TIME White House

In Second Term, Obama Uses Pot Past to Push Reforms, Reach Youth

President Barack Obama speaks during an event on the bloging site Tumblr, in the State Dining Room on June 10, 2014 in Washington, DC.
President Barack Obama speaks during a Tumblr Q&A in the State Dining Room on June 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images

Part 'cool factor' and part cautionary tale, Obama talks about his drug-using past.

During a Tumblr chat at the White House this week, President Barack Obama winked at the crowd of youngsters as he discussed his high school years. “I actually loved math and science until I got into high school,” Obama said. “And then I misspent those years.” He paused and smiled while the crowd, naturally, erupted with laughter.

The President’s allusion was clear: he spent his high school years in Hawaii smoking joints with his friends. Well into his second term with his poll numbers declining and his ability to push legislation through Congress diminished, Obama is becoming more vocal about his past drug use as both a cautionary tale and to connect with young audiences.

His frankness coincides with evolving national attitudes toward drugs. Since his re-election, Colorado and Washington State have legalized marijuana for recreational use, while more states have moved to decriminalize possession of cannabis. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has been relegated to a minor role. Meanwhile, the Obama administration is deep into a top down revision of the what Attorney General Eric Holder has called “draconian” mandatory minimum sentences for drugs.

Long before Obama became a Presidential candidate, he used his own drug use was central storyline in his 1995 memoir Dreams from my Father. “Nobody asked you whether your father was a fat-cat executive who cheated on his wife or some laid-off joe who slapped you around whenever he bothered to come home,” Obama wrote of his drug-filled years. “You might just be bored, or alone. Everybody was welcome into the club of disaffection. And if the high didn’t solve whatever it was that was getting you down, it could at least help you laugh at the world’s ongoing folly and see through all the hypocrisy and bullshit and cheap moralism.”

As he sought higher office, that part of the Obama narrative faded from view. In the heat of the 2008 primary, Hillary Clinton’s New Hampshire co-chair, Billy Shaheen, resigned his position after suggesting that Republicans would use Obama’s drug history against him, even suggesting Obama once sold drugs, a charge that prompted a personal in-person apology from Clinton to Obama.

But Obama’s re-election opened the floodgates for presidential drug talk. “I remember when BuzzFeed was something I did in college around 2 a.m.,” he cracked at the White House Correspondents Dinner last year. This year he called Colorado’s legalization effort “an interesting social experiment.”

White House aides caution that the move is not a strategic shift, but concede that his openness on the subject is a reflection of his newfound freedom having put his final campaign behind him. Yet the timing of it all hasn’t gone unnoticed. Over the past year, the Obama Administration has been rolling out piecemeal reforms to sentencing laws aimed at reducing the number of low-level prisoners facing lengthy sentences for drug crimes.

Though Congress stalled on legislation that would cap the mandatory sentences blamed for filling the nation’s federal prisons, the Obama Administration has urged judges to avoid mandatory minimums. Holder has singled out states for disenfranchising former prisoners, calling for an all out repeal of such laws in February. After Obama commuted the sentences of eight federal prisoners facing life sentences for nonviolent drug offenses in December, the administration wanted more, launching a massive call for applications for commutations, and removing the head of the U.S. Pardon office in the process.

Last week, Attorney General Holder formally backed a U.S. Sentencing Commission proposal that could reduce the prison sentences of 20,000 people currently behind bars for nonviolent drug offense. The measure could reduce sentences by an average of 23 months. Obama met with the commission on Wednesday to be briefed on the proposal. Combined with the My Brother’s Keeper initiative to provide paths to opportunity for young minority men, it’s as if President Obama had a heart-to-heart with young Barry O—the young man he wrote about heading toward becoming a “Junkie. Pothead.”

He has also been sharing his story with young people. “When it was my turn, I explained to them that when I was their age I was a lot like them,” he retold in February, about a meeting the previous year with a group of Chicago teenagers. “I didn’t have a dad in the house. And I was angry about it, even though I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time. I made bad choices. I got high without always thinking about the harm that it could do. I didn’t always take school as seriously as I should have. I made excuses. Sometimes I sold myself short.”

In a wide-ranging interview with The New Yorker’s David Remnick late last year, Obama referenced his own past to call for a new approach, “We should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing,” he said.

The drug reforms could well become the defining domestic policy achievements of his second term, but in the short term, the nods to his “misspent” past keep him relevant among his most loyal supporters: youth. Speaking at a high school graduation last week in Massachusetts he admitted that he did not recall his own graduation speaker, drawing a laugh from the assembled students. “I have no idea who it was,” he said. “I’m sure I was thinking about the party after graduation. I don’t remember the party either.”

TIME Family

Having a Second Baby Makes Moms Less Happy Than Dads

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Smiling family of four sitting in bed together Monashee Frantz—Getty Images/OJO Images RF

Dads, however, are pretty happy after the birth of baby number two

The birth of a first child usually brings both parents great joy, but new analysis shows that a mother’s happiness begins to wane after the second.

According to the FiveThirtyEight blog, 60% of men and women say they feel an increase or decrease in happiness after the first child is born. For baby number two, however, the numbers shift. About 65% of women report being less happy after their second child enters the world, compared to 40% of men.

But a second baby doesn’t just significantly impact a couple’s happiness, the little bundle of joy can be a burden (or blessing) for couples’ relationships too.

According to the data, derived from the annual General Social Survey, a National Opinion Research Center survey that examines societal change, women are less likely to be dissatisfied in their relationships after the second child than men. About 85% of men reportedly feel less satisfied in their relationship as their family expands, compared to 51% of women.

So while mom is overwhelmed by the stress of raising kids, dad is growing less satisfied in the relationship. Great news to kick off Father’s Day weekend, huh?

[FiveThirtyEight]

TIME health

Now Doctors Can Use Google Glass to Record Your Visits

Google Glass Prescriptions
John Minchillo—AP

Google's face-computer may be coming soon to a doctor's office near you

Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals are about to get a new tool in the medicine bags: Google Glass.

Drchrono, a digital health startup, claims to have created the first “wearable heath record” that can be accessed through Google’s futuristic face-computer. Doctors can use the app to store patients’ records as well as record medical visits and even procedures via Glass’ camera for consulting later on.

While some patients may be hesitant to let doctors record their visits, Drchrono says its Glass application complies with HIPPA standards which protect patient privacy — and patients will have to give permission to have doctors record their visits via Google Glass.

The application is currently in its beta phase, though Reuters reports about 300 physicians have signed up to use it. Drchrono, just one of a plethora of startups tapping into the healthcare app market, has also developed digital health records apps for iPads and smartphones.

 

TIME Internet

Facebook Lifts Ban on Exposed Nipples in Breastfeeding Pictures

The social media site said the ban was quietly lifted about two weeks ago. It does not apply to other images of female nipples

It appears Facebook has withdrawn its ban on female nipples in photos of breastfeeding mothers.

Facebook has drawn heat from feminists for considering images of topless women as violations of their policies against nudity and obscenity —even when the photographs depict breastfeeding mothers.

Feminist writer Soraya Chemaly brought attention to the policy change on The Huffington Post, noting that the social media company had quietly changed its policy on obscene content in regard to breastfeeding mothers. Images that include the exposed nipples of breastfeeding can now be posted on the site without the risk of removal.

“The female nipple ban no longer exists for breastfeeding mothers, which should make many people who have been pushing the company to address a nudity double standard at least partially happy,” Chemaly wrote on Monday.

The ban drew the attention of women last year who took the site to task over the policy, which they said is an example of gender-based discrimination. A campaign led by Chemaly called on Facebook to combat both hate-speech and “obscenity” double standards. It garnered over 60,000 tweets, 5000 emails, and a bundle of disgruntled advertisers, and led Facebook to respond with an explanation of its policy.

A year later, the breastfeeding ban has been lifted, though bans on artistic displays of female nipples remain in place. Facebook has not yet acknowledged that the ban was lifted for breastfeeding women.

[Huffington Post]

TIME human behavior

4 in 10 Teens Admit Texting While Driving

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found kids are still engaging in a range of risky behaviors, despite a reported drop in cigarette use.

Today’s teens are distracted behind the wheel, according to a new survey. Though they aren’t smoking cigarettes in high rates, or regularly driving drunk, about 41% of America’s driving teens reported that they had texted or emailed while driving.

This is in spite of the often horrifying commercials and campaigns aimed at keeping teen drivers’ eyes on the road while behind the wheel. The findings, published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey, are especially daunting given the fact that the bulk of teen deaths are the result of motor vehicle crashes.

But texting and driving isn’t the only risky business teens are engaging in. Though teens aren’t watching as much TV as they were in 1999, more are using the computer for longer periods of time. About 41.3% said they’re using computers for more than 3 hours a day, up from 31.1% in 2011. About 14.8% of students said they had been bullied online, compared to 19.8% who had been bullied at school.

And sitting in front of screen does little to help the nearly 21% of adolescents considered obese.

Another risk that should have parents worried: sexually active teens are using condoms a bit less than they have in the past. About 47% of students said they had ever had sex, but of the 34% of teens that are sexually active, only about 59% are using condoms, down from 63% in 2003.

The annual survey of a nationally representative sample of ninth through 12th graders in the U.S. examines the unhealthy behaviors teens have engaged in over the past 12 months to gage what leads to the unintentional injury, obesity, and unplanned pregnancy within the group. About 13,500 surveys, which were administered at public and private high schools, were examined to determine results.

TIME Congress

Congressman Breaks Down on House Floor After Oregon School Shooting

Amid a moment of silence on the floor

+ READ ARTICLE

When the Oregon congressional delegation took to the House floor on Tuesday to ask for a moment of silence in the wake of a deadly school shooting, Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer was overwhelmed with emotion.

“[The] Troutdale High School is a terrific institution in my district,” Blumenauer said, before showing a gift students there had recently given him during a visit. When Blumenauer held up the wooden bowtie decorated with a bicycle on the House floor, he began to fight back tears.

Police say a teenage gunman killed one student and injured a teacher before turning the gun on himself at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Ore., on Tuesday. All five members of Congress from Oregon, Democrats Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader, and Suzanne Bonamici, and Republican Greg Walden, stood with Blumenauer as he laid out the details of Tuesday’s tragic events.

“I would ask, Mr. Speaker, that the House observe a moment of silent in support for the victims, their families, and the community,” Blumenauer said through tears.

TIME justice

Holder Backs Plan to Reduce Drug Sentences for Non-Violent Offenders

Attorney General Eric Holder formally supports new sentencing guidelines that could mean a swifter exit for low-level offenders currently serving time

The U.S. Department of Justice formally backed on Tuesday a proposal that would make some drug offenders currently behind bars eligible for a reduced sentence. Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday that prisoners with a non-violent criminal history should be deemed eligible for retroactive relief.

“Not everyone in prison for a drug-related offense would be eligible,” Holder said Tuesday. “Nor would everyone who is eligible be guaranteed a reduced sentence. But this proposal strikes the best balance between protecting public safety and addressing the overcrowding of our prison system that has been exacerbated by unnecessarily long sentences.”

The U.S. Sentencing Commission approved in April a proposal to reduce in sentences for low-level, non-violent drug offenders. Under that proposal, the average sentence for a low-level drug crime would be reduced by 23 months. The Department of Justice is proposing these guidelines be applied to those behind bars who did not receive a mandatory minimum sentence for a firearms offense or a longer sentence for using or threatening to use violence.

The Commission will decide in the coming weeks whether to apply the change to those currently serving time.

The Justice Department’s move aligns with the Obama Administration’s ongoing Smart on Crime initiative, which seeks to better match crimes and punishments. It also comes after legislation that would reduce the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine passed a Senate committee this year, though the legislation has yet to be brought up for a full Senate vote.

TIME Immigration

Poll: 62% of Americans Favor a Path to Citizenship

Around 62% of Americans favor a legal pathway to citizenship for immigrants currently living illegally in the U.S., according to a poll released Tuesday. The Public Religion Research Institute poll, conducted in conjunction with the Brookings Institute, found American sentiment toward immigration reform hasn’t changed much since 2013.

With the 2014 midterm elections fast approaching, candidates should be wary of another key finding from the poll: Americans say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate that opposes reform. According to the poll, around 53% of voters say they likely would not vote for a candidate if he or she opposed a pathway to citizenship. About 16% say they would be more likely to vote for such a candidate, while 30% say it would have no impact.

Opposition to reform has an adverse impact even among Republican voters, whose party’s House leadership has not taken up an immigration reform bill that passed the Senate last year. About 46% of self-identified Republicans say opposition to reform would hurt a candidate’s chances of gaining their vote. About 21% of Republicans surveyed say they would be more likely to vote for such a candidate.

The expansive survey also showed that most Americans support legislation that provides resident status for the children of illegal immigrants after those children either join the military or go to college—something the DREAM Act does not do. (The DREAM Act allows young undocumented immigrants to pursue an education and career, but it does not provide a pathway to citizenship.) About 68% of those surveyed say they favor such a policy, while about 30% do not.

The survey of about 601 Americans was conducted via telephone in April; the margin of error is 3.3 percentage points.

TIME health

Louisiana Bill Would Require Women to Stay on Life Support if Pregnant

The bill would require doctors to keep women on life support regardless of family's wishes

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will soon decide on a bill that could require hospitals to keep pregnant women on life support, regardless of her family’s wishes.

The bill, which passed the Louisiana State House of Representatives last week, specifies that if a woman is at least 20 weeks pregnant, she must be kept on life support.

State lawmakers say the law would protect healthy fetuses from meeting an untimely demise as a result of the mother’s condition. Abortion rights groups oppose the legislation, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

A state Senate version of the bill allowed family members to request that expectant mothers be taken off of life support, Huffington Post said, but the provision was scrapped in committee. Jindal is expected to sign the bill into law.

A similar law faced scrutiny in Texas earlier this year, when a 14-week pregnant woman was kept on life support for weeks after her husband found her unconscious. A judge later ruled the family’s request to remove her from life support must be granted.

TIME celebrities

Lil’ Kim Gives Birth to Baby Girl, Names Her Royal Reign

The self-described Queen of Rap apparently couldn't just pick one regal moniker for her new bundle of joy

Congratulations are in order! Rapper Lil Kim gave birth to a baby girl on Monday, and the self-described Queen Bee gave the bouncing bundle of joy a regal name: Royal Reign.

One reference to nobility just wouldn’t be enough for the heir of one of hip-hop’s royals, apparently.

Lil’ Kim’s pregnancy—her first— was announced in February during New York Fashion Week. The Queen Bee posted an image of her baby shower invitation on her Instagram account in late April, sharing with the world that she had a little princess on the way. New York-based rapper Mr. Papers was later reported as the baby’s father. The obviously excited new mom spent the day retweeting messages of congratulations sent her way from celebrity friends and news outlets.

No comment yet from Lorde, whose chart-topping, ubiquitous hit single “Royals” was released as a single about 10 months ago.

 

 

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