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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Truth About High Gas Prices, Or How I Learned to Relax and Pay $67 to Fill Up My SUV | The Truth About Cars

Why is gasoline so damn expensive? The mainstream media has rounded up the usual suspects. They demonize oil companies (for excessive profits), lambaste environmentalists (for blocking domestic drilling and refining), and sock it to speculators (for fear mongering over supply). Simply put, the current crisis is a speculative bubble whose impact to American consumers is exacerbated by domestic economic conditions. I fully expect crude oil will trade below $80 a barrel in the not too distant future. Meanwhile, let’s tackle this one myth at a time. 

Oil companies are easy targets for the public’s gas-price-related ire. ExxonMobil recently scooped second on the Fortune 500, with annual earnings of $40.6b. Chevron slipped in at number three, with $18.7b of profit. Surely these under-taxed wicked corporations screwed unwitting customers to amass these ill gotten gains profits.

Here's a politically inconvenient truth: most of the oil companies' profits are the result of volume, not market prices. ExxonMobil, Chevron, et al make in the neighborhood of 10 cents per gallon– whether gasoline costs $1.50 a gallon or four bucks. Big Oil’s making big bucks because there’s record worldwide demand, especially in India and China.

And let’s not forget history. The oil companies we know and despise today are the result of a devastating supply glut during the early ‘90s. That “crisis” pushed these companies to the brink of extinction. Record losses spurred Exxon to merge with Mobil, and Chevron to merge with Texaco.  During the same time frame, Conoco and Phillips combined and British Petroleum gobbled up Amoco.  The mergers lowered overhead expenses by eliminating redundant exploration and administrative overhead expenses.

The second myth is that supply shortages are sending U.S. pump prices skywards.

While demand is certainly at an all-time high with the emergence of the insurgent Chinese and Indian economies, supply is also plentiful. Have we passed “Peak Oil?” As far as the oil future’s market is concerned, it doesn’t matter. Even the greatest pessimists concede that known reserves will last at least another fifty years.  More optimistic (and realistic) estimates stretch hundreds of years hence. Either way, the delivery dates of oil contracts being traded today are days, not decades, from now.

On a more immediate level, fuel shortages are a fiction. I’m not aware of a single gas station that’s unable to refill its fuel tanks or factory unable to obtain required petrochemicals or plastics. To the contrary, in April, U.S. stockpiles grew nearly 12m barrels. Iran is now storing crude in old tanker ships floating in the Persian Gulf because they have run out of space in conventional storage tanks.  The world’s positively awash in oil.

How about this one: America needs more refineries; the greenies are blocking our energy independence.

Although no new refinery plants have been built in the U.S. in a generation, there’s no shortage of refining capacity. Oil companies have retooled to improve the refining capacity at existing sites.  Currently U.S. refineries are operating at only 85 percent capacity. Go figure.

The corollary to this erroneous supposition: domestic drilling would alleviate high prices.

Should Uncle Sam allow ExxonMobil to tap ANWR? As far as today’s oil prices are concerned, it really doesn’t matter. Even if there were pumps in the protected Alaskan field pumping at full capacity right now, crude oil trading in global markets would continue largely unfazed. If we pumped more, the rest of the world would simply pump less to prevent a glut. OPEC makes these kinds of adjustments every time they meet.

So here’s the truth about high oil and thus gas prices: the pain at the pump is the result of a weakening dollar and strengthening speculation. During the last year the U.S. dollar has fallen 14 percent against the Euro, nine percent against the Chinese Yuan, and 15 percent against the Japanese Yen. In other words, it takes more dollars to buy the same goods on the world market.

The other culprits, speculators, are taking their money out of the falling stock market and collapsing real estate investments and pumping them into the red hot commodities market. Buying oil futures has become intensely popular, driving prices heavenward despite an ample supply of product.

Who are these opportunistic speculators that are causing you so much grief every time you fill up your SUV? You. Most of us have pensions, insurance holdings, or various investment funds in our 401K that hedge losses in the commodities market-– usually without the knowledge of the ultimate beneficiaries, you and me.

Market fundamentals don’t support the current high oil prices. As surely and as predictably as the technology bubble burst after a decade of market excess, world oil prices will come tumbling down, as investor dollars flood back into revitalized stock and real estate markets. When will this occur? That’s the trillion dollar question.

The Truth About High Gas Prices, Or How I Learned to Relax and Pay $67 to Fill Up My SUV | The Truth About Cars
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Welcome to Jack Herer's Home on the Web

By Raymond Cushing, AlterNet

http://www. alternet. org/story/9257/

The term medical marijuana took on dramatic new meaning in February, 2000 when researchers in Madrid announced they had destroyed incurable brain tumors in rats by injecting them with THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.

The Madrid study marks only the second time that THC has been administered to tumor-bearing animals; the first was a Virginia investigation 26 years ago. In both studies, the THC shrank or destroyed tumors in a majority of the test subjects.

Most Americans don't know anything about the Madrid discovery. Virtually no major U.S. newspapers carried the story, which ran only once on the AP and UPI news wires, on Feb. 29, 2000.

The ominous part is that this isn't the first time scientists have discovered that THC shrinks tumors. In 1974 researchers at the Medical College of Virginia, who had been funded by the National Institute of Health to find evidence that marijuana damages the immune system, found instead that THC slowed the growth of three kinds of cancer in mice -- lung and breast cancer, and a virus-induced leukemia.

The DEA quickly shut down the Virginia study and all further cannabis/tumor research, according to Jack Herer, who reports on the events in his book, "The Emperor Wears No Clothes." In 1976 President Gerald Ford put an end to all public cannabis research and granted exclusive research rights to major pharmaceutical companies, who set out -- unsuccessfully -- to develop synthetic forms of THC that would deliver all the medical benefits without the "high."

The Madrid researchers reported in the March issue of "Nature Medicine" that they injected the brains of 45 rats with cancer cells, producing tumors whose presence they confirmed through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). On the 12th day they injected 15 of the rats with THC and 15 with Win-55,212-2 a synthetic compound similar to THC. "All the rats left untreated uniformly died 12-18 days after glioma (brain cancer) cell inoculation ... Cannabinoid (THC)-treated rats survived significantly longer than control rats. THC administration was ineffective in three rats, which died by days 16-18. Nine of the THC-treated rats surpassed the time of death of untreated rats, and survived up to 19-35 days. Moreover, the tumor was completely eradicated in three of the treated rats." The rats treated with Win-55,212-2 showed similar results.

The Spanish researchers, led by Dr. Manuel Guzman of Complutense University, also irrigated healthy rats' brains with large doses of THC for seven days, to test for harmful biochemical or neurological effects. They found none.

"Careful MRI analysis of all those tumor-free rats showed no sign of damage related to necrosis, edema, infection or trauma ... We also examined other potential side effects of cannabinoid administration. In both tumor-free and tumor-bearing rats, cannabinoid administration induced no substantial change in behavioral parameters such as motor coordination or physical activity. Food and water intake as well as body weight gain were unaffected during and after cannabinoid delivery. Likewise, the general hematological profiles of cannabinoid-treated rats were normal. Thus, neither biochemical parameters nor markers of tissue damage changed substantially during the 7-day delivery period or for at least 2 months after cannabinoid treatment ended."

Guzman's investigation is the only time since the 1974 Virginia study that THC has been administered to live tumor-bearing animals. (The Spanish researchers cite a 1998 study in which cannabinoids inhibited breast cancer cell proliferation, but that was a "petri dish" experiment that didn't involve live subjects.)

In an email interview for this story, the Madrid researcher said he had heard of the Virginia study, but had never been able to locate literature on it. Hence, the Nature Medicine article characterizes the new study as the first on tumor-laden animals and doesn't cite the 1974 Virginia investigation.

"I am aware of the existence of that research. In fact I have attempted many times to obtain the journal article on the original investigation by these people, but it has proven impossible." Guzman said.

In 1983 the Reagan/Bush Administration tried to persuade American universities and researchers to destroy all 1966-76 cannabis research work, including compendiums in libraries, reports Jack Herer, who states, "We know that large amounts of information have since disappeared."

Guzman provided the title of the work -- "Antineoplastic activity of cannabinoids," an article in a 1975 Journal of the National Cancer Institute -- and this writer obtained a copy at the University of California medical school library in Davis and faxed it to Madrid.

The summary of the Virginia study begins, "Lewis lung adenocarcinoma growth was retarded by the oral administration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinol (CBN)" -- two types of cannabinoids, a family of active components in marijuana. "Mice treated for 20 consecutive days with THC and CBN had reduced primary tumor size."

The 1975 journal article doesn't mention breast cancer tumors, which featured in the only newspaper story ever to appear about the 1974 study -- in the Local section of the Washington Post on August 18, 1974.

Under the headline, "Cancer Curb Is Studied," it read in part:

"The active chemical agent in marijuana curbs the growth of three kinds of cancer in mice and may also suppress the immunity reaction that causes rejection of organ transplants, a Medical College of Virginia team has discovered." The researchers "found that THC slowed the growth of lung cancers, breast cancers and a virus-induced leukemia in laboratory mice, and prolonged their lives by as much as 36 percent."

Guzman, writing from Madrid, was eloquent in his response after this writer faxed him the clipping from the Washington Post of a quarter century ago.

In translation, he wrote:

"It is extremely interesting to me, the hope that the project seemed to awaken at that moment, and the sad evolution of events during the years following the discovery, until now we once again draw back the veil over the anti-tumoral power of THC, twenty-five years later. Unfortunately, the world bumps along between such moments of hope and long periods of intellectual castration."

News coverage of the Madrid discovery has been virtually nonexistent in this country. The news broke quietly on Feb. 29, 2000 with a story that ran once on the UPI wire about the Nature Medicine article. This writer stumbled on it through a link that appeared briefly on the Drudge Report web page. The New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times all ignored the story, even though its newsworthiness is indisputable: a benign substance occurring in nature destroys deadly brain tumors.

Raymond Cushing is a journalist, musician and filmmaker. This article was named by Project Censored as a "Top Censored Story of 2000."

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China Quake Batters Energy Industry

The horrendous scale of the human tragedy from China's massive May 12 earthquake continues to mount. On Monday, sirens sounded across the nation as Chinese stopped to observe a three-minute period of mourning in memory of the quake's victims. The death toll may top 70,000, and the government is preparing to provide food to millions of refugees.

Initially economists were hopeful that the disaster would at least not have a major impact on China's economic growth (BusinessWeek.com, 5/13/08) since Sichuan province, site of the temblor, is largely agricultural. However, as the extent of the quake's destruction becomes more apparent, some are starting to worry about damage inflicted on the economy. Today Deputy Industry Minister Xi Guohua said companies had suffered $9.5 billion in damage from the earthquake.

Hardest hit by has been Dongfang Electrical Corp., whose Mianzhu (Sichuan)-based subsidiary Dongfang Turbine, China's largest turbine producer, was virtually wiped out. In a statement released on May 16, the company said Dongfang Turbine has "suffered severe damage" from the quake, causing "a serious impact on the manufacturing and selling of turbines." One-fifth of total revenues of more than $24 billion last year came from the turbine business. Dongfang, which produces 30% of China's locally made turbines, estimates direct losses from the earthquake will reach $1 billion.

Investors have fled: Dongfang's Hong Kong-listed stock has dropped 17% since the earthquake and its Shanghai-listed shares plunged 10% (the daily limit) on Monday, the first day of trading after a four-day suspension. The company "is basically gone. I don't see how they can resume operation in the next couple of months," says K.F. Yan, Beijing-based director at Cambridge Energy Research Associates. "Taking them out will have a major impact [on China's energy industry]. China will have to buy more [turbines] from abroad."

Power Stations Shuttered

Other companies in the energy sector are also vulnerable, because Sichuan is a major onshore gas producer and the country's largest hydropower generating region. The quake's destruction has affected natural-gas exploration and production and has hit hydropower operations hard. Sichuan's electricity grid is running at 76% of pre-earthquake levels, with 27 power stations shuttered, China's State Power Grip announced on its Web site on May 19.

China can ill-afford severe disruptions to the gas and hydro industries, which are vital to fueling the country's double-digit GDP growth. Sichuan supplied some 27% of the country's national gas production in 2007. While natural gas still only accounts for 3% of the national energy mix, Beijing plans to raise that proportion to 10% by 2020, with Sichuan's rich reserves playing a key role in that expansion.

Even as rescue efforts continue, the government has ordered a massive inspection of oil and gas operations in the earthquake region. On Sunday, the Water Resources Ministry announced it has sent 25 teams to begin inspecting hundreds of dams and reservoirs in Sichuan that it earlier warned were in "dangerous condition."

Heavy Damage to Hydropower

The hydropower sector is likely to suffer the longest-lasting damage. China depends on hydropower to provide more than 20% of the country's total installed energy capacity of 722 gigawatts, with national goals to more than double that by 2020. (China has more than half of the world's 40,000 large dams—defined as being more than 15 meters high.) On May 14, the Water Resources Ministry announced that 391 dams were believed badly damaged. "There are major safety issues right now with the reservoirs, hydropower stations, and lakes in the earthquake zone," Minister Chen Lei said in a statement released on the ministry's Web site. "The area has numerous reservoirs and lots of damage, and the extent of the danger is unknown."

Unlisted SinoHydro, China's largest hydro company, has announced that close to 100 of its employees have died, 500 have been injured, and 10,000 made homeless following the quake. Estimated property damage: almost $250 million, with $330 million needed for reconstruction, the company says.

Even more alarming is the possibility of one of China's earthquake-weakened dams or reservoirs bursting, says Andrew Mertha, an assistant professor of political science at Washington University in St. Louis, and author of China's Water Warriors: Citizen Action and Policy Change, a recent book looking at local citizens' resistance to new dam construction in China. Even before the quake, Beijing had admitted there are major flaws in many of the country's 87,000 dams. "Roughly 37,000 dams across the country are in a dangerous state," Water Resources deputy minister Jiao Yong said earlier this year, noting that many had been built decades ago.

Recovery Expected

The Zipingpu dam is just one alarming example, says Mertha. It is located just six miles from the quake-devastated city of Dujiangyan. Beijing has admitted the massive dam suffered cracks during the temblor. And although the government has promised the dam is now safe, "When it comes to the actual materials used [in China's dams]—the farther one goes down the food chain, the farther you get from the initial standards that were set," says Mertha. "There is not a whole lot to inspire confidence going forward," he says.

Besides being a center for China's hydropower industry, Sichuan is also an important base for Chinese production of natural gas. The earthquake and its aftermath are also hitting Hong Kong- and New York-listed PetroChina (PTR), which has extensive natural gas operations in Sichuan. Among its 76 natural-gas drilling rigs across Sichuan, 50 have stopped operation. PetroChina has had to cut its daily production from 6 million cubic meters to 4 million cubic meters at one of its biggest natural gas wells in Sichuan.

Still, the hit to the natural gas industry overall longer term is not expected to be too severe, predict analysts. "In the worst case, China's total gas production drops 2.1%," the impact from the loss of the 2 million cubic meters, says Cambridge Energy Research Associates director Yan. "But I don't think they will lose this production for ever," he says, predicting that after a period of reconstruction, China will return to full production.

China Quake Batters Energy Industry
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Eye on Asia Ma's Message to China's Leaders - BusinessWeek

A lot of Taiwanese are counting on Ma Ying-jeou, who took office today as Taiwan’s president, to boost economic ties with China. But Ma knows that the vast majority of ordinary Taiwanese also don’t want him to do anything to disrupt the status quo in which Taiwan is a de-facto independent country. How is Ma going to manage to balance the two demands? He gave some hints in his inaugural address today. First of all, he made sure to use Taiwan’s official name, the Republic of China, several times, a nod to the Communists that he recognizes the island’s links to the mainland. Ma talked about “our common Chinese heritage,” another gesture to Beijing, and spoke about the Sichuan earthquake, saying all Taiwanese “offer our deepest condolences to the earthquake victims and pay homage to the rescue workers.”

Ma also went out of his way to praise Chinese President Hu Jintao - or, as Ma called him, pointedly dropping his counterpart’s official title, Mr. Hu Jintao - saying that when it comes to cross-straits relations, “his views are very much in line with our own.” Added Ma: “People on both sides should do their utmost to jointly contribute to the international community without engaging in vicious competition and the waste of resources. I firmly believe that Taiwan and mainland China are open-minded enough to find a way to attain peace and co-prosperity.” Ma talked hopefully about measures to improve ties, such as the launch of direct flights between Taiwan and the mainland this summer and his government’s decision to open Taiwan for the first time to large numbers of mainland tourists.

But Ma also made it clear he doesn’t intend to move quickly to change the basics of the cross-straits equation: “Under the principle of ‘no unification, no independence and no use of force,’ as Taiwan’s mainstream public opinion holds it, and under the framework of the ROC Constitution, we will maintain the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.” Unlike Chen Shui-bian, Ma’s independence-minded predecessor, Ma figures that the Taiwanese can keep that status quo going for a while by at least talking about the possibility of moving closer to the mainland at some point down the road – if China moves toward democracy. “We care about the welfare of the 1.3 billion people of mainland China, and hope that mainland China will continue to move toward freedom, democracy and prosperity for all the people,” he said. “This would pave the way for the long-term peaceful development of cross-strait relations.” (Emphasis added.)

In an indication of just how long-term that development is likely to be, Ma boasted in his speech about the way Taiwan’s democracy has developed and alluded to the lack of progress in the mainland’s political reform. “On the day of Taiwan’s presidential election, hundreds of millions of ethnic Chinese worldwide watched the ballot count on TV and the Internet. Taiwan is the sole ethnic Chinese society to complete a second democratic turnover of power. Ethnic Chinese communities around the world have laid their hopes on this crucial political experiment. By succeeding, we can make unparalleled contributions to the democratic development of all ethnic Chinese communities. This responsibility is ours to fulfill.”

It must be a huge relief for the leaders in Beijing to have someone in the Presidential Palace in Taipei who at least pays lip service to their concerns. That’s a big improvement over where things stood with Chen Shui-bian. So while they might not like his talk about maintaining the status quo, Ma is likely to enjoy a nice cross-straits honeymoon, as the media on both sides focus on the upcoming news about direct flights and mainland tourists.
Eye on Asia Ma's Message to China's Leaders - BusinessWeek
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Nintendo: Wii Sells 714,000 in U.S. in April news from 1UP.com

Total U.S. Wii sales up to 9.5 million to-date.
By Kris Pigna, 05/15/2008
We still haven't received the official NPD numbers for the month of April, but that hasn't dissuaded the requisite number-spinning from kicking off a little early. Nintendo announced Thursday that they sold 714,000 Wiis (wait, let's restate that with more appropriate urgency: 714,000 Wiis) in the U.S. during the month of April. That, according to Nintendo, puts it in the lead for the month amongst all hardware sales, with the Nintendo DS reportedly coming in second (although specific figures weren't released).

This announcement brings the total number of Wiis sold in the U.S. to 9.5 million, which is just 500,000 short of the 10 million mark Microsoft so proudly bragged about 24 hours ago.

In other staggering Nintendo sales news, they also reported that Mario Kart Wii sold 1.1 million units, bringing it in at number two overall for the top selling games of the month. We're not sure if Nintendo counts the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of Grand Theft Auto IV as separate releases (although NPD does), so whether this means one version came in at number one and another came in at, say, number three is impossible to deduce yet.

But however that turns out, Nintendo still dominated software sales, claiming six of the top 10 selling games of the month: Mario Kart Wii (No. 2), Wii Play (No. 4), Super Smash Bros. Brawl (No. 5), Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness (No. 7), Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time (No. 8) and the Wii version of Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (No. 9). And lastly, as if to put an exclamation mark on the whole thing, it was also revealed that Smash Bros. Brawl has sold 3 million units in the U.S. to-date.

"Wii sales were buoyed in part by the strong launch of Mario Kart Wii, which sold more than 1.1 million units," said Cammie Dunaway, Nintendo of America's executive vice president of sales & marketing. "Our belief in appealing to a broad, diverse audience of players continues to resonate with consumers, and we look forward to continuing our outreach to an expanded audience with the launch of Wii Fit next week."

So what do Microsoft and Sony have to say about Nintendo's number-stroking? Their sales figures haven't been announced yet, but don't be surprised if they come in any minute now. Let the forum bickering begin!
Nintendo: Wii Sells 714,000 in U.S. in April news from 1UP.com
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E3 Santa Monica cost ESA $5 million in fees

Filed under: ,

E3's experimental move to Santa Monica last year cost the ESA $5 million after breaking its contract with the LA Convention Center. Kotaku obtained IRS documents showing that the contract's end and an expected drop in E3 revenue, due to the event's smaller size, caused the association to dramatically increase membership fees.

Kotaku speculates that the increase, as well as the decision to hold E3 in Santa Monica, may have been the reasons LucasArts and Activision/Vivendi jumped ship from the ESA. The ESA says membership dues were lower in the past because of income generated by E3, but revenues dropped significantly when the ESA board (made up of executives from publishers) moved the venue last year.

Not only was Santa Monica's E3 bad due to its invite-only policy (meaning publishers got to decide who came and who didn't), it was also horrible for journalists to cover -- not good for a "media and business summit." Thankfully, this year E3 will be back in one spot at the LA Convention Center. We're still waiting to hear what Activision/Vivendi has planned.

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British Sales Charts [Sales Charts]

See anything familiar, British readers? I bet you do. Because if you looked at last week's charts, popped out for a bit to do some shopping, then came home to read this week's charts, you'd be hard pressed to spot the difference. Indeed, if Pro Evo on the Wii hadn't displaced Cooking Mama 2 at the foot of the top 10 we'd be looking at the exact same ten games as we were this time last week.

1) GTA IV (360)

2) GTA IV (PS3)

3) Wii Fit

4) Mario Kart Wii

5) Wii Play

6) Mario & Sonic at the Olympics

7) Brain Training

8) GT5: Prologue

9) Rayman Raving Rabbids 2

10) Pro Evo 2008 (Wii)

British Individual-Format Sales Charts courtesy of ChartTrack [Pic]

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The Top Six-Selling Wii Games In Japan Are... [Nintendo]

 The Wii's been out since 2006. It has, since then, moved a ton of units in its native Japan. But what about the games? Which titles have rocked the Wii's world more than other titles which may have rocked it less, if at all? These six have, and according to Media Create they're the top-selling games on the system (in Japan). All have sold over a million, all are developed by Nintendo, none of them are Super Mario Galaxy.

1) Wii Sports - 2,979,275

2) Wii Play - 2,368,967

3) Wii Fit - 2,038,730

4) Smash Bros Brawl - 1,620,119

5) Mario Party 8 - 1,254,542

6) Mario Kart Wii - 1,227,169

メディアクリエイト、「Wii」関連のデータを公開本体の国内累計販売本数が600万台を突破 [Game Watch] [Pic: BBC]

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Wii Fit Shipments Late? Not Exactly [Street Dates]

 I am a little confused about the reports of late Wii Fit shipments throughout North America when the package, as far as retailers are concerned, hasn't even gone on sale yet. While Nintendo did see fit (pardon the pun) to release their balance board on the 19th, I've seen boxes of the product at several retailers with giant "Do Not Sell Until May 21st" stickers on them. The shipments aren't late...they're dated.

I actually held one in my hands at a local Walmart nearly two weeks ago, with the ever-friendly electronics clerk (one of the few at a Walmart who knows what he is on about) even offered to sell it to me early, if the computer let him. Sadly it did not, once again flashing the message warning not to sell the game until the 21st. If Nintendo changed up the release date on retailers they didn't do it in enough time to change the box stickers and POS system fail-safes.

Don't even bother looking for one today. As far as the retail world is concerned you can get your Wii Fit on tomorrow. We've been lazy this long, another day won't kill us.

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High Times > Police Find Marijuana Plants Growing in Abandoned Car - GENERALLY ABOUT 20-25 LBS

ALEXANDRIA, La. —  An investigation into possible drug activity in an Alexandria, La., neighborhood led city police to an abandoned car with 53 marijuana plants growing in it.


Sgt. Newmon Bobb said the plants, which would have an estimated value of $53,000 when fully grown, were seized, and two people were arrested.


Jerome Thompson, 23, and Mahogany Morris, 23, both of Alexandria, were booked with possession of marijuana in a school zone and cultivation of marijuana, police said.


Thompson was also booked with resisting arrest by false information, probation violation and failure to pay a fine, authorities reported.

High Times > Police Find Marijuana Plants Growing in Abandoned Car
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High Times > Toronto Couple May Lose Home if Convicted of Growing Pot

TORONTO -- Federal prosecutors are attempting to seize the family home of a Toronto couple - both in their late 50s, with no prior criminal record - if they are convicted of running a marijuana grow operation.


Tam Ngoc Tran and his wife Lien Thi Pham were arrested last year and charged with marijuana production-related offences, accused of having a medium sized grow-op in their modest home.


If convicted at their provincial court trial which begins Monday in downtown Toronto, the couple may be sentenced to no more than a few months in jail.


But the federal Integrated Proceeds of Crime Unit has filed notice that it will also be seeking forfeiture of the home the couple purchased in 1997 for about $200,000, under the provisions of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.


The forfeiture powers first came into effect more than a decade ago. In 2001, they were expanded by then-Justice minister Anne McLellan to make it easier to seize anything classified as "offence related property," as part of a legislative package to fight organized crime.


The law requires anyone convicted of a marijuana production offence to show why their property should not be seized. The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, the highest court to rule on this legislation, concluded last year that seizing property is "not part of the punitive sanction" for a grow-op conviction and should not be considered part of any sentence that is imposed.


The present Conservative government introduced legislation last fall that would impose mandatory minimum jail sentences of at least six months for producing as little as one marijuana plant as long as it was found to be part of a grow-op.

High Times > Toronto Couple May Lose Home if Convicted of Growing Pot
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High Times > Correctional Officer Arrested for Selling Marijuana to Inmates

A corrections officer was arrested Saturday, May 10, while on duty at the Washington County Correctional Institution.

According to a news release, a joint effort by the Washington County Sheriff's Office and the Washington Correctional Institution led to the arrest of correctional officer Ivan Duke Peters, 34. He was taken into custody while on duty.

Peters was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to sell, manufacture or deliver, unlawful compensation, and smuggling contraband into a detention facility.

Officers received information that Peters had been bringing contraband into the prison in return for cash from inmates housed at Washington CI. Peters was taken into custody shortly after arriving for his shift.

Additional arrests and charges are expected, the release said.

High Times > Correctional Officer Arrested for Selling Marijuana to Inmates
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High Times > Next President Might Be Gentler on Pot Clubs - POTHEADS PLEASE VOTE

Ever since California voters became the first in the nation to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, the state has faced unyielding opposition from the federal government, which insists it has the power to prohibit a drug it considers useless and dangerous.


That could all change with the next presidential election.


As the candidates prepare for a May 20 primary in Oregon, one of 12 states with a California-style law, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois has become an increasingly firm advocate of ending federal intervention and letting states make their own rules when it comes to medical marijuana.


His Democratic rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, is less explicit, recently softening a pledge she made early in the campaign to halt federal raids in states with medical marijuana laws. But she has expressed none of the hostility that marked the response of her husband's administration to California's initiative, Proposition 215.


Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican nominee-in-waiting, has gone back and forth on the issue - promising a medical marijuana patient at one campaign stop that seriously ill patients would never face arrest under a McCain administration, but ultimately endorsing the Bush administration's policy of federal raids and prosecutions.


Political battles over exempting medical patients from marijuana laws have been fought mostly in statehouses and at ballot boxes since 1996, when California voters repealed state criminal penalties for those who used the drug with their doctor's approval. But the federal government has played an important role in limiting the scope of those state laws, and their effectiveness over the next four years may be determined by the next president.


Bill Clinton's position

President Bill Clinton's administration opposed the California law from the start and won a court case allowing it to shut nonprofit organizations that supplied medical marijuana to members. Clinton's Justice Department also tried to punish California doctors who recommended marijuana to their patients by revoking their authority to prescribe any drugs, but federal courts backed the doctors.


The Bush administration has gone further, raiding medical marijuana growers and clinics, prosecuting suppliers under federal drug laws after winning a U.S. Supreme Court case, and pressuring commercial property owners to evict marijuana dispensaries by threatening legal action. The administration has also blocked a University of Massachusetts researcher's attempt to grow marijuana for studies of its medical properties.


Since 2001, federal prosecutors have won convictions in at least 28 California drug cases where defendants claimed they were supplying or using medical marijuana, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Prosecutors have filed charges in 22 more cases, and authorities have raided 10 growers or dispensaries without filing charges, the group says.


The presidential candidates haven't discussed the issue in speeches or debates, but medical marijuana advocates regularly questioned them in Iowa and New Hampshire. The most sweeping changes were proposed by second-tier candidates - Democrats Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich and Chris Dodd and Republican Ron Paul called for repealing federal criminal penalties for marijuana - but of the remaining contenders, Obama has been the friendliest to advocates of medical marijuana.


At a November appearance in Audubon, Iowa, Obama recalled that his mother had died of cancer and said he saw no difference between doctor-prescribed morphine and marijuana as pain relievers. He said he would be open to allowing medical use of marijuana, if scientists and doctors concluded it was effective, but only under "strict guidelines," because he was "concerned about folks just kind of growing their own and saying it's for medicinal purposes."


Obama went a step further in an interview in March with the Mail Tribune newspaper in Medford, Ore. While still expressing qualms about patients growing their own supply or getting it from "mom-and-pop stores," he said it is "entirely appropriate" for a state to legalize the medical use of marijuana, "with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors."


In response to recent questions from The Chronicle about medical marijuana, Obama's campaign - the only one of the three contenders to reply - endorsed a hands-off federal policy.


"Voters and legislators in the states - from California to Nevada to Maine - have decided to provide their residents suffering from chronic diseases and serious illnesses like AIDS and cancer with medical marijuana to relieve their pain and suffering," said campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt.


"Obama supports the rights of states and local governments to make this choice - though he believes medical marijuana should be subject to (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) regulation like other drugs," LaBolt said. He said the FDA should consider how marijuana is regulated under federal law, while leaving states free to chart their own course.


Obama would end DEA raids

LaBolt also said Obama would end U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration raids on medical marijuana suppliers in states with their own laws.


Those raids have been the focus of Hillary Clinton's comments on the issue. At a July campaign event in Manchester, N.H., she told a medical marijuana advocate that she would end the federal raids, according to Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana, which recorded the exchange.


But the candidate was less absolute in a more recent interview with the Willamette Week newspaper in Hillsboro, Ore.


"I don't think it's a good use of federal law enforcement resources to be going after people who are supplying marijuana for medicinal purposes," Clinton said in the April 5 interview. But when asked whether she would stop the raids, she replied, "What we should do is prioritize what the DEA should be doing, and that would not be a high priority. There's a lot of other, more important work that needs to be done."


Clinton has also said she opposes repealing criminal penalties for marijuana, but told advocates in October that the government should conduct more research "into what, if any, medical benefits it has."


McCain has taken a variety of positions, according to comments recorded by medical marijuana advocates.


At an April 2007 campaign kickoff event, when asked if he would end federal raids, he said, "I would let states decide that issue." But less than two months later, he said he would not end the raids. Then, in November, he promised a man who described himself as a seriously ill marijuana patient that he would "do everything in my power" to make sure the man was never arrested for using the drug.


No policy paper

While maintaining that medical experts considered marijuana ineffectual and potentially dangerous, McCain promised at the same November event in New Hampshire to consult with experts and issue an "in-depth policy paper" on the topic within a few days. McCain's campaign has not responded to media inquiries, and marijuana advocates say the policy paper was never issued.


He was also asked during a November conference call whether the federal government should override the will of the people in states with medical marijuana laws. "Medical marijuana is not something that the, quote, people want," McCain replied.


Bruce Mirken, a spokesman for the advocacy group Marijuana Policy Project, said he remains hopeful that the federal climate will improve, no matter who becomes president.


"All it takes," he said, "is for the Justice Department to say, 'Leave these states alone.' "

High Times > Next President Might Be Gentler on Pot Clubs
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High Times > Eviction Attempt Finds a Garden of Marijuana - GENERALLY ABOUT 23-30 LBS JESUS!

CHICAGO -- Officers on the scene to evict a Chicago man ended up arresting him after finding a room “filled with growing marijuana plants.”
Cook County Sheriff’s police arrived at 4548 S. Prairie Ave. to evict 35-year-old Arkey Washington for mortgage foreclosure, according to the Cook County Sheriff’s department.

When officers entered the brownstone apartment to explain the eviction process to Washington, they “detected a strong odor of marijuana,” the release said.

Aside from finding an unloaded handgun on the floor and “two large containers of marijuana” which appeared to be packaged for street sale, officers found a bedroom containing a “sophisticated marijuana growing operation,” the release said.

The room’s door was covered with black plastic, and had lights, fans, a ventilation system, soil and 24 growing marijuana plants—all about three feet high.

The Sheriff’s police seized all of the drugs and the gun, and estimate the street value of the marijuana to be about $60,000.

Washington had a previous drug-related conviction and is being held pending a bond hearing

High Times > Eviction Attempt Finds a Garden of Marijuana
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High Times > Police: Two Men Broke into Mini Golf Course to Smoke Pot in Cave

NORTH HAMPTON — North Hampton police arrested two men who broke into a closed Putt-A-Round Miniature Golf to smoke marijuana in the course’s cave, according to Sgt. Michael Maddocks.


Ryan B. Leclerc, 27, of Barre, Vt., and Joshua R. Mcelroy, 20, of Montpelier, Vt., were arrested on Sunday, May 11, around 11:55 a.m.


North Hampton Officers Gary Homiak and Michael Oliveira responded to a report of two males breaking into the closed business at 178 Lafayette Road. They discovered the men in the cave of the miniature golf course.


The two men, according to Maddocks, had "come for a random trip to the Seacoast to stay at Hampton Beach."


Mcelroy was charged with criminal trespass, possession of a narcotic drug (methadone), carrying weapons (brass knuckles), possession of a controlled drug (marijuana) and possession of drug paraphernalia.


Leclerc was charged with criminal trespass, possession of a controlled drug and criminal mischief. They were each released on $100 cash bail and ordered to appear in Hampton District Court on Friday, June 27, at 8:30 a.m.

High Times > Police: Two Men Broke into Mini Golf Course to Smoke Pot in Cave
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High Times > Malaysian Court Sentences 2 Thais to Hang for Marijuana Trafficking

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: A Malaysian court sentenced two Thai citizens to death by hanging for marijuana trafficking, a lawyer said Tuesday.


The Kuala Lumpur High Court convicted Masoh Daloh, 35, and Romuelee Yakoh, 46, on Monday of trafficking 75 pounds of the drug, said their lawyer, Naran Singh.


The men were arrested in 2002 after they were found in a car with 34 slabs of marijuana, the lawyer said. The judge ruled the defense failed to cast reasonable doubt on the prosecution's contention that the Thais intended to sell the drug.


Both men appealed their convictions and sentences but no date was immediately scheduled for a hearing.


Malaysia's use of the death penalty has come under renewed attention after human rights group Amnesty International last month accused Malaysian authorities of being secretive about executions.


The Southeast Asian country has a mandatory death penalty for various offenses including drug trafficking, murder or crimes using firearms.


Malaysia has hanged more than 200 people, mostly its own citizens, for drug trafficking since capital punishment was implemented for the offense in 1975.


The country's Bar Council has campaigned in recent years for the penalty to be scrapped, describing it as barbaric, inhumane and an insufficient deterrent.


The Malaysian government has denied covering up details of executions, and insisted that the death penalty remains necessary to curb crime.

High Times > Malaysian Court Sentences 2 Thais to Hang for Marijuana Trafficking
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High Times > Police Arrest Man Who Dialed Deputy to Order Marijuana

MCMINNVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Warren County authorities arrested a man they say misdialed and ordered marijuana from a sheriff's deputy.


Sheriff Jackie Matheny said Deputy Jason Rowland was off duty when his cell phone rang and the voice on the other end asked if he had any "smoke." Rowland played along and the caller ordered $40 worth of marijuana.


Rowland told the caller to meet him behind a shopping mall later on Thursday, then he called investigators.


The alleged buyer showed up and police charged him with solicitation of drug sales and DUI.

High Times > Police Arrest Man Who Dialed Deputy to Order Marijuana
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High Times > Vietnam Drugs Haul 'Largest Ever': Nine Tons of Marijuana - DUDE THAT'S 18,000 LBS OF BUD


Police in Vietnam say they have found nearly nine tons of cannabis in a shipment of blue jeans from Pakistan.


The authorities say it is their largest ever drugs seizure - at a value of $90m (£45m).


The drugs, shipped through the port of Hai Phong, were found near the border with China, and are believed to have been ultimately bound for Canada.


Four Chinese citizens and one Indonesian have been arrested in connection with the find.


Tough laws


Anti-drugs police said that the cannabis resin was seized earlier this week on two trucks heading for the Chinese border. It had arrived in April on a ship from Pakistan.


Vietnam has introduced some of the world's toughest drugs laws, and the possession or trafficking of heroin or opium is punishable by death or life imprisonment.


In February a government review of drug-related crimes and trafficking said border provinces had strengthened ties with neighbour countries to fight the transport of drugs.

High Times > Vietnam Drugs Haul 'Largest Ever': Nine Tons of Marijuana
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High Times > Substitute Teacher Arrested, Buys Marijuana From Student

A substitute teacher in Berks County has been charged with buying marijuana from an undercover detective and a student she had asked to help her get the drug.


Police said 53-year-old Susan Siegel, of Montgomery County, called an 18-year-old male student at Governor Mifflin High School out into the hallway during a business class Wednesday afternoon and asked if he could get her a half ounce of marijuana.Police also said she offered to give the student vodka to help set up the deal.


The undercover sale happened Thursday at the Queen City Diner."Our officers actually met in a car with this substitute teacher, sold $100 worth of marijuana and after that an arrest was made," said Berks County District Attorney John Adams.Siegel had been teaching the class for about a month.

High Times > Substitute Teacher Arrested, Buys Marijuana From Student
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High Times > Cuban Rolls Cigar Said to be World's Longest

HAVANA (Reuters) - With music, dancing and rum, Cubans celebrated on Friday the likely return of a record they consider rightfully theirs -- the world's longest cigar.


At just over 148 feet 9 inches, the thick stogie stretched like a long brown snake through a room and out its front and back windows at El Morro, the old Spanish fort overlooking Havana Bay.


British diplomat Chris Stimpson made the official measurement, which he said would be sent to the Guinness World Records in London for confirmation.


"The best in the world, no?" said the cigar's smiling, ash-stained roller, Jose Castelar Cairo, better known as Cueto.



His six-day-long project, completed with several assistants, eclipsed the previous record of 135 feet (41 meters), held by Patricio Pena of Puerto Rico.


Breaking the record was a point of pride for Cubans, whose cigars are considered among the world's best.


"It's an honor for Cuba and I feel satisfied to do it for Cuba," Cueto said above the din of 50 or so happy Cubans sipping rum, singing and swaying to the lively music of a guitar-playing singer.


Cueto, who learned cigar rolling when he was 5 years old, is no stranger to big cigars. He held the record for world's longest three times before.


This cigar record was not without its drama. As late as Thursday, Cueto planned to roll a cigar 98 feet in length, thinking that would break the record.


But then he learned that Pena had bested it last year.


The veteran cigar roller worked until 5 a.m. to beat Pena's record, an effort which he said had left him "exhausted."

High Times > Cuban Rolls Cigar Said to be World's Longest
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Technology Slice: Depression, Teens and Marijuana, Marijuana Depression

"Depression, teens and marijuana are a dangerous mix that can lead to dependency, mental illness or suicidal thoughts, according to a White House report being released Friday.

A teen who has been depressed at some point in the past year is more than twice as likely to have used marijuana as teens who have not reported being depressed — 25 percent compared with 12 percent, said the report by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

"Marijuana is a more consequential substance of abuse than our culture has treated it in the last 20 years," said John Walters, director of the office. "This is not just youthful experimentation that they'll get over as we used to think in the past.""

Marijuana is taken way too lightly in many communities. Many see the use of marijuana having no consequences. Some even believe it is better for a person physically than smoking tobacco. While this may have some merit technically it could not be further than the truth. There are many side effects of smoking marijuana that people choose to ignore.

Schizophrenia is one such side effect that can have a big impact on the users life. It is essentially a personality disorder that causes the patient to exhibit facets of multiple personalities. Basically meaning they act like two separate and distinct people at different times.

Depression is a provocateur if you will that pushes teens to experiment with marijuana. Teens with depression must be helped to ensure they do not start taking drugs such as marijuana to escape their problems.
Technology Slice: Depression, Teens and Marijuana, Marijuana Depression
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Cops: Texas teens admit stealing child's skull, using it to smoke weed - On Deadline - USATODAY.com

Houston police say three teens admitted digging up a child's corpse, removing the skull and using it to smoke marijuana.

"They cut the jaw off of it and wrapped it in electrical tape and used it to make a bong," Officer Jim Adkins tells KRIV-TV. The local Fox affiliate has a photo gallery associated with the case.

Because of flooding at the Humble cemetery, police say they have been unable to confirm that the body is no longer intact.

"The grave was uncovered, and the headstone had been thrown off the grave and broken," Adkins tells the Houston Chronicle.

KHOU-TV says investigators have yet to find the skull, nor have they been able to find anyone related to Willie Simms, an 11-year-old boy who died in 1921.

Three teens face charges of abusing a corpse. Police say they're looking for a fourth suspect.

Cops: Texas teens admit stealing child's skull, using it to smoke weed - On Deadline - USATODAY.com
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The Green Cross Celebrates ONE FULL YEAR Providing Patients With Alternatives____________________________

It is with tremendous pride that we notify all of our patients, friends and allies that The Green Cross is the first medical cannabis collective to complete the entire regulatory process established by the City of San Francisco. On January 7, 2008 we became the first collective to be granted a permit! While this is an awesome accomplishment for The Green Cross, we are concerned about the other collectives seeking to provide good quality, affordable and accessible cannabis medication. Getting a permit that meets all of the current regulations appears to be a formidable challenge for the more than two dozen collectives that are at various stages of seeking their permit. It’s taking substantially more time to move through the permit process than was envisioned when the local legislation was passed.

Anticipating the delay, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is in the midst of considering a resolution that would extend the deadline for the collectives seeking a permit until January, 2009. Since we believe strongly in the educational function of The Green Cross, we will continue to send out action alerts and links to articles appearing in local or national media that are of interest to patients, friends and allies. The time may come when we need to mobilize large numbers of patients in order to make sure San Francisco continues to provide cannabis patients with opportunities and options for purchasing safe, affordable, high quality medication.

The Green Cross Delivery service has become a very real option for many San Francisco cannabis patients! Utilizing a small fleet of hybrid and smart cars, The Green Cross staff works hard to provide prompt, safe, courteous and conscientious delivery services to all cannabis patients that have proper documentation living within the SF City limits (see www.sfdph.org/services/mcidinfo).

Furthermore, we remain committed to our activism and community contributions program:

1. The Green Cross is one of the founders and leaders of the Compassionate Care Council, a trade association for medical cannabis collectives that has provided guidance to SF City officials who are seeking to make needed reforms to the legislation. The collectives and co-op leaders that have been most active include: BASA Collective, Divinity Treat, Market Street Co-op, Love Shack, Alternative Patient Caregivers, the Green Door, the Patients and Caregivers Collective, NorCal, Herbal Relief Patients' Co-op, and Valencia Street Caregivers.

2. As you know we continue to offer patients in San Francisco among the lowest priced, quality medical cannabis products in a professional manner.

3. We also offer Disabled Veterans Discount Program:
20% off all medication. Available all day on the 2nd Sunday of every month.

4. Senior Citizens Discount Program: 10% off all medications. Available all day on the 2nd Sunday of every month for seniors over 65.

5. In-patient Hospital Discount Program: 1/3rd off the cost of all forms of medications for patients every Monday.

6. Public Medical Cannabis Education Program: providing free informational material at public events and a local web forum.

7. Good neighbor policies: The Green Cross staff makes every effort to keep adjacent streets and sidewalks clean and free of debris. The state-of-the-art security system allows us to assist neighbors in identifying individuals committing petty crimes, such as vandalism and car theft. We also make contributions to neighborhood social service providers and organizations, such as The ARC, the local chapter of Americans for Safe Access and Boxtops for Education.

We are thrilled to be in the forefront of providing an added dimension to the term access: that of a safe, responsible and reliable delivery service. We look forward to working side-by-side with many of you as we transform the archaic laws in this country to make medical cannabis an option for all those in need. Below are a few links to organizations engaged in critical policy work at the local and national levels. Please check out their web-sites. Get active in our movement! We need you.

The Green Cross Celebrates ONE FULL YEAR Providing Patients With Alternatives____________________________
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Drugs in Costa Rica | Buying Drugs in Costa Rica | How to Buy Drugs in Costa Rica | Costa Rica Travel Guide

weed.jpgWhat drugs are legal in Costa Rica?

Simply put, none. All of your run of the mill drugs such as weed, coke, mushrooms, etc; are all considered to be illegal here. That said, the enforcement of these rules are generally laid back.

Can I smoke in public?

This all really depends on where you are. Smoking in the streets of San Jose probably isn’t the smartest thing to do, but there are a few hostels where it is acceptable to smoke. If you are unsure

Public hearing to be heard on medicinal marijuana [GRIDLEY CITY] - Shroomery News Service - Shroomery Message Board

In December 2007, Gridley City Council members heard public testimony regarding the negative impacts associated with the cultivation of outdoor medicinal marijuana in residential neighborhoods.

The complaints ranged from noxious odors from mature marijuana plants, increased traffic and disturbances, diminished sense of security and inability to use outdoor areas because of the odor.

According to State Law SB 420, and the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (Prop 215), patients prescribed marijuana for medicinal purposes may possess and cultivate marijuana for personal purposes in an amount not to exceed six mature or 12 immature marijuana plants per registered patient. A caregiver may be designated to maintain and cultivate marijuana for patients - which may result in a large number of plants at one location.

On January 22, 2008, the City Attorney informed Council that cultivation and possession of marijuana, even for medical reasons, is illegal under Federal Law. California cities have taken different approaches to the problem ranging from remaining neutral to specific regulations contained in the zoning ordinance.

It was also noted that the matter will likely be decided over time by a Federal Agency or until a city is challenged.

Public Hearings will be held Monday, May 19 at 5:30 p.m. during the Gridley Planning Commission meeting at during the 7 p.m. City Council meeting.

All interested persons are invited to attend or submit comments in writing in advance.

A draft ordinance was prepared by staff at the request of council regarding regulating the cultivation of marijuana within Title 17 of the Gridley Municipal Code.

On Monday night, the City Council will discuss a proposal to amend the Gridley Municipal Code to regulate the cultivation of medicinal marijuana by specifically prohibiting outdoor plant cultivation and limiting the number of plants within residential zoning designations.

The proposed zoning amendment limits cultivation of medicinal marijuana to twelve mature plants and 24 immature plants per residential parcel, which assumes no more than two registered patients/caregivers would reside at a residential location.

The proposal would not alter the number of plants per commercial parcels. Cultivation on both residential and commercial/industrial parcels would be required to be indoors.

The ordinance does not allow for outdoor growing at all.
Public hearing to be heard on medicinal marijuana [GRIDLEY CITY] - Shroomery News Service - Shroomery Message Board
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Weed Shortage On-Campus - News

Tulane underclassmen have recently reported a shortage of quality marijuana available on-campus. A drug bust two weeks ago purportedly influenced campus supply, and subsequent developments have further limited resources.

TUPD arrested two freshmen in their room early last week on possession charges. The students spent a night in jail and Tulane lawyers got them out on bail within 24 hours. They had cocaine and marijuana in their room, according to a TUPD crime report.

"Everybody knew about it," another freshman said. "And once they got busted, they stopped dealing. Obviously, that kind of thing would mess up their whole legal defense."

The purported dealers seem to have been a main source for many underclassmen students.

"They're nice guys and they sell good weed," a sophomore said.

Others say that the pair seemed to always have drugs.

"You could count on them most of the time," a freshman said.

Students mentioned that another supposed source has recently become unavailable. A student described on Juicy Campus as having "the best" marijuana at Tulane viewed the comment as unwelcome advertising and decided on "early retirement."

"If he was dealing, he now has to stop because it would be so easy to get caught," a friend said. "And who knows - maybe he didn't even deal and it was someone's idea of a joke. Either way it sucks."

Other purported dealers can still be found on campus, said some Tulane users, but students claim the three now-unavailable students had the most consistent supplies.

"Of course you can go to the frats," said another sophomore. "But honestly, it's pretty unreliable there. You never know what you're getting, and there is usually better stuff available for cheaper."

One student explained that a certain religiously-affiliated fraternity is notorious for selling marijuana because of the fraternity's liberal, "hippie" tendencies.

"A lot of them really are committed to God and everything, but that doesn't mean they're angels. They know how to party too, like any other frat," she said.

The student pointed out that some people aren't comfortable asking fraternity brothers they don't know for drugs.

"Who is going to knock on their front door and say, 'My dealer got busted, can you hook me up?' People will probably just wait until someone they know has pot and try to buy off them."

Some freshmen have noticed that marijuana smokers from New Orleans are likely to have sources off-campus who are unaffected by the recent supply slump.

"I know a [Tulane student] from New Orleans that always has weed," a freshman said. "But he gets it from a high school friend. I guess I could buy off [the Tulane student], but he's not really a dealer so I don't know if he'd be down."

Other Tulane users didn't seem to notice the shortage, saying that there are lots of places to get marijuana if students know where to look. Students also hope that the recently-unavailable dealers will re-open for business at some point.

"Maybe once all the drama blows over things will be back to normal," a freshman said. "It's really not that big of a deal. I mean, we live in New Orleans. Just because there isn't weed on campus doesn't mean it's hard to get trashed whenever you want."

When asked about the situation, an upperclassman who smokes marijuana commented that the shortage isn't something to be too disconcerted about.

"All I can say is that it's good that pot isn't addictive," he said. "If it was, half the freshmen class would be going insane right now. Besides, maybe a shortage will help people out with midterms - could be a blessing in disguise."
Weed Shortage On-Campus - News
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Regulating Tobacco - New York Times

Re “Cigarette Bill Treats Menthol With Leniency” (front page, May 13):

Contrary to the impression left by your article, pending federal legislation to regulate tobacco products does not exempt menthol cigarettes from regulation. The legislation grants the Food and Drug Administration authority to reduce or ban menthol in cigarettes if the agency determines, based on the science, that such action would protect public health.

This approach allows the F.D.A. to follow the science in addressing the serious problems posed by menthol cigarettes and to consider the possible unintended consequences before banning a product to which more than 10 million American smokers are addicted.

This treatment of menthol was not a result of negotiation between our organization (or any other public health organization) and any tobacco company. The current bill treats menthol in the same way as previous bills supported by the public health community dating back to 2000, long before any tobacco company supported the legislation.

Tobacco use is the nation’s leading cause of preventable death. This legislation would for the first time grant a qualified, science-based agency the authority to regulate these deadly products. This authority extends to menthol cigarettes.

Matthew L. Myers
President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
Washington, May 16, 2008

Regulating Tobacco - New York Times
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BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | 'Fewer hurricanes' as world warms

Hurricanes and tropical storms will become less frequent by the end of the century as a result of climate change, US researchers have suggested.

But the scientists added their data also showed that there would be a "modest increase" in the intensity of these extreme weather events.

The findings are at odds with some other studies, which forecast a greater number of hurricanes in a warmer world.

The researchers' results appear in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The team from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (Noaa) Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) said its findings did not support the notion that human-induced climate change was causing an increase in the number of hurricanes and tropical storms.

"There have been some studies published that have suggested that this is the case, but this modelling study does not support that idea," observed lead author Tom Knutson.

"Rather, we actually simulate a reduction in hurricane frequency in the Atlantic."

Eye of the storm

Although the study projected that there would be fewer extreme weather events in the future, Dr Knutson said that these storms were likely to be more powerful.

"The model is simulating increased intensity of the hurricanes that do occur, and also increased rainfall rates.

"This is something that has been seen in previous studies, and the IPCC use this [scenario] as a likely projection for future climate warming.

We do not regard this study as the last word on this topic
Dr Tom Knutson,
Noaa meteorologist
"These changes in intensity are still fairly modest in size."

A previous study by Noaa scientists showed a 4% increase in storm intensity for every 1C (1.8F) increase in sea surface temperature. Yet, he explained, this study suggested only a 1-2% increase.

A sea surface temperature (SST) above 26.5C (79.7F) is one of the key factors in the formation and feeding of a hurricane.

Over recent decades, the surfaces of most tropical oceans have warmed by up to 0.5C (0.9F), which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) believes has been caused by an increase in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

In November 2006, the global community of tropical cyclone researchers gathered at a workshop organised by the World Meteorological Organization to consider the impact of human activity on the frequency and intensity of cyclones.

Sea surface temperatures above 26.5C (79.7F)
A pre-existing weather disturbance
Moisture in the atmosphere
Favourable conditions, such as light winds or weak wind shear

In a concluding statement, the researchers said that although there was evidence both for and against the existence of a detectable anthropogenic signal in the tropical cyclone climate record, no firm conclusion could be made.

One reason for the uncertainty is the changes in observation methods used to record Atlantic hurricanes - a record that dates back to 1850.

From 1944, air reconnaissance flights were used to monitor tropical storms and hurricanes. This development allowed researchers to monitor a much greater area and not rely on ships' logs and storms reaching land.

And from the late 1960s, satellite technology has been used to monitor and track hurricanes.

Therefore, a reliable record of past hurricane activity only stretches back about 35 years.

Natural variations that affect SSTs - such as El Nino and La Nina episodes and the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation - add to the difficulty of identifying the influence of human-induced climate change on the frequency and intensity of hurricanes.

Model mechanics

Dr Knutson's colleague and co-author, Isaac Held, said the team's model used a different approach to previous efforts, which gave them a high degree of confidence in their results.

Hurricane flood and wind damage (Getty Images)
The researchers project a "modest increase" in future storms' intensity

"Most of the literature to date on hurricanes and climate change has used statistical techniques," he said.

"You've had time series of hurricane activity and time series of sea surface temperatures, and people correlate them."

Because there was a high degree of confidence that the sea surface temperature trend was going to continue to rise, Dr Held explained, people had "tried to conclude that hurricane activity will increase rather dramatically in the future".

"We tried to simulate the fundamental fluid dynamics and thermodynamics that control hurricane genesis in the Atlantic in a numerical model to a very high resolution."

He added that the team ran data from the past 25 years through the model, and it returned results closely correlated to what actually occurred.

"It is interesting and important to understand why it is that this model is capable of simulating an increase in hurricane activity that we have seen in recent decades, yet it predicts a decrease in the future.

"This implies that we cannot simply extrapolate the past 25 years into the future."

Dr Knutson said that he did not expect the study's findings to end the scientific debate surrounding the impact of human-induced climate change on tropical storms.

"We do not regard this study as the last word on this topic," he told reporters.

"The main point that we want to emphasise is that there is no evidence in this study that we are seeing large greenhouse-gas-driven increases in Atlantic hurricane or tropical storm frequencies."
BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | 'Fewer hurricanes' as world warms
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BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Indiana Jones is back - and on form

Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford's dashing hero, was infamously named after George Lucas's pet dog. And there were rumours that the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - the fourth movie of the film franchise - was the runt of the litter.

Harrison Ford and Shia LaBeouf
Special effects have been largely jettisoned for the film

So it came as a surprise to many people in Cannes that the film was so entertaining.

Swashes were buckled, rips were roared and sticks were slapped.

The film suffers slightly from the mumbo-jumbo plot device of that titular Crystal Skull, but it was always thus.

Every Indiana Jones movie has what creator and co-writer George Lucas calls a "MacGuffin" - a mystical artefact that the intrepid archaeologist has to track down - be it the holy grail or a sankara stone.

This time, Jones is on the trail of a skull that must be returned to a lost city in the Amazon which is guarded by the undead.

It is a load of old nonsense, of course, but the journey is worth the price of admission.

Visceral quality

Harrison Ford on playing action hero Indiana Jones

All the classic ingredients are thrown into the mix - murky temples with devilish contraptions, ancient pictographs scrawled on walls, and horrible creepy-crawlies scurrying over the imperilled heroine.

Director Steven Spielberg has largely jettisoned computer generated effects (much to the chagrin of tech freak Lucas) with the result that the film's action sequences have a visceral, physical quality you rarely find in modern-day blockbusters.

An extended sequence with Shia LaBeouf and Cate Blanchett careering through the rainforest, swordfighting astride two army vehicles is a pure adrenalin rush.

Cate Blanchett and Harrison Ford
Cate Blanchett plays a Russian baddie
As ever, Spielberg brings both humour and visual flair to sequences where other films are happy to provide mere spectacle.

The film kicks off at the height of the Cold War, with Dr Henry Jones Junior captured by Russians.

Like Ford, the character is older, if no wiser. David Koepp's script wisely gets his star's advancing years out of the way early in the movie.

"What are you? Like, 80?" asks Shia LaBeouf, a Marlon Brando-inspired tearaway motorcycle freak who gets wrapped up in the adventure.

B movie inspirations

Cate Blanchett on her Indiana Jones role

Like much of the supporting cast, however, his character is little more than a sketch. Cate Blanchett and John Hurt in particular are given little space to flex their considerable acting muscles as a Russian baddie and a bumbling shaman respectively.

Better realised are the little tips of the fedora to previous Jones adventures, and the B movies that inspired them. LaBeouf even apes Tarzan at one point - maybe indicating another film franchise Spielberg would like to resurrect?

For the hardcore Jones fans, this film was never going to live up to expectations.

One cinemagoer leaving the first press screening in Cannes said: "George Lucas, you gotta stop hurting us".

But this is no Phantom Menace or Godfather III. The quality control has been maintained, despite the 19-year wait.

And as Indy himself says, "I dunno kid, it's just a story."
BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Indiana Jones is back - and on form
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