Nation and World Briefs
The Associated Press | September 02,2014
Pot laws prompt safety concern
As states liberalize their marijuana laws, public officials and safety advocates worry that more drivers high on pot will lead to a big increase in traffic deaths. Researchers, though, are divided on the question.
Studies of marijuana’s effects show that the drug can slow decision-making, decrease peripheral vision and impede multitasking, all of which are critical driving skills. But unlike with alcohol, drivers high on pot tend to be aware that they are impaired and try to compensate by driving slowly, avoiding risky actions such as passing other cars, and allowing extra room between vehicles.
On the other hand, combining marijuana with alcohol appears to eliminate the pot smoker’s exaggerated caution and seems to increase driving impairment beyond the effects of either substance alone.
“We see the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington as a wake-up call for all of us in highway safety,” said Jonathan Adkins, executive director of Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety offices.
“We don’t know enough about the scope of marijuana-impaired driving to call it a big or small problem. But anytime a driver has their ability impaired, it is a problem.”
New round of Ukraine talks opens
Pro-Russian rebels softened their demand for full independence Monday, saying they would respect Ukraine’s sovereignty in exchange for autonomy — a shift that reflects Moscow’s desire to strike a deal at a new round of peace talks.
The insurgents’ platform, released at the start of Monday’s negotiations in Minsk, the Belarusian capital, represented a significant change in their vision for the future of Ukraine’s eastern, mainly Russian-speaking region.
It remains unclear, however, whether the talks can reach a compromise amid the brutal fighting that has continued in eastern Ukraine. On Monday, the rebels pushed Ukrainian government forces from an airport near Luhansk, the second-largest rebel-held city, the latest in a series of military gains.
The peace talks in Minsk follow last week’s meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko. The negotiations involve former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma; Russia’s ambassador to Ukraine; an envoy from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and representatives of the rebels.
Yet similar talks earlier this summer produced no visible results.
UN council launches ISIS probe
The U.N.’s top human rights body on Monday overwhelmingly approved the Iraqi government’s request for an investigation into alleged crimes against civilians committed by the Islamic State group in its rampage across northeastern Syria and parts of Iraq.
Diplomats agreed by unanimous consent to approve a nearly $1.2 million U.N. fact-finding mission at a daylong special session of the 47-nation Human Rights Council about Iraq and the extremist group.
Iraq’s request for the U.N. to investigate alleged abuses by the IS was included in a resolution that more broadly condemns the group’s severe tactics but also calls on Iraq’s government to protect human rights.
Its aim is to provide the Geneva-based council with a report and evidence next March that could shed further light on Iraqi atrocities and be used as part of any international war crimes prosecution.
The session Monday focused on the threat posed by the militants, who have seized cities, towns and vast tracts of land and carried out a number of massacres and beheadings.
Outgoing PM pledges action on militants
Iraq’s outgoing prime minster pledged Monday to turn his country into “a big grave” for Sunni militants from the Islamic State group and commended security forces who achieved a rare victory over insurgents by ending the siege of a Shiite town.
Nouri al-Maliki made the comments during an unannounced visit to the northern community of Amirli, where he was greeted with hugs. A day earlier, Iraqi forces backed by Iran-allied Shiite militias and U.S. airstrikes broke a two-month siege of the town where some 15,000 Shiite Turkmens had been stranded.
In footage aired on state TV, al-Maliki was shown sitting at a wooden desk in front of a large poster of Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistsani, ordering promotions and awards for those who fought in the battle.
“I salute you for your steadfastness and patience against those beasts and killers,” he told a gathering of fighters in a large hall as they chanted Shiite religious slogans. He vowed to root out Sunni militants from areas they control in the country.
“All Iraq will be a grave for those infidels, and we will send all the IS (Islamic State) gang to death,” he added.
Crack-down on goods in luggage
Lugging duffel bags crammed with soap, socks, toys and other hard-to-obtain consumer goods, travelers arriving in Cuba on Monday complained that new government restrictions on their imports would leave their families wanting.
Passengers on flights from Miami said they were bringing in far less than usual thanks to higher customs duties and stricter limits on the number of products allowed under rules that went into effect Monday.
At Havana’s international airport, there appeared to be fewer bicycles, 40-inch televisions or other bulky household items that normally made the baggage carousels look like a Target or Wal-Mart checkout line during a holiday sale.
“There are barely any bags on the floor inside,” said Arnaldo Roa, a 45-year-old Miami handyman on a trip to see relatives. While he had a bag stuffed with toys and clothes for his daughter, he said he wasn’t able to bring his usual extra bags filled with gifts for other family members.
“I’m upset,” he said. “Some relatives are going to get upset because normally I bring them things.”