05-07-2021  11:58 pm   •   PDX and SEA Weather
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NORTHWEST NEWS

Oregon Extends COVID Workplace Mask Rule Indefinitely

State officials say the rule, which garnered thousands of public comments, will be in place until it is “no longer necessary to address the effects of the pandemic in the workplace.”

As Reparations Hit Roadblock, Oregon Lawmakers Look to U.S. Congress and Cities

Sen. Frederick pushed for eligible Black Oregonians to receive a lifetime annuity as remedy for slavery, systemic racism.

Landmark Gun Safety Bill Clears Final Vote

The Oregon Senate repassed Senate Bill 554 – approving modifications made in the House to add storage and safety requirements among the bill’s components.

Shooting Highlights Lack of Body Cams Among Portland Police

Two police officers raised their weapons while sheltering behind a tree in a Portland park. They yelled at a homeless man to put up his hands. Moments later, two shots rang out.

NEWS BRIEFS

Street Gallery: Crossing the Redline

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Unemployment Fix Passes Oregon Senate, Helps Get More Oregonians Back to Work

Many Oregon employers believe this policy will help support their rapidly changing workforce needs, COVID-19 regulations, and worker...

Concrete Wall Around Seattle Police Precinct Comes Down

The city decided to take the wall down after hearing from the community ...

Peloton Recalls Treadmills, Halts Sales, After a Child Dies

Peloton is recalling about 125,000 of its treadmills less than a month after denying they were dangerous and saying it would not pull...

Free Online Classes Promote Sustainable Living

Clark County’s Master Composter Recycler program is offering a series of free sustainable living webinars this spring. ...

Judge nixes reduced Klamath River flows for sucker fish

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. (AP) — A judge has ruled against the Klamath Tribes in a lawsuit that accuses federal regulators of violating the Endangered Species Act by letting water levels fall too low for sucker fish to spawn in a lake that also feeds an elaborate irrigation system along the...

Portland: Feds to blame for cops failure in settlement deal

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Portland city officials said they welcome constructive criticism from federal Justice Department lawyers who found the Police Bureau has failed to adhere to a settlement governing officers’ use of force. But officials also blame the federal government for contributing to...

OPINION

OP-ED: The Supreme Court Can Protect Black Lives by Ending Qualified Immunity

The three officers responsible for the murder of Breonna Taylor are not the first to walk free after killing an unarmed Black person, and unfortunately, especially if things continue as they are, they will not be the last. ...

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Trade Arron Rodgers

Give Aaron Rodgers a break, Green Bay. Just like Bart Starr & Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers has been a Hall of Fame quarterback for the Packers for 16 years. ...

Editorial From the Publisher - Council: Police Reform Needed Now

Through years of ceaseless protest, activists have tried to hold Portland Police to account. ...

After the Verdicts

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum shares her thoughts after the verdicts ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

In the French language, steps forward and back for women

LE PECQ, France (AP) — The fight to make the French language kinder to women took steps forward, and back, this week. Warning that the well-being of France and its future are at stake, the government banned the use in schools of a method increasingly used by some French...

Rachel Zoll, much-admired AP religion writer, dead at 55

Rachel Zoll, who for 17 years as religion writer for The Associated Press endeared herself to colleagues, competitors and sources with her warm heart and world-class reporting skills, died Friday in Amherst, Massachusetts, after a three-year bout with brain cancer. She was 55. ...

Man charged in stabbings of 2 Asian women a no-show in court

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The arraignment of a man who allegedly stabbed two older women without warning at a San Francisco bus stop was postponed Friday after he refused to leave his jail cell and appear in court. Patrick Thompson's arraignment on charges of attempted murder,...

ENTERTAINMENT

Jhené Aiko, Saweetie to perform on AAPI advocacy TV special

NEW YORK (AP) — Platinum-selling performers of part-Asian descent, including R&B singer Jhené Aiko and rapper Saweetie, will perform on a TV special produced by The Asian American Foundation, the newly formed organization launched to improve AAPI advocacy. TAAF announced...

In the shadow of COVID-19, a toll on entertainment workers

NEW YORK (AP) — Like so many, the pandemic upended life for actor and dancer Rena Riffel. The Los Angeles-based performer needed help with rent, utilities and counselling when jobs suddenly dried up. “Being an artist, we are already very fragile with our finances," she...

David Oyelowo fulfills new directing passion in 'Water Man'

LOS ANGELES (AP) — While starring in films like “Selma” and “Lee Daniels' The Butler,” actor David Oyelowo discovered a new passion: directing. Oyelowo was inspired to step behind-the-camera after learning different nuances of the craft from respected directors like...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

Sherpa guide scales Mount Everest for record 25th time

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — A Sherpa guide scaled Mount Everest for the 25th time on Friday, breaking his own record...

Last wild macaw in Rio is lonely and looking for love

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Some have claimed she’s indulging a forbidden romance. More likely, loneliness compels...

Prospects dim for passage of LGBTQ rights bill in Senate

WASHINGTON (AP) — Controlling Congress and the White House for the first time in a decade, Democrats were...

Ethiopian Orthodox Church patriarch blasts Tigray 'genocide'

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in his first public comments on the war in the...

Ahead of Harris meeting, Mexico president accuses US

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Just before an online meeting with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris Friday, Mexico President...

Deadly police shootout prompts claims of abuse in Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A bloody, hour-long gunbattle in a Rio de Janeiro slum echoed into Friday, with...

Julie Watson the Associated Press

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- U.S. troops are increasingly using an easy-to-get herbal mix called "Spice," which mimics a marijuana high, is hard to detect and can bring on hallucinations that last for days.

The abuse of the drug has so alarmed military officials that they've launched an aggressive testing program that this year has led to the investigation of more than 1,100 suspected users, according to military figures.

So-called "synthetic" pot is readily available on the Internet and has become popular nationwide in recent years, but its use among troops and sailors has raised concerns among the Pentagon brass.

"You can just imagine the work that we do in a military environment," said Mark Ridley, deputy director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, adding, "you need to be in your right mind when you do a job. That's why the Navy has always taken a zero tolerance policy toward drugs."

Two years ago, only 29 Marines and sailors were investigated for Spice. This year, the number topped 700, the investigative service said. Those found guilty of using Spice are kicked out, although the Navy does not track the overall number of dismissals.

The Air Force has punished 497 airmen so far this year, compared to last year's 380, according to figures provided by the Pentagon. The Army does not track Spice investigations but says it has medically treated 119 soldiers for the synthetic drug in total.

Military officials emphasize those caught represent a tiny fraction of all service members and note none was in a leadership position or believed high while on duty.

Spice is made up of exotic plants from Asia like Blue Lotus and Bay Bean. Their leaves are coated with chemicals that mimic the effects of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, but are five to 200 times more potent.

More than 40 states have banned some of its chemicals, prompting sellers to turn to the Internet, where it is marketed as incense or potpourri. In some states, Spice is sold at bars, smoke shops and convenience stores. The packets usually say the ingredients are not for human consumption but also tout them as "mood enhancing."

Service members preferred it because up until this year there was no way to detect it with urine tests. A test was developed after the Drug Enforcement Administration put a one-year emergency ban on five chemicals found in the drug.

Manufacturers are adapting to avoid detection, even on the new tests, and skirt new laws banning the main chemicals.

"It's a moving target," said Capt. J.A. "Cappy" Surette, spokesman for the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.

The military can calibrate its equipment to test for those five banned chemicals "but underground chemists can keep altering the properties and make up to more than 100 permutations," Surette said.

Complicating their efforts further, there are more than 200 other chemicals used in the drug. They remain legal and their effects on the mind and body remain largely unknown, Navy doctors say.

A Clemson University created many of the chemicals for research purposes in 1990s. They were never tested on humans.

Civilian deaths have been reported and emergency crews have responded to calls of "hyper-excited" people doing things like tearing off their clothes and running down the street naked.

Navy investigators compare the drug to angel dust because no two batches are the same. Some may just feel a euphoric buzz, but others have suffered delusions lasting up to a week.

While the problem has surfaced in all branches of the military, the Navy has been the most aggressive in drawing attention to the problem.

It produced a video based on cases to warn sailors of the drug's dangers and publicized busts of crew members on some of its most-storied ships, including the USS Carl Vinson, from which Osama bin Laden's was dropped into the sea.

Two of the largest busts this year involved sailors in the San Diego-based U.S. Third Fleet, which announced last month that it planned to dismiss 28 sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.

A month earlier, 64 sailors, including 49 from the Vinson, were accused of being involved in a Spice ring.

Many of the cases were discovered after one person was caught with the drug, prompting broader investigations.

Lt. Commander Donald Hurst, a fourth-year psychiatry resident at San Diego's Naval Medical Center, said the hospital is believed to have seen more cases than any other health facility in the country.

Doctors saw users experiencing bad reactions once a month, but now see them weekly. Users suffer everything from vomiting, elevated blood pressure and seizures to extreme agitation, anxiety and delusions.

Hurst said the behavior in many cases he witnessed at first seemed akin to schizophrenia. Usually within minutes, however, the person became completely lucid. Sometimes, the person goes in and out of such episodes for days.

He recalled one especially bizarre case of a sailor who came in with his sobbing wife.

"He stood their holding a sandwich in front of him with no clue as to what to do," he said. "He opened it up, looked at it, touched it. I took it and folded it over and then he took a bite out it. But then we had to tell him, `you have to chew.'"

An hour later when Hurst went back to evaluate him, he was completely normal and worried about being in trouble.

"That's something you don't see with acute schizophrenic patients," he said. "Then we found out based on the numbers of people coming in like this, that OK there's a new drug out there."

Hurst decided to study 10 cases. Some also had smoked marijuana or drank alcohol, while others only smoked Spice.

Of the 10, nine had lost a sense of reality. Seven babbled incoherently. The symptoms for seven of them lasted four to eight days. Three are believed to now be schizophrenic. Hurst believed the drug may have triggered the symptoms in people with that genetic disposition. His findings were published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in October.

He said there are countless questions that still need answering, including the drug's effects on people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or traumatic brain injuries.

What the research has confirmed, he said, is: "These are not drugs to mess with."

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