The Good: Trump Announces Support Of First Step Act
While the fight for unfair sentencing and discrimination within the justice system is just beginning, fighters dedicated to the cause are within reach of new legislation that would mark a major change in sentencing standards for new offenders and change current sentences for existing prisoners. The First Step Act which has received praise from progressive organizations and lawmakers is also being backed by President Trump who announced his support of the bill this past Thursday.
The new legislation aims to end discriminatory and harsh sentencing among non violent drug law offenders who are mostly minorities.
The Act may be up for vote between now and January and would reverse federal laws that the “War on Drugs” era setup during the Reagan Administration. Thousands of prisoners who have been “well behaved” would have the opportunity to petition the court to end their sentences immediately. Others would benefit from allocated tax dollars designed to supply inmates with the resources and tools needed to prepare for life after their sentences expire. “Good Time Credits” and participation in the training and education programs created will also be added into sentencing factors potentially allowing thousands of prisoners to be released early, provided they can prove to the court that they have made sufficient efforts to become rehabilitated. Under the bill, judges will also be able to bypass mandatory sentencing laws if they feel the defendant posses no violent threat to the community; lastly the law strips away the practice of “stacking charges” which prosecutors have used for decades to bury first offenders who were caught with drugs and a weapon, regardless of wether or not the weapon was used. Under such practices, some defendants have received as much as 25+ years in prison.
The law will not apply to certain offenders such as those convicted of murder, sexual assault, or trafficking fentanyl.
Although officials acknowledge the bill will not solve all issues related to the justice and prison systems, proponents of the bill say it’s a step in the right direction for those who’ve been unfairly punished.
One of the law’s author’s Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, issued a statement regarding the support of bill:
“It’s probably true that each of us could find something to disagree with in this bill, but an opportunity to pass legislation like this that does so much good does not come often. And when it does come, we must join together and support it.”
The Bad: California Campfire Damage Is Massive
As the number of lives lost and residents missing continues to climb, California mourns the loss of an entire community ravaged by flames which has become the deadliest wildfire California has seen in over half a century. With at least 300 people missing and another 60 found deceased, Brock Long, the director of FEMA says the situation in California is becoming a humanitarian’s nightmare. “We’ll be here for several years working this disaster,” Long stated in a news conference. “This is going to be a very long, a frustrating event for the citizens of Paradise,” later adding that rebuilding the city may not be worth the effort. “The infrastructure is basically a total rebuild at this point. You’re not going to be able to rebuild Paradise the way it was.”
Currently the fire is less than 40% contained and has destroyed over 100,000 acres of land, displacing thousands of victims who are now seeking refuge in shelters, tent homes and parking lots.
In addition to the devastation of the fire, a norovirus has also broken out within one of the shelters 15 miles from ground zero. Authorities have confirmed that out of the 179 residents there, 21 are ill and have been taken to separate shelters for treatment.
Probably the most hurtful news of all is that a company has admitted that negligence on their part may be the reason the fire sparked in the first place. Pacific Gas & Electric submitted documents to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission claiming faulty equipment may be responsible for the blaze adding they likely will not have enough insurance to cover the cost of the blaze.
If any silver lining is to be seen regarding the situation, California officials have sparked a debate on how it will create legislation to prevent repeat occurrences after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke commented on the disaster saying: “This is unacceptable year after year after year.”
The Good: Scientists Have Found A Super Planet 3 Times The Size Of Earth
After combining decades of research, data and hundreds of instruments, scientists have confirmed the existence of a frozen “super-planet” that’s three times the size of earth. The planet was found orbiting the Bernard star outside of our own Solar System but only 6 light years away. The details of the find were published this week in a scientific journal called “Nature.”
The planet now known as Bernard Star b is home to an extremely harsh environment, experts estimate the planet it likely made up of desserts of ice with no liquid water, with an average surface temperature of -274 degrees Fahrenheit. The frozen planet’s dwarf sun only emits about 0.4% of the radiance our own Sun gives earth, combined with the star’s smaller size and older lifetime, the likelihood of hosting life is bleak at best however, it’s discovery will help lead the way for future advancements.
The importance of the find is amplified by the fact that it’s the closest singular star to our own solar system. The Bernard Star b is the same orbital distance as Mercury is from our own sun and is in a part of the galaxy where scientists believe elements are able to become planets as they collect enough materials to become planets, much like our own planet came to fruition. The confirmation of the planets existence comes after Edward Emerson Barnard believed he discovered the star over a century ago.
The Bad: Ebola Continues To Spread Throughout The Congo
Just when we thought the Ebola outbreak couldn’t become worse, it did, and officials fear even more somber and concerning news could be approaching.
Dr. Pierre Rollin is an expert on Ebola and works with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he recently spoke with NPR and explained the ongoing situation and why the rest of the world should be concerned about recent developments.
First explaining his history with the Democratic Republic of Congo and the several cases of Ebola outbreak he’s been involved with, Rollin uncovers the pattern Ebola outbreaks have adhered to in the past. Normally, when cases of life threatening diseases break out, health officials are trained to identify the threat, isolate victims, warn officials, identify individuals who came into contact with victims and treat those parties while containing the virus. The previous pattern allows officials to contain the threat within 3 to 4 months. However, as The DRC enters into its 4th month of chaos, Rollin says that the past 30 days has been crucial, recognizing a difference in the pattern which could spell uncontrollable issues for the Congo and it’s neighbors.
Unlike previous cases, doctors have been unable to identify individuals who have potentially come into contact with victims and treat them accordingly, health care workers are now inhibited by the ongoing civil war within the Congo which has not only led to caregivers being attacked, but civilians becoming untrusting of anyone associated with the government whom is currently also under siege by rebel forces.
Rollin goes on to explain that as the Congo prepares for elections in December violence between rebels and the government may only escalate, making evacuations eminent. The threat of a mass exodus adds to growing concerns that the virus will spread to neighboring countries as more potentially infected people begin to travel.
Optimistic officials say that the Ebola out break will take at least another 6 months to curtail. Peter Salama, the World Health Organization’s deputy director-general of Emergency Preparedness and Response made several comments concerning the Congo’s situation and says it’s “the most difficult context we’ve ever had to deal with in an Ebola outbreak.”
The Good: Women Arrested In Strawberry Contamination Saga
Australian police believe they’ve solved a case that simultaneously threatened lives and major industries after they arrested a 50 year old women suspected of maliciously spiking strawberries with needles.
Police have been investigating the strange crime since September when the needle laced fruits were found, causing one person to be hospitalized and several businesses to stop selling fruit altogether. Imitators of the crime became another issue after news of the discovery broke, with citizens also finding needles in other fruits like mangos and bananas causing more fear and all but halting Australia’s export industry.
There were at least 100 instances of needles found in strawberries which eventually prompted the Australian government to not only issue statements regarding the crime but the offering of $100,000 to anyone with information.
“Whoever is behind this is not just putting families at risk across Queensland and the rest of Australia — they are putting an entire industry at risk,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said in a statement. “I would urge anyone with information that may be relevant to this incident in any way to contact police as soon as possible.”
Apparently the plea made in Palaszczuk’s statement had a positive affect on the public, and eventually led to police making an arrest. The women was charged with 7 counts of food contamination, a charged that bears a 10-15 year sentence.
The Bad: Saudi Government Admits Journalist Kassabgi Was Killed And Dismembered In Consulate
After adamantly denying having any knowledge of the Jamal Khashoggi killing, Saudi Arabia has admitted that the late journalist was killed inside the Turkish consulate in October in an effort to force Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia by force. According to the head prosecutor in Saudi Arabia, 15 people were hired for the operation, 21 have been arrested and 5 will face the death penalty for their direct involvement with Khashoggi’s killing.
Prosecutors allege that the 15 man team was hired by former Saudi deputy intelligence chief, Ahmed al-Assiri, and then divided into 3 groups; a negotiation team, an intelligence team and a logistical team. The head of the negotiation team allegedly called for Khashoggi’s killing after negotiations became futile.
Although Turkish officials investigating the matter said the prosecution of the individuals involved is a “positive step”, high ranking officials are still calling for the trial to be held in Turkey, even demanding the names of the defendants be released and calling the Saudi report on the crimes “unsatisfactory”.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu made several damning comments regarding the prosecution’s story saying: “They say (Khashoggi) resisted going back to their country and was killed. However, this murder was premeditated as we had announced before, the dismembering of the body is not an instant decision. They brought the necessary people and tools to kill him and dismember the body in advance.”
So far several Saudi officials have been removed from office since the killing and sanctions have been placed upon Saudi Arabia as the U.S. seeks answers for the human rights violation while attempting to continue the arms deal Trump made earlier this year.
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