DENVER (AP) — Crowds were serenaded by live music as they waited for the nation’s first legal recreational pot shops to open. They ate doughnuts and funnel cakes as a glass-blower made smoking pipes. Some tourists even rode around in a limo, eager to try weed but not so eager to be seen buying it.
And when the sales began, those who bought the drug emerged from the stores, receipt held high and carrying sealed shopping bags, to cheers.
“I’m going to frame the receipt when I go home, to remind myself of what might be possible: Legal everywhere,” said musician James Aaron Ramsey, 28, who did some time in jail for pot possession in Missouri and played folk tunes with his guitar for those in line.
Activists hope he’s right, and that the experiment in Colorado will prove to be a better alternative to the costly American-led drug war, produce the kind of revenue that state officials hope and save the government costs in locking up drug offenders.
Just on the first day, prices in some places rose to more than $500 an ounce, and some shops announced midafternoon they would close early because of short supply. It’s too soon to say whether the price spikes and long lines will persist.
Republicans, Democrats likely to put fresh paint on old arguments in ‘14
ATLANTA (AP) — Both Republicans and Democrats are looking for fresh ways to pitch old arguments as they head into the final midterm election year of Barack Obama’s presidency.
Eager to capitalize as the president’s job approval rating hovers in the low 40s, Republicans are looking to hammer the clumsy implementation of Obama’s health care overhaul and bemoan an economy that, while improving, still grows too slowly. They’re already painting Democrats as fiscally irresponsible underlings of an increasingly unpopular president whose government creates more problems than it solves.
Democrats say they’ll run as the party of average Americans and paint Republicans as out-of-touch allies of the wealthy, with a stubborn streak that forced a partial government shutdown and still prevents practical solutions for national problems. They’re advocating populist positions like a minimum wage increase and an end to tax breaks for energy companies, and they’re already reminding voters of Republicans’ struggle to connect with women, non-whites and younger Americans. They’re also looking to exploit the rift between tea party conservatives and establishment Republicans.
As fighting rages in South Sudan city, peace talks to open in Ethiopia
JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — Negotiators from South Sudan’s two warring sides arrived Wednesday in Ethiopia for peace talks, and a U.N. official urged both forces to bring the world’s newest country “back from the brink.”
Fighting continued in Bor, a gateway city to the capital of Juba, a government official said. Bor is just 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Juba.
Bor, the capital of Jonglei state, is the center of ethnically based violence stemming from the political rivalry between President Salva Kiir and ousted Vice President Riek Machar, the rebel leader accused of mounting a failed coup attempt.
Kiir declared a state of emergency Wednesday in Jonglei and Unity, two states where rebel forces have gained the upper hand in recent fighting.
Helicopter to rescue passengers trappedin icebound ship
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Passengers on board a research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice for more than a week are expected to be rescued by helicopter on Thursday after three icebreakers failed to reach the paralyzed vessel, officials said.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s Rescue Coordination Centre, which is handling the operation, said early Thursday that weather conditions had improved in the area since Wednesday and rescue flights were likely to commence shortly. Wind in the area had died down to 10 knots (19 kmh) and visibility had improved, with conditions expected to remain favorable for the next 36 hours, the center said in a statement.
“A stunning day,” expedition leader Chris Turney said in a video posted on his Twitter account, blue sky visible behind him. “Hopefully we’ll hear about the evacuation soon.”
The 74 scientists, tourists and crew on the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been stuck since Christmas Eve, had been hoping the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis would be able to crack through the thick ice and allow them to continue on their way. The Aurora came within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of the ship Monday, but fierce winds and snow forced it to retreat to open water.
The helicopter on board the Chinese-flagged vessel Snow Dragon will be used to rescue 52 scientists and tourists, a dozen at a time, over five hours. All 22 crew members are expected to stay with their icebound vessel, which is not in danger.
Palestinian ambassador to Prague is killed after safe explodes in his apartment
PRAGUE (AP) — The Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic died Wednesday in an explosion that occurred when he opened an old safe that had been left untouched for more than 20 years, officials said.
Ambassador Jamal al-Jamal, 56, was at home with his family at the time of the explosion, according to Palestinian Embassy spokesman Nabil El-Fahel. Al-Jamal was seriously injured and rushed to a hospital where he died, according to police spokeswoman Andrea Zoulova.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said no foul play was suspected, noting that the safe had been left untouched for more than 20 years.
It also appeared that the door of the safe had been booby-trapped, according to Zoulova. It was unclear how al-Jamal tried to open it or what type of safe it was.
The safe was recently moved from the old embassy building, but it had come from a building that used to house the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s offices in the 1980s, Malki said.
Nations scramble for position in the melting Arctic; US racing to catch up, but far from lead
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. is racing to keep pace with stepped-up activity in the once sleepy Arctic frontier, but it is far from being in the lead.
Nations across the world are hurrying to stake claims to the Arctic’s resources, which might be home to 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30 percent of its untapped natural gas. There are emerging fisheries and hidden minerals. Cruise liners loaded with tourists are sailing the Arctic’s frigid waters in increasing numbers. Cargo traffic along the Northern Sea Route, one of two shortcuts across the top of the Earth in summer, is on the rise.
The U.S., which takes over the two-year rotating chairmanship of the eight-nation Arctic Council in 2015, has not ignored the Arctic, but critics say the U.S. is lagging behind the other seven: Russia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Canada and Denmark, through the semiautonomous territory of Greenland.
“On par with the other Arctic nations, we are behind — behind in our thinking, behind in our vision,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said. “We lack basic infrastructure, basic funding commitments to be prepared for the level of activity expected in the Arctic.”
At a meeting before Thanksgiving with Secretary of State John Kerry, Murkowski suggested he name a U.S. ambassador or envoy to the Arctic — someone who could coordinate work on the Arctic being done by more than 20 federal agencies and take the lead on increasing U.S. activities in the region.