DEA leads crackdown on sellers of designer drugs

Posted July 27, 2012, at 9:30 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The Drug Enforcement Administration seized more than $36 million in cash and arrested 91 people in a nationwide crackdown against manufacturers, distributors and vendors of synthetic designer drugs.

The DEA administrator, Michele Leonhart, said agents in 31 states also seized 4.9 million packets of synthetic marijuana, material to make 13.6 million more packages and 167,000 packages of bath salts. DEA and other law enforcement agencies also seized materials to make 392,000 more packets of bath salts.

Leonhart said the synthetic drugs are “marketed directly to teenagers.”

“Many of these products come with a disclaimer that they are ‘not for human consumption’ to mask the danger they pose,” Leonhart said.

The agents raided smoke shops and other sellers of synthetic marijuana and other synthetic drugs that have been linked to psychotic episodes and deaths of users. The drugs have become a popular alternative to traditional street drugs, but law enforcement and health professionals have warned that the chemicals used to make the synthetic marijuana and hallucinogenic “bath salts” haven’t been tested or approved for human consumption. The synthetic marijuana is sold under brand names such as “K2″ and “Spice.”

The agency temporarily has banned some of the chemicals found in synthetic marijuana, and President Barack Obama this month signed into law a measure that bans the sale, production and possession of many of the chemicals found in the most popular synthetic drugs.

But experts who have studied the drugs estimate that there are more than 100 different bath-salt chemicals circulating. Bath salts can mimic the effects of cocaine, LSD and methamphetamine.

US economy slows in April-June quarter

WASHINGTON — Weak consumer spending in the April-June quarter held economic growth to an annual rate of just 1.5 percent, less than the 2 percent rate in the first quarter. Few economists expect the economy to accelerate in the second half of the year as Europe’s financial woes and a U.S. budget crisis restrain businesses and consumers.

The growth estimate Friday from the Commerce Department suggested that the U.S. economy could be at risk of stalling three years after the recession ended. Economists generally say even 2 percent annual growth would add only about 90,000 jobs a month. That’s too few to drive down the unemployment rate, which is stuck at 8.2 percent.

Amazon founder gives $2.5 million to back same-sex marriage efforts in Washington state

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, have given $2.5 million to fund efforts in the state of Washington to legalize same-sex marriage, effectively doubling the current electoral war chest of proponents.

The gift was announced by Washington United for Marriage, the coalition working to pass Referendum 74 in November. It’s believed to be the largest individual gift “to secure or protect the freedom to marry,” the group said in a statement released on its website. Washington is one of four states where the issue of same-sex marriage will be on the ballot this year.

The Legislature legalized same-sex marriage in February with a big assist from Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, who pushed for the bill.

But opponents, including the group Preserve Marriage Washington, collected enough signatures to put the legislation to a vote. That measure is known as Referendum 74. Those opposed to gay marriage have said they intend to raise as much as $4 million.

NATO: Afghan militant attacks up 11 percent

KABUL, Afghanistan — Insurgent attacks in Afghanistan during the past three months were up 11 percent, compared to the same period last year, according to the latest statistics on monthly violence released by the U.S.-led coalition.

The figures, which NATO released on Thursday, also show that the number of attacks in June was the highest for any month since fighting surged in the summer of 2010.

The disturbing uptick comes at a time when foreign troops are leaving and insurgents are trying to prove they remain a potent force. It also supports the theory that the insurgency remains undefeated after more than a decade of war, though coalition officials caution against using attack numbers as a bellwether of how the war is proceeding.

The number of “enemy-initiated attacks” — such as roadside bombings and gunfire attacks from insurgents — rose in all three months of the second quarter, compared with the same months in 2011. This follows 11 consecutive months where attacks were below the number reported in the same month the year before.

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