Pot, meet kettle
March 14, 2014

The first amazing thing about this article, in The Washington Post, is that there is a National Cannabis Industry Association — let's call it the ganjapreneur lobby. The second is what these pro-legal-marijuana lobbyists were in Washington to accomplish on Thursday. The Post's Holly Yeager spoke with one of the association members trying to persuade Congress:

"We're not the typical face of marijuana," said Dorian Des Lauriers of Franklin, Mass., an entrepreneur and co-founder of a new laboratory that will test medical marijuana. Des Lauriers, wearing a blue suit and a tie with an American flag design, said he had used his meetings with congressional staffers to talk about Section 280E of the tax code, which prohibits companies involved in drug trafficking from deducting normal business expenses that other legal businesses can claim. [Washington Post]

Trying to lower industry taxes? As another smoking-related enterprise used to say:

Peter Weber

gender equality?
9:26 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Secretary of the Army John McHugh said Monday that he anticipates draft registration for both sexes will be approved by Congress in the relatively near future.

"If your objective is true and pure equality then you have to look at all aspects" of how women function in the military, McHugh remarked while speaking at a military convention in Washington, DC. Draft registration for women would have to be approved by Congress, McHugh noted, predicting that the change is inevitable if "we find ourselves as a military writ large where men and women have equal opportunity, as I believe we should."

While McHugh is hardly the first to suggest expanding the draft, the public's opinion is less clear: One recent poll showed that 59 percent of Americans (including 61 percent of women) believed the draft should include both sexes, while a Quinnipiac poll just a few months earlier found only 45 percent of women would like to be draft eligible. Bonnie Kristian

Clinton Emails
8:52 a.m. ET
Teresa Kroeger/Getty Images

When The New York Times story about Hillary Clinton's private email server broke on March 2, 2015, her top advisers' immediate reaction was that she should apologize — for "at the least, a political mistake," Politico reports.

[Campaign chairman] Podesta, often speaking on the road or from his home in Washington, counseled transparency and disclosure... Clinton’s new pollster and strategist, Joel Benenson... advised her to take responsibility for what had been, at the least, a political mistake. Campaign manager Robbie Mook and communications director Jennifer Palmieri — who would later help coax the candidate into issuing an apology — agreed, according to people close to the situation.

Even Mills, Clinton’s most trusted and protective adviser — a lawyer who had been aware of the server setup as Clinton’s chief of staff at the State Department — agreed on the politics. [Politico]

But Clinton wasn't ready to say sorry or to take responsibility for any sort of a mistake, even to her own staff. Instead, Politico reports, she "repeatedly" told her staff — and the rest of America — "I have done nothing wrong."

"It sounds crazy, but I think she simply wasn't equipped to deal with all this," a longtime Clinton ally told Politico. "She's never been a great candidate, OK? She needed time and campaigns don't give you time. … She was blindsided, and I think only now, after all this crap, is she finally in the right headspace." Another Clinton adviser called the email snafu a "cancer" on the campaign. Yet another commented: "She's her own worst enemy."

Nearly six months after her staff's initial urgings — on Sept. 4, to be exact — Hillary finally came around to apologizing for using a private email account while secretary of state. "That was a mistake," she told ABC's David Muir. "I'm sorry about that." But for every month Hillary had waited, her poll numbers had dropped.

Read the full story on Hillary's email scandal at Politico. Becca Stanek

This just in
8:29 a.m. ET
Rob Stothard/Getty Images

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down in July 2014 over eastern Ukraine by what is strongly believed to have been a Russian-made surface-to-air missile, a 15-month investigation into the tragedy concluded. The Dutch Safety Board, who published their findings and briefed family members on Tuesday, said the missile detonated near the cockpit, which brought the rest of the aircraft down. Additionally it found that all the passengers likely died or lost consciousness moments after the plane was hit by the missile. All 298 people on board, many of whom were Dutch nationals, were killed.

While Russia has denied that it had anything to do with the downing of MH17, rejecting both that it made the missile or that Russian-backed separatists fired it, the Dutch Safety Board's conclusions are consistent with theories held by authorities in the United States and Ukraine. However, the investigation also concluded that the airspace over eastern Ukraine should have been closed, with the Dutch Safety Board chairman, Tjibbe Joustra, saying, "None of the parties involved recognized the risk from the armed conflict on the ground."

Jeva Lange

brace yourself
8:08 a.m. ET

Donald Trump got up extra early on Tuesday to let everyone know he is ready to save the first Democratic debate of the 2016 presidential election. CNN is already bracing for tonight's ratings to be a fraction of the record-breaking Republican debate's, with experts saying the relatively small Democratic primary field and lack of a reality TV star in the running make the event less of a draw.

That's where Trump comes in:

He added in a second tweet that CNN ought to be informed that it's not the "Democratic Debate, rather the Democrat (s) D!"

While Trump acts as if he's been cajoled into the public service of live-tweeting the debate, other Republicans are also trying to keep the spotlight on themselves Tuesday: Rand Paul, for example, is going to live stream his entire day. But for those planning to watch the debate regardless, at least there are now options for livening it up: Trump or, if that's not your cup of tea, you could always resort to a drinking game. Jeva Lange

Iran nuclear deal
8:00 a.m. ET
Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Iran's state news agency said that the Iranian parliament had approved the nuclear deal negotiated with the U.S. and five other world powers. The vote was 161 in favor, 59 against, 13 abstentions, according to the IRNA news agency; 57 other lawmakers either didn't vote or even attend the session. The Guardian Council, a body of 12 senior clerics, will now review the accord, and could send it back to parliament for reconsideration. The final wild card is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on the nuclear deal but has said parliament should decide.

Hardliners tried to sink the deal until the end, and some wept after the vote. Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, a spokesman for President Hassan Rouhani, welcomed the "historic decision," saying: "Members of parliament made a well-considered decision today showing they have a good understanding of the country's situation." Peter Weber

Democrats Debate
7:01 a.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The five declared Democratic candidates for president will debate each other in Las Vegas on Tuesday night, but the CNN moderators are expected to focus the debate on the two leading contenders, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Also on the stage will be former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, and former Sen. Jim Webb (Va.). "The debates will alter the race," said Stephanie Cutter, a Democratic strategist and veteran of President Obama's 2012 re-election campaign. "Clinton will no longer be running against herself," she said, adding that time is running out for the bottom three candidates, and one in particular: "This is the last best chance for Martin O’Malley."

The Democratic Party is pretty united on policy issues, so CNN will be trying to spark fights over whatever fissures it can find whenever possible. The candidates, meanwhile, will likely play to the Democratic base. "There is a consensus around the idea that the path to the nomination and the path to the White House necessitates mobilizing the Obama coalition," said former Obama official Dan Pfeiffer, referring to the growing ranks of young, liberal, minority, and unmarried female voters whose support helped elect and re-elect Obama. "That works for us because two things have happened: The country has moved to the left on social issues and economic issues, and the politics of national security now lean more toward avoiding the next Iraq than looking for the next Iraq."

The debate will start at 9 p.m. ET and last about two hours. CNN is streaming the debate on its website if you don't have cable, and also offering virtual-reality coverage for NextVR customers. Peter Weber

Crisis in Syria
6:04 a.m. ET

On Tuesday, as Syrian pro-government demonstrators were holding a rally celebrating Russia's military support in front of the Russian Embassy in Damascus, the capital, at least two shells landed inside the embassy compound, The Associated Press reports. It's unclear if there were any casualties, AP said, attributing the attack to insurgent groups in the Damascus suburbs.

Russia's intervention in the multisided civil war has prompted at least some of the disparate rebel factions to band together, The Wall Street Journal notes. Similar alliances have formed between more moderate U.S.-backed groups and the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, among other factions, pretty regularly over the past four and a half years, but rebel groups say that having a common Russian enemy might make these alliances more enduring. As the Reuters video below shows, the Russian-backed Syrian military has claimed several victories over the past few days, at least briefly retaking towns captured by insurgents over the past year. Peter Weber

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