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TCBH Special Report

Marijuana: Facts & Fallacies

There are no greeting cards marking the special 4/20 holiday…at least not yet. But 4/20 has holiday-like trappings among pot smokers across America as a special day and/or special time for cannabis consumption.

There are 4/20 ‘happenings’ around the nation on April 20 and/or at 4:20pm. And, this year those ‘happenings’ have a heightened interest due to major changes on marijuana from full legalization in Colorado and Washington State to public opinion polls consistently showing overwhelming support for ending the expensive and ineffective War on Weed.

Disgraced former U.S. President Richard Nixon, forced to resign from office for serious misdeeds, launched the War on Weed months before the 1972 release of the report from his presidential commission that studied the drug. One major conclusion of that commission was to decriminalize marijuana. The Schafer Commission was chaired Raymond Schafer, an ex-governor of Pennsylvania whose credentials included being a former federal prosecutor, a conservative and a Republican. Members of that Schafer Commission included two U.S. Senators and one Congressman – persons who were not ‘stoners’ in tie-dye tee shirts.

TCBH takes a 4/20 look at marijuana, particularly examining developments in the state Ray Schafer once governed. This special package includes articles by Abigail Ferenczy, Olivia La Bianca and Michelle Kapusta.

Common Sense on Cannabis

Legalizing Medical Marijuana Long Overdue in Pa

A big reason why Philadelphia State Representative Mark Cohen keeps pushing for the legalization of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania is reality: many people need the substance for treatment of their illnesses and other states have already approved medical use of marijuana.

“Right now, marijuana is readily available to the vast majority of Pennsylvanians, but it’s illegal. This bill sets up a statutory framework which legalizes the use of marijuana for medical purposes,” Cohen said about his legislation (House Bill 1181) introduced on April 15, 2013 that would legalize the use of medical marijuana in the state.

Medical marijuana is already legal in 20 states including two states adjacent to Pennsylvania: New Jersey and Delaware. Maryland, another adjacent state – recently approved medical marijuana legislation and similar approval is pending New York state, located north of Pennsylvania.

California, in 1996, became the first state to approve the medical use of the substance that was once one of the most widely prescribed medications in the United States until the early decades of the 20th Century. Illinois and New Hampshire legalized medical marijuana in 2013. Medical marijuana is also legal in America’s capital, the District of Columbia, with one dispensary for medical marijuana located blocks from Capitol Hill.

Revenue Initiatives Reform

Senator Leach: Pot Tax Profits Will Prompt Pa Legalization

State Senator Daylin Leach knows he is fighting an uphill battle to win legalization of marijuana for adult use in Pennsylvania. But Leach is confident that the need for new state revenue will convince his colleagues in Pa’s legislature that the time is ripe to change Pa’s position on marijuana prohibition.

“I think revenue from taxing legal and medical marijuana will drive this issue just like revenue drove approval for gambling,” Leach said.

“Remember, 40-years ago only one state had gambling. Now 48 states including Pennsylvania have gambling. What drove approvals of gambling was the money to be made by the states.”

California, for example, generates annual sales tax revenues of up to $105-million from medical use of marijuana according to the California State Board of Equalization. That Board estimated that California could gain $1.4-bilion in new revenue from the legalization of marijuana.

Colorado, which began sales of marijuana for non-medical adult use on New Year’s Day, collected $6.17-million in tax revenue during January and February. Officials in Washington State, which beings adult use marijuana sales in July, project receipt of $190-million in taxes and fees annually.

To Legalize or Not

Popping the question on 'Pot'

State Sen. Daylin Leach is leading the fight to legalize marijuana in Pennsylvania.

But will the reward outweigh the risk if cannabis is legalized?
Senator Leach clearly thinks the rewards from increased state revenues and decreased enforcement cost outweigh risks. His legalization bill, introduced in April, would tax and regulate marijuana for adult use like alcohol in the state.

“It is time for Pennsylvania to be a leader in jettisoning this modern-day prohibition, and ending a policy that has been destructive, costly and anti-scientific,” Leach said who has also introduced a bill that would allow people with certain serious illnesses in Pennsylvania to purchase and possess marijuana. This bill is commonly known as the medical marijuana bill.

Currently 20 states and the District of Columbia allow medical marijuana. Two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized marijuana for adult use.

While some agree with Sen. Leach and believe this is the time for Pa to change its marijuana laws opponents point to health problems and other concerns with legalization.

‘Heading towards a police state’

Conversation with a Police Chief

 

There was a time when, growing up in a suburban area around Mansfield, a university town in northeastern Connecticut, I could go days without seeing a police car. These days, though, when I go back there to visit my old hometown, I see them everywhere. Where once there was one resident State Trooper for the township of Mansfield, today there’s a fleet of Troopers in squad cars, called “Interceptors.” The university too, which in my youth had a couple of university cops whose only real job was breaking up the occasional dormitory panty raid, now has a full-fledged police department, staffed with beefy cops who would be hard to distinguish from the troopers -- or from recently furloughed military vets (which many of them probably are).

In communities and cities across the country, the number of police has soared, rising, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, from 603,000 in 1992 to 794,000 in 2010. This even as crime has been falling fairly steadily for over 30 years, even in cities that have had to cut back on their police staffing for budget reasons.

But it’s not just a matter of numbers. Police are also much more aggressive in their behavior towards the public. Where “no-knock” forced entries into people’s homes were a rarity 30 years ago, such so-called “breaches” are increasingly the norm in many jurisdictions -- they reached over 80,000 last year by one calculation -- as police departments adopt an approach that elevates “officer safety” over concerns about the safety of the public, including innocent bystanders. (Consider two recent incidents in New York where bystanders were shot by police who were firing at suspects -- in one case an unarmed mentally ill man standing in traffic in midtown Manhattan.)

The same can be said about the use of supposedly “non-lethal” tasers, which have morphed from being alternatives to shooting and killing suspects to tools to enforce docility, or even to punish people who verbally contest the actions of a police officer. A recent report in the New York Times showed that as part of a growing trend to place police officers in public schools, students, including even in elementary schools, are being tasered for what used to be considered an offense meriting a trip to the principal’s office--sometimes with serious and even deadly results.

Police officer tasers a student protester in Allentown, PAPolice officer tasers a 14-year-old girl outside her highschool in Allentown, PA. Click here to view the video

The bigger threat is the National Security Agency

Heart Bleed: the Internet is Alive and Well!

Some are calling it a "worst nightmare". There have been dire predictions that it represents the end of the Internet or that there is, in fact, no real Internet security or that Free and Open Source Software is dangerous to use.

One thing is sure. The week-old saga of the Heart Bleed flaw (or bug) and its potential exploits has shown more light on the Internet and its security issues than anything else in recent memory.

A threat the Free and Open Source movement handled perfectlyA threat the Free and Open Source movement handled perfectly

Like so much coverage of these security issues, however, this outcry is misdirected. In reality, the flaw gives us an excellent example of how the Internet works when it's at its best. How Free and Open Source software is developed, how prominent and important it is, how well its development system works and why security is, in fact, simple and possible.

It also shows how our government doesn't care about our security: ignoring major threats to the Internet and then apparently exploiting them to spy on us -- for as much as two years.

These are valuable lessons demanding that we understand what really happened.

50 Years Later

Brazil's 1964 Coup: What 'Communist Conspiracy'?

 
It all began with Cuba in 1959. That was a line in the sand for Tio Sam. Kennedy launched the Alliance for Progress in ‘61, and caudillos throughout South and Central America lined up for lessons on how to prevent their own homegrown communists from reproducing what Fidel and El Che had brought down from the Sierra Maestras. The School of the Americas’ manual of torture, originally drafted in Scotland and likely passed along during WWII to eager Yanks in the OSS, was in due course thumped like the bible into the hands of willing thugs in the pay of ruling elites from Guatemala to Chile. In Brazil, when the military grabbed the reins of government on April 1, 1964, the torture manual came off the shelf for immediate application to those who were obnoxious to the dictatorship ideologically, and with lethal consequences for some who fought from the more militant wings of the resistance.

Images from the 1964 coup; the man on the run was used to illustrate posters for a recent panel discussionImages from the 1964 coup; the man on the run was used to illustrate posters for a recent panel discussion

I was in Brazil at the time of the 1964 coup, spending a year at Rio’s exclusive Catholic University (PUC). I spent considerable time at first with a guy named Bud who worked for USIA, the “public” face of American overseas diplomacy. The agency operated cultural programs and libraries, also, back in D.C., Voice of America, where I worked part time as a Georgetown undergrad. My friend was a good guy, a kind of mentor twenty years my senior who welcomed me into his family as I slowly acclimated to the seductive lifestyle of the Brazilian gentry on the coattails of their sons and daughters, my classmates, who would invite me home for the hot sit-down midday meal, cooked and served by the black live-in empregadas. An American student was a novelty in those days, and, being short of funds, I was happy to eat out on it.

After a month I met Chris, an American my own age who’d been ski bumming in the Alps and drifted to Brazil to look up an uncle who held the second highest rank in the U.S. Embassy. Chris had just received his draft notice from home, and we got it in our heads to hitchhike to the Amazon where he’d hideout and avoid military service now that Vietnam was coming on with a vengeance. I don’t recall if we clued Bud in about the exact reason for our abrupt departure from Rio, but he very kindly provided contact info for other U.S. diplomats we could crash with as we made our way north along the coast. Our first stop was in Vitoria, a small coastal port for shipping ore from the neighboring but landlocked mineral rich state of Minas Gerais. The diplomat we stayed with in Vitoria, Bud had explained, was setting up a co-op to rival a similar effort influenced by the local communists who, by that time in Brazil, were organized into a mélange of currents on all sides of the Sino-Soviet split.

Surprise, surprise!

Government Exonerates FBI’s Lax Investigation of Suspected Boston Bomber

 

One thing that the FBI does really well is exonerate itself. As I wrote earlier, the bureau’s agents have shot 151 people over the course of the last two decades, killing more than half of them, yet in its own internal reviews, the FBI has exonerated those agents all 151 times -- a perfect record of blamelessness that even some of the country’s most gun-happy police departments (even in Albuquerque, NM) can’t claim.

Now another internal review, not by the FBI but by the Office of Intelligence Committee, an obscure unit which supposedly internally “oversees” the work of 17 intelligence agencies including the FBI, has smiled on the FBI’s seemingly lackadaisical investigation of Boston Marathon bomber suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, saying that its Boston office agents did an okay job in checking him out after Russian intelligence warned the US back in 2011 that he had linked up with Islamic militants while on a visit to his family in Dagestan.

The New York Times, in a report on the inspector’s findings, quotes an unidentified “senior American official” as saying that the OIC investigation “found that the Russians did not provide all the information that they had on him back then, and that based on everything that was available at the time, the FBI did all that it could.”

What that “everything” included was interviewing the elder Tsarnaev brother (now dead, killed in a hail of police bullets during a night-time chase following the Boston bombing last April), as well as his parents and friends at school. After that brief flurry of interviews, the bureau allegedly lost interest in Tsarnaev, concluding that he was more of a threat to Russia than to the US—an interesting turn of phrase that should suggest something else might have been afoot.

And indeed, there is something missing from that report that is troubling: namely news that the FBI also reportedly sought to enlist Tamerlan Tsarnaev as an informant during its 2011-12 investigation of his activities. If attorneys for Tamerlan’s younger brother Dzhokhar are correct, the FBI, after contacting and questioning the older brother, then at least attempted to pressure him to work for them by spying on the local Chechen community in Boston. It stands to reason they may have also been interested in having him work for the US against Russia, given the US’s long record of support for rebels in former Soviet republics like Chechnya and Dagestan who have been seeking to break away from Russia. Tsarnaev would have been vulnerable to such pressure, as he had been attempting to gain US citizenship, and because had certain assets that the FBI (and the CIA) wanted: knowledge of people in Dagestan and also fluency in Chechen and Russian (a Tsarnaev uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, was already reportedly working for the CIA, even for a time living in the home of, and married to the daughter of a ranking CIA official).
Many questions remain unanswered about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, his CIA-linked uncle Ruslan Tsarni, and the FBI slaying of his friendMany questions remain unanswered about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, his CIA-linked uncle Ruslan Tsarni, and the FBI slaying of his friend Ibragim Todashev

ThisCantBeHappening! radio interview of Prof. Harold Wanless on PRN.fm:

Climate Change is Much Worse than Even the IPCC Predictions

Dave Lindorff, host of the Progressive Radio Network program "ThisCantBeHappening!", interviews Professor Harold Wanless, chair of the Geology Department at the University of Miami and a leading climate change expert. Wanless talks about the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, explaining that as scary as that organization's latest predictions are concerning accelerating global warming, it is far too conservative.

This is because the IPCC does not factor in the feedback loops that are making things get worse faster — whether it’s the doubling of the pace of Greenland and Western Antarctic ice melt every seven years, or the future release of massive methane deposits locked in Arctic permafrost and undersea methyl cathrate deposits--a process that is already beginning.

If we don’t act quickly to significantly reduce the use of carbon fuels, Wanless warns, we could see a “baked in” 70-foot sea rise, perhaps in our children’s or grandchildren’s lifetimes, and even with a less apocalyptic sea rise, an end to human civilization--and that's just with the amount of carbon that we humans have already put in the atmosphere.

Miami University's Prof. Harold Wanless, and a view of Greenland's ice melt, showing how dirty the survacethat huge ice sheet isMiami University's Prof. Harold Wanless, and a view of Greenland's ice melt, showing how dirty the surface of that huge ice sheet has become from global pollution. Click on the photo to hear the podcast of this interview on PRN.fm

New Poem:

Shanghai Smog

 

There is a man reporting on how bad the smog is in China.
He is saying,
“See, right there,
at the end of this street that you don’t see
is the second tallest building in China.”
I squint. . . I don’t see anything!
“In fact”, he’s saying,
“the smog is so bad,
I’m actually standing right here in front of this camera,
so you wouldn’t have seen the building anyway,
but you can’t even see me!”
This guy is good!

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Here's the link to prairie radio radical Mike Caddell's Radio Free Kansas program, where you can hear the podcast of the whole group interview that was conducted on Saturday, May 8.

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by Dr. Radut