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Pine Lawn Drug Bust Nets Pot-Filled Cookies and Candy

Thursday, 17 April 2014 06:42 Published in Local News
St. Louis, MO  --  Two suspects are jailed in Pine Lawn after a routine traffic stop turned into a drug bust.  
 
Fox2 News reports that a man and a woman were stopped for speeding on Interstate 70 near Jennings Station Rd.  just after 3 o'clock Thursday morning.  
Police say they could smell pot as they approached the car. They were given permission to search the vehicle and found several pounds of the drug hidden beneath the liner of the trunk. 
 
The duo had bought the marijuana in Colorado and it is unknown at this time whether they were transporting it to Missouri or through the state.
In addition to packages, the pot was contained in cookies, brownies, chocolate bars and other candies.  A 24 year old man from Virginia and a  34 year old woman from Colorado are in custody.
 

LITTLE GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO BOMBING A YEAR LATER

Thursday, 17 April 2014 06:28 Published in National News

BOSTON (AP) -- A year after homemade bombs ripped through the Boston Marathon, state and federal officials have enacted virtually no policy changes in response to the attack, a dramatic departure from previous acts of terrorism that prompted waves of government action.

"There was a great deal of concern right after this happened," said Rep. William Keating, a Massachusetts Democrat. "Now, people are focused on so many different issues."

Washington's formal response to the attack has been limited to a series of investigations and reports that call for improved cooperation between the federal government and local law enforcement. In the Massachusetts Statehouse, legislators have created a license plate to honor the victims, while considering modest proposals to reimburse local police departments involved in the frantic search for those behind the attack.

Despite symbolic pledges of support from elected officials across the nation on this week's anniversary, there is little evidence of any significant impact on policy. Instead of allocating new federal resources, funding that helps cities prepare for terrorism may be reduced. And it's unclear if Congress will adopt any legislative remedies to address perceived intelligence failures that leave cities vulnerable to so-called lone wolf strikes.

"This is still an ongoing threat. I don't think there's anybody in law enforcement that would say what happened in Boston couldn't happen anywhere," said former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who testified before a congressional panel last year, calling for action.

But the politics of terrorism have changed significantly since Giuliani led his city's response to the 9/11 attacks more than a decade ago.

Polling suggests that terrorism barely registers among voter priorities - even in the months immediately after the April 15, 2013, attack that killed three and wounded more than 260 others gathered around the marathon finish line.

Experts also report that the limited response is due, in part, to the low number of deaths relative to previous terrorist attacks on American soil.

Al-Qaida operatives killed nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001, and 168 died in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Policymakers enacted an overwhelming legislative response to 9/11, creating a new federal agency, the Homeland Security Department, and sending a flood of money to help local officials across the country improve their ability to prevent and respond to a mass-casualty terrorist attack.

The changes improved anti-terrorism efforts at the state and federal level, which has already been credited with preventing some attacks in recent years and minimizing the loss of life in last spring's Boston bombing. But the U.S. government has long feared a Boston Marathon-type attack that's carried out by people motivated by ideology but not tied to any designated terrorist group.

"We see the horror of the Boston Marathon bombings, and you say to yourself, `We still have a long way to go,'" said Tom Ridge, the first secretary of the Homeland Security Department and now a homeland security consultant. "I'm not convinced that this could not have been avoided."

Several months before the bombing, Russian officials warned U.S. security officials that the accused bombers might be religious extremists. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police three days after the bombing, while his brother, Dzhokhar, is awaiting trial on 30 charges in federal court.

A yearlong review of U.S. intelligence released this month found that the investigation prior to the bombing could have been more thorough, but the intelligence agencies' inspectors general said it is impossible to know whether anything could have been done differently to prevent the attack. A report released late last month by the House Homeland Security Committee raised concerns about the lack of information sharing between local officials and federal authorities.

Giuliani said that local law enforcement officers "have to become our front-line of defense" as the nation prepares for more "homegrown terrorist activity."

"There just has to be more sharing with local police," Giuliani told The Associated Press.

Voters appear to have little appetite for a renewed focus on national security after a decade in which anti-terrorism efforts - in addition to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq - have consumed tremendous public resources and attention. Changes in law and policy that could address preventing domestic "lone wolf" attackers would likely involve more surveillance of Americans, an issue that elected officials are reluctant to embrace following revelations that the National Security Agency collected phone records and emails of millions of U.S. citizens as part of ongoing anti-terrorism efforts.

That leaves Keating largely alone as he crafts legislation he hopes will help avert future attacks. The second-term congressman plans to introduce a bill this year that would incorporate much of the Homeland Security Committee's recent recommendations, which include expanded cooperation between federal and local law enforcement and improved screening of international travelers. He said he may introduce the legislation in parts, depending on the level of support from other lawmakers.

At the same time, Keating says, there are signs that the federal government may cut some of the grant programs that help cities like Boston prepare for terrorist attacks. He said he is working to avoid that, but as a relatively junior Democratic congressman in the Republican-led House, that task is not an easy one.

"Unfortunately, the interest level on a tragedy like this peaks when it occurs," he said.

OKLAHOMA GAY-MARRIAGE CASE BEFORE US APPEALS COURT

Thursday, 17 April 2014 06:25 Published in National News

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Lawyers for two Oklahoma women and the county clerk who would not give them a marriage license go before a federal appeals court with a familiar question for the judges: Did the state's voters single out gay people for unfair treatment when they defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman?

The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard similar issues in a Utah case last week, giving Oklahoma lawyers a preview of what questions they might face.

"Essentially, (the cases) are not that different," said Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Byron Babione, who is representing Tulsa County Clerk Sally Howe Smith. "Both of them involve challenges to state marriage amendments that were passed by an overwhelming majority of the people."

Babione said Smith's legal team was encouraged by hard questions posed by the 10th Circuit judges last week, saying they seemed tailored to the argument that a state's residents have the right to define marriage how they see fit.

But lawyers for Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin might look to questions posed by U.S. Circuit Judge Jerome A. Holmes, who asked whether Utah's same-sex marriage ban was similar to Virginia's former ban on interracial marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down that ban 47 years ago.

Holmes also said, however, that gay marriages are a new concept for courts to address and that perhaps it is best to defer to the democratic process unless there is a compelling reason to step in.

U.S. District Judge Terence Kern of Tulsa ruled in January that Oklahoma's ban violated the equal protection clause in the U.S. Constitution. He immediately stayed his ruling, preventing any same-sex marriages from taking place while the ruling was appealed. In contrast, more than 1,000 gay couples in Utah married before the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in to issue a stay.

Kern rejected an attempt by another couple, Susan Barton and Gay Phillips, to have their California marriage recognized in Oklahoma. Kern said Barton and Phillips sued the wrong person.

The Utah and Oklahoma cases are very similar: both involve bans on same-sex marriage passed by a majority of voters in 2004 - 76 percent in Oklahoma and 66 percent in Utah - and both bans were struck down by federal judges within a month of one another in December and January. The legal arguments for and against the ban are also similar.

Baldwin said her lawyer attended last week's arguments and believes it went well.

"I think we were struck by how, frankly, it's the same old arguments they've been using all along that have been so unsuccessful," said Baldwin. "They make it sound as though there are a limited number of marriage licenses and if they start handing out marriage licenses willy-nilly to same-sex couples who can't have a child, then what is that going to do to procreation? Well, it's not going to do anything to procreation. People who still want to have children will still have children."

Alliance Defending Freedom, which also had a representative at the Utah oral arguments, left the court encouraged, Babione said.

"From our perspective, that is a good thing, because we don't think this is an issue that can be decided based on superficial sentiments, but really needs to be decided on the important government interest at stake," he said.

It's not clear when the three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit will issue its rulings. The judges will likely issue separate rulings, but they may come on the same day. The losing sides could appeal to the full 10th Circuit Court of Appeals or directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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