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Illinois Governor Clears Thousands Of Cannabis Convictions

Illinois just became the 11th state to comprehensively legalize cannabis.

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Over 11,000 Pardoned For Cannabis Crimes As Illinois Legalizes Marijuana
Photo Credit: Getty

Elias Marat, The Mind Unleashed

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker on Tuesday granted over 11,000 pardons to people convicted of low-level cannabis convictions in a move impacting residents from 92 counties across the state.

The 11,017 pardons come just ahead of the state comprehensively legalizing cannabis beginning January 1, 2020. The state will become the 11th to legalize the recreational use of cannabis for any adults over the age of 21.

The Hill reports that the pardons were announced at a church on the south side of Chicago, where Pritzker noted that cannabis convictions had held people back from decent housing, good jobs, and financial aid for college.

There are over 700,000 records across Illinois that will be eligible for relief because of the law, including 116,000 convictions for possession of up to 30 grams not associated with a violent offense eligible for expungement.

In a statement, Pritzker said:

“Tomorrow when adult-use cannabis becomes legal, pay attention to the fact that we are beginning to accomplish four very important things: We are ending the 50-year long war on cannabis.

We are restoring rights to many tens of thousands of Illinoisans. We are bringing regulation and safety to a previously unsafe and illegal market. And we are creating a new industry that puts equity at its very core.”

The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, provides a number of different avenues to expunge convictions and arrest records for minor cannabis offenses.

The law has also been hailed by advocates for its various social justice provisions meant to undo the damage done against those who have run afoul of the state’s past prohibitionist policies, especially those belonging to low-income communities of color.

Continuing, Pritzker’s statement read:

“Every state that has legalized cannabis has seen high demand and long lines in its earliest weeks, and to be sure, our state will too. But unlike other states, in Illinois, we purposely built a system where the market has room to grow, so that entrepreneurs, including especially those from the communities devastated by the war on drugs, will have real opportunities in this industry.”

Civil liberties advocates from the ACLU of Illinois also greeted Pritzker’s move “for acting to address the history of unnecessary and discriminatory enforcement of cannabis laws in Illinois.”

Ben Ruddell, the group’s criminal justice policy director, said:

“We know that Black Illinois residents are far more likely to be arrested and convicted for cannabis possession than whites. This is a good step forward as we begin the legal sales of recreational cannabis.”

Under the new law, Illinoisans will be legally permitted to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis flower and up to 500 mg of THC in cannabis-infused products.

Cannabis has been subject to national prohibitionist laws since 1937, when the plant was largely demonized and associated with Mexican immigrants amid rising racist and nativist attitudes supported by federal and local authorities and media outlets. During the 1970s, cannabis was depicted by authorities as a drug serving no medicinal purpose that was simply abused by delinquents seeking to get high.

In 1996, California became the first state to legalize cannabis for medical use, and over 34 states have since done the same. The rollout of Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act makes Illinois the 11th state along with Washington, D.C. that has freed the herb almost entirely for recreational purposes. 18 states have also decriminalized the plant, which still remains illegal under federal law.

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com 

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An Asteroid The Size Of A Football Stadium Is Flying Toward The Earth This Week: NASA

NASA is keeping watch on a humongous asteroid that is quickly approaching Earth every day.

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Photo Credit: Times Now

(TMU) – NASA is keeping watch on a humongous asteroid that is quickly approaching Earth every day. The NASA website’s Asteroid Watch Widget shows the next five asteroids and comets that are expected to make relatively close approaches to earth in the next few days.

Among these is a large comet that is expected to be 1,100 feet wide (335 meters), approximately the size of a football stadium or the Wilshire Grand Center skyscraper in Los Angeles and larger than New York’s Empire State Building.

The asteroid, which is named 2002 NN4, is expected to come closest to our planet on Saturday, June 6th, according to NASA. The space rock is categorized as an Aten-class Asteroid, but is also classified by the space agency as a Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) and Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA), reports Tech Times.

Scientists are making it clear that any possibility of a collision here on Earth is EXTREMELY remote – in fact, its closest approach will be a distant 3,160,000 miles (over 5 million km.) away from home base.

While the asteroid is considered somewhat small in relation to the much larger rocks shooting across our galaxy, the 2002 NN4 is also 90% larger than the four others listed. These include three others about the size of a plane and another size of a house that are approaching the Earth. The closest one is expected to come within 1,830,000 miles of Earth today.

Researchers say that the asteroid completes its orbit around the sun every 0.82 years, or 300 days.

Scientists predict numerous “close approaches” of the asteroid to the Earth in the future. While only 30 close approaches are forecast at the moment, 2002 NN4 will return to our neighbourhood in nine years, on June 29 – so if you want to wave at this distant traveller, Saturday will be your only chance for some time.

Space.com has also reported that small asteroids pass by our planet on a monthly basis. One such small asteroid, 2020 HS7, safely passes near Earth several times each month, NASA Planetary Defence Officer Lindley Johnson said in an April 28 statement.

“It poses no threat to our planet, and even if it were on a collision path with Earth it is small enough that it would be disintegrated by our Earth’s atmosphere,” the planetary defence official added.

Yet 2020 HS7 was still came startlingly close to the planet, coming a mere 26,550 miles (42,735 km) within the Earth’s center and only 750 miles (1,200 km) from the closest satellite in geostationary orbit, which is one of the more distant satellite rings surrounding Earth. The space rock passed well below the satellite, however, leaving it unscathed.

The flybys are a good display of our planetary defence apparatus in action. Space authorities like NASA and the European Space Agency identify the asteroids in our galactic “neighbourhood” beginning with the largest, while tracking their orbital trajectory. As scientists compile more and more data on these space rocks, they are able to plot their orbits more accurately and calculate the probability – or lack thereof – of any impact with our planet.

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Swarm Of Earthquakes In Yellowstone Renews Fears Of Supervolcano Eruption

A swarm of earthquakes has caused renewed concern over the area’s underground supervolcano.

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Swarm Of Earthquakes In Yellowstone Renews Fears Of Supervolcano Eruption
Photo Credit: The Mind Unleashed

(TMU) – The US Geological Survey says it is monitoring the area near Yellowstone National Park where a swarm of earthquakes has caused renewed concern over the area’s underground supervolcano. Although statistically unlikely, a supervolcano eruption would release the equivalent of 1,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs and wreak unprecedented destruction.

The area, West Yellowstone in Montana, reported around eleven earthquakes on Friday and a total of 34 in the last month. Though considered low-magnitude quakes, the tremors extended three miles underground.

According to Yellowstone National Park’s website:

“Yellowstone is one of the most seismically active areas in the United States….Approximately 700 to 3,000 earthquakes occur each year in the Yellowstone area; most are not felt. They result from the extensive network of faults associated with the volcano and surrounding tectonic features.”

Situated in northwest Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park brings in millions of annual tourists, who marvel at the geysers, steam vents, and bubbling eddies of exothermally heated water.

Park officials say that earthquakes there are caused by volcanic fluids entering shallow rock fractures.

Yellowstone sits atop one of only two supervolcanos in the US. Contained within three overlapping calderas that represent past eruptions from hundreds of thousands and even millions of years ago, scientists say the Yellowstone volcano is roughly 34 by 45 miles wide and only three miles below the surface. Its last eruption was 640,000 years ago when it is estimated to have dumped over 2,000 times the amount of ash as the Mount St. Helens eruption.

Swarms of earthquakes are not unusual in the area. In 2018, the park recorded a swarm of 153 quakes. The US Geological Survey says the odds are only one in 730,000 that the Yellowstone supervolcano will erupt this year.

However, the supervolcano eruption threat has become a predictable meme in recent years, usually resurfacing during earthquakes swarms. The reason is that if the supervolcano did go off, it would definitely be a game-changer. A BBC feature on supervolcanos described the aftermath: “The sky will darken, black rain will fall, and the Earth will be plunged into the equivalent of a nuclear winter.

Volcanists insist there is no imminent threat of a supervolcano eruption at the moment but larger earthquakes and hydrothermal blasts could present a real danger to tourists. Over the years, over 300 people have died at Yellowstone, in accidents ranging from driving off of 800-foot cliffs to unknowingly diving into 200-degree boiling water and succumbing to the fumes emitted by hydrothermal vents.

In 2016, a 23-year-old man fell off a boardwalk overlooking the Norris Geyser Basin and was incinerated in the high-temperature, acidic geyser below.

So while this summer’s tourists probably don’t have to worry about the earthquakes representing the eruption of the supervolcano, Yellowstone National Park visitors should bring a healthy respect for the powers of nature.

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A Penumbral Lunar Eclipse Is Happening During The Full Moon This June

On June 5th and 6th, the Strawberry Full Moon will also pass through the faint outer shadow of the Earth, known as a penumbral lunar eclipse.

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Penumbral Lunar bbc
Photo Credit: Truth Theory

(TMU) – On June 5th and 6th, the Strawberry Full Moon will pass through the faint outer shadow of the Earth, known as a penumbral lunar eclipse, the second of four penumbral lunar eclipses this year. Weather permitting, those of you in Asia, Australia, Europe, Africa and the South Eastern areas of South America might notice the Moon turn slightly darker, or seem less bright, during the maximum phase of the eclipse. A penumbral lunar eclipse can be subtle and sometimes difficult to distinguish from a normal full moon.

While June’s Strawberry Full Moon eclipse may be visible from start to finish from some areas – a total of 3 hours 18 minutes – other areas will only experience the Moon rise or set during the eclipse. Check the time of the Full Moon eclipse in your city or town by clicking here, and set that time aside to watch the event. Unfortunately, for North America and most of South America, this event will be happening below their horizon.

Image Credit: www.timeanddate.com

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth aligns between the Full Moon and the Sun, blocking the Sun’s rays from reaching the Full Moon.

A total eclipse occurs when Earths umbra – the central, dark part of its shadow – obscures all of the Moon’s surface. During a partial eclipse only a part of the Moon’s surface is obscured by Earth’s umbra. A penumbral lunar eclipse happens when Earth’s faint penumbral, outer shadow falls on the Moon, like the one we already experienced on January 10th and are what the remaining three lunar eclipses will be this year on June 5th, July 5th and November 31st.

The early Indigenous people of North America kept track of the seasons and lunar months by naming them according to events during that time. June’s Full Moon is either the last full moon of spring, or the first of the summer, and is called the “Strawberry Moon”. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the name originated with Algonquin tribes in eastern North America – and was used as a signal to gather the ripening wild strawberries. Colonial Americans adopted some of the indigenous moon names and applied them to their own calendar system – which is still used today.

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Trump To Sign Social Media Executive Order After Threatening To Shut Down Platforms

US President Donald Trump might be one of Twitter’s most active users, but he has had harsh words for the social media platform this week.

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Trump signs executive order threatening social-media companies after Twitter fact-checked his tweets
Photo Credit: Financial Times

(TMU) – US President Donald Trump might be one of Twitter’s most active users, but he has had harsh words for the social media platform this week, after the site fact-checked one of his claims about voting by mail.

Trump even went so far as to threaten to “strongly regulate” or even potentially shut down social media websites for attempting to interfere with political speech and election results.

This is the first time that Trump has been fact-checked on the site, as public figures are often given a pass in circumstances like this because their comments are a matter of public discourse, as offensive as they may be at times, but increased calls for the moderation of Trump’s tweets have led to increased scrutiny over his profile.

President Trump was so incensed by the actions against his profile that he is now promising to sign an executive order in regards to content moderation on social media sites.

“These platforms act like they are potted plants when [in reality] they are curators of user experiences, i.e. the man behind the curtain for everything we can see or hear,” an administration official familiar with the issue told Politico on Wednesday night.

While the content of the executive order is not entirely clear, some have speculated that it could be related to a 1996 statute that protects these companies from lawsuits. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act gives tech companies a limited legal liability for user-generated content, which is a great thing at face value, but it also protects these companies from any legal action for “taking good-faith efforts to curb illicit material.”

In the years since, frequent conflicts have arisen over content moderation, while “good faith efforts” and “illicit Material” are still poorly defined, allowing these companies to remove content based on arbitrary whims, which are often directed by personal politics, and the temperaments of advertisers.

Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey defended the site’s actions on Wednesday night, saying that he was not censoring Trump, but providing other sources so people could look deeper into the issue. He also said that the site will continue to fact check the information that they find to be incorrect or disputed, especially when it comes to elections.

“Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves,” he said.

He also says that he will be taking full responsibility for the company’s actions and will be willing to admit mistakes if any are made.

Last year, Twitter announced it would ban all political ads from its platform. At the time, Dorsey said that he believed online reach for political messages “should be earned, not bought.”

Mark Zuckerberg responded to the controversy this week also, saying that Twitter made the wrong call, and falsely claimed that Facebook takes a hands-off approach to moderating political content.

“I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online. Private companies probably shouldn’t be, especially these platform companies, shouldn’t be in the position of doing that,” Zuckerberg said.

While Twitter is traditionally less aggressive with content moderation than Facebook when it comes to issues like foreign policy, police brutality, or nudity, they have become very serious about policing hate speech and political misinformation.

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