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May 19, 2015

Like many states, Texas is moving toward decriminalizing marijuana for medical use, specifically for epilepsy patients. So on Monday, the Texas State House overwhelmingly approved a bill that would legalize cannabis oil for use by the chronically ill.

There's just one problem: As Reason reports, the bill as it's currently written "requires doctors to 'prescribe' cannabis, which is forbidden by federal law, since the plant has not been approved as a medicine by the Food and Drug Administration." As it now stands, this law couldn't get the oil into any patients' hands.

To make the bill effective, Texas legislators would need to change its language to require that doctors "recommend" rather than "prescribe" the treatment. That's what other states have done, a move which was endorsed by the 9th Circuit Court. Bonnie Kristian

September 14, 2019

President Trump tweeted Saturday that he's been in talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the possibility of moving forward with a mutual defense treaty between the two nations.

The fact that the treaty has been discussed is only surprising in the sense that the two countries already have a close military partnership. It appears, then, that Trump's statement might be linked to Israel's election which is set next week.

Axios reports that Trump's announcement was "exactly the kind of support" Netanyahu has long been seeking from Trump as he looks to hold on to his post. In response, Netanyahu thanked the president, saying Israel has "never had a greater friend in the White House." Tim O'Donnell

September 14, 2019

A two-and-half-years old lawsuit finally came to a close Friday, when Judge Richard E. Moore ruled that two confederate statues of Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia, must remain standing. Moore, however, did not award any damages after plaintiffs argued that the 188 days the statues remained covered by tarps encroached on a state law protecting war memorials and caused the plaintiffs emotional distress. He did say he would award attorney fees.

The city had said the law was unconstitutional because the war memorials send a racist message, The Guardian reports. But the argument was unable to sway Moore, even though he did acknowledge the authors of the historic preservation statute likely had more sinister intent.

"I don't think I can infer that a historical preservation statute was intended to be racist," Moore said. "Certainly, [racism] was on their minds, but we should not judge the current law by that intent."

The statues were covered by tarps following the death of Heather Heyer at a violent "Unite the Right" rally in the Virginia city in August 2017. Read more at The Daily Progress and The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

September 14, 2019

The possible Massachusetts Senate showdown between Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) might not shape up the way most people think.

Kennedy hasn't officially announced he's challenging Markey, the incumbent, but the signs are pointing to it becoming ever more and more likely. Many expect the 38-year-old Kennedy, if he were to run, to receive votes from the younger, more progressive wing of the Democratic Party (even though the 73-year-old Markey is considered a progressive himself), in what some Massachusetts Democrats fear could become a distracting election that could take away the time, energy, and money they think is required to beat Republicans.

"You know, I think you'll see the establishment-type people gravitate toward Ed, and the more non-establishment-type people gravitate toward Joe," one Boston-based donor told Politico.

But, so far, that hasn't been the case, The Hill reports.

Some younger progressives like Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — who partnered with Markey on the Green New Deal — are backing the senator. Ocasio-Cortez called Markey "a proud and strong progressive champion for working families" and reportedly urged Kennedy not to run for his seat. Instead, she reportedly encouraged him to run for the other Massachusetts seat that could open up if Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) leaves the state for the Oval Office next year. Warren is also supporting Markey. Read more at Politico and The Hill. Tim O'Donnell

September 14, 2019

President Trump confirmed in a statement Saturday that the U.S. killed Hamza bin Laden, the son of the al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, in a counterterrorism operation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

Trump and administration officials provided no further details other than a three-sentence statement confirming the news. It remains unclear precisely how, where, and when he was killed, though American officials have reportedly said there is some indication that the CIA, rather than the U.S. military, conducted the operation, The Associated Press reports.

The younger bin Laden's death was first reported in July, but the White House did not officially confirm.

Trump's statement said bin Laden's death "not only deprives al Qaeda of important leadership skills and the symbolic connection to his father, but undermines important operational activities of the group." The State Department had announced a $1 million award back in February for information on Bin Laden's whereabouts. He was reportedly being prepared for a leadership role in al Qaeda. Read more at The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

September 14, 2019

The three Republicans challenging President Trump in the party's presidential primary think the incumbent should stand up and fight.

Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R), former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld (R), and former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) teamed up to pen an op-ed in The Washington Post calling out Trump's re-election campaign and the four states — South Carolina, Kansas, Arizona, and Nevada — that have canceled state GOP primaries.

Walsh, Weld, and Sanford often vary significantly in tone and policy, but they all agree that the cancellations are "the latest disgrace" brought forth by the Trump administration trying to maneuver its way out of competition (it's worth noting that states, including Arizona, have called off primaries for incumbents several times before.) The candidates argue the GOP is missing out on a crucial opportunity for debate over ideas and policy because its too focused on holding on to the White House. "If a party stands for nothing but re-election, it indeed stands for nothing," they wrote.

They even briefly praised their Democratic counterparts, pointing out the party is allowing its citizens to choose the best nominee following months of rigorous debate and campaigning throughout the country. Still, they said it would be a "critical mistake to allow the Democratic Party to dominate the national conversation during primary and caucus season."

In the end, the challengers believe it boils down to the fact that Trump is scared. "Cowards run from fights," they wrote. "Warriors stand and fight for what they believe. The United States respects warriors. Only the weak fear competition." Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

September 14, 2019

Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for drone attacks on the world's largest oil processing facility in Buqyaq, Saudi Arabia, and another major oilfield operated by Saudi Aramco in the country on Saturday.

The strike started major fires; Saudi Arabia said it had brought the blazes under control, though it was unclear if there were injuries related to the attack. It also remains unclear how much damage was caused by the strikes and the subsequent fires. Smoke from the fires following the attack were reportedly visible from space.

Houthi military spokesman Yahia Sarie said the rebels launched 10 drones in a coordinated attack and warned more strikes could come if the years-long Yemeni civil war, in which Saudi Arabia backs a coalition fighting the Iran-backed Houthis, does not stop soon.

The strikes come as Saudi Aramco has accelerated plans for an initial public offering to as early as this year. They are likely to heighten already boiling tensions in the Gulf Region, as the U.S. and Iran continue their standoff over the 2015 nuclear pact, The Associated Press reports. Read more at The Associated Press and Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

September 14, 2019

The New York attorney general's office in a court filing Friday said it uncovered about $1 billion in wire transfers by the Sackler family, the owners of pharmaceutical giant Purdue Pharma.

The discovery comes after thousands of municipal governments and 23 states tentatively reached a settlement with the Sacklers and Purdue, which manufactures OxyContin, over the company's alleged role in the opioid crisis plaguing the United States. The transfers have raised speculation that the Sacklers could have been trying to hide assets while facing litigation.

The attorney general's office only presented initial findings, and its major discovery was from 2009, long before the lawsuits began. But the filing said they identified "previously unknown shell companies" that Mortimer Sackler used to move Purdue money through international accounts before concealing it in real estate investments. A spokesman for Mortimer Sackler said there was nothing "newsworthy" about the "decade-old" transfers.

While it would reportedly be difficult to unveil the family's true international wealth, some legal experts do think the findings could spell bad news for the Sacklers. "The bigger question is how this is going to affect what many cities have already agreed to," Adam Zimmerman, an expert in complex litigation at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, said, referring to the tentative settlement. "We might see, with these allegations, more state [attorneys general] saying they are opposed to it, and maybe even some cities."

Elizabeth Burch, a professor at the University of Georgia Law School, told The New York Times the findings should give those states objecting to the settlement "more wiggle room" to argue for more disclosure, which "could lead to criminal exposure for the Sacklers." Read more at The New York Times and NBC News. Tim O'Donnell

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