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Leah Barkoukis - New Study of Young Adults Finds Link Between Casual Marijuana Use and Brain Abnormalities
Posted: 4/20/2014 3:00:00 PM EST

There are plenty of studies out there demonstrating the effects long-term marijuana use has on users, but for the first time, researchers at Northwestern University looked into the relationship between casual marijuana use and brain changes. What they discovered, which was published in the Journal of Neuroscience, is significant. The researchers found that young adults who used marijuana even once or twice a week showed “significant abnormalities in two important brain structures,” Fox News reports.

“There were abnormalities in their working memory, which is fundamental to everything you do,” Dr. Hans Breiter, co-senior study author and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told FoxNews.com. “When you make judgments or decisions, plan things, do mathematics – anything you do always involves working memory. It’s one of the core fundamental aspects of our brains that we use every day. So given those findings, we decided we need to look at casual, recreational use.”

FoxNews.com has the details:

For their most recent study, Breiter and his team analyzed a very small sample of patients between the ages of 18 and 25: 20 marijuana users and 20 well-matched control subjects. The marijuana users had a wide range of usage routines, with some using the drug just once or twice a week and others using it every single day.

Utilizing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the researchers analyzed the participants’ brains, focusing on the nucleus accumbens (NAC) and the amygdala – two key brain regions responsible for processing emotions, making decisions and motivation. They looked at these brain structures in three different ways, measuring their density, volume and shape.

According to Breiter, all three were abnormal in the casual marijuana users.

“For the NAC, all three measures were abnormal, and they were abnormal in a dose-dependent way, meaning the changes were greater with the amount of marijuana used,” Breiter said. “The amygdala had abnormalities for shape and density, and only volume correlated with use. But if you looked at all three types of measures, it showed the relationships between them were quite abnormal in the marijuana users, compared to the normal controls.”

Because these brain regions are central for motivation, the findings from Northwestern help support the well-known theory that marijuana use leads to a condition called amotivation. Also called amotivational syndrome, this psychological condition causes people to become less oriented towards their goals and purposes in life, as well as seem less focused in general.

Since the results were alarming, Breiter stressed that more studies need to be done examining a larger study sample, to see what happens longitudinally, to determine what the effects on the brain are if users quit, and so on.

“This study is just a beginning pilot study, but at the same time, the results that came out are the same as a canary in a coal mine,” Breiter told FoxNews.com. “...The interaction of marijuana with brain development could be a significant problem.

As many states consider following Colorado and Washington’s lead in legalizing recreational marijuana use, more research in this area is especially critical.

Update: Are Colorado legislators already having second thoughts?

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Cortney O'Brien - ICYMI: Gun Owners Shred NY SAFE Act Forms on Registration Deadline Day
Posted: 4/20/2014 12:00:00 PM EST

Governor Andrew Cuomo found defiance instead of compliance this week in New York as gun owners showed him just what they think of his "SAFE" Act. Tuesday marked the deadline for gun owners to register their "assault weapons" under the anti-gun legislation. But, they had a slightly different way of marking the occasion:

Roughly 70 opponents of the law who gathered outside the Walter J. Mahoney State Office Building in downtown Buffalo late Tuesday afternoon to shred State Police registration forms for assault weapons.

So, why is this law so unpopular? Well, barring the fact that "assault weapon" is merely a political term, the SAFE Act has already resulted in 1,200 felony charges. Turns out New Yorkers don't like legislation that essentially turns them from law-abiding citizens using their right to bear arms one day, and criminals the next.

“They have been shredding the Constitution for years,” said Rus Thompson, who led Tuesday’s rally. “You shred the Constitution, we’ll shred any form you want us to fill out. They can’t arrest a million people. What are they going to do?”

“Nobody is going to comply with this,” added Tim Swedenhjelm, a gun owner and a 30-year range safety officer from Springville. “We don’t call them ‘assault rifles’ because they’re not ‘assault rifles.’ Assault rifles are automatic weapons. These are not automatic weapons. When I hear politicians call them assault rifles, you know they don’t know what they’re talking about.”

It seems not even law enforcement is on the governor's side. Sheriff Timothy B. Howard of Erie County told The Buffalo News that, even though officers are required to report any individuals who don't register their firearms, his deputies aren't exactly going out of their way to do so:

I am not encouraging them to do it. At the same time, their own consciences should be their guide. I am not forcing my conscience on them. That is a decision they should make.”

Earth to Cuomo: You don't respect people's rights, they don't respect you.

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Kevin Glass - Obamacare's "Unfolding Fiscal Disaster"
Posted: 4/20/2014 9:00:00 AM EST

Obamacare is more than just a new entitlement. Charles Blahous of economic policy think tank Economics 21 writes about just how large of an impact that its provisions will have on the economy in the future. Spending on Obamacare's coverage expansion is immediately a massive entitlement expansion, and will only get worse.

Blahaus contrasts Obamacare with our other major entitlement programs and finds that ACA spends more than all but Medicare, and does so much faster:

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After these initial rollouts, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid costs grew far faster than originally envisioned, sometimes due to subsequent legislation, sometimes due to unanticipated healthcare cost growth. It wouldn’t be surprising for either factor to affect the ACA, which would be even more problematic for reasons given below.

When new enrollment figures were released last week, the national discussion focused on whether the ACA is fulfilling its coverage expansion goals. The largely unwritten and more important story, however, is that the ACA is rapidly becoming a colossal fiscal disaster as enrollment proceeds heedless of the concurrent collapse of the law’s financing structure.

With the Obamacare rollout largely solidified and Republicans likely unable to make any major dent in the legislation until after the 2016 election - and everything might hinge on a win there - this will continue to be a drain on the federal budget, and just one more massive health entitlement.

If the rosy economic and long term health projections don't pan out, spending on coverage expansion is going to look much worse.

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Sarah Jean Seman - PETA Uses Children to Shame First Lady for Using Real Eggs in WH Easter Egg Roll
Posted: 4/20/2014 9:00:00 AM EST

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are disappointed with First Lady Michelle Obama. Why? Because she is using real chicken eggs Monday in the 136th White House Easter Egg Roll.

Who better to address this horrendous decision than three adorable children who seem to know just want to say…

PETA is known for using a variety of tactics to promote their message. These include suggesting to turn serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s house into a vegan restaurant, using Martin Luther King Jr. day to promote the rights of abused animals, and giving books full of graphic images of mutilated cows to elementary school children.

It is very unlikely Michelle Obama will take PETA’s advice and use plastic eggs in the roll. After all, she is using the event to promote her Let’s Move! initiative, which supports consuming eggs as part of a healthy breakfast.

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Cortney O'Brien - Paying Attention Now? Gosnell Movie Campaign Reaches $1 Million After MSM Ignore Gruesome Abortion Story
Posted: 4/19/2014 4:30:00 PM EST

Shortly after becoming the most successful crowdfunding campaign ever on Indiegogo, the Gosnell Movie project spearheaded by filmmakers Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney to expose late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell and his 40 year history of filthy abortion clinics and butchering of babies, has just reached $1 million in funds. That means they are nearly halfway to their goal of completing a movie about America's most prolific serial killer that the mainstream media all but ignored.

By reaching the $1 million mark, the Gosnell campaign also becomes the largest non-celebrity film on any crowdfunding website. McElhinney reacted to this incredible feat:

"We now have 11,000 people who through small contributions are sending a message to the media and Hollywood that they are tired of seeing the news being suppressed to protect uncomfortable truths."

To make a contribution to this impressive and important campaign, click here.

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Christine Rousselle - Kansas Students and Parents Not Thrilled About Michelle Obama Speaking at High School Graduation Ceremony
Posted: 4/19/2014 3:00:00 PM EST

An invitation to Michelle Obama to speak at the Topeka Unified School District 501 graduation ceremony by the district has some parents and students crying foul. The First Lady's appearance caused the district to combine all five schools' graduation ceremonies into one mega-ceremony, and may force limitations on the number of tickets that can be distributed to friends and families. A petition drive has been started to request that the district reconsider their plans about the combined ceremony, or have Michelle Obama speak at a separate event from the graduation. The First Lady was invited to speak on the anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision that struck down segregation in schools.

Parents are concerned that the First Lady's visit would overshadow the fact that their children are graduating from high school, and the individual schools are upset with the fact that their unique graduation traditions will be set aside for the combined ceremony.

"I'm a single mother who has raised him for 18 years by myself," said Tina Hernandez, parent of Topeka High School senior Dauby Knight. "I've told him education is the only way out. This is one of the biggest days of their lives. They've taken the glory and shine from the children and put on Mrs. Obama. She doesn't know our kids."

Taylor Gifford, a senior at Topeka High School, started the petition drive not for political reasons, but because she is the oldest of eight children and is worried that her siblings and relatives would be shut out of the ceremony due to the new ticket limits. Graduates in years past have not been subjected to a ticket limit and were free to bring unlimited friends and family members to the ceremony. While no formal ticket limit has been set, families were advised last week to plan on receiving four tickets.

Gifford said her initial reaction to the news was excitement, saying she was "freaking out" about the prospect of the first lady speaking at graduation. When rumors of limited tickets surfaced, Gifford felt like the focus was being shifted from the students to Obama.

"People think it's a great opportunity, but it's the graduates' time. They are getting that diploma that they worked so hard for," Gifford said. "Families are feeling that they are being cheated out of the loved ones special day."

This is definitely a tricky situation, and it's easy to see where both sides are coming from. While the students are lucky that a figure like Michelle Obama is willing to speak at their graduation ceremony, it appears that this is creating a logistical nightmare for parents and students--who should be the main focus of the event. High school graduation is, for some of these students, the biggest event of their lives so far, and represents a major accomplishment that should be celebrated with as many people as possible. I think the obvious solution would be to revert to the original plan of separate graduation ceremonies for each school (meaning that graduates would be able to invite as many people as they wish), with the First Lady speaking at a different event that graduates can choose to attend.

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Cortney O'Brien - Author and Terror Expert: We Are Less Safe Than a Year Ago
Posted: 4/19/2014 12:00:00 PM EST

Runners will take their marks Monday at the start of the 2014 Boston Marathon, no doubt with last year’s cruel memories still fresh in their minds. Since Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev exploded two pressure cooker bombs at the finish line in 2013, killing three people and injuring almost 300 others, can participants feel any safer running the route this time around? Author and terror expert Robert Spencer thinks the answer is a tragic "no." Tuesday I had the chance to speak with Spencer about his new book, Arab Winter Comes to America. In both his book and during our conversation, he gave our country a poor grade for its efforts to stop terrorism. His harshest critique for the current state of Americans’ safety, was that political correctness under the Obama administration has left the United States vulnerable to attacks.

It’s been a year since the Boston Bombing. Would you say we are any safer in America?

“We are less safe, because the Boston bombing was a massive failure on the part of the FBI. They were told Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a follower of radical Islam. The Russians told us they were jihad. If the FBI had been able to investigate, maybe they’d look a little harder and could have thwarted the bombing.They didn’t find anything, so they stopped the investigation. [...] Islam stopped being mentioned in counterterror training.”

Would you say the Boston bombing victims were also victims of political correctness?

“Absolutely. 100 percent.”

How easy is it for a terrorist to enter our country and become an American citizen?

“As easy as saying it to me just now was.”

In a piece he penned at Jihad Watch, Spencer noted that just this week Somali Muslims protest counter-terror efforts in Kenya. He noted that, while Kenyan police might be cracking down too hard on Muslims after recent bombings, these charges of police injustice are similar to charges Muslim groups have made in the U.S. — that the FBI and police target Muslims indiscriminately:

So we see Muslims ostensibly opposing jihad terrorism, and yet protesting against counter-terror efforts in the U.S., Israel, Kenya and elsewhere. One might almost get the impression that these charges of brutality and disproportion are always leveled against any counter-jihad action, as a tactic to clear away all obstacles before the advancing jihad.

Spencer wondered how the US could stand to allow radical protesters within our borders.

“This is nothing short of grotesque. What kind of people are these allowed into our country?”

How many “extreme” Muslims would you say are in the US?

“There’s no telling - the situation is so fluid.”

Another example of someone with radical Islamist views who wreaked havoc on our country, was Nidal Malik Hasan. Hasan, who was a major in the United States Army, had touted his extreme views prior to murdering 13 people, yet our government did not act:

The US was waging a "war on Islam", Nidal Hasan explained to fellow graduate students at a military medical college in Maryland, before mounting a defence of Osama bin Laden and endorsing suicide bombers.

As his disgusted audience "erupted", he was halted by their lecturer after just two minutes. Yet two years later Hasan, still a member of the Army he had denounced, would violently conclude his demonstration.

What does one have to do before he or she is denied rights in our country?

“You’re innocent until proven guilty. But this (Hasan terrorist act) is an example of a politically correct culture, where’s there’s Islamophobia in the media. This could have been a career ender for them if they reported it. Career suicide.”

Media bias is something you talk about in your book. What if the Boston bombing had been carried out by Christian extremists? Would there be a difference in how the media covered it?

“It would’ve been a huge thing. They would’ve started an investigation of what’s going on in churches.”

What are a few of the unanswered questions about the Boston bombers?

“What are the connections of the Boston bombers to the Chechen jihad? Did they receive training? If so, who did they receive training from? How were they able to elude police, throw bombs back?”

The answers to those questions likely lie behind the dangerous veil of political correctness.

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Heather Ginsberg - Keystone Pipeline Delayed Again
Posted: 4/19/2014 12:00:00 PM EST

Yesterday the Obama administration delayed the construction of the Keystone Pipeline, once again. This time, the review period was extended, pushing back a potential decision until after the November elections.

Of course this is not the first delay the pipeline has faced. Back in November of 2011 the administration announced that they wouldn’t have a final decision until after the 2012 elections. Well I hate to tell you guys, but that was a year and a half ago! You are really late.

The State Department said they needed more time to review the public comments and to assess the impact of the pending lawsuit in Nebraska that could change the proposed route of the pipeline. Roughly 2.5 million comments were submitted to the State Department for review. Not shockingly, the department did not provide a specific date they expect to finish the review.

Of course the environmental lobby is loving this. But supporters of the pipeline are not going to sit by and let President Obama get away with this.

In criticizing the delay, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said: "Here's the single greatest shovel-ready project in America — one that could create thousands of jobs right away — but the President simply isn't interested."

He added: "Apparently radical activists carry more weight than Americans desperate to get back on the job."

President Obama has said he will make the final decision on pipeline construction based on the national interest. Let’s hope that creating more jobs and adding a new source of energy for the country will be enough to convince the president, and not is green allies.

There are plenty of democrats who support the pipeline.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who faces a tough re-election bid in November, said "today's decision by the Administration amounts to nothing short of an indefinite delay of the Keystone Pipeline."

Another democrat friend of the pipeline is Heidi Heitkamp of South Dakota.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., one of 11 Senate Democrats who signed a letter to Obama seeking a specific timeframe for a Keystone decision, expressed frustration with the latest delay.

"It's absolutely ridiculous that this well-over-five-year-long process is continuing for an undetermined amount of time," she said.

Mr. Obama, do you not see that this is one issue that has truly united the party. You always talk of bipartisanship, but when the parties work together you ignore it and continue to delay a great project. I wonder if we will even have an answer before the 2016 elections. Sorry, I am a bit pessimistic lately.

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Cortney O'Brien - Ouch: College Students Give Obama a Cold Reception in Pennsylvania
Posted: 4/19/2014 8:50:00 AM EST

The president's speeches may need to be accompanied by a laugh track from now on, considering the crickets he received at his appearance in Community College of Allegheny County, in Oakdale, Pa., on Wednesday. Although he tried to tout his new spending program, both Obama's talking points and attempts at humor didn't go over so well:

At the end, when the president walked back from the podium to smile and wave at the roughly 60 people in the bleachers 20 feet behind him, he faced a unfriendly wall of faces. The White House video of the bleacher’s front rank shows three men with their hands crossed, one with his hands stuck in his pockets and one who let his arms fall by his sides.

Hm, I guess not all millennials are as enthralled with the 'Hope and Change' president as they were in 2008. The community college students standing behind the president weren't the only ones who were unimpressed:

Some of Obama’s applause lines fell so flat that no one is heard to respond, not even among the main audience, which was padded with his political supporters.

“I mean, there’s been great progress in this area. You’ve earned a great nickname — ‘Roboburgh’ — because you’ve got high-tech plants and workplaces that are adding jobs faster than workers can fill them,” Obama said, to silence.

His punchlines were just as popular:

The White House’s transcript of Obama’s speech includes the laugh lines that few of the almost 300 attendees laughed at.

“Hello, Allegheny County! (Applause.) Joe and I decided it was time for a guys’ trip. (Laughter.) Actually, Michelle and Jill wanted us out the house. (Laughter.) So we decided to take a little road trip,” says the transcript, even though the video shows the laughs were scattered and muted.

Sounds like the joke's on him. Watch more of the painful footage below:

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Daniel Doherty - Global Study of 40 Countries: 56 Percent Say Abortion is "Unacceptable"
Posted: 4/19/2014 8:50:00 AM EST

I must say this is a remarkable feat of data collection. The Pew Research Center asked more than 40,000 people from 40 different countries around the world their opinions on seven moral issues, ranging from infidelity to birth control. The graph below shows the median answers respondents gave on each topic. As you might expect, extramarital affairs were widely perceived as the least morally acceptable behavior/issue on the list; contraception was the most:

 photo moralissue_zps7fe65311.png

Let’s analyze just the issue of abortion. Globally, a sizeable majority (56 percent) find these kinds of life-ending procedures unacceptable, while a plurality (15 percent) say they are. However, digging into the data a little deeper, the median responses from each respective country were far more interesting. According to the numbers, in the U.S. alone 49 percent of respondents said abortion was not acceptable while just 17 percent said it was. (Twenty-three percent -- shockingly -- responded that abortion wasn’t a moral issue at all).

So while generally speaking Western European and North American countries are more inclined to support abortion rights, according to the researchers, anti-abortion sentiment in the United States is strong. There were also zero countries on the list in which more than 50 percent of respondents said abortion was morally acceptable, although some countries came perilously close to that threshold.

Follow the link above to examine more of Pew's findings; there's a lot of data to digest.

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