The chances of Washington State becoming the first in the US to legalize the sale of non-medical marijuana, via state-licensed retailers, seem better than ever. While Colorado and Oregon are weighing similar proposals, the Washington campaign for "Initiative 502" has the advantage of not facing any coordinated opposition. Polls suggest that I-502 enjoys a 57%-34% lead among likely voters, and the "Yes" campaign has so far raised $4.1 million.
I-502's heavyweight supporters include various former federal law enforcement officers and two former top federal prosecutors: Kate Pflaumer, a Clinton appointee, and John McKay, who was appointed by George W. Bush. With a combined 15 years' experience overseeing federal prosecutions, the pair recently filmed two “Yes on I-502” TV ads, in which McKay declares, “As the former chief federal prosecutor, I enforced our marijuana laws. I’ve come to believe they don’t work. Filling our courts and jails has failed to reduce marijuana use, and drug cartels are pocketing all the profits... Initiative 502 brings marijuana under tight regulatory control, generates new revenue for education and prevention, and...we’ll have more resources to go after violent crime instead.” So far the opposition to I-502 consists of an uncoordinated mixture of some MMJ patients—who oppose the strictness of the DUI laws included in the bill—and some law enforcement figures who continue to warn of the "dangers" of increased marijuana availability. The "No" camp has yet to raise any significant funds.
If I-502 passes, the effect will be dramatic. A system of state-licensed growers, processors and stores would be created—with a 25% excise tax applicable at each stage, which state revenue experts estimate could raise $1.9 billion for Washington over the next five years. Under the proposals, adults aged 21 and over could buy up to an ounce of dried marijuana; or one pound of marijuana-infused product (eg, pot brownies) in solid form; or 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquids. Strict quality-control guidelines would make all the cannabis subject to testing to establish its THC content. A "yes" vote could also bring a dramatic effect of a different kind, however: a head-on collision with the federal government. Leading national politicians of both main parties remain out of step with the public mood when it comes to marijuana legalization. The resulting clash could make the current federal crackdown on medical pot seem trivial in comparison. One way or another, things are likely to be very different in Washington State from next month.
Vice President Joe Biden is a well-known teetotaler, but that didn't deter Fox News hosts from accusing him of being drunk during last night's vice-presidential debate. The rumor was conceived during Fox's Sean Hannity Show, when the host suggested that Biden had been drinking bourbon before the debate. Hannity then took his theory to the internet, tweeting: "Is There Bourbon In Uncle Joe's Glass?" Other Fox News hosts then chimed in. Greg Guttfeld called Biden "the drunk at the bar," while describing moderator Martha Raddatz as the "unhappy bartender," and Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan as "the unfortunate salesman caught in the middle." Eric Boiling, co-host of The Five, tweeted: "Mr. VP Is Interrupting And Laughing.. Is He Still Drinking? #AA" And this morning on yet another Fox show, America's Newsroom, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee compared Biden to "a guy you meet at a cocktail party or some political event, an obnoxious drunk who’s loud and boisterous and interrupts every conversation." Biden has gone on the record about his decision to abstain from booze, due to his family's history with alcoholism. In 2010 he told the New York Times: "There are enough alcoholics in my family."
Still need yet another reason to quit smoking? Russian army private Alexander Kasatkin probably doesn't: not content to rely on deadly secondhand smoke, he almost killed himself and everyone around him in a catastrophic explosion. The hapless nicotine addict was unloading ammo from a train at a depot in the Ural Mountains when he finished his cigarette, carelessly flung it away, and sparked a raging inferno that involved the unexpected detonation of no fewer than 4,000 metric tons of artillery munitions. Miraculously, only one officer was injured. Kasatkin manfully owned up to his mistake, and could face up to three years in prison or a fine of about $30,000. In his defense, the incident was no one-off: Russian military depots regularly see fires that burn for days—which is what happens when you mix compulsory enlistment with a general neglect for fire safety. Over 50 people have been killed and 300 injured in similar incidents in recent years.
Iran's relationship with the US is "complicated" at best. But when it comes to fighting drug trafficking, the Middle-Eastern nation may be an ally, reports the New York Times. For decades, Iranian leaders have worked tirelessly to stop a flood of heroin and opium from Afghanistan to the Western world, their efforts fueled largely by a sense of Islamic duty to prevent drug abuse. Located on the world's most prolific drug hub, Iran seizes eight times more opium and three times more heroin than all other countries in the world combined, according to figures from United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. And experts say Iranian leaders want credit where it's due, as well as financial support from the US. “These men are fighting their version of the Colombian war on drugs," says Antonino de Leo, the Italian representative for the UN drug office in Tehran. "But they are not funded with billions of US dollars and are battling against drugs coming from another country.” While Afghanistan receives $40 million a year in direct aid for its counter-narcotics efforts, Iran has received only $13 million over four years, says de Leo, who also argues that the 100,000 NATO troups in Afghanistan should do more to help stop the flow of drugs across Iran's borders, where a reported 3,900 policemen have been killed. “Imagine if we just let all those drugs flow freely through our country, toward the West," says General Ali Moayedi, who leads the Islamic Republic’s anti narcotics department. "Then the world would understand what we have been doing here for all these years."
Perpetually troubled Lindsay Lohan can cause controversy at such a pace that it's hard to keep up. After all, even when Amanda Bynes' high driving was rated a perfect 10 out of 10 for danger by the LAPD, people were only worried that she might become the next Lindsay Lohan. But even by her own stellar standards, LiLo has just had one crazy few days:
At 4 am Wednesday morning she frantically calls her father, Michael Lohan, and unleashes an agitated stream of consciousness that may only make sense if you've closely followed the LiLo canon: she's apparently being kidnapped by her mother, Dina Lohan (who is seemingly threatening to throw her out of the limo), due to a fight over $40,000 that LiLo lent to her. “Dad, she's on cocaine, she's like touching her neck and shit,” she can be heard saying, adding that her mother is “like the devil right now.”
On Thursday morning she tells TMZ that she takes back all the things she said in that phone call, that her mom wasn't on cocaine and that her dad betrayed her trust in sharing the call with TMZ: "He doesn't know what it means to be a father. He doesn't want to be a dad." The fight with her mother? No biggie: "Daughters have fights with their moms. It happens a lot. It's normal,” she says.
Then on Thursday night she of all things endorses Mitt Romney for president: “I think unemployment is very important for now, so as of now I think [my vote] is Mitt Romney.” Tantalizingly, her other reasons seem set to remain secret: "It's a long story, but you're going to have to wait for that." Maybe it's because her tweet at President Obama—requesting he "cut taxes for those who need it: middle-class families, small businesses" and "those that are listed on Forbes as 'millionaires'”—has yet to be obeyed. Or maybe she's just afraid of finding herself on the wrong end of another Republican's wrestling moves.
Having terrorized the US for decades, Mala Salvatrucha (or MS-13) will now become the first street gang in the country to earn the official title of “transnational criminal organization." The US federal government has taken this unprecedented action in order to try to curb the gang's rapid growth. MS-13's new title gives the US Treasury Department the power to freeze any financial assets belonging to the gang or its members, and prohibits financial institutions from engaging in any transactions with members. It will also make it hard for MS-13 to use banks and wire transfers to funnel profits back to the group's leadership in El Salvador. “As the reach of gangs becomes more international, the seizing and freezing of assets becomes essential to addressing the violence that comes along with it,” says LA Police Chief Charlie Beck. Approximately 8,000 of MS-13's 30,000 members are believed to be operating across more than 40 US states. LA City Councilman Ed Reyes says that although the gang isn't as brutal today as it was 20 years ago, it still terrorizes businesses, residents and undocumented immigrants through its involvement in the drug trade, extortion and human trafficking. Other organizations that have received this "honor" are Japan's Yakuza organized crime syndicate and Mexico's Zetas—one of whose founders, Heriberto Lazcano, was killed by Mexican Marines last Sunday.