Pot politics
April 14, 2014

In a sign of the times, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) on Monday signed into law a bill that would decriminalize possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana, making his state the 17th in the nation to do so. O'Malley, who is believed to be considering a White House bid, said in a statement that his decision was "an acknowledgment of the low priority that our courts, our prosecutors, our police, and the vast majority of citizens already attach to this transgression of public order and public health.”

Indeed, a vast majority does think our nation's drug laws are outdated. In a Pew survey released earlier this month, two-thirds of respondents said the government should focus more on providing drug treatment than prosecuting users. And support for legalizing marijuana — not just decriminalizing possession of small amounts of it — is rapidly on the rise.

Were O'Malley to run in 2016, he could try to tap into the support of that growing pro-pot bloc. He may not be alone: On the GOP side, Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) supports decriminalizing pot, as does Texas Gov. Rick Perry. At this rate, it's not unthinkable that a mainstream candidate would make the nation's drug laws a central campaign issue in the next presidential election.

In other words, we're a long, long way from "I didn't inhale." Jon Terbush

pulling the nazi card
8:43 a.m. ET

The Republican presidential candidates have been slow to criticize Donald Trump, seemingly cowed by his wild popularity and promises to punch back at anyone who speaks ill of him. That makes Ohio Gov. John Kasich's latest campaign ad all the more refreshing — and unusual. Released on Tuesday, the ad links Trump's "dangerous rhetoric" to Nazi Germany.

In the video, Col. Tom Moe, a former POW from Vietnam, references a poem from the 1950s by the anti-Nazi pastor Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

Moe turns the poem around, applying it directly to Trump. "You might not care if Donald Trump says Muslims must register with the government, because you're not one," he says, going on to walk through some of Trump's more notorious headlines. Then comes the chilling kicker: "But think about this: If he keeps going and he actually becomes president, he might just get around to you," Moe says. "And you better hope that there’s someone left to help you."

Watch below. Jeva Lange

new ways of war
8:25 a.m. ET

Hundreds of mercenaries from Colombia are traveling halfway around the world to fight in Yemen's raging civil war, lured by high salaries bankrolled by the United Arab Emirates, The New York Times reports. While the Colombian soldiers are officially a state secret in the UAE, they number among many Latin Americans making the trek to the Middle East to serve as mercenaries.

It's hardly just the war in Yemen, in which Saudi Arabia and the U.S., among other nations, are backing a campaign against Houthi rebels. Here's the Times on this "glimpse into the future of war."

Wealthy Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the Emirates, have in recent years embraced a more aggressive military strategy throughout the Middle East, trying to rein in the chaos unleashed by the Arab revolutions that began in late 2010. But these countries wade into the new conflicts — whether in Yemen, Syria, or Libya — with militaries that are unused to sustained warfare and populations with generally little interest in military service.

"Mercenaries are an attractive option for rich countries who wish to wage war yet whose citizens may not want to fight," said Sean McFate, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and author of The Modern Mercenary.

"The private military industry is global now," said Mr. McFate, adding that the United States essentially "legitimized" the industry with its heavy reliance on contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan over more than a decade of war. "Latin American mercenaries are a sign of what's to come," he said. [The New York Times]

Read the entire fascinating story at the Times. Jeva Lange

Famous Firsts
6:27 a.m. ET
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors trounced the Los Angeles Lakers, 111-77, in L.A. on Tuesday night, led by Curry's 24 points and 9 assists. It was the 16th straight win for the defending NBA champs, and their 16-0 start to the regular season set an NBA record. The 1993-94 Houston Rockets and 1948-49 Washington Capitols both started their respective seasons 15-0 before losing. "It's a special accomplishment any time you can do something that hasn't been done before," Curry said.

The next record in the Warriors' sights is one held by the Lakers, who have the second-worst record this season: The 1971-72 Lakers won 33 straight games; counting last season, the Warriors just notched consecutive win No. 20. Peter Weber

War Games
5:33 a.m. ET
Alexei Nikolsky/AFP/Getty Images

One of the two Russian pilots who parachuted out of a Su-24 fighter jet shot down by Turkey on Tuesday is believed dead, possibly killed by a Syrian rebel faction, but the second pilot is "alive and well," Russia said on Wednesday. Russian President Vladimir Putin elaborated in televised remarks that the pilot is "safe and sound" at Russia's airbase in a government-held area of Syria following a 12-hour rescue operation involving Russian and Syrian special forces.

Putin has called the downing of the warplane an unprovoked "stab in the back" with "serious consequence," and Russia says its plane never entered Turkish airspace. On Wednesday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that Russia is sending its new S-400 anti-aircraft missile system to Syria. Turkey says the Su-24 was warned repeatedly that it was in Turkish airspace before shots were fired. Turkey is the first NATO member to shoot down a Russian warplane in half a century. Peter Weber

last night on late night
4:35 a.m. ET

"We're just two days from Thanksgiving, and I just want to take this time to mention something I'm thankful for: Donald Trump," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. Why? "Because he gives all of us on TV something to talk about." On Tuesday's show, he wanted to talk about Trump's widely discounted claim that Muslims in New Jersey cheered the fall of the Twin Towers on 9/11, and Trump's recent claim to be able to foretell terrorist threats. After playing clips of Trump boasting how he predicted Osama bin Laden was dangerous in a 2000 book, Colbert noted bin Laden's long history of proving that he was dangerous dating back to at least 1993.

"That's spooky — it's like Trump has some kind of fifth sense that lets him see what's in newspapers and on TVs," Colbert said. Well, "NostraDonald is not the only one with this power," he added, launching an elaborate "attempt to predict the predictable." Colbert says there will be an iPhone 7 next year, for example, and a short-lived frozen yogurt shop in your neighborhood. The fortune in his fortune cookie, though, seemed like a shot at his audience: "Crowds will be easy to pander to, especially here in New York City, the greatest city in the world." Well, people do like hearing about Donald Trump. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:58 a.m. ET

The Netflix series Jessica Jones debuted on Netflix last Friday night, and if you're not familiar with one of Marvel's darker superheroes, star Krysten Ritter was on Jimmy Kimmel Live on Tuesday to explain her character's superpowers (she's really strong and can fly, sort of) and why it's not exactly your typical family-friendly superhero fare. (There's a lot of sex and violence, Jimmy Kimmel noted, often).

In the interview portion below, Ritter and Kimmel discuss the rules for spoilers on Netflix series, where you can watch all the episodes at once. Ritter said that it would be better to give people a little more time before ruining plot developments, then mentioned that her mother has already watched the entire first season. In fact, she did it in the first 24 hours. Her mom watched the first five episodes Friday night, then continued Saturday — "she's watching it on her phone while her oil's being changed," Ritter recounted. And what about the sex and dark pallor? "She was fine with it," Ritter said, "though she did have to watch Don't Trust the Bee as a palate-cleanser." Watch below, and be warned: Even though Ritter says she hates spoilers, she drops a few for Homeland and Breaking Bad. Peter Weber

Watch this
3:11 a.m. ET

If you're wondering how Jimmy Kimmel Live got to air the first trailer for Captain America: Civil War, it helps to remember that both the Avengers movie franchise and ABC are part of the Disney universe. In this new clip, Captain America (Chris Evans) has to choose between his evidently most-wanted friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and his Avengers allies, especially Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and War Machine (Don Cheadle). The whole gang is there, and it looks like it gets ugly. "Sometimes I want to punch you in your perfect teeth," Downey's Tony Stark tells Cap, and by the end of the trailer, he gets his chance. Wired has a more detailed breakdown of the trailer, but you can also just watch below. Peter Weber

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