Monday, September 15, 2008

Porn on a plane: Flight attendants want filters

Posted by Marguerite Reardon

Coffee, tea, or porn? "I don't think so," say American Airline flight attendants.

Leaders of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents some 19,000 workers including American Airlines flight attendants, asked American Airline's management this week to consider adding filters to its in-flight Wi-Fi access to prevent passengers from viewing porn and other inappropriate Web sites while in-flight.

A union representative told Bloomberg News that attendants and passengers have raised "a lot of complaints" over the issue.

(Credit: American Airlines)

American Airlines is one of several airlines testing in-flight Internet access as a way to lure more passengers. American has been offering the service on a limited basis since August 20th on some flights between New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, and between New York and Miami. The cost of the service on cross-country flights is $12.95, and it's $9.95 on the New York to Miami route.

The current program is in a 3- to 6-month trial period, and the airline plans to review usage and feedback on the service at the end of that period, an American Airlines spokesman told Bloomberg.

The controversy has stirred up an ongoing debate about whether Internet access in public places should be restricted. Earlier this year, the Denver International Airport took a lot flack for blocking access on its free Wi-Fi network to Web sites that officials deemed offensive.

The argument was made by Denver airport officials that users must abide by their rules because they are providing the service for free. But that case is harder to make for in-flight passengers, who are paying for Internet access.

Given that people are packed onto planes literally elbow to elbow, it's often hard not to at least glance at the laptop screen of the person sitting next to you. But airlines have not banned people from reading pornographic magazines or watching their own DVDs on flights. And it's just as easy for someone to view a DVD of an adult video on a laptop or flip through Hustler as it is to surf porn Web sites.

The truth is that it hasn't been a major problem on flights thus far. In fact, American Airline's spokesman Tim Smith told Bloomberg that the "vast majority" of customers already use good judgment in what's appropriate to look at while flying versus what's not.

And he added, "Customers viewing inappropriate material on board a flight is not a new scenario for our crews, who have always managed this issue with great success."

What do you think? Should airlines filter Internet access at 20,000 feet? Or should they just stay out of the censoring debate?

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Marijuana, a growing battle

By Jason Blevins

Mike Stetler walks amid the marijuana plants he is growing for himself and other medical-marijuana users. An earlier crop, marked with state-issued registry cards, was destroyed by Huerfano County sheriff's deputies. (Photos by Joe Amon, The Denver Post )

HUERFANO COUNTY — Mike Stetler is proud of his garden. It took him months to get the lush jungle just right.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" he said.

A decade ago, the labor of planting would have been impossible for Stetler. Strung out on Demerol, OxyContin, morphine and oxycodone, the pain-addled Navy veteran was, he says, "a slobbering zombie, stupid and living in la-la land."

Since 2002, though, when he started growing and smoking the medicinal marijuana he now tends so carefully, he hasn't touched a pill.

"The pain isn't all the way gone, but I can live again. I can get out of bed. The sun is shining on me again," he said. "See what God does? He gives us something beautiful to use. This healing herb. And what happens?"

What happened is sheriff's deputies landed a helicopter on his land, broke open two padlocked gates and ransacked his trailer, ripping a gaping hole in the roof. They seized 44 marijuana plants and more than eight state-issued medical-marijuana cards that indicate other medical-marijuana patients have told the state he is their designated caregiver. They left a search warrant hanging over Stetler's medical-marijuana sign.

Almost eight years after Colorado voters approved Amendment 20, engraving in the Colorado Constitution the lawful use of doctor-recommended medical marijuana for those "suffering from debilitating medical conditions," police and prosecutors zealously pursue medical-marijuana growers such as Stetler, citing everything from the fact that they just don't like the law to concerns about public safety and confusion over what the law allows.

The law is "overly broad," "a work in progress," "vague" and "a mistake," according to cops and prosecutors along the Front Range, home to more than three-quarters of the state's 3,302 residents enrolled in the Colorado medical-marijuana registry program. There are 12 states in the U.S. that have medical-marijuana laws. Of the 10 with marijuana card systems, Colorado is the

Click on image to enlarge (The Denver Post)
only state that does not issue caregivers like Stetler licenses that specifically allow for cultivation.

"Marijuana cultivation is a violation of federal and state law. Just because someone says 'medical marijuana' doesn't mean we automatically back off and we don't enforce the law," said Larry Abrahamson, district attorney for Larimer County, where more than 45 percent of felony marijuana cases in the past decade have involved growers, many with state-issued cards. "Just because we have Amendment 20 does not mean we have free marijuana for everyone."

Raid, but no charges

Tucked into a lonely corner of 7,755- resident Huerfano County, Stetler has nursed 33 new marijuana plants from the sandy soil. Good medicine, he says, squeezing sticky, stinky and crystallized buds atop listing 7-foot stalks.

His plants are growing on private land miles from a paved road in two sheds posted with 13 state-issued medical-marijuana certificates that designate Stetler is now a licensed care giver for 13 patients. His doctor has advised he needs 15 plants to alleviate his constant pain stemming from a 1990 car accident.

Since the raid more than a year ago, Huerfano County Sheriff Bruce Newman has not filed any charges or returned Stetler's plants. No visits from police. Not even a ticket or a letter. Newman said he's waiting.

"We want to see what happens with some of these other cases," said Newman, who suspects not all of Stetler's 44 plants were legal and has destroyed them. "There's a lot of legal stuff up in the air, and it's going to take judges making decisions to figure it out."

The amendment seems to be functioning for people who use and distribute medical marijuana. Eleven storefront dispensaries operate openly in Colorado, some distributing medical marijuana to as many as 600 patients who need as much as an ounce of the weed a week. More than 500 doctors have recommended marijuana, and the number of patients on the state's registry has almost doubled since January.

"I'd have to say it is working," said Denver attorney Warren Edson, who represents half of the state's dispensaries. "But the dispensaries are not cultivating, and there's a huge need. The cultivation side is problematic."

Lawyer Sean T. McAllister of Breckenridge. (Joe Amon, The Denver Post)

Indeed, for the green-thumbed suppliers of the statewide demand for thousands of pounds of medical marijuana, life is not good. While Amendment 20 outlines a host of protections for medical-marijuana patients and allows them to designate a caregiver, the law does nothing to address growers.

So though many medical-marijuana patients designate growers as caregivers, the marijuana farmers are subject to arrest-first, ask-if-it's-medical-later SWAT raids. They face lengthy and costly legal battles, which, regardless of an acquittal, dismissal or conviction, end with dead marijuana plants.

"The police are supposed to be protecting me from thieves and such, but they are the thieves," said Stetler, who is one of three designated caregivers in Colorado preparing a civil lawsuit demanding compensation for plants destroyed by police.

"It's not right. They are making up their own laws and mocking the state's laws they are supposed to be protecting. They are mocking the voters they serve."

"Where do they think all the medical marijuana for more than 3,000 patients comes from?" said marijuana farmer Chris Crumbliss, who has been raided twice in Larimer County despite possessing dozens of state-issued medical-marijuana cards from patients listing him as their primary caregiver. "Do they want one person growing for 50 people, or do they want 50 people growing on their own?"

Law rubs wrong way

For police, Amendment 20 conflicts with federal laws and long-held state laws prohibiting cultivation of marijuana.

Even worse, say police, Amendment 20's requirement that all property and plants seized in a medical-marijuana investigation "shall not be harmed, neglected, injured, or destroyed" is unworkable. (If a cop waters a marijuana plant, is she breaking the law?)

And the notion that marijuana — which the federal government considers a "Schedule I" substance alongside PCP and methamphetamine — can be legal at all dismisses decades of law enforcement culture and ingrained drug war doctrine.

Larimer County's Jim Alderden is a folksy sheriff who refers to Amendment 20 as an "ill-conceived law" and aggressively pursues marijuana growers. They may call themselves licensed caregivers, but he calls them "dope dealers."

"Wholesale drug dealers are hiding under the umbrella afforded them by the statute," he says. "These people are nothing more than dope dealers, and they are hiding under this thing, and we are not going to back off. These people who say they are caregivers providing for 60 to 70 people are running the same sort of scam you see on the West Coast where people see a physician who is willing to prostitute themselves for money and say 'here's the dope.' "

Scott Carr, the regional director for Colorado's THC Clinic in Wheat Ridge, disagrees with Alderden's assessment of doctors who recommend marijuana. Carr says the doctors in his clinic care for their patients and advise the best treatment for their ailments.

"We do a pretty extensive screening of medical history. We get charts and copies of doctor notes," Carr said.

Jeff Sweetin, head of Denver's branch of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, regularly hears growers pleading their product is medical marijuana. When the operations "reach into hundreds of plants and millions of dollars, that argument that they are immune because of state medical-marijuana laws is absurd," Sweetin said.

"I think it was a mistake. It's bad public policy, and it put cops in a terrible spot," Sweetin said of Amendment 20. "The very term 'medical marijuana' doesn't hold much water. I mean really, what kind of medicine do you smoke?"

Sweetin fields calls "all the time" from Colorado cops begging his help when a court orders the return of marijuana or growing equipment.

"Ninety-nine times out of 100, our answer is, 'This is not our problem to fix.' I feel for these guys and they are my friends and they are partners, but it is not the position of the DEA to rescue everybody from their state's legislation."

A need for clarity

If there's one thing cops, prosecutors, attorneys and growers agree on, it's that more work is needed to lift the fog surrounding Amendment 20 and its implementation. How it's going to get done is the big question.

Last month, Crumbliss stood trembling with his arms held high in his front yard at 4 a.m., his boxers pulled to his ankles, his head and face wrapped in a T-shirt, a laser-scoped assault rifle trained on his chest and his dogs howling from a shower of tear gas. He kept saying one thing over and over: "I have a license to grow medical marijuana."

The armored men behind the guns were Larimer and Boulder county sheriff's deputies in a multi-jurisdictional, predawn SWAT-team raid of three of Crumbliss' homes. After months of investigation — which included no-subpoena-needed access to Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association electrical usage reports from Crumbliss' and neighbors' homes — the raid netted 200 marijuana plants and 25 pounds of cannabis. Crumbliss and his wife, Tiffany, were arrested and charged with a host of felonies that could land them in prison for almost a decade. It was the second time in two years Larimer County cops have raided the Crumblisses, who have never hidden their predilection toward medical marijuana.

"I thought I was going to be executed," said Crumbliss, a father of two and a perpetually grinning marijuana farmer who holds more than 40 state medical-marijuana licenses from patients who list him as their primary caregiver. "I've never had a felony in my life. I preach love and compassion. I really believe what I'm doing is legal and I am following the letter of the law. And it's an honor and a privilege to stand up for sick people who can't stand up for themselves. It might earn me a spot in jail, and it might earn me a place in heaven."

Sean McAllister, the attorney who represented Crumbliss against his previous and still-pending marijuana cultivation charges from 2007, called Larimer County's "smash and grab" tactics "the worst abuse I've ever seen by police of the medical-marijuana law because they are arresting first and determining if it's medical later."

McAllister, the founder of Sensible Colorado, a nonprofit advocating for drug policy reform, said the writers of Amendment 20 made too many compromises and growers like Crumbliss are left in the law's "gray areas."

"You can smoke it. You can dispense it. But how are they supposed to grow it?" said McAllister, a Breckenridge attorney who specializes in medical-marijuana cases. "Unfortunately the Crumblisses are the guinea pigs who are going to have to test the legal status of Colorado's medical-marijuana laws."

Prosecutions increase

Larimer County, which medical-marijuana attorney Rob Corry calls "the worst" in its pursuit of medical-marijuana caregivers, is not alone in its hunt for marijuana farmers. Across the state, prosecutors in recent years have pursued more cases than ever against growers who argue they are within the bounds of Amendment 20. Last year, prosecutors in El Paso, Jefferson, Denver and Larimer counties — home to nearly half the state's medical-marijuana patients — tried 72 felony cultivation cases, up from nine cases in 2000.

Part of the issue is public safety, said Lynn Kimbrough, spokeswoman for Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey. She explained a litany of potential hazards involving the unregulated business of marijuana growing operations: fire danger from high electrical use and indoor grow lamps, price gouging, the safety of the product and the potential dangers facing future residents of a house where marijuana was grown.

"There is no mandate in our office to go out and aggressively prosecute caregivers or growers, but we are not going to look the other way," Kimbrough said. "I think (district attorneys) would welcome some more attention to this because there is a sense that there is some work that still needs to be done to clarify the process and perhaps regulate the business aspect and ensure the safety of the people for whom this law was meant to help."

Jason Blevins: 303-954-1374 or

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Is Marijuana Safer Than Alcohol?

The short answer is yes. There is no lethal dose of Marijuana as there is Alcohol, and no significant changes to brain structure. However, alcohol can severely damage brain function. Many Universities across the country including both Colorado State Universities and Appalachian State University have brought arguments before their schools in an attempt to equalize penalties for alcohol and marijuana consumption.

Marijuana is much safer than alcohol in terms of temporary impairment. While alcohol causes sever motor skill deficiency rendering one unable to drive or perform other coordinated tasks, marijuana does little other than slow these processes down.

Alcohol withdrawal is widely known as one of the biggest reasons it is hard to stop drinking. Marijuana however, has no physical withdrawals (other than the psychological withdrawal of not being high).

Alcohol tolerance increases substantially with abuse. While marijuana tolerance will increase with use, there is a much smaller difference between a pothead and first time smoker’s needs than there is an alcoholic and a first time drinker.

It is very difficult for Alcoholics to put the bottle down for good. Marijuana has been smoked by nearly 50% of all Americans, and only 1% of that number smoke regularly. Take the total number of citizens in the United States and figure how many people have tried alcohol, and how many are alcoholics, and you’ll be left with a figure 10 times that of marijuana.

Reinforcement is one of those qualities that it is hard to measure by taking a substance, but what it really means is potential for addiction. Marijuana has almost no potential for physical addiction (as stated in withdrawals) but can be psychologically addicting. Many marijuana users get used to the lifestyle and quitting the substance isn’t the problem, it’s the social life they have developed around it.

So overall marijuana is safer than alcohol, but much more inconvenient for the paper and oil companies that alcohol and tobacco. What does this mean? It means the drug czar, John Walters, gets tens of millions every year to spread the type of ignorance we are trying to fight. His latest episodes of marijuana propaganda include the myth that marijuana creates mental illness. This is supported by no psychologists in the field that I have read about or talked to, however it does seem that marijuana may bring forth underlying mental illnesses that already exist.

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Judge says Feds violated 10th Amendment by subverting state marijuana laws

A landmark decision for all Californian's quietly made history on August 20th in a Santa Cruz courtroom.

For the first time since 1996, when the Compassionate Use Act was passed, the federal authorities have been charged with violating the 10th Amendment for harassing medical marijuana patients and state authorities.

The case of Santa Cruz vs. Mukasey, was heard by U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel, who said the Bush Administration's request to dismiss a lawsuit by Santa Cruz city and county officials, and the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM), wasn't going to happen.

In a recent telephone interview with Alan Hopper, an ACLU counsel familiar with the case, I asked him what came next?

”The plaintiff will get a get a court-ordered discovery document that will allow them to get documents, and even depositions, from the federal authorities to support their claims,” he explained.

So now it's the city, county, and WAMM's turn to prove their case against the federal government. The court has recognized a concerted effort by the federal government to sabotage state medical marijuana laws, which violates the U.S. Constitution. The significance of this ruling, the first of its kind, cannot be overstated.

California voters may finally get what they asked for a dozen years ago. When the court said that the federal government had gone out of its way to arrest and prosecute some of the most legitimate doctors, patients, caregivers, and dispensary owners that had been working with state and local officials, it finally drew a line-in-the sand.

An example of the federal authorities violations was their pursuit of WAMM. This non-profit group has been around for many years, and has been fully supported by the city and county of Santa Cruz. They have been referred to, by officials, as the model medical marijuana patient's collective.

The group was functioning so smoothly that the city even allowed them to hold regular meetings to distribute marijuana to its patients on the steps of city hall! The federal agents still went after them, which brought about this court decision.

When the ACLU filed this lawsuit to stop them from targeting medical marijuana providers and patients, they opened a door that may finally lead to no federal interference in California's medical marijuana law.

We must not forget that medical marijuana brings in about $100 million each year in tax revenue. Conferring total legitimacy to the law will allow this cash flow to continue, and hopefully, increase over time.

When the judge ruled the feds were threatening physicians who recommended marijuana, he set the stage for regaining patient's rights. The ruling clearly pointed out that the feds were also threatening government officials who issue medical marijuana cards, and interfered with municipal zoning plans.

In the summation, the court found that, “There was a calculated pattern of selective arrests and prosecutions by the federal government with the intent to render California's medical marijuana laws impossible to implement and therefore forced Californian's and their political subdivisions to re-criminalize medical marijuana.”

In a recent column, I mentioned California's Attorney General Jerry Brown had passed out an 11-page directive that all law agencies were to go by. I expressed concern that the federal authorities would ignore those guidelines, but upon finding out about this recent ruling I now have some cause for hope.

It sure sounded like Hopper was looking forward to the next phase, and he seemed confident that positive change lay ahead. Asked which presidential candidate would be more amenable to upholding medical marijuana laws, he cleverly replied that he thought they both would be willing to work for change. He could be right too. This is a year of change.

This on-going battle with the federal authorities ignoring California's laws has been well-documented in the past. Why hasn't there been more coverage for such an epic ruling? Its potential as breakthrough legislation is something all Californian's should know about in my opinion.

The war against medical marijuana hasn't been won yet, but this could be the breakthrough everybody's waited for. At the core of the war waged by the federal government against the voter's will, is the failed War on Drugs by the Bush Administration. It's about time someone told them to back off.

As It Stands, we can score this as a successful round for state's rights.

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Your New Tires Could Be Six-Year-Old Death Traps

Those "new" tires of yours could be six-years old and ready to disintegrate on the highway. Tire rubber dries out after six years, but unlike in Europe and Asia, American companies are allowed to sell expired tires long after they turn into death donuts. A 20/20 investigation found that the "new" tires on sale at Sears and Walmart can be up to 12-years-old. Inside, how to tell when your tires were born...

All tires bear a Department of Transportation number hidden on the inner wheel wall. At the end of the number is a four-digit sequence that shows the week and year the tire was made. Tires with the notation 3502 were made in the 35th week of 2002. If you only see three digits, get new tires immediately; your tires are from the 90's and are way past their effective lifespan.

Listen as the mustachioed John Stossel explains:

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What Men Want/What Women Want

By: Tonya Reid (View Profile)

Men and women are quite different, which basically means that (surprise!) they are driven by different things in a mate. Having been a single woman living in Los Angeles for a while now, and being the ever-observant creature that I am, I feel that the following is pretty accurate in regard to what we want from each other:

These are the five types of women that men go for:

The Slut—It’s no secret that men are driven by what they see. The chicks that prance around in barely-there outfits and put themselves out there like walking sex billboards will definitely attract a man, but not for long. These women are the “Promiscuous” girls that Nelly Furtado sang about. They think it’s cute to get sloppy drunk and flash strangers. They feel empowered by having one-night stands and getting attention from as many men as they can. Without the shenanigans of these girls, Joe Francis of Girls Gone Wild fame would have been forced into another line of work.

The Knockout—She’s beautiful, she’s confident, and she knows how to get what she wants. All eyes are on her when she walks into a room. Mucho points for a man’s ego. Other men wish they could have her and women are slightly intimidated by her (although they won’t admit it).

The Challenge—Men love the thrill of the hunt. They want the woman that is attractive, smart, charming … and out of their reach. The woman who doesn’t fall all over them when other women do. The woman this is nonchalant or even slightly aloof regarding the fact that this man wants her so bad. She may even be his friend, but he just can’t quite get there.

The Submissive—These are women who will make a man feel like a man. She likes for him to take the bull by the horns in the relationship and she will cater to him no matter what. He won’t have to clean/take care of the kids/cook or do much of anything because she’s like his own personal servant.

The One You Can Take Home to Mama—This woman is just an all-around great catch. She gets along with his friends, understands him like no other, makes him laugh, shares his interests, stimulates his mind, maybe even lets him watch a game in peace every once in a while. She’s a keeper!

The five types of men that women go for:

The Bad Boy—He may not have a pot to p*ss in or a window to throw it out, but, if he’s a thug or some other type of bad boy, women will want him. BAD. They’ll wanna fight other women for him. They’ll wanna be his baby mama. They’ll wanna be the one that he settles for. Guess what? This dude’s not gonna settle! He loves the attention and he’ll play a woman as long as she lets him. And if you leave him? So what. There’s another woman waiting around the corner to take your place. Turns out he’s been seeing her on the side anyway.

The Brainiac—Women are turned on by a certain part of a man where the bigger, the better. I’m talking about his brain, of course! We love a man who can challenge our intellect and enlighten us on a few subjects, whether it be politics, mechanical engineering, or whatever subject matter we’re lacking knowledge in. It’s sexy when a man can hold a stimulating conversation and actually look us in the eye. It doesn’t hurt when he can answer a few questions while playing Trivial Pursuit, either.

The Charmer—Charisma is extremely important. Nobody wants to end up with someone who will bore them out of their skull. It’s important to us that our man is appreciated by our friends and loved ones. He should have the wit and charm to hold folks in awe for hours on end. We want to hear them say “What a great guy! I like him. When is he coming around again?”

The Knight in Shining Armor—Let’s face it, women don’t like wimps. We want a man to protect us from danger, defend our honor, and carry our heavy groceries (not necessarily in that order). We want a strong man in our corner. Not that we’ll test him, but we basically want him to be able to kick someone’s butt if it comes down to that.

The Perfect Man—Does he exist? Some seem to have found him. This is the guy who fits a good chunk of the checklist items of what we want in a man. Handsome? Check. Got a job? Check. Watches chick flicks without complaining? Check. He may have some little quirks that we think are cute, but overall he’s all that, and then some. Sometimes he’s right in front of us and we don’t even realize it.

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