Update On Malaysian Flight 17, Russia and Ukraine Tensions Rise at Border, Iraq Declared an Emergency, and The Ebola War Zone

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Dutch authorities have identified 127 victims from the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 disaster in Ukraine. The flight was shot down in eastern Ukraine last month killing all 298 aboard. The investigation suffered many delays due to fighting between pro-Russia separatist rebels and Ukrainian forces near the crash site leaving the bodies to decompose in the sun for a week or so. Eventually, the victims’ remains were gathered and sent to the Netherlands for identification. According to AOL, 127 victims identified from Ukraine plane disaster, the Justice Ministry Thursday said the identified victims’ families were notified. One of the Netherlands’ top prosecutors hops those responsible for downing the plane will eventually face trial in the Netherlands, according to confirmed remarks by his office, Chief prosecutor Fred Westerbeke, and the case will take years to build. The Netherlands and other countries have launched criminal investigations, while jurisdiction is unclear.

Meanwhile, at the Russian-Ukrainian border, Alexander Roslyakov reports, Ukraine: Inspectors checking Russian convoy, Ukraine said its customs and border service officials on Friday began inspecting Russian aid convoys parked just beyond its border addressing the mounting tensions over the shipments. Sergei Astakhov, an assistant to the deputy head of Ukraine’s border guard service, said the cargo will be inspected in front of the International Committee of the Red Cross representatives. Friday morning, a group of 41 Ukrainian border service representatives and 18 customs officials began inspecting the Russian aid at the Donetsk crossing, defense officials in Kiev said in a statement. Russian news agencies said Russia will present all necessary documentation and had over the cargo to the Red Cross. The 200 Russian white tarped trucks had been parked since Thursday near Kamensk-Shakhtinsky some 17 miles from the border where much of the border in this part of eastern Ukraine has been under the control of pro-Russian rebels. Russia sent the aid despite tentative agreements to deliver the aid through government controlled border crossing in the Kharkiv region. Ukraine fears that Russia is using the aid shipment as cover for a military incursion to help the rebels and threatened ti use all means necessary to block the convoy if Ukrainian officials and the Red Cross were unable to inspect them. A statement on President Petro Poroshenkp’s website said he and British Prime Minister David Cameron via phone spoke about reports from some Western journalists that Russian APCs crossed into Ukraine near the point where a Russian aid convoy was parked, according to the article, Ukraine: Some Russian military vehicles destroyed. No proof was provided, but the statement said: “The president informed that the given information was trustworthy and confirmed because the majority of the machines had been eliminated by Ukrainian artillery at night.” Andriy Lysenko, Ukraine’s Security Council spokesman, said some Russian military vehicles crossed into Ukraine, a charge Russia denies, but Lysenko provided no specific source for his information. NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Friday the alliance had observed a Russian “incursion” into Ukraine. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi and was set to travel to Ukraine on Saturday. After the talks, Putin stated, “we will do all we can to end the military conflict as soon as possible, establish a dialogue between the interested parties and provide humanitarian assistance.” Some Russian Military vehicles seen near the aid convoy Friday carried a Russian acronym that stands for “peacekeeping forces” which means Moscow could consider a possible military escort. Ukraine has warned Russia that an attempt to have a military escort will be seen as an invasion. Ukraine proceeded with its own aid operation in the Luhansk area as trucks from Kharkiv unloaded Friday at warehouses in the town of Starobilsk, which is 60 miles north of Luhansk, where the goods were to be sorted and transported by the Red Cross. Other Ukrainian aid was taken to Lysychansk, which was retaken by Ukrainian forced last month despite sporadic clashes until earlier this week. So far, fighting has claimed 2,100 lives with half of those in the last few weeks and began after Putin annexed Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in April.

Late Thursday, back in he Middle East, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced he will step down and relinquish his post to his nominated replacement, Sameer N. Yacoub and Qassim Abdul-Zahra report, UN Declares Highest Level Emergency In Iraq As Militants Battle On. Standing alongside senior members of his party, including rival Hider al-Abadi, al-Maliki said he would step aside in favor of his “brother,” in order to “facilitate the political process and government formation.” The United States, the u.N. and political faction in Iraq have backed al-Abadi, saying only a new leader can unite a country under siege by Sunni extremists of the Islamic State group. In a televised address, al-Maliki said his decision to support his rival reflect his desire to “safeguard the high interests of the country” adding, “My position is your trust in me, and no position is higher than your trust,” he declared in a televised address. In a statement, national security adviser Susan Rice said the White House commended his efforts for backing al-Abadi and expressed hope that the power shift “can set Iraq on a new path and unite its people” against the threat from Islamic militants. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the move “sets the stage for a historic and peaceful transition of power in Iraq. We urge Mr. Abadi and all Iraqi leaders to move expeditiously to complete this process, which is essential to pulling the country together and consolidating the efforts of Iraq’s many diverse communities against the common threat posed by the Islamic State …” The United Nations also welcomed the change, according to special representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, it “demonstrates statesmanship and a commitment to the democratic process and the constitution.” The U.N. Security Council urged al-Abadi to work toward “an inclusive government that represents all segments of the Iraqi population and that contributes to finding a viable and sustainable solution to the country’s current challenges.” Iraqis everywhere welcomed the announcement on Thursday. The extremist Islamic State group has moved across norther and western Iraq displacing hundreds of thousands of people from their homes since June and last week prompted the U.S. to launch aid operations and airstrikes as the militants threatened religious minorities and the largely automous Kurdish region. The U.N. declared Wednesday the situation in Iraq a “Level 3 Emergency” allowing for additional assets to respond to the need o the Displaced, U.N. special representative Nicoklay Mladenov said pointing to the “scale and complexity of the current humanitarian catastrophe.” The decision followed the news that 45,000 members of the Yazidi religious minority escaped from the remote desert mountaintop where they were encircled by Islamic State fighters. The U.N. said it would provide increased support to the Yazidis and to 400,000 Iraqis who fled since June to the Kurdish province of Dahuk. In total, 1.5 million people have been displaced by fighting. French President Francois Hollande Thursday confirmed the “imminent delivery of military equipment” to Kurdish forces via phone call to the new Iraqi president, Fouad Massoum, according to Hollande’s office. On Thursday, according to Robert Burns and Julie Pace, Obama: No Iraq rescue; further airdrops unlikely, President Barack Obama said the humanitarian crisis atop the barren hill in northern Iraq is over thus no U.S. rescue mission is necessary, however, Iraqis elsewhere face dire threats from advancing Islamic army. A U.S. military and civilian team of 16 people spent Wednesday atop Sinjar Mountain to assess the conditions for a possible evacuation, but reported the number trapped to be 4,000 and that U.S. supplied food and water to those in need in recent days totaling 114,000 meals and 35,000 gallons of water. The U.S.Central Command said late Wednesday four cargo planes dropped 108 bundles of food and water to the remaining people making it the seventh delivery of food and water since the relief operation began last week.

In West Africa, the Ebola outbreak has killed 1,000 and could last another six months, according to Doctors Without Borders said Friday, with the true death toll unknown, Sarah Dilorenzo and John Heilprin report, Aid group: W. Africa Ebola outbreak like ‘wartime’. Tarnue Karbbar, working for the aid group Plan International in northern Liberia, said response teams are unable to document all the cases erupting as many of the sick are still being hidden at home by relatives fearful of going to treatment centers. Others are buried before the team gets to the areas. In the last several days, some 75 cases have emerged in the Voinjama district with Karbbar saying the challenge now is “to quarantine the area to successfully break the transmission.” Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for World Health Organization in Geneva, said the beds are filling up faster than expected demonstrating that the outbreak is more severe than the number shows. Joanne Liu, the medical charity’s international president, likened the situation to war as the outbreak has continued to move unpredictably telling reporters in Geneva Friday: “We’re running behind a train that is going forward. And it literally is faster than what we’re bringing in terms of a response.” The U.N. health agency Thursday warned that the official count at 1,069 dead and 1,975 infected may still “vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak.” It said extraordinary measures are needed “on a massive scale to contain the outbreak in settings characterized by extreme poverty, dysfunctional health systems, a severe shortage of doctors, and rampant fear.” Liberian officials faced a difficult choice Thursday deciding who receives an experimental drug that could be live saving, ineffective or harmful. Jonathan Paye-Layleh and Sarah DiLorenzo report, Nigeria Confirms 1 More Ebola Case, ZMapp, the untested Ebola drug, arrived in the country late Wednesday, however a day later no one has received the treatment yet which official said would go to three people. The Liberian government said two doctors would receive the treatment, while Information Minister Lewis Brown said Thursday the remaining dose would probably go to another health care worker. These are the last known doses of the drug and San Diego based company who developed it said it would take months to build a modest supply. The outbreak has sparked an international debate over the ethics of giving untested drugs to the sick and deciding who gets the treatments, since two Americans and one Spaniard have received ZMapp with the Spaniard dying within days. According to the U.N. health agency, 50 percent of those infected with Ebola have died. Dr. Moses Massaquoi, who helped Libria obtain the drug, said: “The criteria of selection is difficult, but it is going to be done. We are going to look at how critical people are. We are definitely going to be focusing on medical staff.” Arthur Caplan, director of medial ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, said the choice of who to treat would have to balance helping the largest number of people with learning the most from the treatments. Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department ordered families of embassy personnel to leave Sierra Leone on Thursday as concerns arise that the crisis would make it difficult to receive treatment for routine health problems. Nigeria announced Thursday that another person died from Ebola, bringing the total to four. The Health Ministry said the person was a nurse who helped treat the country’s first Ebola case, Liberian-American Patrick Sawyer who flew in last month and died. The ministry corrected the number of cases from 11 to 10.

The Worst Ebola Outbreak In History

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Reuters reports as of June 26 Thursday (Ebola outbreak: Drastic action needed to halt worst outbreak) that the outbreak originating in Guinea has now crossed into more countries forcing the World Health Organization to take action to halt the deadly epidemic. While the efforts of national health authorities and international aid organizations have tried to contain the spread of the virus, the WHO has found that the virus has infected 635 people including 399 deaths since February in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. This crisis has become the deadliest outbreak since Ebola emerged on the scene in central Africa in 1976 and the numbers continue to rise. The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Luis Sambo, in a statement explained: “This is no longer a country specific outbreak but a sub-regional crisis that requires firm action by governments and partners…WHO is gravely concerned by the on-going cross-border transmission into neighboring countries as well as the potential for further international spread.” As a result, the WHO will convene a special meeting of health ministers from 11 countries in Accra, Ghana on July 2 and 3 to discuss and plan a comprehensive inter-country response plan, Reuters reports.

Ebola has not been previously found in the West Africa region leading many people to blame health facilities for importing and spreading the virus which has no vaccine or cure and carries a 90 percent fatality rate.  The virus symptoms include raging fever, headache, muscle pain, conjunctivitis and weakness with more severe phases including vomiting, diarrhea, and internal and eternal hemorrhaging. Sambo said, “There is an urgent need to intensify response efforts; to promote cross-border collaboration and information sharing of suspected cases and contacts…and to mobilise all sectors of the community. This is the only way that the outbreak will be effectively addressed.” Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) stated this week that a lack of understanding of the virus has lead to people continuing to prepare corpses and attend funeral of victims which allows the transmission through bodily fluids and touch. MSF accuses civil society groups, governments and religious authorities of failing to understand the scale of the epidemic leading to a delayed reaction in addressing how to fight the disease.

Allegations of A Continued Cover Up at Phoenix VA

PHOENIX, AZ  - JUNE 5:   New Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson.  (Photo by Laura Segall/Getty Images)

PHOENIX, AZ – JUNE 5: New Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson. (Photo by Laura Segall/Getty Images)

At the Center of the nationwide scandal, the Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix has had an employee, scheduling clerk Pauline DeWenter, come forward claiming that an ongoing cover up of patients death have occurred and she had maintained a private list of veterans who waited months for appointments. According to the Arizona Republic on June 23, 2014 and the interview DeWenter did with CNN, she has spoken to the VA Office of Inspector General investigators about the list, turned over evidence and reported her suspicions of cover up. DeWenter claims someone change entries on the electronic appointment records of veterans who died while waiting for care from “deceased”  which she entered to “entered in error” and “no longer needed” with some being made in recent weeks. DeWenter further describes that a Phoenix VA Medical Center supervisor told her to gather new patient appointment request and put them in her desk due to the overwhelming influx of patients in early 2013. She further claims that more than 1,000 veterans were placed on the private list and remained there for weeks or months because they couldn’t be scheduled within the 14 day goal for wait times. She objected to doing so but was forced to by the Phoenix VA director Sharon Helman in an effort to cut wait times. At a congressional hearing last Monday, Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., asked VA officials including assistant deputy undersecretary Thomas Lynch if the VA was aware of these claims during the four visits made to the Phoenix facility. Lynch replied, “I’m not aware of the revelation. I am aware that the OIG is looking carefully at all of the deaths that have occurred. I do not know of any attempts to hide deaths, congresswoman.”

Dr. Sam Foote, the retired VA physician who exposed the practice earlier this year, has kept in communication with DeWenter since December about the waiting list and questions why the VA left the former hospital management in place after the problems were found. While the appointment delay issue was first discovered in Phoenix, it was discovered that the issue is widespread throughout the VA nationwide. The VA, serving 9 million veterans, has struggled to deal with the mounting evidence that workers falsified reports on wait times in an effort to cover up long delays in medical appointments. An internal audit found that more than 57,000 new applicants have had to wait three months for their first appointment, while an additional 64,000 newly enrolled vets never got them. The director of the Phoenix VA, Sharon Helman has gone on administrative leave and the FBI has launched a criminal investigation of the facility. Back in Congress, both the House and Senate have passed legislation requiring the VA to pay private providers to treat qualifying veterans who can’t get a prompt appointment. Each chamber has appointed committees to deal with the differences in the two bills with lawmakers meeting Tuesday.

A Friendlier 420 Government

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On Tuesday June 24, 2014, HuffPost reported that the Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing the medical evidence associated with the safety and effectiveness of marijuana in an effort to possibly downgrade the classification of the drug as a Schedule I drug which is the most dangerous. As Matt Ferner explains in the article, FDA To Evaluate Marijuana For Potential Reclassification As Less Dangerous Drug, the recent review of the drug was at the behest of the Drug Enforcement Agency according to the FDA Press Officer, Jeff Ventura. Ventura describes the process to Ferner as follows: “FDA conducts for Health and Human Services a scientific and medical analysis of the drug under consideration, which is currently ongoing. HHS then recommends to DEA that the drug be placed in a given schedule. DEA considers HHS’ analysis, conducts its own assessment, and makes a final scheduling proposal in the form of a proposed rule.”

The United States currently has five schedules for drugs or chemicals to make those drugs. Schedule I covers those drugs the DEA regards as the highest potential for abuse with no medical use such as heroin and LSD. While rescheduling would not legalize marijuana, it could allow for more research into the drug as well as allow banks to feel more secure about lending to state legalize marijuana businesses. During a Friday House Committee hearing on Oversight and Government Reform, FDA Deputy Director Doug Throckmorton stated, “While DEA is the lead federal agency responsible for regulating controlled substances and enforcing the Controlled Substances Act, FDA, working with NIDA, provides scientific recommendations about the appropriate controls for those substances. To make these recommendations, FDA is responsible for preparing what’s called an eight-factor analysis, which is a document that is used to assess how likely a drug is to be abused. There are eight factors the FDA must consider when deciding which schedule marijuana falls under (as described by the CSA):

  1. Its actual or relative potential for abuse
  2. Scientific evidence of its pharmacological effect, if known
  3. The state of current scientific knowledge regarding the drug or other substance
  4. Its history and current pattern of abuse
  5. The scope, duration, and significance of abuse
  6. What, if any, risk there is to the public health
  7. Its psychic or physiological dependence liability
  8. Whether the substance is an immediate precursor of a substance already controlled under this subchapter

The reason for the current review, as explained to HuffPost by a DEA spokeswoman, is due to two public citizens who petition the agency for review. If the review favors rescheduling and the DEA approves, marijuana could be moved to a Schedule II drug like cocaine and methamphetamine. Two previous times, in 2001 and 2006, marijuana has come up for review due to similar requests and both times federal regulators felt that it should remain a Schedule I substance since at the time there was not enough research about the efficacy in treating ailments. The only federally legal marijuana garden in the U.S. resides at the University of Mississippi and the National Institute on Drug Abuse oversees that operation. NIDA has conducted 30 studies on the benefits of marijuana to date, while approving more than 500 grants for marijuana studies as there has been a market upswing in recent years, according to McClatchy. Both the DEA and other federal authorities have been accused of obstructing science around the drug and delaying the rescheduling process.  As of recent, a number of studies have demonstrated the increasing medical potential of cannabis as the purified forms help to fight certain forms of aggressive cancer even finding that its use helps with blood sugar control and slowing the spread of HIV.  Right now, there are 22 states and the District of Columbia, according to Ferner, that have legalized marijuana for medical use with New York being next in line. In addition, 10 other states have legalized CBD-oil, a non-psychoactive ingredient often used for epilepsy patients, for research or limited medical purposes. Even though the FDA is not ready to approve marijuana as a safe and effective drug, it does want to continue to study the potential benefits for medical treatment. Posted last Friday, the FDA did say with regards to its latest guiedlines for the drug that:

“The FDA has not approved marijuana as a safe and effective drug for any indication. The FDA is aware that there is considerable interest in its use to attempt to treat a number of medical conditions, including, for example, glaucoma, AIDS wasting syndrome, neuropathic pain, cancer, multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy-induced nausea, and certain seizure disorders.”

Poverty has an Expiration Date?

According the World Bank, it does. What is the difference between extreme poverty and poverty? Who defined it? While the governments of the world figure this out, the World Bank has set a deadline for 2030 to end extreme global poverty emphasizing that the poorest benefit from strong growth and rising prosperity in developing nations Reuters reports. According to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on Saturday following a meeting of the World Bank’s Development Committee, “For the first time in history we have committed to setting a target to end poverty. We are no longer dreaming of a world free of poverty; we have set an expiration date for extreme poverty.”  The goal plans to reduce extreme poverty to 3 percent and target the bottom 40 percent of people living in each country of the developing world.

The target of the World Bank aims to guide the institution and work with the United Nations to make plans post-2015 poverty strategy to replace existing goals. The developing world has seen a growth of about 6 percent annually in their economies with millions of people being lifted out of poverty creating a new global middle class which has also allowed for increases in growing inequality. As the Committee explains, “We recognize that sustained economic growth needs a reduction in inequality. Investments that create opportunities for all citizens and promote gender equality are an important end in their own right, as well we being integral to creating prosperity.” This week the World Bank released figures that show extreme poverty has plunged since 1990 with 21 percent from 43 percent and that most of the poor are heavily concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, while China has slashed extreme poverty according to Reuters. Kim also said climate change and investments in heath and education were discussed as well.

The meeting also called for donor fundraising campaigns by the World Bank’s fund for its poorest borrowers urging strong participation by all countries. Every three years according to Huff Post, donors from rich and developing economies alike raise funds for the Bank’s International Development Association or IDA, while the United States, Britain and Nordic nations are usually the biggest funders for the past several years Brazil, India, China, Chile, Argentina and Peru have also donated funds. However with the current financial climates in Europe and the United States, the World Bank will be more restrictive when it comes to how the money is used so not to impact the poor. The emphasis according to Kim should be on helping fragile  and conflict hit countries.

420 Friendly: The Rule Rather Than Exception

Tax Revenue From Marijuana Legalization

As Washington struggles to find a solution to the fiscal crisis now in swing, several states have found a way to capitalize on the legalization of marijuana in their state which has the potential to bring billions in revenue to states struggling to meet their own budgetary concerns. According to the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank Huff Post reports, the federal legalization of marijuana would offer large new revenue streams that could potentially relieve some of financial strains on the federal budget. Carol Davis, a senior analyst at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy told the Huff Post that, “We don’t know the size of the marijuana market right now, and we certainly don’t know what would happen to the price and the demand for marijuana under different levels of legalization. But we do know that legalization would lead to a positive revenue impact on the income and sales tax side.”According to a 2010 study, legalizing the drug would generate $8.7 billion in federal and state tax revenue annually assuming that it would be taxed similar to alcohol and tobacco as well as the income earned by pot producers to standard income and sales tax.

Besides federal benefits, according to the study, states and local governments stand to save billions on the current spending regulating marijuana use. The state of Washington estimates it will generate $1.9 billion in additional revenue in five years due to the legalization, while eighteen states and Washington D.C. have already legalized medicinal marijuana and another 10 are currently considering legislation according to the National Cannabis Industry Association. A recent Pew Research Center poll shows a majority of Americans support the legalization of weed, however opponents argue that fiscal benefits are outweighed by social impact such as violence, crime and social disintegration according to a Heritage Foundation report.

Could the United States become a 420 friendly society? Possibility but with restrictions. What does 420 friendly mean? Well I have often wondered about the origins and had look no further than Huff Post. Depending on who you ask and how coherent they are, the answers range from the number of active chemicals in weed to teatime in Holland to even yes Hitler’s birthday according to Huff Post. The origin of the term celebrated by pot enthusiasts around the world on April 20 has been lost in the smoke filled memories of the people who created it. The Huff Post has actually traced the origins back to a Point Reyes, California forest where it turns out it not only started but explains how it spread. High Times, a marijuana focused magazine, published the story that the term 420 came from police code in San Rafael, California in the 1970s where the police began to use it to refer to marijuana and from there spread. However the true story does start in San Rafael, but involves five San Rafael High School friends known as Waldos as they hung out at a wall outside the school coined the term in 1971. Today the code appears in pop culture and mainstream like in Pulp Fiction, Price is Right, Craigslist postings and in 2003 when California Legislature codified medicinal marijuana under the bill named SB420.

The Waldos have proof that they used the term in the early 70s speaking with Huff Post and prefering to stay with the names Waldo Steve, Waldo Dave, Waldo Mark, etc. as pot was still illegal in 2009 when the interview took place. California since then has decriminalized possession making the fine a little more than a parking ticket as medicinal marijuana shops have popped up all over the state and weed is not so taboo. In 2012, their story was told by Huff Post to set the record straight about the origins and spread of the term 420. The story begins in 1971 when the Waldos got word that a Coast Guard service member could not tend his marijuana plants anymore near Point Reyes Peninsula Coast Guard Station, so the group with a treasure map decided to find the free bud. The Waldos would meet at the statue of Louis Pasteur outside school at 4:20 p.m. after practice to begin their hunt. The group would remind each other to meet up at 4:20 to search for the treasure and were unsuccessful in their first couple of searches. The group would take a ride out to Point Reyes at 4:20 smoking the entire way week after week, but never actually found the patch. The group adopted the codeword to used around school and parents to hide the fact they were smoking pot.

As they continued to use the term, eventually luck would have it that the term would spread farther than they could ever imagine thanks to the Grateful Dead. As San Francisco’s hippie utopia collapses and miscreants took over The Haight, the Grateful Dead packed up and moved to Marin County hills just blocks from their high school. Beside the geographic location, several of the guys had connections to the Dead through family like Mark Gravitch’s father who took care of real estate, Dave Reddix’s older brother, Patrick, managed a Dead sideband and was good friends with the bassist Phil Lesh. Patrick Reddix recalls to Huff Post that he smoked with Lesh but couldn’t recall if he used the term 420 around him but must have. The Dead, recalls Dave Reddix, had a rehearsal space on Front Street, San Rafael, California and they used to practice there. The friends would hang out listening to the music and smoking making it possible that Patrick spread the term to Phil Lesh as well as Dave himself while hanging with Lesh. As the Grateful Dead toured through the 70’s and 80’s playing hundreds of shows per year, the term spread through the underground and once High Times picked up on it the magazine made the term global. The Waldos say it took a few years for the term to spread but by the early 90’s were hearing it all over San Rafael, even in unexpected places such as Ohio, Florida and Canada as well as spotting the digits on signs and park benches.

In 1998, the Waldos set the record straight and got in touch with High Times even presenting evidence to back up their story. Stashed away in a San Fransisco bank vault, Reddix, Gravitch, Capper and Patty Young have kept a flag with the 420 stitched on it, letters, newspaper clipping and other pieces of memorabilia Huff Post reports. The men are still excited to this day about their impact on international subculture as the group is considering doing a documentary about their experience, a dictionary of slang and whatever else might come their way.

The Right to Choose will it Lose…maybe?

North Dakota Senate Passes Two Unprecedented Abortion Bans.

Two things about this bill…one people will counter it almost definitely with Roe V. Wade and two this will be played out in the court of public opinion. In one state, the right to choose is being challenged and now only needs one signature in order to be the first laws of their kind in the United States to ban most kinds of abortion. The North Dakota State Senate passed two anti-abortion bill on Friday that would prevent an abortion as soon as the fetal heartbeat is detected as early as six weeks and the other bans abortions in cases of fetal abnormalities such as Down Syndrome. House Bill 1456, the heartbeat ban, passed the North Dakota House earlier this year and will now head to Governor Jack Dalrymple’s (R) desk to be signed, Huff Post reports. The law would make doctors subject to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison if an abortion is performed after the fetal heartbeat is detected surpassing Arkansas’ new 12 week abortion ban. The bill passed without any discussion in the Republican controlled Senate on Friday. The Senate also passed House Bill 1305, which bans abortions based on gender selection or genetic defect, while three other states Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Arizona ban abortion base do gender, North Dakota is the first state to do so with fetal abnormalities. Opponents have already chimed in to argue that the heartbeat bill puts undue burden on woman’s constitutionally protected right to abort in some cases where a woman does not realize she is pregnant. State Rep. Bette Grande (R) who authored the bill said during her Senate testimony this week that she is unconcerned with their constituitionality explaining that, “Whether this is challenged in court is entirely up to the abortion industry. Given the lucrative nature of abortion, it is likely that any statute that reduces the number of customers will be challenged by the industry.” The Center for Reproductive Rights is represent North Dakota’s only abortion clinic, the Red River Women’s Clinic, in a case challenging the restriction of abortion medications used in the first trimester, while North Dakota lawmakers are looking at a personhood bill that would give the fertilized egg legal personhood rights requiring abortion physicians to be granted admitting privileges at the hospital. The center wants of course Dalrymple to veto both abortion restrictions commenting that, “This will not stand. We strongly urge Governor Dalrymple to protect the rights and health of the women of North Dakota by vetoing this noxious and dangerous bill.” Dalrymple has three days to veto the bill.