TIME Drugs

New York Poised for Legal Medical Marijuana

Will be 23rd state

New York was on the cusp of becoming the latest state to legalize marijuana for medical purposes Friday.

The state Senate passed a bill that would limit consumption to edibles, pills, and oils—prohibiting the smoking or sale of actual marijuana plants. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign the bill, which passed the Senate 49 to 10 after state leaders announced a legislative compromise Thursday.

“This legislation strikes the right balance,” Cuomo said in statement Thursday when the compromise was first reached. “Medical marijuana has the capacity to do a lot of good for a lot of people who are in pain and suffering, and are in desperate need of a treatment that will provide some relief. At the same time, medical marijuana is a difficult issue because there are risks to public health and safety that have to be averted. I believe this bill is the right balance, and I commend the members of the Legislature who worked so hard on this measure.”

New York will be the 23rd state to legalize medical marijuana, according to the New York Daily News.

The state Department of Health will be charged with the regulation and licensing of medical marijuana manufacturers and distributors. The bill will place a seven-cent tax on marijuana sales.

MORE: Inside a Christian Pot Shop

TIME States

Wisconsin Governor Dismisses Reports of ‘Criminal Scheme’

Scott Walker
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the Republican party of Wisconsin State Convention in Milwaukee on May 3, 2014. Jeffrey Phelps—AP

“No charges—case over”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Friday dismissed reports of his involvement in a “criminal scheme” as a partisan prosecutorial witch hunt, saying a secret probe of his fundraising activities has already been “resolved.”

“No charges—case over,” Walker said on Fox News. Walker, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, was responding to documents unsealed Thursday by a federal judge that allege Walker was involved in a “criminal scheme” to coordinate fundraising activities with outside conservative groups during a recall election he faced. No charges have been filed and Walker hasn’t been formally been accused of any wrongdoing.

On Friday, Walker said he was going to have to “counter” partisan attacks “all over again,” and that he’d rely on the grassroots support that helped Wisconsin Republicans hold onto the state Senate in recall elections in 2011 and 2012 after supporting legislation that ended collective bargaining for public employees.

“This is a prime example of what happens when you take on the big government special interests,” Walker said. “They’re looking for ways to come at us. They’ll continue to do it. They did it two years ago in the recall election, they’re going to do it again now. We’ve got another tough election this fall and so they’re going to come at it with just about everything out there and the media—at least many in the media—are willing accomplices to this. But the facts of the case are pretty clear.”

TIME States

‘Criminal Scheme’ Will Haunt Scott Walker

The campaign finance rules are complicated, the political reality isn't

+ READ ARTICLE

Correction appended, June 20

There’s one thing not under dispute in the case of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who now lies in the political equivalent of critical condition after disclosure of his alleged involvement in a “criminal scheme” to evade campaign finance laws: On May 4, 2011, Walker wrote an email to Karl Rove, the former White House aide and Republican strategist.

In that email, Walker boasted about the abilities of one of his political consultants, R.J. Johnson. “R.J. helps keep in place a team that is wildly successful in Wisconsin. We are running 9 recall elections and it will be like 9 congressional markets in every market in the state,” Walker wrote.

The email matters because at the time Johnson was wearing a number of hats: He was a Walker advisor and a consultant to Walker’s own campaign, but he was also involved, sometimes with his wife, in other outside groups, like the Wisconsin Club For Growth and Citizens for a Strong America, which were supporting Walker. Another email obtained by prosecutors, which had been sent to Walker, described Johnson as having “coordinated spending through 12 different groups.”

From a distance, this looks bad. America’s campaign finance system is built upon a shaky assumption that there are two types of political spending: Spending controlled by candidates, which is heavily regulated, and spending that candidates do not control, which is far less regulated. In principle, the two pots of money must be kept separate, but in practice, those distinctions break down. Candidates intentionally send signals to direct the spending of outside groups, and donors make clear to candidates all they have given to help get them elected through third parties.

In the Walker case, there is an even further complicating factor: the meaning of what constitutes “political purposes” when it comes to coordination is contested. State prosecutors, according to their filings, have no doubt. They claim to have “established a concerted effort to circumvent Wisconsin’s campaign finance contribution prohibitions, limitations and disclosure requirements.” Under a state law allowing secret investigations, a state judge, who has since recused herself, issued subpoenas allowing the prosecutors to move forward with the case.

One federal judge, Ruldolph Randa, has since ruled that the coordination the prosecutors uncovered was not illegal since the outside groups only engaged in so-called issue advocacy—they did not expressly advocate Walker’s victory or defeat even though they clearly supported his efforts. Another state judge, Gregory Peterson, has made a similar ruling. But Peterson’s ruling is on appeal, leaving the law in doubt, and Randa’s ruling is now before a federal appeals court.

The same can be said for Walker, who will face reelection this fall, and is positioning himself for a 2016 presidential campaign. Elections, after all, rarely hinge on legal technicalities. They are about voter impressions, and “criminal scheme” is quite a phrase to overcome in a contested primary. Even if he skates criminal charges, he will now face the enormous task of explaining the byzantine technicalities of campaign finance law to the American public, which is predisposed, polls suggest, to believe that most candidates at all levels are bought and paid for by donors.

“This is nothing more than a partisan investigation with no basis in state law,” Walker said in a statement Thursday. “It’s time for the prosecutors to acknowledge both judge’s orders to end this investigation.”

The fate of the credibility of the nation’s campaign finance system is a different question altogether. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that there is virtually no risk of corrupting lawmakers as long as money is delivered to outside groups supporting the lawmakers, and not the lawmakers themselves. As the emails make clear, Walker was quite proud and deeply involved in monitoring the money being spent on his behalf by outside groups. The money helped his cause, and was directed by a close aide. Will Americans choose to believe that politicians in his position cannot be influenced by the donors who paid the bills?

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly described the nature of a federal appeals court ruling on a lawsuit seeking to block a state investigation into Scott Walker’s fundraising. It also incorrectly described the decisions by courts that have ruled on the issue of whether it is illegal for a candidate to coordinate with outside groups engaged only in issue advocacy.

TIME States

Prosecutors Say Wisconsin Governor at Center of ‘Criminal’ Fundraising Scheme

Wisconsin Republican Convention
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the Republican party of Wisconsin State Convention on May 3, 2014, in Milwaukee. Jeffrey Phelps—AP

Legal setback for 2016 presidential hopeful

Prosecutors say Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is at the center of a “criminal scheme” to coordinate fundraising with conservative groups across the country, according to documents revealed on Thursday.

The documents were unsealed Thursday by order of a federal judge as part of a lawsuit that sought to block a secret state investigation, known as a “John Doe probe,” into the 2012 gubernatorial recall elections, which the incumbent Walker won. In the filing, the prosecutors say Walker, his chief of staff Keith Gilkes and another top adviser illegally coordinated with national conservative groups and national figures including GOP strategist Karl Rove. Rove’s assistant said he was traveling Thursday and couldn’t comment.

Walker, a potential Republican candidate in the 2016 presidential elections, has not been charged with a crime. In a statement, Walker decried the investigation as “partisan… with no basis in state law.”

“The accusation of any wrongdoing written in the complaint by the office of a partisan Democrat District Attorney by me or by my campaign is categorically false. In fact two judges, in both state and federal courts, have ruled that no laws were broken,
” he said.

The secretive investigation began in 2012 ahead of the gubernatorial recall election, when prosecutors began looking into whether independent conservative groups—which have no limit on their fundraising—illegally coordinated with campaigns for Walker and other state candidates, whose fundraising is much more regulated. But in May, a federal judge put the probe on hold, ruling that it was a breach of free-speech rights. That judge, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa, also said in his ruling that that the type of coordination in question is not illegal if it focuses just on advocacy, and not on getting the candidates elected. A separate Wisconsin judge overseeing the probe had previously made a similar judgment.

The prosecutors are appealing Randa’s decision to halt the investigation.

But the controversy has the potential to disrupt Walker’s political ambitions, both in 2016 and in the fall. Walker, who is in the final months of his first term as governor, faces a close race for reelection. Polls show Walker and Democrat Mary Burke, a former Wisconsin state commerce secretary, locked in a tight race.

“Wisconsin has always been a clean-government state and allegations like this really resonate with voters,” said Scott Becher, a Wisconsin Republican political consultant turned public relations advisor.

Becher said that if Walker hopes to run in 2016, “voters of the state need to reelect him and he needs to have a good credible answer to what happened here.”

TIME States

Georgia Toddler Dies in Hot Car

The father of the 22-month-old was supposed to take him to day care on Wednesday, but went straight to work instead, leaving the child strapped in the hot car

An Atlanta-area toddler died Wednesday after being left in a car for hours, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The death comes amid a statewide campaign led by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal to prevent child deaths in hot cars over the blazing summers.

The body was found Wednesday afternoon after the child’s father realized the 22-month-old had been strapped in a car seat all day. The dad was supposed to take the child to day care on Wednesday morning, but went directly to work instead. The high in Cobb County, the suburb where the child died, was 100 degrees.

The father stopped at a shopping-center parking lot to seek help, but the child did not survive. Authorities are reportedly questioning the father.

In late May, Deal launched the “Look Again” campaign, a partnership with early-education officials to warn adults that in “minutes the inside of your car can become a death trap for a child.”

[Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

TIME Transportation

Teen Airplane Stowaway: ‘I Could See Through the Little Holes’

Abdi has given his first interview since the April flight

A teen stowaway who survived a ride from California to Hawaii in a passenger jet’s wheel well earlier this year told a California CBS affiliate Tuesday that he randomly selected the plane in which he hid during the five-and-a-half hour flight.

The interview was Yahye Abdi’s first since his harrowing journey, which has dumbfounded medical professionals — people typically quickly lose brain function when more 35,000 feet above the ground without oxygen or pressurization systems.

Abdi told KPIX the ride wasn’t scary, though he couldn’t believe he survived. “It was above the clouds, I could see through the little holes,” the teen said.

Abdi, a 15-year-old Somali immigrant, says he ran away from home in April because he was unhappy in California with his stepmom. The teen also said he wanted to see his mother, as the two have not been with one another since Abdi was 7-years-old.

“I only did it because I didn’t want to live with my stepmom,” Abdi said. “Second of all, I wanted to find my mom. I haven’t seen her since I was young.”

“I took that plane because it was the closest one I could find that was going to go West,” he added. The teen is currently staying in a foster home, he plans to move to Minnesota to live with his aunt.

His advice for kids thinking about hopping on planes: “They shouldn’t run away, because sometimes they will end up dying.”

[KPIX]

TIME States

California Won’t Put Obesity Warnings on Sugary Drinks

Bloomberg—Getty Images

A bill that called for soda and other soft drinks to carry health warning labels died in the state Legislature Tuesday

Sugary soft drinks in California will not have to carry labels warning of diabetes, obesity and tooth decay after a bill died in the state Legislature on Tuesday, facing stark opposition from the food and beverage industry.

The measure, which would have required soda and other sweet beverages to advertise their negative health effects, passed the state Senate in May but failed on Tuesday in the Assembly’s health committee.

“Protecting the public’s health from the adverse effects of these products will help combat the diabetes and obesity epidemics in California,” said Democratic Senator Bill Monning, who failed last year to pass a measure enacting a tax on the drinks.

New research has shown that the overconsumption of carbohydrates, sugar and sweeteners is chiefly responsible for obesity and Type 2 diabetes, while the negative effects of fat have been greatly exaggerated.

(Read more in TIME’s June 23 cover story: Ending the War on Fat)

Public health advocates have proposed measures to fight rising obesity, and consumption of sugary drinks and junk food in states including California, Illinois and New York, but lawmakers have generally opposed regulations.

Illinois lawmakers rejected a soda tax in late May and a ban on large servings of sugary drinks proposed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was halted by a state judge last year.

[Reuters]

TIME Disease

Concerns of U.S. Mosquito-Borne Disease Outbreak Heightened

Health officials are concerned it's just a matter of time before the illness spreads within the U.S.

+ READ ARTICLE

Cases of Chikungunya, a debilitating mosquito-borne disease, have now been reported in Tennessee and North Carolina, leading to increased concerns of a potential outbreak in the U.S.

As we reported earlier this month:

The Florida Department of Health announced 24 confirmed cases of dengue fever as of last week, and 18 confirmed cases of chikungunya, both viruses that do not have vaccines to prevent them and have not typically been found in North America, the CDC says.

All Floridians infected had traveled to the Caribbean or South America, and officials believe they may have contracted the diseases there, but epidemiologists worry that Florida mosquitos may be spreading the illnesses, which could lead to a potential outbreak, Reuters reports.

 

TIME Employment

10 States With the Fastest Growing Economies

Oil Boom Shifts The Landscape Of Rural North Dakota
Andrew Burton—Getty Images

247-LogoVersions-114x57
This post is in partnership with 24/7Wall Street. The article below was originally published on 247wallst.com.

The United States economy grew 1.9% in 2013, down from the 2.8% growth rate in 2012, as growth in the world’s largest economy remained inconsistent. The largest contributors to the national economy were nondurable goods manufacturing, real estate and leasing, as well as agriculture and related industries.

While the U.S. economy grew less than 2%, the output of a number of states grew well in excess of 3% last year. North Dakota continued its torrid growth pace, leading the nation with a state GDP growth rate of nearly 10%. This year, Wyoming and West Virginia were the second- and third-fastest growing states, respectively, rebounding from slow growth in 2012. Based on data released this week by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), these are the 10 states with the highest real GDP growth rates for 2013.

There were considerable differences in what drove national growth and what drove output in the fastest growing states, according to Cliff Woodruff, an economist at the BEA. “For the nation, it was nondurable goods manufacturing and agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting [that] were the top two contributors to national growth,” Woodruff said.

On the other hand, in “five of the top states, [growth] was primarily a result of mining,” which includes oil, natural gas and coal production. Among these was Wyoming, the nation’s second-fastest growing state, where mining accounted for 6.1 percentage points of the state’s 7.6% growth rate.

MORE: The States With the Strongest and Weakest Unions

All of the top four states for GDP growth were among the top four nationwide in terms of the mining sector’s share of growth. Additionally, three other top states were among the top 10 for GDP growth contributions from the mining sector.

Outside of those states that benefited from mining activity, a few of the nation’s fastest growing states did follow the national trend, deriving a significant share of their growth from agriculture. Among these were Idaho, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, where agriculture and related industries added at least one percentage point to growth. These states were all among the top five nationwide for the contribution of agriculture to the states’ growth rate.

Outside the mining and agriculture sectors, however, these states often shared little in common. For example, nondurable goods manufacturing contributed 1.2 percentage points to Texas’ 3.7% GDP growth, a larger contribution than in most states. However, the sector contributed far less in most other fast growing states.

Similarly, Colorado, Oklahoma, North Dakota, and Texas were all among the top states for construction’s relative contribution to output growth. However, construction output was a large drag on growth in both Wyoming and West Virginia, lowering GDP growth by 0.2 and 0.3 percentage points, respectively.

One common trait among a number of the fastest growing states, however, was a resilient government sector. According to Woodruff, “government was the largest detractor — if you will — from growth in most states.” While the government sector directly pulled down GDP nationwide, and served as a drag on output in all but 11 states, this was not the case in the fastest growing states. In fact, six of the top 10 growing states did not experience a drop in output from the government sector.

MORE: 10 Companies Paying Americans the Least

Strong GDP growth was also reflected in state job markets. The unemployment rate in all of the 10 fastest growing states was below the national rate of 7.4% in 2013. Each of the four states with the lowest annual average unemployment rates was among the 10 fastest growing states in 2013. This includes North Dakota, the nation’s fastest growing state, where the unemployment rate was just 2.9% in 2013. South Dakota and Nebraska, also among the fastest growing states, had unemployment rates below 4% last year.

Since having more people means more spending on goods and services, population growth often coincides with GDP growth. In fact, while the U.S. population rose just 0.7% between July 2012 and July 2013, the population growth in most of the states with the fastest growing economies was well above that. Five of the six states with the fastest population growth rates were also among the top 10 for GDP growth.

Based on figures published by the BEA, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 states with the fastest growing economies. The BEA’s state growth figures and the industries’ contributions to growth are measured by real gross domestic product, which accounts for the effects of inflation on growth. GDP figures published by the BEA for 2013 are preliminary and subject to annual revision. Real GDP figures for past years have already been revised. Population figures are from the U.S. Census Bureau and reflect estimated growth between the July 1, 2012, and July 1, 2013. We also used median household income from the U.S. Census Bureau. Last year’s unemployment rates are annual averages and from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Home price data are from the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Information from the Energy Information Administration was also utilized.

These are the 10 states with the fastest growing economies.

1. North Dakota

> GDP growth: 9.7%
> 2013 GDP: $56.3 billion (5th lowest)
> 1-yr. population change: 3.1% (the highest)
> 2013 unemployment: 2.9% (the lowest)

North Dakota has been the fastest growing state in the nation every year since 2010. In fact, the state’s GDP grew by 9.7% last year after it already grew by a stratospheric 20% in 2012 alone. The state’s oil boom, driven by hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — in the Bakken shale formation, has been responsible for much of this growth. Last year, mining directly contributed 3.6 percentage points to the state’s growth rate. Other growing industries, such as real estate and construction, have also contributed to the state’s growth. State residents have benefited from this growth. The state’s unemployment rate as of last year was just 2.9%, the lowest in the nation, while home prices were up nearly 28% over the past five years, also better than any other state.

2. Wyoming
> GDP growth: 7.6%
> 2013 GDP: $45.4 billion (2nd lowest)
> 1-yr. population change: 1.0% (11th highest)
> 2013 unemployment: 4.6% (6th lowest)

Wyoming’s economy grew by 7.6% in 2013, just one year after its economy experienced the worst contraction in the nation. The fact that growth rates in Wyoming may be somewhat volatile should not come as a surprise. The state was the nation’s least populous last year, with slightly less than 583,000 residents.. Additionally, the state is highly dependent on the fortunes of the mining sector. Last year, 37% of Wyoming’s total output came from mining, the most of any state. The state’s budget is also highly dependent on taxes from resource extraction. Mining alone accounted for 6.2 percentage points of the state’s 7.6% growth in 2013. Wyoming leads the U.S. in coal production, and all eight of the nation’s largest mines are in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, according to the EIA. Wyoming is also among the largest states for natural gas production.

3. West Virginia
> GDP growth: 5.1%
> 2013 GDP: $74.0 billion (12th lowest)
> 1-yr. population change: -0.1% (the lowest)
> 2013 unemployment: 6.5% (18th lowest)

After shrinking by 1.4% in 2012, West Virginia’s economy grew by 5.1% last year, more than all but two other states. While West Virginia is well-known as one of the nation’s largest coal miners, the state is also a burgeoning source of natural gas. According to a report by the Bureau of Business & Economic Research at West Virginia University, the state’s coal production is expected to decline in the coming years, while natural gas production has risen dramatically and is expected to continue to grow. However, outside the mining sector, the state had little in the way of growth. Last year’s 5.1% rise in GDP was driven largely by the mining sector, which added 5.5 percentage points to GDP growth, meaning, on balance, the state actually contracted outside the sector. By one measure, West Virginia is among the poorest states in the nation. The median household income in the state was just $40,196 in 2012, lower than in all but two other states.

To see the rest of the list, click here.

More from 24/7 Wall St.

Seven States Running Out of Water

Why Whole Foods Is Losing Customers

TIME States

Alaska to Put Free Pregnancy Tests in Bar Restrooms

The program will help combat the state's high rate of fetal alcohol syndrome

The University of Alaska is leading a state-funded program to put free pregnancy tests in the bathrooms of 20 bars and restaurants across the state starting this December.

The two-year, $400,000 program is designed to combat Alaska’s rate of fetal alcohol syndrome, which is the highest of any state in the country, the Anchorage Daily News reports. Women of child-bearing age in Alaska are 20 percent more likely to binge drink in comparison to the national average.

“This is not a strategy for the chronic alcoholic who is drinking regardless of whatever message they see,” said Jody Allen Crowe, who founded a Minnesota organization that leads a similar program and is helping with the project. “This is really focused on the 50 percent of unexpected pregnancies, to find out they are pregnant as early as possible.”

Republican Senator Pete Kelly, who has said before that birth control is for women who “who don’t want to act responsibly,” first proposed the program.

[Anchorage Daily News]

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