(TMU) — In a move that could blaze a small but important trail for workers’ rights across the U.S., Nevada has passed a bill telling employers and state agencies that they can no longer refuse to hire workers on the basis of their testing positive for cannabis. It’s a long way to come for a state that was once infamous for its notoriously strong prohibitionist laws penalizing those in possession of m********.
Last week, Governor Steve Sisolak signed AB 132, which prohibits the denial of employment to cannabis consumers after drug pre-screenings. Advocates are hailing the passage of the bill because it finally clears a major gap in the law between states that have rendered m******** totally legal for medical or recreational purposes and those U.S. companies that try to block their workers from toking up at all.
In Nevada, as in the other several states that have made recreational cannabis legal across the country, employers were still able to turn people away from jobs if they failed the “whizz quiz,” or urine-based drug tests. NFL players seeking to recover from the intense physical pressures of football are unable to use cannabis-based remedies, doctors have lost their licenses for using medicinal cannabis, and 48 percent of businesses in otherwise weed-friendly Colorado have “well-defined” rules that allow them to fire employees if m******** is detected in a worker’s test results.
According to the Nevada law, which kicks in January:
“It is unlawful for any employer in this State to fail or refuse to hire a prospective employee because the prospective employee submitted to a screening test and the results of the screening test indicate the presence of m********.”
However, a number of provisions in the bill complicate matters. Safety-sensitive positions including first responders such as firefighters and EMTs, doctors, transportation and construction workers are exempt from the bill, as are workers who belong to collective bargaining agreements—which bars union workers who are extant across numerous industries in Nevada, according to Merry Jane. Additionally, federal law demands that workers like truck drivers must take drug tests.
Paul Enos, the chief executive of the Nevada Trucking Association who helped ensure revisions to the law that would allow safety exemptions for certain workers, told the Washington Post:
“We want to make sure we have safety conscious individuals … The bill gives employers a tremendous amount of discretion to determine whether or not the position they are hiring for could impact the safety of others … They can still use positive tests for m******** to deny the job.”
The law has come a long way since it was introduced, with some employers accusing state politicians of allowing workers to blaze it up while on the clock.
Lead sponsor of AB 132 and Democratic Assemblywoman Dina Neal said during a hearing for the bill in February:
“There is nothing in AB132 that prevents an employer from having a policy prohibiting the possession or use of m******** at the workplace … The bill does not get into violating the [federal] supremacy clause or get into the business of usurping federal law and preventing rights of federal employees.”
Yet Madisen Saglibene, the executive director of the Nevada and Las Vegas chapters of NORML, worked hard alongside legislators to ensure the bill’s passage in the face of opposition from industry representatives and politicians like Ellen Spiegel, chair of the Commerce and Labor committee.
Saglibene told VICE that the troubling provisions in the bill were a result of compromises necessary to pass the bill, explaining:
“It was hated … It was one of those things where we were meeting with legislators and they were like, Absolutely not. We are not taking away employers’ right to hire who they want.”
But thanks to Neal, who held meetings with all parties interested in the bill, a compromise was finally met. Saglibene said:
“By the time it was having its final public comments, most of the stakeholders who were initially against it testified as neutral … which is saying a lot, actually, considering they were so vehemently opposed.”
Gov. Sisolak has also signed Assembly Bill 192, which provides for a process through which individuals can petition to have their criminal records sealed if their conviction was for offenses that were eventually decriminalized, such as for a cannabis conviction.
Saglibene remains optimistic about the prospects of the AB 132, which opens the door to similar—and perhaps stronger—legislation across the country. Acknowledging that there is still work ahead, she noted:
“We’re very pleased … This isn’t the end-all-be-all but this is absolutely a step in the right direction.”
Scientists Discover New Organ In The Center Of The Human Head
Medical researchers have made a shocking historical anatomical discovery by finding a new organ located at the center of the human head that has been lurking there all along.
The finding was reported in Radiotherapy and Oncology. Researchers discovered the organ by accident thanks to doctors in the Netherlands, who were examining 100 patients for prostate cancer while performing an advanced type of scan called PSMA PET/CT. This diagnostic process when paired with injections of radioactive glucose highlights tumors in the body.
However, in this case, the researchers found something else entirely, nestled in the rear of the nasopharynx. The nasopharynx functions as an airway in the respiratory system. Also contained within the nasopharynx are the adenoids, or pharyngeal tonsils.
The new organ looks to be a mysterious set of salivary glands that have been hidden inside the human head. How this was discovered in 2020, missed for centuries is unknown, but until now, the human body has had three major salivary glands — parotid, submandibular, and sublingual glands.
“People have three sets of large salivary glands, but not there,” explains radiation oncologist Wouter Vogel from the Netherlands Cancer Institute. “As far as we knew, the only salivary or mucous glands in the nasopharynx are microscopically small, and up to 1,000 are evenly spread out throughout the mucosa. So, imagine our surprise when we found these.”
Now, we can add a fourth located behind the nose and above the palate, close to the center of the human head.
“The two new areas that lit up turned out to have other characteristics of salivary glands as well,” said one of the first author of the study, oral surgeon Matthijs Valstar from the University of Amsterdam.
“We call them tubarial glands, referring to their anatomical location [above the torus tubarius].”
These tubarial glands were seen to exist in the PSMA PET/CT scans of all the 100 patients, revealing visible draining duct openings towards the nasopharyngeal wall.
“To our knowledge, this structure did not fit prior anatomical descriptions,” the researchers explained in their paper.
It’s worth noting that there are an additional approximately 1,000 minor salivary glands situated throughout the oral cavity and the digestive tract. Although, these are not seen without a microscope according to Scientific Alert.
The researchers suggest the organ is found at a poorly accessible anatomical location under the skull base, which explains why it has been missed all of these centuries. The medical professionals note that it’s possible they may have noticed the duct openings, but it’s unlikely they would have realized the structures were apart of a larger gland system. But thanks to newer technology allowing advanced PSMA-PET/CT imaging techniques, seeing the macroscopical organ was possible.
The study needs to be replicated and validated. However, pathologist said that the team may be on to something and if its real it could change the way we view diseases in that region of the skull.
“It seems like they may be onto something,” pathologist Valerie Fitzhugh from Rutgers University, who wasn’t involved with the study, told The New York Times.
“If it’s real, it could change the way we look at disease in this region.”
California city begins Guaranteed Basic Income program
The Southern California city of Compton is launching a pilot program that aims to provide a basic income to 800 of its low-income residents, with zero strings attached.
Dubbed the Compton Pledge, the guaranteed income program will begin distributing free cash to 800 residents of the city in Los Angeles County for a period of two years. Compton Mayor Aja Brown has said that the ambitious program is the largest of its kind in for any city in the U.S.
The majority Black and Latino city is just the latest in a growing list of cities across the country, and the world, that is experimenting with new ways to put money in residents’ hands give the grave economic calamity caused by the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
“I recognized that there’s a need for additional income, especially with the pandemic resulting in record high numbers of unemployment throughout the entire country,” the mayor told the Los Angeles Times. “This is a great opportunity to address inequalities for Black and brown people and also additional opportunities for upward mobility.”
The guaranteed income program is also meant to “challenge the racial and economic injustice plaguing both welfare programs and economic systems,” according to a statement released by the Compton Pledge on Monday.
“People in our community are going through tough times, and I know that guaranteed income could give people a moment to navigate their situation, and have some breathing room to go back to school, explore a new career path, spend time with their children, or improve their mental and emotional wellbeing,” Brown said in the statement. “Ensuring all people are able to live with dignity is something we should all strive for in America.”
Roughly 1 in 5 residents of Compton live below the poverty line – roughly double that of the national average – according to census data. The plight of Compton residents has only been compounded by the ongoing health emergency, which has raised the city’s unemployment rate to 21.9 percent.
The Compton Pledge has already raised over $2.5 million in private donations through the Fund for Guaranteed Income, a charity headed by the family of L.A. Times owner and billionaire bioscientist and transplant surgeon Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong.
Under the program, randomly selected families from a vetted group of low-income residents will receive at least a few hundred dollars on a recurring basis along with tools helping to advise them on their finances. Parents and guardians may receive more, while anonymous researchers will track the spending habits and well-being of participants.
A representative board including nonprofit organizations like My Brother’s Keeper and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) will also advise the Compton Pledge on how best to reach communities on the margins.
The program is aiming to include a representative sample of 68 percent of Latino and 30 percent of Black residents in Compton, along with those typically left out of federal and state welfare programs, such as formerly incarcerated residents and undocumented immigrants.
The program isn’t the first of its kind in the Golden State, where opulent displays of wealth often exist side-by-side with extreme poverty.
In 2019, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs launched the first guaranteed income program in the country, known as the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration, which gave 125 Stockton residents a $500 payment for 18 months.
The concept of distributing free money to citizens without strings attached has gained popularity in recent times, due in no small part to the economic impact of the pandemic.
Political parties and figures both on the traditional left and the right have raised the demand for guaranteed income or Universal Basic Income (UBI), with some of its strongest proponents include tech oligarchs and venture capitalists like Peter Thiel, Marc Andreesen, and Jack Dorsey.
Supporters of the plan argue that inequality would be reduced by basic income and it would provide an added layer of financial security for certain people. Supporters of the plan, such as former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, also suggest that with jobs in myriad industries slated to be rendered obsolete by automation and computerization, a universal basic income is required to prevent a deeper humanitarian and financial crisis.
Critics on the left have suggested that basic income is a Trojan horse that would be a vehicle for dismantling what little remains of the welfare state, offering the “paying people for being alive” stipend in exchange for austerity and the destruction of social safety nets that protect the most vulnerable members of society and offer a small barrier to extreme inequality.
On the right, however, opponents have claimed that the idea is far too expensive and would dis-incentivize people from seeking work and would be tantamount to subsidizing poor people’s substance abuse habits or reckless spending on “temptation goods.”
However, decades of research has shown that most people on such programs continue to work after receiving the transfers, while those who work less spend more with their families.
With many countries experiencing a free fall in jobs numbers – as well as sharply declining consumer demand and household spending – the idea of guaranteed basic income has gained popularity unseen since the idea saw a surge of interest following the 2008 financial crash.
In the South American nation of Colombia, politicians across the political spectrum have urged the government to introduce an Emergency Basic Income to mitigate the damage of the COVID-19 pandemic. The municipal government of Bogota under Green Party Mayor Claudia Lopez was the first city in the South American nation to offer basic income to vulnerable households struggling to feed themselves amid the lockdown. The plan also included integrating 581,000 poor households into the banking system, according to a press release from the City of Bogota.
While the Compton Pledge is beginning as a far more modest program, community advocates are hopeful that the program can be a success.
“Guaranteed income is an urgent and necessary strategy for addressing the economic realities of racial injustice,” said Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors.
Proponents also hope that this can become a trend that sparks a nationwide system of direct, recurring payments to vulnerable families.
“Guaranteed income will afford people the dignity of an income floor and agency to make choices for themselves,” said Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs.
“Poverty stems from a lack of cash, not a lack of character,” he added.
7 Arrested In Florida For Trafficking Flying Squirrels
At least seven people are facing numerous criminal charges after they were caught trafficking flying squirrels. According to investigators, their operation was worth an estimated $1 million.
In a statement on Monday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) said that the suspects have been charged with racketeering, money laundering, scheming to defraud, and other organized criminal laws involving “an elaborate organized enterprise to smuggle Florida’s wildlife to interstate and international buyers.”
The agency says that in January of 2019, they received a complaint from a concerned citizen about flying squirrels being illegally trapped in a rural part of Marion County. Flying squirrels are considered a protected wild animal in Florida, but they are illegally sold internationally because their rarity fetches such high prices.
After receiving the initial complaints, the FWC began a 19-month investigation where they tracked the hunters and monitored their international operation. The investigators found that once the poachers captured the squirrels, they sold the animals to a wildlife dealer in Bushnell and were laundered through the licensed business of the dealer, who claimed they were captive-bred, which would have made them legal to sell.
The poachers set out an estimated 10,000 squirrel traps throughout central Florida and investigators tracked as many as 3,600 flying squirrels being captured by the group in less than three years.
It is not clear how the agency estimated the operation to be worth $1 million, because the dealer involved in the scheme only received an estimated $213,800 in gross sales in the three years that he was being monitored.
The wildlife dealer was selling the animals to buyers from South Korea who traveled to the United States specifically for the squirrels. The buyers would then take the animals to Chicago, where they were sent to Asia by a wildlife exporter who was unaware of the plot. The investigation into the flying squirrels revealed that the same group was trafficking a variety of other poached animals, including protected freshwater turtles and alligators. There were also dealers and traffickers in Florida and Georgia dealing with the group. However, the operation was meticulous and careful, and many of the people involved with the scheme did not even know each other.
Maj. Grant Burton, FWC Investigation’s section leader, said that the poachers were a danger to the state’s wildlife.
“Wildlife conservation laws protect Florida’s precious natural resources from abuse. The concerned citizen who initially reported this activity started an investigation that uncovered a major smuggling operation. These poachers could have severely damaged Florida’s wildlife populations,” said Maj. Burton.
The life expectancy of flying squirrels in the wild is about six years, but flying squirrels can live up to fifteen years in zoos. The mortality rate in young flying squirrels is high because of predators and diseases. Predators of flying squirrels include tree snakes, raccoons, owls, martens, fishers, coyotes, bobcats, and feral cats. In the Pacific Northwest of North America, the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis) is a common predator of flying squirrels. Obviously, poachers also represent a serious threat to the species.
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