Marijuana trade employs more than 100,000 – in a fraction of the country

As the calendar turns to 4/20 — the unofficial holiday for marijuana — it’s not just weed enthusiasts who are celebrating. The number of jobs in the pot industry has surged in recent years, fueled by more states legalizing the drug. In fact, there are about as many employees of legal weed businesses as there are insurance underwriters, Web developers or nurse practitioners, according to Marijuana Business Daily. Cannabis is legal for adult recreational use in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia, and it’s available for medical purposes in 24 states.

Honest jobs, bringing more employment than coal mines, less political pollution than Republican hot air or Tea Party hate speech. If the Two Old Parties – or even one of them – ever joins the 21st Century, we might have a faster growing economy. Certainly mellower. 🙂

California weed smells more like real business every day

After decades of thriving in legally hazy backyards and basements, California’s most notorious crop, marijuana, is emerging from the underground into a decidedly capitalist era.

Under a new state law, marijuana businesses will be allowed to turn a profit — which has been forbidden since 1996, when California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis — and limits on the number of plants farmers can grow will be eliminated.

The opening of the marijuana industry here to corporate dollars has caused a mad scramble, with out-of-state investors, cannabis retailers and financially struggling municipalities all racing to grab a piece of what is effectively a new industry in California: legalized, large-scale marijuana farming.

And with voters widely expected to approve recreational marijuana use in November, California, already the world’s largest legal market for marijuana, gleams with the promise of profits far beyond what pot shops and growers have seen in Washington or Colorado, the first states to approve recreational use…

Twenty-three states allow some form of legal marijuana, and up to 20 will consider ballot measures this year to further ease restrictions.

California is now making the largest effort in the country’s history to pull marijuana out of the black market. Medical marijuana sales in California hit $2.7 billion last year, accounting for nearly half of all legal marijuana sales in the country…Approval of recreational marijuana use in November could double the market here by 2020, experts said.

Legalization brings jobs and tax revenue to a state. I’m not surprised when some states with an old dope-smoking culture still drag their feet. Face it. Even stoner politicians from either of the two old parties are chickenhearted when it comes to challenging the folkways of church and 14th Century morality – no matter how out-of-date and useless.

But, as the wave of good sense sweeps across a nation sparked by a couple new generations of education and backbone – encouraged by a Great Recession the old politicians rolled over for – change has to come to social behavior whether Liberals approve or Conservatives whine.

RTFA for lots of detail. Some of it silly and irrelevant, of course.

Companies won’t learn from the T-Mobile/Experian hack — Om Malik

Last Thursday, John Legere, the C.E.O. of T-Mobile, joined the ranks of the dozens of chief executives who, in the past few years, have had to inform their customers that their personal information has been stolen. “One of our vendors, Experian, experienced a data breach,” Legere tweeted, referring to a Dublin-based credit bureau that his company uses to collect, store, and secure customers’ personal information. Experian explained the details on its Web site:

The unauthorized access was in an isolated incident over a limited period of time. It included access to a server that contained personal information for consumers who applied for T-Mobile USA postpaid services or products, which require a credit check, from Sept. 1, 2013 through Sept. 16, 2015. Records containing a name, address, Social Security number, date of birth, identification number (typically a driver’s license, military ID, or passport number) and additional information used in T-Mobile’s own credit assessment were accessed. No payment card or banking information was obtained.

As one of the fifteen million people who applied for T-Mobile USA’s post-paid services during that period, I was particularly aghast to learn about this breach. T-Mobile USA has, in the past two and a half years, been selling itself as an “uncarrier,” dedicated to upending the telecom industry’s status quo by offering simpler, cheaper, and more intelligible plans. I’d bought into this spin, and believed that it was the way forward for the industry.

Although no financial information was stolen in the T-Mobile breach, the completeness of the data that was acquired is akin to a Lego set for an identity thief. The fraudsters can set up new lines of credit or file for phony tax refunds in our names, and there isn’t much we can do about it. The cybersecurity consultant Bryan Seely told the Seattle Times that, on a scale of one to ten, this breach rates a seven, because it included fifteen million Social Security numbers, along with names and addresses. “When Target had a breach, people were reissued cards. You can’t reissue Socials that easily,” he said. Over the weekend, the e-commerce security firm Trustev claimed that it had found data sets from the Experian hack for sale on the dark Web…

By now, we’re familiar with this pattern: a company discloses a data theft, executives express grave concern, and customers are left to reset their passwords and sign up for free data protection, feeling all the while like data piñatas…

An offer of a credit-watching service in the wake of a hack is sort of like getting an alert after a fire has burned down your house. Moreover, in a recent blog post, Brian Krebs, of Krebs on Security, wrote, “Identity protection services like those offered by CSID, Experian and others do little to block identity theft: The most you can hope for from these services is that they will notify you after crooks have opened a new line of credit in your name.

RTFA for more details and Om’s analysis including the political problems with trying to get business security into the 21st Century. As Om says, 800 data breaches in one year proves the status quo isn’t working.

The race to block a Pacific oil route with a real estate development

oil terminal site
Click to enlargeDavid Kasnic

Environmental passions, which run hot in the Northwest over everything from salmon to recycling, generally get couched in the negative: Don’t fish too much, don’t put those chemicals up the smokestack, don’t build in that sensitive area.

But here in southern Washington, some environmental groups are quietly pushing a builder to move even faster with a $1.3 billion real estate project along the Columbia River that includes office buildings, shops and towers with 3,300 apartments.

The reason is oil.

Two miles west of the 32-acre project, called the Waterfront, one of the biggest proposed oil terminals in the country is going through an environmental review, with plans to transfer North Dakota crude from rail cars to barges. Up to four trains, carrying 360,000 barrels of oil, would pass every day through this city’s downtown, only a few hundred feet from the Waterfront’s towers, westbound from the Bakken shale oil fields…

The result is a sort of race to the crossing: If the Waterfront can get its bricks and mortar in the ground before the terminal is approved — possibly late next year, with litigation likely to follow — more people would be living and working near the oil-train line. Compounding what opponents, led by the city, say are the dangers of spills or derailments, would make the terminal’s path to approval steeper…

The Waterfront project, Brett VandenHeuvel said, makes the threats from the oil trains “more tangible and more real.” At least 10 large crude oil spills have been reported since early 2013 because of train accidents in the United States and Canada, including one in Quebec that caused a fire and explosion and killed 47 people…

The Vancouver city manager, Eric J. Holmes, said every advance at the Waterfront potentially changed the final arguments on the terminal, which he thinks could be years away, perhaps ending up before the State Supreme Court.

If the city itself changes in the meantime, he said, those final arguments about oil and rail and safety will change, too. “If it adds to the argument about our community’s safety, we’ll certainly invoke it,” he said.

Go for it, folks. The history of American courts ruling on behalf of NIMBYs is pretty strong. That the sum of struggle benefits the whole region – excepting folks profiting from the fossil fuel economy – ain’t a difficult motivator.

Inside the box: Shipping containers in architecture


Starbucks drive-through store in Tukwila, Washington

Gizmag picks ten of our favorite shipping container-based structures

The widespread use of the modern metal shipping container can be traced back to the mid-1950’s. According to Marc Levinson, in April 1956 an oil tanker traveled between Newark and Houston with 58 rudimentary “shipping containers,” (actually refitted aluminum truck bodies) sparking a modern revolution in moving goods around the world. However, an unexpected result also eventually transpired: shipping containers became recognized as an attractive building material by many architects. Gizmag gives a nod to ten of our favorite uses of shipping containers in architecture.

I’ve covered some of these in previous postings. Wander through the article and enjoy your favorites.

Before retiring, I was lucky enough to work with a few of our talented local architects here in Santa Fe. A couple did some amazing work with shipping containers – one, in fact, building his own million-dollar home from these, his favorite structural module.

Groundbreaking air-cleaner removes industrial pollutants, odors


A happy Matthew Johnson getting ready to be part of a successful business

Industries across Europe are threatened with shutdown as European Union emission rules for Volatile Organic Compounds are tightened. Now an air cleaning invention from the University of Copenhagen has proven its ability to remove these compounds. And in the process they have helped a business in Danish town Aarhus improve relations to angry neighbors…

In deepest secrecy the inventor Matthew Johnson from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Copenhagen has been collaborating with an investor, INFUSER, in mounting and testing a revolutionary air cleaning device at the industrial plant, “Jysk Miljoerens” in Danish town Aarhus. The reason for keeping the testing secret was that they wanted to be absolutely sure that they could in fact remove the pollution before going public. Now their measurements are concluded and the results are in. And the device actually works.

At the department of Chemistry atmospheric chemist Matthew Johnson invented and patented the air cleaning method which is based on the natural ability of the Earth atmosphere to clean itself. In a process triggered by sunlight, polluting gasses rising into the sky start forming particles when they come across naturally occurring compounds such as ozone. The newly formed particles are washed out of the atmosphere by rain. Once the rain hits the ground, the atmosphere is clean again. In other words the whole process is nature’s own purifications works, explains Professor Johnson.

I have investigated the self-cleaning mechanism of the atmosphere for years. Suddenly I realized, that the mechanism is so simple, that we could wrap it in a box and use it to clean indoor air. This makes for a better indoor climate, and in this particular case it also removes smells from this industrial process allowing the company to stay in business and making the neighbours happy,” says Matthew Johnson…

In scientific terms, Matthew Johnsons patented process is known as an atmospheric photochemical accelerator. The whole process is housed in five aluminium boxes on the roof of the Aarhus business. Compared to traditional methods the new process outshines by removing pollution rather than diluting it, as is the case when we send smoke up a chimney. The method requires no filters, so maintenance is inexpensive. It consumes very little energy, so its climate impact is negligible. Finally it removes the need for a chimney which would have been costly to erect. For all these reason INFUSER and the photochemical air-purification was the right choice for Jysk Miljoerens…

The company Jysk Miljoerens makes a living separating oil from bilge water in ships, so that the oil may be recycled. For manager Bent Naldal all the parameters were important, but above all he is just happy that the new method has managed to remove the smells from his wastewater treatment plant. Because the smells were threatening to put him out of business.

Unintended consequences. Fortunately, Matthew Johnson was able to make the native connection between a process in nature and copying it for use on a much smaller scale. And doing so, with minimal energy consumption.

Italy starts taxing Catholic Church — when will the US?

Italy’s Catholic Church will be forced to pay taxes starting in 2013 after the EU pressured the country’s government to pass a controversial law stripping the Church of its historic property tax exemption.

The Catholic Church in Italy is excluded from paying taxes on its land if at least a part of a Church property is used non-commercially – for instance, a chapel in a bed-and-breakfast. “The regulatory framework will be definite by January 1, 2013 – the start of the fiscal year – and will fully respect the [European] Community law,” Italian premier Mario Monti’s government said in a statement…

The move could net Italy revenues of 500 million to 2 billion euros annually across the country, municipal government associations said. The extra income from previously exempt properties in Rome alone – including hotels, restaurants and sports centres – could reach 25.5 million euros a year…

The measure came after the country’s leadership decided in February to alter Italy’s property tax code, ending the Church’s longstanding privileges due to the severe debt crisis.

Last December, after new austerity measures were adopted in the country, 130,000 Italians signed an online petition urging the government to strip the Church of its tax exemption.

“It was time that they paid, too, with all the exemptions they’ve had throughout the years,” Marco Catalano, a 35-year-old shopkeeper in Rome, told the New York Times in February, adding that he goes to church twice a month. “They own the most beautiful buildings in downtown Rome, on Italian soil, and rent them out at market prices…

Overdue. Not only in Italy. Not only regarding the Catholic Church.

Living in a nation with a constitution requiring separation of church and state, it is truly absurd that we still don’t collect property taxes, business taxes on the money-making, profit-generating properties owned by religious institutions.

When autism may be an advantage


Thorkil Sonne and his son Lars at home in Ringsted, Denmark

When Thorkil Sonne and his wife, Annette, learned that their 3-year-old son, Lars, had autism, they did what any parent who has faith in reason and research would do: They started reading. At first they were relieved that so much was written on the topic. “Then came sadness,” Annette says. Lars would have difficulty navigating the social world, they learned, and might never be completely independent. The bleak accounts of autistic adults who had to rely on their parents made them fear the future.

What they read, however, didn’t square with the Lars they came home to every day. He was a happy, curious boy, and as he grew, he amazed them with his quirky and astonishing abilities…To his father, Lars seemed less defined by deficits than by his unusual skills. And those skills, like intense focus and careful execution, were exactly the ones that Sonne, who was the technical director at a spinoff of TDC, Denmark’s largest telecommunications company, often looked for in his own employees…

Sonne did not consider himself an entrepreneurial type, but watching Lars — and hearing similar stories from parents he met volunteering with an autism organization — he slowly conceived a business plan: many companies struggle to find workers who can perform specific, often tedious tasks, like data entry or software testing; some autistic people would be exceptionally good at those tasks. So in 2003, Sonne quit his job, mortgaged the family’s home, took a two-day accounting course and started a company called Specialisterne, Danish for “the specialists,” on the theory that, given the right environment, an autistic adult could not just hold down a job but also be the best person for it.

For nearly a decade, the company has been modest in size — it employs 35 high-functioning autistic workers who are hired out as consultants, as they are called, to 19 companies in Denmark — but it has grand ambitions….At the World Economic Forum meeting in Tianjin in September, he was named one of 26 winners of a global social entrepreneurship award. Specialisterne has inspired start-ups and has five of its own, around the world. In the next few months, Sonne plans to move with his family to the United States, where the number of autistic adults — roughly 50,000 turn 18 every year — as well as a large technology sector suggests a good market for expansion…

For previously unemployable people — one recent study found that more than half of Americans with an autism diagnosis do not attend college or find jobs within two years of graduating from high school — Sonne’s idea holds out the possibility of self-sufficiency.

A long, fascinating article. The concept isn’t original – except to the demographic defined by Sonne’s experience with his son. One of my close kin was born profoundly deaf and when she and her family won the battle of mainstreaming and getting an education, the question of employment remained. The avenue she discovered – during the era of loud, irritating IBM keyboards – was data entry. Eventually, her experience with the content she read and turned into digital data led to a career managing and administering contracts based on that data.

Still, this can be a wider search and a daunting task. The emotional and social baggage associated with autism can be greater than a traditional “handicap”. The tale of Thorkil Sonne and Lars is inspirational and an education in and of itself.

Governors seek commerce for their state – national politicians seek power from ignorant voters


Iowa Soybean Association members at a port on the Po River

In October 1984, Iowa’s governor, Terry Branstad, made his first trip to China. He and his wife flew to Beijing and took an old steamer train about 200 miles southwest to Shijiazhuang, a city in the Hebei province…

Local government officials greeted the Branstads with flowers and a band. One member of the welcoming committee was a young man who would eventually ascend to the ranks of China’s top leadership, Xi Jinping. Currently China’s vice president, Xi is widely expected to succeed President Hu Jintao, who is set to step down next year.

“The friendships you build, you never know when it might pay off in the future,” said Brandstad, who has stayed in touch with Xi over the years. “Treat everybody well. You never know when they might someday be very important.”

Will someone please engrave this on bronze plaques to be placed on the desks of each of our Congress-critters!

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