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Russian state media says Morgan Freeman's marijuana use behind his critique of Putin

Russian state media says Morgan Freeman's marijuana use behind his critique of Putin

Morgan Freeman’s honey-kissed baritone has sound-tracked dozens of documentaries and public announcements in the Oscar-winner’s long Hollywood career.

But the 80-year-old star’s tenure in the business probably failed to prep him for the Russian reaction that greeted a two-minute online video he recorded recently for a group hoping to keep alive concerns over Kremlin meddling in the 2016 Presidential election.

Freeman is being portrayed as a tool of the U.S. establishment trying to bring down Trump, and as a man suffering from a “Messianic complex” from movie roles playing God and the president of the United States.

A “#StopMorganLie” hashtag is circulating aimed at discrediting the actor.

In the controversial video’s opening, Freeman dramatically declares: “We have been attacked. We are at war.”

The Morgan Freeman video was put out this week by the Committee to Investigate Russia. Founded by Rob Reiner, the director of comedy classics such as “This is Spinal Tap” and “When Harry Met Sally,” the nonpartisan group is pushing for a more aggressive acknowledgment of the alleged Russian hack. Morgan’s video sets that tone, referring to President Vladimir Putin as an “a former KGB spy” who has “set his sights on his sworn enemy, the United States.”

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“We need our president to speak directly to us and to speak the truth,” Morgan urges. The clip currently has over 264,000 views.

But now the legendary American actor is a pariah in Russia, with Kremlin officials, Russian talking heads, and pro-Putin social media trolls ganging up to denounce Freeman. The all-hands-on-deck response suggests a concerted Russian effort to discredit the actor via social media.

Reiner’s group does boast significant names among its advisory board, including former National Intelligence director James Clapper and conservative never-Trump critic Charles Sykes. (But as ThinkProgress points out, the committee does not boast any actual Russian experts in its governing body).

The moviemaker told Variety this week the committee would be a “one-stop shop where people can come and be made aware” of “what the breaking news stories are today, the various investigations, what stages they are in, but also to the understand the history, and what the Soviet Union and now Russia has been trying to do for many, many years.”

Reiner added: “My concern is people don’t understand the gravity of what they were able to do.”

Russian government officials hit back immediately at the video this week, fixing their crosshairs specifically on Morgan.

Tass, the Russian news agency, published remarks from Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova arguing Freeman had been “roped in” to the Russia attack, and likening the video to when former Secretary of State Colin Powell unknowingly lied to the United Nations about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

“I believe this is another story about the end justifying the means. However, we will know who is behind this story sooner than we knew about the true contents of the infamous test tube,” Zakharova stated, an apparent reference to Powell’s 2003 United Nations presentation, in which he held up a vial of anthrax to support the claim that Saddam Hussein had stockpiled chemical weapons.

“Recently it became known that the Obama administration had been wiretapping Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort based on a secret court decision . . . The wiretapping activities continued after the election. Do you understand what Russia has to do with it? Right, the goal is to legitimize the post-election lawlessness.”

This week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also addressed the video, telling reporters Freeman’s comments “can hardly be taken seriously” and arguing the actor was “a victim of emotionally charged, self-exalted status,” according to Radio Free Europe. The official added that “many performing artists easily succumb to becoming victims of emotional strain with no real information about the real state of things.”

Russian media was more wild in its theorizing.

The BBC reported this week Freeman was a frequent topic on Russian television. One station – Rossiya 24 – quizzed a panel of psychiatrists about the actor’s motivations, and the medical professionals reportedly attributed “the performance to a Messianic complex resulting from playing God or the president in several films, not to mention ‘drug abuse.’”

Another TV personality said Freeman was sick from “overwork and marijuana use.” TV Centre claimed the clip was part of an “establishment campaign to oust Trump,” the BBC reported.

Pro-Russian Twitter trolls have also jumped in on the actor, wielding the somewhat awkward hashtag “#StopMorganLie.”

But as commentators have pointed out, the #StopMorganLie trolls seem to all be following the same script – trying to discredit the idea that the U.S. is a democratic nation.

“Freeman’s comments leveled at ‘Russia’s continuing attacks on our [US] democracy’ have created quite a stir on Twitter,” reported RT, the Russian funded news cable network. “People said that the ‘democracy’ statement is pure hypocrisy, as the US has been at war with and interfering in the affairs of many other states, such as Libya, Ukraine and Iraq.

It has left some experts like Rols Fredheim, an analyst at NATO’s Strategic Communications Center of Excellence in Riga, wondering whether the anti-Freeman blowback was less of an organic reaction than a Kremlin scheme.

“It does look very highly coordinated, because you’re seeing something on multiple platforms at the same time communicating the same message,” Fredheim told Radio Free Europe this week.

“It’s more than just a teenager in the basement. It could be many teenagers in many basements. But it could also be something more sophisticated than that . . . the St. Petersburg troll factories, for instance. It could be an example of some kind of Russian troll-farm output.”

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Published at Fri, 22 Sep 2017 18:32:07 +0000

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Oregon Rep. Blumenauer disputes report that medical marijuana state protection amendment got nixed

Oregon Rep. Blumenauer disputes report that medical marijuana state protection amendment got nixed

How does a bill become a law? The classic Schoolhouse Rock Question degenerated over the last 24 hours into the latest spat between opposing sides of the medical marijuana debate.

Related: Medical marijuana, hemp protections included in federal spending bill

Wednesday evening, anti-marijuana legalization organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) sent out a press release announcing what they called “great news”:

The Rohrabacher-Farr language was eliminated from the Commerce, Justice, Science bill that funds the Department of Justice, even though it had previously been included in the 2017 base text. In addition, the Financial Services bill retained language preventing Washington, DC from implementing full retail sales and commercialization of recreational marijuana.

The $1 trillion omnibus bill passed by Congress in May included an amendment previously known as “Rohrabacher-Farr,” now sponsored by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), that prevents the Justice Department from using funds to interfere with the implementation of medical marijuana laws in U.S. states and territories.

Blumenauer said SAM’s analysis of the amendment’s status was flawed, in a press release Wednesday evening: “The folks at SAM clearly don’t understand the legislative process. Our amendment has never been in the CJS Subcommittee’s bill.”

Blumenauer’s statement clarified, “There is no news here. We are exactly where we thought we would be in the legislative process and look forward to amending the underlying bill once again this year to make sure medical marijuana programs, and the patients who rely on them, are protected. Voters in states across the country have acted to legalize medical marijuana. Congress should not act against the will of the people who elected us.”

Then the Oregon congressman took the battle to social media, tipping his hat to Tom Angell of advocacy group Marijuana Majority, who was the first to question SAM’s statement:

SAM’s CEO Kevin Sabet fired back with a release Thursday morning calling Blumenauer and Rohrabacher “two Members of Congress funded by illegal marijuana operations selling pot candies to kids” who “like the fox and the sour grapes… changed their tune once they didn’t get what they wanted.”

In April, the two congressmen had sent a letter to the House CJS committee chiefs requesting language protecting medical marijuana states be included in the base appropriations bill for the first time, based on its successful inclusion as an amendment since 2014. It was co-signed by 42 other members of the House.

In an email statement sent to The Cannabist Thursday afternoon, Blumenauer said he wasn’t surprised by SAM’s “complete misrepresentation” of the legislative process and that it was “entirely consistent with its repeated falsehoods about marijuana.”

“SAM claimed a false victory, and instead of correcting the record, it doubled down,” he said in the statement.

SAM also stated via Twitter Thursday that they believe Angell wrote the press release issued by Blumenauer.

Angell disputed the claim:

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 also includes provisions that restrict the Drug Enforcement Administration and Department of Justice from using federal funds to prohibit the transportation, processing and sale of industrial hemp as outlined in the 2014 Farm Bill.

A similar amendment protecting state-based recreational marijuana laws was previously sponsored by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colorado. He told The Cannabist he will back the inclusion of the so-called McClintock-Polis amendment in the coming fiscal year’s spending bill.

In case you want to get this song stuck in your head:

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Published at Thu, 29 Jun 2017 17:09:51 +0000

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Study: States with legalized marijuana see increase in car crash claims

Study: States with legalized marijuana see increase in car crash claims

DENVER — A recent insurance study links increased car crash claims to legalized recreational marijuana.

The Highway Loss Data Institute, a leading insurance research group, said in study results released Thursday that collision claims in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon went up 2.7 percent in the years since legal recreational marijuana sales began when compared with surrounding states. Legal recreational pot sales in Colorado began in January 2014, followed six months later in Washington, and in October 2015 in Oregon.

“We believe that the data is saying that crash risk has increased in these states and those crash risks are associated with the legalization of marijuana,” said Matt Moore, senior vice president with the institute, which analyzes insurance data to observe emerging auto safety trends.

Related: Do you get high? Do you drive? This is why you need to understand the laws behind DUI marijuana charges — and the particular science of THC, too

Mason Tvert, a marijuana legalization advocate and communications director with the Marijuana Policy Project, questioned the study’s comparison of claims in rural states such as Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana with Colorado, Oregon and Washington that have dense population centers and how that affected the study’s findings.

“The study raises more questions than it provides answers and it’s an area that would surely receive more study, and deservedly so,” Tvert said.

Researchers accounted for factors such as the number of vehicles on the road in the study and control states, age and gender of drivers, weather and even whether the driver making a claim was employed. Neighboring states with similar fluctuations in claims were used for comparison.

Insurance industry groups have been keeping a close watch on claims when auto accidents across the country began to go up in 2013 after more than a decade of steady decline. Insurance companies found several possible factors at play in the spike that included distracted driving through texting or cellphone use, road construction, and an improved economy that has led to leisurely drives and more miles driven, as well as marijuana legalization.

“It would appear, probably not to anyone’s surprise, that the use of marijuana contributes to crashes,” said Kenton Brine, president of the industry group Northwest Insurance Council that represents companies in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. He added: “It would be difficult to say that marijuana is a definitive factor, lacking a citation, in a significant number of crashes to say that what we’re seeing here is a trend.”

The Highway Loss Data Institute said its study examined claims from January 2012 to October 2016.

“The problem here is that it’s a pretty new experience,” said Carole Walker of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, an industry group that covers Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico. “This is the first study that has been able to isolate legal pot as one of the factors.”

Eight states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana for adults.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety spokesman Russ Rader adds that alcohol impairment remains one of the biggest concerns on the road.

“While we have proven countermeasures, proven strategies for reducing alcohol impaired driving, there are a lot of unanswered questions about marijuana and driving,” Rader said.

A study released last year by AAA’s safety foundation found legal THC limits established by states with legal marijuana have no scientific basis and can result in innocent drivers being convicted, and guilty drivers being released.

Moore of the Highway Loss Data Institute said they hope the study’s findings will be considered by lawmakers and regulators in states where marijuana legalization is under consideration or recently enacted.

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Published at Thu, 22 Jun 2017 15:46:50 +0000