• Florida's Stand Your Ground law linked to rise in homicide rates in the state

    Before 2005, Florida’s so-called “Castle doctrine” allowed the use of lethal force in situations where individuals believed there was an imminent threat of death or serious physical harm from an intruder within their own home. In 2005 Florida enacted the Stand Your Ground law, extending the “no duty to retreat” clause of the Castle doctrine, giving individuals immunity for using lethal force to defend themselves in public places, as well as on private property. Anew analysis shows that thechange in Florida’s self-defense laws has been linked with the state’s homicide rates going up by nearly a quarter.

  • Less crime, and fewer incarcerations: As New York became a safer city, prisons closed too

    Overflowing prison populations and high rates of violent crime once made New York City a metaphor for the urban decay confronting America’s cities. But over the last two decades crime in the nation’s largest city has declined steeply, with murders plummeting from 2,200 in 1990 to 350 in 2015. New York City’s crime decline was coupled with a sustained and dramatic reduction in incarceration, allowing the state to close more than a dozen prisons and save tens of millions of dollars. New York is now not only the safest big city in the United States, but also one with the fewest incarcerations for its size.

  • Loophole in Rhode Island law allows domestic abusers to keep firearms, despite risks

    Courts in Rhode Island rarely require abusers to turn in their firearms, even when orders prohibit them from possessing firearms under federal law and there is evidence they pose a lethal risk to victims, according to new research. examined 1,609 case files of protective orders filed in Rhode Island Family and District courts from 2012 to 2014. “In Rhode Island, domestic abusers are rarely required to turn in their firearms — even when they are federally prohibited from possessing them,” said one researcher. “Addressing this gap in the state’s law could help prevent risk of gun violence to potential abuse victims.”

  • How hard is it to rig an election?

    How do you rig an election? Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump claims our system of elections are rigged – asserting that widespread voter impersonation exists, that large numbers of dead people vote, and that many noncitizens have successfully registered to vote and regularly do so. Don’t believe it. One roadblock to rigging the elections is the fact that the American system of election administration is hyper-localism. More than 5,000 municipal and county election officials administer elections across more than 8,000 local jurisdictions across the United States. Another roadblock is the sheer number of votes involved. Presidential elections generally prompt higher turnout than any other election — in the 2012 presidential election, 130 million people cast their ballots. The sheer size of the electorate, and the sheer number of different local jurisdictions, suggest that attempting to “rig” the system would require a level of coordination even greater than the coordination needed to “get out the vote” on Election Day itself. Such a vast conspiracy cannot possibly be concealed. All of this adds up to a system of election administration that is virtually impossible to penetrate in the name of massive fraud that would shift the results of an election. So don’t believe it when someone tries to tell you the vote is rigged.

  • Some early 20th century L.A. earthquakes might have been man-made

    Some early twentieth century earthquakes in southern California might have been induced (man-made) by past practices that were used by the oil and gas industry. During the early decades of the oil boom, withdrawal of oil was not balanced by injection of fluids, in some cases leading to dramatic ground subsidence, and potentially perturbing the sub-surface stress field on nearby faults.

  • Wastewater disposal induced 2016 Magnitude 5.1 Oklahoma earthquake

    Distant wastewater disposal wells likely induced the third largest earthquake in recent Oklahoma record, the 13 February 2016, magnitude 5.1 event roughly thirty-two kilometers northwest of Fairview, Oklahoma. at the time, the Fairview earthquake was the largest event in the central and eastern United States since a 2011 magnitude 5.7 struck Prague, Oklahoma.

  • Texas must reduce nonmedical exemptions to vaccinations

    In Texas, approximately 45,000 nonmedical exemptions were filed across all age groups during the 2015-16 school year, a record high in the last decade and a figure that is only increasing. Vaccines are one of most cost-effective public health measures, the authors of a new study write, and Texas should make the process of obtaining nonmedical exemptions more rigorous to avoid the public health risks and costs associated with preventable diseases.

  • Assessing 100 years of Los Angeles groundwater replenishment

    A new study offers the most sophisticated analyses to date on how Los Angeles-area groundwater supplies are replenished. The analyses provide water managers with a clearer understanding of the sources and amount of available groundwater in the region — information that is important for planning and management of the vital resource.

  • Ambitious Baltimore water pollution clean-up project

    Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and the urban rivers that flow into it are important sources of water to Chesapeake Bay, popular recreation sites for residents and tourists, and the targets of an ambitious clean-up plan to make the harbor swimmable and fishable by the year 2020. In a first for Baltimore and the nation, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Environmental Protection Agency will soon be installing a suite of sensors that will provide the public and scientists with the first comprehensive, real time look at water quality in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

  • Report finds strong link between strength of states’ gun laws and rates of gun violence

    A new report has found a strong correlation between the strength of state gun laws and levels of gun violence. The report, which analyzes ten specific indicators of gun violence in all fifty states, found that the ten states with the weakest gun laws collectively have levels of gun violence that are more than three times higher than the ten states with the strongest gun laws. The ten states with the weakest gun laws collectively have three times more gun violence than the ten states with the strongest gun laws.

  • Texas moves to end legal battle over Syrian refugees

    A week after the state officially withdrew from the nation’s refugee resettlement program, Texas has moved to end its legal battle over Syrian refugees. In a short, three-page motion, Texas on Friday asked the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to dismiss the state’s appeal of a federal judge’s June decision that threw out the state’s case after finding Texas did not have grounds to sue the federal government over the resettlement of refugees within its borders.

  • Florida tightens public notification rules for pollution incidents

    Last week Governor Rick Scott instructed Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Jon Steverson to issue an emergency rule that establishes new requirements for public notification of pollution incidents. The rule is to take effect immediately. Scott issued the instruction following the sewage spill in Pinellas County and the sinkhole at Mosaic’s New Wales facility.

  • Massive 2014 West Virginia chemical spill was preventable: CSB

    The Chemical Safety Board’s (CSB) final report into the massive 2014 release by Freedom Industries of chemicals into the primary source of drinking water of Charleston, West Virginia, concludes that Freedom Industries failed to inspect or repair corroding tanks, and that as hazardous chemicals flowed into the Elk River, the water company and local authorities were unable effectively to communicate the looming risks to hundreds of thousands of affected residents, who were left without clean water for drinking, cooking, and bathing.

  • Ignoring anti-refugee rhetoric, Texans rush to help in resettlement

    Texas’ top elected officials have not exactly welcomed refugees over the past year. Last week, for example, Gov. Greg Abbott threatened to end state cooperation with the nation’s refugee resettlement program unless federal officials “unconditionally approve” a Texas plan requiring extra vetting of applicants. But everyday Texans seem to be more willing to help refugees from Syria and elsewhere start new lives in the Lone Star State. Nonprofits that resettle refugees say volunteer turnout has increased — in some cases dramatically — since Abbott first suggested they threatened security.

  • California's almond boom ramped up water use, consumed wetlands

    Converting land in California to grow water-hungry almonds between 2007 and 2014 has led to a 27 percent annual increase in irrigation demands — despite the state’s historic drought. The expansion of almonds has also consumed 16,000 acres of wetlands and will likely put additional pressure on already stressed honeybee populations.