Weekly news round-up

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Charles Philips/Wikimedia Commons

Hurricane Florence raises questions about your tax dollars at work

A NASA study confirmed in January of this year that the increase in global methane in the atmosphere is largely attributable to oil and gas production and coincides with the onset of the boom in horizontally drilling and fracking in U.S. shale formations. Because methane is 82 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide, it is now understood within the scientific community that natural gas production is a major contributor to climate change and may, in fact, be more detrimental to hastening the Earth’s warming than burning coal to generate electricity.

Global warming is one of the factors scientists claim is impacting the increasing occurrence of super storms such as Hurricane Florence, which is already generating 83-foot waves at sea and is expected to decimate the Carolinas this weekend.

Despite this globally accepted scientific understanding, the Trump administration, via the EPA, announced on Tuesday, Sept. 11, that it intends to roll back the oil and gas industry methane rules, which were put in place to slow the release of the climate-altering gas. The only known explanation for the proposed rollback is that it would further increase profits for the oil and gas industry.

In other super storm news, it was also discovered this week that in June — at the beginning of this year’s hurricane season — the Trump administration diverted nearly $10 million from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), including funding for disaster relief and preparation, to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The FEMA money is now being used by DHS to build more immigrant holding facilities so more families can be locked up.        

ACLU report shows Colorado imprisonment rates, spending on the rise

Last week, the ACLU of Colorado released a blueprint for how the state can cut incarceration in half and save more than $675 million by 2025. The blueprint calls for pursuing reforms to Colorado’s drug policy, prosecution of that policy and sentencing laws.

The ACLU’s blueprint (“The Blueprint for Smart Justice”) identified racial disparities in the state’s prison population. Colorado ranks ninth in the country for the rate of black people who are imprisoned, and fourth in the country for imprisoned Latinx people.

Underscoring the report’s focus on changing drug policy, the ACLU found that the top offense for prison admissions in 2016 was drug possession, which accounted for one in every seven admissions to prison.

“The war on drugs continues to play an outsized role in fueling Colorado’s prison population and, in turn, its prison budget,” said Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition Executive Director Christie Donner in a press release. “No one thinks the status quo is stemming the flow of either illegal drugs or drug addiction, and yet it persists and is getting worse, particularly for women.”

In a one-year period from 2015 to 2016, Colorado saw a 17 percent increase in the number of individuals sentenced for drug possession, which included a 24 percent increase among women, the report found.

An increase in incarceration rates also means an increase in spending for the state. There was a 579 percent increase in general fund spending in Colorado on corrections between 1985 and 2016, the ACLU found.

“Colorado imprisons far too many people for far too long at a cost to taxpayers of nearly a billion dollars a year. It is a moral and fiscal crisis in our state,” said ACLU of Colorado Public Policy Director Denise Maes in the release. 

Deadline to register assault weapons is Dec. 31

When the City of Boulder passed a ban on the selling and possession of assault weapons in mid-May, it came with a stipulation: Anyone who already owned an assault weapon can either render it inoperable, surrender it to the police or keep it, if they register the weapon through the Boulder Police Department. The ordinance also banned high-capacity magazines and bump stocks and is currently being challenged in state court by several pro-second amendment groups.

Since the policy went into effect on June 15, 19 firearms have been registered, according to a city hotline email from Boulder Chief of Police Greg Testa sent on Sept. 12. His email came as a response to at least some confusion by citizens looking to register weapons.

The city ordinance defines an assault weapon as any semi-automatic center-fire rifles and pistols, as well as semi-automatic shotguns, that have the capacity for detachable or alternative magazine, a telescope or folding stock and any device that allows the weapon to be stabilized by the non-trigger hand.

In order to register, gun owners must take the unloaded firearm to the main police station on 33rd Street, and leave it securely in their vehicle. Following a clear background check, the police department will register the weapon. Certification costs $20 for the first firearm and $5 for each additional one. After the weapon is registered, owners must use a recognizable carrying case any time they transport the weapon off of their property.

Gun-owners have until Dec. 31 to register their weapons before possession of the weapon becomes illegal. For additional questions visit bouldercolorado.gov/police/firearm-certification.

Amy Goodman, Jim Hightower to talk in Boulder

Journalist Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now, and progressive commentator Jim Hightower will speak at the Millennium Harvest House in Boulder on Sept. 15 as part of KGNU’s 40th anniversary celebration.

“KGNU was one of the first subscribers to Democracy Now and Hightower Radio when they debuted in the 1990s, and it’s an honor to have both Amy and Jim with us to celebrate this milestone,” said Tim Russo, KGNU general manager, in a press release.

The celebration runs from 5:30-9 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at KGNU.org.