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Keys tourism would suffer from federal shutdown

Florida Keys backcountry guides have not forgotten the lost days of 2013, when large parts of the the federal government closed due to the federal government not passing a budget.

It was brutal, Key Largo fishing captain Lain Goodwin said Tuesday, recalling the closure of Florida Bay inside Everglades National Park. The possibility of another federal shutdown returned this week with Congress trying to come to terms on a federal budget extension that won t be blocked by President Trump. Without action by midnight Friday, many federal agencies would close. Those agencies include Everglades National Park and Florida Keys national wildlife national refuges. All boaters, including guides who specialize in fishing Florida Bay s shallow waters, were banned from 1,100 square miles of park waters during the 16-day shutdown in 2013.

As we learned a couple of years ago, it s all a gimmick, a game for politicos in Washington D.C., said Steve Friedman, commodore of the Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association. Unfortunately, they re playing with our livelihoods. And it winds up costing [the government] more money to keep us out instead of letting us do our jobs.

A sticking point in the federal budget debate includes the Trump administration s demand for some funding for the proposed border wall with Mexico. Many members of Congress either object to spending on the wall or do not consider it a priority. Funding for the Affordable Care Act also is in the mix. The 2013 shutdown took place in October. A spring shutdown would be worse, fishing guides say.

May is the busiest time for everybody, Friedman said. We re talking about hundreds, maybe thousands, of guides.

It s tarpon season and the weather is better, Goodwin said. I m booked for seven straight days. Resorts and restaurants also would suffer, the guides noted. A shutdown just is not good for anybody in the Florida Keys, Goodwin said.

The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary closed its offices and furloughed workers during the 2013 shutdown, but sanctuary boat trips to the Florida Keys reef were not affected. Sanctuary patrol officers work for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission under the sanctuary s partnership with the state. Sanctuary managers could not be reached at press time. The U.S. Coast Guard would continue its regular water patrols off the Keys as a military agency exempt from shutdowns, said Capt. Jeffrey Janszen, commander of Coast Guard Key West sector. Our personnel will be out there still providing border security and drug enforcement, he said.

Some Coast Guard civilian staff considered non-exempt could be furloughed, he said. Air-traffic controllers and airport security would remain on duty during a shutdown, although travel times could be affected, news reports indicate. Passport applications could take longer to process. Social Security checks will be mailed and the U.S. Postal Service remains in operations, but the Internal Revenue Service will stop issuing refunds and not complete audits. Overall, an estimated 800,000 federal workers nationally would be sent home during a shutdown.

Vireo Health legal fight key to New York, Minnesota marijuana industry

CLOSEVireo Health Legal Fight Key To New York, Minnesota Marijuana Industry Vireo Health Legal Fight Key To New York, Minnesota Marijuana Industry

New York’s medical marijuana program was a boom for lobbyists firms. Yet 17,000 patients out of 200,000 that are eligible have been certified for the program, lohud’s David Robinson reports. Ricky Flores/lohud

Vireo Health Legal Fight Key To New York, Minnesota Marijuana Industry

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks to the media during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, March 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)(Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)

Desperate criminals made a daring smuggling run from Minnesota to New York in an armored SUV packed with $500,000 of marijuana oil. Or

Highly respected corporate officers quietly transported state-licensed medical marijuana from a Minnesota-based company to its affiliate in New York. These are the drastically different stories behind a high-profile Minnesota legal battle involving Vireo Health, the parent company of the medical marijuana dispensary in downtown White Plains.

Prosecutors have accused Dr. Laura Bultman and Ronald Owens, the company s former chief medical officer and security officer, of smuggling the drugs 1,200 miles to rescue Vireo from missing a deadline to open up shop in New York in 2016. On the other side, Paul Engh, the attorney for Bultman, has disputed that Minnesota s marijuana law bans shipping the drug across state borders, The Journal News/lohud has learned from court documents, and shifted focus onto why medical marijuana remains illegal under federal law despite being allowed in 28 states.

VIREO HEALTH: Marijuana smuggling scandal[1]

MONEY TRAIL: New York’s marijuana lobbying dollars top $2 million by applicants[2]

LIST: What lobbying firms got from New York’s medical marijuana applicants[3]

Engh s stance is detailed in a 12-page report urging a court to toss the felony drug charges against Bultman. It boils down to one question: How is it illegal for a licensed company’s officer to provide a drug to patients as defined by state law?

We believe the law is with us and are hopeful that the court agrees, Engh said, addressing the court documents in response to an inquiry by The Journal News/lohud. Other defense arguments in Engh’s filing touch on everything from a company’s definition as a person under Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that gave corporations protected rights, to a lack of clarity in Minnesota’s marijuana law.

“Any ambiguity as to the law s language and its application is to be resolved in Dr. Bultman s favor,” Engh wrote in court documents.

Still, the Vireo case has underscored why federal lawmakers idleness and a patchwork approach to state marijuana laws have muddled efforts to treat thousands of patients with serious illnesses, such as cancer and epilepsy. Nick Zerwas, a state representative in Minnesota, described the Vireo scandal as a flaw in that state s law.

When this (law) was moved through several years ago, there was a lot of discussion about the methods of delivery and how many dispensaries, he said, but not nearly enough discussion on insufficient legal leverages necessary to regulate and investigate and hold accountable this industry. Zerwas, who voted to legalize marijuana sales in 2014, has pushed new legislation seeking to tighten the law in the wake of the Vireo case.

The looming threat of the U.S. Justice Department closing down Minnesota s marijuana program also influenced Zerwas reform push.

It s incumbent upon us to act swiftly and signify that the state of Minnesota can handle this, Zerwas said. Vireo Health executives have said little about the situation. Andrew Mangini, a company spokesman, noted medical marijuana sales continue in New York, including a recent launch of a home delivery service to eligible patients in New York City.

We take our legal obligations and regulatory responsibilities in this area very seriously, he said. And will cooperate with the relevant agencies while maintaining our focus on patients who suffer from life-threatening and debilitating diseases like cancer and ALS, and who deserve best-in-class medical cannabis products and compassionate care.”

While federal authorities at the Justice Department would not say if they are investigating the Vireo case, a Drug Enforcement Administration spokeswoman Barbara Carreno spoke to its prior hands-off approach as state marijuana laws piled up since 2013.

The Cole Memo

Traditionally, the DEA has targeted eight criminal activities by marijuana businesses under a policy that says no to drugged driving, sales to minors, interstate smuggling, and using cannabis-based profits in connection to other crimes.

You have seen over the last few years there have continued to be raids on dispensaries in California and Colorado because they had to do with these eight things, said Carreno. It all stemmed from a 2013 policy, commonly called the Cole memo, and named after a former Justice Department lawyer, James Cole, who established federal law enforcement s approach to the states that legalized marijuana, for medical and/or recreational use.

Cole s memo remains in place as feds await the newly appointed attorney general s marching orders for an apparent federal crackdown on marijuana. At a law enforcement gathering in February, Sessions cited the increased legalization of marijuana, an issue he long railed against while an Alabama senator, as contributing to a culture of acceptance, USA Today reported.[4]

“I’m not sure we’re going to be a better, healthier nation if (marijuana) is being sold from every corner grocery store,” he said. Some medical marijuana advocates have voiced concerns about Sessions apparent attempt to lump together medicinal and recreational uses of the drug, despite his lack of policy details and Congress effectively banning raids on state-approved medical marijuana in 2014.

Sessions general tougher-on-crime stance, however, suggests a drastic turnaround from recent efforts to remove marijuana from the discussion of more dangerous narcotics.

“We don’t need to be legalizing marijuana, and we need to be cracking down on heroin,’ Sessions said.

Read or Share this story: http://lohud.us/2q4mFh1

References

  1. ^ VIREO HEALTH: Marijuana smuggling scandal (www.lohud.com)
  2. ^ MONEY TRAIL: New York’s marijuana lobbying dollars top $2 million by applicants (www.lohud.com)
  3. ^ LIST: What lobbying firms got from New York’s medical marijuana applicants (www.lohud.com)
  4. ^ USA Today reported. (www.lohud.com)

US tests missile in Pacific as it escalates threats to North Korea

US tests missile in Pacific as it escalates threats to North Korea

By Mike Head
26 April 2017

While demanding that North Korea halt its nuclear and missile tests and threatening military attack if it does not the Trump administration will today test launch a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from California across the Pacific, in a menacing show of force. According to Air Force Global Strike Command, the operation will test the weapon s effectiveness, accuracy and readiness. In the context of the mounting US military pressure on North Korea and its neighbour China, it is an unmistakeable threat of American preparedness to use nuclear-armed ICBMs. Missile launches were essential to verify the status of our national nuclear force and to demonstrate our national nuclear capabilities, Colonel Chris Moss, the Vandenberg Air Force Base 30th Space Wing commander said.

For all the political and media hysteria about the danger presented by North Korea s small and primitive nuclear and missile capacity, the provocatively-timed US test again underscores where the real risk of nuclear war resides in Washington and the Pentagon s unmatched arsenal of thousands of nuclear warheads. No target was specified for today s exercise, but an earlier US missile test, launched from a North Dakota base in February, travelled 6,760 kilometres to a test range at Kwajalein Atoll, part of the Marshall Islands in the northwestern Pacific. The Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site in the Marshall Islands is just one of the scores of US military bases throughout the Pacific, Japan and South Korea, as well as fleets of warships and submarines, from which devastating attacks on North Korea could be mounted.

On the same day as the missile test, President Donald Trump will hold a rare and suddenly announced White House briefing on the North Korean situation with all 100 members of the US Senate. Adding to the ominous atmosphere, the briefing will be delivered by the top four US war-related officials: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford. (see: Trump summons the Senate to the White House[1] )

In another sign of war preparations, Trump had a publicised dinner on Monday night with two key foreign policy hawks Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. No information was released on what they discussed, but Graham tweeted the next day: Donald Trump is NOT going to let the nutjob in North Korea develop a missile with a nuclear weapon on top that can hit the US. The nutjob was an insulting reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. As these developments unfolded, Washington was encircling the Korean Peninsula with nuclear-capable warships conducting war games with Japanese and South Korean naval vessels. The USS Wayne E. Meyer, a destroyer, began exercises yesterday with a South Korean destroyer in the Yellow Sea, west of Korea. Another destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald conducted drills with a Japanese destroyer in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, east of Korea.

The US Seventh Fleet said both exercises demonstrate the US Navy s inherent flexibility to combine with allied naval forces in response to a broad range of situations. In further chilling displays, the USS Michigan, a guided-missile submarine, docked in the South Korean port of Busan and the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier task force, accompanied by Japanese ships, is due to arrive in the waters off the Korean Peninsula to stage a combined operation with the South Korean navy. Despite incessant claims by the political elites and corporate media that North Korea was poised to conduct its sixth nuclear test yesterday, the country s 85th anniversary of its army, Pyongyang reportedly only conducted live-fire artillery drills near Wonsan on the east coast.

On Monday Trump summoned ambassadors from the 15 UN Security Council members, including China and Russia, to demand they impose further crippling sanctions on North Korea, featuring an oil embargo, transport bans and punitive measures against Chinese banks allegedly doing business in North Korea. This was despite evidence, such as soaring oil prices in North Korea, that China is already severely constricting supplies. Trump delivered what amounted to an ultimatum, declaring that North Korea was a real threat to the world and a big world problem that we have to finally solve. Publicly, the Trump administration is holding out the prospect of applying enough pressure on China to compel North Korea to abandon its missile and nuclear programs. But Beijing is sending increasingly alarmed signals that it has very limited influence over the Pyongyang regime.

An editorial yesterday in the state-controlled Global Times warned that convincing Pyongyang to cease its nuclear activities was not as easy as saying abracadabra. The game of chicken between Washington and Pyongyang could quickly get out of control with terrible consequences that no side will be able to stop. It described the situation as puzzle filled with bombs and declared: Pyongyang must not strike a match and detonate it. This was not the first time that Beijing has voiced dismay at the danger of a military conflagration that would have a severely damaging impact on China s geo-strategic interests. Two days earlier, a Global Times editorial openly criticised North Korea, and said Pyongyang was making a mistake if it thought that Beijing considered it a sentinel and on guard duty for China. The editorial declared that North Korea s nuclear program was jeopardising China s major national interests and preventing Pyongyang from developing nuclear weapons was already Beijing s priority in Northeast Asia.

China s leaders obviously understand that their country, not just its erstwhile ally North Korea, is Washington s target. A US assault on the Korean Peninsula could not only lead to the destabilising collapse of North Korea, near one of China s major industrial regions, but install a US-backed regime on China s border, as the US sought to during the 1950-53 Korean War. The fact that China is in the firing line was highlighted yesterday by testimony at a US Senate Armed Forces Committee hearing on the Asia-Pacific region. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace senior fellow Ashley Tellis described North Korea as a near-term challenge, whereas the challenges emanating from China are long term, enduring and aimed fundamentally at decoupling the United States from its Asian partners. These comments again point to the underlying driving force behind the Korean crisis. Not just in North East Asia but around the world, the ruling US capitalist class is intent on using America s military might to offset its economic decline and block China, or any other potential rival, from challenging the global hegemony it established through victory over Germany and Japan in World War II.

US Tests Missile In Pacific As It Escalates Threats To North Korea

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References

  1. ^ Trump summons the Senate to the White House (www.wsws.org)
  2. ^ comments powered by Disqus. (disqus.com)