Feds barred from prosecuting medical marijuana cases

A federal appeals court has banned the Justice Department from prosecuting medical marijuana cases if no state laws were broken.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ordered the federal agency to show that 10 pending cases in California and Washington state violated medical marijuana laws in those states before continuing with prosecutions…

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but Congress has barred the Justice Department from spending money to prevent states from regulating the use or sale of medical pot.

Federal prosecutors argued unsuccessfully that Congress meant only to bar the department from taking legal action against states and that it could still prosecute individuals who violate federal marijuana laws. The court rejected that, saying that medical marijuana-based prosecutions prevent the states from giving full effect to their own measures…

Federal prosecutors could ask the 9th Circuit to reconsider the case or petition the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the issue. Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said officials are still reviewing the decision.

Marijuana activists and lawyers representing medical pot suppliers say the ruling is a significant addition to the growing support for broad legalization of the drug. Marijuana is legal for medicinal or recreational use in 25 states and the District of Columbia. In addition, ten states have marijuana legalizations measures on the November ballot…

Hey, it’s a HUGE election year. So, we have at least four choices among the two old parties: Liberals who support freedom to choose to partake of Freedom Weed; Liberals who fear the religious conservatives in their district and will cop out as usual; Conservatives enlightened sufficiently to consult scientists and physicians on matters of the Demon Weed; Conservatives in bed with every demented religious fundamentalist who promises to deliver a churchload of votes – and forgiveness for decades of corruption and fraud.

Obama said he’d let science – not ideology – dictate policy — [except for the so-called War on Drugs]

On Thursday, the Drug Enforcement Agency formally refused to reconsider its classification of marijuana, which is officially regulated as a dangerous substance with no medical value, alongside drugs like heroin and LSD. Despite a growing body of scientific evidence and changes in public opinion, the federal government has refused to budge on a 46-year-old stance borne out of the War on Drugs.

According to the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 61 percent of Americans support legalization. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws reports that eight out of ten Americans support medical marijuana legalization…

As public opinion moves in favor of legalizing pot, the DEA is clinging to the past — with little scientific evidence to back up their position.

Research has shown that pot has a multitude of medical benefits. And by reaffirming its position, the government has set back patients who relied on it for treatment for years.

Thursday’s announcement means pot will remain a Schedule I drug, defined as having “no medical value and a high potential for abuse.” That means the federal government believes marijuana is just as harmful as heroin and less harmful than cocaine. It also bars scientists from receiving federal funding and forces them to jump through hoops to conduct their research. Insurance companies are banned from covering marijuana treatment, so patients have to rely on the black market for treatment.

As of 2013, 78 percent of physicians in the world support the use of medical marijuana. In May, Ohio became the 25th U.S. state to legalize it. Even Congressional Republicans who have long opposed pot legalization recently vocalized support for more medical marijuana research.

And Republicans are more afraid of science than they are of democracy, non-white voters and women. More or less.

If Obama persists in saying he prefers science over ideology, how about opting for backbone over election year-opportunism.

The fact about climate change that must be repeated

The overwhelming majority of climate scientists — over 97 percent — understand that humans are the primary cause of climate change. This is one of the central facts about human-caused climate change that any climate communicator needs to keep repeating, for several reasons.

First, it’s true, as Politifact detailed on Monday. The scientific literature is clear on this.

Second, the ongoing disinformation campaign funded by the fossil fuel industry (together with false balance by the media) has left the public with the impression that there is considerable scientific debate on a subject where there isn’t.

When people are informed about the reality of the overwhelming consensus they naturally are more inclined to want to take action, as social science research has shown.

The thing is, by 2013, the IPCC’s summary of the science — which are notoriously conservative in part because they require line-by-line approval by every major country in the world — concluded. “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”

The IPCC defines “extremely likely” as 95 to 100 percent certainty. That is comparable to the confidence the medical and public health community have that cigarettes are dangerous to your health.

When push comes to shove, how much of your life do you want to spend arguing about whether or not the Earth is round with some Flat-Earther who’s been pulling the Republican Party lever on Election Day ever since their grandfather said they wouldn’t go to heaven otherwise?

Just sayin’ – pick who you have this conversation with.

How to tell if conspiracy theories are real

David Robert Grimes, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Oxford who studies cancer, is familiar with conspiracy theorists. His mainstream writing for the likes of The Guardian and BBC News has included controversial topics that lend themselves to conspiracies, including homosexuality, climate change and water fluoridation.

“The charge that there is a scientific conspiracy afoot is a common one,” said Grimes, in an email interview with Live Science, “and almost inevitably those making these charges will descend into accusing one of shilling or being an agent of some malignant entity…”

For this new study, Grimes considered four common conspiracy beliefs: that NASA faked the 1969 moon landing during the Apollo 11 mission, that human-caused climate change isn’t real, that vaccines are unsafe, and that pharmaceutical companies are hiding cancer cures from the public. He created an equation to figure out how long these four cover-ups would likely last (if indeed they were cover-ups), given how many people are involved, the likelihood of leaks from the inside (whether on purpose or by accident), and how much upkeep would be required to keep everything under wraps.

Grimes then calculated the potential success of the four conspiracies that continue to garner support. He used the best-case scenario for the conspirators, where the fewest number of people are involved who could leak such undercover machinations…Using the same equation but modifying it to consider the need for added conspirators, the “lie” of climate change would last nearly 27 years if only scientists were involved in the cover-up, but under four years if scientific bodies were to take part. The vaccination conspiracy makes it to almost 35 years if it’s confined to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, but is revealed in three years and two months if drug companies are co-conspirators. The suppression of a cancer cure — maintained by Novartis, Pfizer, Roche, Sanofi, Merck and Co., Johnson and Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca — fails after around three years and three months as well.

Grimes is not idealistic about the impact of his study

“I think true believers will never change their views; in the words of Leon Festinger, ‘A man with a conviction is a hard man to change,'” he said. “While these people are ideologically deeply invested in a given narrative, I would hope that this paper might help the more rational people who have maybe heard some claims and want to ascertain if they’re probable or not.”

His main concern is the myths and conspiracies that could cause serious harm, such as climate change doubters and the anti-vaccination movement. As more people forgo vaccinations for their kids, so-called herd immunity — in which large numbers of people with immunity from a disease can shield smalls numbers of people who are not immune because outbreaks are unlikely — collapses. With this work Grimes is attempting to chip away at the less confident conspiracists and move them toward more science-based beliefs.

There still is no patch for stupidity.

More earthquakes hit Oklahoma — concern rises as wastewater injection continues


Local damage in Edmonds homes over here

A 4.2 magnitude earthquake struck north Oklahoma City early on New Year’s Day, the latest in a series of temblors in the area in recent days that has prompted state regulators to call for more restrictions on oil and gas operators.

No injuries and only minor damage were reported with the quake, which struck at 5.39am on Friday near Edmond, about 16 miles north-east of Oklahoma City…

The city of Edmond reported about 4,400 power outages in the area shortly after the quake, but it was not clear if the two were related and power was restored within a few hours.

The temblor is the latest of at least a dozen since Tuesday, when a 4.3 magnitude earthquake was recorded.

Oklahoma has become one of the most earthquake-prone areas in the world, with the number of quakes magnitude 3.0 or greater skyrocketing from a few dozen in 2012 to more than 800 in 2015.

Many of the earthquakes are occurring in swarms in areas where injection wells pump salty wastewater – a byproduct of oil and gas production – deep into the earth. As a result, state regulators have begun reducing the volume or shutting down disposal wells in response.

…the Edmond area has not previously been associated with the activity.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission issued a statement on Friday saying its Oil and Gas Division staff would have blah, blah, blah – to say on Monday.

Remember, folks. This is Oklahoma. Politicians oppose pretty much any policies not called for in the Old Testament. My experience in the oil industry suggests a few more buck$ will magically appear in campaign funds, decisions about sanity and safety will be pushed back until a disaster the size of a world-class tornado occurs. Even then, change will be managed county-by-county. Back-slappers with full wallets still rule Oil Country.

Grading the White House candidates on climate and science

In the “I’m shocked … shocked” category, a group of climate scientists graded the presidential candidates on their knowledge of accurate climate change science, and the Democrats came out on top, with the Republicans at best doing badly, and at worst humiliating themselves.

The study was done using anonymized statements made in tweets, interviews, and debates, which were shown to eight scientists. Hillary Clinton came out on top, followed by Bernie Sanders with quite high marks. None of the GOP hopefuls even got a passing grade…The highest being Jeb Bush with a meager 64/100.

The only surprise I got was that Donald Trump (15/100) did better than Ted Cruz (a spectacular fail of 6—yes, six—out of 100 points). About Cruz’s (still at the time anonymous) statements, climatologist Michael Mann wrote: “This individual understands less about science – and climate change – than the average kindergartner…”

Not to put any of the other Republicans at the front of the class. Bush’s tepid grade is hardly a ringing endorsement, and of course Trump’s bloviating borders on cartoon-level nonsense.

Incidentally, William Ruckelshaus — a Republican himself, as well as the first Environmental Protection Agency chief (appointed by Nixon and reappointed by Reagan!) — has in no uncertain terms condemned the GOP cohort for denying science for political gain. This much is obvious; it’s just gratifying to see another Republican say so.

Our courageous journalists and editors spend a great deal of time whining about whether or not they should confront Trump’s lies. Fact is – all the Republican candidates lie through their teeth about science in general, women’s health and climate in particular. In the latter case, we can stick with our suspicions about payoffs from scumbags like the Koch Bros. In the former, I’m not so certain. I think it’s just rank ignorance.

You have to wonder how some of today’s conservatives manage to father children they’re so out of touch with female biology.

Americans are finally eating less – Phew!

After decades of worsening diets and sharp increases in obesity, Americans’ eating habits have begun changing for the better.

Calories consumed daily by the typical American adult, which peaked around 2003, are in the midst of their first sustained decline since federal statistics began to track the subject, more than 40 years ago. The number of calories that the average American child takes in daily has fallen even more — by at least 9 percent.

The declines cut across most major demographic groups — including higher- and lower-income families, and blacks and whites — though they vary somewhat by group.

In the most striking shift, the amount of full-calorie soda drunk by the average American has dropped 25 percent since the late 1990s.

As calorie consumption has declined, obesity rates appear to have stopped rising for adults and school-aged children and have come down for the youngest children, suggesting the calorie reductions are making a difference.

The reversal appears to stem from people’s growing realization that they were harming their health by eating and drinking too much. The awareness began to build in the late 1990s, thanks to a burst of scientific research about the costs of obesity, and to public health campaigns in recent years.

The encouraging data does not mean an end to the obesity epidemic: More than a third of American adults are still considered obese, putting them at increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Americans are still eating far too few fruits and vegetables and far too much junk food, even if they are eating somewhat less of it, experts say.

But the changes in eating habits suggest that what once seemed an inexorable decline in health may finally be changing course. Since the mid-1970s, when American eating habits began to rapidly change, calorie consumption had been on a near-steady incline.

RTFA for lots more: details, trend, suggestions, analyses, food for thought as well as the foodie in us all. Long, detailed, enjoyable chunk of information.

Of course, if the Koch Bros bought Kraft Foods – instead of Warren Buffett – you could be certain their lobbyists would have Congressional Republicans denying the existence of calories, declaiming any thought of Americans responsible for weight gain under any circumstances. The NRA would require members to increase their uptake of candy bars. Every family values hustle this side of Colorado Springs would add a cooking show to their TV lineup featuring coconut cream frosting on everything from hot dogs to your morning coffee.