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.
SpaceX Will Help Launch A Remote-Controlled Car Race On The Moon
SpaceX with its Falcon 9 rocket will be involved in sending 5.5 pounds of remotely-controlled race cars to the lunar surface, aiding the first-ever remote car race on the Moon!
If all goes according to plan, the Falcon 9 rocket will deliver the remote-controlled vehicles to the moon’s surface by October 2021, New Atlas reported.
The interstellar race is being organized by a company called Moon Mark, a multimedia and education content business, which partnered with Intuitive Machines, a Houston-based aerospace company.
Intuitive Machines believes it could soon become “the first private aerospace company to land on the Moon,” according to a recent press release. But SpaceX, a company headed by Elon Musk, one of the world’s most bizarre CEO’s, won’t just allow that to happen without his company’s own involvement.
The SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will assist Intuitive Machines in getting its Nova-C lander onto the moon to deploy the race cars.
The cars will race around the sandy dunes of Oceanus Procellarum, a plain near the western edge of the Moon.
The track will be designed by Formula One racecar track designer Herman Tilke. While McLaren P1 designer Frank Stephenson is involved in designing the cars, along with High School kids.
The “deployment mechanism” used to deposit the 5.5 lb cars on the lunar surface will weigh a further 6.6 lbs. That’s a total of 17.6 lb combined weight being sent into space to our moon.
“Moon Mark’s Mission 1 competition will include six diverse teams of high school students selected from across the United States,” reads a press release, “who will compete in a series of qualifying challenges that include unique demands, such as drone and autonomous vehicle racing, e-gaming, and a space commercialization entrepreneurship contest. The two top teams from the qualifying rounds will win a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build and race two vehicles on the Moon. The vehicles will be loaded onto Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C Lunar Lander, launched from Earth on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, and land in 2021. Competitors will then race their rovers remotely, navigating through harsh terrain, racing around a sphere of cameras, which will capture every aspect.”
Lets hope that 2021 is a better year than 2020 was, with space racecars we definitely have something to look forward to.
Congress to Vote This Week on Bill to Legalize Cannabis, End Federal Prohibition
After months of debate and partisan stalling, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019 is set for a vote before a full chamber of Congress by the end of this week.
The bipartisan bill sponsored by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has been touted as the most comprehensive federal cannabis reform legislation ever introduced and comes after over half a century of a failed “war on drugs” that fueled mass incarceration and other collateral damage for poor communities.
Late last week, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer advised the Congress that the MORE Act would be taken up by the House at some point between Wednesday evening and Friday.
In a September statement, Hoyer said that “The MORE Act remains a critical component of House Democrats’ plan for addressing systemic racism and advancing criminal justice reform.”
The bill has also gained the support of both liberals and libertarian-leaning conservatives who see the responsible use of cannabis as a personal right, as well as other Republicans who believe that it should be up to the states to regulate the dispensation of the plant without the interference or control of federal authorities.
The MORE Act comprehensively decriminalizes cannabis on a federal level by de-scheduling it from the Controlled Substances Act – where it is absurdly classified as a Schedule 1 drug “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse” alongside heroin – and opens the door to states setting their own policies regulating the commerce and consumption of the plant.
A major highlight of the bill includes expungements of federal convictions for a number of federal convictions of low-level cannabis offenders, removing a barrier that bars access to voting, employment, professional licenses, housing, and even the ability to adopt a child. States would be incentivized to also follow suit.
The legislation would also provide for re-sentencing and block federal agencies from denying public benefits and security clearances over past cannabis convictions, while immigrants would no longer be denied citizenship over marijuana.
The MORE Act would also levy a 5% sales tax on commercial cannabis, and investing in grant programs addressing the needs of communities who have suffered serious negative impacts from the “War on Drugs,” especially those communities of color that have suffered disproportionate over-policing and mass incarceration.
Other provisions of the MORE Act include providing opportunities for cannabis businesses and expanding medical cannabis programs within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Cannabis has already been comprehensively legalized for recreational use in 15 states, and another 21 states have legalized medical use of marijuana through physician prescriptions.
A vote on the MORE Act had initially been set for September, but the vote was delayed as Congress wrangled over the passage of a coronavirus aid bill before moving on to addressing legalization.
The passage of the MORE Act could also be a boon for cash-strapped budgets across the country, which have seen tax revenue dry up amid the economic devastation wrought by the ongoing pandemic. The creation of a state-regulated cannabis market across the country is expected to create an up to $37 billion business within five years.
“Times have changed — marijuana should not be a crime,” Vice President-elect Harris said in a 2019 press release. “We need to start regulating marijuana, and expunge marijuana convictions from the records of millions of Americans so they can get on with their lives. As marijuana becomes legal across the country, we must make sure everyone — especially communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs — has a real opportunity to participate in this growing industry.”
However, while the House has offered clear bipartisan backing of the bill, GOP senators have been far less favorable toward the bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has blasted the bill on Twitter, remarking earlier this year on a study about diversity within the cannabis industry: “This is their effort at coronavirus relief?”
In 2018, a study from Pew Research Center found that cannabis-related offenses comprised 40% of all 1.65 million total drug arrests in the U.S. that year.
However, another study by Pew in late 2019 found that two-thirds of respondents across the country support the legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana.
White House is Being Investigated by DOJ for Alleged Presidential Pardon Bribery Scheme
In a potentially explosive development in the waning days of outgoing President Donald Trump’s administration, the Justice Department is investigating an alleged “bribery-for-pardon” scheme involving cash payments to the White House or its associates in exchange for a presidential pardon.
The heavily-redacted court records unsealed Tuesday in federal court do not name any individuals involved nor do they mention President Trump, or whether any officials in the White House were acquainted with the scheme.
However, the legal drama that the records hint at create new, dark clouds over the outgoing administration after a number of his top associates and advisers have faced federal criminal charges while Trump has openly mulled pardoning those who have proven their loyalty to him.
In 20 pages of partially redacted documents unsealed by the DC District Court, the question is discussed of whether prosecutors can review documents that are potentially protected by attorney-client privilege and were seized after a search warrant.
The records also reveal Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell’s Aug. 28 opinion on an ongoing investigation involving at least two figures who “acted as lobbyists to senior White House officials, without complying with the registration requirement of the Lobbying Disclosure Act… to secure ‘a pardon or reprieve of sentence for” an individual whose name is redacted.
In the review, the judge noted that the communications could be reviewed by investigators because the email discussion involved a non-attorney.
“This political strategy to obtain a presidential pardon was ‘parallel’ to and distinct from one individual’s role as an attorney advocate for” another individual, the ruling added, with both names involved being redacted.
According to the filings, the communications were seized from an office in a raid that occurred at some point prior to the end of summer 2020.
During the raid, a filter team – meant to ensure that prosecutors don’t receive tainted evidence that should not have fallen into their hands because it was privileged – had over 50 digital devices, including smartphones, tablet computers, laptops, thumb drives and hard drives after investigators raided the undisclosed offices, reports CNN.
In the court documents, prosecutors requested access to the filter team’s trove of devices. This is because the prosecutors believed that the holdings showed alleged crimes such as a “secret lobbying scheme” and bribery conspiracy that solicited “a substantial political contribution in exchange for a presidential pardon or reprieve of sentence” for a defendant who was convicted, according to the redacted records.
“The political strategy to obtain a presidential pardon was ‘parallel’ to and distinct from [redacted]’s role as an attorney-advocate for [redacted name],” Judge Howell wrote in the court order.
A grand jury investigation was also revealed, and appears to relate to unnamed parties who acted as unregistered “lobbyists to senior White House officials” and pursued pardons while using an intermediary to transmit bribes, the records say.
However, prosecutors have not provided evidence to the judge of any direct payment. Instead, they showed evidence that the redacted person was seeking clemency in return for past and future contributions to a political campaign.
Over the last week, the Department of Justice has informed Judge Howell that it wants the filings to reman confidential in court because “individuals and conduct” have not been publicly charged with any crimes related to the potential scheme.
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