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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Indeed, a vast majority does think our nation's drug laws are outdated.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

11:35 p.m. ET

On Friday, voters in Ireland will head to the polls for an abortion referendum, deciding whether or not to lift the country's constitutional ban on the procedure.

Abortion was already illegal in the Catholic nation before the constitutional ban was adopted 35 years ago, and in 2013, it was partially repealed, only for instances when the life of the mother is in danger. Deputy Prime Minister Simon Covenay said that more than 3,000 women leave Ireland for Britain every year for abortions, while countless others order pills online.

Polls suggest that there is enough support to repeal the ban, and many Irish expats have returned home because they can't vote by mail or in embassies, and want to have their voices heard. If the amendment is repealed, the government will then introduce a bill on abortion that would be debated in parliament. Catherine Garcia

10:31 p.m. ET
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

David MacNeil, a Chicago-area businessman who has donated more than $1 million to President Trump, told Politico Republican candidates can expect nothing from him until they take action on an immigration bill.

MacNeil owns the WeatherTech automotive company, and employs more than 1,100 people. MacNeil told Politico that if Congress doesn't come up with a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) deal, one of his employees could be deported. "I'm saying this as a political donor who's donated seven figures in the last couple of years: I will not donate any more money to anyone who doesn't support DACA, period," he said. "I'm putting my money where my mouth is."

The "critically important" employee was brought to the United States as a toddler, and "it would be a disaster if I were not able to legally employ her," MacNeil told Politico. "They should not be playing political football, political blackmail with people's lives." Catherine Garcia

9:23 p.m. ET
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If you've ever said something rude, crude, or lewd in front of your Amazon Echo, you'd better hope it wasn't listening.

A woman in Portland named Danielle, who did not want her last name used, told KIRO that an Amazon Echo device inside her home recorded private conversations she had with her husband, and then sent them to one of his phone contacts — an employee in Seattle. Danielle said they only found out when the employee called and said: "Unplug your Alexa devices right now. You're being hacked."

Alexa is the digital assistant built into the Echo, and the family had devices in every room. Danielle said they knew the employee wasn't joking when he told them all about a conversation they just had about hardwood floors. "We said, 'Oh gosh, you really did hear us,'" Danielle said. She called Amazon, and an Alexa engineer said he was able to pinpoint when the conversations were recorded, but didn't say why it happened or if anyone else had the same issue. "I felt invaded," Danielle said. "A total privacy invasion."

An Amazon spokesperson told The Verge that the Echo heard what sounded like "Alexa," and "the subsequent conversation was heard as a 'send message' request. At which point, Alexa said out loud, "To whom?' At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customers contact list. Alexa then asked out loud, '[contact name], right?' Alexa then interpreted background conversation as 'right.'" Amazon, the spokesperson added, is now "evaluating options." If you have an Echo, you might want to evaluate the option of throwing it in the garbage. Catherine Garcia

8:04 p.m. ET
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In response to President Trump canceling the historic summit scheduled for next month between the U.S. and North Korea, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan declared his country is ready to meet with the U.S. "at any time."

In a statement published by North Korean state media on Friday morning, Kim said Trump's decision to pull out of the meeting wasn't "the world's desire," and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "had focused every effort" on the summit. He also said the U.S. and North Korea must meet in order to take care of the "grave hostilities" between the countries. Catherine Garcia

7:38 p.m. ET
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The Atlantic hurricane season starts June 1, and scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shared their forecast Thursday, saying they expect to see a near-normal season.

The season ends Nov. 30 and hits its peak mid-August through mid-October. The scientists predict a 70 percent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms with winds of 39 mph or higher, and of those, five to nine could turn into hurricanes, including one to four major ones, ABC News reports. To become a hurricane, winds must reach 74 mph or more.

The average hurricane season has 12 named storms, with six becoming hurricanes. Last year, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria slammed parts of the Caribbean and the U.S., and Puerto Rico is still trying to recover, with some residents living without power or water, and others waiting for their homes and roads to be rebuilt. Catherine Garcia

6:47 p.m. ET
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Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is blasting the White House for its decision to let Emmet Flood, President Trump's attorney working on the Russia investigation, attend two classified briefings on Thursday with Justice Department officials.

"Emmet Flood's presence and statement at the outset of both meetings today was completely inappropriate," Schiff said. A Republican-only meeting, attended by House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), was held Thursday morning to discuss information related to an FBI informant who in 2016 talked to Trump campaign advisers linked to Russia. The White House said Flood and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly spoke at the beginning of the meeting to "relay the president's desire for as much openness as possible," and left before it started.

After this meeting took place, Justice Department officials briefed the bipartisan congressional leaders who make up the "Gang of Eight," including Schiff, and Flood attended that meeting, too. Schiff told reporters that "nothing we heard today has changed our view that there is no evidence to support any allegation that the FBI or any intelligence agency placed a spy in the Trump campaign or otherwise failed to follow appropriate procedures or protocols." Catherine Garcia

5:33 p.m. ET
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The nation's opioid crisis isn't limited to the landbound.

Scientists near Seattle, Washington, found that some marine creatures have absorbed drugs that end up in the waters due to human drug use, KIRO News reported Thursday.

When looking for water contamination, scientists found that mussels in the Puget Sound tested positive for oxycodone and other chemicals. Sealife can get contaminated when humans ingest opioids, because people later excrete trace amounts of drugs, which end up in wastewater. The wastewater is cleaned, but not all drugs can be filtered out.

“It's telling me there's a lot of people taking oxycodone in the Puget Sound area,” one researcher told KIRO.

Researchers found that mussels in multiple locations had absorbed not only opioids, but also antibiotics and other prescription drugs. Washington officials said that the contamination shouldn't make it unsafe to eat mussels, since shellfish in restaurants are coming from different areas. Read more at KIRO News. Summer Meza

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