The Daily Wrap

Criminal Justice and Policing Reform
Gordon Evans. “WSW: Is Criminal Justice Reform Smart Politics?WMUK.

While not always the case in the past, Evans highlights perspectives from U.S. Justice Action Network Executive Director Holly Harris, who observes that there is now broad public support for criminal justice reform and “recognition that the ‘system is broken.’” Citing recent bi-partisan reforms in Michigan that address civil asset forfeiture and progress on other reforms, Harris’ assertion is already being validated at the state level. However, believing many more changes are required, Harris is optimistic that “criminal justice reform is the one area which will see progress this year at the federal level.”

Cronyism and Corporate Welfare
Jim Brunner. “Boeing Must Disclose Tax-Break Savings, State Department of Revenue Rules.” The Seattle Times.

The article reveals that the state of Washington’s Department of Revenue has reversed its interpretation of a 2013 tax-break transparency law. Brunner explains that the 2013 law requires “tax savings claimed by individual businesses to be made public within two years for any new or expanded tax break passed by lawmakers.” In the case of Boeing, aerospace tax incentives approved in 2003 and set to expire in 2024 were extended in 2013 to last until 2040. Since the expansion of the deal would have technically started in 2025, Boeing and other aerospace recipients were receiving an exemption from the reporting requirement. The Seattle Times appealed the interpretation, leading the state agency to reconsider it. According to Brunner, Boeing’s “tax incentive package has been estimated as the largest ever granted by a state, worth $8.7 billion over 16 years.” The 2013 law gives Washington taxpayers better transparency on the amount of savings some businesses enjoy from preferential tax treatments, with the Department of Revenue’s reversal on the aerospace credits ensuring that the largest recipients of state incentives must comply as well.

U.S. Foreign and Defense Policy
Patrick Tucker. “How to Tell the Difference Between a Nuclear Bomb Test and an Earthquake.” Defense One.

North Korea recently tested what it claimed was a hydrogen bomb, a weapon “potentially hundreds of times” more powerful than the nuclear weapons it has already tested. To determine whether this was in fact a successful weapons test or “North Korea was just trying to claim credit for an earthquake,” the United States Geological Survey investigated the available data. According to their preliminary findings, the seismological impact of the event was similar to a previous test of a 10 kiloton weapon, which is no more than a third of the strength of the smallest hydrogen bomb. Although there are a number of factors that could impact the accuracy of that assessment, including the depth of the blast and fact that the data was gathered from seismometers outside of North Korea itself, Tucker notes “the White House has said that the test likely was not of a hydrogen bomb.” If U.S. governmental observations are accurate, this suggests North Korea is unlikely to have made the major strides in its nuclear capabilities that would arise from the development of a hydrogen bomb.

Technology and Innovation
Kathryn Nave. “Space Mining Will Take a Giant Leap in 2016.” Wired.

Nave makes the prediction that nascent space tech industries will see significant growth and development in the coming year, beginning by describing Moon Express, a private space mining company. Moon Express’ co-founder and chairman sees significant opportunity beneath the moon’s relatively untrodden surface. Both rare-earth minerals and a fission fuel predicted to become an important energy resource exist on the moon in abundance, and Moon Express hopes to capitalize on the opportunity they present. The article continues by noting several other companies whose express purpose is prospecting for resources in space. The funding and incentive prizes for this type of frontier exploration are quite significant, and are provided by executives from such well-known companies as Google and Virgin. Oddly enough, some of the resource exploration is focused on something that is not rare, at least on our planet: water. It costs well over $100 million just to get a ton of water into space yet will be a critical resource both for future astronauts as well as planetary mining equipment itself. Nave notes how this type of exploration has only recently become possible through technological advancements that have come from the private sector. Will Moon Express hit its projected target of the early 2020s for asteroid mineral extraction? Only time will tell. What is certain is that private sector space initiatives are increasingly driving major innovation in the space sector, bringing the final frontier one step closer to our reach.

Toleration
Lionel. “Cyberbullying Laws: Free Speech Kryptonite.” RT.

Lionel discusses the rise in governmental actions to address cyberbullying. As a prosecutor who has dealt with related issues, he believes that “threatening” speech has limits but “bullying is speech that should be protected.” To him, while behaviors like cyberbullying “can certainly wreak havoc on the developing and sensitive sensibilities of youth in particular, lead to deep-seated psychological and devastating emotional disrepair (up to and including suicide in some advanced cases) and are to be discouraged at all cost, the potential for violations of free speech protections in particular, are as grave and certain.” Lionel further notes, “Absent threats of immediate bodily harm, words that offend or“intimidate” involve the potential for misapplication.” By focusing so much attention on the “subjective reaction of the recipient and not on the right of the declarant and certainly not his intent,” Lionel warns readers that governmental efforts to ramp up censorship on cyberbullying threaten to stifle open dialogue and free speech broadly.

Contributors: Andrew Baxter, Carine Martinez-Gouhier, Enea Gjoza, Eric Alston, Austen Bannan
Editors: Alison Acosta Fraser and Austen Bannan
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About BruceMajors

freelance writer at Daily Caller, The Hill, reason, Breitbart
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