A Pew Research Center survey conducted in October found that 61% of its 1,504 adult respondents supported legalization of adult use of marijuana. The poll was released the same day that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions instructed U.S. Attorneys to enforce the federal prohibition against marijuana, even though voters and legislatures in 29 states have legalized its medical and/or recreational use. PRC said 57% of U.S. adults supported marijuana in a poll taken a year ago, and that support for its legalization has nearly doubled from 31% in 2000.
Baltimore abortion ordinance still violates First Amendment
The U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a 2009 Baltimore city ordinance—intended to frustrate an anti-abortion group that provides alternative counseling and other services to pregnant women—violates the First Amendment speech clause. The ordinance requires health clinics that do not provide abortions to so advise pregnant women. It was the second time the case, watched by advocacy groups on both sides of the abortion issue, reached the appeals court and achieved the same result both times. The court observed that the case mirrored past cases and quoted Justice Robert Jackson who famously wrote in a 1943 Supreme Court decision in a West Virginia public school dispute: “Weaponizing the means of government against ideological foes risks a grave violation of one of our nation’s dearest principles: ‘that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.’”
FOIA is not a three-party affair
A document prepared by a private contractor that has not been furnished to the government is not an “agency document” as that term is defined by the Freedom of Information Act, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. Thus, an FOIA request for an environmental impact statement prepared by a private contractor to facilitate a proposed exchange of private and federal lands in Colorado’s Rio Grande National Forest was properly denied by the U.S. Forest Service. The document, the court said, was not subject to the FOIA’s public disclosure regime because it wasn’t created, obtained, or controlled by the USFS.
Indiana man sentenced for violation of Mann Act
Aleksandar Jokic, 43, of Schererville, Ind., was given a 70-month prison sentence for violating the 1910 Mann Act when he arranged to have a 16-year-old prostitute delivered from Chicago to his home in Indiana for a sexual encounter, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said. For more than 100 years, the Mann Act has made it illegal to transport a female across a state line for prostitution purposes. Schererville is located a few miles from the Illinois-Indiana state line about 30 miles south of Chicago.
UN ex-official’s nephew pleads guilty to bribery
Joo Hyun Bahn (also known as Dennis Bahn), 39, of Tenafly, N.J., pleaded guilty to attempting to bribe a Qatar sovereignty fund official to facilitate the proposed $800 million sale of a 72-story office building in Hanoi, Vietnam, the Department of Justice said. Bahn’s father, also charged in the case, was an executive at Keangnam Enterprises Co. Ltd., the construction company that owned the building. Bahn is the nephew of former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who announced last February that he would not seek the presidency of South Korea and blamed the decision on “fake news” about him and his family.
Offshore energy plan opens oil and gas spigots
The Department of Interior replaced an Obama administration policy that suspended development of offshore oil and gas resources with a plan that essentially opens all of the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf to energy exploration and production. A draft five-year proposal calls for 47 lease sales in 25 of the 26 planning areas, including 12 sales in the Gulf of Mexico, 19 sales in the Alaska Region, 7 sales in the Pacific Region, and 9 sales in the Atlantic region. The Center for Biological Diversity called the plan “appalling” and predicted it would lead to disasters such as the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Fox pays ultimate price for begging food
A red fox was put to death at the Grand Teton National Park because it was begging park visitors for food, the National Park Service said. NPS said the animal’s death was ordered out of concern for visitors’ safety, and reminded that it is illegal for park visitors to feed wildlife. Park biologists said 13 foxes have been captured and outfitted with radio collars to track their movements. The fox that was killed was among those caught and collared, and was observed lingering around ice fishermen and receiving fish scraps as well as dog food left unsecured by visitors.
Walking Dead stuntman’s death leads to fine
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed a maximum fine of $12,675 against Stalwart Films LLC, the company that produces AMC’s top-rated Walking Dead television show, following last July’s death of stuntman John Bernecker, 33, who plunged headfirst from a 22-foot high balcony. OSHA issued a citation that accuses the production company of failing to protect employees from fall hazards. Bernecker’s death has become controversial because investigative agencies haven’t been forthcoming with information about the incident, and the fall that claimed his life was a basic skill for the veteran stuntman.
Rip ‘n Read is a daily compilation of press releases found on hundreds of websites that are maintained by the federal government, think tanks, watchdog groups and national advocacy organizations. Press releases selected for this feature are, in the opinion of the editor, exceptionally newsworthy, interesting or just plain curious.
The press releases and documents linked to this report were posted on their websites on Friday, January 5