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COAST TO COAST

A national briefing of people, issues and events around the country

Sunday, September 19, 2004; Page A02

New DEA Exhibit Ties Drug Use To Financing Terrorist Groups

Ever enjoy inhaling a joint or dancing to house music while under the influence of the drug ecstasy? You are a financier of terrorism, or so the government says.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has opened a traveling museum exhibit in New York's Times Square. The exhibit is devoted to the idea that the many ways that humans have devised to alter their consciousness have fueled an illegal drug trade, which in turn contributes to terrorism.

"Terrorist organizations are turning to alternative methods of funding for their activities," states a Web site for the new museum exhibit, titled "Target America." "A lucrative revenue stream is the sale of illegal drugs."

"Target America" features images of Osama bin Laden and the burning twin towers. It maintains that U.S. heroin users helped finance the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by buying Afghan opium, which helped finance the Taliban -- which gave refuge to bin Laden.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which opposes the U.S. war on drugs, said: "Hiding the drug war behind the war on terror won't cover up its miserable failure -- no matter how much they exploit the imagery of September 11th and the pain of its victims."

-- Michelle Garcia

The Pause That Refreshes Could Sweeten State Coffers

It happens in NASCAR and in the Olympics, so why not in Illinois?

To close a gaping budget deficit, Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration is floating the idea of naming an Official State Beverage. A formal request for comment went to soft drink bottlers. It said the goal was to collect lots of money for the state treasury in return for a vending contract and "exclusive advertising and sponsorship opportunities."

Florida has orange juice, and California is famous for its grapes -- fermented and otherwise. More than one wag has said the Illinois drink ought to be beer, since it is consumed in such prodigious amounts by customers hereabouts. But soda pop is the coveted liquid, since the beverage must be sold in state vending machines, shops and restaurants.

"We're looking at ways to maximize revenue from the state's vending machines and beverage outlets," said Abby Ottenhoff, the governor's spokeswoman.

For the record, the bluegill is the Illinois state fish, the violet is the state flower, and there is even a state fossil: the Tully monster. No one is precisely sure what a Tully monster looked like, but it lived 300 million years ago in the sea that covered the region and appears to have been a carnivorous mollusk.

It perished unaware of its future as an official Illinois object.

-- Peter Slevin

All the Pretty Horses Need A Break From Tour Buses

Horses are big business in Aiken, S.C. Thoroughbreds have been trained there for more than a century. Trainers and stable owners are more than happy to show off their horses to tourists -- but those tourists had better get off the bus and walk.

Noisy tour buses and a glut of tourists could spook the young horses, many of which are being ridden for the first time and are sensitive to noise.

About a dozen motor coaches made their way through the city's historic horse district last year, roaring past the city's horse tracks and polo fields, and down the dirt roads where young horses are routinely jogged.

But residents are concerned the tours could hurt the horse industry. City officials are drafting an ordinance that would allow Aiken to issue permits to tour companies and limit the days, hours and routes the buses can take.

The city changed the route that its own Saturday morning tour takes.

"We take them down the side roads. We try to avoid those dirt roads as best we can while at the same time giving the folks a flavor of the horse industry," said Glenn Parker, director of the city's Department of Parks and Recreation.

-- Kimberly Edds


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