Infrared Trifid

The Trifid Nebula, also known as Messier 20, is a well known stop in the nebula rich constellation Sagittarius. Visible light pictures show the nebula divided into three parts by dark, obscuring dust lanes, but this penetrating infrared image, courtesy of the Spitzer Space Telescope, reveals filaments of glowing dust clouds and newborn stars. As seen here, the Trifid is about 30 light-years across and lies only 5,500 light-years away.

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Marijuana Wins Big|on Election Day

     (CN) – Supporters of marijuana legalization won major victories on Election Day, with California, Nevada and Massachusetts voting to approve recreational use of the plant.     Wins for medical marijuana initiatives in four other states also tipped the scale, making some form of cannabis use legal in more than half of U.S. states — even though it remains illegal under federal law.     Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML, which advocates for the reform of marijuana laws, has been working to get cannabis legalized in California for nearly 30 years.     “It was always my intent to get marijuana legal by my retirement,” Gieringer said in an interview Wednesday morning. “I’ll say the mission was accomplished.”     Gieringer touted a generational shift in America as the reason some form of cannabis is now legal in 27 states. Older Americans who largely opposed the drug are dying off, Gieringer said, and younger generations tend to be more comfortable with the drug.     “People have been around it now for a couple of generations,” he said. “They see it’s even quasi-legal as we speak because of the medical dispensaries that have proliferated around here for years. People have seen the sky hasn’t fallen.”     In October, a Gallup poll found 60 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization, the highest level of support since Gallup started tracking the issue 47 years ago.     Before Election Day, 19 states had legalized medical marijuana and four states authorized recreational use of the drug.     Tuesday’s vote makes medical cannabis legal in in 23 states, and recreational pot use legal in seven others.     States that voted to approve medical marijuana on Tuesday include Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota.     Arizona voted down a proposal to legalize recreational pot use with 52 percent opposing, according to the Associated Press. A margin of about 80,000 votes separated Arizonans for and against legalization as of Wednesday morning.     A proposal to legalize recreational pot use in Maine remained too close to call on Wednesday. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, approval had a slim 3,531-vote lead.     In California, 4.9 million voters, or 56 percent of the electorate, voted in favor of legalizing recreational pot use, according to the state’s semiofficial election results.     Under California’s new law, the nation’s largest state in population and economy will transition locally licensed medical cannabis dispensaries into state-licensed businesses that sell pot for recreational use within the next few years.     California stands to gain more than $1 billion in annual tax revenue and save tens of millions in criminal justice costs, according to a state budget analysis.     However, opponents have not given up their fight to block further expansion of marijuana legalization.     Kevin Sabet, executive director of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which opposes legalization measures, said he was feeling “optimistic” about efforts to stem the rising tide of marijuana legalization across the states.     “We won in Arizona,” Sabet said. “The overarching lesson was that if we could raise enough money early, we can win. Arizona was the only state where we were toe-to-toe with the yes side, and it’s the only state we started early in. In every other state, we were late and way outspent.”     In places like California, Sabet said marijuana opponents will now take their fight to the local level. Under the state’s newly approved Adult Use of Marijuana Act, local municipalities can still ban pot dispensaries from setting up shop in towns and counties.     Sabet said his group raised $1 million for a new Marijuana Accountability Project that will collect data on the impacts of marijuana legalization, empower municipalities to ban dispensaries and make sure “the industry pays for their damage.”     On efforts to legalize marijuana on a federal level, Sabet said President-elect Donald Trump promised to be “a law-and-order president,” and he thinks “all of the state legalization laws are up for discussion now.”     However, Trump has made statements in recent months indicating he would not challenge state marijuana laws.     The president-elect told Fox News this past February that he is “a hundred percent” in favor of medical marijuana. However, in that same interview with Bill O’Reilly, Trump also called issues with the pot industry in Colorado “a real problem.”     On Oct. 29, Trump told voters in Nevada that he thinks marijuana legalization should be “a state issue, state-by-state,” according to the Washington Post.     Gieringer, of California NORML, said his group has been pushing for marijuana legalization on a federal level for decades to no avail. The presence of “rock rip social conservatives” chairing congressional committees has blocked marijuana reform bills from making it to committee hearings, he said.     “The only thing our side has been able to do is pass budget amendments that bypass the committees,” Gieringer said. “I suspect there will be more budget amendments in the next congress denying the Department of Justice funding to bust marijuana.”          Results of Marijuana State Ballot Measures:     Here are the results for state marijuana ballot initiatives as of Wednesday morning, according to the Associated Press and semiofficial election results reported by the states.     In Arizona, 52 percent of voters opposed recreational marijuana use, with 983,500 voting against the measure and 902,300 in favor.     In California, 56 percent of voters approved recreational marijuana use, with 4.9 million voting in favor and 3.8 million voting against the proposal.     In Maine, it was still too close to call with 373,359 voting in favor and 369,828 voting against. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, legalizing recreational use was winning by a slim margin of 3,531 votes.     In Massachusetts, 54 percent of voters approved recreational pot use, with 1.7 million voting in favor and 1.5 million opposing.     In Nevada, 56 percent of voters approved recreational marijuana use, with 602,400 voting in favor and 503,600 voting against.     In Arkansas, 53 percent of voters approved medical marijuana use, with 581,200 voting in favor and 511,977 opposing.     In Florida, 71 percent of voters approved medical marijuana use, with 6.49 million voting in favor and 2.6 million opposing.     In Montana, 57 percent of voters approved medical marijuana use, with 264,200 votes in favor and 199,400 opposing.     In North Dakota, 64 percent of voters approved medical marijuana use, with 215,200 voting in favor and 122,400 opposing.

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House Boxed Out of Battle on Health Care Funding

     WASHINGTON (CN) — A federal judge looking at the funding lapse for insurers acclimating to the health care law has refused to let the U.S. House of Representatives intervene in the battle.     The United States faces at least 11 lawsuits related to the risk-corridor program of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.     Meant to be a temporary program that ran from 2014 through 2016 — the first three years in which the Affordable Care Act was in place — risk-corridor benefits were supposed to help insurers set premiums in markets flooded with millions of new customers about whom companies had little to no information.     The government was supposed to collect funds from insurers doing well, and make payments from that pool to those that are not. When funds owed to floundering insurers far surpassed what were collected, however, and Congress passed a December 2014 appropriations act that put risk-corridor funding in jeopardy.     Insurers waiting on their past-due payments in turn went to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.     Judge Margaret Sweeney noted this week that the U.S. House of Representatives is seeking intervention in one such suit brought by a company called Health Republic Insurance.     Though the Justice Department moved to dismiss this case in June, the House claims to have a separate argument for dismissal.     It says the DOJ made a strong point in motions to dismiss four of the other risk-corridor cases, but failed to raise these same issues against Health Republic Insurance.     The House wants to raise this point itself, but Sweeney shot the maneuver down Monday.     “The DOJ has ‘exclusive and plenary’ control over the United States’ defense of this litigation, foreclosing the ability of another government entity from acting on the United States’ behalf,” she wrote. “Thus, the House cannot separately assert a ground for dismissing plaintiff’s complaint that was not raised by the DOJ, especially under the auspices of an amicus curiae brief.”     As summed up in the 5-page ruling, the unspoken bid for dismissal argues that the insurers do not have a right to receive “risk corridors payments in excess of program receipts.”

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Despite Settlement, Lyft Must Face 2nd Labor Suit

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — A federal judge on Monday refused to dismiss renewed claims that ride-hail giant Lyft mislabeled drivers as independent contractors and denied them employment benefits.     Lead plaintiff Alex Zamora sued Lyft in May for taking a portion of primetime ride fees supposedly promised to drivers. Zamora’s lawsuit came as the ride-hail company was finalizing the terms of a $27 million deal with a nationwide class of drivers in a separate class action, Cotter v. Lyft.     Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria denied Zamora’s motion to intervene and block the Cotter settlement.     After the $27 million deal was preliminarily approved, Zamora filed an amended complaint with new claims mirroring those alleged in Cotter — namely that Lyft mislabeled drivers as contractors and denied them benefits, including reimbursement for vehicle expenses, meal breaks and overtime wages.     In a ruling issued Monday, Chhabria refused to dismiss claims that Lyft violated contracts with riders by not giving drivers the full amount charged for primetime ride premiums.     Zamora says Lyft “consistently claimed” that 100 percent of primetime ride fees, which it charges during high-demand ride times, would go to drivers.     The judge rejected Lyft’s argument that riders clicking through pop-ups on their apps, in which they agreed to pay premiums, did not constitute a binding contract.     Chhabria said the “clickwrap agreements aren’t categorically invalid” and that Lyft failed to explain how they lacked “the element of mutual assent.”     He also refused to dismiss claims of conversion and failure to reimburse drivers for vehicle-related expenses.     However, Chhabria did dismiss claims of fraud and tortious interference with prospective economic relations, finding the plaintiffs failed to adequately show wrongful conduct.     He also dismissed claims that Lyft failed to accurately record drivers’ work hours and denied them meal and rest breaks. He said the plaintiffs must articulate how Lyft required employees to report for work and impeded their breaks.     Chhabria also dismissed the plaintiffs’ claim for civil penalties against Lyft under California’s Private Attorneys General Act, finding the plaintiffs failed to exhaust administrative remedies by first filing a complaint with the state’s labor department.     All claims were dismissed with leave to amend.     It was not immediately clear how the $27 million Cotter v. Lyft settlement, which is scheduled for a final approval hearing on Dec. 1, might impact claims alleged in the Zamora suit.     Attorneys for the Zamora plaintiffs and Lyft did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment Tuesday afternoon.     Zamora is represented by Jahan Sagafi of Outten & Golden in San Francisco.     Lyft is represented by Rachel Meny of Keker & Van Nest in San Francisco.     The Zamora plaintiffs have until Dec. 15 to file a second amended complaint.

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