House votes to ban synthetic drugs that mimic pot

Posted Dec. 08, 2011, at 9:17 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The House voted Thursday to ban synthetic drugs nicknamed “bath salts” and other compounds that mimic marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamines.

Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., said his legislation identifies chemical compounds that affect the brain in ways similar to THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. They would be added to the highly restrictive Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.

The bill also bans chemical compounds in synthetic drugs marketed as “bath salts” or “plant food” and under brand names such as K2 and Spice that have been used as substitutes for cocaine and other narcotics. They are now sold legally in some states.

Dent said that in the past year “there’s been a sharp increase in the number of new reports detailing horrific stories of individuals high on synthetic drugs.”

Dent’s bill also expands from 1½ to three years the authority of the Drug Enforcement Administration to temporarily ban a drug while it investigates its potential danger to public health. The Senate has yet to take up a similar bill.

NC woman charged with buttocks injections gone bad

RALEIGH, N.C. — A woman on probation for performing buttocks-enhancing injections that left three women with kidney failure in 2008 has been charged with allegedly injecting an exotic dancer’s backside with a disfiguring potion, sheriff’s deputies said Thursday.

Lauretta Cheek, 42, of Greensboro was arrested Wednesday and charged with one misdemeanor count of practicing medicine without a license, Guilford County Sheriff’s Det. Craig Cotten said. Cheek was released on a written promise to appear in court.

The victim was an exotic dancer from Charlotte who wanted to augment her assets and met Cheek in a hotel room for the injection last year, Cotten said. Cheek’s price was about $500, but the unknown substance sent the victim to hospital emergency rooms twice, Cotten said.

Iran shows off what it says is captured U.S. drone

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian television showed video Thursday of what it said is an unmanned surveillance American drone that the country’s armed forces have brought down last weekend.

The images were presented as the first visual proof that Iran has the radar-evading bat-winged aircraft, which appeared in the video to be in good condition. It was displayed on a platform decorated with a banner saying “We’ll trample America underfoot” and a U.S. flag with skulls instead of stars. The authenticity of the video could not be verified.

Pentagon officials would not confirm whether the aircraft seen in the video was a U.S. drone. Other officials said privately that the aircraft resembled an RQ-170 Sentinel, the kind of drone that Iran said Sunday had been brought down after it violated the country’s airspace along its eastern border.

U.S. experts were studying the Iranian video, officials said, adding that the drone the United States acknowledged it lost control of late last week during a reconnaissance mission was still not back in U.S. possession.

American gets 30 months for insulting Thai king

BANGKOK, Thailand — A U.S. citizen received a 30-month prison sentence in Thailand on Thursday for insulting the king, the latest punishment handed down under a law critics see as archaic, prompting the U.S. government to criticize the ruling as excessive and a violation of free speech.

The latest case under Thailand’s controversial lese majeste, or “injured majesty,” laws also involves issues of citizenship and jurisdiction. Thai-born Lerpong Wichaikhammat, 55, a U.S. resident for the last three decades, was convicted of posting a Thai translation of “The King Never Smiles,” an unofficial biography, several years ago while living in Colorado.

Lerpong, whose American name is Joe Gordon, was arrested during a visit to Thailand in May to seek treatment for arthritis and high blood pressure. He pleaded guilty in October. The Bangkok criminal court halved his original five-year term citing his confession.

Explosion hits Syrian pipeline near restive city

BEIRUT — A major Syrian pipeline carrying oil to a refinery in restive Homs province was blown up Thursday in an attack the state-run news agency blamed on “saboteurs” as activists reported fresh violence from the government crackdown on a popular uprising.

The blast caused no casualties but sent a plume of black smoke into the sky. A government official said the blast caused a fire that burned for hours. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

“An armed terrorist group on Thursday committed an act of sabotage,” the state-run SANA news agency said.

It was not clear who was behind the pipeline explosion at a time when violence in Syria is spiraling out control, unearthing long-standing grievances and resentments. The opposition accuses the government of playing on fears of religious extremism and terrorism to rally support behind President Bashar Assad, who has portrayed himself as the only force that can stabilize the country.

There were two similar blasts on Syrian pipelines in July and it is still not know who was behind them.

Nomair Makhlouf, the general director of the Syrian Oil Company, said the pipeline serves Syria’s domestic requirements and carries 140,000 barrels a day.

Also Thursday, activists said security forces killed up to 14 people, most of them in Homs. The reports could not be independently confirmed as Syria has banned most foreign journalists from the country and prevented independent reporting.

Syria is trying to crush a 9-month-old popular uprising, but the conflict is turning more violent as once-peaceful protesters increasingly take up arms.

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