Dying for a better life: South Koreans fake their funerals for life lessons

SEOUL (Reuters) – A South Korean service is offering free funerals – but only to the living.

More than 25,000 people have participated in mass “living funeral” services at Hyowon Healing Center since it opened in 2012, hoping to improve their lives by simulating their deaths.

“Once you become conscious of death, and experience it, you undertake a new approach to life,” said 75-year-old Cho Jae-hee, who participated in a recent living funeral as part of a “dying well” program offered by her senior welfare center.

Dozens took part in the event, from teenagers to retirees, donning shrouds, taking funeral portraits, penning their last testaments, and lying in a closed coffin for around 10 minutes.

University student Choi Jin-kyu said his time in the coffin helped him realize that too often, he viewed others as competitors.

“When I was in the coffin, I wondered what use that is,” said the 28-year-old, adding that he plans to start his own business after graduation rather than attempting to enter a highly-competitive job market.

South Korea ranks 33 out of 40 countries surveyed in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Better Life Index. Many younger South Koreans have high hopes for education and employment, which have been dashed by a cooling economy and rising joblessness.

“It is important to learn and prepare for death even at a young age,” said Professor Yu Eun-sil, a doctor at Asan Medical Center’s pathology department, who has written a book about death.

In 2016, South Korea’s suicide rate was 20.2 per 100,000 residents, almost double the global average of 10.53, according to the World Health Organization.

Funeral company Hyowon began offering the living funerals to help people appreciate their lives, and seek forgiveness and reconciliation with family and friends, said Jeong Yong-mun, who heads the healing center.

Jeong said he is heartened when people reconcile at a relative’s funeral, but is saddened they wait that long.

“We don’t have forever,” he said. “That’s why I think this experience is so important – we can apologize and reconcile sooner and live the rest of our lives happily.”

Occasionally he has dissuaded those contemplating suicide.

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“I picked out those people who have asked themselves whether … they can actually commit suicide, and I reversed their decision,” Jeong said.

The message of personal value resounded with Choi.

“I want to let people know that they matter, and that someone else would be so sad if they were gone,” he said, wiping away tears. “Happiness is in the present.”

Reporting by Daewoung Kim and Youngseo Choi. Writing by Minwoo Park. Editing by Josh Smith and Karishma Singh

Reuters: Oddly Enough

Fake Kim goes as real Kim comes: Vietnam expels Kim Jong Un lookalike

HANOI (Reuters) – An Australian comedian who impersonates North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said on Monday authorities were deporting him from Vietnam, some 24 hours before the real Kim was due to arrive for a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Howard X, an Australian impersonating North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, leaves the La Paix Hotel in a car while escorted by police, in Hanoi, Vietnam February 25, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

The Kim lookalike, who goes by the name Howard X, popped up in Vietnam’s capital of Hanoi on Friday along with his partner who impersonates Trump, drawing crowds and media.

The two real leaders are due to meet in Hanoi on Wednesday and Thursday for their second nuclear summit.

“North Koreans have no sense of humor,” the impersonator told reporters before heading to Hanoi’s airport to leave the country.

“Satire is a powerful weapon against any dictatorship.”

The impersonator visited Singapore in June, when Trump and Kim held their first summit, and performed satirical stunts. He said he was briefly detained by authorities there.

He also showed up at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, where he danced in front of an appalled North Korean cheer squad before security hauled him away.

Vietnamese foreign ministry officials were not immediately available for comment on Monday. Howard X said earlier authorities had questioned him and warned him not to create any disturbance.

Vietnam has tightened security around the capital ahead of the summit.

Howard X said his partner, Trump impersonator Russell White, was allowed to stay on in Vietnam, but not allowed to do make any more public appearances.

The two hugged and kissed goodbye for the cameras on Monday.

“Please no World War Three,” Howard X said.

“They are scared of a couple of guys that look like real thing.”

Reporting by Fabian Hamacher; Writing by Ju-min Park; Editing by Robert Birsel

Reuters: Oddly Enough

Fake Emails, Felony Charges and Attorney General’s Intervention: A Dramatic 48 Hours in Oklahoma Marijuana Policymaking

In just 48 hours, Oklahoma’s State Department of Health has been hit with a recommendation to amend its controversial emergency rules for medical marijuana and a scandal over felony charges against its  former general counsel. What exactly is going on in the Sooner State? There’s a lot unpack here. Oklahoma’s Department of Health has been […]
Marijuana

400-Plus Fake IDs Seized in Breck Pot Shops Since 2015, Most From Tourists

Plenty of underage tourists who come to Colorado seem to think a bogus identification card will work just as well at a pot shop as it will at a bar. But according to Haley Littleton, spokesperson for the Town of Breckenridge, which has catalogued at least 428 fake ID cases since February 2015 with no end in sight, they’re wrong.

“Our main theory is that people come into town and think, ‘This is great. I can take advantage of this,'” Littleton says. “But it’s not like at a bar, where you can go in, try to order and then give them an ID, and if they just glance at it quickly, you might get a drink or you might not. Marijuana dispensaries are really stringent on fake IDs — and so are we.”

Breckenridge data bears out this assertion. In February 2015, the first month included in the calculations, two fake IDs were confiscated, but two months later, in April 2015, the number hit 42. So far this year, the seizures total eight in January, nineteen in February, fourteen in March and 26 in April.

These totals are even more surprising given that there are only three dispensaries in Breckenridge: a branch of Green Dragon, as well as Alpenglow Botanicals and Breckenridge Organic Therapy. Littleton has praise for all of them when it comes to being on the lookout for fake IDs. “They’ve done a great job,” she maintains. “They want to make sure they’re operating at a legal level, so they can keep their license.”

As an example of their approach, Littleton again compares marijuana businesses to ones that specialize in alcohol: “At a bar, there’s no problem getting in. But our dispensaries take steps to catch those IDs before underage patrons can even get into the building.”

Green Dragon is among the three dispensaries in Breckenridge.

Green Dragon is among the three dispensaries in Breckenridge.

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The number of fake IDs seized in Breckenridge varies from month to month, with the highest concentrations turning up during ski season and especially spring break; the high-water mark was 44 in April 2017. But while law enforcement involvement is a must in each case, Littleton says officials are cognizant of the fact that what may seem like a minor matter in Colorado can have serious repercussions elsewhere.

“Not every municipality or state is as open about marijuana as Colorado is,” she acknowledges, “and we understand that having a marijuana offense on a record could potentially harm someone in the future. Doing a background check on them could really throw things off.”

With that in mind, Breckenridge has developed a policy that is designed to discourage the use of fake IDs to purchase marijuana without ruining lives.

“People are required to come to our municipal court,” Littleton says. “But the court allows defendants to plead not guilty and work out a deferred judgement deal from our prosecutors. After a year, pending good behavior, the charges will change to a non-marijuana offense — usually disorderly conduct or a noise violation. The fine is the same, but it’s under a different heading. So it holds people accountable, but it does it in ways that don’t have the long-term ramifications of a marijuana charge.”

Not that Breckenridge shrugs off marijuana-related fake-ID offenses. In Littleton’s words, “We want people coming here to know we’re really serious about them.”

Toke of the Town

Six Examples of Fake News About Marijuana

Last August, when veteran reporter Peter Marcus announced that he was leaving the ambitious ColoradoPolitics.com project he’d helped launch the previous year in favor of a communications-director position with the rapidly growing marijuana dispensary chain Terrapin Care Station, he stressed that he wasn’t leaving journalism behind, and that he planned to start a website that would mix original stories with posts intended to counter misinformation being spewed by pot enemies.

That site, TheNewsStation.com, is now live, and included among offerings that Marcus says “promote the positive business and economic impact of the cannabis industry” is a section in which he tears apart what he sees as marijuana “fake news.”

One for-instance: According to TheNewsStation.com, Louisiana state representative Dodie Horton recently spoke about a 2014 satirical news article from The Daily Currant claiming that 37 people had died from “marijuana overdoses” in Colorado after legalization went into effect.

No, they didn’t, as Horton has now admitted. She blamed the misinformation on “a so-called ‘trusted’ source.”

Check out six more examples of fake marijuana news below.

Six Examples of Fake News About Marijuana

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NEW CANNABIS OPPOSITION GROUP TARGETS KIDS WITH #FAKENEWS

“Back in November, right around the five-year anniversary of marijuana legalization, a new group called the Marijuana Accountability Coalition announced they were setting up,” Marcus notes. “They just put out the usual talking points about how marijuana is devastating kids with the same baseless, misleading statistics that have now been debunked. They like to use stats that have no correlation to marijuana legalization, using years that aren’t really relevant.

“The most recent state and federal data shows that in the years since marijuana legalization, fewer teens are consuming. That’s now just a fact. It’s not a debatable topic, even though when MAC formed, it was under the assumption that marijuana was leading to an increase in teens using, and that would damage children. I wanted to point out that they’re going to have a difficult time pushing that message in Colorado when we have clear evidence to the contrary.

“Our opponents are standing on the wrong side of history. It’s very similar to the gay-marriage movement. A lot of people opposed it up until the day the Supreme Court approved it. But afterward, more and more people started to get to know gay people who’d gotten married and stopped caring about the issue altogether. Opposing gay marriage got to be passé. And the same thing is happening with the marijuana industry. As the roll-out expands nationally and continues to exceed everyone’s wildest expectations, more and more Americans, and especially more and more Coloradans, are in favor of legal marijuana. That’s what our opponents are up against.”

On the campus of Colorado Christian University.

On the campus of Colorado Christian University.

I LEARNED A LOT WALKING INTO THE HEART OF CANNABIS OPPOSITION

“I went to a Colorado Christian University event that examined the consequences of marijuana legalization five years later. It was pretty much one-sided, this symposium. There were members of law enforcement who didn’t like it, health care leaders who didn’t like it, national opponents like Kevin Sabet [CEO and president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana]. It was ground zero for the marijuana-opposition movement. But I was well-received. A lot of folks there knew me from my previous job as a reporter, and I was well-received.

“I had a great time listening to the forum by Smart Colorado, which is a group dedicated to keeping marijuana out of the hands of children — and we’re similarly aligned with them in the cannabis industry. We, too, want to keep it out of the hands of children. So I sat through their forum, listened, took notes and didn’t open my mouth until an older gentleman raised his hands and asked, ‘Is everyone in the cannabis industry empowered by the Mafia?’

“At first, I chuckled to myself. But then I realized he was serious. So I raised my hand and said, ‘Would you guys mind?’ And one of the women from Smart Colorado who recognized me said, ‘Yes, thank you.’ And I ended up having a seven-to-ten-minute Q&A with the folks in the audience, where I just answered their questions. I assured them that I wasn’t in the Mafia — that I was a reporter who’d just come over to the industry — and highlighted some of the public-education stuff we’ve been working on, and talked about how the cannabis industry is taking its own initiative on educating people on consumption: not driving while intoxicated, purchase limits, corporate responsibility.

“It ended up being really productive. Afterward, I was milling around, and people came up to me, shook my hand and said, ‘We disagree with you on a lot of things, but thank you for coming.’ And one woman came up to me and said, ‘I’ve never met anyone who works in the cannabis industry before,’ which just shows you how much of a sheltered bubble some of these opponents are in. I’ve been pushing them, when they have these kinds of events, to invite people from the cannabis industry, so they can point things out that aren’t true. Because it’s a problem when folks on both sides of the debate aren’t even familiar with each other.”

Cannabis industry leader Dan Anglin took on attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Cannabis industry leader Dan Anglin took on attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

CANNABIS INDUSTRY LEADER TO TAKE ON OPPONENTS FOR CONSERVATIVE CPAC

“Dan Anglin is a leader in the cannabis industry, and in February, he took on some marijuana opponents at CPAC [the Conservative Political Action Conference, another event staged on the Colorado Christian University campus]. It was kind of a big deal when you consider it. You had the most prolific conservative convention in America invite someone from the marijuana industry to debate Jeff Hunt, perhaps one of the most high-profile conservatives against marijuana right now.

“Kudos to CPAC for inviting Dan to have a fair debate. But we put it under ‘Fake News’ because of what the opponents were going to say — and why it was good to have Dan there to debunk it.”

A Fox31 "Cannibals Tasting Room" screen capture.

A Fox31 “Cannibals Tasting Room” screen capture.

CANNABIS, NOT CANNIBALS, TASTING ROOMS IN COLORADO

“This was more tongue-in-cheek. We have a bill in the legislature to have cannabis tasting rooms, but there was an error on Fox31, where they called it ‘cannibals.’

“It was just a mistake. I’ve been in lots of newsrooms, and those kinds of typos happen. So we were just having fun. But, no, we’re not trying to legalize tasting rooms for cannibals.”

Opioids such as Oxycontin continue to be abused in Denver and Colorado.

Opioids such as Oxycontin continue to be abused in Denver and Colorado.

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RHETORIC FROM MARIJUANA OPPONENTS COULD FUEL OPIOID EPIDEMIC

“Earlier this year, SAM and MAC released a five-page report that relied on outdated data — data that has mostly proved to be misleading. This is nothing new from our opponents. We’ve seen this kind of ‘reefer madness’ for a long time. But highlighting opioids in the report isn’t reefer madness.

“The opioid epidemic is taking tens of thousands of lives, and studies like a recent one out of Minnesota show that in legal marijuana states, prescription drug abuse is down. And in Minnesota, it was down by an astonishing number — nearly 63 percent said they were either using fewer opioids or had stopped using them altogether after they started using medical marijuana for pain.

“So when our opponents say marijuana legalization has led to a spike in the opioid epidemic, that’s the worst kind of fake news — because it’s a dangerous statement to be making. In this country as a whole, we’re trying to take a bite out of the opioid epidemic, and if medical marijuana can help even in the slightest — and early indications are that it’s helping a lot — then it’s completely irresponsible for opponents to use that as a negative message. They’re discouraging people from finding an alternative and helping to fuel this epidemic.

“We’re not talking about reefer madness. We’re talking about people’s lives.”

Six Examples of Fake News About Marijuana

STUDY: NO, MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION IS NOT LEADING TO A SPIKE IN HOMELESSNESS

“Chief Troy Davenport is a police chief in Pueblo, and he’s going around saying that marijuana has led to a spike in homelessness there. But there’s just been a very concrete, comprehensive study, the first of its kind out of Pueblo County, and the researchers couldn’t find any connection between homelessness and marijuana [for additional details, see ‘Sh*tstorm After Study Finds No Causal Link Between Marijuana, Homelessness‘].

“That doesn’t seem to matter to Chief Davenport. I’ve seen him speak on numerous panels and I’ve read what he’s said in a lot of stories — and some of them went national. He’s always been anti-marijuana, and he’s still anti-marijuana, no matter what the study showed. And that’s a problem. You’d think studies like this one would actually inform law enforcement and elected officials, so they could have a more educated understanding when it comes to marijuana and its impacts. But the chief chose to ignore it. He chose to use anecdotal evidence from a handful of the officers from his department, who tell him they see homeless people and they’re in town because of marijuana.

“I tend to lean in the direction of data, statistics and researchers with doctorates who go to the trouble of getting to the bottom of these things, not random comments. But the chief ignored the study, and that’s why it goes into the realm of fake news.”

Toke of the Town

Japanese astronaut apologizes for ‘fake news’ of height increase

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai, on a mission to the International Space Station, apologized on Wednesday for saying he had grown 9 cm (3.5 inches) while in space and expressing concern about whether he’d be safe on his return to Earth.

Most astronauts “grow” during protracted space missions because their spines extend in the absence of gravity, but the gains are usually limited to a couple of centimeters (inches) maximum and disappear once they are back on the ground.

The 41-year-old Kanai, who went to space last month for a nearly six-month mission, posted on Twitter on Monday that he had “a big announcement.”

“My height’s been measured here in space and somehow, somehow, I’ve grown 9 cm! In only three weeks I’ve really shot up, something I haven’t seen since high school,” he tweeted.

“This makes me a little worried that I might not be able to fit in the Soyuz seats for our return.”

But a bit over a day later – and in the wake of a flurry of news stories – he apologized, saying that he’d measured himself after his captain raised questions about the apparent growth and he had stretched only 2 cm from his Earth-bound height.

“This mis-measurement appears to have become a big deal, so I must apologize for this terrible fake news,” he tweeted, without explaining how the original miscalculation had occurred.

“It appears I can fit on the Soyuz, so I‘m relieved.”

Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Michael Perry

Reuters: Oddly Enough

‘Fake Pills’ May Help Ease Back Pain

Patients knew they were taking a placebo and still obtained relief, study finds

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Mary Elizabeth Dallas

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 19, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Even if they know the pills are fake, chronic back pain sufferers may get relief from placebo drugs, a new study indicates.

Researchers found that patients who knowingly took a placebo pill while undergoing traditional treatment for lower back pain had less pain and disability than those who received traditional treatment alone.

“These findings turn our understanding of the placebo effect on its head,” said Ted Kaptchuk, a joint senior author of the study and director of the Program in Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

“This new research demonstrates that the placebo effect is not necessarily elicited by patients’ conscious expectation that they are getting an active medicine, as long thought,” Kaptchuk added in a hospital news release. “Taking a pill in the context of a patient-clinician relationship — even if you know it’s a placebo — is a ritual that changes symptoms and probably activates regions of the brain that modulate symptoms.”

Kaptchuk’s team gave 97 patients with chronic low back pain a 15-minute explanation of the placebo effect. Most were already taking medications for their pain, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS). None was taking strong prescription painkillers known as opioids.

The patients were divided into two groups: those who only received traditional treatment and those who used traditional treatment along with a placebo pill. The dummy pills were provided in a bottle labeled “placebo pills,” so it was clear they were a sham medication.

After three weeks, the placebo group experienced a 30 percent reduction in their usual and maximum pain levels. The traditional treatment group reported a 9 percent drop in their usual amount of pain and a 16 percent reduction in their maximum pain, the researchers said

Pain-related disability was essentially unchanged among those who only received the traditional treatment, while those who took the placebo pill experienced a 29 percent drop in disability.

“It’s the benefit of being immersed in treatment: interacting with a physician or nurse, taking pills, all the rituals and symbols of our health care system,” Kaptchuk said in the news release. “The body responds to that.”

WebMD Health

Report: Weedmaps is Loaded with Fake Reviews

The service also failed to protect customer information.

Here’s your daily round up of pot news, excerpted from the newsletter WeedWeek.

Irvine, Calif.-based Weedmaps is full of bogus dispensary reviews, according to an investigation by the L.A. Times.

Reporter Paresh Dave looked at nearly 600 businesses reviewed on the site and found that 70% included reviews submitted from a single IP address (i.e. a single computer). A textual analysis found that 62% of reviews on the site are “fake.”

Weedmaps, a Yelp-like service with operations in several states, had stored the IP addresses of anonymous reviewers, in its publicly available code. A Weedmaps executive said the 62% figure is far too high, and emphasized that reviews are only part of the product.

The Sacramento Bees digs up who gave the $ 6.6M in political contributions to the main group supporting AUMA in California. “Among the donors are those with obvious existing ties to the issue who could profit immensely from a legal marijuana marketplace,” the paper writes. A report estimated that the California market could reach $ 6.5B by 2020.

Some cannabis activists are voting no in California.

A State Department report criticizes other countries for persecuting people who use marijuana for religious purposes.

Washington state licensed sales spiked to more than $ 60M in July suggesting that the state’s elimination of the MED market is working as expected.

An Arkansas group is asking the state supreme court to block a MED initiative. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said allowing MED would suck up state resources. Texas is beginning to write CBD rules.

Floridians are squabbling about whether the MED initiative would allow businesses, “to move in right next door to your neighborhood, your church, your business and even your child’s school.”

An Arizona judge threw out a lawsuit to block the state’s REC initiative from appearing on the ballot. An appeal is likely.

Michigan’s Supreme Court will decide whether a REC initiative makes the ballot. A clerical error could complicate Montana’s MED initiative.

Oklahoma’s MED initiative collected (just) enough signatures. Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) then changed the ballot title to language supporters find misleading. The maneuver could keep it off the ballot. Pruitt helped lead the Oklahoma/Nebraska lawsuit against Colorado that the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear.

Prosecutors in Missouri are trying to block MED from appearing on the ballot. It’s not yet clear if the initiative will qualify. The column by Dave Helling also has a nice discussion of state vs. federal law.

Toke of the Town

LA Times Gets Fooled by Fake Drug War Press Release

A growing number of prominent groups are calling for a shift away from the war on drugs and toward decriminalization, but the United Nations drug czar’s office isn’t yet one of them — despite what one major news outlet reported on Tuesday.

The UN held its highest-level review of the global drug war this week, and many headlines were generated after countries like Canada and Mexico announced significant reforms. But at least one newspaper got tricked into reporting fake news from the event.

According the Los Angeles Times:

As the summit opened Tuesday, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime announced new international recommendations, including the decriminalization of marijuana, universal access to controlled medicines, criminal justice system reforms including elimination of mandatory minimum jail sentences and abolition of the death penalty and acknowledging marijuana’s medical use.

“The science increasingly supports decriminalization and harm reduction over proscriptive, fear-based approaches,” UNODC Executive Director Yuri Fedotov said in a statement Tuesday. “It’s time to reverse the cycles of violence that occur wherever ‘drug wars’ are undertaken, and to abandon policies that exacerbate suffering.”

The UNODC also said it would reform its decision-making process to include a more diverse range of voices.

“We can begin to dismantle ‘just say no’ policies that result in millions needlessly killed and incarcerated — and that defy logic and science — and instead bring to the forefront humane solutions that are known to work,” said Kevin Campo, a spokesman for the drugs agency.

To advocates of ending the war on drugs, that sounds like great news. There’s only one problem: It’s all based on a fake press release claiming that UNODC was using cannabis holiday 4/20 to announce a big shift:

“The UNODC is proud to take its cue from a popular movement supporting marijuana decriminalization in particular, which claims as its annual holiday 4/20, or April 20, the central date of this year’s UNGASS,” said UNODC Public Information Officer Kevin Campo during opening remarks at the first plenary session on Tuesday morning. “This is just one way we’re showing our commitment to rethinking the drug war from a more humane perspective.”

The site on which the release is housed, unodcpress.org, looks identical to the real UNODC site, except that going to the unodcpress.org homepage redirects right to the press release — one of many red flags that should have made the Times skeptical of running with the story.

Whoever is behind the prank, though, went to some lengths to make it look real. They even set up a Twitter account for “Kevin Campo,” the alleged UNODC spokesman, who later tweeted happily about being included in the Times piece:

But even a quick review of the account’s timeline shows that all but a couple of its tweets are from this week. The earlier two tweets, bizarrely, are about virtual reality.

An email to the address listed on the spoof site went unanswered, and Marijuana.com has so far been unable to ascertain who is behind the prank. It does, however, seem similar to the work to the Yes Men, a pair of activists who have successfully tricked major media outlets into thinking they represent major corporations or government agencies many times in the past.

Times reporter Ann M. Simmons, in her story, also says she interviewed UNODC head Yury Fedotov. Citing “written responses to questions from The Times,” she quotes Fedotov as saying that this week’s UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) is not “simply about policy… It is about putting people first.” The quotes in that part of the story are a little more believable than the ones in the fake press release, so it is unclear if she corresponded via real UNODC channels or with whoever is behind the spoof.

Simmons did not respond to a request for comment from Marijuana.com.

followup spoof press release denouncing the original one adds an additional twist to the story. Purporting to quote real-life UNODC spokesman David Dadge, the second release (which is hosted on an entirely different UNODC lookalike site, unodc.press) says that “The United Nations does not recognize ‘4/20′” but urges readers to start growing their own marijuana while “deadbeat states like the USA, Russia and China” delay enacting legal systems of regulated cannabis sales. 

No media outlets seem to have been fooled into running with that release, but the Los Angeles Times story with the fake quotes from the first release is still up, three days after having been initially published. An email to the address listed under the second release also went unanswered.

This isn’t the first time news outlets have been tricked into reporting fake marijuana news. Last year, for example, a number of cannabis websites ran with a spoof story about how the U.S government was paying people $ 3,000 a week to sit around and smoke marijuana.

Last October, controversy ensued after UNODC was reportedly preparing to join other UN agencies in endorsing drug decriminalization but swiftly pulled back after allegedly receiving pressure from the United States.

UPDATE:

The Times is updating its story to append the following correction, according to an email from Hillary Manning, the paper’s director of communications.

“An earlier version of this article quoted Yuri Fedotov, the executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, as saying it was changing course in the war on drugs and was examining the decriminalization of drug use, among other innovations. Though the U.N. was indeed examining policy changes, that statement was based on a news release that was a hoax.  Fedotov’s other comments in the story were based on an email conversation he had with The Times. The article also quoted Kevin Campo, who was identified in the fake press release as a spokesman for the U.N. agency. He is not an agency spokesman.”

Photo Courtesy of Anton Watman

Marijuana

Man who flushed fake poker chips down toilet pleads guilty

This story is about a less-than-royal flush.

A North Carolina man pleaded guilty on Thursday to charges he brought counterfeit chips to an Atlantic City, New Jersey poker tournament in a scheme discovered after he flushed $ 2.7 million of the chips down a toilet in his hotel room.

Christian Lusardi, 43, of Fayetteville, could face five years in prison at his Oct. 22 sentencing after pleading guilty to trademark counterfeiting and criminal mischief before New Jersey Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury in Atlantic County, authorities said.

Lusardi’s lawyer Steven Nelson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The chips were discovered on Jan. 16, 2014, two days after the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City began hosting its “Winter Poker Open,” where Lusardi was a participant and where $ 800,000 of fake chips with a bogus Borgata trademark had been used.

Authorities said Lusardi, fearing he might be caught, flushed more than 500 fake chips down the toilet in his room at the nearby Harrah’s Casino Hotel, clogging a pipe and causing a leak in the sewer line in two adjoining rooms.

State gaming authorities canceled the tournament on Jan. 18, 2014, when another 22 fake chips were found in a clogged toilet in a Borgata men’s room.

“When you gamble on a flush in high-stakes poker, you either win big or lose big,” Rick Fuentes, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, said in a statement. “Lusardi lost big.”

Lusardi must also pay Borgata $ 463,540 for lost tournament revenue, and Harrah’s $ 9,455 for plumbing damage. He was sentenced in March to five years in prison in a separate case involving DVD bootlegging.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay)


Reuters: Oddly Enough

FDA Warns Doctors of Danger From Fake Drugs

TUESDAY Sept. 23, 2014, 2014 — The number of ‘rogue’ wholesale distributors selling fake or unapproved prescription drugs is growing, so doctors need to be vigilant when purchasing medicines, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned Tuesday.

In a statement, the agency said the problem is so widespread that it has launched a program to educate doctors and other health care providers and administrators about proper drug purchasing procedures. The program aims to protect patients from taking potentially harmful counterfeit drugs.

The “Know Your Source” program urges health care professionals to only buy prescription drugs from wholesale drug distributors licensed in their states. Doing so will reduce the risk of giving unsafe or ineffective drugs to patients.

The FDA cautioned physicians to avoid offers that sound too good to be true, and to question aggressive marketing tactics and major discounts on prescription drugs suggesting that the medicines may be stolen, fake, substandard or unapproved.

The agency urged doctors to verify that they are only receiving FDA-approved products. Unapproved drugs may contain unknown or harmful ingredients, or may not have been made, transported or stored under proper conditions, the agency said.

More information

Here’s where you can learn more about the Know Your Source program.

Posted: September 2014

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Drugs.com – Daily MedNews

Beware Fake Ebola Treatments on the Internet, FDA Says


Beware Fake Ebola Treatments on the Internet, FDA Says

There are no approved treatments or preventive drugs against the deadly virus

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Aug. 15, 2014 (HealthDay News) — As the death toll in the West Africa Ebola outbreak passes 1,000, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning against products sold online that claim to treat the deadly disease or prevent infection.

Since the start of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the FDA has received a number of consumer complaints about bogus products, the agency said in a statement released Thursday.

However, “there are no approved vaccines, drugs, or investigational products specifically for Ebola available for purchase on the Internet,” the FDA said.

“Individuals promoting these unapproved and fraudulent products must take immediate action to correct or remove these claims or face potential FDA action,” the agency added.

It is also against the law for makers of dietary supplements to claim that their products prevent or cure disease, the FDA said.

Some experimental Ebola vaccines and treatments are being developed, but they are still in the early stages and have not undergone thorough testing for safety and effectiveness.

Most are also in extremely limited supply, the FDA said. Two U.S. Ebola patients, Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, are slowly recovering after receiving doses of one experimental medicine called Zmapp. Only a handful of doses of the drug have been manufactured so far, and prior to the patients receiving it Zmapp had only been tested in animals.

The FDA also stressed that, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ebola does not pose a significant threat to the U.S. public.

The virus is not a water-borne or food-borne illness and is not transmitted through the air, the FDA said. Ebola is only spread through direct contact with the body fluids of an infected person, or through needles and other items that have been contaminated with the virus.

According to the World Health Organization, the current outbreak of Ebola has killed 1,066 people in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leona, and sickened 2,000 more.

WebMD Health

Chicago Cubs sue fake team mascots accused of hustling fans

The Chicago Cubs logo is seen at the Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois, April 15, 2013.   REUTERS/Jim Young

The Chicago Cubs logo is seen at the Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois, April 15, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

(Reuters) – The Chicago Cubs are suing two men accused of posing in bear costumes as mascots for the Major League Baseball team and lurking around Wrigley Field, hustling fans for tips and in one case getting into a bar brawl.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. district court in Chicago on Friday, the team said John Paul Weier and Patrick Weier show up for games garbed in their “Billy Cub” outfits, including Cubs caps and jerseys, offering to have pictures and videos taken with fans.

But unlike the team’s real mascot, Clark the Cub, the two impostors “seek to hustle those same fans for ‘fees’ or ‘tips,'” the complaint said, adding that they deliberately try to create the impression they are officially associated with the team.

It said the men’s behavior was damaging to the goodwill of the Cubs and misleading to fans, some of whom complained to the team about the characters’ “inappropriate and unsavory” actions.

The lawsuit said the pair’s misconduct escalated to violence in April when Patrick Weier punched a man who had removed the head of Weier’s costume during a scuffle at a bar near Wrigley Field.

Video footage of the incident recorded by an onlooker went viral on the Internet that evening, the complaint said, with Weier misidentified as an official Cubs mascot in some of the coverage.

The team said it had repeatedly asked the Weiers to cease their Billy Cub appearances, but that they have persisted, with behavior that has included lewd gestures and racial slurs directed at ticket-holders and others.

It said John Paul Weier also has operated or controlled websites, domain names and social media pages that he used to promote the Billy Cub character and sold merchandise including T-shirts that infringe the team’s trademarks.

It was not immediately clear if the Weiers have legal representation.

The team said Clark the Cub also poses for photos with fans on game days but never asks for money.

(Reporting by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Steve Gorman and Steve Orlofsky)


Reuters: Oddly Enough

Maryland Police Chief Cites Fake News Report in Senate Hearing

At a Maryland State Senate hearing to discuss decriminalizing marijuana Tuesday, a high-ranking law enforcement official betrayed his total ignorance about marijuana when he claimed that decriminalization would cause a slew of overdoses throughout the state.

From the Capital Gazette:

“The first day of legalization, that’s when Colorado experienced 37 deaths that day from overdose on marijuana,” [Annapolis Police Chief Michael] Pristoop said in testimony at Tuesday’s Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee hearing. “I remember the first day it was decriminalized there were 37 deaths.”

That information is straight from the Daily Currant, a well-known satirical news site, which claimed that Colorado hospitals were overwhelmed with emergency cases caused by marijuana use.

chief2onbikeww

Chief Michael Pristoop

Apparently Chief Pristoop didn’t know that marijuana was already being used widely in Colorado, just like in every other state, and that it is impossible to die from a marijuana overdose.

Maybe Pristoop was truly ignorant of these facts, in which case he probably shouldn’t be testifying in support of continuing Maryland’s failed marijuana prohibition. Or maybe, like law enforcement bosses in Minnesota and around the country, he’s just worried about his budget.


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