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Bombshell: Documents Show Witness Lied to Get Chevron Out of Billions in Fines

(ANTIMEDIA) A witness who was instrumental in overturning a $9.5 billion (USD) environmental fine levied against Chevron in Ecuador has admitted to lying, according to newly released transcripts.

Nearly two years ago, Alberto Guerra testified in a New York federal court that he bribed judge Nicolas Zambrano to write the multibillion-dollar judgement against Chevron for oil damage in the Amazon jungle in Ecuador. Chevron, formerly Texaco, has had oil operations in the Ecuadorian Amazon since the early 1960s.

The oil giant stands accused of deliberately dumping billions of gallons of toxic wastewater into rivers and streams, spilling millions of gallons of crude oil, and abandoning waste in hundreds of open-air pits throughout the region. Ecuador’s highest court previously found the company was liable for $9.5 billion in damages.

However, Chevron appealed the decision in an American court under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, and in March 2014, New York federal Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled the settlement came as the result of fraud and coercion. Kaplan stated the lawyer representing Ecuador, Steven Donzinger, was guilty of mail fraud, engaged in coercion, and paid bribes in order to win judgment against Chevron. The ruling was largely based on the testimony of Alberto Guerra two years ago.

On April 23 and 24, Guerra spoke privately to an international arbitration tribunal in Washington D.C. On Monday, 3,000 pages of transcripts from the tribunal were released to Courthouse News and VICE. According to the transcripts, for 13 days Guerra was cross-examined by a lawyer representing the Republic of Ecuador.

Guerra said that after this, Chevron approached him “to request my cooperation for me to be the liaison with Mr. Zambrano.” Guerra testified that officials with Chevron showed him a safe filled with money. The Chevron officials told Guerra, “Look, look, look what’s down there. We have $20,000 there.”

During the RICO hearings in New York, Guerra stated he made a deal with the plaintiffs and Judge Nicolas Zambrano. In exchange for Guerra ghostwriting the verdict and Zambrano issuing the $9.5 billion ruling, the two would split $500,000. However, the transcripts show that Guerra told the tribunal in D.C. there was no evidence to corroborate his claims of bribes or ghostwriting the judgement. He also stated that much of his sworn testimony was exaggerated and false.

Guerra has a history of working with Chevron. In January 2013, Chevron moved him to the United States, paid for immigration lawyers for his family and still currently pays him a salary of $12,000 per month. Between September 2012 and November 2013, Guerra has had at least 53 meetings with Chevron representatives.

Despite his ruling against the settlement, Judge Lewis Kaplan acknowledged he did not “assume that anyone’s hands in this are clean.” Kaplan said, “Guerra’s credibility is not impeccable,” but still believed Guerra’s testimony was “corroborated extensively by independent evidence.

Morgan Crinklaw, spokesperson for Chevron, told VICE he supported Judge Kaplan when he ruled that “Guerra on many occasions has acted deceitfully and broken the law […] but that does not necessarily mean that it should be disregarded wholesale.”

The international tribunal will soon rule on the case, but it is uncertain what effect the new ruling could have on the previous judgements.


This article (Bombshell: Documents Show Witness Lied to Get Chevron out of Billions in Fines) is a free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Derrick Broze andtheAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11 pm Eastern/8 pm Pacific. Image credit: Jonathan McIntosh. If you spot a typo, email edits@theantimedia.org.

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MSNBC Apologizes After Accidentally Telling the Truth About Israel

(MINTPRESS) New York, NY — Earlier this month, MSNBC aired a well-known, but controversial graphic that illustrates how Israel has taken over Palestine as the occupation of the region has grown over time.

MSNBC_Map_Cropped

The graphic, which appeared during an Oct. 15 discussion between MSNBC anchor Kate Snow and Martin Fletcher, a Middle East correspondent, shows a series of four maps dating from 1946 to the present that depict the loss of Palestinian territory to Israel.

During the segment, Fletcher discussed the ways that Israel’s provocative behavior at Al-Aqsa Mosque is a major trigger for the latest violence in Gaza and the West Bank, then Snow introduced the graphic as it appeared on screen, saying: “What does that show you, Martin, that the area Palestinians are living, has it grown increasingly smaller?”

Fletcher replied:

“Well, absolutely, it’s all about the land, and what this map shows you, and I must say it’s pretty shocking when you present it in this way, what it clearly shows is that, if there’s no peace agreement between the Palestinians and Israel … more of that Palestinian land will be eaten up by Jewish settlements.”

Watch Kate Snow and Martin Fletcher discuss the graphic of Palestine on MSNBC:

Supporters of Palestinian human rights on social media praised what they saw as a rare example of honesty about the occupation from TV news. But some media critics, and especially the Israeli media, criticized the segment, calling the graphic inaccurate. The Jerusalem Post referred to the image, which closely resembled a similar graphic widely circulated among activists, as “a map commonly used by Palestinian propaganda groups,” adding:

“It claimed that in 1946, present-day Israel was under Palestinian rule, leaving out the fact that it was under British Mandatory rule until May 14, 1948, when the British Mandate came to an end.

Another mistake came in the 1947 map which the graphic referred to as the ‘UN plan.’ This was inaccurate for the fact that the supposed 1947 borders never existed, since the UN’s partition plan was rejected by all Arab countries.”

On Oct. 19, MSNBC aired an apology in which Snow called the maps “not factually accurate.” Fletcher also appeared and acknowledged that although there was no internationally recognized country called “Palestine” in 1947, twice as many Arabs as Jews lived in the region at that time.

Watch Kate Snow and Martin Fletcher’s on-air apology on MSNBC:

The Institute for Middle East Understanding defended the map on Thursday, arguing that it “accurately depicts the land that has been forcibly taken from Palestinians since 1946, two years before Israel was established and the accompanying expulsion of between 750,000 and a million Palestinians to make way for a Jewish state.”

And although the country of Palestine was not recognized by the British, who occupied the region in 1947, the non-profit, writing for the website Mondoweiss, noted:

“Palestine as a political entity existed prior to the formation of the state of Israel in 1948, going back to ancient times when it was a province of the Roman empire until more recently when it was British Mandatory Palestine, immediately preceding Israel’s creation. ”

The institute also acknowledged that the map contained some factual errors, however, including incorrect labelling of the occupied Golan Heights, which Israel has claimed since the Six Day War in 1967, and that “[t]he map also shows ‘Israel’ existing in 1946. While British Mandatory Palestine did exist in 1946, there was no political entity called ‘Israel’ until 1948.”


This article (MSNBC Apologizes After Accidentally Telling the Truth About Israel) originally appeared on MintPressNews.com and was used with permission. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email edits@theantimedia.org.

Kit O’Connell

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After 17 Years Medical Marijuana Dispensary Beats the Department of Justice in Federal Court

Last week, a new development occurred in the ongoing battle between state-legal medical marijuana facilities and enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) by the U.S. Department of Justice. In a case now spanning more than 17 years, a federal judge in California ordered the DOJ to stop enforcing the CSA against Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana (MAMM), a medical marijuana dispensary operating out of Fairfax, California.

In 1998, the DOJ filed suit against MAMM and five other medical marijuana dispensaries on the grounds that they were distributing marijuana in violation of the CSA. In 2002, a permanent injunction was entered against MAMM, ordering it to cease distributing cannabis. Then, nothing happened for nine years — MAMM continued its operations and the DOJ failed to take any further legal or enforcement action.

In 2011, the DOJ issued a cease-and-desist letter to MAMM and then initiated a new round of asset forfeiture proceedings. MAMM’s landlord eventually settled with the DOJ, and MAMM was ultimately forced to close its doors. Throughout the case, there was never a dispute that MAMM was operating in compliance with California’s Compassionate Use Act of 1996. In fact, the Fairfax mayor, in a letter to U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag and in court filings, described MAMM as a “model business” that has always abided by the conditions of its local use permit.

In June of this year, MAMM filed a motion arguing that the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment (also known as § 538 of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015) justified the court revisiting the permanent injunction entered against it. This amendment to the massive 2015 spending bill was intended to prevent CSA enforcement against medical marijuana patients and the dispensaries that serve them by cutting off federal funding for such DOJ enforcement activities. However, § 538 is open to interpretation and the DOJ has fought hard to continue its enforcement actions, without interruption.

The Honorable Judge Charles R. Breyer of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has overseen the MAMM case from its infancy, and he ultimately agreed with MAMM about § 538. In his 13-page order, Breyer held that § 538:

prohibits the Department of Justice from expending any funds in connection with the enforcement of any law that interferes with California’s ability to implement [its] own State law that authorize[s] the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.

Though Breyer did not grant MAMM’s request to lift the injunction against it, he did rule that the injunction could only be enforced against MAMM insofar as MAMM violated California State law. Since MAMM’s compliance with California medical marijuana laws was never at issue, it is essentially back to business as usual for MAMM. Assuming, of course, that the DOJ does not seek reconsideration or an immediate appeal, which it almost certainly will. § 538 states as follows:

None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California … [all MMJ states], to prevent such states from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.

The word “enforcement” is nowhere to be found in the foregoing language. And if this provision was enacted to prevent direct enforcement of the CSA, why didn’t it just come straight out and say so? The DOJ highlighted this glaring omission in opposing MAMM’s motion:

[Section 538 prohibits] the use of appropriated funds to “prevent” states from “implementing their own” medical marijuana laws. Such prohibited uses could include, for example, federal actions that interfered with a state’s promulgation of regulations implementing its statutory provisions, or with its establishment of a state licensing scheme. However, such uses do not include CSA enforcement actions against individuals or private businesses because such actions do not prevent a State from implementing its own laws . . . . [T]here is no evidence in the record that California has been impeded in any way in implementing its own State laws during the thirteen years the permanent injunction at issue has been in effect.

Judge Breyer found that the government’s reading of § 538 was “tortured.” In his view, the DOJ was arguing that the closure of just one dispensary does not interfere with implementing state MMJ laws, an argument Breyer deemed contradictory, since in the aggregate, enforcement actions would gut the Compassionate Use Act, Breyer engaged in a “plain language” reading of § 538 and viewed the dictionary definition of “implement” to require that he enforce § 538 “according to its terms.” Though his opinion spends more than two pages reciting the legislative history of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment and noted that this history supports MAMM’s position, Judge Breyer claimed not to rely on this in formulating his decision.

Judge Breyer’s order will be cited by every medical marijuana defendant in the country facing some type of CSA enforcement. The lasting strength of his decision however remains to be seen. The United States v. MAMM decision is still just one judge’s opinion among 14 judges in one district, and one of 60 federal judges in California. There are more than 600 federal trial judges in our 50 states and territories, and decisions of trial judges are not binding precedent. The likelihood of judicial disagreement over the import and meaning of § 538 is nearly certain. However, if Breyer’s ruling is upheld on appeal by the Ninth Circuit, it may gain real traction. And as a cannabis business lawyer, that is my hope.

Hilary-Bricken

Hilary Bricken is an attorney at Harris Moure, PLLC in Seattle and she chairs the firm’s Canna Law Group. Her practice consists of representing marijuana businesses of all sizes in multiple states on matters relating to licensing, corporate formation and contracts, commercial litigation, and intellectual property. Named one of the 100 most influential people in the cannabis industry in 2014, Hilary is also lead editor of the Canna Law Blog. You can reach her by email at hilary@harrismoure.com.

Displayed with permission from Above The Law

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This U.S. Ally Imprisons Women for the Crime of Being Raped

(ANTIMEDIA) A United States ally routinely imprisons and mistreats women who have been raped, according to a new BBC Arabic investigation set to air on Saturday. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), which imposes a stringent ban on extramarital sex, allegedly incarcerates women who have been sexually abused. The brutal problem affects mostly migrant workers who have little voice in society, but also reflects broader issues regarding the Gulf nation’s respect (or lack thereof) for human rights.

Though Western propagandists often decry Sharia law, the UAE  implements parts of the religious legal code in addition to its civil and criminal framework. Application of Sharia law includes the U.S. ally’s ban on extramarital sex, referred to as “Zina,” as well as extramarital pregnancy.

Sabah Mahmoud, who spent 15 years in the UAE as an attorney, said, “The constitution states that Islam is the official religion of the nation and that Sharia is the source of laws in the country. There is no way anyone can oppose it.”

The sentences for committing Zina include months to years in prison, as well as flogging. Though the Sharia provision can technically be applied to men, it is applied more frequently to women — especially to the 150,000 female migrant workers who currently reside in the UAE and remain largely unacknowledged and unprotected under the law. This provision applies even when women are raped.

As the Guardian summarized, the problem is confounded by other national policies:

Under the UAE’s kafala system, foreign workers – who make up 90% of the population – must be sponsored by an employer. They can only work for that employer and cannot leave the country without permission. Although it is against the law, passports are routinely confiscated.

This kafala system means that evidently, women who are raped or abused are obligated to continue working for their attacker. This is especially true for domestic workers. One woman, whose name was changed to Laily to protect her identity, recounted being raped by her employer. She said other employees warned her he “was a really bad man.

I said I would electrocute myself and die if he didn’t leave,” she said. “I screamed and begged at his feet. I called him ‘Father’. I said: ‘A father cannot do this to his daughter!’ I pushed him; he fell. I bit him. Then he held my feet and both my hands and abused my honour.

While pushing and biting are undoubtedly aggressive, they are not justification for violent rape. Because of the kafala system, Laily was forced to continue living with her boss — until she realized she was pregnant. At that point, the man and his family swiftly took her to the airport — with only the clothes on her back — because the man might have also been prosecuted.

Because many of the victims are migrant workers, it is difficult to obtain concrete figures on how many women have been imprisoned after being subjected to sexual abuse. According to BBC Arabic’s new report, however, hundreds have been shackled and thrown in jail — many of them pregnant. In fact, pregnancy is often used as “proof” of the “crime” of extramarital sex.

One migrant worker from the Philippines, referred to as Marie, had two children in a long-term relationship outside of marriage. She was put on trial without a lawyer and sentenced to prison with her daughters. Conditions are dire.

They are giving weekly one can of milk and 25 pieces of pampers. But it’s not enough. Even water you need to buy,” she said. “We are three to four persons inside that room and we have babies. We sleep on one small mattress.”

The UAE’s distaste for extramarital sex has evidently created a tangible skew in the way “justice” is applied. “Rape victims have been accused of having engaged in illicit sexual relations while the rape allegations themselves have been left uninvestigated,” said Amnesty International Gulf researcher Drewery Dyke. “While press reports suggest that this situation has slightly improved, anecdotal accounts indicate that vulnerable women from migrant communities continue to be detained for illicit sexual relations, often being left to languish in jail with their newborn babies.” The UAE has also been criticized for failing to take domestic violence seriously.

The UAE is accused of a variety of other human rights violations. As Human Rights Watch reported:

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) continued in 2014 to arbitrarily detain individuals it perceives as posing a threat to national security, and its security forces continued to face allegations that they torture detainees in pretrial detention. UAE courts invoked repressive laws to prosecute government critics, and a new counterterrorism law poses a further threat to government critics and rights activists. Migrant construction workers on one of the country’s most high-profile projects continued to face serious exploitation, and female domestic workers were still excluded from regulations that apply to workers in other sectors.

In spite of these many violations, the United States continues its close alliance with the UAE.

Other nations in the region also maintain bans on extramarital sex: Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, Morocco, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, and South Sudan all impose the repressive policy. Though the United States claims to be committed to human and women’s rights around the world, it maintains close ties to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other nations, in spite of arguments that their extramarital sex  bans violate human rights law (ironically, popular “feminist” presidential candidate Hillary Clinton accepted donations to the Clinton Foundation from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, and Kuwait — all nations that enjoyed arms deals while she was Secretary of State).

The UAE has been a United States ally since the 1970s when it first became a nation with the unification of six separate states in the region. By 1974, the UAE had established an embassy in Washington D.C. By 1975, as the embassy’s website documents, “Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, determine[d] that its oil industry [would] remain open to outside investment, allowing US companies to continue their involvement.” By 1979, General Motors had opened a plant in the oil-rich nation.

Though the United States claims to support human rights (while violating them), its support of regimes that oppress not just women, but all humans, reveals the true nature of its values: profit and power before people.


This article (This U.S. Ally Imprisons Women for the Crime of Being Raped) is a free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Carey Wedler and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11 pm Eastern/8 pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email edits@theantimedia.org.

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#seekingjustice: Sheriff asks FBI, Justice Department to Investigate Arrest of Student in Viral Video

RICHLAND COUNTY, S.C. — Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott has asked the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department to investigate an incident between a school resource officer and a female student at Spring Valley High School, which was caught on video Monday and posted online.

Lott placed a call to Dave Thomas, special agent in charge for the FBI for South Carolina, on Monday to ask for an independent investigation, according to a media release from the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.

Tuesday morning, the sheriff followed up with a formal written request to Thomas and U.S. Attorney William Nettles for the U.S. Justice Department and FBI to conduct a formal investigation.

The video shows Senior Deputy Ben Fields approach the female student seated in a desk. The resource officer proceeds to place his left hand on the female student’s left arm, before putting his right arm around her neck.

Fields then flips the desk over, with the student still seated, before spinning it around and forcibly removing the student and trying to restrain her at the front of the classroom.

That teen and another female student were arrested for disturbing the peace, sheriff’s department spokesman Lt. Curtis Wilson said Sunday morning.

Fields has been placed on administrative duties pending the investigation’s results, according to Wilson.

Joel Lourie, a Democratic state senator and former Spring Valley student, released a statement by email, expressing sympathy for the student and her family.

“I have watched with horror the disturbing video from Spring Valley High School today,” Lourie said Monday. “As the father of two children, including a daughter, my thoughts and prayers are with the young lady, her family and the entire Richland 2 community who are all severely hurting right now. I cannot imagine what could have led to such a violent response from the law enforcement officer. I am confident that both the school district and the sheriff’s department will do a quick but thorough investigation to bring us all the facts and take the appropriate action necessary.”

Fields has been with the sheriff’s department since 2004, according to a media release. He joined the school resource officer program in 2008, and in 2014 he received the Richland School District 2 Culture of Excellence Award.

Fields served as a school resource officer with the Lonnie B. Nelson Elementary School, as well as Spring Valley High School, according to the release.

Displayed with permission from Tribune Content Agency

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#seekingjustice: (Video) Teen Girl Slammed by Cop While Sitting In Her Desk for Being “Verbally Disruptive”

(CCN) The following video was just sent to us by students at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina. Those students witnessed a Richland County Sheriff’s deputy violently attacking a young female student. School officials have told us the incident happened on Monday, but that was about all they would relay.

Sheriff Leon Lott has seen the video and defended the school resource officer, saying he “was acting in response to a student who was refusing to leave class.” Apparently, that means using unbridled violence against an unarmed, non-violent student is perfectly acceptable.

“The student was told she was under arrest for disturbing school and given instructions which she again refused,” Lott claimed. “The video then shows the student resisting and being arrested by the SRO.”

In the video we see the officer approach a girl sitting at a desk in a classroom.

The officer then grabs the girl’s arm while wrapping his other arm around her neck. He then seems to slam her — in the desk — to the ground. Then he grabs her again and slams her to the right.

Watch the video below:

What can you do? The officer in question is Sr. Deputy Ben Fields. His email is bfields@rcsd.net.Also contact the Sheriff’s department at sheriff@rcsd.net and call them at (803) 576-3000 to voice your outrage at the brutality of Officer Ben Fields against this non-aggressive female student.


This article (Teen Girl Slammed by Cop While Sitting In Her Desk for Being “Verbally Disruptive”) originally appeared on CounterCurrentNews.com and was used with permission. The Anti-Media radio show airs Monday through Friday @ 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. Help us fix our typos: edits@theantimedia.org.

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As Cannabis Consumption Goes Up, Addiction Rates Go Down

(ANTIMEDIA)

For the last few years, we have seen a very significant shift in Americans’ perception of the cannabis plant: they increasingly want it legalized. With a continuously growing number of reports documenting the near-miraculous things that cannabis and cannabis extracts have done for the disabled and the ill, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Currently, 23 states have legalized medicinal marijuana use, while four states – along with the District of Columbia – have legalized recreational use.

Of course, one must wonder if, as public acceptance has become more apparent, the number of marijuana users increased, as well. According to a new study published by JAMA Psychiatry, it most certainly has. In fact, in the last decade, the number of bud lovers has just about doubled.

From 2001-2002,  4.1% of adults reported using cannabis within the past year. However, by 2012-2013, data showed that among the 36,000 subjects, around 9.5% of them had lit one up in recent months.

Some may find themselves concerned with these growing numbers, as it is easy to imagine that abuse of cannabis has become more widespread. However, in addition to revealing the growing number of cannabis users, the same statistics reveal that abuse and dependency have decreased significantly. Using a structured interview called AUDADIS-5 (Alcohol Use Disorder and Associated Disabilities Interview Schedule-5, developed by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism), researchers found that marijuana abuse and dependency (addiction) rates dropped from 35.6% in 2001-2002 to 30.6% in 2012-2013.

If this data is accurate, could it mean that as a country we are finally stepping out of the paranoid bubble that middle-school propaganda once shrouded us in? If so, the transition is long overdue. With hundreds of thousands of people arrested each year for possession of a harmless plant and violent drug cartels turning massive profits through a market that thrives on outdated and absurd drug policies, most of us can agree that it’s about time.


This article (As Cannabis Consumption Goes up, Addiction Rates Go Down) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under aCreative Commons license with attribution to Josh Mur and theAntiMedia.org.Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. Image credit:Chuck Grimmett. If you spot a typo, email edits@theantimedia.org.

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Client Pays His Lawyer With Marijuana Then Tells Police. Lawyer Gets to Keep License

Some lawyers recognize that not all of their clients are capable of paying for legal services in cash. That’s where the bartering system comes in. Say, for example, your house has some faulty wiring and a potential client would like to trade his electrical services for your representation in his divorce. Of course you’re going to take that deal in lieu of money.

But what happens when you’re a criminal defense attorney and one of your clients would like to pay for your legal assistance with marijuana? Unfortunately, you don’t live in a state where marijuana has been legalized for recreational use. You live in the Deep South, and your state only recently legalized the use of medical marijuana within its borders. It’ll still be years until patients will be able to access it for prescription use. What should you do?

James Mecca, an attorney in Louisiana, was faced with this situation in 2013. He’d apparently accepted marijuana previously as payment for legal services, but this time around, his weed-bartering client narc’d him out to the police. Law360 has the scoop:

Mecca was arrested in 2013 and charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana…. He subsequently admitted to receiving the drug in exchange for legal services.

The arrest was the result of a sting operation by the St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office in which a confidential informant posed as a potential client seeking criminal representation for his son, the board said.

According to court documents, the informant told the sheriff’s office that he had paid for legal representation in marijuana before and that in those previous instances Mecca told him that if he needed help in the future they could work out the “same old, same old” payment method.

Mecca’s client reportedly told him he had a “backpack full of marijuana,” and the pair met to make the exchange. Thereafter, Mecca was pulled over and later had to put his criminal defense skills to the test in his own case. The best defense here, of course, was to admit in court that while he did barter his legal expertise for weed, he had no intent to distribute his newfound stash to anyone else — no, he planned to use it all himself.

Luckily, Mecca had another card up his sleeve in that he testified that he’d been using the drug to cope with his father’s death two years prior. His charges were reduced to a mere possession misdemeanor, and he was sentenced to six months in jail and a year of probation. The jail sentence was later suspended, but Mecca still had to deal with issues related to his license to practice law, lest he allow his career to go up in smoke.

It’s a good thing Mecca immediately sought drug and alcohol treatment after his arrest, because the ethics panel assigned to his case was very sympathetic to him:

In the immediate disciplinary case Mecca was charged with violating the Rules of Professional Conduct which prohibit a criminal act, especially one that reflects adversely on a lawyer’s fitness. The [Louisiana Disciplinary Board] found Mecca violated the rule and recommended the state supreme court impose a [one-year] deferred suspension, considering his remorse and progress in treatment.

The ethics lesson all lawyers should take from Mecca’s case is that while marijuana may be legal in some states, even if you practice in one of those supposed safe havens, it would be against your interests to barter pot for legal services because of those pesky Rules of Professional Conduct. You may be able to adhere to Snoop Dogg’s edict and smoke weed every day (if you don’t get caught), but you should never get involved in a drug trade.

Attorney Who Was Paid In Weed Can Keep Practicing, Panel Says [Law 360 (sub. req.)]

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(Video) Rubio has Worst Attendance Record in the Senate. Missed 59 Votes

The Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio has defended his common and much-criticised absences from Senate business, saying: “Voting is not the only part of the Senate job.”

Speaking to CNN in an interview broadcast on Sunday, the Florida senator also deflected the suggestion that his own statement this week, that federal employees who did not perform in their roles should be fired, could be turned back on him.

Rubio has the worst voting attendance record in the Senate this year. According to an NBC News analysis released at the beginning of October, he had missed 59 votes since declaring his run for president in April, or 42%. He has missed votes since.

Other senators running for the White House had missed fewer by NBC’s count: Lindsey Graham had missed 39, Rand Paul four, Ted Cruz 57 and Bernie Sanders seven.

“Everyone needs to run their own campaign,” Rubio said on CNN. “I can tell you that in the history of presidential politics, when they’ve been running for politics in the Senate they’ve missed votes … Actually, this is lower than what other people have missed.

“I’m running for president so the votes they take in the Senate are actually meaningful again. A lot of these votes won’t mean anything. They’re not going to pass and even if they did, the president would veto it.”

Earlier this month, Rubio missed a vote on defence spending, which was expected to be tight, because he was campaigning in New Hampshire.

CNN’s interviewer, Jamie Gangel, mentioned Rubio’s remarks on the Senate floor on Tuesday, in which she said he said “federal workers who don’t show up should be fired”. At that time Rubio had missed seven votes in one month, the Washington Post reported.

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“That’s not what I said,” Rubio countered. “I said federal workers that aren’t doing their jobs, that are not performing at their jobs, should be able to be fired, should be held accountable for not performing.”

Asked by Gangel if his “not showing up” meant he was not performing – “not doing [his] job by voting” – Rubio said: “Not true, not true.”

He added: “Voting is not the only part of the Senate job. I mean, the most important thing a senator does is constituent service. We’re still involved in looking out for Florida’s issues.”

Attacks on Rubio’s Senate attendance record have come from the right – the Republican frontrunner Donald Trump – and left. American Bridge 21st Century, a Democratic-leaning political action committee, recently released a “missing” poster featuring his face.

Rubio also said he was regularly briefed on Senate business, particularly as a member of the intelligence committee.

“We do all the intelligence briefings; I was just there this Tuesday,” he said. “I got fully briefed and caught up on everything that’s happening in the world. I’m fully aware, we have a staffer that’s assigned to intelligence, we get constant briefings.”

He then repeated: “I think votes, of course, are important, but unfortunately, too many of them today are not meaningful.”

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Activists Demand ‘Killer Robots’ Be Stopped. “People” are Being Killed!

The phrase “killer robot” instantly conjures images from science fiction, like the ruthless T-1000 Terminator that slowly reforms to resume its deadly mission after being frozen with liquid nitrogen and blasted to pieces. But a future involving autonomous weapons systems—capable of killing people without anyone’s direction—isn’t so far fetched.

In fact, as U.S. soldiers sit in bunkers and conduct drone strikes thousands of miles away, the military is testing a computer-operated drone that could be rolled out in a matter of years. That is unless people can stop it.

Enter the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a coalition of NGOs lobbying to preemptively ban lethal, autonomous weapons systems by international treaty. Gathered at a United Nations building in New York on Tuesday, a panel of six campaign members lamented to an equal number of journalists that development of the independent devices is outpacing the progress on reaching a diplomatic deal to ban them.

A central concern of the campaign is that the decision to kill a human may one day be delegated to a machine. As The Intercept’s recently released Drone Papers showed, 9 out of 10 people killed by human-controlled drones during one five-month period in Afghanistan were not the intended targets. The use of autonomous weapons controlled by current artificial intelligence (AI) systems would generate even worse casualty rates, says Toby Walsh, a professor in AI at the University of New South Wales and a campaign member. The machines wouldn’t do a better job at differentiating between soldier and civilian or calculating a more proportionate response, he says. While computer-controlled weapons are imminent, he argues that their artificially intelligent brains are “perhaps 50 or so years away” from having the higher capabilities of a Terminator-esque type of technology.

Today, some autonomous weapons systems are already in use, though many are aimed against incoming munitions. The Patriot antimissile system, for instance, was singled out by the U.S. during the Iraq war as a high-tech success story, though it was responsible for downing two allied warplanes. And mechanized weapons able to spot targets from miles away now line the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea. They’re technically able to fire without human help, but for now they alert an operator, who makes the final decision on whether to pull the trigger.

“States often argue that…computers are much faster than humans in some functions, so it could give them that split-second advantage,” says Christof Heyns, United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. “Some states also argue that such technology can lead in some cases to better targeting.” As a dominant military power, the U.S. is likely leading the research and development of autonomous weapons systems. “The Department of Defense is very focused on autonomy,” says Pentagon spokesman Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway, including leveraging existing capabilities in new ways and investing in new game-changing technologies to gain greater operational advantages.

But more efficient killing does not guarantee more humane wars, says Dr. Ian Kerr of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control and a campaign member. By lowering the cost of war, both in terms of soldiers’ lives and dollars allocated (the technology will only become more inexpensive to manufacture), Walsh argues that the frequency of wars will increase. And, as Human Right Watch’s Bonnie Docherty earlier told Newsweek, not only can a machine not be held accountable for a war crime, but under existing law humans who manufacture, program and command these lethal robots would likely escape liability as well. Without accountability, she said, there can be no retribution for victims, no social condemnation and no deterrence of future violations. “How would gaining a humanitarian end be achieved by removing humans from the equation?” Kerr asked the audience on Tuesday. “Fragility of the human condition is what can make war compassionate.”

The campaign recommends an outright ban rather than regulation of autonomous weapon systems, because once the technology is in existence, states will be tempted to use it. And one stocked arsenal is likely the first step toward proliferation and the beginning of a never-ending arms race. Contributing to the campaign in July through an open letterStephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak and nearly 1,000 other artificial intelligence experts added: “It will only be a matter of time until they appear on the black market and in the hands of terrorists, dictators wishing to better control their populace, warlords wishing to perpetrate ethnic cleansing, etc.”

Some stakeholders see research restrictions as possibly having a counter-productive effect, stifling the development of AI for favorable applications. Self-driving cars, for instance, could save millions of lives on the road. “Thinking about all the benefits that AI can bring; wouldn’t it be a shame if humans didn’t make good use of this technology?” says Manuela Veloso, professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University. She suggests technologies such as drones or AI are morally neutral. Rather, it is the way the technology is used that can be dangerous. And, regardless of restrictions, people will develop AI and abuse it, she says. “What is going to happen with AI is up to humanity,” says Veloso. “This should be a wake-up call for people to make good uses of AI, but I am not sure how you’d prevent the bad guys from doing whatever they want.”

Heyns believes necessary nuance is missing from the conversation on banning killer robots. “There is a continuum of autonomy,” he says. “I am not against lower levels of autonomy, it can indeed be a good thing if it helps humans to take better decisions. But technology must remain tools in the hands of humans, not the other way around, especially where life and death choices are concerned.”

After two years of informal, multilateral talks, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots has seen little progress. A notable exception is the U.S., which in 2012 released a Department of Defense policy directive requiring “appropriate” levels of human judgment over the use of force. “This is about allowing machines to help human decision-makers make decisions at the campaign and tactical level which will be either faster or better than the adversaries,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work said in September before the Royal United Services Institute in London, clarifying the U.S.’s intentions with the technology. But a critical make-or-break moment for a more concrete ban is quickly approaching.

On November, 13, at the next annual meeting of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva, 120 signatory countries will make a consensus decision as to whether they want the talks to continue. While it’s “quite clear they will continue discussions,” says Stephen Goose, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s arms division, the activists want more. “We’re increasingly concerned that the informal U.N. talks…are aiming too low and going too slow,” said Mary Wareham, also of Human Rights Watch and a coordinator of the campaign, adding that she hopes countries commit to more formal discussions that lead to negotiations of a new international treaty.

But CCW is notorious for inactivity, says Goose, pointing to only one success: the 1995 preemptive ban on blinding lasers. The other option would be for the group to work outside of the U.N. body and search for state sponsors to introduce a treaty. But this approach may also prove problematic: While no countries have come out against a treaty, Goose says, none is championing the cause either, and pretty soon it will be too late.

“We’d cross a moral line we’ve never crossed before,” Kerr says of autonomous weapons. “It needs international attention.”