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San Francisco To Expunge Over 9,300 Marijuana Convictions

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  • San Francisco’s District Attorney announced he will expunge 9,362 marijuana convictions dating as far back as 1975.
  • The DA’s office teamed up with a nonprofit called Code for America, which developed technology that helped identify cases that are eligible for expungement.
  • The city took this proactive approach to clear cases themselves because they say the traditional process is expensive and tedious, making it both challenging and rare for eligible people to do so themselves.

Past Convictions to be Expunged

San Francisco officials announced Monday that they will dismiss 9,362 marijuana convictions dating back to 1975, making San Francisco the first city in the U.S. to clear all eligible marijuana convictions.

The announcement from San Francisco’s District Attorney, George Gascón, comes just over two years after California passed Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in California for people 21 and older.

Prop. 64 was approved by voters in 2016, and also allows those convicted of marijuana possession to petition to have their convictions expunged.

It also allow people to petition to have marijuana-related crimes reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor. The expungements also include marijuana convictions that are tied to other crimes.

Code for America

After Prop 64 passed, San Francisco became the first county to announce that it would clear old marijuana convictions.

For about a year, the San Francisco DA’s office went through old marijuana cases to determine which ones were eligible for dismissal and found about 1,200 cases to clear on their own.



However, that process proved to be time-consuming, which lead the DA to team up with a nonprofit called Code for America, a group that uses open-source technology to improve government efficiency.

Code for America used a computer algorithm it created called “Clear My Record” which sorts through marijuana convictions and determined which were eligible for expungement under Prop. 64.

According to a Medium article written by Code for America: “The Clear My Record technology can automatically and securely evaluate eligibility for convictions by reading and interpreting conviction data. It can evaluate eligibility for thousands of convictions in just a few minutes.”

The program also automatically fills out the required paperwork that can be turned in to the court for processing these cases.

People could request expungements themselves even before the DA and Code for America took on the project. However, before the city began to look for people who were eligible, only 23 people had actually petitioned the city to do something about their convictions because it is a confusing and tedious task.

Gascón said in a statement, “You have to hire an attorney. You have to petition the court. You have to come for a hearing,” continuing:

“It’s a very expensive and very cumbersome process. And the reality is that the majority of the people that were punished and were the ones that suffered in this war on marijuana, war on drugs nationally, were people that can ill afford to pay an attorney.”

Impact on People of Color & Low Income Communities

The DA’s office also noted that people who have marijuana convictions on their records often have trouble finding employment, noting that these people can face barriers when trying to get access to education, housing, loans, and public assistance.

Gascón also noted that there were racial disparities in marijuana arrests in the city.

A study done by ACLU in 2013 found that in San Francisco, African Americans were more than four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people.

Source: ACLU

In a press briefing, Gascón said: “Take San Francisco for instance, our African American population is under 5 percent. But if you look at our convictions for marijuana offenses, 33 percent of people we convicted were African American, 27 percent were Latino.”

Due to the push from these factors, the city decided to take a proactive approach to clear past convictions themselves to help people who they say, “needed the most relief.”

Spillover Effect

Now that the DA has made the announcement, all that has to be done is for the courts to process the requests.

With this unprecedented move from San Francisco, many are wondering what implications this has for the rest of the country.

San Francisco’s actions have already prompted several other cities to follow their lead, and many believe that both the expungements and the technology used by Code for America will have a positive spillover effect.

Code for America intends on expanding it’s pilot program to other California counties, and has already set the goal of clearing 250,000 eligible convictions nationwide by 2019.

In California, other counties including Los Angeles are considering similar efforts. The Los Angeles County DA’s office estimates that there have been 40,000 felony marijuana convictions offenses since 1993. However, prosecutors have not said how many of those cases could be eligible for expungement.

The Code for America technology could also help a California with Assembly Bill 1793 which was signed into law last year. The bill mandates that the state build a list of all individuals eligible to have crimes expunged under Prop 64, with the end goal of having all past marijuana-related crimes reduced or cleared by 2020.

There are also other efforts happening outside of California.

In Missouri, lawmakers are considering a bill that would expunge convictions for medical marijuana patients, which is legal in the state.

New Jersey residents can also have their convictions expunged, but like in San Francisco, the process is reportedly challenging.

Additionally, in New York, the governor has proposed legalizing recreational marijuana use, and officials are exploring the possibly expunging or sealing conviction records.

Some law enforcement groups are not thrilled about the move to expunge convictions.

John Lovell, legislative counsel to the California Narcotic Officers’ Association, who was one of the leading voices against the legalization of marijuana in CA, told the Los Angeles Times: “To simply embark on an across-the-board expungement of 9,300 without looking at any of the surrounding factors on any of those cases strikes us as cavalier irresponsibility.”

In contrast, Gascón has said:

“This isn’t a political thing. This is about dignity. People pay their debt to society. People pay the consequences for something we no longer consider a crime. They should not be jumping through hoops for this. They should just get it.”

See what others are saying: (San Francisco Chronicle) (Los Angeles Times) (NPR)

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CNN’s Chris Cuomo Apologizes for Gender Pronoun Joke at Equality Town Hall

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  • When Sen. Kamala Harris stated that her pronouns were “she, her, and hers” at the start of CNN’s Equality Town Hall, host Chris Cuomo replied, “me too.” 
  • The comment was met with a ton of backlash online from LGBTQ rights groups and community members who said it showed he did not understand the community’s issues.
  • Cuomo apologized on Twitter after the event and said he was an ally of the community. 

Pronoun Comment 

CNN anchor Chris Cuomo apologized Thursday night for a joke he made about his pronouns when introducing 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris during the network’s LGBTQ focused Equality Town Hall. 

The California senator walked onto the stage to greet Cuomo. “Thank you, guys,” she said to the cheering crowd composed of several LGBTQ members and allies. “And my pronouns are she, her, and hers,” she added.

Her words elicited more cheers from the audience, however, Cuomo’s response was met with harsher criticism online. “She, her, and hers?” he asked before jokingly adding, “Mine too.”

Harris simply replied with “All right.”

Social Media Response 

Although the senator’s line drew mostly praise, she was also hit with accusations of pandering as she does not typically mention her pronouns at public events. But most of the criticism online honed in on Cuomo. 

Within progressive spaces and the LGBTQ community, pronoun introductions are widely viewed as a step towards inclusion and a more nuanced understanding of gender. As most who are familiar with the popular TV host know, “she, her, and hers” are not, in fact, Cuomo’s pronouns. 

The National Center for Lesbian Rights quickly condemned Cuomo’s comment online, saying “people’s pronouns are not a punchline.”  

GLAAD called the moment “disappointing,” while others found it even more inappropriate considering the event, which was organized by CNN and the Human Rights Campaign.

Charlotte Clymer, a trans woman and the Human Right’s Campaign’s press secretary, said Cuomo’s comment “was really not a great look.”

Cuomo Apologizes

Following the event, Cuomo tweeted out an apology, saying he was “an ally of the LGBT community.” 

Some felt the apology wasn’t enough and noted that this incident showed that Cuomo did not understand LGBTQ issues and probably shouldn’t have been a moderator for this event. 

Equality Town Hall

Aside from Harris, eight other Democratic 2020 contenders participated in the event. Many released details about their agendas on LGBTQ issues. All nine promised to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. They also said they would work to reverse the Trump administration’s ban on transgender people openly serving in the military. 

A number of transgender activists also used the night as an opportunity to address violence against black trans women. Many interrupted candidates at several points to call out of lack of representation for their perspectives during the event.

When the mother of a trans son asked former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke a question, Blossom C. Brown, an actress and producer, walked up to grab the microphone from her.

“CNN, you have erased black trans women for the last time. Black trans women are dying. Our lives matter,” Brown said. “Not one black trans woman has taken the mic tonight, not one black trans man has taken the mic tonight.”

See what others are saying:(Fox News)  (The Guardian) (The Washington Post)

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PG&E Power Outages Affect Millions in Northern California

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  • Pacific Gas & Electric is cutting power to 750,000 customers in Northern California, impacting close to 2.5 million people. 
  • Current severe dry winds have increased the chances of wildfires, so PG&E is turning off power to lessen their risk of contributing to one.
  • Californians are already upset with the company, which was found responsible for the 2018 Camp Fire that killed 85 people.
  • But frustrations are now even higher as the outages have already caused car accidents, closed businesses, and could potentially cost the state billions in lost revenue.

PG&E Starts Outages

Millions in Northern California are being impacted by widespread planned power outages which have triggered gas shortages, car accidents, and long-term economic consequences.

Pacific Gas and Electric anticipates that close to 750,000 customers will be impacted by the outages, which started on Wednesday morning. A total of 2.5 million people in the states are expected to feel its effects. 

PG&E is executing these “Public Safety Power Shutoffs” to prevent wildfires in the area. Severe hot, dry winds are currently making their way through Northern California, increasing the chances of a fire. PG&E was found responsible for 2018’s Camp Fire which killed 85 people. Anticipating this, the company filed for bankruptcy in January, predicting facing $30 billion in damages from both the Camp Fire, as well as other fires in 2017.

The outages could last for several days, with the mayor of San Jose warning it could last a week. People in areas affected by the shutoffs are already waiting in long lines at the grocery store and gas stations, and even seeing some stations run out of fuel. Several schools and businesses have closed as a result of the outages as well, leaving people without work. 

Several car crashes related to the outages have also been reported. Traffic lights are not working, making major intersections more vulnerable to accidents. The city of Santa Rosa said that multiple collisions have occurred at intersections without power, with at least five resulting in injuries.

Concerned customers were also left in the dark when PG&E’s website crashed on Wednesday. Over 12 hours later, they created an entirely new site just devoted to the shutoffs. 

Economic Impact of Power Outrage

Perhaps the most long-lasting consequence of these outages is the dame done to the economy. According to Michael Wara, the Director of the Stanford Woods Institute, this could cost anywhere between $65 million to $2.5 billion in economic losses.

Other reports indicate that the number could be closer to $1 billion. PG&E also says customers will not be reimbursed for losses during the outages.

Money is also only part of what is at stake for those in Northern California. The area is home to massive hubs of scientific, medical and technological research. 

In an email to the New York Times, one researcher at the University of California, Berkeley said valuable research is at risk. 

“Many friends and colleagues barely have enough emergency power to keep freezers cold and incubators running,” graduate student Julia Torvi wrote.

“These two things hold millions of dollars of research, tens of years of effort, their contents being irreplaceable.”

Frustrations With PG&E

Frustrations with PG&E are high among residents. Several leaders in California have spoken up about the blackout and condemned PG&E for this practice. 

State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-11) called it “completely unacceptable.”

Presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said that PG&E should be “held responsible for the maintenance of their power lines.”

The public outrage extends even further. A PG&E office in Oroville closed after its front door was vandalized. Reports say that it appeared someone had thrown eggs at it sometime late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

A PG&E truck was also struck by a bullet on Tuesday night. The California Highway Patrol is still investigating the incident. A bullet hit the passenger window. The driver was not injured. 

In a statement Wednesday, Sumeet Singh, the Vice President of PG&E’s Wildfire Safety Program released a statement sympathizing with customers.

“We understand that this power shutoff is difficult for our customers and communities. Please check on your neighbors, friends and family and know that we will work safely, and quickly as possible, to restore power across the region,” the statement read. “Our meteorological and operations teams are actively monitoring the weather and this evolving situation, and we are working directly with state and local agencies to help our customers and communities through this event safely.”

Currently, they have been able to restore power back to 50,000 residents. 

See what others are saying: (San Francisco Chronicle) (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times)

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Matt Lauer Accused of Rape in Ronan Farrow’s New Book

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  • Ronan Farrow’s new book, Catch and Kill, includes an interview with Brooke Nevils, who accused Matt Lauer of raping her in 2014 during the Sochi Olympics.
  • Lauer was fired in 2017 over an unspecified sexual misconduct claim, but this is the first time specifics about the alleged assault have been released.
  • NBC News and TODAY Show anchors responded by saying they were appalled by the news. 
  • Meanwhile, Lauer defended himself by saying all of his relations with Nevils were consensual.

Farrow’s Book Reveals Rape Allegation

An NBC colleague accused former TODAY Show anchor Matt Lauer of rape in Ronan Farrow’s upcoming book.

Back in 2017, Lauer was fired from his position for alleged sexual misconduct. No details about the claim were made clear at the time. Farrow’s book, Catch and Kill, will now provide the first detailed explanation of the alleged assault.

Catch and Kill is not out yet, but Variety received an advance copy of it and reported on the account about Lauer. Farrow interviewed the accuser, Brooke Nevils, who says that incident happened while she was working for Meredith Vieira while in Sochi covering the 2014 Olympics. 

Nevils and Vieira were at the hotel bar when they ran into Lauer. Nevils had six shots of vodka before going to Lauer’s room on two separate occasions. The first was to get her press credential that he jokingly took, and the second was because he invited her back. She told Farrow she “had no reason to suspect Lauer would be anything but friendly based on prior experience.”

When she got there, however, he pushed her against the door kissing her, and then pushed her onto the bed. According to Farrow’s book, he flipped her over “asking if she liked anal sex.”

“She said that she declined several times,” the report continues. Nevils “was in the midst of telling him she wasn’t interested again when he ‘just did it.’” 

The report also details the specifics of the incident, which are incredibly disturbing. Nevils recounted the experience as “excruciatingly painful.” She added that at some point, she stopped saying no a wept silently into a pillow. Afterward, Lauer asked her if she liked it and she told him “yes.”

“It was nonconsensual in the sense that I was too drunk to consent,” Nevils told Farrow. “It was nonconsensual in that I said, multiple times, that I didn’t want to have anal sex.”

Farrow goes on to say that the two did have sexual encounters with one another after the fact. Farrow noted that this was a common occurrence he heard from the numerous other women he had interviewed who shared similar stories of assault.

“This is what I blame myself most for,” Nevils said to Farrow. “It was completely transactional. It was not a relationship.”

NBC’s Handling of the Allegation

On top of these allegations against Lauer, Farrow’s book also details the way NBC handled them. Nevils said that after their encounters had ended, she told several people within the company. Nothing ever happened until Farrow’s bombshell report on Harvey Weinstein led to a cultural reckoning in 2017, prompting her colleagues asked her about Lauer. 

Nevils then told Vieira about what happened. Vieira advised her to go to HR with a lawyer, which Nevils did.

Once Lauer was fired, Nevils learned that executives at NBC News were looking to paint the incident as not being criminal or an assault. Learning this made her throw up.

Nevils also said that HR promised she would remain anonymous. Still, many were able to figure out she was the one who filed the complaint as an internal memo contained details specific enough for people to connect the dots. 

Despite the fact that Nevils insisted she did not want money, she went on medical leave in 2018. Farrow says NBC paid her seven figures. 

NBC and TODAY Respond

NBC responded to the news in a statement that aired on the TODAY Show Wednesday morning. 

“Matt Lauer’s conduct was appalling, horrific and reprehensible, as we said at the time,” the statement read. “That’s why he was fired within 24 hours of us first learning of the complaint. Our hearts break again for our colleague.”

TODAY Show anchors and former colleagues of Lauer, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, also responded to the news on air. 

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“I feel like we owe it to our viewers to pause for a moment,” Guthrie said after a news package detailing the allegation aired. 

“You know, this is shocking and appalling and I honestly don’t even know what to say about it,” she added. “I want to say that we know it wasn’t easy for our colleague to come forward then, it’s not easy now, and we support her and any women who have come forward with claims.” 

“There are not allegations of an affair. There are allegations of a crime,” Kotb later added. “And I think that’s shocking to all of us here who have sat with Matt for many, many years.” 

Matt Lauer Responds

Lauer also responded to the allegations on Wednesday morning in an open letter. The Hollywood Reporter obtained the letter via a legal representative of Lauer’s and published it in full. 

“Over the past two years people have asked why I have not spoken out to defend myself more vigorously against some of the false and salacious allegations leveled at me,” he said in the letter’s opening. “It is a fair question and the answer is deeply personal.”

“But my silence has been a mistake,” he added.

He then insisted that everything that happened between him and Nevils was fully consensual.

“In a new book, it is alleged that an extramarital, but consensual, sexual encounter I have previously admitted having, was in fact an assault. It is categorically false, ignores the facts, and defies common sense,” Lauer wrote.

He said that “each act was mutual and completely consensual.” He also said that as their encounters continued, at no time “did she express in words or actions any discomfort with being there, or with our affair.”

Catch and Kill comes out on October 15.

See what others are saying: (Variety) (The Hollywood Reporter) (NBC News)

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