Chris Christie Administration Facing New Criminal Investigation

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This is not been a good year for Governor Christie . He did not even show up in the top five of the Iowa straw poll and allegations of wrongdoing in administration are never ending. He doesn’t look like a front front-runner anymore.
AVB
ABC News
By JOSH MARGOLIN (@JoshMargolin) and SHUSHANNAH WALSHE (@shushwalshe)
Feb 5, 2015, 6:07 PM
Federal authorities have launched a criminal investigation into New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, as well as members of his administration, a man at the center of the investigation told ABC News.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Faces New Scrutiny from Feds
Matt Rourke/AP Photo
The U.S. attorney’s office in New Jersey has interviewed former Hunterdon County Assistant Prosecutor Bennett Barlyn, who claims he was fired because he objected to Christie officials dismissing indictments against political allies of the governor. Barlyn confirmed the investigation to ABC News. It was first reported by the International Business Times.

“It is true,” Barlyn told ABC News, saying he was interviewed by federal authorities at his Pennsylvania home this week. “I also provided the investigators with names of people I thought could furnish firsthand information.”

Barlyn said he was not sure whether others have been questioned for the investigation.

Barlyn was dismissed from the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office in September 2010 and later brought a whistleblower case against the Christie administration that currently is in the discovery phase. He has consistently said he was fired for objecting to the quashing of indictments against the county’s sheriff and two subordinates — all political supporters of Christie’s.

The governor’s office previously has dismissed the accusations as being “conspiratorial nonsense.”

State officials have repeatedly denied Barlyn’s accusations and, in court filings, they said that the decision to dismiss the indictment was within the discretion of New Jersey’s top law-enforcement officials. They have argued Barlyn has no case and doesn’t even have the right to sue under state law.

The federal prosecutor’s probe centers on why Christie’s then-attorney general, Paula Dow, dismissed the indictments.

Dow has rejected Barlyn’s accusations, saying the indictment was flawed and Barlyn was fired for “legitimate business reasons,” according to NJ.com.

In a February 2014 interview, Barlyn outlined some of his grievances. He told ABC News’ Jim Avila that all the evidence his former office obtained during its “two-year investigation was suddenly shipped back to [the state capital] Trenton. … physically taken out of our office and taken to the attorney general’s office.”

He called it “highly unusual,” adding, “The head of our special investigations unit who was heading the investigation was very abruptly taken off the case two weeks before the dismissal.”

Barlyn called the relationships between those being investigated and Christie “compelling,” adding “there’s simply photographic evidence” showing Christie “associating with these individuals.”

In the interview, Barlyn claimed he was fired for “political reasons.” He said the state attorney general gave him no explanation for his dismissal.

“I asked for one and was told that I wasn’t entitled to an explanation,” Barlyn said. “I gave up my access to the building. I returned home again completely in the dark although I had a feeling of what precipitated the dismissal. My Internet connection to the office was cut off. And three weeks later I received a one-page faxed dismissal letter from the director of the Division of Criminal Justice. Again, no reason was given of why I was terminated after 18 years of being … a state and county prosecutor with a pretty good rep.”

Barlyn added that he feels like he was “treated in a way that sent a message to my colleagues that if you complain, if you protest, if you see something wrong and speak out about it, you’re going to punished. There’s really no other explanation. I was afforded less due process than the criminals I prosecute for the most minor offenses. I wasn’t allowed to give my side of the story. I wasn’t allowed to justify what I did. I was simply hung out to dry in a very public fashion.”

Barlyn’s new meeting with investigators follows an April letter Barlyn wrote to New Jersey’s U.S. attorney, Paul Fishman, telling him “we have no recourse left at the state level to expose this administration’s serious breach of the public trust.” Barlyn then asked Fishman to “open an investigation to explore any potential violations of the federal criminal code that may have occurred in connection with the Hunterdon matter,” adding he had “amassed a substantial body of documentation that corroborates the allegations of criminal wrongdoing by the state.”

In June, Fishman wrote to Barlyn asking him to be in touch with his office about the case, Barlyn said.

Fishman’s office will not comment on the case and Christie’s office did not immediately respond to request for comment, but the potential 2016 presidential candidate has long denied involvement in Barlyn’s termination.

Sources tell ABC News this new investigation is still in the early stages.

New Jersey’s U.S. attorney is also investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closures scandal that has jeopardized the governor’s political future. The Christie administration is also being investigated by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, the Port Authority inspector general and a state legislative committee that is part of the Democratic-controlled New Jersey State Legislature.

Fight To Release Eric Garner Grand Jury Records Moves To Court

I think our country needs to take a hard look at the grand jury process and whether or not it is fair to those of lesser means. Over and over again we see the process not working for the disadvantaged.
In this case especially, you would think that transparency would be something everyone would want, unless they’re hiding something.
AVB

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The Huffington Post
February 5 2015

NEW YORK — A New York state judge heard arguments on Thursday over whether to release records from the grand jury investigation into the death of Eric Garner, the 43-year old unarmed black man who died this summer after being put into a chokehold by a white police officer.

Christopher Pisciotta, an attorney for the Legal Aid Society, argued to Justice William Garnett that the “public questioned the fairness” of the way evidence was presented to the grand jury by the office of Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan. In early December, the grand jury declined to indict New York City Police Department Officer Daniel Pantaleo in Garner’s death — a decision that sparked protests across the city and the country.

The Legal Aid Society acts as the city’s primary public defender. Pisciotta said that when his group’s clients face grand jury investigations, the proceedings generally last only a few days, and involve just a few witnesses. But the grand jury investigation into Pantaleo’s conduct, Pisciotta noted, lasted nine weeks and involved testimony from 50 witnesses.

“There is a perception that Officer Pantaleo was treated differently,” Pisciotta said. The attorney argued that releasing the grand jury records — which are typically sealed — would help the public determine whether Pantaleo received special treatment.

Four other petitioners joined the Legal Aid Society in seeking release of the grand jury transcripts: Public Advocate Letitia James, the New York Civil Liberties Union, The New York Post, and The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Thursday’s hearing pitted these groups against Donovan’s office, which argued that the records should remain sealed.

New York has stricter rules than other states surrounding the release of grand jury material. Last year, after a Missouri grand jury declined to indict the white police officer who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch voluntarily released the transcripts from the grand jury. The release of the documents raised concerns about how McCulloch conducted the proceedings.

At the beginning of Thursday’s hearing in Staten Island, Garnett said that New York state statutes required the petitioners to prove a “compelling and particularized need for disclosure” of the grand jury records.

Matthew Brinckerhoff, the lawyer representing James, argued that the records were essential for lawmakers across the state seeking broader reforms to the grand jury system, which has come under scrutiny since the decision not to indict Pantaleo. “This case has been the catalyst for widespread discussions of reform,” Brinckerhoff said.

In particular, James, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other local and state officials have all expressed interest in recent months in appointing special state prosecutors to handle cases involving alleged police misconduct or brutality.

James has argued that special prosecutors could help combat the perception that local district attorneys, like Donovan, have an inherent conflict of interest when pursuing charges against police, with whom they often work closely on other cases.

“It would not be responsible,” Brinckerhoff argued, for James to consider pushing for changes to the grand jury system without seeing the transcripts of the grand jury investigation into Garner’s death.

“You can’t reform a system if you don’t know what’s wrong with it,” he said.

In December, immediately following the grand jury decision not to indict Pantaleo, Donovan filed an application to publicly release a limited set of details surrounding the proceedings, citing overwhelming public interest in the case.

A judge granted Donovan’s application, which revealed only that 60 exhibits were admitted into evidence to the grand jury, which met for nine weeks and heard from a total of 50 witnesses.

Donovan’s office argued in Thursday’s hearing that the release of any further information, as sought by the petitioners, could jeopardize future investigations. Assistant District Attorney Anne Grady added that the release of witness testimony in particular would do “maximum damage” to the ability of prosecutors to assure witnesses that their testimony would be kept secret.

Brinckerhoff, however, countered that all of the petitioners in court Thursday supported releasing the grand jury records with the witnesses’ names redacted. He also noted that witnesses can never be fully assured that their testimony will remain sealed, since when grand juries return indictments, records from those proceedings are made public during trial.

Garner died on July 17 after being placed in a chokehold by Pantaleo during an arrest for selling untaxed “loosie” cigarettes in the Tompkinsville section of Staten Island. A video of the arrest — which went on to grab the world’s attention — shows the father of six screaming “I can’t breathe” 11 times before his body goes still.

The New York City medical examiner later ruled Garner’s death a homicide due to “compression of neck (chokehold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police.” NYPD guidelines ban the use of chokeholds.

Among those who attended Thursday’s hearing were Eric Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, and his daughter, Erica Garner. Last month, Garner’s family filed an amicus — or “friend of the court” — brief in support of releasing the grand jury records.

#EricGarner’s family leaving the #StatenIsland Supreme Court today. http://t.co/kr4T50QjpQ pic.twitter.com/6Nus9Q5rO0
— NYCLU (@NYCLU) February 5, 2015

“We’re standing in solidarity with justice,” Erica Garner told reporters after the hearing.

James was also in the courtroom Thursday.

“This is not about one incident or one death — it is about transparency and a moment within the public consciousness through which we can affect meaningful reform,” she said in a statement. “We know that the grand jury was impaneled for 9 weeks, a considerable amount of time even in cases such as this, yet not a single charge was filed. People around the world have seen the troubling video, and New Yorkers stand alongside the Garner family in seeking answers.”

Donovan — who is running for Congress to replace disgraced Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) — did not attend the hearing.

Judge Garnett said he will rule on the petitions at a later date.

UPDATE: Rep. Schock’s (R) senior adviser resigns over reports of racist Facebook posts

I wonder how the GOP feels about the governing now. When you govern light shine brightly upon you, and they obviously have many things in their closets.
AVB
The Washington Post
By Colby Itkowitz
February 5 at 3:18 PM 

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In this Jan. 9, 2015, file photo, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, walks with Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Update at 3:15 p.m.: Our colleague Ed O’Keefe has confirmed that Benjamin Cole, 38, a senior adviser to Rep. Aaron Schock for about a year, resigned Thursday.

In a statement to the Journal Star in Peoria, Schock said, “I am extremely disappointed by the inexcusable and offensive online comments made by a member of my staff. I would expect better from any member of my team. Upon learning about them I met with Mr. Cole and he offered his resignation which I have accepted.”

First the liberal news site Think Progress posted a series of more than year-old racially-charged Facebook posts by Rep. Aaron Schock’s senior adviser, Benjamin Cole. Shortly thereafter, Buzzfeed News posted several more.

In one post from October 2013, Cole compared people in his D.C. neighborhood to animals escaped from the National Zoo with the hashtag #gentrifytoday. A few months later he said he witnessed a shooting, saying “one of the hood rats on my street” got shot by “another hood rat.”

Buzzfeed found a post from August 2010, where Cole wrote that a mosque should be built on White House grounds, and responded to a comment on it saying “it would be nice for the President to have his own house of worship…”

Cole did not return request for comment.

Both publications shared a post from last month where Cole described having a run-in with a “black female,” on the street and filing a complaint with the police. But Buzzfeed included further comments to that original Facebook post, where Cole wrote that he was doing “my absolute best to put as many Black Criminals who live and loiter on my street behind bars.” He also called them “black miscreants.”

Think Progress also unearthed an article Cole wrote for Baptist News Global in November 2008 after President Obama was first elected – a reflection on the historic time, a generally positive take where he admonishes Baptist pastors for offensive attacks about Obama over the campaign. Though Cole, himself a former Baptist pastor, does admit:

During the course of the past year, I too have been forced to wrestle with my own prejudices. At times, I’ve joined the bigoted banter and helped to scratch the old wounds of racism. Yet on a quick flight back to Washington Nov. 5, I was able to get past my own persuasion about the political consequence of Barack Obama’s election and be thankful that America has become a place where a man with dark skin and an African surname can become president.

Cole began working on Capitol Hill in 2009 as a press secretary for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He went to work for Schock, who also started his first term in 2009, in early 2014.

Pentagon 2008 study claims Putin has Asperger’s syndrome

This man, formerly deep in the KGB, Soviet Union’s spy network has always seemed odd to me. He does not blink and rarely shows emotions. This study may explain much of why his behavior seems so odd to all of us.
AVB

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ABC World News Tonight with David Muir use this exact picture for this story

February 4 2015
Ray Locker, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — A study from a Pentagon think tank theorizes that Russian President Vladimir Putin has Asperger’s syndrome, “an autistic disorder which affects all of his decisions,” according to the 2008 report obtained by USA TODAY.

Putin’s “neurological development was significantly interrupted in infancy,” wrote Brenda Connors, an expert in movement pattern analysis at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. Studies of his movement, Connors wrote, reveal “that the Russian President carries a neurological abnormality.”
The 2008 study was one of many by Connors and her colleagues, who are contractors for the Office of Net Assessment (ONA), an internal Pentagon think tank that helps devise long-term military strategy. The 2008 report and a 2011 study were provided to USA TODAY as part of a Freedom of Information Act request.
Researchers can’t prove their theory about Putin and Asperger’s, the report said, because they were not able to perform a brain scan on the Russian president. The report cites work by autism specialists as backing their findings. It is not known whether the research has been acted on by Pentagon or administration officials.
The 2008 report cites Dr. Stephen Porges, who is now a University of North Carolina psychiatry professor, as concluding that “Putin carries a form of autism.” However, Porges said Wednesday he had never seen the finished report and “would back off saying he has Asperger’s.”
Instead, Porges said, his analysis was that U.S. officials needed to find quieter settings in which to deal with Putin, whose behavior and facial expressions reveal someone who is defensive in large social settings. Although these features are observed in Asperger’s, they are also observed in individuals who have difficulties staying calm in social settings and have low thresholds to be reactive. “If you need to do things with him, you don’t want to be in a big state affair but more of one-on-one situation someplace somewhere quiet,” he said.
Putin’s actions have been under particular scrutiny since early 2014, when Russian annexed Crimea from neighboring Ukraine. Since then, Russia has backed Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine while the United States and European allies have started a series of economic sanctions that have weakened the Russian economy.
USA TODAY reported in March 2014 about the Office of Net Assessment’s support for the research, but the Pentagon did not release the details of its studies. At the time, Pentagon officials said the research did not reach Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel or his predecessors. That is still true, said Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson, a Pentagon spokeswoman.
The Office of Net Assessment provides long-range plans for the Pentagon and helps shape future strategy. It has been particularly active in developing the military’s “pivot to Asia,” which has emphasized strategies to deal with China.
Connors’ team has done several studies on Putin for ONA beyond those from 2008 and 2011, Henderson said.
Connors’ program is called Body Leads. Military contract records show the Pentagon has paid at least $365,000 on outside experts to work with her since 2009. The two reports mention other work she and associates have done since Putin’s rise to power, including a 2005 study called “An Act of Trust to Move Ahead” and studies in 2004-05 and 2008 by movement pattern analysis pioneer Warren Lamb.

Both reports, the 2008 study of Putin and a 2011 analysis of Putin and then-President Dimitry Medvedev, cite Putin’s physical difficulties as shaping his decision making and behavior. “His primary form of compensation is extreme control,” which “is reflected in his decision style and how he governs,” the report said.
Military analysts first noticed Putin’s movement patterns on Jan. 1, 2000, “in the first television footage ever seen of the then, newly appointed president of Russia,” wrote Connors, who has been studying movement patterns for the Pentagon since 1996.
“Today, project neurologists confirm this research project’s earlier hypothesis that very early in life perhaps, even in utero, Putin suffered a huge hemispheric event to the left temporal lobe of the prefrontal cortex, which involves both central and peripheral nervous systems, gross motor functioning on his right side (head, rib cage, arm and leg) and his micro facial expression, eye gaze, hearing and voice and general affect,” the report said.
MPA’S HISTORY
Movement pattern analysis means studying an individual’s movements to gain clues about how he or she makes decisions or reacts to events. First developed in Great Britain in the 1940s by Rudolf Laban, a Hungarian movement analyst and dance instructor, the practice was expanded after World War II by Lamb, Laban’s protégé and a British management consultant.
Experts believe each individual has a unique “body signature” that tracks how one body movement links to the next. These “posture/gesture mergers” can lead investigators to learn more about a person’s thinking processes and relative truthfulness when combined with the person’s speaking.
Lamb, who died last year at age 90, believed the patterns were unique as DNA to each person.
Since July 2011, the war college had paid more than $230,000 to Richard Rende, a Brown University psychiatrist and specialist in the field of movement pattern analysis, federal spending records show. Rende received a no-bid contract last year for his work on the Body Leads project.

Indiana Senate Says Yes To Faith-Based Hiring By State Contractors

These are the same people who stand at the highest point in their town and scream that they want to uphold the Constitution. Why are we a country? Because our forefathers wanted separation of state and church. Discrimination being legitimised in the name of religion.
AVB

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Julia Craven 
The Huffington Post
Posted: 02/04/15 09:18 PM ET
On Tuesday, the Indiana state Senate voted 39-11 in favor of a bill to explicitly permit religious discrimination in hiring by some organizations that contract with the state.

Under the legislation, which would amend non-discrimination rules for state contractors, such organizations could “give a preference in employment” to people of a particular faith. They could also require all employees to “conform to the religious tenets of the organization.”

The bill appears to be confined to state contractors with strong religious ties, such as certain schools and hospitals. State Sen. Travis Holdman (R), who wrote the measure, pointed in particular to Indiana Wesleyan University, an evangelical Christian institution, according to The Indianapolis Star.

It all began with a federal judge’s decision to overturn Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban in June last year. After that decision, conservatives in the state raised concerns that business owners who opposed gay marriage would be forced to provide services for same-sex ceremonies.

Holdman’s bill is aimed only at organizations that take public moneys. But critics contend that it would still harm marginalized groups, especially the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“Once a religious institution takes public funding or bids on public projects, they should then have to follow the rules like public businesses do in regards to discrimination based on any trait — sex, race, gender, sexual and gender orientation, etc.,” Chris Paulsen of Indiana Equality Action told the Star earlier this week.

Holdman claims his bill is modeled after Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. Title VII provides an exemption for “a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion.”

“It’s not a legal license to discriminate,” Holdman told the Star. “It just says we’re going to pull ourselves in line with federal law that allows for this kind of carve-out, this kind of exemption, for faith-based organizations.”

The Indiana measure still needs to pass the state House of Representatives.

Similar efforts to pass so-called religious freedom legislation failed in several states last year. An Arizona bill was arguably the most contentious. The bill, which critics said would have allowed business owners to refuse services to LGBT individuals, was vetoed by then-Gov. Jan Brewer (R).

Brian Williams lied about his copter being shot down in Iraq

At first when I read this I thought it was another Fox News pseudo story. But in fact it seems to be the truth.
AVB

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Fox News
By Howard Kurtz
Published February 04, 2015
FoxNews.com

Jan. 10, 2010: Brian Williams from “NBC Nightly News” answers a question during the panel for NBC News at the NBC Universal sessions of the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena, California. (Reuters)
Brian Williams, the nation’s top-rated news anchor, has admitted fabricating a tale of being shot down in a helicopter over Iraq a dozen years ago.

Williams apologized on the air Wednesday evening, saying: “I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago.”

Earlier, the NBC anchor told Stars & Stripes, which broke the story: “I would not have chosen to make this mistake. I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another.”

Williams did not make the claim in reporting on the incident in 2003. But he inexplicably told the false story last Friday.

The admission raises serious questions about his credibility in a business that values that quality above all else. Williams is the longest-serving network anchor, his “NBC Nightly News” has been No. 1 in the ratings for nearly all of the last decade, and his comedic skills have led him to guest-host “Saturday Night Live” and become a regular on the “Daily Show.”

For such a high-profile journalist to acknowledge that he essentially invented a story that dramatized his bravery in a war zone is hard to fathom. Williams said he had misremembered the story and was sorry.

Williams repeated the tale last week as he was paying tribute at a New York Rangers hockey game to retired soldier who provided security for grounded helicopters while Williams was in Iraq in 2003.

“The story actually started with a terrible moment a dozen years back during the invasion of Iraq when the helicopter we were traveling in was forced down after being hit by an RPG,” the anchor told viewers. “Our traveling NBC News team was rescued, surrounded and kept alive by an armor mechanized platoon from the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry.”

But his account was contradicted by crew members of the 159th Aviation Regiment on board a Chinook copter that was hit by two rockets and small arms fire. They told Stars & Stripes that Williams was nowhere near that helicopter and two other Chinooks in the formation that took fire.

The anchor and his NBC crew arrived in the area west of Baghdad on another helicopter about an hour later, they told the newspaper. The chopper landed because of an Iraqi sandstorm and was grounded by weather for two days.

“No, we never came under direct enemy fire to the aircraft,” Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Miller, the flight engineer on Williams’ helicopter, was quoted as saying.

Some of the crew members on the Chinook that was hit were clearly upset with the anchor’s now-discredited claim. Lance Reynolds, the flight engineer, told Stars & Stripes it had been a “life-changing” trauma and “felt like a personal experience that someone else wanted to participate in and didn’t deserve to participate in.”

NBC trumpeted the Williams saga, airing a story on March 26, 2003, with the headline: “Target Iraq: Helicopter NBC’s Brian Williams Was Riding In Comes Under Fire.” But he did not claim to be in the downed chopper, saying: “On the ground, we learn the Chinook ahead of us was almost blown out of the sky.”

In a 2008 blog post, he again wrote that the “Chinook helicopter flying in front of ours (from the 101st Airborne) took an RPG to the rear rotor.”

That makes it even more difficult to understand why Williams would repeat the claim last week, only to have it shot down by those who were there.

In a Facebook comment, Williams said: “I spent much of the weekend thinking I’d gone crazy.  I feel terrible about making this mistake, especially since I found my OWN WRITING about the incident from back in ’08, and I was indeed on the Chinook behind the bird that took the RPG in the tail housing just above the ramp.  Because I have no desire to fictionalize my experience (we all saw it happened the first time) and no need to dramatize events as they actually happened, I think the constant viewing of the video showing us inspecting the impact area — and the fog of memory over 12 years — made me conflate the two, and I apologize.”

TransAsia flight GE 235 has crashed in Taiwan

This many crashes with what are remarkably safe aircraft all in the same area just seems to be more than just a coincidence.
AVB
Updated by Timothy B. Lee on February 4, 2015, 1:53 a.m. ET tim@vox.com

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TransAsia Airways flight GE 235 crashed in Taipei around 10:53 am local time Wednesday.
There were 53 passengers and 5 crew members on board the aircraft, according to Taiwanese authorities.
The authorities have confirmed nine deaths, according to the Guardian. At last count there were about 18 survivors and 31 people had not been accounted for.
The crash was caught on video
Someone driving near the scene of the crash (reportedly Twitter user @Missxoxo168) captured video of the plane with a dashboard camera.
For full article and video

Obama Budget Would Allow D.C. Marijuana Legalization

Although completely different issues the legalization of marijuana and gay marriage have taken a parallel course upwards in approval. I believe opponents of legalized pot are more afraid of the money that will be made and where that money may then in turn, will fund campaigns with, and not their own.
AVB

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The Huffington Post
February 2 2015
President Barack Obama’s nearly $4 trillion federal budget plan unveiled Monday includes fine print that may have major consequences for marijuana legalization in Washington, D.C.

Obama’s addition of a single word — “federal” — to his budget proposal may thwart congressional Republicans trying to block marijuana legalization in the district, and would allow the city government to move ahead with local laws regulating and taxing recreational pot.

“It is very much consistent with the administration’s stance that marijuana policy is a state’s rights issue and his statements in support of D.C. being able determine its local laws,” Dr. Malik Burnett, policy manager at the Drug Policy Alliance and vice chairman of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, told The Huffington Post.

The District’s non-voting representative in the House, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), said Obama’s budget proposal “demonstrated his support for D.C. to spend its local funds as it chooses and without politically motivated congressional interference.”

D.C. voters in November approved an initiative that legalized up to two ounces of recreational marijuana for personal use and up to six marijuana plants for home cultivation.

However, tucked into the federal spending bill passed by Congress in December was a provision introduced by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) that challenged D.C.’s ability to enact marijuana laws and aimed to block the city from spending funds to legalize or regulate the sale of marijuana.

That’s where Obama’s word-change comes in. By adding “federal” to his budget, the president forbids “federal funds” from being used to enact any “law, rule, or regulation to legalize” marijuana. That would leave the city free to use local funds to implement pot laws. The language change was first reported by Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority.

A White House official explained to The Huffington Post that the president supports the principle of home rule for Washington and believes Congress should not interfere with local decisions. While marijuana remains illegal under federal law, the Obama administration is committed to treating drug use as a public health issue, not just a criminal justice problem, the White House official said.

Multiple congressional Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), favor allowing D.C.’s new marijuana law to move forward. D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) submitted the new marijuana legalization initiative to Congress in January, ignoring the GOP effort to block the measure.

Washington’s government is mostly autonomous, but the U.S. Constitution gives Congress final say over the District’s laws.

If Congress doesn’t overturn D.C.’s current pot measure and Obama’s wording remains in the final version of his budget, Washington marijuana legalization could go into effect as early as March. Further city plans to regulate pot sales could begin with legal retail marijuana stores, similar to those already open in Colorado and Washington, opening by the end of the year.

Still, legalization in D.C. faces long odds. Congress has 30 days to review the D.C. Council legalization. Without congressional action, the measure automatically becomes law. That leaves Obama’s proposed budget. His plan needs approval by the Republican-controlled House and Senate.

The Affordable Care Act or Obamacare

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Have you noticed of late, the opponents of the Affordable Care Act no longer call it Obamacare. There’s a good reason for that, it’s becoming popular and it’s helping people. I had predicted when the word Obamacare hit the airways that’s the opponents of the Affordable Care Act would be sorry for having called it Obamacare. For I think this is going to stick for quite a while m as it is going to be a game changer in healthcare for the better, it will stick in its opponent sides like a boil. So you’re free to choose to call it the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare care but I think I’m starting to like the sound of Obamacare.
AVB