May 13, 2014
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Perhaps the leading argument against medical marijuana — other than to say it is pointless given the marvels of modern medicine — is the concern that it will lead to rampant drug use. Yet a new study published this month in the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests the fear may be overblown.

By comparing the results from a federal drug use survey to states that do or do not allow medical marijuana, the study found that such laws "had no discernible impact on hard drug use" on any age group, either adolescents or adults. And though the study did find an uptick in marijuana use overall in states with medical marijuana laws, that increase was seen mainly in people over 21 years old.

The study comes on the heels of another similar one last month that also found medical marijuana laws were not leading to higher rates of marijuana use. Jon Terbush

8:05 a.m. ET
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Only 34 percent of Americans support the tax plan being promoted by President Trump and congressional Republicans while 52 percent oppose them, according to a new SSRS poll for CNN. Support depends on partisan identification — 81 percent of Democrats and 50 percent of independents oppose the plan, while 70 percent of Republicans support it. Interestingly, 24 percent of respondents said they thought they and their families would be better off under the GOP tax plan, while 31 percent said the expect to be worse off and 37 percent said they would likely be the same. A recent CBS News poll found that 58 percent of Americans said the tax proposals primarily favor the wealthy.

A plurality of respondents, 38 percent, said the plan would increase the federal deficit, while only 22 percent said it would shrink it. Half of Americans disapprove of Trump's handling of taxes, a new high. SRSS conducted the poll for CNN Oct. 12-15, speaking with 1,010 adults via telephone. It has a margin of sampling error of ±3.5 percentage points. Peter Weber

7:10 a.m. ET
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On Thursday, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) will officially roll out the health-care bill he negotiated with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), flanked by a "significant" number of Republican and Democratic cosponsors, Alexander said Wednesday. The bipartisan bill, dubbed Alexander-Murray, is expected to go nowhere for now, as President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) came out against it on Wednesday. But "by the end of the year, chances are very good this agreement or something like it is law," Alexander said. Analysts agree.

Congress already has packed December, including "funding the government and raising the debt ceiling — must-pass items that can only pass with a lot of Democratic votes, just like Alexander-Murray," says Sam Baker at Axios. "If Alexander-Murray doesn't pass before then, it's pretty easy to see Democratic leaders insisting on some form of Affordable Care Act stabilization as part of the end-of-year package. And this bill, or something close to it, is likely the best Republicans are going to get."

Wrapping up something like Alexander Murray — which guarantees two years of cost-sharing subsidies that insurance companies use to lower out-of-pocket costs for poorer customers, plus easing some coverage requirements on states — in an end-of-the-year omnibus package "would be less painful than voting on a stand-alone bill that conservatives view as a 'bailout' for insurance companies — and a vote to 'prop up' a law they've tried to dismantle for years," Politico notes. And with premiums already rising because Trump cut off the cost-sharing subsidies, or CSRs, "at some point [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell and Ryan will need this," a senior GOP aide told Axios' Caitlin Owens. Peter Weber

6:03 a.m. ET

If you last tuned in to Howard Stern during his '90s "shock jock" days, the Stern who sat down with Jimmy Kimmel in Brooklyn on Wednesday might come as a surprise. "The most boring broadcasters are the ones that don't evolve, they don't change ... they don't grow up," he said. Back in his 20s and 30s, on AM/FM radio, "sex, and sex talk, and outrageousness was the thing, because you were breaking all the boundaries — it was taboo." Once he moved to satellite radio, "where you can do anything," Stern said, doing that kind of a show "would actually be, I think, a bit of a bore."

Stern showcased his quasi-maturity when he brought up disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. "This guy, it's an unbelievable story, and I said all these guys who do sexual harassment — I mean, they're freaks," he said. "This big fat guy, what does he think? He says to a woman — here's his standard move, according to all these women who've accused him — he goes, 'Listen, I'm going to get in the shower, I want you to watch me nude.' Now, I'm a man — if you saw me naked, you'd throw up. There's no girl on the planet that wants to see Harvey Weinstein naked and is gonna get aroused."

"Same with this Bill O'Reilly," the former Fox News host, Stern said. "What is it with these guys and the shower? Men don't look good in the shower." And convicted sexter Anthony Weiner, too. "The one thing women don't want to see is a guy's penis," Stern said. "They want to see you've got a job, they want to see you treat them nice." There is some mildly NSFW language, at least by the standards of '90s terrestrial radio. Watch below. Peter Weber

5:16 a.m. ET
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On Thursday, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's office said it will convene a special cabinet meeting over the weekend to trigger Article 155 of the constitution, kicking off a process of reigning in Catalonia's regional autonomy. Rajoy had given Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont until 10 a.m. Thursday (local time) to clarify if the region had declared independence or not after an Oct. 1 referendum — Puigdemont had signed a declaration of independence then suspended it, asking for talks with Madrid. Puigdemont's response Thursday morning was that the regional parliament would likely approve a formal declaration of independence if Rajoy continued to "impede dialogue and continues its repression."

It isn't clear exactly what steps Rajoy's government will submit to the Senate to take partial control of Catalonia. Article 155 of the 1978 constitution has never been used before. But analysts say Madrid can't fully suspend Catalonia's autonomy but can take steps like taking control of the regional police, taking over Catalonia's finances, and calling a snap election. Peter Weber

4:25 a.m. ET
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Last week, Maryland police arrested Ronald Williams II on charges of child pornography possession and distribution, The Washington Post reported, and a senior administration officials said that Williams, 37, had been a researcher on President Trump's Commission on Election Integrity until he was abruptly fired last week. The commission's two Democratic members said Tuesday they had no idea the commission had any staff at all, other than executive director Andrew Kossack.

The two Democrats — Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap and Alabama probate court Judge Alan King — told ProPublica on Tuesday they had never heard of Williams until they read of his arrest, and were concerned to learn that Williams had worked alongside fellow commissioner J. Christian Adams at the Justice Department in 2006, when Williams was an intern helping Adams prosecute a pioneering Voting Rights Act case to protect white voters. Dunlap sent the commission a letter on Tuesday expressing his frustration and requesting all communication involving commissioners dating back to February.

On Wednesday, 18 Democratic senators also sent the commission a letter demanding more information on its activities, and separately, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) sent a letter asking for a staff list and vetting criteria, noting, "If the commission's own members do not know who is working under its direction, how can the commission ensure accountability and transparency?" When the senators emailed their letters to the commission's public email address, ProPublica notes:

An automatic response email stated that the account no longer accepts public comments. Instead, commenters were directed to an "eRulmaking [sic] portal" or to submit written comments to "Mr. Ron Williams, Policy Advisor, Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity." [ProPublica]

Adams told ProPublica that Williams' "alleged behavior is appalling and incomprehensible," and "it would be hyper-partisan overreach to say that any grotesque behavior in his personal life is in any way a reflection of the vitally important work the commission is doing for the American people." Peter Weber

3:01 a.m. ET

North Korea is perhaps the most isolated nation on Earth, with few people allowed to leave and everything controlled by a dynastic ruling family apparently more focused on building nuclear weapons than assuring food security for the nation's population. BBC News spoke with four people who escaped North Korea to find out what life there was like, what they miss (friends and food, mostly), and what parts of the world they were able to view before breaking free.

"From a very early age we were brainwashed to believe Americans are Yankee wolves," one woman said. "I used to think all Americans were dangerous, yellow-eyed, and devilish." "I would imagine American and South Korean men would have this thick chest hair wrapping all around them," another women said, laughing. Less funny was the belief instilled in citizens that they would die and the country would collapse when the godlike leaders died, or the weekly "Regular Critique," where you were forced to reflect on your wrongs and report those of people you knew. You can watch and learn more below. Peter Weber

1:53 a.m. ET
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The owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Shad Khan, is pretty sure he's figured out why President Trump can't stop talking about the NFL, and it has to do with a deal he wasn't able to close.

Khan argues that Trump, who on Wednesday said the NFL shows "total disrespect" for the country by not forcing players to stand during the national anthem, hasn't gotten over the fact that he tried and failed to buy the Buffalo Bills in 2014. "This is a very personal issue with him," Khan told USA Today on Wednesday. "He's been elected president, where maybe a great goal he had in life to own an NFL team is not very likely. So to make it tougher, or to hurt the league, it's very calculated." Khan, who purchased the Jaguars in 2011 for $760 million, said Trump's vitriol is "about money or messing with — trying to soil a league or a brand that he's jealous of."

Trump has been very vocal about players kneeling during the anthem as a peaceful way to protest police brutality, claiming it disrespects veterans and the military, while at the same time being accused of inadvertently insulting the family of Army Sgt. La David Terrence, who died in Niger earlier this month. "It's so bad," Khan said of Trump's alleged words. "It's below the lowest of the lowest expectations. It doesn't sound rational. It's bizarre." Khan, who has made his fortune manufacturing auto parts, donated $1 million to Trump's inauguration fund, and he told USA Today he was interested in Trump's proposed economic policies. He said he doesn't regret giving him the money, but "this ugly, toxic side sours the whole experience." Catherine Garcia

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized Sgt. La David T. Johnson's Army role. It has since been corrected. We regret the error.

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