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    Wednesday, July 30, 2008

    CNN - Legislators aim to snuff out penalties for pot use

    Sent from Bombastic4000@gmail.com's mobile device from http://www.cnn.com.

    Legislators aim to snuff out penalties for pot use


    The U.S. should stop arresting responsible marijuana users, Rep. Barney Frank said Wednesday, announcing a proposal to end federal penalties for Americans carrying fewer than 100 grams, almost a quarter-pound, of the substance.

    Current laws targeting marijuana users place undue burdens on law enforcement resources, punish ill Americans whose doctors have prescribed the substance and unfairly affect African-Americans, said Frank, flanked by legislators and representatives from advocacy groups.

    "The vast amount of human activity ought to be none of the government's business," Frank said on Capitol Hill. "I don't think it is the government's business to tell you how to spend your leisure time."

    The Massachusetts Democrat and his supporters emphasized that only the use -- and not the abuse -- of marijuana would be decriminalized if the resolution resulted in legislation.

    The Drug Enforcement Administration says people charged with simple possession are rarely incarcerated. The agency and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy have long opposed marijuana legalization, for medical purposes or otherwise.

    Marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, according to the drug control office.

    "Smoked marijuana has not withstood the rigors of science -- it is not medicine and it is not safe," the DEA states on its Web site. "Legalization of marijuana, no matter how it begins, will come at the expense of our children and public safety. It will create dependency and treatment issues, and open the door to use of other drugs, impaired health, delinquent behavior, and drugged drivers."

    Allen St. Pierre, spokesman for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, likened Frank's proposal -- co-sponsored by Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas -- to current laws dealing with alcohol consumption. Alcohol use is permitted, and the government focuses its law enforcement efforts on those who abuse alcohol or drive under its influence, he said.

    "We do not arrest and jail responsible alcohol drinkers," he said.

    St. Pierre said there are tens of millions of marijuana smokers in the United States, including himself, and hundreds of thousands are arrested each year for medical or personal use. iReport.com: Is it time to legalize pot?

    There have been 20 million marijuana-related arrests since 1965, he said, and 11 million since 1990, and "every 38 seconds, a marijuana smoker is arrested."

    Rob Kampia, director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said marijuana arrests outnumber arrests for "all violent crimes combined," meaning police are spending inordinate amounts of time chasing nonviolent criminals.

    "Ending arrests is the key to marijuana policy reform," he said.

    Reps. William Lacy Clay, D-Missouri, and Barbara Lee, D-California, said that in addition to targeting nonviolent offenders, U.S. marijuana laws unfairly target African-Americans.

    Clay said he did not condone drug use but opposes using tax dollars to pursue what he feels is an arcane holdover from "a phony war on drugs that is filling up our prisons, especially with people of color."

    Too many drug enforcement resources are being dedicated to incarcerating nonviolent drugs users, and not enough is being done to stop the trafficking of narcotics into the United States, he said.

    Being arrested is not the American marijuana smoker's only concern, said Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance Network. Those found guilty of marijuana use can lose their jobs, financial aid for college, their food stamp and welfare benefits, or their low-cost housing.

    The U.S. stance on marijuana, Piper said, "is one of the most destructive criminal justice policies in America today."

    Calling the U.S. policy "inhumane" and "immoral," Lee said she has many constituents who are harassed or arrested for using or cultivating marijuana for medical purposes. California allows medical marijuana use, but the federal government does not, she explained.

    House Resolution 5843, titled the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2008, would express support for "a very small number of individuals" suffering from chronic pain or illness to smoke marijuana with impunity.

    According to NORML, marijuana can be used to treat a range of illnesses, including glaucoma, asthma, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS and seizures.

    Frank, who is chairman of the Financial Services Committee, said that about a dozen states have approved some degree of medical marijuana use and that the federal government should stop devoting resources to arresting people who are complying with their states' laws.

    In a shot at Republicans, Frank said it was strange that those who support limited government want to criminalize marijuana.

    Asked whether the resolution's passage would change his personal behavior, Frank quipped, "I do obey every law I vote for" but quickly said he did not use marijuana, nor does he encourage it.

    "I smoke cigars. I don't think other people should do that. If young people ask me, I would advise them not to do it," he said.

    If HR 5843 were passed, the House would support marijuana smokers possessing up to 100 grams -- about 3½ ounces -- of cannabis without being arrested. It would also give its blessing to the "nonprofit transfer" of up to an ounce of marijuana.

    The resolution would not address laws forbidding growing, importing or exporting marijuana, or selling it for profit. The resolution also would not speak to state laws regarding marijuana use.

    Reuters - Dell tests music player to renew iPod battle: report

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    Dell tests music player to renew iPod battle: report

    Wednesday, Jul 30, 2008 10:45AM UTC

    BANGALORE (Reuters) - In recent months, personal computer maker Dell Inc., has been testing a digital music player that could go on sale as early as September, the Wall Street Journal newspaper said, citing several Dell officials.

    Dell's new foray would put it into an Apple-led market that has defied assaults.

    Companies like Microsoft Corp and Sony Corp have tried -- and failed -- to make a dent in the market dominated by Apple's iPod players and iTunes store, the Journal said.

    The music player which Dell has been testing features a small navigation screen and basic button controls to scroll through music play lists, the Journal reported.

    It would connect to online music services via a Wi-Fi Internet connection, and Dell would likely price the model at less than $100, the Journal said. Dell's first foray into the music market in 2003 was a huge disappointment. It withdrew from the music-player market after its DJ Ditty player failed to make major inroads.

    This time, if the company goes ahead with the music player, the strategy is different, Michael Tatelman, Dell's vice president of consumer sales said, according to the paper.

    Instead of simply selling a piece of hardware tied to someone else's music service, as it did in 2003, Dell is working on software for a range of portable PCs that will let users download and organize music and movies from various online sources, the paper added.

    (Reporting by Purwa Naveen Raman in Bangalore)

    Reuters - IOC admits Internet censorship deal with China

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    IOC admits Internet censorship deal with China

    Wednesday, Jul 30, 2008 1:42PM UTC

    By Nick Mulvenney

    BEIJING (Reuters) - Some International Olympic Committee officials cut a deal to let China block sensitive websites despite promises of unrestricted access, a senior IOC official admitted on Wednesday.

    Persistent pollution fears and China's concerns about security in Tibet also remained problems for organizers nine days before the Games begin.

    China had committed to providing media with the same freedom to report on the Games as they enjoyed at previous Olympics, but journalists have this week complained of finding access to sites deemed sensitive to its communist leadership blocked.

    "I regret that it now appears BOCOG has announced that there will be limitations on website access during Games time," IOC press chief Kevan Gosper said, referring to Beijing's Olympic organizers.

    "I also now understand that some IOC officials negotiated with the Chinese that some sensitive sites would be blocked on the basis they were not considered Games related," he said.

    Attempts at the main press centre to access the website of Amnesty International, which released a report on Monday slamming China for failing to honor its Olympic human rights pledges, continued to prove fruitless by mid-week.

    Other websites, including those relating to the banned spiritual group Falun Gong, are also inaccessible.

    Beijing organizers said censorship would not stop journalists doing their jobs in reporting the Games.

    "We are going to do our best to facilitate the foreign media to do their reporting work through the Internet," BOCOG spokesman Sun Weide told a news conference.

    "I would remind you that Falun Gong is an evil, fake religion which has been banned by the Chinese government."

    Reporters without Borders, a Paris-based media watchdog, said it was increasingly concerned that there would be many cases of censorship during the Olympics.

    "We condemn the IOC's failure to do anything about this, and we are more skeptical about its ability to ensure that the media are able to report freely," the group said in a statement.

    SMOG-WATCH

    But the admission that the Internet will be partly censored is sure to lead to more criticism for the Olympics host nation, which is already deflecting barbs over everything from the quality of its air to its human rights record.

    On Wednesday, Chinese experts said they were working on emergency plans to keep Olympic skies clear, including keeping cars off the roads in nearby provinces, but expected not to need them unless unusual pollution-trapping weather continued.

    The city has already banned cars from roads on alternate days under an odd-and-even license plate scheme, suspended some factory production and opened new subway lines to try to clear its notorious pollution.

    "The likelihood of needing stronger measures is very small," said Zhu Tong, a professor at Peking University and leader of a technical group advising Games organizers on air quality.

    Slightly cooler temperatures and rain on Tuesday have thinned the haze, but with below-par air quality readings on several days since the emergency measures took effect on July 20, worries remain about athletes wheezing air laced with fumes and dust.

    Experts said that given the size of Beijing, the volume of pollutants that flow into the city from other parts of China, and the short time period before the Games open on August 8, there was little more that could be done.

    "In this short a time-frame, even if you took all the personal cars off the highway, you might see another 10 percent improvement, but it would be small," said Staci Simonich, an analytical chemist at Oregon State University who has been studying Beijing's air quality.

    "The best thing that could happen during the Games is to have it rain every night," she said.

    China also has other issues on its mind, including security in the restive region of Tibet, where official media said Chinese police had been mobilized to ensure "absolute security without a single lapse".

    The remote region erupted into rioting in March that sparked protests across China's ethnic Tibetan areas and brought into focus international criticism of Beijing's policies on the issue.

    The Tibet Daily announced on Wednesday tough policing during the Games on top of a sweeping security crackdown already in place. China is at pains to avoid any shows of defiance by pro-Tibet independence groups that could embarrass the government before a worldwide audience.

    (Additional reporting by Emma Graham-Harrison, Lindsay Beck, Chris Buckley, Liu Zhen and Simon Rabinovitch; Writing by Lindsay Beck; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

    (For more stories visit our multimedia website "Road to Beijing" at http://www.reuters.com/news/sports/2008olympics)

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