Toronto Board of Health Wants Canada to Decriminalize All Drugs

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In one of the most important steps towards drug reform in Canada thus far, the Toronto Board of Health is urging the federal government to decriminalize all drug use across the nation. The board announced its recommendation Monday, July 16, 2018, and called on Canadians to turn the moment into a cross-country movement. “The only way that federal laws are going to change is if we provoke that national conversation,” said Board Chair Joe Mihevc, a Toronto City Council member. “We will be the first to do it, but we can’t be the one and only.”

The endorsement of drug decriminalization came after the board was presented a report by Dr. Eileen de Villa, the medical officer of health for Canada’s largest city.

“What we are saying here is drug use has always been with us,” de Villa said. “Humans have always used drugs in one way, shape or form. The potential harms associated with any of these drugs is worsened when people are pushed into a position where they have to produce, obtain and consume those drugs illegally.”

The board will now be sending a letter of recommendation to Ottawa in the hopes that the call for countrywide drug decriminalization won’t fall on deaf ears. . .

via Toronto Board of Health Wants Canada to Decriminalize All Drugs — Marijuana

In global warming fight, new tactics to make cows burp less

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Scientists around the world are making strides in reducing methane emissions from belching livestock by developing probiotic supplements, breeding animals that emit less, and planting trees in pastures to absorb greenhouse gasses.

Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters/File
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From New Zealand to the United States and Kenya to Colombia, scientists are on a mission to fight global warming by making livestock less gassy.

Livestock are responsible for about 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

According to calculations by some experts, this puts the livestock sector on par with transport. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says transport is responsible for 14 percent of emissions.

Ruminants such as cattle, buffalo, sheep, and goats produce nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, and methane, which is the most emitted gas and is released through belching.

Scientists are working on ways to reduce those emissions, including by breeding animals that burp less, adjusting their diets so they produce less methane, and planting trees in pastures.

via In global warming fight, new tactics to make cows burp less

After Surviving 5 Drone Strikes, Citizen Sues US Government To Be Taken Off Of ‘Kill List’

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Bilal Abdul Kareem, a black American citizen who had been living for years in Syria, where he ran a small news organization, happened to find himself in Aleppo during the waning days of the battle for the city, in a room full of desperate Free Syrian Army rebels, when one of the group half-seriously raised the subject of kidnapping him for ransom.

Kareem

“I was understandably nervous,” he remembers. “I was the only American inside of this very small area that was besieged.”

The talk in the room turned ominous.

“One of the guys said, ‘You know what? I heard you get $20,000 for kidnapping an American.’”

Kareem pauses as he recalls the scene. He would have stood out in that crowd, as he does everywhere in the Middle East: a black New Yorker with a loud belly laugh.

“You’ve got these nanoseconds to come up with some kind of response,” he explains. “You don’t want them to see you sweat.”

All the eyes in the room turned toward Kareem. Would this American fetch $20,000?

“Nah, man,” he said to his audience.“That’s just for the white ones.”

The room roared with laughter.

“I was like, ‘Phew,’” Kareem says. Then, slipping out: “‘All right, guys, I gotta go.’”

And that’s not the only time Kareem, born Darrell Lamont Phelps in Mt. Vernon, New York, has come close to dying in recent years.

According to a profile by Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, Kareem has survived five attempted dronings after winding up on the US government’s infamous “kill list” – the same “kill list” that was first introduced to the public via the New York Times just months before Nobel Peace Prize laureate President Obama was elected.

Obama, the paper explained, had masterminded the list in the early days of his presidency, placing himself at the head of a committee that would effectively decide whether terror targets – some of whom might be innocent bystanders or even US citizens – should be unilaterally murdered by US drones. The Times presented the list as a “test of Obama’s principles” in a headline, glossing over the fact that Obama himself had ordered its creation.

Kareem

Kareem told Taibbi that after narrowly escaping death five times (more than one time, the missile seemingly meant for him accidentally killed an innocent bystander), he learned from a former source that he was on the US’s “disposition Matrix”, bureaucratic speak for the “kill list”, at Incirlik, the Turkish air base where the US launches many of its attacks in Syria. Instead of waiting for his home country to murder him, Kareem got in touch with a nonprofit based in the UK and is now suing the US to try and have his name taken off the list. That was a year ago. Soon, the court will render a decision, and whatever it decides will have impact more people than ever before: Trump promised during the campaign that he would increase US dronings in the Middle East and elsewhere (warning that “you need to take out the families”) and he’s done just that.

Kareem described the first time he realized that the US was after him. It was right before his third brush with death.

It was in the third incident, he says, when he first saw an American drone overhead. He and his crew were shooting a story in a remote town in the Aleppo countryside.

“They were picking off Al Qaeda and Al Nusra members,” he says. “I didn’t pay it much attention. I thought, ‘It’s not the first time I’ve heard a drone.’”

But after he’d completed the segment and begun heading back to the car with his crew, he still heard the drone.

“That’s when we first felt a little bit alarmed,” he remembers, speaking by Skype. “For 20 minutes to be hovering over us, that wasn’t normal. Usually they come and then they go.”

His crew got into the car and drove a mile or two, then parked to wait for an interview subject. Suddenly, a nearby SUV exploded.

“I thought the Earth had split” Kareem says. “Our car was flipping into the air. I thought the car had fallen off something into the Earth.”

As Taibbi points out in his reporting, the decision has serious implications for US case law:

It’s not a stretch to say that it’s one of the most important lawsuits to ever cross the desk of a federal judge. The core of the Bill of Rights is in play, and a wrong result could formalize a slide into authoritarianism that began long ago, but accelerated after 9/11.

Since that day, we have given presidents enormous power – to make war, to torture, to detain indefinitely – and our entire legal system has been transformed on a variety of fronts, placing huge questions about illegal searches, warrantless arrest, indefinite detention, torture and other matters behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy, outside the reach of courts.

But while the NYT and a handful of other US news organizations covered Kareem’s decision to file the lawsuit – burying the coverage on their websites and in their papers – few, if any, are still paying attention.

via After Surviving 5 Drone Strikes, Citizen Sues US Government To Be Taken Off Of ‘Kill List’

The Economic Function of Militarism

Trump’s Foreign Policy and the American Economy in Decline

Vjay Prasad (2018)

Film Review

In this talk, Indian historian and journalist Vjay Prasad outlines the importance of militarism to the US economy, via a concept he refers to as “military keynesianism.” In so-called “sensible countries,” governments seek to ameliorate cyclical economic downturns by increasing spending on public services, such as health, education, public transport and social services.*

The technical term for this type of spending, first advocated in the 1930s by British economist Milton Keynes, is “countercyclical spending.”

The US also engages in countercyclical spending to prevent economic collapse during a recession – but on the military side. In Europe, one of the primary effects of public service spending is an enhanced sense of community. US elites prefer to keep the US population splintered and isolated because it makes them easier to control. They can’t take the risk of them banding together to push for reforms or revolution.

Although a military base operates like a mini-socialist state where the government takes care of every need, there is little risk a genuine egalitarian community will develop. This relates to the hierarchical nature of military life.


*No elites do this out of the goodness of their heart. European social democracies increase public spending during recessions because their populations are well-organized and force them to do so.

‘Hi, I’m a soybean’: In trade war, China deploys cartoon legume to reach U.S. farmers

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July 20, 2018

BEIJING (Reuters) – In the tense trade war with the United States, China’s government has turned to an unlikely weapon: a cartoon bean.

“Hi, everybody. I am a soybean. I may not look like much, but I’m very important,” says the animated character in a video posted on Friday on the website of China Global Television Network (CGTN), the overseas news network of state-owned China Central Television.

The short video in English with Chinese subtitles seems designed to undermine support for the trade dispute from U.S. farmers, key supporters of President Donald Trump, by highlighting the damage tariffs could have on American soybean exports.

Its release follows the imposition on July 6 of tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese imports by the United States. In return, China levied taxes on the same value of products from the United States, including soybeans. Trump has also threatened further tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods.

The video also highlights efforts by China’s Communist Party to turn to foreign actors, cartoons and even rap to try to deliver its ideas in less turgid formats.

Opting for the unusual narrator illustrates how Beijing views soybeans as a powerful tool in its battle with its top trading partner. Soybeans were the United States’ biggest agricultural export to China, worth $12 billion last year.

The video is partly educational, but is mostly aimed at delivering a political message.

After outlining the main uses of soybeans from tofu to animal feed to biscuits, the bean turns its focus to its central role in the trade war.

China can choose to buy beans from other exporters, such as Argentina and Brazil, if prices become too expensive, the bean says in the video.

But falling prices and lower sales would hurt U.S. soybean farmers, it warns, pointing out that U.S. prices have fallen by 18 percent from May to early July, to their lowest this year. <Sv1>

Nine out of the top ten soybean growing states voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election, the video notes.

“So will voters there turn out to support Trump and the Republicans once they get hit in the pocketbooks?” asks the bean.

 

via ‘Hi, I’m a soybean’: In trade war, China deploys cartoon legume to reach U.S. farmers

When the US Invaded Russia

Featured image: A Bolshevik soldier shot dead by an American guard, 8 January 1919.

Amid the bi-partisan mania over the Trump-Putin Summit in Helsinki, fevered, anti-Russian rhetoric in the United States makes conceivable what until recently seemed inconcievable: that dangerous tensions between Russia and the U.S. could lead to military conflict. It has happened before.

In September 1959, during a brief thaw in the Cold War, Nikita Khrushchev made his famous visit to the United States. In Los Angeles, the Soviet leader was invited to a luncheon at Twentieth Century-Fox Studios in Hollywood and during a long and rambling exchange he had this to say:

“Your armed intervention in Russia was the most unpleasant thing that ever occurred in the relations between our two countries, for we had never waged war against America until then; our troops have never set foot on American soil, while your troops have set foot on Soviet soil.”

These remarks by Khrushchev were little noted in the U.S. press at the time – especially compared to his widely-reported complaint about not being allowed to visit Disneyland.  But even if Americans read about Khrushchev’s comments it is likely that few of them would have had any idea what the Soviet Premier was talking about.

But Soviet – and now Russian — memory is much more persistent.  The wounds of foreign invasions, from Napoleon to the Nazis, were still fresh in Russian public consciousness in 1959 — and even in Russia today — in a way most Americans could not imagine.  Among other things, that is why the Russians reacted with so much outrage to the expansion of NATO to its borders in the 1990’s, despite U.S. promises not to do so during the negotiations for the unification of Germany.

The U.S. invasion Khrushchev referred to took place a century ago, after the October Revolution and during the civil war that followed between Bolshevik and anti-Bolshevik forces, the Red Army against White Russians.  While the Germans and Austrians were occupying parts of Western and Southern Russia, the Allies launched their own armed interventions in the Russian North and the Far East in 1918.

The Allied nations, including Britain, France, Italy, Japan and the U.S., cited various justifications for sending their troops into Russia: to “rescue” the Czech Legion that had been recruited to fight against the Central Powers; to protect allied military stores and keep them out of the hands of the Germans; to preserve communications via the Trans-Siberian Railway; and possibly to re-open an Eastern Front in the war.  But the real goal – rarely admitted publicly at first—was to reverse the events of October and install a more “acceptable” Russian government. As Winston Churchill later put it, the aim was to “strangle the Bolshevik infant in its cradle.”

In addition to Siberia, the U.S. joined British and French troops to invade at Archangel, in the north of Russia, on September 4, 1918. . .

 

Source: When the US Invaded Russia

The Republican Party has become the party of blue-collar America-Wall St. Journal, 7/19/18

Voters for Democrats now tend to be better educated, more urban and less likely to identify themselves as blue-collar than Republicans and Independents, according to pollsters.

Impeach Obama, McCain and Boehner Today

In 1992, the [Ohio 8th] district was represented by Republican John Boehner, the former House speaker. He voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement, and helped pave the way for the Trans-Pacific Partnership….Seven area golf courses [in the district], long establishment Republican strongholds, have closed since 2012. Without the GM plant, “there is no middle-level management that can afford the dues structure.””…

7/19/18, “America’s Factory Towns, Once Solidly Blue, Are Now a GOP Haven, Wall St. Journal, Bob Davis and Dante Chinni (print ed., July 20)

“A generation ago, Democrats represented much of the country’s manufacturing base. Now, it’s in GOP hands, a swing remaking both parties

The Republican Party has become the party of blue-collar America.

After the 1992 election, 15 of the 20 most manufacturing-intensive Congressional districts in America were represented by Democrats. Today, all 20 are held…

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