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Why Democrats don't want to talk about legalizing marijuana

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WASHINGTON -- As the Trump administration begins to crack down on states that legalized marijuana, advocates for legalization hope Democrats will take their side.

But many Democrats are still squeamish about fully embracing the drug.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Justice Department would reverse the policy ...Read more

Kentucky's Medicaid work requirement plays to Trump base at little political risk

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WASHINGTON -- Kentucky is one of the poorest states in America, and its residents are among the sickest. Yet the governor's decision to force Medicaid recipients to meet a work requirement -- something that could take health coverage away from 100,000 people -- is unlikely to carry any political repercussions for the GOP in this deeply red state...Read more

Freedom Caucus members withholding votes GOP needs to pass CR

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WASHINGTON -- A majority of House Republicans appear ready to support a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government open through Feb. 16, but enough Freedom Caucus members remain uncommitted to make passage questionable.

"The votes are not currently there to pass it with just Republicans," Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows said ...Read more

Deep South grapples with yet another winter storm

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ATLANTA -- People across the Deep South hunkered down Tuesday as yet another frigid winter storm blanketed the region in snow, sleet and ice, shutting down interstates, canceling flights and prompting officials to close schools and government offices.

Before dawn, flurries of snow fell across parts of Texas, Louisiana and Tennessee, causing ...Read more

Warrantless-spying bill advances in Senate as deadline nears

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WASHINGTON -- The Senate advanced legislation Tuesday to extend the government's authority to spy on suspected foreign terrorists' communications, setting up a vote for final passage before the program is set to expire Friday night.

The bill, which moved forward on a 60-38 vote, would reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence ...Read more

Trump International accused of bullying Panama hotel owners

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NEW YORK -- Most of the unit owners in the Trump International Hotel & Tower Panama want to get rid of the president's hotel-management company. It refuses to go without a fight and, according to the owners, is trying to bully them into backing down.

The owners' association in October accused Trump Hotels of mismanagement in an arbitration ...Read more

For Calif. couple arrested after kids found chained, home-schooling kept spotlight away

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LOS ANGELES -- Days after law enforcement authorities found a dozen siblings locked up in a foul-smelling, dark home in Riverside County, the discovery is focusing new scrutiny on California's loose home-schooling regulations and raising questions about whether they contributed to the children's prolonged neglect.

Arrested on nine counts of ...Read more

Nation and world news briefs

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Supreme Court rejects Texas Democrats' redistricting appeal

AUSTIN, Texas -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed an appeal from the Texas Democratic Party arguing that the state's political maps were improperly gerrymandered along partisan lines.

The court did not comment on its decision to dismiss the appeal beyond noting that it ...Read more

Obese patients lived longer if they had weight loss surgery, study finds

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Bariatric surgery has become the medical profession's go-to solution for meaningful weight loss, and new research shows why: It saves lives.

In a retrospective study of close to 34,000 Israeli patients with obesity, the 8,385 who got one of three surgical procedures were roughly two times less likely to die over the next four years than were ...Read more

Democrat Phil Murphy takes over as NJ governor

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TRENTON, N.J. -- Philip D. Murphy, a Democrat and former Wall Street banker who has never held elected office, was sworn in as New Jersey's 56th governor shortly before noon on Tuesday amid the traditional pageantry accompanying the transfer of power in the state capital.

"The work of our administration will be about you, your families, and ...Read more

California lawmaker would prohibit restaurants from providing plastic straws unless requested

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- For California Assemblyman Ian Calderon, it was apparently the last straw.

The Democratic legislator from Whittier read reports by environmental groups that up to 500 million plastic beverage straws are used every day in the United States and then immediately discarded, adding to the flow of trash to landfills and litter ...Read more

Ex-husband of Greitens' former lover made additional recordings; lawyer gives them to prosecutor and FBI

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ST. LOUIS -- An attorney for the man whose secretly recorded conversation with his wife exposed Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens' extramarital affair last week says his client made additional recordings as well, and that he has forwarded them to both the St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office and the FBI.

The attorney, Albert Watkins, didn't specify ...Read more

Venezuela plans discounts, tax deals to bolster cryptocurrency

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CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuela's plan for its own cryptocurrency include paying public workers in the digital token and using tax incentives to encourage its use, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg News.

The government intends to issue 100 million petros, with about 38 million going to institutional investors in a monthlong presale ...Read more

Supreme Court rejects Texas Democrats' redistricting appeal

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AUSTIN, Texas -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed an appeal from the Texas Democratic Party arguing that the state's political maps were improperly gerrymandered along partisan lines.

The court did not comment on its decision to dismiss the appeal beyond noting that it lacked jurisdiction on the claim.

On Friday, the court announced...Read more

Stopped for a python show on South Beach, this immigrant now faces deportation

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MIAMI -- Penelope the python and her owner, Maria Valdez Moreno, were familiar figures on Miami's Ocean Drive, coaxing tourists to pay $10 to pose for photos with the exotic snake.

That was until Florida wildlife officers, part of a new patrol targeting the illegal exhibition of wildlife on South Beach, stopped Moreno and her friend, Alfonso ...Read more

Meeting in Vancouver, old allies from Korean War look for new solutions on North Korea

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VANCOUVER, Canada -- Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday hosted the United States' Korean War allies, seeking diplomatic ways to avert the urgent threat of conflict with a nuclear-armed North Korea.

The U.S. approach has so far consisted mainly of economic sanctions and belligerent threats from President Donald Trump -- which are ...Read more

Turkey says US 'stabbed us in the back' by aligning with Kurds on Syrian border

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BEIRUT -- In the ever-shifting landscape of the Syrian civil war, the line between allies and enemies is rarely clear.

It was further muddied this week when the U.S.-led coalition revealed plans for a 30,000-strong security force to police Syria's northeast borders with Turkey and Iran. The plan instantly enraged Turkey, a NATO ally of the U.S....Read more

Trump says 'no idea' if Kazakh money was invested in SoHo hotel

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WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump said he has "no idea" whether money from Kazakhstan was invested in Trump SoHo, a condominium hotel in lower Manhattan, while meeting with the country's authoritarian president.

Trump worked in the 2000s with Bayrock Group LLC, the real estate company that developed the Trump SoHo condominium hotel in Lower ...Read more

Cost of California bullet train jumps by $2.8 billion just in the Central Valley

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LOS ANGELES -- The estimated cost of building 119 miles of bullet train track in the Central Valley has jumped to $10.6 billion, an increase of $2.8 billion from the current budget and up from about $6 billion originally.

The new calculation takes into account a number of extremely costly problems encountered by the state rail agency. It raises...Read more

Rep. Sinema stalked for years by New York man, according to court document

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WASHINGTON -- A New York man entered a not guilty plea Tuesday to a federal charge of stalking Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema after he was arrested last Friday outside her office on the seventh floor of the Longworth House Office Building.

Amos Olagunju of Brooklyn has been shadowing and attempting to make contact with Sinema since 2014, according...Read more