Tuesday, December 16, 2014

U.S. DoJ message to U.S. Attorneys concerning enforcement of anti-cannabis laws on tribal land--the "Wilkinson Memorandum"

On October 28, 2014, Monty Wilkinson, Director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys in the United States Department of Justice, sent a memorandum whose subject line was “Policy Statement Regarding Marijuana Issues in Indian Country” to all United States Attorneys, all Tribal Liaisons, and others in the Department.  You can read this memo here.  

It begins by acknowledging the progress made towards the legalization of cannabis and the impetus coming from the tribes for more information:

“With a number of states legalizing marijuana for use and production, some tribes have requested guidance on the enforcement of the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) on tribal lands by the United States Attorneys’ offices.”

Director Wilkinson continues:

“With these requests in mind, the Attorney General’s Native American Issues Subcommittee has reviewed the Memorandum from the Deputy Attorney General, dated August 29, 2013, regarding marijuana enforcement (“Cole Memorandum”) and considered its impact on Indian Country.”

He next enumerates the Eight Priorities that the Cole Memorandum enshrines (for now) as the criteria according to which U.S. Attorneys should determine whether or not to prosecute individuals and institutions complying with their respective state laws regarding the production, distribution, sale, and use of cannabis, even if they are still in violation of the Federal prohibition against cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug along with heroin and LSD.

 He goes on to say that:

“The eight priorities in the Cole Memorandum will guide United States Attorneys’ marijuana enforcement efforts in Indian Country, including in the event that sovereign Indian Nations seek to legalize the cultivation or use of marijuana in Indian Country.”

The final paragraph is an instruction to the U.S. Attorneys to keep the home office fully-informed about any matters relating to the enforcement of anti-cannabis laws in Indian Country, “in order to keep the Department’s leadership apprised of significant issues and to maintain consistency throughout the Department.”

DoJ Supervisory Public Affairs Specialist Wyn Hornbuckle today also provided this additional statement to Etopia News:

The Justice Department is committed to dealing with tribes on a government-to-government basis.  This policy statement recognizes that Indian country is incredibly diverse, and different tribes will have different perspectives on enforcement priorities that are in the best interest of their community’s public safety. Some tribes are very concerned with public safety implications, such as the impact on youth, and the use of tribal lands for the cultivation or transport of marijuana, while others have explored decriminalization and other approaches. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and nothing in the Cole memorandum or this policy statement alters the authority or jurisdiction of the United States to enforce federal law in Indian Country or elsewhere. Each U.S. Attorney will assess the threats and circumstances in his or her district, and consult closely with tribal partners and the Justice Department when significant issues or enforcement decisions arise in this area.” 

He also provided some additional background for context:

“The August 29, 2013 ‘Cole Memorandum’ states that ‘The Department’s guidance in this memorandum rests on its expectation that states and local governments that have enacted laws authorizing marijuana-related conduct will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that will address the threat those state laws could pose to public safety, public health, and other law enforcement interests.’   The memorandum goes on to note such jurisdictions ‘must provide the necessary resources and demonstrate the willingness to enforce their laws and regulations in a manner that ensures they do not undermine federal enforcement priorities.’ One such effective measure is ‘to prevent diversion of marijuana outside of the regulated system and to other states.’”

This move by the administration is echoed in a similar provision in the recently-passed 1.1 trillion spending bill, which, according to the Huffington Post,

“includes an amendment that prohibits the Department of Justice from using funds to go after state-legal medical cannabis programs. If the bill is signed into law, it will bring the federal government one step closer to ending raids on medical marijuana dispensaries, as well as stopping arrests of individuals involved with pot businesses that are complying with state law.”  

Wyn Hornbuckle at DoJ also recommended these additional pieces of coverage of this issue:

Could legal pot sales be coming to Seneca’s reservations?


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Writers Guild of America West showcases screenwriters at “Behind the Screen 2014”

The Writers Guild of America West put on yet another well-attended and jovial reception for the screenwriters of several current and soon-to-be-released films last night at the Capital Grille at the Beverly Center.  Etopia News was there and had a chance to meet and briefly chat with a few of them about their work.

Christina Welsh, who adapted “Addicted,” about a woman whose sexual addiction threatens to overturn her seemingly-perfect life, said she hoped the film would help reduce the stigma associated with being female and a sex addict, adding that many “don’t take it seriously,” and pointing out that women find it hard to admit to suffering from this condition.  She said she wanted the film to “break the stereotype.”  She doesn’t usually do adaptations, and enjoyed the process of doing this one.

Aimee Lagos, who wrote “No Good Deed,” a thriller about an escaped convict and the woman who makes the mistake of helping him, was adamant about the need for more diversity in the screenwriting profession and talked hopefully about creating a database that would make it possible for decision-makers in Hollywood to more easily find screenwriting talent that wasn’t white, male, and heterosexual.

Larry Karaszewski, co-screenwriter, along with Scott Alexander, of “Big Eyes,” , a bio-pic about Margaret and Walter Keane and the creation and attribution of the eponymous paintings, talked about meeting and convincing Margaret to share her story with the writers in 2003, thereby enabling the 11-years-long production of the film, which was directed by Tim Burton.  Amy Adams stars as Margaret Keane, and Christoph Waltz as Walter.

It also took eleven years for Margaret Nagle, screenwriter of “The Good Lie,” about the “Lost Boys of Sudan,” to get her film made.  She criticized Warner Brothers, the distributor of the film, for their lack of energy in promoting it.  The film will be available on iTunes starting on December 9th. 

Also in attendance was E. Max Frye, co-screen writer (with Dan Futterman) of “Foxcatcher” a biographical drama about the wrestling world staring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo, out now and prominently on display in a big billboard at the corner of Sunset and La Cienega Boulevards, up the road a bit from the Capital Grille and the Beverly Center.

Etopia News was not the only media entity there.  Kelley Bruggere, Host-Writer at Android TV; Ken Choy, from Wide Lantern; Angela Dawson, Editor of Front Row Features; Jennifer Buonantony from PressPassLA; and Akshara Sekar from the University of Southern California’s Daily Trojan were all there to cover the event and interview the screenwriters.

WGAW Communications Specialist Gregg Mitchell was there, too, facilitating all this coverage.

View photos from this event here.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

An admiring review of the Microsoft Lumia 635

I’ve been using a Microsoft Lumia 635 smartphone since I got one as a review unit on September 26, 2014.  I had never owned a smartphone before, so almost everything about this device was new to me.  With significant input from a friendly and helpful AT&T tech support person, I was able to set up and configure the basic functionality of the system, and, on my own since then, with some additional help from tech support, I’ve discovered more and more features that make my life easier, more productive, and more fun.

Now I use the quiet hours function in Cortana to block any calls or texts while I’m asleep.  I don’t even have to ask Cortana anything when I first log in in the morning.  She provides weather and news on her own initiative.  I can also ask her, “What’s the news?” and she’ll display links and teasers for three breaking news stories and read me the headlines.  She can easily give me the temperature and forecasts for the next week’s weather. 

Right now, she’s playing “Take me to Church,” by Hozier.  It doesn’t sound like a concert hall, but it’s nice music selected randomly somehow for me and I like it.

Maybe it’s already commonplace for billions of people, but I really appreciate the capability that the Lumia 635 gives me to take a photo and send it directly to someone or post it to Facebook.  I can do that with videos, too.

The phone in the Lumia has revolutionized the way I relate to others on the phone.  I used to have to hold the handset of the stationary phone in my home office, which was very encumbering.  Now, I set the Lumia down on the desk and turn on the Speaker function and I can operate hands-free and speak into the air as though the other party were there in the room with me.  I get much better results (up to a point) when I can relate to others telephonically from the attitude of comfort and control engendered by my use of the Lumia 635.

I now know how to enter new contacts into the phone without calling them first, just by using the Save function on the phone’s virtual keypad.  I can send and receive e-mails, and easily attach photos I’ve taken to the out-going ones.  The screen miniaturizes and whisks e-mails off into the aether at the top of the screen.  It also “dumps” deleted e-mails to the bottom of the screen.

Then there’s the voice-to-text transcription function in Cortana, that lets me send texts by dictating them, and to dictate my e-mail contents by voice and have it entered into the system by Cortana as almost-flawlessly transcribed text.  If I want to enter text by hand (by finger, really), it offers usually helpful suggested next words that need only be touched to appear in the text stream.

So now I have a device that conveniently fits in my pocket and lets me take and upload photos and videos of my surroundings and the people I meet, lets me communicate by voice with anyone on the planet, keeps me informed about the weather and news, plays music on command, reminds me of appointments, holds my calls, handles e-mails, and does it all cheerily.  What’s not to like?

I’d recommend the Microsoft Lumia 635 to anyone who’d also like to enjoy these capabilities.

And I can’t wait to get my hands on Cortana’s big brother, Skype Translator, which harnesses Cortana’s speech-to-text and text-to-speech capabilities along with Bing Translator to enable cross-language speech in real-time.

Meanwhile, not many people have “liked” the Cortana Users Group Facebook page, at:

or, for that matter, the Skype Translator Users Group, at:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

An introduction to WayBlazer, powered by IBM Watson

Here’s what the WayBlazer account supervisor at Edelman public relations in Austin, Texas, had to say today by way of introducing the new WayBlazer cognitive computing program, powered by IBM Watson:

"WayBlazer uses leading edge IBM Watson technology to redefine the way consumers dream, plan, personalize and purchase travel.

"The company is led by Terry Jones, founder of Travelocity and founding chairman of Kayak.com, who serves as chairman; Manoj Saxena, former General Manager of the IBM Watson Group, is co-founder and early investor.

"WayBlazer utilizes the cognitive power of IBM Watson, which takes massive amounts of information and organizes it, infuses it with intelligence, personalizes it and learns more with each use. The WayBlazer Insight Engine uses a standards-based cognitive cloud from Cognitive Scale, which is powered by IBM Watson technology.  

"WayBlazer addresses the growing issue of the sheer breadth of options and data required of travelers planning their next destination. On average, users explore 20 or more websites to research flight, hotel, and activity information, while weighing personal preferences and insights from social networks, online review sites and more. WayBlazer will form the industry’s most robust travel concierge by letting its customers ask questions using a natural language interface. WayBlazer links places, offers, and preferences, with social, cultural and economic data to recommend targeted travel insights and commerce offers that are tailored and customized for each consumer’s experience."