenaline levels, as well as the user’s brain activity, and it’s here where the most interesting results came from:
“The results found that when riding, the subjects experienced increased sensory focus and resilience to distraction.  Riding also produced an increase in adrenaline levels and heart rate, and a decrease in cortisol levels -- the kind of results you often get after a light exercise session, which also is a stress reducer.”
Concluding that motorcycles are better for you physically, as well as mentally, claims; “The news regarding the mental well-being of motorcyclists goes hand-in-hand with a study that found that riding a motorcycle can burn anywhere between 170-600 calories an hour.  As much as some people can burn in an hour at the gym.”
Despite passing both chambers of the New York State legislature, including a unanimous 62-0 vote in the state Senate, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) has vetoed a measure that would have provided strong incentives for more prompt repairs of road defects by expanding the state’s liability for damages suffered by road users due to roadway defects, if the state Department of Transportation was notified of the defect and failed to repair it.
Under current law, motorists who suffer damage due to defects on local roads may pursue damages against the locality at any time during the year so long as the municipality had advance notice of the defect, but those who suffer damages due to defects in state roads may pursue these damages against the state only if the incident occurred between May 15 and November 15.  A.1235, sponsored by Assemblyman Thomas J. Abinanti (D- Westchester County), and S.5422, sponsored by state Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy (D-Buffalo), would have expanded state liability for potholes on state highways year-round.
Potholes and roadway defects can not only be dangerous to drivers but can prove deadly for motorcyclists, but Gov. Cuomo, who rides and has promoted state tourism aboard his Harley-Davidson, vetoed the legislation on November 25, 2019.  Similar measures, endorsed by the Automobile Association of America and the state Trial Lawyers Association, were proposed in 2014, 2015-16 and 2017-18, but never made it out of committee.
A new “Autocycle” classification will allow consumers to operate a Polaris Slingshot with a standard driver’s license in the state of Wisconsin.  Residents of Wisconsin can now operate the three-wheeled Slingshot with a standard driver’s license, rather than the previously required motorcycle license or endorsement. The reclassification will take effect immediately.
With a steering wheel and side-by-side seating, state policymakers recognize Slingshot’s operator skills mirror those required for a valid state driver’s license rather than a motorcycle license and as such, the need for the unique Autocycle classification.
The Slingshot is now classified as an Autocycle in 44 states, including all states bordering Wisconsin.  Three states classify the Slingshot as a motorcycle, which requires a motorcycle endorsement or license; Alaska, Massachusetts and New York.
The Superior, Minnesota city council is considering a referendum on ATV use, and is seeking public input to determine whether or not it should be legal for ATVs and side-by-sides in the city.
According to a report on, a council member has “introduced a resolution that would place an advisory referendum on the April 7, 2020 ballot to gauge public sentiment for allowing ATVs and UTVs to use any city street except those deemed exempt because of state and local laws or safety concerns,” and may let voters decide if all city streets and alleys could be open to use by all-terrain and utility-task vehicles.
The Superior City Council wouldn’t be bound to act based on the outcome of the election, but if the measure is well-supported by the public, the councilman would introduce an ordinance to that effect.
United States highways have been switching to one consistent exit numbering system over the years, and in most states exits now share their number with their closest mile marker, making it simpler for travelers to locate their position and estimate distances between where they are and where they're going.
A few northeastern states have been slow to switch, however, and New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu (R) believes that holding onto the old sequential exit numbers for the sake of tradition is more important than progress and consistency.
But the renumbering decision isn't entirely up to the individual states, as the federal government has threatened to withhold federal highway funding from states that do not comply with the directive to reassign exit numbers by mileage.
On Twitter, Governor Sununu said, "Exit numbers are a point of pride for some of us in NH -- and we shouldn't let Washington bureaucrats threaten to take that away!"
Numbering exits by mileage is what the rest of the country does, and those few remaining states holding out should probably do the same for consistency for travelers everywhere, though admittedly, this has become less of an issue now that most vehicles, even motorcycles, have GPS capability and can make better decisions based on better information.
Laws banning the wearing of insignias of five “Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMCG)” has gone into force in Tasmania (an island state of Australia), and their majority Liberal Government “makes no apologies for being tough on criminals and is delivering on our strong plan to keep Tasmania safer from organised crime.”
The legislation “applies to an organisation that displays prohibited insignias that causes the public to feel intimidated and threatened,” and their new laws relate to five OMCGs -- Bandidos, Outlaws, Devils Henchmen, Black Uhlans and Rebels, which officials say “sends a clear message that crime gangs are not welcome in Tasmania.”
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton and Prince William, along with their three children, Prince George, Prince Louis and Princess Charlotte, casually posed on a motorcycle for their 2019 Christmas card, in stark contrast to last year’s more traditional family photo!
The Cambridge Household’s Holiday card features all five aboard a British-brand motorbike with a sidecar and the salutation; “Wishing you a very Happy Christmas and New Year”.  Prince William, a longtime motorcycle aficionado, is second in line to the throne behind his father Prince Charles.
Mark your calendar for May 8-10, 2020 and plan on joining hundreds of fellow bikers’ rights activists at the 35th annual NCOM Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana, over Mother’s Day weekend.  The first race ever held at the Circle City’s world-famous “Brickyard” was with motorcycles, and over a century later we’re still in it to win!
Today’s finest Freedom Fighters will enlighten attendees about the intricacies of the legislative process, lobbying techniques, organizational efforts, leadership principles, and share political insights to retain and regain Freedom of the Road.
Agenda items will cover legal and legislative issues of concern to all riders, with Special Meetings for Veterans Affairs, Women in Motorcycling, Clean & Sober Roundtable and World of Sport Bikes, as well as the Christian Unity Conference and Confederation of Clubs Patch Holders Meeting.
The 2020 NCOM Convention will be held at the Marriott Indianapolis East (7202 East 21st Street) and all motorcyclists are welcome to attend and participate in the many meetings, seminars and group discussions.
Reserve your hotel room now for the special NCOM rate of $129 by calling (317) 352-9775.  Registration fees for the NCOM Convention are $85 including the Silver Spoke Awards Banquet on Saturday night, or $50 for the Convention only.  For more information, or to pre-register, call the National Coalition of Motorcyclists at (800) 525-5355 or visit
QUOTABLE QUOTE:  "The future will soon be a thing of the past.”
~ George Carlin (1937-2008) comedian and social critic
ABOUT AIM / NCOM: The National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM) is a nationwide motorcyclists rights organization serving over 2,000 NCOM Member Groups throughout the United States, with all services fully-funded through Aid to Injured Motorcyclist (AIM) Attorneys available in each state who donate a portion of their legal fees from motorcycle accidents back into the NCOM Network of Biker Services ( / 800-ON-A-BIKE).


Sunday, December 22, 2019

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Friday, December 20, 2019

Thursday, December 19, 2019


Study Finds Cannabis Stimulates Brain Growth

Marijuana brain growth

By TheJointBlog.Com
new study published in this month’s issue of the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology has found that cannabidiol (CBD) - one of the primary compounds of cannabis – can actually help your brain grow.
During the study researchers examined the effect of CBD on the hippocampus part of the brain;. the hippocampus is a portion of the brain which plays a key role in regulating emotion and memory – it’s the only part of the brain that can grow after someone is an adult.
According to researchers, this study (and those like it) opens the door for cannabidiol being used to “manage psychiatric symptoms in disorders such as ageing, stress and neuroinflammation.”
This study is one of the most comprehensive of its type, and confirms a past study from 2019 that found similar results (which can be found in its entirety by clicking here).

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Why Do Pipes, Bongs, Joints, and Blunts Give Different Highs?

by Randy Robinson
Believe it or not, science hasn’t quite figured this out.
Most tokers usually have a preferred method for smoking weed. Some folks like to take their time sharing a joint, while more hardcore smokers may prefer choking on a massive bong rip.
But why do these different methods lead to varying qualities of highs?
Believe it or not, science hasn’t quite reached a consensus here, despite more than half of American adults saying they’ve tried pot at least once. That said, it may have something to do with water filters found in water pipes and bongs. Let's explore.
Water Filters
Kyle Boyar, the vice chair of the American Chemical Society’s cannabis division, told MERRY JANE he was unaware of any ongoing studies into why pipes, bongs, and the like cause different kinds of buzzes. He did, however, point to one 1996 MAPS study that could provide some clues.
In the study, researchers measured how much THC came out of the business ends of various smoking devices. Surprisingly, unfiltered joints provided more THC than water pipes, as the water filters trapped some THC while allowing cannabis tar to pass through.
“Counterintuitive results, for sure,” Boyar said. “The chemist in me wonders how do cannabinoid components that are insoluble in water end up getting trapped in the water more than the tar,” which is also insoluble.
The MAPS study, unfortunately, didn’t evaluate how high people got from different smoking methods, since there were no human subjects. It only measured how much THC could transfer from the weed to the smoker.

“The dose is certainly the key issue,” wrote Mitch Earleywine, a cannabis researcher and professor of psychology at the State University of New York-Albany, in an e-mail to MERRY JANE. “Unfortunately, funding for an experiment comparing these methods is pretty scarce.”
For blunts, Earleywine noted that tokers aren’t just inhaling cannabis. They’re inhaling nicotine, too, as blunts are wrapped with tobacco paper or leaves.
“I've seen a blunt or two that has more tobacco than folks might guess, so nicotine ends up adding a bit of stimulation to the mix,” he wrote. “So the blunt would end up being less sedating than the joint, even though it's the same marijuana.”
Blunts are often much larger than joints, so they “often deliver a bigger hit,” he added.
Additionally, THC may not be the only factor. Some evidence indicates terpenes, the aromatic compounds in weed that make it smell like skunk, berries, wood, or dirt, could alter THC’s effects.
Or Could the Differences Be Due to Terpenes?
To illustrate how terpenes could play a role, Earleywine chose the terpenes linalool and limonene as examples.
“With the bong, we run the smoke through water,” he told MERRY JANE. “Linalool is water-soluble, but limonene is not. So some of the linalool is going to end up in the bong water — not in the smoke.”
Because linalool may induce sleepiness, smoking weed through a bong could contribute to more energetic highs, at least in this case.
Water also cools the smoke, allowing tokers to draw in much bigger hits through bongs than they could with joints or blunts. Even if water filtration absorbs some of the THC, the sheer amount of smoke produced by a bong could off-set any losses of cannabinoids or terpenes, Earleywine wrote.

Can We Even Reliably Test the Question?
Scientifically determining the differences among smoking methods isn’t clear-cut, either.
How much weed someone consumes at once can vary depending on the individual. For example, Sally may pack her blunt with two fat grams of weed, whereas Billy only twists a gram in his Philly wraps.
The amounts of weed loaded into a joint, blunt, or bong will obviously affect how much smoke someone inhales. One 2011 study looked at self-reports for weed use, and the researchers discovered some consistency between methods.
“Participants reported that they placed 50 percent more marijuana in blunts than in joints and placed more than twice the amount of marijuana in blunts than in pipes,” the researchers wrote.
So maybe it’s really just a matter of how much weed goes into a pipe or joint. Maybe.
It gets more complicated with bongs.
Most bongs feature a “female” stem at the base, which holds a smaller “male” stem attached to the removable bowl. Sometimes the stems form air-tight seals between both the stems and the bong’s base, but not always. If there are gaps, the toker will draw in extra air which could significantly dilute the smoke, ultimately altering her or his heady experience, reported Mic.
Even within a single method, there’s a lot of variability. Too much variability to base the research on self-reports or uncontrolled methods.
Does It Even Matter?
Just as every approach to smoking weed is different, individual consumers are different, too.
How one person feels blazing a joint may not resemble the high a buddy feels from smoking on the same joint.

And for some tokers, the question of why bongs, joints, and blunts feel different doesn’t apply.
“I don’t feel any difference” between various smoking methods, said Edgar Robles, a long-time smoker based in Colorado. “Weed is weed. It all gets me stoned the same.”

Legalizing Marijuana at Federal Level

By Mandy Froelich / Truth Theory
On Wednesday, November 20, 2019, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that legalizes marijuana on the federal level, effectively removing it from schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act.
The legislation passed 24 to 10, reports CNBC. According to reports, it has a high chance of approval in the House where Democrats control the chamber with 234 seats. The bill will undoubtedly face scrutiny in the Republican-controlled Senate — particularly by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, an outspoken opponent of marijuana legalization.
The legislation allows states to enact their own policies on cannabis, as well as offers incentive to clear criminal records of people with low-level marijuana charges. The bill includes a 5% tax on cannabis products that would provide job training and legal assistance to those most affected by the war on drugs.
Over 100 peer-reviewed studies have concluded that components of the herb, primarily CBD, have the potential to remedy dozens of modern-day afflictions. In addition, the US National Cancer Institute lists cannabis as a potential remedy for cancer on its website. Despite the plethora of evidence that herb has medicinal properties, marijuana arrests account for more than half of all drug arrests in the US, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

On Wednesday, lawmakers repeatedly cited the disproportionate impact drug laws have had on communities of color. By decriminalizing marijuana, they said, the imbalance is somewhat alleviated.
“The criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake,” said Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., during the markup of the bill. “The racial disparity in marijuana enforcement laws only compounded this mistake with serious consequences, particularly for minority communities.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), has called the legislation the “biggest marijuana news of the year.” The bill has over 50 co-sponsors, according to It also has the backing of presidential contender Sen Kamala Harris.
Only 11 states in the US and District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational use. 33 states, on the other hand, have welcomed medical marijuana as prescribed by physicians. This monumental news follows House-passed legislation that would protect banks that serve marijuana businesses in states where the crop is legal.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Future Draws Near

You you can finally preorder the future of motorcycling. It is called the Harley-Davidson LiveWire.
This morning at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Harley also put two prototypes on display: The HD Electric Concept 1 (dirt bike) and HD Electric Concept 2 (scooter).
Harley claims the LiveWire will accelerate from zero to sixty in 3.5 seconds and will go “approximately” 110 miles between charges.
According to Harley Media Relations Manager Jen Hoyer, “It’s one of our fastest production bikes ever. We’re also announcing H-D Connect, which allows riders to monitor battery charge status remotely via their smartphone and enables features like a GPS enabled anti-theft system.”

Charge Times

You can plug it into a wall outlet. If you do you can ride for about 13 miles on a one hour charge. If you use something called a Level 3 DC Fast Charge you should be able to ride about 85 miles after a one-hour charge.
The LiveWire features a “signature sound” produced by the gear set between the motor and the drive belt.
U.S. sales of Harley-Davidson motorcycle have dropped by about half since 2008 and the company has been trying to reinvent itself for at least the last five years.

The Future

According to a press release, The LiveWire represents the future of Harley-Davidson, bringing high-performance electric propulsion…and cellular connectivity to today’s rider.”
The Live Wire will retail for $29,799.
The prototype dirt bike features a swappable battery. The prototype scooter also features a removable battery and floorboards that look like a skateboard cut in half.
Harley-Davidson’s Chief Executive Officer Matt Levatich said, “We’re at a historic juncture in the evolution of mobility…Our vision for the future is all encompassing….for all ages, from urban professional to exurban retiree, and from commute-minded to thrill-seeking.”


Monday, December 16, 2019

This $2 Test Identified Bird Shit as Cocaine. Cops Keep Using It to Arrest People.

by Emma Ockerman

Donut crumbs also once tested positive for meth. 

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Police across the country have used the same breed of shoddy $2 test to arrest people for cocaine that was really bird poop, meth that was actually crumbs from a glazed donut, and oxycodone that turned out to be vitamins.
 In all of those cases, the possession or drug trafficking charges were eventually dropped after police sent the “drug” samples to a state lab that returned more-conclusive results. The original tests, known as presumptive field tests, have a history of being almost laughably wrong — if they weren’t putting people behind bars, even temporarily. And the follow-up lab tests that eventually clear people’s names can take weeks, if not months.
In the meantime, innocent people may be spooked into taking a plea deal instead of risking a longer sentence at trial. And if they can’t afford their bail, they’ll languish in jail as they decide whether to take a guilty plea or wait on better test results.
Cody Gregg, a homeless man in Oklahoma City, took the guilty plea in early October, supposedly because he wanted to get out of the city’s problem-plagued jail. Police charged him with possession after a field test incorrectly identified powdered milk inside a clear baggie as cocaine. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison and had been in jail for nearly two months before drug-lab results cleared him.
“You cannot indict somebody — put somebody in jail — over something you know has a very high rate of false positives,” Omar Bagasra, a biology professor at Claflin University and director of the South Carolina Center for Biotechnology. “It’s ignorance.”
READ: This Cleveland woman could go to jail because her house needs a new coat of paint

Bagasra once participated in a study for the Marijuana Policy Project that found a common brand of police field tests incorrectly identified patchouli, spearmint, and eucalyptus as weed. His team even warned about “the serious possibility of tens of thousands of wrongful drug convictions.”
 In an attempt to showcase just how faulty the tests were, the research team went before the National Press Club and repeatedly produced false positives for mundane things like chocolate bars.

‘A large group of false positives’

 The most common presumptive field tests only cost a few dollars and are supposedly simple to use. That’s why they’re widely favored by police across the country and lead to thousands of arrests each year, according to a 2016 ProPublica investigation. The tests, however, have their downsides: They’re often not admissible in court, which is why police have to order follow-up testing from a lab.
To complete the field test, all an officer usually has to do is drop a sample of the suspect substance into a little pouch, break a capsule containing compounds that cause a chemical reaction, and wait a few moments. The pouch turns a specific color to alert the officer that drugs may be present.
The problem, according to Bagasra, is that the catalyzers, known as reagents, can positively react to a wide variety of chemicals but can’t distinguish to an officer what they might be reacting to. Plus, the colors the tests produce can be subjective, especially in bad lighting. (About 1 in 12 men are colorblind, and 88% of cops are men.)
"You cannot indict somebody — put somebody in jail — over something you know has a very high rate of false positives."
For example, the formula often used by local police to test for cocaine, cobalt thiocyanate, will likely turn a bright shade of blue when interacting with things like Benadryl or pain relievers, according to an online manual for Ohio’s state crime lab. Under the test’s description, the lab writes that there “is a large group of false positives.”
That same test has incorrectly labeled drywall, laundry detergent, and whey protein powder as cocaine, resulting in arrests across the country.
 Plus, instead of being used in a sterile lab, the tests are often quickly used on the side of the road, in a cop car, or at the local jail, where they can be misinterpreted under bad lighting. The tests also often rely on cops — not well-trained scientists — to administer them.

The DOJ's Warning

In 2000, the Justice Department issued guidelines requesting the tests’ manufacturers include warning labels telling cops that the tests could produce false positives and therefore require appropriate training. But ProPublica’s investigation found those guidelines were largely ignored. Newer, more accurate tests are available, but police departments don’t typically buy them because they can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
“If officers are not trained to get the message that a positive drug test is more equivocal than the label would make you think, you’ll have police officers thinking, ‘Positive means it’s definitely drugs,’” said Carl Takei, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Trone Center for Justice and Equality. Instead, a positive result means that the presence of drugs can’t be ruled out but should be weighed with plenty of other evidence before officers proceed.

Oklahoma City Police told VICE News that the officers did weigh other evidence in Gregg’s August arrest for possessing the powdered milk that tested positive for cocaine.
 For example, Gregg had a prior history of drug convictions and ran from police when they attempted to stop him for a missing taillight on his bicycle. Once they retrieved the backpack he was carrying, they found the clear bag of a “white powdery substance” and a scale, too. All of those things factored into his arrest — not just the presumptive drug test.
READ: Horrific footage shows California police shooting a teen in the back of the head. Cops Say It Was Justified.
“Field testing of possible drugs by officers is a presumptive test only and is simply one part of the totality of the circumstances that can lead an officer to believe that enough probable cause exists to legally effect an arrest,” Capt. Larry Withrow, a spokesperson for the Oklahoma City Police Department, told VICE News in an email.
Nonetheless, Withrow said: “We are reviewing our presumptive test procedures to determine if improvements can be made in this area.” He added that the department hasn’t had any problems with field tests before.
In Tulsa County, Oklahoma, about 100 miles away from where Gregg was arrested, public defender Natalie Leone said she handles a drug case with false positives from field tests about once a month.

This past May, Tulsa police found one of her clients, Carl Fisher, with a glass container of liquid that tested positive for meth in the field. Fisher, who’s homeless, was asleep in a car in a residential parking lot when officers approached him with guns drawn because they considered the car stolen. They tased him multiple times and dragged him out of the car, body-camera footage shows.
 Fisher was arrested on drug charges, resisting arrest, and assault on a police officer. He was behind bars for nearly two months on what was initially a $160,000 bail before state lab results cleared him. He then remained in jail until October, when he agreed to plead no contest to the charge of resisting arrest.
“Reform to the bond system would really help, so that you’re not waiting in custody for lab results, at least,” Leone said.

Cover image: A bag of cocaine (Lino Mirgeler/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)


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Can the Federal Government Ban Anything?

Can the Federal Government Ban Anything?
Even though it is true that the government currently bans all kinds of things, I am asking a serious question. Let me expand and clarify it. Is the federal government authorized by the Constitution to make illegal the possession of any substance that it deems it to be harmful, hazardous, immoral, addictive, threatening, damaging, injurious, destructive, unsafe, or dangerous to an individual or to society?
I am not talking about state governments—that is a separate issue. I am talking about the U.S. national government that was set up by the Constitution in 1789. The Constitution that was amended in 1791, 1795, 1804, 1865, 1868, 1870, 1913, 1919, 1920, 1933, 1951, 1961, 1964, 1967, 1971, & 1992. The Constitution that is the supreme law of the land. The Constitution that all conservatives claim to revere. The Constitution that all conservatives say they expect the federal government to follow. The Constitution that conservatives drag out and dust off every time there is an election. The Constitution that the Republican Party says it is the party of. The Constitution that all members of Congress swear to support and defend. The Constitution that the president swears to preserve, protect, and defend. The Constitution by which the Supreme Court is expected to judge all laws.
I have several times brought up this question of the government having the authority to ban anything in the context of the federal government’s War on Drugs. In arguing that the Constitution nowhere authorizes the federal government to concern itself with the nature or quantity of any substance that any American wants to eat, drink, smoke, inject, absorb, snort, sniff, inhale, swallow, or otherwise ingest into his body, I have sometimes added that the federal government has no authority to ban drugs because it has no authority to ban anything. I have also occasionally pointed out that when the federal government sought to prohibit the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors” after World War I, it realized that it could only do so by amending the Constitution, hence the Eighteenth Amendment. I have even written a whole article on this.
But is this really the case? Does the federal government really not have the authority to ban anything or was I just using hyperbole?
Well, first of all, in Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, there are eighteen paragraphs that enumerate the limited powers the Constitution grants to Congress. Limited powers. Very limited powers. Four of them concern money or taxes. One concerns commerce. One concerns naturalization and bankruptcies. One concerns post offices and post roads. One concerns copyrights and patents. One concerns federal courts. One concerns maritime crimes. Six concern the military and the militia. One concerns the governance of the District of Columbia. And the last one gives Congress the power “to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers.” Since the Twenty-First Amendment Repealed the Eighteenth, nothing in any of the Constitution’s amendments gives the federal government any additional power to ban something.
Second, anything not so enumerated in Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution is reserved to the states. Period. It can’t be any other way, since the states were in existence before the Constitution, the states sent delegates to the Constitutional Convention who created the Constitution, and the states ratified the Constitution. And just to make sure there is no doubt about what is delegated and what is reserved, the Tenth Amendment states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
James Madison succinctly explained this simple federal system of government in Federalist No. 45:
The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.
So, what does all of this mean for Americans in the twenty-first century? It means the same thing it meant in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth century.
The federal government has no authority whatsoever under the Constitution to ban the possession of not just any drug—including cocaine, heroin, and meth—but also moonshine, any kind of gun, any type of ammunition, elephant ivory, exotic animals, Cuban cigars, unlicensed dentures, home-brewed beer and wine, and bald eagles.
Just like the federal government has no authority whatsoever under the Constitution to mandate that pharmacies keep Sudafed and other allergy medicines behind the counter.
Just like the federal government has no authority whatsoever under the Constitution to declare a portion of your property a wetland and fine and imprison you for filling it in with dirt.
Just like the federal government has no authority whatsoever under the Constitution to limit the number of withdrawals that Americans can make from their savings accounts each month.
One can search the Constitution all morning, all afternoon, all evening, all day, and all night with an electron microscope, x-ray vision, and MRI machine, the latest NSA spyware, and night-vision goggles and never find the hint of a reference to the federal government having the authority to prohibit Americans from possessing some object.
Conservatives want to be applauded for expressing their fidelity to the Constitution just for saying that Obamacare should be repealed because it is unconstitutional. But since it is clear that the Constitution doesn’t authorize the federal government to ban anything, it is likewise clear that conservatives—and especially Republican members of Congress—are not only woefully ignorant of the document they claim to hold in such high esteem, but are in fact enemies of the Constitution because they support almost every one of the federal government’s illegitimate and unconstitutional prohibitions on possessing certain objects.
That the federal government unconstitutionally criminalizes the possession of so many things is bad enough. But that the vast majority of Americans accept this as legitimate is even more troubling.
Originally published at and reposted here under a creative commons 4.0 license

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Outgunned, Outranged US Army Hurries to Forge Long-Range Weapons

Longer-reaching artillery, missiles are a key to Army's 6-point game plan for the era of 'great power competition'
December 12, 2019
The U.S. military needs a longer stick.
For decades, U.S. aircraft carriers—effectively mobile airfields—and forward air bases have been the foreign policy muscle of then-President Theodore Roosevelt’s adage “speak softly and carry a big stick.”
But that big stick has lost its clout in recent years, challenged by new Russian and Chinese missile systems that are amassed over hundreds, even thousands, of miles on the horizon.
With the various branches of the U.S. military scrambling to reinvent themselves for a renewed “great power competition,” the Army’s No. 1 priority is the development of its own long-reaching ground-launched missiles and artillery, known as “fires.”
This week, if all goes to plan, a smoke trail across the desert sky in New Mexico will bring a sigh of relief from U.S. generals in charge of the top modernization priority known as Long Range Precision Fires (LRPF), headed by Brig. Gen. John Rafferty.
“It is a very exciting time in the program,” Rafferty told The Epoch Times, ahead of the first test flight of the Precision Strike Missile (PrSM), scheduled for this sometime this week.
PrSM is one of several programs that fall into the LRPF, which is set to enter the field by 2023, four years ahead of its original schedule, accelerated by the Army’s modernization catalyst, Army Futures Command.
U.S. M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (R) firing an MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile on South Korea’s East Coast on July 5, 2017. (United States Forces Korea via Getty Images)
“While we’ve been concentrating our efforts in one particular area in the world, our adversaries have been investing in ways to offset our strategic and tactical advantages,” Rafferty said.
“Specifically, China and Russia have been investing in sophisticated integrated air defenses, in coastal defenses, in long-range ballistic missiles, long-range and high altitude radars, and if you combine all those things, they create this layered standoff, which is often referred to as anti-access area denial (A2AD).”
This “anti-access bubble” hampers the support of regional allies—and potentially threatens to push the United States out of now-vulnerable permanent positions such as deep-water ports and air bases.
A combined formation of aircraft from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 pass in formation above the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) in the Philippine Sea on June 18, 2016. (Steve Smith/U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters)
Rafferty’s LRFP program is developing various longer-reaching U.S. weapons—from beefing up the range of howitzers to supporting a hypersonic missile with a reported potential range of thousands of miles. There’s even a program to prototype a monster cannon that can spit projectiles hundreds of miles.
In August, the possibility of other longer-range missiles was opened with the dissolution of a Cold War treaty that had clipped the range of U.S. ground-launched missiles to 499 kilometers (310 miles).

Not Going Toe-to-Toe

But despite wanting to turn the tables on adversaries with their own long-range artillery, the U.S. generals aren’t planning on going toe-to-toe with the Chinese or Russian artillery. They still want to fight on their own terms.
“Our adversaries are artillery-centric forces. We are not—we are a combined arms force,” said Rafferty. “Their investment in long-range fires separates us at the tactical level [within the battlefield] and prevents us from fighting as a combined arms team, which is really what our strength is.”
“We are never going to be cannon-for-cannon, rocket-for-rocket, missile-for-missile with an artillery-centric adversary,” he said.
“What we need is enough of this capability to create these windows of opportunity—whether it’s for the joint force, for the Air Force, the maritime force, or for a combat brigade team to make its bid.”
Creating those windows of opportunity is part of the U.S. military game plan called Multi-Domain Operations (MDO).
“Multi-Domain Operations basically argues that you have these long-range systems and that the range rings around them generate layers of stand-off which have to be penetrated,” Jack Watling, a research fellow in land warfare at London-based defense think tank RUSI, told The Epoch Times. “So you have to knock out the long-range systems that are threatening you or suppress them.”
That could be achieved through various methods, including jamming the kill chains that adversaries rely on for targeting, he said.
“That enables you to penetrate the space that they have denied to you and then can burst the bubble—which is termed ‘disintegration’ in But being able to get through the anti-access bubble is just one piece of the puzzle.
“One of the really important things to bear in mind is that it doesn’t win you the battle,” Watling said. “It enables you to show up for the battle. You still need to be able to conduct high-intensity operations once you actually get into that denied space. It fixes a very specific problem, but it doesn’t diminish your need for effective high-intensity close combat.”
Watling said long-reaching artillery does more than constrict the main military hardware.
“If I am intending to conduct military operations, I need fuel, and I need food, and I need to be able to move that around the battlefield and stockpile it in places. Now, if you have very significant levels of range, then you may be able to start hitting those stockpiles and logistical enablers, which means that you can really hold my forces back away from getting close.”—by more conventional military means.”
Ground-based missiles are much harder to target and hold at a distance than ships and aircraft, if they practice good survivability measures, such as camouflage, concealment, deception, and as well as all-important tactical mobility, defense analyst Tim Walton told The Epoch Times.
Walton, a research fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, offered the example of how the United States and its allies struggled to locate scud missiles in Iraq, despite it being a relatively featureless desert.
“If you are operating in an environment with forests, hills, and mountains, it could be even more challenging to be able to successfully track and target those systems,” he said.
But don’t be led astray by the word “precision” in the title of the Long Range Precision Fires program—these are weapons of large-scale warfare.
“I wish that ‘precision’ wasn’t in our title, because it is a little bit of a loaded term,” Rafferty said, in reference to the connotation of “precision-guided” weapons with counterinsurgency strikes designed to reduce collateral damage.
“We are designing these things for large-scale ground combat where mass and rate of fire are as important as accuracy. So that’s how we have to approach it.”
“I just prefer to say accuracy. For these systems to be effective, they have to be accurate.”

Cold War Era Nuclear Treaty Melts

LRPF comes under the auspices of the newly minted Army Futures Command, created in 2018 to drive what is described by many analysts as the biggest Army reorganization in 45 years, in line with the Trump administration’s National Defense Strategy.
That strategy spelled out for the first time that the United States needed to gear up for an era of renewed great power competition with Russia and China.
In the past 15 years, China quietly tripled its annual military spending to an estimated $200 billion, with a clear focus on leveraging the latest developments such as artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, and long-range ballistic and hypersonic missiles to unbalance the U.S. military.
Some analysts accuse the United States of being asleep at the wheel or of geopolitical naivety after the end of the Cold War.
But when it comes to long-range missiles, there was another reason that China leaped ahead: the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty that banned the development of ground-launched missiles with a range of 500–5,500 kilometers (310–3,400 miles) to restrict nuclear capabilities.
Because nuclear warheads can easily be swapped with conventional warheads, the treaty also banned the development of conventional missiles.
Walton recently co-authored a report, titled “Leveling the Playing Field: Reintroducing Theater-Range Missiles in a Post-INF World,” published by the CBSA.
Walton said, “Because China wasn’t part of the INF treaty, it had amassed the world’s largest and most sophisticated arsenal of ground-launched intermediate-range missiles, with a range of different ballistic and cruise missiles that could be fired from the ground and could hold different targets, including U.S. allies and partners as well as U.S. forces throughout the Indo-Pacific, at risk.”
About 95 percent of China’s ground-based missiles have ranges beyond the INF limit, with around a dozen different systems.
The buildup of that intermediate-range arsenal prompted the Russians to suggest killing off the INF treaty in the early 2000s.
“The U.S. said, ‘No, let’s continue,'” Walton said. “The Russians eventually went ahead and developed their own systems secretly and then began to test them.”
In 2014, the United States officially stated that Russia was in violation of the treaty, which was finally abandoned this year.
The LRPF program predates the dissolution of the INF treaty.
Walton said that with the INF treaty gone, various other possibilities for intermediate-range, ground-based conventional missiles have been opened. Converting current ship- or air-launched missiles that weren’t restricted by the INF treaty would be the most straightforward way to bring in new missiles.
“The lowest hanging fruit would be the Tomahawk system, which is currently ship-launched or submarine-launched,” Walton said.
Another option is to bring back the Pershing II missile system that was sacrificed for the INF treaty some 30 years ago.
According to the CBSA report, operationally relevant numbers of different ground-launched theater-range missiles could be fielded within five to 10 years.
Meanwhile, in the Army’s LRPF program, only the PrSM system, originally restricted to 499 kilometers (310 miles), is affected by the INF dissolution.

Adjusting the Software

PrSM is the replacement for the United States’ current tactical missile.
Rafferty said the Army talked to their PrSM vendors during the INF treaty “cooling off” period and asked how far the missiles might go.
Just as car manufacturers can tune an engine for efficiency, speed, power, or emissions, so too can the weapons manufacturers tweak a rocket motor’s performance.
“After we get a few test shots under our belt, we’ll adjust the requirement to the base missile,” Rafferty said, noting that they expect to get it out to around 700 kilometers (435 miles).
“It’s important to remind ourselves that this INF restriction for all those years did not simply limit what we could put in the field, it also limited where we were investing research,” he said. “There’s no market for anything beyond 499 kilometers [310 miles] in an Army system, so why would you invest in it?”
Rafferty said the push is to get the first PrSM missile in the field by 2023. The military can then use that as a “base missile” to build further capabilities—such as seeker capability, extended range, and smart submunitions, with the first upgrade expected in 2025.
Alongside PrSM and supporting the hypersonic boost-glide program, Rafferty’s team is running two cannon programs: the Extended Range Cannon Artillery and the Strategic Long-Range Cannon.
The first is a drastic upgrade to the 155 mm M109A6 Paladin howitzer, almost doubling its range to 70 kilometers (43 miles), and adding an autoloader.
“We are pushing the envelope in every aspect of this program,” Rafferty said. “We are still determining the right propellant formulations to get the 70 kilometers.”
One of the challenges, he said, is that the projectiles are reaching higher altitudes where the air is thinner, making it harder for the guiding fins on the back of the projectile to direct the flight.
U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzers fire at the U.S. Army’s Rodriguez range in Pocheon, South Korea, on March 15, 2012. (Kim Hong-Ji/AFP via Getty Images)
The Strategic Long Range Cannon was originally said to be aiming for a 1,000-mile range, although Rafferty describes a more modest goal of “hundreds of miles.”
This cannon is a science and technology demonstration program, with a prototype slated for 2023.

Where to Put Them?

The geopolitically thorny question of where longer-range systems might be based can be put off—for now—Walton said.
“Even though the U.S. is developing these systems as fast as it can, it will take years before it is able to field them in operationally relevant numbers,” he said.
So that leaves the United States with time for conversations with allies.
“I think it’s premature to try to put any of these countries on the spot and say which ones are going to base the systems,” Walton said. “I think if the U.S. were to try to do that, it would probably backfire.”
But even if allies or partners are unwilling or unable to take the geopolitical heat of basing them, there are other options, he said.
long enough range could be based in U.S. territories in the Mariana Islands or in Guam—or even Alaska.
The second option is to base them on U.S. territory, but send them out for exercises or in the event of a conflict.
“The U.S. could deploy these systems forward for some period of time to train with allies and partners and exercise how they would possibly be used in a contingency, and then send them back to the U.S.,” Walton said.

Compressing the Process

But while decisions on basing can wait, in the here and now of the LRPF program, things are progressing at breakneck speed under the catalyzing influence of Army Futures Command (AFC), Rafferty said.
Alongside the LRPF, the AFC’s modernization plan lists five other key areas: armored vehicles, vertical lift, missile defense, network technologies, and soldier lethality.
AFC isn’t about feeding new ideas and priorities into the previous 20-year acquisition cycles. AFC is the recognition that the rapid pace of tech development requires forging a new approach that melds the spirit of the light-footed tech start-up with military discipline and strategy.
“That’s really what’s key to the Army Futures Command,” Rafferty said. “It’s not that we are cutting corners or skipping steps. It’s that we are compressing activity.”
Rather than running through processes sequentially, they are running them in parallel wherever possible. Sometimes, even in reverse.
For example, rather than using the technical requirement document to rigidly drive the prototype, officials are using the first prototype to inform the technical requirement. And rather than waiting for a finished weapons system to roll off the end of a production line, doctrines are being built up in parallel.
But there will be no compromise when it comes to safety.
“The critical aspects of design, prototype, test, delivery—those are rigid practices that we are not skipping because they are important,” Rafferty said. “We are just compressing them.”
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