Tag Archives: class

Feds won’t reclassify marijuana, say it has no accepted medical use

The Obama administration will keep marijuana on the list of the most dangerous drugs, despite growing popular support for legalization, but will allow more research into its possible medical benefits, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced this week.

The DEA said the agency opted not to reclassify marijuana after a lengthy review and consultation with the Health and Human Services Department, which said marijuana “has a high potential for abuse” and “no accepted medical use.”

“We are tethered to science and bound by statute,” DEA spokesman Rusty Payne said Thursday.

The decision to keep marijuana in the same class of drugs as heroin and peyote comes amid growing national support for the legalization of pot. More than half the states have legalized the drug for either medicinal or recreational use.

The DEA said it plans to make it easier for researchers to study possible medical benefits by expanding the number of entities that can legally grow marijuana for research purposes.

Currently only researchers at the University of Mississippi are allowed to grow pot, as part of a contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Allowing for further research is the latest step forward in the federal government’s evolving position on the drug, although legalization advocates claim it doesn’t go far enough.

The DEA’s latest review was prompted by requests from the former governors of Rhode Island and Washington. They requested that marijuana be considered a Schedule II drug, along with cocaine, morphine and opium.

The decision was announced in a lengthy notice in the Federal Register.

Prosecutor in Steven Avery case to write a book

The man who prosecuted one of the cases featured in the Netflix show “Making a Murderer'” says he’s writing a book.

Ken Kratz tells WBAY-TV that he’s writing about the case because the voice of slaying victim Teresa Halbach has been forgotten. Kratz said he’s grateful to tell the “whole story.”

Steven Avery served 18 years in prison following a wrongful conviction of rape and two years after his release was charged in Halbach’s death. He was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide. 

The “Making a Murderer” series questions whether Avery was treated fairly and suggests the possibility that Manitowoc County sheriff’s deputies planted evidence. 

Authorities have denied that.

Kratz has defended the prosecution and says evidence was left out of the series. 

The filmmakers have stood by their work.

Class-action suit filed over shortage of public defenders, waiting list in Orleans Parish

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Louisiana recently filed a class-action lawsuit against the Orleans Parish public defenders’ office and the Louisiana Public Defender Board over the office’s placement of new clients on a waiting list for representation due to a shortage of public defenders.

Like others who have been arrested in Orleans Parish, plaintiffs Douglas Brown, Leroy Shaw Jr. and Darwin Yarls Jr. are on the list because they can’t afford a private attorney.

Their lack of legal representation violates their Sixth Amendment rights, according to the ACLU.

“So long as you’re on the public defender waiting list in New Orleans, you’re helpless. Your legal defense erodes along with your constitutional rights,” said Brandon Buskey, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project. “With every hour without an attorney, you may forever lose invaluable opportunities to build your defense. You also may be forced into a crippling choice between waiting months for counsel or doing bail and plea negotiations yourself. The damage to your case can be irreparable.”

The Orleans Parish public defender’s office created the waiting list because it is running out of money to pay its attorneys and fulfill its mission.

“In Orleans Parish, as in the rest of Louisiana, funding for public defenders is inherently unreliable and prone to crippling shortages,” said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana. “To pay for public defense, the state relies on the fines and fees collected from the public for traffic tickets and other convictions — a system that makes public defenders dependent on excessive policing and draconian sentencing that work against the people they defend.”

At least three other parishes in Louisiana have waiting lists for public defenders.

“By relying on a ‘user-funded’ scheme to fund public defense, the state of Louisiana has put the Sixth Amendment in peril,” said Buskey. “Repeated staff shortages, waiting lists, and other public defense crises have shown that conviction fees can’t provide steady or adequate funds to public defender offices. The state must meet its constitutional obligation to its people and invest in public defense.”

Children’s books on class, Winnie the Pooh win prizes

Matt de la Pena’s and Christian Robinson’s “Last Stop on Market Street” nearly made history twice this week.

The illustrated exploration of race and class through the eyes of a boy and his grandmother won the Newbery Medal for the best children’s book of 2015, making de la Pena the first Hispanic writer to receive the 94-year-old prize, one of the most cherished among children’s writers. It came close to another rare coup by finishing as a runner-up for the Caldecott Medal for the top illustrated book.

“I hope all the brilliant Hispanic writers of the past and present view this as a recognition of our diverse community and that it inspires young Hispanics coming up to read their way through the world and consider a path in the arts,” de la Pena said in a statement released through his publisher, Penguin Young Readers.

The winner of the Caldecott Medal was “Finding Winnie,” the story behind A.A. Milne’s famous literary creation Winnie the Pooh, illustrated by Sophie Blackall and written by Lindsay Mattick.

The Newbery and Caldecott awards were announced by the American Library Association, which has gathered in Boston for its annual midwinter meeting.

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me,” winner last fall of the National Book Award, was among 10 recipients of the Alex prize for adult books that appeal to teen readers. Coates’ book is an open letter to his teenage son about racism and police violence. The association also handed out two lifetime achievement awards for a former Caldecott winner, the illustrator Jerry Pinckney. Another lifetime achievement honor was given to novelist David Levithan, who works as editorial director at Scholastic.

Rita Williams-Garcia won her second Coretta Scott King Award in three years for the best book by a black writer. Williams-Garcia was cited for “Gone Crazy in Alabama,” the third of a trilogy about the Gaither sisters. Laura Ruby’s “Bone Gap” won the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults. The Belpre award for best Latino/Latina book was given to “Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir,” written by Margarita Engle. Rafael Lopez won the Belpre illustrator prize for “The Drum Dream Girl,” written by Margarita Engle.

Fast food workers set sights on presidential candidates

The fast food protests were planned by organizers at more than 270 cities nationwide, part of an ongoing campaign called “Fight for $15.” Janitors, nursing home workers and package delivery workers also joined some protests, organizers said.

Dominique McCrae, who serves fried chicken and biscuits at a Bojangles’ restaurant for $7.55 an hour, joined a protest outside a McDonald’s in Durham, North Carolina. Her pay isn’t enough to cover rent or diapers for her child, the 23-year-old said. She dropped out of college to care for her grandfather, making finances tight.

“We just want to be able to support our families,” said McCrae, who has worked at Bojangles’ for two months.

Bojangles’ Inc., based in Charlotte, North Carolina, said in a statement that it offers employees “competitive compensation.”

The campaign began about three years ago and is funded by the Service Employees International Union, which represents low-wage workers. Several protests have been scheduled in front of fast food restaurants, garnering media attention.

This time workers are pledging not to vote for presidential candidates that do not support the campaign. Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both showed their support through tweets on Nov. 10, and Sanders showed up at a protest outside the Senate in Washington. A protest also took place outside the Republican debates in Milwaukee.

McDonald’s worker Adriana Alvarez said she plans to vote for the first time next year, but only for a candidate who wants to raise wages to $15 an hour. Alvarez, who is 23 and lives in Chicago, said she makes $10.50 an hour, and higher pay can help her move out of the moldy basement apartment she shares with her 3-year-old son.

“I can find a better place,” she said.

The protests are occurring against a backdrop of weak wage growth nationwide. Average hourly pay has increased at roughly a 2.2 percent annual rate since the recession ended more than six years ago.

In the retail, hotel and restaurant industries, average hourly pay for front-line workers – the roughly 80 percent who aren’t managers or supervisors – is below $15. It was $14.90 in the retail industry in October, the Labor Department said last week, and $13.82 for hotel employees. Restaurant workers, on average, earned $11.51 an hour.

McDonald’s Corp., based in Oak Brook, Illinois, said in a statement on Nov. 10 that wages at U.S. restaurants it owns increased $1 over the local minimum wage in July, affecting about 90,000 employees. But the vast majority of U.S. McDonald’s locations are franchised.

Rival Burger King, which is owned by Canada-based Restaurant Brands International Inc., said it supports “the right to demonstrate” and hopes “any demonstrators will respect the safety of our restaurant guests and employees.” It also said its franchisees that own the restaurants make wage decisions, not the corporate company.

Yum Brands Inc., the Louisville, Kentucky-based company behind Taco Bell and KFC, said its employees are paid above minimum wage at its 2,000 company-owned stores.

At a New York rally, a few hundred people cheered and clapped. Some carried signs saying, “Lift all boats, not just yachts.”

Some at the rally were not fast food workers. Liz Henry, 38, who works in environmental services at a New York hospital, makes more than $15 per hour but supports the effort for other workers.

“Even what I’m making right now is not even enough,” she says. “How do they really get by? It’s hard.”

Pope Francis’ audience to include some GOP candidates, but not Walker

To some Republican presidential candidates, it’s better to be with the popular pope than against him.

Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have deep policy differences with Pope Francis, but the senators will break off campaign travel to attend his address to Congress later this month, a centerpiece of his eagerly anticipated visit to the United States.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a devout Catholic, will attend Mass with Francis in Washington. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another Catholic candidate, plans to attend one of the pope’s East Coast events.

“Regardless of what the pope says or emphasizes, the simple fact of being associated with his visit is still significant for a candidate,” said David Campbell, a professor at the University of Notre Dame who studies religion and politics. “The images are very powerful.”

Francis has become one of the world’s most popular figures since his 2013 election to the papacy, drawing praise for his humility and efforts to refocus the church on the poor and needy. He also has become involved in numerous political issues, often staking out positions that put him at odds with Republicans.

The pope supports the Iran nuclear deal, which many GOP candidates pledge to tear up if they are elected president. As Republicans debate the place of immigrants in the U.S., the pope has urged countries to welcome those seeking refuge and has decried the “inhuman” conditions facing people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

Francis was also instrumental in secret talks to restore diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, a rapprochement the GOP views as a premature reward for the island’s repressive government.

In a heated primary where any break from party orthodoxy is a political risk, Republican candidates have stepped gingerly around their differences with Francis.

When Francis issued an encyclical this year calling for aggressive international action to combat climate change, most Republicans made clear they had no problem with pope taking a position on the matter. But they suggested his stance would have little influence on their own views.

“He is a moral authority and as a moral authority is reminding us of our obligation to be good caretakers of the planet,” Rubio, a practicing Catholic, said at the time. “I’m a political leader and my job as a policymaker is to act in the common good.”

Bush, who was raised Episcopalian and converted to Catholicism as an adult, said it was best to leave climate change in the realm of politics, not religion.

During a campaign stop in New Hampshire, Bush called the pope an “amazing man” and welcomed his emphasis on mercy and compassion.

“I think he’s going to lift people’s spirits up,” Bush said about the pope’s visit to the U.S. “We’re in a time where there’s a lot of vulgarity and a lot of insults and a lot of just coarseness in our discourse. I’m not talking about politics, either. I’m talking about everyday life. 

“And here’s a man who comes with a gentle soul and I think it might be really healthy for our country to hear someone speak the way he does.”

Not all GOP candidates plan to attend events with the pope. Among them are Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose spokeswoman said he didn’t expect to be in Washington during Francis’ visit, and Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator and devout Catholic, who was scheduled to be on a campaign trip to Iowa. 

American politicians have long struggled with how to balance their policy positions with the views of the Vatican.

For Democrats, the focus has often been on the gulf between the party’s support for abortion rights and the church’s stern and contrary view. After John Kerry, a Catholic who backs abortion rights, captured the Democratic nomination in 2004, a top Vatican official issued a statement saying priests must deny Communion to politicians who hold that position.

Francis has taken a more conciliatory tone on abortion, as well as homosexuality, but hasn’t changed church doctrine.

President George W. Bush found himself at odds with the Vatican over the Iraq war. Both Pope John Paul II and his successor Benedict XVI vehemently opposed the war, yet each met Bush during their tenure.

Charles Camosy, a theology professor at Fordham University, said that in interactions between politicians and popes, “politics is put aside and there’s respect shown.”

Still, the timing of the pope’s visit — in the heart of fall primary campaigning — and his own schedule will make politics difficult to avoid.

Francis will hold an Oval Office meeting Sept. 23 with President Barack Obama, who has highlighted areas where his agenda overlaps with the pope’s priorities, including income inequality. The pope will speak the following day on Capitol Hill, where at least some of the focus will be on the reaction to his remarks from the presidential candidates sitting in the audience.

The pope’s message in Washington is expected to touch on some of the issues that are sources of disagreement with Republicans, though it’s unlikely he will insert himself directly into presidential politics.

Still, as Campbell, the Notre Dame professor, noted, “One thing we’ve learned about Pope Francis is that he’s very unpredictable.”