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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.

Elias Marat

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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.

Animals

Police Rescue Dogs Trapped In Car on Sizzling Hot Day, Owners Complain About Broken Window

Elias Marat

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Police in the UK acted quickly to save a two dogs locked inside a car in sizzling hot temperatures by smashing open a window, upsetting the car’s owner over the damage.

Officers responded Sunday to reports that a beagle and another dog were trapped in a car parked in the seaside British city of Brighton on a day of boiling heat.

In video captured of the incident, an officer can be seen jamming his baton through a rear window before finally shattering it to free the pooches.

This prompts the car alarm to go off as the car’s owners can be seen rushing toward it, upset over the police intervention.

A woman, standing with her shocked family, says: “You broke my window out!”

One of the officer responded: “It’s a hot day. You shouldn’t be leaving the dog in the car in this weather.”

The incident happened on a day when people across the region flock to the seaside resort city to dip into the beaches amid surging hot temperatures.

The onlooker who filmed the incident noted that the owners seemed unaware of the dangers posed to their pets by weather conditions.

“Where they had parked there is just no shade,” they told The Sun. “It’s directly on the seafront in 25°C (77°F) weather outside – I’ve got no idea what it was inside the car.”

The family was indignant over what they claim was an overreaction by the police.

“At first it was ‘what the f*** are you doing, why did you break my car window? I was only gone for 10 minutes,’” another witness explained.

“The bloke obviously thought he was completely in the right,” they added. “He didn’t really seem to have much empathy.”

According to UK animal welfare group RSPCA, outside temperatures of 22°C (71°F) can reach a brutal 47°C (116.6°F) inside a car within an hour.

“Police officers attended and tried to get a contact number for the owners of the car but were unable,” a Sussex Police spokesperson said. “Officers had no choice but to smash the side window to gain access and a kind member of the public donated a bottle of water.”

Authorities added that the officers let the pet owners off with a stern warning, without ticketing the family or separating their dogs from them.

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Scientists Prove What Causes Aurora Borealis for the First Time

Elias Marat

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Since the dawn of time, humans have been mystified by what causes the aurora borealis or northern lights. However, a group of scientists have finally uncovered what causes the dazzling lightshow that has captivated people for so long.

Researchers at the University of Iowa have proven that the shimmering auroras are the result of powerful electromagnetic waves during geomagnetic storms, according to a newly published study.

According to the study, phenomena known as Alfven waves propel electrons toward Earth and cause the particles to produce the brilliant display of northern lights seen in the higher latitudes of our planet,

“Measurements revealed this small population of electrons undergoes ‘resonant acceleration’ by the Alfven wave’s electric field, similar to a surfer catching a wave and being continually accelerated as the surfer moves along with the wave,” Prof. Greg Howes, a co-author of the study, told CNN.

Scientists have long understood that the aurora was the likely result of electrons surfing across the electric field, at least since the theory was introduced in 1946 by Soviet scientist Lev Landau.

However, the University of Iowa professors were able to finally put the theory to the test through a simulation at a lab at the Large Plasma Device (LPD) in the Basic Plasma Science Facility of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Using a 20-meter-long chamber to simulate the magnetic field of the Earth through state-of-the-art magnetic field coils, scientists were able to generate plasma similar to that which exists in spac.

“Using a specially designed antenna, we launched Alfven waves down the machine, much like shaking a garden hose up and down quickly, and watching the wave travel along the hose,” said Howes.

While this didn’t result in the type of auroras we might see in the sky, “our measurements in the laboratory clearly agreed with predictions from computer simulations and mathematical calculations, proving that electrons surfing on Alfven waves can accelerate the electrons (up to speeds of 45 million mph) that cause the aurora,” Howes noted.

Scientists across the country were elated by the results of the experiment.

“I was tremendously excited! It is a very rare thing to see a laboratory experiment that validates a theory or model concerning the space environment,” said Patrick Koehn, a scientist in the Heliophysics Division of NASA.

“Space is simply too big to easily simulate in the lab,” he added.

Researchers are hopeful that a greater understanding will allow forecasters to better understand weather conditions in space.

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Arizona Restores Gas Chamber Where ‘Nazi-Era’ Gas Will be Used for Executions

Elias Marat

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Arizona has restored an old gas chamber retired during the 20th century in a bid to continue executing its inmates on death row, renewing criticisms about capital punishment and a method of execution the United States once rejected for being excessively cruel and unusual.

The gas chamber, which hasn’t been operated since it executed its last inmate 1999, has been refurbished to ensure that it can properly function as an option for death row prisoners to choose, reports Associated Press.

The move comes after the Grand Canyon State made a large purchase of ingredients to manufacture its own hydrogen cyanide gas.

The same chemicals Arizona plans on using were also used by the Nazis during the holocaust under the brand name Zyklon B. News articles about Arizona’s plans have provoked outrage among survivors of Nazi death camps in Germany and Israel.

“Whether or not one supports the death penalty as a general matter, there is general agreement in American society that a gas devised as a pesticide, and used to eliminate Jews, has no place in the administration of criminal justice,” wrote the American Jewish Committee said in a statement. 

The federal government has also used the gas in past executions of prisoners.

Arizona’s revival of the old execution method comes as prison authorities across the country continue to grapple with problems over another form of execution decried by critics as brutal, namely the use of lethal injection.

Once depicted as a more humane and painless form of killing prisoners, lethal injection has often led to slow, torturous and excruciating deaths. Additionally, many of the chemicals used in lethal injection drugs are impossible to attain due to the refusal of drug makers to continue manufacturing them – effectively cutting off the “choices” given to death row inmates about their preferred method of death.

In South Carolina, a recently-passed law would see inmates being forced to choose between firing squad and an electric chair, reports NPR.

In the waning days of the Trump administration, the outgoing president also vigorously pushed to fast-track the use of death by firing squad and death by electrocution.

At the time, former federal prosecutor Miriam Krinsky, who also heads the Fair and Just Prosecution advocacy group, said:

“As we find itself in the midst of a national reckoning with racism and our history of racial violence, ending the death penalty must be part of our transformation … Abolishing the death penalty would be a signal that the Biden-Harris administration is committed to fairness, equity, and evidence-based justice — and the time for this definitive move is long overdue.”

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