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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part II

Officials are grappling with a problem no one's sure how to solve: How do you tell if someone is too stoned to
drive?  States that allow medical marijuana have struggled with determining impairment levels for years. And voters in Colorado and Washington state will decide this fall whether to legalize the drug for recreational use, bringing a new urgency to the issue. Authorities envision a legal threshold for pot that would be comparable to the blood-alcohol standard used to determine drunken driving. But unlike alcohol, marijuana stays in the blood long after the high wears off a few hours after use, and there is no quick test to determine someone's level of impairment - not that scientists haven't been working on it.

It was a decade when tens of millions of people in the U.S. experienced mass unemployment and social upheaval as the nation clawed its way out of the Great Depression and rumblings of global war were heard from abroad. Now, intimate details of 132 million people who lived through the 1930s will be disclosed as the U.S. government releases the 1940 census records online for the first time on April 2. The records will be free and open to anyone on the Internet, but they won't immediately be name searchable.  For genealogists and family historians, the 1940 census release is the most important disclosure of ancestral secrets in a decade. Scholars expect the records to help draw a more detailed portrait of a transformative decade in American life.

Pope Benedict XVI has said the Catholic Church shares the pain of the Coptic Orthodox Church over the death of its patriarch, Pope Shenouda III. Benedict sent a message of condolences Sunday following Shenouda's death Saturday at age 88. Shenouda led Egypt's Christian minority for more than 40 years amid increasing tensions with Muslims. Benedict has called for greater protections for Egypt's estimated 10 million Christians amid a surge of recent attacks, but his message Sunday steered clear of polemics and focused on conveying his prayers for God's "faithful servant." Pope John Paul II met with Shenouda during his 2000 trip to Cairo and Pope Paul VI hosted Shenouda at the Vatican in 1973. 

Most people are familiar with the Underground Railroad that enabled escaped slaves find freedom in the North before the Civil War. But another underground railroad ran for a century and was headed in the other direction - south to what was then freedom for slaves in Spanish Florida. Escaped slaves from South Carolina headed south from almost the time the South Carolina colony was founded in 1670 until after the American Revolution. The end of the escape route came in 1790 when Spain stopped its policy of granting freedom to slaves who came to Florida and converted to Catholicism.  The southern leg of the Underground Railroad is the topic of a national conference being held in St. Augustine this June.
     
Heading into today's presidential primary in Puerto Rico, all four GOP hopefuls added delegates when results were finalized from contests that happened days ago.Mitt Romney added six delegates from Georgia's March 6 primary and Newt Gingrich added five. In Hawaii, which voted last week, Ron Paul added two delegates and Rick Santorum added one. The Georgia GOP says the final tally is Gingrich with 52 delegates, Romney with 21 and Santorum with three.  The Hawaii GOP says the final tally is Romney with nine delegates, Santorum with five and Paul with, three. Romney leads the overall race for delegates with 501. Santorum has 253, Gingrich has 136 and Paul has 50. It takes 1,144 delegates to win the nomination. There are 20 delegates up for grabs in Puerto Rico in a winner takes all primary race.

Rick Santorum says he's in the GOP presidential race for the long haul even though rival Mitt Romney has a big edge in delegates, campaign cash and organizational resources. Santorum tells CNN's "State of the Union" that "we're in this to win" and that there's too little difference between Romney and President Barack Obama to satisfy conservative Republicans. Santorum says conservatives want a chance to nominate a conservative to take on the Democratic incumbent and "we're going to give them an opportunity." The former Pennsylvania senator hasn't qualified for the ballot in all the states on the election calendar and sometimes has had trouble fielding full slates of delegates in some states. But he says he's doing pretty well with scarce resources, compared with the deep-pocketed Romney campaign.

Mitt Romney says President Barack Obama has failed in Afghanistan.The Republican presidential hopeful told "Fox News Sunday" that the president is partly to blame for the chaos there and should have been "more engaged" with military commanders and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Romney has emerged as the only GOP candidate not to question the U.S. commitment in Afghanistan, even as polls show that most Americans want to end it. Administration officials say leaving behind a stable Afghanistan has been a top priority for the president. Obama plans to pull troops out by the end of 2014. Romney said any U.S. withdrawal should be determined by military commanders. At the same time, he said, Afghans should be taking more responsibility for security because "we're not going to stay there forever."
    
Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum says the United States should either commit to winning the war in Afghanistan or "get out." Santorum tells ABC's "This Week" that he agrees with rival Newt Gingrich that a commitment to "winning" means recognizing the U.S. will stay in Afghanistan "to finish the job." The former Pennsylvania senator says an effective U.S. role in the region may not mean the heavy military presence now in Afghanistan. He pointed to the few hundred U.S. troops that cleared the Taliban from local governments in some regions. Santorum promises to work with experts in the area to determine troop strength and with the Afghan government to ensure its success.

Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States says his country is committed to a long-term partnership with the U.S., but the road ahead may be full of bumps. The diplomat, Eklil Hakimi, says his government is an ally in the fight against terrorism and wants to make sure that terrorists cannot again use Afghanistan as a base to threaten the security of other countries. But a series of incidents has severely strained ties with the U.S. One was from the inadvertent burning of Qurans by U.S. soldiers. More recently, the war effort was driven to a new low by the killing of nine Afghan children and seven adults, allegedly by a U.S. soldier. The ambassador tells CNN's "State of the Union" that Afghanistan is working to define its relationship with the U.S. for the years to come, and that's the big picture. But he acknowledges that "down the road, it's a bumpy road." As for making sure the alleged shooter is brought to justice, Hakimi says "we trust the United States and we know how important this relationship is."

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