When the enforcement of Florida’s law goes bad—the people of Florida pay.

“A Florida teen is facing adult felony charges after she caused a small explosion on school grounds in what her friends say was a science experiment gone bad.  Kiera Wilmot, 16, was accused of mixing household chemicals in a water bottle, causing the top to blow off and producing smoke, WTSP.com and TheLedger.com reported.  No one was hurt, and Bartow High School property was not damaged.  Wilmot was charged with possessing or discharging a weapon on school property and discharging a destructive device.  She was also expelled and will have to pursue her high school degree in an expulsion program.  Students told WTSP.com that the incident was due to a science experiment that went awry.  The school principal, Ron Pritchard, said he thinks ‘Wilmot was just curious about what would happen when the chemicals were mixed and was shocked by the result. She is a good kid,’ he said.”[1]

Under Florida Statute 790.001(4)(a), a “Destructive device” does not include: a device which is not designed, redesigned, used, or intended for use as a weapon.  Clearly, this student’s science experiment was not “designed, redesigned, used, or intended to be used as a weapon.”  The principle’s own statement shows that the girl “did not ‘intent’ for her science project to explode.”[2]  So why is this minor being prosecuted for a science project gone bad?  This is clearly not the way to encourage our young science majors.

Under Florida law the “possession or discharge of a destructive device[3] on school property occurs when the “person who exhibits a…destructive device…except as authorized in support of school-sanctioned activities.”  The real question is, was this a school sanction science project?  The principal’s statement seems to resolve this question by calling it “a science project.”

Even if the this was not a “school sanctioned project” the statute clearly expresses a required intent in the very definition of a “destructive devise,”  as designed to be discharged.  The Florida court will likely interpret the statute most favorably to the accused and conclude that the discharge of a destructive device…the device must explode [and] function as it was intended.[4]

This student’s science experiment was merely that, an experiment.  The plain meaning of an experiment is that of understanding cause and effect, without any intentional outcome.

Although, there are many that would love to ruin someone’s life merely because of fear.  There must be a limit to the absurdity of that fear.  If we begin to arrest and charge all creative minds because their science project has gone bad, we will find ourselves without any great scientist to further societal growth.

The real question is why this student was not being supervised during this science project.  Perhaps the principle and teacher should be liable for failing to supervise the student during a science project instead of placing the blame onto the minor who was under (or should have been under) the supervision of the state (school).

It is clear in the text of the statute that the Florida legislature never intended to prosecute a child when, under the supervision of the state (school) for a science project that goes bad.  This is what happens when we fail to encourage creative thinking and teach critical reasoning to our children, they simply grow up to enforce absurdity and allow fear to control them instead of knowledge.

[1] ABA Journal, Teen faces felony charges in exploding water bottle incident; was it a science project gone bad (2013) available at, http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/teen_faces_felony_charges_in_water_bottle_incident_was_it_a_science_project/

[2] Id.

[3] Florida Statute 790.115(1)

EPA Opens Public Comment until April 30, 2013

In response to public concern, the U.S. Congress urged EPA to conduct scientific research to examine the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water resources. EPA is undertaking a study to understand the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources, if any, and to identify the driving factors that may affect the severity and frequency of such impacts.

The scope of the study includes the full hydraulic fracturing water lifecycle—from water acquisition, through the mixing of chemicals and injection of fracturing fluids, to the post-fracturing stage, including the management of flowback and produced water and its ultimate treatment and disposal. The study will include a review of the published literature, analysis of existing data, scenario evaluation and modeling, laboratory studies and case studies.

To ensure that EPA is up-to-date on evolving hydraulic fracturing practices and technologies, EPA is soliciting public involvement in identifying relevant data and scientific literature specific to inform EPA’s research study on the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources. While EPA conducts a thorough literature search, there may be studies or other primary technical sources that are not available through the open literature. EPA would appreciate receiving information from the public to help inform current and future research and ensure a robust record of scientific information. Consistent with our commitment to using the highest quality information, EPA prefers information which has been peer reviewed. Interested persons may provide scientific analyses, studies and other pertinent scientific information. EPA will consider all submissions but will give preference to peer reviewed data and literature sources.[1]

Using the online method is preferred for submitting information.  Follow the online instructions at http://www.regulations.gov, and identify your submission with Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-ORD-2010-0674.

Additional methods for submission are:

  • Email:      Send information by electronic mail (email) to: ord.docket@epa.gov, Attention      Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-ORD-2010-0674.
  • Fax:      Fax information to: (202) 566-9744, Attention Docket ID No.      EPA-HQ-ORD-2010-0674.
  • Mail:      Send information by mail to: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA      Docket Center, Mail Code: 28221T, 1200 Constitution Ave. NW., Washington,      DC 20460, Attention Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-ORD-2010-0674.
  • Hand Delivery or Courier: Deliver information to: EPA Docket Center, EPA West      Building, Room 3334, 1301 Constitution Ave. NW., Washington, DC, Attention      Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-ORD-2010-0674. Deliveries are only accepted during      the docket’s normal hours of operation, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.      (Eastern), Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays. Special      arrangements should be made for deliveries of boxed information.

For further information contact Lisa Matthews, Mail Code 8101R, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20460; via phone/voice mail at: (202) 564-6669; via fax at: (202) 565-2430; or via email at: matthews.lisa@epa.gov

[1] Dated: November 5, 2012. E. Ramona Trovato, Associate Assistant Administrator, Office of Research and Development.  https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2012/11/09/2012-27452/request-for-information-to-inform-hydraulic-fracturing-research-related-to-drinking-water-resources#h-4


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Another City Bans Fracking


Almost exactly nine months ago on May 22, 2012, I wrote an editorial in the Fort Collins Coloradoan newspaper, Fort Colllins Should Ban Fracking. And yesterday, on Feb. 19, a sharply divided Fort Collins City Council voted 5-2 to ban fracking in the City of Fort Collins.

Nine months ago the conversation around fracking was relatively new in Colorado and few people and environmental groups were directly addressing it. Now, nine months later, very much has changed-fracking is in the news constantly, many environmental groups are engaged in the fight to stop fracking and the issue is escalating wildly throughout the public across the state.

What has changed in a mere nine months?

First, the threat of fracking has increased dramatically across the residential areas of the Front Range of Colorado. The Niobrara Shale geological formation underlies much of the landscape from Fort Collins all the way around suburban Denver and 150 miles south to Colorado Springs. The advent of horizontal drilling and horizontal hydraulic fracturing technology has allowed hundreds of thousands of acres of land to be leased and eventually fracked. Much of this land is squeezing up against suburban homes, neighborhoods and even schools, and those residents are speaking out in an increasingly feverish pitch. In fact, one of the biggest segments of the population speaking out as “fracktivists” is suburban mothers. And as we see in many types of politics in a purple state like Colorado, when suburban moms take up an issue, elected officials really start to pay attention.

Second, a few activists-in part let by retired U.S. Environment Protection Agency “whistleblower” and Gasland movie star Wes Wilson-started touring the state giving dozens and dozens of presentations to local government officials, local homeowners groups and local activists about the threat of fracking. These activists spent hundreds of hours (and miles) pressing the case that fracking is a serious concern, and left unregulated, fracking could turn many suburban communities into mirrors of Weld County, Colorado (in the northern part of the state) which has more active oil and gas wells (more than 18,000) than any county in the U.S. With those wells has come health problems, air quality problems, water pollution problems, water supply problems, social problems, real estate problems and financial problems. No surprise, but this exploitative extractive industry tends to take the oil and gas-as well as all of the money-and leaves local governments and people with pollution and financial trouble in its wake.   Read the full article here.

via Fort Collins Bans Fracking as Democracy Comes Alive in Colorado.
“If you don’t fight for what you want, you deserve what you get.” -Van Jones

Judge orders tobacco companies to admit deception

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – By David Ingram 11/28/2012.

Major tobacco companies that spent decades denying they lied to the U.S. public about the dangers of cigarettes must spend their own money on a public advertising campaign saying they did lie, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday.[1]

The ruling sets out what might be the harshest sanction to come out of a historic case that the Justice Department brought in 1999 accusing the tobacco companies of racketeering.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler wrote that the new advertising campaign would be an appropriate counterweight to the companies’ “past deception” dating to at least 1964.

The advertisements are to be published in various media for as long as two years.

Details of the campaign – like how much it will cost and which media will be involved – are still to be determined and could lead to another prolonged fight.

Kessler’s ruling on Tuesday, which the companies could try to appeal, aims to finalize the wording of five different statements the companies will be required to use.

One of them begins: “A federal court has ruled that the defendant tobacco companies deliberately deceived the American public by falsely selling and advertising low tar and light cigarettes as less harmful than regular cigarettes.”

Another statement includes the wording: “Smoking kills, on average, 1,200 Americans. Every day.”

The wording was applauded by health advocates who have waited years for tangible results from the case.

“Requiring the tobacco companies to finally tell the truth is a small price to pay for the devastating consequences of their wrongdoing,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an anti-tobacco group in Washington.

Read full story via Judge orders tobacco companies to admit deception – Yahoo! News.

[1] United States v. Philip Morris, Slip No. 99-cv-02496. (D.C. Cir.).

Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Genetically Modified Foods | Lawyers.com – JDSupra

By Lawyers.com author Aaron Kase

A Supreme Court case over a lawsuit brought by agribusiness giant Monsanto against a farmer for the use of patented seeds could have deep intellectual property ramifications for the nation’s burgeoning biotechnology sector. At question is whether the patent Monsanto holds over their “Roundup Ready” soy seeds extends to the self-replicated progeny of those seeds. The high court will hear arguments in Bowman v. Monsanto sometime during the current term.

Normally, purchasers of Monsanto’s famous soy seeds, which are genetically modified to withstand Roundup herbicide to make it easier for farmers to control weeds in their fields, sign a contract that they will not save any of the beans they produce for planting. Instead, farmers have to buy a whole new crop to plant each year from the vendor.

That’s exactly what Indiana farmer Vernon Bowman did since he began using Roundup Ready soy in 1999 — for his first crop of soy each year. However, Bowman also grew a second crop on his 299 acres after he harvested the first, and rather than shelling out the cash for Monsanto seeds he just bought commodity seed from a local grain elevator. For subsequent years, Bowman saved some of the beans he grew using the commodity seed to plant the next year’s second harvest.

The catch was, some 90 percent of soy in the region is Roundup Ready, so the commodity seeds that Bowman purchased already contained the genetically modified beans. That meant he was saving GMO beans and replanting them, which is what Monsanto had attempted to forbid in its licensing agreements. Monsanto sued, and won a $84,456 decision against the farmer in 2009.

Bowman appealed, arguing that farmers such as himself were free to sell their crop to grain elevators, with no restriction on how the elevators could then resell them. At that point, his attorneys asserted, the patent could no longer apply.

A lower court ruled in Monsanto’s favor, leading the 74-year-old farmer to bring his appeal all the way to Washington D.C.

via Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Genetically Modified Foods | Lawyers.com – JDSupra.