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Homeland Security Chief Does a 180 on Marijuana: First He Said It's 'Not a Factor' in the Drug War, Now He's Spreading Fear About It

DHS's Kelly takes hard line on pot in major speech, closing ranks with Sessions

WASHINGTON — Two days after downplaying the role of marijuana in the nation's drug war, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly changed course Tuesday, calling it a "potentially dangerous gateway drug" and saying his agency would continue to arrest and investigate those who traded in it in violation of federal law. "Let me be clear…

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11 Senators Call on Trump Team to Not Mess With Legal Marijuana

11 senators call on Trump team to allow sale of recreational marijuana

WASHINGTON — Eleven senators asked the Trump administration Thursday to allow states to tax and sell recreational marijuana. The senators wrote a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, reminding him that President Donald Trump said on the campaign trail that the issue of legalization should be left up to states. Eight states that have legalized recreational…

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Late night comics react to Trump's 'crazy' Thursday press conference

Late night comics react to Trump's 'crazy' Thursday press conference

For all the talk of division in the land, Donald Trump, it turns out, is bringing the country together, or at least the portion of it that is employed in hosting late-night talk shows. They all agreed Thursday night that the 45th president's first solo press conference that day was a spectacle worthy of much comment.…

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Congressional Cannabis Caucus Ready to 'Bump Heads' With Trump's Anti-Pot Attorney General

Cannabis caucus ready to 'bump heads' with Trump's anti-pot attorney general

WASHINGTON — Congress is forming a cannabis caucus with high hopes of protecting a pot industry besieged by fears of a potential federal crackdown. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican who is an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump, is helping to lead the creation of the caucus. He's pushing legislation telling anti-pot Attorney General Jeff…

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Marijuana Supporters Hand Out Free Joints Before Inauguration

Marijuana supporters hand out free joints before inauguration

WASHINGTON — As hundreds of people lined up for free marijuana in Washington Friday, Kareem Walker could hardly believe the sight. "They're passing out weed, man, it's crazy!" said Walker, a New Yorker, who came to the marijuana giveaway to sell T-shirts that bore a catchy phrase in honor of the day: "When they go low,…

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Pot Advocates See Some Hope in Attorney General Nominee's Vague Answers on Marijuana

Pot advocates see some hope in attorney general nominee's vague answers on marijuana

WASHINGTON — Marijuana legalization advocates struggled Tuesday to find hope in comments that Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump's nominee for attorney general, made at his Senate confirmation hearing about federal tolerance for states that have legalized pot. Sessions, who has been fiercely anti-marijuana as a U.S. senator from Alabama, has the power as attorney general to reverse…

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Vote on Sessions is "Make or Break," Pot Groups Say

Vote on Sessions is 'make or break' for marijuana legalization, pot groups say

WASHINGTON — Backers of marijuana legalization on Monday stepped up their pressure on the U.S. Senate to block the confirmation of Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions as the next attorney general. Sessions, a staunch opponent of legalization, angered proponents in April when he called pot "dangerous" and said that "good people don't smoke marijuana." Marijuana backers…

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Donald Trump's Call for 'Stop and Frisk' is a Recipe for Heightening Racial Tensions

How many stop and frisk arrests led to convictions in New York?

WASHINGTON — Would it help keep minorities safe in violent neighborhoods? Or subject them to racial profiling by police, and increase tensions between minorities and law enforcement? It's "stop and frisk," a police practice adopted in New York City, credited with helping bring down crime, and then amended after being ruled unconstitutional. And now Donald Trump…

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Congress Short-Changes Opioid Crisis, Passing Bill Without Necessary Funding

Opioid bill passes, but there's little money to act on its wish list

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Libertarian Gary Johnson Could Spoil the Southwest for Trump

Libertarian Gary Johnson could spoil the Southwest for Trump

WASHINGTON — Up against the least-popular presidential candidates ever, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party are getting extra attention. Both have been included in a series of polls and performed relatively well. And while neither may win any electoral votes, Johnson can still spoil the Southwest for GOP hopeful…

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Washington Is Losing Its Grip on Latin America

"State of Denial" is the title of Bob Woodward's famous book on the Bush team's road to disaster in Iraq, but it would have served just as well for a description of their Latin America policy. This week President Bush heads South for a seven-day, five country, trip to Latin America to see if he can counter the populist political tide that has brought left governments to about half the population of the region.

Carrying vague promises of a joint effort on ethanol production -- but no offer to lower tariffs protecting the U.S. market -- President Bush hopes to entice Brazil into taking his side against his nemesis, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. This is a fantasy.

President Lula da Silva of Brazil made a point of visiting Venezuela for his first foreign trip after being re-elected last October. There he presided over the dedication of a $1.2 billion bridge over the Orinoco river, financed by the Brazilian government, while he lavished praise on Chavez and gave the popular Venezuelan president an added boost in his own re-election campaign.

The Bush Administration's policy of trying to isolate Venezuela from its neighbors has only succeeded in isolating Washington. Last week President Nestor Kirchner of Argentina, speaking in Caracas, flatly rejected the notion that Argentina or Brazil should "contain President Chavez," who he called "a brother and a friend." In another thinly-veiled swipe at Washington, Kirchner said: "It cannot be that it bothers anyone that our nations become integrated." At the same time he announced that Venezuela and Argentina will jointly issue a "Bond of the South" for $1.5 billion.

If Washington is in denial about the political reality of Latin America, it is even more in denial about the economics. For twenty-five years our government has pushed a series of reforms throughout the region: tighter fiscal and monetary policies, more independent central banks, indiscriminate opening to international trade and investment, privatization of public enterprises, and the abandonment of economic development strategies and industrial policies. The Bush team thinks that these reforms, known as "neoliberalism" in Latin America, were just the right formula to stimulate economic growth.

But in fact Latin America's economic growth over the last 25 years has been a disaster -- the worst long-term growth failure in more than a hundred years. From 1980-2000 GDP per person grew by only 9 percent, and another 4 percent for 2000-2005. Compare this to 82 percent for just the two decades from 1960-1980, and it is easy to see why candidates promising new economic policies have been elected (and some re-elected) in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Uruguay, and Venezuela. They also came close to winning in Mexico, Peru, and Costa Rica.

The left governments that have introduced new economic policies have done pretty well: Argentina has grown by a phenomenal 8.6 percent annually for nearly five years, pulling more than 8 million people out of poverty in a country of 36 million. Bolivia has increased government revenue from hydrocarbons by about 6.7 percent of GDP, an amount that would equal $900 billion in the United States, and is using the additional revenue to increase to help its majority poor. Venezuela is also using the government's increased take of oil production to provide health care, education, and subsidized food for the poor. All of these governments have succeeded by implementing policies that Washington opposed.

President Bush will get a good reception from the right-wing governments he is visiting: his close allies in Mexico, Colombia, and Guatemala. Colombia is in the midst of a huge national scandal over the responsibility of government officials for mass murder and assassinations of political opponents. More trade unionists are killed in Colombia each year than in the rest of the world combined. Guatemala is another right-wing ally with a terrible human rights record: two weeks ago three Central American parlimentarians were murdered by a Guatemalan police death squad. All three governments have been linked to narco-trafficking, but President Bush will likely praise them for their co-operation in the war on drugs.

It's all about denial. The political and economic changes sweeping Latin America are a serious break with the failed policies of the past. Washington's influence has collapsed, and is not likely to recover.

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