Marijuana legalization decreases opioid use, studies find

Two new studies published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine suggest that legalizing marijuana reduces the use of opioid prescriptions, according to a report by CNN.

The studies compared patterns of opioid prescriptions in states that have and have not enacted cannabis legalization laws. One looked at opioid prescriptions covered by Medicare Part D between 2010 and 2015. The other studied opioid prescriptions covered by Medicaid between 2011 and 2016.

The optional prescription drug benefit plan for Medicare recipients, Medicare Part D, covers more than 42 million Americans, including people 65 and older. Medicaid provides health coverage benefits for more than 73 million low-income recipients.

Compared with states without medical cannabis laws, states that allow the use of medical marijuana saw 2.21 million fewer daily doses of prescribed opioids per year under Medicare Part D and opioid prescriptions decreased by nearly 6 percent.

“This study adds one more brick in the wall in the argument that cannabis clearly has medical applications,” said lead author of the Medicare study, David Bradford, a professor of public administration and policy at the University of Georgia, in the CNN report. “And for pain patients in particular, our work adds to the argument that cannabis can be effective.”

Opioid prescriptions also were substantially lower in states that allow recreational use of cannabis.

“We saw a 9% or 10% reduction in Colorado and Oregon,” said lead author of the Medicaid study, Hefei Wen, assistant professor of health management and policy at the University of Kentucky. “And in Alaska and Washington, the magnitude was a little bit smaller but still significant.”

More than 42,000 Americans die each year from opioid overdose, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That breaks down to about 90 deaths each day.

“No one has ever died of cannabis, so it has many safety advantages over opiates,” Bradford said. “And to the extent that we’re trying to manage the opiate crisis, cannabis is a potential tool.”


Martin Luther King Jr.’s death-day anniversary draws huge crowds, emotional speeches

Huge crowds of Americans gathered Wednesday at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down by an assassin’s bullet on April 4, 1968, according to a report by ABC News.

The site has since become the headquarters of the National Civil Rights Museum and a shrine to the civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

The commemorative events began with a march in downtown Memphis in remembrance of the 1968 sanitation workers strike that drew King to the city at the time he was assassinated. Many people carried signs similar to those held by marchers in 1968, reading “I Am a Man.”

“I think people need to know that we can’t just pause in this moment and honor a great man, we really have to consider embracing his mission and looking at some of the mandates he left for us,” Bernice King, the youngest of the civil rights leader’s four children, told ABC News in Atlanta, Georgia. “If we’re really serious about creating a just, humane and peaceful world, he provided us with that blueprint of how to overcome what he called, ‘the triple evils of poverty, racism, and militarism.’”

Georgia Rep. John Lewis, 78, spoke to a large crowd at an event in the Indianapolis park where he organized the 1968 rally where Sen. Robert F. Kennedy — gunned down a month later by another assassin — broke the news that King had just been killed.

“I lost a friend. I lost a big brother. I lost my leader,” Lewis said in an emotional speech. “If it hadn’t been for Martin Luther King Jr., I don’t know what would have happened to our nation. I don’t know what would have happened to many of us that had been left out and left behind. I thank God that he lived. He taught us how to live. He taught us how to stand up, to be brave, courageous and bold, and to never give up.”

Just after 6 p.m. — the time King was murdered — bells will ring out 39 times across the nation and the world to commemorate his 39 years of life.


Shooting at Maryland high school leaves 2 injured, gunman dead

A shooting incident Tuesday morning at Great Mills High School in Maryland has left two teenage students injured and the suspected gunman dead, according to a report by The Baltimore Sun.

The alleged shooter, 17-year-old Austin Wyatt Rollins, who was armed with a Glock 9-millimeter handgun, shot a female and male student. Rollins had a prior relationship with the female student, said St. Mary’s County Sheriff Tim Cameron.

The 16-year-old girl is in critical condition at the University of Maryland Prince George’s Hospital Center. The 14-year-old boy was listed in good condition at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital.

A school resource officer, Deputy First Class Blaine Gaskill, fired at the gunman, who was later pronounced dead.

“This is what we prepare for and this is what we pray we never have to do,” said Sheriff Cameron. “And on this day we realized our worst nightmare that our greatest asset — our children — were attacked in a bastion of safety and security, one of our schools.”

Great Mills High School students participated in a nationwide school walkout last Wednesday, commemorating the one-month anniversary of the Parkland shooting in Florida, which left 17 people dead and other injured.

“Less than a WEEK ago Great Mills High School students walked out with us to protest gun violence…now they’re experiencing it for themselves,” tweeted Jaclyn Corin, a student activist from Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. “The state of our country is disgusting — I’m so sorry, Great Mills.”

NWT_Environment Science

Global warming impact may be much greater than predicted

According to an international team of scientists from 17 countries, future global warming may be twice as severe as predicted by climate models under “business-as-usual” scenarios, even if the world meets the target of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius.

The new study is published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The researchers, who looked at evidence from three well-documented warm periods over the past 3.5 million years, combined a wide range of measurements from fossil records, sediment layers, ice cores, atomic isotopes, and other methods to assess the impact of these climatic changes.

These changes had a profound impact on planet Earth, with polar ice caps collapsing, sea levels rising dramatically, marine ecosystems completely reorganizing, and rainfall turning the Sahara Desert green.

“Observations of past warming periods suggest that a number of amplifying mechanisms, which are poorly represented in climate models, increase long-term warming beyond climate model projections,” said lead author Prof. Hubertus Fischer of the University of Bern in Switzerland, in a statement. “This suggests the carbon budget to avoid 2ºC of global warming may be far smaller than estimated, leaving very little margin for error to meet the Paris targets.”

Just a 2 degree Celsius increase in global temperatures can have a dramatic impact on Earth, the researchers say. While traditional climate models are trustworthy for the short-term, they fail to account for temperature changes over time as they get larger or more persistent. As a consequence, the potentially devastating effects of long-term global warming are underestimated.

“Even with just 2ºC of warming — and potentially just 1.5ºC — significant impacts on the Earth system are profound,” says co-author Prof. Alan Mix of Oregon State University. “We can expect that sea-level rise could become unstoppable for millennia, impacting much of the world’s population, infrastructure and economic activity.”


July 4 protester who scaled Statue of Liberty arrested

A woman who climbed up the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty on July 4 to protest the separation of migrant families has been arrested after a standoff with police, according to a report by CNN.

After authorities failed to talk the woman down from the folds of Lady Liberty’s dress, they used climbing gear to reach her. Police used a harness and ropes to bring her down.

The woman, who has not yet been identified, is affiliated with a group called Rise and Resist. She had promised not to come down from the statue until “all the children are released,” a source with the New York Police Department said. One of the organizers of the group, Martin Joseph Quinn, told CNN that the woman’s climb on the statue was not part of the planned protest.

“She climbed without our knowledge,” Quinn said. “It was not part of our action. We are deeply concerned for her safety.”

Earlier in the day, at least seven people were taken into custody after protesters unfurled a banner reading, “Abolish ICE!” National Park Service officials were forced to shut down Liberty Island by the two displays of resistance.

“We thought we wanted to do something on our Independence Day, a day that obviously is meant for reflection on the ideals on which this nation was founded,” said Jay W. Walker, a board member of Rise and Resist. “This country has posited itself as a beacon. Right now, we have a government that is actively turning its back on those ideals.”


July 4 terror attack in Cleveland thwarted by FBI

An Ohio man who planned to set off a bomb in downtown Cleveland during Fourth of July celebrations was arrested Sunday, according to a report by The New York Times.

The FBI opened an investigation into Demetrius Pitts, 48, more than a year ago after discovering his anti-American, pro-Al Qaeda messages on Facebook. A federal agent who posed as an Al Qaeda sympathizer documented his conversations with Pitts, who said he wanted to launch attacks in various cities across the United States.

“I’m trying to figure out something that would shake them up on the Fourth of July,” Pitts said at a June 22 meeting with the undercover agent, according to a copy of the criminal complaint.

Pitts is a U.S. citizen who has also used the names Abdur Raheem Rahfeeq and Salahadeen Osama Waleed. The FBI first took notice of him when he contacted a California talk show saying, “The USA will be destroy. Allahu Akbar.”

According to the undercover FBI agent, Pitts often rambled incoherently and discussed various bizarre ways of attacking people, such as chopping them up with a machete and sending their body parts to a hog farm for pigs to devour.

The FBI said it was unclear whether Pitts had the capability to carry out the attacks he planned.

Pitts is charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. If convicted, he could face a 20-year prison sentence.


Air Force deserter apprehended after living 35 years under fake identity

A U.S. Air Force captain who deserted in 1983 was taken into custody last week, according to a report by The New York Times.

Capt. William Howard Hughes Jr., 66, was apprehended June 5 in California where he had been living under a false identity. Investigators discovered his true identity during a passport fraud probe, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations said.

Hughes reportedly told investigators he decided to leave his Air Force job in 1983 because he was depressed about it. His duties gave him a top-secret security clearance and involved classified planning and analysis of NATO surveillance systems.

After Captain Hughes failed to turn up for his assignment in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Aug. 1, 1983, the Air Force declared him a deserter. The last details known about Hughes following his desertion were to-do lists found at his home and his withdrawal of $28,500 from 19 bank branches.

In the years after his disappearance, intelligence officers speculated that Hughes had either been captured by Russian agents because of his knowledge of top-secret launch procedures or defected to the Soviet Union.

But Captain Hughes was neither captured nor did he defect. He simply invented an alias, Barry O’Beirne, and took up residence in the San Francisco bay area. Neighbors describe him as the quiet type and a fan of the San Francisco Giants.

Hughes was taken into custody in Daly City, Calif. He could face up to five years confinement, forfeiture of pay, and a dishonorable discharge from the Air Force.


Koko, the great communicating gorilla, has died

Koko, the female gorilla who became expert at using sign language to communicate with humans, has died at age 46.

The western lowland gorilla passed away in her sleep Wednesday, according to a statement by The Gorilla Foundation.

“Koko touched the lives of millions as an ambassador for all gorillas and an icon for interspecies communication and empathy,” the foundation said.

She reportedly could understand more than 2,000 words of English and used her sign language skills to join in conversations. She touched hearts with her loving relationships with pet kittens and a book titled ‘Koko’s Kitten’ was published and continues to be used in elementary schools around the world.

Koko was born on July 4, 1971 at the San Francisco Zoo. Dr. Francine “Penny” Patterson began teaching her sign language and in 1974 established The Gorilla Foundation — a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting gorillas — with Dr. Ronald Cohen at Stanford University.

The beloved gorilla astonished scientists in 2012 when she demonstrated the ability to play the recorder, according to a report by NPR. The accomplishment revealed not only her mental acuity, but showed primates can master complicated breath control, a feat thought to be beyond their abilities.

“Her impact has been profound and what she has taught us about the emotional capacity of gorillas and their cognitive abilities will continue to shape the world,” The Gorilla Foundation said.


Supreme Court protects cellphone privacy rights

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday that the government must generally obtain a warrant to gain access to cellphone location data, even if those records are in the hands of third-party cellphone companies, according to a report by The New York Times.

Writing for a 5-4 majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the Constitution must take into account the technological changes of the modern age and protect “deeply revealing” data associated with the use of 400 million electronic devices.

“The question we confront today is how to apply the Fourth Amendment to a new phenomenon: the ability to chronicle a person’s past movements through the record of his cellphone signals,” Roberts wrote, holding that the court declines “to grant the state unrestricted access to a wireless carrier’s database of physical location information.”

Now, authorities must seek a warrant for cell tower location information and, by extension, other types of digital data that reveal private details about a person’s life.

The four liberal members of the court — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Stephen G. Breyer — joined in Roberts’ opinion.

The case, Carpenter v. United States, involved the conviction of Timothy Ivory Carpenter for armed robberies of Radio Shack and other stores in the Detroit, Michigan, area. To prove their case, prosecutors relied on months of records collected from cellphone companies to show Carpenter was near the stores at the time the robberies occurred.

Justice Roberts said the data obtained by prosecutors contained a vast amount of highly personal information that was entitled to privacy protection.

“Mapping a cellphone’s location over the course of 127 days provides an all-encompassing record of the holder’s whereabouts,” Roberts wrote. “As with GPS information, the time-stamped data provides an intimate window into a person’s life, revealing not only his particular movements, but through them his ‘familial, political, professional, religious and sexual associations.’”

The decision carved out exceptions for emergency situations, such as child abductions and bomb threats.


Conservative pundit, Charles Krauthammer, dies, age 68

Charles Krauthammer, conservative commentator and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, died Thursday at age 68, according to a report by The New York Times.

His son Daniel told The Washington Post, where his father’s column appeared since 1985, that the cause of death was cancer of the small intestine. Although Krauthammer underwent surgery in August for a stomach tumor, the cancer returned.

Krauthammer revealed on June 8 that he had only weeks to live. “This is the final verdict,” he wrote in The Post. “My fight is over.”

Krauthammer was born in Manhattan on March 13, 1950 to Orthodox Jewish immigrant parents. His father, a lawyer who spoke nine languages, arrived in New York from Ukraine, while his mother left Belgium on May 10, 1940, the day the Germans invaded. The family moved to Montreal when Charles was five.

He graduated from McGill University in Montreal in 1970 with a degree in political science and economics. Then he went on to study at Harvard to become a psychiatrist.

After only one year of medical school, however, Krauthammer took a dive off a swimming pool springboard and hit his head on the bottom. The injury severed his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. Despite a 14-month long hospitalization, he succeeded in graduating with his class with a medical degree.

It was not long before Krauthammer became enamored of politics and started writing political essays for The New Republic.

He won the Pulitzer Prize for his commentary in The Washington Post in 1987 along with numerous other awards.

Krauthammer is survived by his wife Robyn and son Daniel.