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April 24, 2014

Freed from the reclusive stuffiness of the Supreme Court, former Justice John Paul Stevens now says marijuana should be legal.

In an interview with NPR's Scott Simon, Stevens said the "distinction between marijuana and alcoholic beverages is really not much of a distinction." And when asked directly if the feds should legalize marijuana, Stevens responded in the affirmative.

"Alcohol, the prohibition against selling and dispensing alcoholic beverages has I think been generally, there's a general consensus that it was not worth the cost," he added. "And I think really in time that will be the general consensus with respect to this particular drug."

Statistically, Stevens' remarks shouldn't be too surprising. More than half of all Americans now favor legalizing marijuana, and that support is rising.

It seems like a matter of time before a viable presidential candidate (publicly) feels the same way. Jon Terbush

3:42 a.m. ET
Alessandra Tarantino/AFP/Getty Images

On Wednesday morning in Rome, President Trump held a 30-minute private meeting with Pope Francis in his studio at the Vatican; both men brought translators. Before the meeting, a smiling Trump and pope shook hands for the cameras, and Trump said it was "a great honor" to be there. After their meeting, Pope Francis and Trump exchanged gifts — the pope gave Trump copies of his three main papal documents and a medallion by a Roman artist that he called a symbol of peace — and the pope left for his weekly audience with the public in St. Peter's Square.

"Those arriving for the regular papal audience were almost clueless to the fact that mere feet away from an encounter between the heads of the world's biggest temporal superpower and its biggest spiritual superpower," reports Inés San Martín at Crux. "Big groups dressed for the occasion with matching T-shirts and baseball caps, streaming into St. Peter's Square even as Trump's motorcade was entering the Vatican through a side door known as the 'Peruggino.' This was the pope's one request, and it was done solely so that it wouldn't disrupt those going into the square: instead of coming in through the famous Via della Conciliazione that leads to St. Peter's Square, the motorcade took a side route to access the small state, using an entrance next to the pope's residence, Santa Marta."

Trump and his entourage were also treated to a tour of the Vatican, including the Sistine Chapel. Peter Weber

3:03 a.m. ET

Not all popular music from the 1980s has withstood the scrutiny of time and tastes. But 30 years ago, U2 released Joshua Tree, the album that made them the No. 1 band in the world and a household name, and the were on Tuesday night's Jimmy Kimmel Live to talk about it. They discussed the album cover, and how they used the same photographer for the backdrop on their current tour, and then they literally pushed Jimmy Kimmel out of the way and played "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." Watch and enjoy below. Peter Weber

2:41 a.m. ET

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrived at the Vatican on Wednesday morning for their meeting with Pope Francis, and the first lady was wearing a mantilla, or lace head scarf covering her hair.

Fussing over the fashion choices of presidential wives is pretty silly, but it is worth noting — as Trump did with Michelle Obama — that women in Saudi Arabia are legally required to cover their heads, and neither Obama nor Melania and Ivanka Trump did so on their visits to the Muslim kingdom. Women are not required or generally encouraged to cover their head in the Catholic Church.

Ivanka Trump, a convert to Orthodox Judaism, wore a head-scarf at the Vatican, too. Peter Weber

2:24 a.m. ET

"President Trump made a lot of promises throughout his campaign, and in general he kept them very simple, as evidenced by their ability to be expressed in three-sylable chants," Seth Meyers said on Tuesday's Late Night. There was "build that wall" and "lock her up," but the one chant "that really summed up the mission statement of the Trump campaign" was "drain the swamp," Meyers said. So how's the swamp-draining going? Would you believe, not great?

In October, Trump explained that, like Frank Sinatra and "My Way," he hated the "drain the swamp" phrase but grew to love it when the crowd lapped it up. "The problem with the Trump analogy is that Sinatra was singing a song in hopes that people would like it, whereas Trump was making a promise that he would have to follow through on," Meyers said. "And so far, he has not." In fact, he has merely stocked it with different, arguably worse creatures, he said. "It seems a more accurate three-word campaign promise would have been 'Run! Swamp monsters!'"

Trump did create new rules to prohibit lobbyists from working in his administration, but several transition officials jumped thorough the gaping loopholes, other administration officials have reportedly been given secret waivers, and others are just calling themselves "consultants" instead of lobbyists. "So, as usual with Trump, his insistence on changing the way Washington works was overhyped, mainly just empty promises and all talk," Meyers said. Watch below. Peter Weber

1:49 a.m. ET

All White House budgets rely on somewhat rosy economic assumptions and some guesswork, but President Trump's fiscal 2018 $4.1 trillion budget plan "is unusually brazen in its defiance of basic math, and in its accounting discrepancies amounting to trillions-with-a-t rather than mere millions or billions," says Politico's Michael Grunwald. The blueprint purports to balance the federal budget within 10 years, but to get there the White House used some pretty creative math, economists say.

The first red flag is that it assumes average 3 percent growth over the next decade, rather than the 2 percent projected by the Congressional Budget Office and other forecasters. "If growth instead remained at 2 percent with no uptick in unemployment, projected deficits would widen by $3.1 trillion over the coming decade, according to Mr. Trump's budget," The Wall Street Journal says. The White House dismisses the 2 percent number as defeatist, saying Trump's proposed tax cuts and regulation-slashing will lead to at least 3 percent growth.

That's "fair enough if you believe in tooth fairies and ludicrous supply-side economics," says former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers in The Washington Post. But it also appears that Trump is counting $2.1 trillion in revenue twice — once from growth sparked by the projected tax cuts, and once to make those tax cuts revenue-neutral — which Summers says "appears to be the most egregious accounting error in a presidential budget in the nearly 40 years I have been tracking them." Maya MacGuineas at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget agrees: "The same money cannot be used twice."

White House budget officials pushed back on the double-counting charge, saying the $2.1 trillion isn't assumed to come from the tax cuts, because the tax overhaul — when the plan is finalized — will be deficit-neutral on its own, thanks to to-be-determined loophole-closing and deduction-limiting. Trump "is counting on unspecified tax increases to convert a plan that independent analysts believe will cost about $5.5 trillion in its current form into a plan that will cost nothing at all, and would somehow end up producing $2 trillion worth of deficit reduction through growth," translates Grunwald, skeptically.

There are some other accounting oddities, too; Binyamin Appelbaum at The New York Times points to the projected $300 billion in revenue from the estate tax, which Trump has promised to eliminate. The Wall Street Journal's Nick Timiraos notes that Trump proposes $200 billion in infrastructure spending while also cutting $95 billion from the Highway Trust Fund, which maintain's the nation's roads and bridges. You can get a brief overview of Trump's budget from CNNMoney below. Peter Weber

1:49 a.m. ET

New Yorkers used to walking by overflowing garbage cans are doing double takes, thanks to a group of floral designers who are transforming trash receptacles into vases.

Lewis Miller and his design team are mixing beauty with grit by taking gorgeous flowers and arranging them in trash cans. "They're our flowers to New York," director of special projects Irini Greenbaum told Today. "That's really the message — to gift flowers to New Yorkers for no other reason than to make them smile." They do most of their work in the early morning hours, and have been dubbed the "flower bandits."

They've branched out from the world of garbage, and also place flowers on New York landmarks, like John Lennon's "Imagine" memorial in Central Park. "People actually took some of the flowers and turned the installation into a peace sign," Greenbaum said. "Which is something that we didn't do. ... It's nice to see it take on a life of its own." Catherine Garcia

1:02 a.m. ET

Researchers at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park believe a change in diet could be behind a southern white rhino baby boom.

On April 30, a southern white rhino named Kiazi gave birth to her first calf, following 16 years of regular breeding. After nine years of study, scientists at the San Diego Zoo Institute of Conservation Research discovered that southern white rhinos born in zoos are often infertile, and that's likely due to compounds, called phytoestrogens, that are found in the soy and alfalfa they are fed. In 2014, the zoo changed their diets, and two years later, two female southern white rhinos, which are a near-threatened species, were pregnant.

"The birth of Kiazi's calf gives us a great deal of hope that by feeding low phytoestrogens at our institution and others, we can once again have a healthy, self-sustaining captive southern white rhinoceros population," said Dr. Christoper Tubbs, senior scientist in reproductive sciences at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. The calf was born weighing 125 pounds, and by the time she is 3 years old, she could weigh between 4,000 and 5,000 pounds. Catherine Garcia

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