2013. A year of superlatives. A year where journalists covered stuff months ago and took lots of dramatic footage, which mainstream media can use to construct dramatic retrospectives for today and tomorrow.
But the real news doesn’t stop. Here’s a few new or developing stories you might have missed while stocking up on party hats and champagne.
RT reports that the LAPD is planning to use experimental oral swabs to detect drug use in drivers at drunk driving checkpoints:
Officials cited increased medical marijuana use as a main justification. A state grant supplied the LAPD with a swab testing tool that will be employed at DUI (driving under the influence) checkpoints and jails, Los Angeles officials said at a Friday press conference. The conference was held to highlight use of the tool alongside breathalyzers – which check for blood-alcohol content – at sobriety checkpoints during the New Year’s holiday.
LAPD officers can ask a driver to consent to a voluntary portable oral fluids test of their gum line and cheeks. The tip of the tool is then put into a portable machine for immediate testing rather than requiring a blood test. Such blood tests have previously been necessary to verify an arrest made on the suspicion of drugged driving.
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer pointed to the increased use of medical marijuana and the prevalence of dispensaries in the city as reason to step up enforcement of DUI policing.
‘There’s a growing recognition that driving under the influence of drugs is something we need to be clamping down on more effectively’ Feuer said at the press conference.
The swabbing test is not completely untested, though it was only used 50 times in Los Angeles ahead of Friday’s announcement. City prosecutors said they have not used results from the test as evidence in any case thus far. The portable oral fluids test screens for amphetamines, cocaine, benzodiazepine (Xanax), methadone, methamphetamine, narcotic analgesics, and THC – which indicates that marijuana has been used the past several hours.
With the Sochi Olympics fast-approaching, Al Jazeera America reports more queer people are fleeing Russia:
Inside this small bar on the Lower East Side, there were many other reminders of New Year’s Eve in Russia, which during Soviet times replaced Christmas as an appropriately atheist year-end bash. Caviar, vodka and tinsel were abundant, and revelers were treated to an impromptu performance of the song ‘I Like the Way; from the 1970s Soviet film ‘Irony of Fate,’ shown perennially during this season back home.
These were traces of a motherland many have only recently left behind but have little hope of returning to anytime soon. As lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Russians, many feel they have been chased out of their home country by a growing homophobia prevalent among the political and religious elite and recently formalized in a new law.
While Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, in August, the government banned the ‘propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors,’ which in effect stigmatizes LGBT individuals. Human-rights groups have criticized the law, and other countries, including the United States, have used the upcoming Winter Olympics in Russia as an opportunity to express their disapproval.
It’s a choice Vitaly, like many others at this party, has made. After a hastily arranged departure, the 25-year-old physicist — who declined to give his last name for fear of retribution against him or his family — arrived in New York in October. His mother had told him, ‘You better leave. It is better you live in America than something happen to you here again.’
A group of activists are pushing for the Navajo to recognize gay marriage:
Alray Nelson, founder of the Coalition for Navajo Equality, says he wants the Navajo Nation to respect same-sex relationships, just like two of the states that surround its territory — New Mexico, where gay marriage was legalized this month, and Utah, where it was recently ruled legal but faces a mounting appeal. ’There’s no organized faction against this, like in the fight (for) Proposition 8 in California,’ said Nelson, 27, whose organization is seeking to make tribal legislators review a 2005 tribal ban on gay marriage early next year. Opposition to the review may not be organized, but it exists. Deswood Tome, a special adviser to Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly, told Al Jazeera that although Navajo respect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Navajo, marriage is traditionally between a man and woman.
… Although Tome’s interpretation of Navajo social mores indicates that Nelson’s group may face some opposition because of tribal tradition, activists note that the original legislation banning gay marriage on Navajo land took root because of D.C. politics. ‘Back in 2005, the Tribal Council passed this law. It was a reactionary law. At the time, President (George W.) Bush was pushing for a definition of marriage at a national level,’ Nelson said. In 2004, Bush called for a constitutional amendment that would solidify the principles of the Defense of Marriage Act, which the Supreme Court largely struck down in June.
… In October two gay men became the third same-sex couple to be officially married by the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes. Their territory is surrounded by Oklahoma, where gay marriage remains illegal and faces much opposition. After their marriage, a high-level official called a tribal meeting to discuss measures to block such unions, said Cheyenne and Arapaho Lt. Gov. Amber Bighorse-Suitor. ‘I was surprised when this broke that there was any opposition in the tribe. The attitude in Oklahoma seems to have infiltrated some of our tribal attitudes,’ she said. The discourse on banning gay marriage went nowhere, Bighorse-Suitor said, because the tribal constitution prevents the government from making laws that discriminate against tribe members on the basis of sexual orientation. … Bighorse-Suitor noted that in many Native American cultures, gay people have “always been honored” as “two-spirit people” endowed with spiritual talents.
And David Cay Johnston says we can look forward to another stock market crash thanks to ‘irrational exuberance’ in Tech. Sound familiar?
Given rather modest job growth, government spending cuts that have weakened the economy and other lukewarm measures of domestic and global economic growth, this rise in the Dow is difficult to explain based on rational expectations. But the Dow’s striking 23 percent rise this year is nothing compared with the steep prices of many specific stocks, at least when traditional measures of valuation are applied.
These sky-high valuations get little skeptical coverage in the financial press, which has acted more as lapdog than watchdog in the past decade. Instead of barking warnings, many Wall Street reporters wag their tales in ways that please the speculative crowd, which, at great profit, feeds them market-moving tidbits along with a pat on the head.
… The current irrational exuberance shifts the focus away from PE, or price-to-earnings ratios, a traditional measure of stock value. I call the new measure for stock values PR to reflect both the ratio of price to revenues as well as the sheen publicists get paid to put on goods and services that produce no profit. Consider Facebook, which went public in May 2012. Its stock price has more than doubled this year. … Founder Mark Zuckerberg just unloaded 41.4 million Facebook shares for $2.3 billion, ensuring that even if the stock price collapses, he will remain wealthy. Insider selling is, traditionally, a sign that a stock is overpriced.
… But Facebook looks like a bargain compared with the much bigger Amazon, whose shares the market values at 1,400 times profits. With Amazon, there is at least a business model that may someday produce robust profits. As for now, the company has booked a modest 1.6 percent of revenues as profit in the four years ending in 2012. … Twitter shares traded in recent days for as much as $74.73, close to three times its initial public offering price. That peak price values the company at more than $41 billion — yet through June 30, Twitter never made even a penny of profit.
It’s been a pleasure to edit and write for Firedoglake in 2013, my first full year on the job (I began in April of 2012). As grim as things look right now, I have little doubt that the seeds of change and freedom sown in moments like the Texas feminist uprising (one of the top MyFDL stories of 2013) will bear new fruit in coming months and years.
Feel free to add your own over-looked news stories in the comments.
See you in the streets in 2014!
Photo by Quinn Dombrowski released under a Creative Commons Share Alike license.