Category: Breaking News Written by Kevin Liptak/CNN News
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Barack Obama says that federal law enforcement agencies have "bigger fish to fry" than prosecuting marijuana users in Colorado and Washington, which voted in November to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
Obama made explicit in an interview to air Friday on ABC News that prosecution of marijuana users in the two states would be placed low on his Justice Department's list of law enforcement priorities, but that certain issues must still be ironed out as more states could pass similar legislation.
"This is a tough problem, because Congress has not yet changed the law," Obama said. "I head up the executive branch; we're supposed to be carrying out laws. And so what we're going to need to have is a conversation about, How do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that say that it's legal?"
In a statement Monday, U.S. Attorney John Walsh said that the Department of Justice is "reviewing" the initiatives passed in both states and that the department's "responsibility to enforce the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged."
"Regardless of any changes in state law, including the change that will go into effect on December 10 in Colorado, growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law," Walsh said.
The Justice Department is familiar with negotiating contradictory state and federal laws on marijuana. Aside from the two states which have legalized recreational use of marijuana, 18 states and the District of Columbia have allowed legal use of the drug for medical reasons.
Marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug by the Drug Enforcement Agency, meaning it's dangerous and has no medical use. Other Schedule I drugs include heroin, ecstasy, and psychedelic mushrooms. Medical marijuana advocates say it should be listed under Schedule II, comparing it to other prescription painkillers that have a high potential for abuse.
In California alone, more than 1,000 medical marijuana dispensaries are in business, employing thousands and providing state and local governments as much as $105 million in taxes each year.
But federal prosecutors are getting tougher. Last year, law enforcement agents seized 3.9 million plants in the Golden State and were poised to collect more this year.
Marijuana advocates say the attack collides with California's law and goes against a campaign promise by Obama to not circumvent the state's relaxed rules.
A USA Today/Gallup poll conducted after November's election indicted 64% of Americans felt the federal government should not take steps to enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in states where it has been made legal for recreational use.
A Quinnipiac University poll conducted between November 28 and December 3 showed 51% of registered voters nationwide thought marijuana should be made legal in the United States, compared to 44% who thought it should remain illegal.
CNNMoney's Jose Paliery contributed to this report.
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Last Updated on Friday, 14 December 2012 11:56
Category: Breaking News Written by Crains Detroit Business
On the heels of Gov. Rick Snyder signing legislation making Michigan the 24th so-called "right-to-work" state in the country, Forbes reports its seventh annual ranking of the Best States for Business indicates the state is on the right track.
All but one (Colorado) of the top 10 states in Forbes' ranking have right-to-work laws on the books. Of the bottom 10 states, No. 46 Mississippi is the only right-to-work state.
Michigan is No. 47 in the ranking, which is based on six factors: costs, labor supply, regulatory environment, current economic climate, growth prospects and quality of life.
Thousands of angry union members descended on the Capitol in Lansing earlier this week to protest new limits on the financing of organized labor -- a stunning reversal for the home of the United Auto Workers. Critics of right-to-work laws argue they lower wages and weaken unions, while proponents say they attract businesses.
Michigan suffered the worst economic contraction in the nation over the past five years, as well as the largest net population loss, Forbes says.
Snyder makes his case for "Reinventing Michigan" in an op-ed for Forbes. He writes: "Michigan businesses will realize greater efficiency and higher potential profits while partnering with a world-class workforce that will be free to decide whether union membership is right for them."
Utah heads Forbes' list for a third straight year. Its economy has expanded 2.3 percent annually since 2006 – fifth best in the U.S – versus 0.5 percent for the nation as a whole. "We have a very fertile environment for entrepreneurs and business," Gov. Gary Herbert said.
The biggest gainer was Indiana, whose adoption of legislation that bars requiring workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment was a catalyst for Snyder calling for similar action in Michigan. Indiana's job outlook has also improved dramatically, Forbes says. A year ago, its five-year employment outlook was the worst in the U.S., but now it ranks in the top half of states, according to Moody's Analytics.
Last Updated on Friday, 14 December 2012 09:52
Category: Breaking News Written by The Huffington Post
U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice has withdrawn her name from consideration for secretary of state, Brian Williams of NBC News reports.
"If nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly -- to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities," Rice wrote in a letter to President Barack Obama, obtained by NBC News. "That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country ... Therefore, I respectfully request that you no longer consider my candidacy at this time."
With Rice out of the running, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is widely believed to be the frontrunner to replace current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The Huffington Post's Sam Stein and Joshua Hersh reported earlier this month that Democrats were nervous about the prospect of nominating Kerry:
The concerns have nothing to do with Kerry's ability to handle the Foggy Bottom post. Nearly everyone agrees that he has the intellectual acumen and experience for the job.
Instead, Democrats said they worry that Republicans may be using the secretary of state fight as a roundabout way to regain a Senate seat the GOP lost this fall, when Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) was defeated by Elizabeth Warren. The anti-Rice gambit, some Democrats said, has the feel of a Republican long con.
Obama released the following statement on Rice's withdrawal:
Today, I spoke to Ambassador Susan Rice, and accepted her decision to remove her name from consideration for Secretary of State. For two decades, Susan has proven to be an extraordinarily capable, patriotic, and passionate public servant. As my Ambassador to the United Nations, she plays an indispensable role in advancing America’s interests. Already, she has secured international support for sanctions against Iran and North Korea, worked to protect the people of Libya, helped achieve an independent South Sudan, stood up for Israel’s security and legitimacy, and served as an advocate for UN reform and the human rights of all people. I am grateful that Susan will continue to serve as our Ambassador at the United Nations and a key member of my cabinet and national security team, carrying her work forward on all of these and other issues. I have every confidence that Susan has limitless capability to serve our country now and in the years to come, and know that I will continue to rely on her as an advisor and friend. While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character, and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first. The American people can be proud to have a public servant of her caliber and character representing our country.
Rice's potential nomination was marred by persistent Republican criticism of her response to the Sept. 11 anniversary attack on a U.S. compound Benghazi, Libya. She spoke on a number of morning shows in the wake of the attacks to defend the administration's handling of the incident, which led to the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. During her appearances, she described the attack as the result of a spontaneous protest stemming from an anti-Islam video, an account that was later found to be incorrect.
GOP Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) later emerged as her most vocal opponents, claiming that her mischaracterization of the attack was a sign that she was unfit to serve as secretary of state
Last Updated on Monday, 17 December 2012 11:20
Category: Breaking News Written by The Huffington Post
Michigan legislators approved legislation Wednesday that strengthens the state's controls over financially struggling municipalities and schools, despite strong opposition from Democrats.
Senate Bill 865, which would replace a law voters repealed in November, passed 63-46 in the state House, with several amendments added by Democrats rejected. Gov. Rick Snyder supports the legislation.
The Local Financial Stability and Choice Act gives financially struggling cities and schools a choice between an emergency manager, bankruptcy, mediation and a consent agreement. According to the Detroit News, those under control of an emergency manager could remove the state-appointed official after a year with a two-thirds vote and would have the ability to propose alternative budget cuts that could also be approved with a two-thirds vote.
Democrats say the new legislation is too close to PA 4, the law struck down by voters. Incoming House Democratic Leader Rep. Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) said in a statement that Republicans are "demonstrating complete contempt for the voters of Michigan."
"In November, 2.3 million Michiganders clearly demonstrated that they want transparency within their democracy and local control of their government," he said.
The bill includes an appropriation for emergency managers' salaries, making it a spending bill and therefore referendum-proof. According to Crain's Detroit, like PA 4, it gives EMs the ability to break contracts.
The administration in Detroit, which is currently operating under a consent agreement with the state, is likely keeping a close eye on the legislation. Earlier this week, the city's financial advisory board signed off on state Treasurer Andy Dillon's move to start a 30-day review of the city's books. That's the first stage of a process that could lead to an emergency manager being appointed to run the city.
The Senate is expected to review the legislation approved by the House on Thursday.
Last Updated on Thursday, 13 December 2012 13:18
Category: News Briefs Written by Matt Roush, WWJ
LANSING — With the holiday shopping season in full swing, the Pure Michigan online store offers Pure Michigan gifts for everyone on your list. Select items on the site will be on sale for up to 50 percent off through the holidays.
The store is at http://www.puremichiganstore.org/welcome.asp.
“We have a diverse and high-quality line of merchandise that really helps spread the Pure Michigan brand and lets people showcase their pride in Michigan,” said George Zimmermann, Vice President of Travel Michigan, part of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. “These are products that are made in the USA and in many cases right here in Michigan. With a portion of every sale going to support the Pure Michigan advertising campaign it is a great way to enhance our efforts to showcase Michigan as a national vacation destination.”
Holiday gift packages currently available include Cherry of My Eye, Good Michigan Morning, Michigan Apple Harvest, Michigan Blueberry and even a Michigan Hunter’s Snack Crate. Items such as pie filling, jellies, dried fruit, butter and more from Michigan farms, orchards and stores are packaged in hand-crafted wooden crates with the Pure Michigan logo fire-branded on the side.
Gift certificates for the store are also available for purchase and make a great gift for any fan of Pure Michigan.
Throughout the cold weather season the store will be stocked with apparel, including Stormy Kromer’s, perfect for staying warm while enjoying Michigan’s winter wonderland. Men’s apparel includes crewnecks and various hooded sweatshirts complete with the Pure Michigan logo. Pure Michigan-branded cardigans, hooded sweatshirts and crewnecks are also available for women, along with a variety of youth apparel.
Find unique gifts for the home including wine glasses, calendars, picture frames, coasters, cookbooks and puzzles. A Pure Michigan fire pit, cooler, umbrellas and even a spatula provide special gifts for those who love the Michigan outdoors. Gifts are deliverable to any address.
Pure Michigan merchandise is also available at retail locations across the state. Michigan-based Aco Home, Garden & Hardware is the latest retailer to carry Pure Michigan products in its 66 stores, as well as online. To find a Michigan retailer that carries Pure Michigan merchandise near you visit the Pure Michigan store locator online.
Helm, based in Plymouth, is the vendor for the Pure Michigan merchandise, fulfilling retail and wholesale orders. Helm is a leading provider of branded merchandise, fulfillment, and e-commerce turnkey solutions to some of the world’s largest and best-known companies. Established in 1943, Helm is also the nation’s largest provider of factory-authored automotive service and owner information. For more about Helm, visit www.helm.com.
Last Updated on Thursday, 13 December 2012 10:05
Category: News Briefs Written by WWJ
DETROIT (WWJ) - Detroit police are investigating a shooting that left one person dead and a second injured.
Police say the shootings happened around 5:30 a.m. on Cedargrove Street, near Gratiot Avenue and East McNichols, on the city’s northeast side.
When officers arrived on the scene, they found a dead man lying on the ground outside a home and a second man who was injured inside the home.
The injured victim was taken to the hospital and was last listed in temporary-serious condition.
Investigators are now trying to determine the circumstances surrounding the shooting.
No arrests have been made or suspects identified in the shooting. An investigation is ongoing.
The identities of those involved were not immediately released.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Detroit Police Homicide Unit at 313-596-2260 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK-UP.
Last Updated on Thursday, 13 December 2012 10:00
Category: News Briefs Written by Jaclyn Zubrzycki, The Huffington Post
As Michigan's Education Achievement Authority nears the end of its first fully operational semester, a battle rages over its present and its future.
The statewide school system, which took charge of 15 schools in Detroit this fall, has been the subject of disputes in recent weeks about governance, educational models, and equity in a city notoriously plagued by financial issues, depopulation, racial tensions, poverty--and low student achievement.
Michigan is among a number of states, including Tennessee and Louisiana, that have formed state-level authorities to manage their most troubled schools. The progress of those ventures is being closely watched by policymakers nationwide.
The controversy in Michigan came to a head late last month, in the wake of a Detroit school board vote that questioned the status of the city school system's state-appointed emergency financial manager, Roy Roberts. The city school board unanimously voted to withdraw from the statewide authority.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in the state House and Senate, in an effort to protect the authority, are pushing bills that would set it into state law during the current Republican-led session. The bill's authors and other proponents of codifying the authority say the newly created district, which serves about 11,000 Detroit students, could potentially improve the academic achievement of the lowest-achieving 5 percent of schools across the entire state.
Letter to Washington
The Detroit board's vote is unlikely to represent the end of the education authority, mostly because the statewide entity currently operates through a contractual agreement, signed by Mr. Roberts, between the 50,000-student city school system and Eastern Michigan State University, that Mr. Roberts, who remains the emergency financial manager, is unlikely to dissolve.
But the authority remains the focus of contention. A group of parents, university professors, and advocates for the Detroit public schools wrote a letter last month to
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and President Barack Obama listing concerns with the educational program, accountability, and governance of the authority, which was recently named a finalist in the federal Race to the Top district competition.
Some opponents have gone further in their critiques: The president of the Detroit school board, LaMar Lemmon, and community activist Helen Moore said in interviews with Education Week that the authority was a racially motivated attempt to dismantle Detroit's public school system.
The educational authority is so new that there aren't yet data to indicate whether it is more or less successful than the traditional system. Steven Wasko, a spokesman for the Detroit public schools, said that the lack of information argues against dismantling the authority.
"Given that the schools have been assigned to that reform district for just a little over three months, on what basis can it be concluded that it has not worked?" he said.
But advocates like Ms. Moore say the authority's beginner status argues against extending it through proposed legislation.
The Detroit school system was first taken over by the state in 1999, returned to local control in 2005, and handed to a state-appointed emergency financial manager in 2009. The lack of local control over the school system has long been a bone of contention.
State Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, the chairwoman of the house education committee and a sponsor of House Bill 6004, which would confirm the authority as "part of this state's system of public schools," said that while she believed in locally controlled schools, state legislators had a responsibility to address the problem of low-performing schools.
She said the bill had been modified to reflect some concerns. For instance, students in the authority were initially not required to take the same state tests as students in other schools, but now are. Another revision would allow schools to eventually leave the authority.
But the most recent version of the bill would still grant the authority the power to create new charter schools and authorizers, and would require the regular Detroit school system to lease or sell buildings to the authority.
The authority's learning model and its use of a computer program called Buzz have also come into question. The program in Detroit is similar to an effort that authority Chancellor John Covington installed while he was the superintendent of the 17,000-student Kansas City, Mo., school system, which abandoned the model soon after Mr. Covington left in 2011.
But Detroit teacher Brooke Harris, testifying before state legislators, said the program was "not innovative, and not student-centered."
In an interview, Mr. Covington said that the online program "does not drive the curriculum of the authority of Michigan," which he described as a blended learning program.
Anecdotal evidence on the new instructional program is also mixed. K.C. Wilbourn, who is in her fourth year as the principal at Detroit's Denby High School, said that when she first learned that Denby would become part of the authority she was "devastated." But Ms. Wilbourn said working with Mr. Covington has been a pleasant surprise. "I can share thoughts without consequences, and that to me is priceless," she said.
This year, 75 percent of the staff is new, and 25 percent were provided by Teach For America, the nonprofit group that places teachers in high-need schools.
"It's been good for the children because it's been good for its leader," Ms. Wilbourn said.
Meanwhile, at Mumford High School, also within the authority, Ms. Harris said her school had struggled this year with logistical problems. Her classes had as many as 45 students, and two classes only recently gained access to Buzz after being delayed by technical issues. Rescheduling this month brought Ms. Harris's class sizes down to 33.
The Urban League's Mr. Anderson said "we're interested in what's happening to improve education in the state, but the jury's still out on whether the [authority is] the best way or not." ___
Last Updated on Thursday, 13 December 2012 09:47
Category: Breaking News Written by Laura Bassett, The Hufffington Post
The Michigan Senate passed its version of a controversial abortion bill on Wednesday that would regulate abortion clinics as surgical centers, require doctors to screen women for coercion before providing them abortions and restrict the use of telemedicine to prescribe abortion medication. The "super-bill," passed by a Senate vote of 27 to 10 after the state House of Representatives passed its version last week, is likely to drastically limit women's access to abortion in Michigan.
House Bill 5711 has been the subject of heated protests since it was first introduced in June. Republican supporters of the bill argue that it protects women's health, while Democrats and reproductive-rights advocates charge that it simply aims to restrict women's reproductive freedom.
The bill imposes strict building regulations on abortion clinics, such as specific square-footage minimums and hallway widths, which could prevent many clinics from being able to legally operate without costly and extensive renovations. It also bans the use of telemedicine to prescribe medication abortions, though it is often the only alternative for many women in rural and medically under-served areas of the state.
A third provision of the bill requires doctors to ask women probing questions to ensure they haven't been forced to choose abortion.
The House will now review the final version of the bill before sending it to Gov. Rick Snyder (R), who is expected to sign.
"Michigan's public officials were elected to stand up for women's health and rights, not to trample them," said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "We strongly urge Governor Snyder to reject this attack on women's constitutionally-protected rights."
Last Updated on Thursday, 13 December 2012 12:17
Category: Breaking News Written by Felicia Sonmez, David A. Fahrenthold, Washington Post
LANSING, Mich. — The conservative groups that supported Michigan’s new “right to work” law — winning a stunning victory over unions, even in the heart of American labor — vowed Wednesday to replicate that success elsewhere.
But the search for the next Michigan could be difficult.
National unions, caught flat-footed in the Wolverine State, pledged to offer fierce opposition wherever the idea crops up next. They consider the laws a direct attack on their finances and political clout at a time when labor influence is already greatly diminished.
In addition, few Republican governors who could enact such legislation seem eager to bring the fight to their states.
“There is not much of a movement to do it,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett told a Philadelphia radio station this week, according to the Associated Press. His lack of enthusiasm was shared by two other governors who have battled with unions, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and Ohio’s John Kasich.
Right-to-work measures like the one Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed Tuesday allow workers to opt out of paying union dues. Advocates say the laws, now in force in 24 states, offer employees greater freedom and make states more competitive in attracting jobs.
“If Michigan can do it, then I think everybody ought to think about it,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. He said he thinks at least one more state will adopt such a law before the end of 2013, and listed Alaska, Missouri, Montana and Pennsylvania among the top contenders. “Very confident. It will happen. [But] I can’t tell you where the next one is.”
The boisterous protesters who had stormed Michigan’s State Capitol in Lansing on Tuesday were gone on Wednesday, dispersed after Snyder signed the legislation.
Only about 30 demonstrators stood in front of the building on Wednesday, their mouths covered in duct tape that said, “$1,500 Less.” The figure represents the difference in the average annual salary of workers in right-to-work states compared with states without such laws, protest organizers said.
Andy Schor, a Democratic state representative-elect, said the push for the right-to-work measure was part of “a national effort” by outside conservative groups to undercut union power. “We’re the next domino to fall here in Michigan,” he said.
Opponents of the law said they are considering their options, including a possible legal challenge and stepped-up campaigning against Snyder, who will face reelection in 2014.
In a telephone interview, Snyder — who had repeatedly said he would not sign a right-to-work measure — sought to explain how he had changed his mind. The first-term governor, elected during the GOP wave of 2010, said he had been encouraged by the example of Indiana, which passed a right-to-work bill this year.
But Snyder said Michigan’s labor movement was partly to blame for pursuing a ballot measure this year that would have added protections for collective bargaining. It failed, helping spur the push for the legislation signed Tuesday.
Last Updated on Thursday, 13 December 2012 12:11
Category: Breaking News Written by WWJ
LANSING (WWJ) - It could soon be legal to carry concealed weapons into Michigan churches, schools, hospitals and sports arenas.
A bill that would wipe out most so-called “gun free zones” is speeding through the lame duck legislature, despite some vocal opposition.
Randy Block from the group Michigan Unitarian Universality says the fast-tracked legislation did not get the consideration it deserves.
Block was among several who testified before a House committee Monday morning.
“If it really had the chance to be seriously debated, they wouldn’t come out of committee, but they’re being railroaded through the legislative process this time — and I don’t think that that’s very good for democracy or our citizens,” Block told WWJ Newsradio 950.
“It violates our religious principles that you should try to resolve things with love not hate,” he said. “People believe in peaceful resolution — and bringing a piece is not what we had in mind, I guess you could say.”
The House committee passed the bill on Wednesday. The full House is expected to follow suit, even as clergy members presented lawmakers with thousands of petition signatures from those opposing the legislation.
WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick reports political opponents have called it ”another example of this legislature over-reaching,” while sponsors of the bill believe the law will make citizens safer.
Under the new law, people who concealed carry in gun-free zones would have to get enhanced training beyond basic requirements and spend additional time at the gun range. “Open carry” in those areas would remain prohibited.
The state Senate approved the bill last month. It’s not clear of Gov. Rick Snyder plans to sign it.
Last Updated on Thursday, 13 December 2012 09:16
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- Detroit Begins A New Chapter as Detroit Bankruptcy is Allowed to Proceed (1)
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