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Five ideas: What are your thoughts on these items in the news this week?

Saturday, May 10, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:54 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Reefer Madness

Missouri Rep. William Lacy Clay, a Democrat from St. Louis, signed on to co-sponsor federal legislation that would decriminalize possession of marijuana for personal use if it’s 3.5 ounces or less. It would also remove penalties for the not-for-profit transfer of up to 1 ounce of marijuana between adults.

Columbia decriminalized marijuana in 2004 for possession of less than 35 grams, roughly an ounce, of marijuana. Possession results in a ticket and is a low priority for police officers. Repeat offenders are still subject to punishment.

And on Tuesday, an undercover drug investigation in San Diego led to the arrest of 96 people, including 75 college students. A majority of arrests were on suspicion of possession for a range of drugs, leading to some outspoken debate on whether arrests are a valuable use of resources.

Several groups argue that the money and effort were poorly spent and would have been better directed to drug treatment and decriminalization, The Los Angeles Times reported.

“College students on any campus in this country are easy pickings,” said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, from the nationwide Drug Policy Alliance. “But these types of arrests are not the best use of the DEA’s resources. They should be targeting large-scale traffickers and distributors.”

What should be the priority: treatment or prosecution?

E-mail controversy

The e-mail battle never ends. A lawsuit was filed against Gov. Matt Blunt on Monday that alleges his office intentionally destroyed e-mails to avoid an open records request made by The Associated Press.

The investigation was led by Attorney General Jay Nixon, who is also a candidate for governor. After the investigation started, Blunt requested Nixon’s e-mail archives.

On Wednesday, Gov. Blunt requested Columbia Rep. Jeff Harris’s e-mail archives. Harris, a candidate for attorney general, criticized Blunt about his office’s e-mail archives on the House floor the day before.

“Who ordered the destruction of these e-mails? Why was the destruction ordered? What was in these e-mails?” Harris asked. “We deserve to know this as taxpayers. And if this governor doesn’t give us answers and give us answers now, then we’ve got to revisit this issue, and we’ll have to see whether he should serve the remainderof his term.”

Harris said the request was “politically motivated” but said he would comply. In November, former GOP spokesman Paul Sloca sent letters to 19 Democratic legislators requesting their e-mail archives.

Is the deletion of these e-mails enough to ask the governor to step down?

Changing the rules

After the Indiana and North Carolina primaries last week, Sen. Hillary Clinton is hoping the Democrats will allow the delegates from Florida and Michigan to count in the race for the presidential nomination. Florida and Michigan were stripped of their participation for moving their primary dates without approval.

Clinton won both those states by large margins and would walk away with a good portion of their combined 366 delegates. She’s trailing Sen. Barack Obama by 150 delegates.

Obama won North Carolina by a large margin and lost to Clinton by a very small one in Indiana. Clinton counted on support from blue-collar workers to bring her a much-needed big win in the state. But Obama’s support from urban areas — especially from Chicago’s next-door neighbor Gary, Ind. — narrowed the gap to 14,000 votes.

At a May 31 meeting, a committee will decide if and how to count Florida and Michigan primary results. Two of Clinton’s staff are members of the committee, and 13 members have endorsed her for president. Eight have endorsed Obama, and nine are neutral.

Obama representatives argue that counting the votes is equivalent to changing the rules in the middle of the game.

Are Clinton’s political maneuvers hurting the Democrats ability to win the presidency?

Flying to Memphis

A new air carrier, Mesaba Airlines of Eagan, Minn., will begin flights to Memphis out of Columbia Regional Airport. Four months ago, the current carrier decided to stop its flight service to Kansas City and St. Louis because it wasn’t making a profit.

Mesaba will provide three daily round-trip flights to Memphis, which is a major hub. It would also allow Columbians to go through security only once.

“We have got an airline that can overcome past service,” City Manager Bill Watkins said. “The flights will be coming into a hub which will allow fliers to go anywhere more conveniently.”

Several city leaders said they hope the new air service will help turn the airport around and open up new opportunities for travel.

Airport Advisory Board member David Rosman has supported Mesaba’s service since the beginning but thinks the new carrier can only do so much.

“They can do everything right, but if the city, universities, colleges and hospitals don’t promote the airport, the same thing is going to happen,” he said.

Once travelers get on I-70, it’s a straight shot to Lambert Airport in St. Louis, often making it easier to drive than fly from Columbia.

If it becomes affordable, would you plan a weekend in Elvis’ hometown?

Sales tax and lipstick

Economic times are tough, and even though President Bush is unwilling to call it a recession, people are feeling it in their wallets.

Columbia and Boone County are already seeing the effects. Merchandise sales dropped $4 million to $1.9 million in 2007. The income raised by the sales tax was much lower than last year’s predicted growth, with a 0.5 percent increase over the previous year.

Slowing lumber sales play a part, as the home building sector is partially to blame for the current recession. Compared to last year, 2,866 fewer permits were issued to build single family homes.

Sales tax revenues were also slower for dining and entertainment, meaning Columbians aren’t eating out as much.

Yet there is one bright spot. The New York Times reported last week that when economic downturns hit, sales of lipstick spike. Economists say lipstick is a small indulgence compared to buying a new dress or pair of jeans and that lipstick has long been a morale booster.

“You always think of the classic lipstick and stockings doing well in wartime,” said Cristina Bartolucci, creative director of DuWop Cosmetics, to The New York Times.

Will women in Columbia respond to the tough economy by buying more lipstick?


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