Daily Archives: July 5, 2017

In Poland, a right-wing, populist, anti-immigrant government sees an ally in Trump – Los Angeles Times

Posted: July 5, 2017 at 11:43 pm

Poland hasnt really had a turn in the world spotlight since the 1980s, when all eyes were on the drama of the Solidarity labor movements perilous but ultimately successful struggle against Communist rule.

President Trumps stop in Warsaw, where he arrived Wednesday night on his way to the Group of 20 meeting in Germany, focuses attention on a country viewed by many as having come full circle since those heady days.

Polands right-wing government views the visit as an enormous boost to its prestige, and has worked to ensure that Trump-friendly crowds turn out for a U.S. president known to relish shows of public adulation.

U.S. allies in Western Europe, however, worry that the presidents visit is in effect stamping a seal of approval on the Polish leaderships aggressive moves against democratic institutions such as the courts and the news media, and that Trump could be seen as offering an implicit endorsement of the governments populist, stridently anti-immigrant stance, which is reminiscent in some ways of his own.

Still colored in many ways by the sorrowful legacy of the 20th century, including the deaths of about one-fifth of its population in World War II, Poland has strong U.S. ties, personified by a large diaspora in the United States. While countries such as Ireland and Germany claim a far larger share of ancestral roots among Americans, Americans of Polish ancestry number nearly 10 million and have left an indelible mark on cities including Chicago and New York.

Tracy Wilkinson

Tracy Wilkinson

NATO ally Poland also hosts a contingent of about 900 U.S. troops, and has for many years contributed to U.S. and NATO missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. And it spends more of its GDP on military expenditures than most of its North Atlantic Treaty Organization neighbors, a subject Trump publicly lectured the alliance about during an awkward visit in May.

Trumps public events in Poland were scheduled for Thursday.

Heres some background about the first stop on Trumps second international trip as president.

Trumps Polish counterpart, President Andrzej Duda, shares some common policy ground with the U.S. president, including prospects for energy deal-making, a shared mistrust of Muslim immigrants and refugees and a degree of disdain for the European Union. But the countrys most powerful political figure is Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of the nationalist-minded ruling Law and Justice party, which won 2015 parliamentary elections.

Under Kaczynski, the party has moved to rein in the judiciary, sought to muscle media outlets into taking a more pro-government line and advanced various conspiracy theories, including one surrounding the 2010 plane crash in Russia that killed dozens of Polish dignitaries including Kaczynski’s twin brother, Lech, who was then president.

Its a more complicated question than the sight of cheering crowds some of them bused in by backers of the governing party from outside Warsaw might suggest. Within Poland, support for Trump tends to break down along urban-countryside lines, with less enthusiasm for his policies and rough-edged political style in cosmopolitan Warsaw.

In a recent Pew Global Attitudes survey, Trumps ratings in Poland and neighboring Hungary were higher than in most of the rest of Europe, but still low in terms of his leadership qualities. According to the survey, only 23% of Poles trust the U.S. president to do the right thing in global affairs.

Still, Poland is seen by Trumps entourage as far friendlier territory than Western Europe, where his relations with leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have been strained over the decision to abandon the landmark Paris climate accord, among other issues.

As in most countries, domestic issues like the economy are the biggest day-to-day concerns for most people. When it comes to foreign policy, the behemoth to the east Russia overshadows everything. Polish officials are keenly aware that they have Trumps ear as he heads into bilateral talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday on the sidelines of the summit in Hamburg. Like all NATO allies that have Russia as a near neighbor, Poland has a keen interest in the degree of Trumps commitment to the NATO alliances fundamental principle, which states that an attack on one is an attack on all.

In some important respects, yes. Its government has feuded with the European Union over a variety of topics, including immigration quotas and a fray over the governments attempt to derail an EU leadership role for former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, now seen as an adversary of the ruling party.

Polands leaders are thought to be using Trumps visit to make at least symbolic inroads into Germanys powerhouse status on the Continent. He will join in an event convened by Warsaw ostensibly to boost regional trade and infrastructure the Three Seas initiative, but seen by some as a Polish-led bid to carve out a separate sphere of influence in Eastern Europe.

Warm receptions are the norm. Presidents Obama, George W. Bush and Clinton all made a point of meeting with Lech Walesa, the Solidarity leader who rose to the presidency. Walesa is considered an enemy by the current government, and there were no private talks with Trump on the agenda.

Poland has a long and tragic history of being caught between powerful warring empires. Even before Polands oppression-haunted decades as part of the Soviet bloc, the countrys dead in World War II amounted to a staggering 6 million, about 20% of the prewar population. Outside recognition of past suffering is well received; Trumps main public event is a speech in the capitals Krasinski Square, near a monument to the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. The presidents national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, said in a pre-trip briefing that Trump would praise Polish courage throughout historys darkest hour, and celebrate Polands emergence as a European power.

ALSO: When this broadcaster makes a rare appearance, North Koreans know it’s serious

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In Poland, a right-wing, populist, anti-immigrant government sees an ally in Trump – Los Angeles Times

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‘There was only one issue:’ At parades and protests, GOP gets earful about health care – News & Observer

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Philly.com
'There was only one issue:' At parades and protests, GOP gets earful about health care
News & Observer
“Isn't freedom wonderful?” Cruz asked. “In much of the world, if protesters showed up, they would face violent government oppression. In America, we've got something different.” In a follow-up interview with the Texas Tribune, Cruz characterized the
At parades and protests, GOP lawmakers get earful about health careWashington Post

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Ted Cruz Heckled During July 4 Visit to McAllen – Houston Press

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017 at 10:54 a.m.

Senator Ted Cruz went to McAllen on the Fourth of July, and that blue section of Texas responded as you’d expect.

Photo courtesy of Sen. Ted Cruz’s office

Senator Ted Cruz is nothing if not optimistic. There’s really no other explanation for why the junior senator from Texas opted to spend Fourth of July in McAllen, a reliably Democratic section of the state where his visit was met with protesters eager to give Cruz a talking-to about the Senate’s current efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

It wasn’t a simple walk in the park for Cruz this time around as he had to deal with hecklers and protesters throughout the day.

While Cruz excels at dealing with opposition when he’s standing on the Senate floor or baiting opponents on a debate stage, he doesn’t always do so well with regular people, as we’ve noted before. On Tuesday he had to struggle to be heard throughout his part in the Fourth of July festivities as protesters shouted at him while supporters countered that interruption with their own chants of “USA,” according to the Texas Tribune.

To Cruz’s credit, he handled the protests and general commotion with some grace.”Isn’t freedom wonderful?” Cruz said shortly after taking the stage. “Think about it: In much of the world, if protesters showed up, they would face violent government oppression. In America, we’ve got something different.”

Cruz, who already has one challenger, Democratic U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke, in the upcoming midterm elections in 2018, has been hard at work trying to remake his image as a guy who is not only an obstructionist, but who also actually gets legislation passed, as we’ve pointed out. If the Senate bill to repeal and replace Obamacare actually becomes law, many are already saying that Cruz will be one of the reasons that happened.

But as was evident on Tuesday, being the guy who helps get rid of the Affordable Care Act may not see Cruz go from being obnoxious and disliked to celebrated and beloved across Texas.

Even the fact that Cruz was going to be in McAllen on Independence Day drew some criticism that pushed McAllen’s mayor to justify the visit. Mayor Jim Darling released a statement after the news broke that Cruz would be attending, arguing that this was a chance for both sides to “engage in productive dialogue.”

Darling has a point. Cruz is working hard to reshape his image in the face of the upcoming election this marked his third trip to McAllen since December and in some ways just having him there is a chance for those with other views to show Cruz there are other constituents out there and other opinions than the ones that he usually caters to.

Photo courtesy of Senator Ted Cruz’s office

But not everyone decided to bide his time. A local immigrant rights group, La Union del Pueblo Entero, weighed out the chance to meet with Cruz privately during his trip but decided to hold out for a town hall meeting, where Cruz would have to hear and respond to their concerns in full view of the public. The town hall they were hoping for didn’t happen, but Cruz did have to deal with the protesters, partly because of the sheer number of them and the volume of their heckling.

Cruz handled the animosity he was greeted with fairly smoothly, working the crowd before his speech and speaking with supporters and protesters alike, but he did balk at directly engaging with the most indignant cluster of opponents, who were grouped in the bleachers holding signs that said”Ted wants us dead,” and “Cruzin for a Bruzin 2018.”

Of course, because Cruz is still Cruz, he ultimately underplayed the number of people who had turned out for the explicit purpose of booing and heckling him, describing them as a “small group of people on the left who right now are very angry,” according to Talking Points Memo.

But on the upside, Cruz did show up and actually hear what some of his non-Republican constituents had to say. In the current political climate, that alone seems like something.

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Democrat-Controlled States Face Debt Crisis – Patriot Post

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Business Review Board Jul. 5, 2017

Longtime Democrat-controlled state governments are running out of other peoples money. Three states in particular are in varying degrees of budgetary crisis. Illinois, Connecticut and New Jersey are swimming in debt and yet Democrats only solution is to call for tax increases, not spending cuts. Illinois is especially bad, finding itself staring at a growing debt crisis owing primarily to the cost of public pensions. It recently passed a massive tax hike, though Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the bill over its failure to deal with the root cause of the problem the public employment system. But the state senates Democrat majority overrode Rauners veto, displaying once again that Democrats dance to the tune of big unions over and against the interests of citizens. Is it any wonder that Illinois has seen its population decrease by over 500,000 since 2010?

Both Connecticut and New Jersey find themselves in similar predicaments. Theyre trying to find the funds to pay for ever-increasing public pensions and retirement health care costs without actually working to reform these programs that have precipitated the problem in the first place. And their solution is always increased taxes.

By contrast, look at a longtime Republican-controlled state. Tennessee is a state where high taxes are essentially non-existent. With no regular income tax, the Volunteer State has become a magnet for businesses and Americans seeking greater freedom from oppression of government excess. The Brookings Institute ranks the state as number one in the nation for advanced industry job growth. The state government also finds itself on the opposite side of the debt crisis and sitting on a revenue surplus, as Tennessees constitution requires lawmakers pass a balanced budget plan each year. As a right-to-work state, it has helped to prevent the development of a political culture adhering to the demands of unions. When individual freedom is prized over collectivist sympathies, the result is a government with fiscal restraints rather than unchecked excesses.

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Democrat-Controlled States Face Debt Crisis – Patriot Post

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Senate Republicans avoid July 4 parades and their constituents amid health care debate – Mic

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Marching in local July 4 parades is a tradition for members of Congress, who use the holiday to show their constituents that they are part of the communities they represent.

But this July 4, a number of Senate Republicans sat out the festivities, deciding instead to lay low amid a fierce debate over the GOPs health care plan thats unpopular among voters in every state in the country.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) didnt march in any July 4 parades in her home state, which voted for President Donald Trump by a 42-point margin, according to the New York Times. However, her Democratic colleague Joe Manchin, one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats up for re-election in 2018, did choose to march.

Also missing from home-state July 4 parades were Iowa GOP Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner and Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman, the New York Times reported.

Republican senators who did march in parades were met by voters angry over the health care bill which the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates will lead 22 million people to lose coverage.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was greeted by protesters at a July 4 event in McAllen, a town located on the states border with Mexico.

Ted wants us dead, one protesters sign read, according to the Texas Tribune.

Isnt freedom wonderful? Cruz said, referring to the protesters, according to the Texas Tribune. Think about it: In much of the world, if protesters showed up, they would face violent government oppression. In America, weve got something different.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) one of the Republican senators most vocal about her opposition to the GOPs bill said voters thanked her for standing up to the legislation proposed by her Republican colleagues.

There was only one issue. Thats unusual. Its usually a wide range of issues, Collins told the Washington Post after marching in a parade in a rural area of her state. I heard, over and over again, encouragement for my stand against the current version of the Senate and House health care bills. People were thanking me, over and over again. Thank you, Susan! Stay strong, Susan!

Senate Republicans are still working on crafting a plan to make good on their promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. One version of the bill that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell submitted for CBO analysis contains changes, crafted by Cruz, that would essentially create high-risk pools for Americans with pre-existing conditions.

Its unclear whether that plan will be put up for a vote when Congress returns to Washington, D.C., on Monday.

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Theater artists ask Lincoln Center to cancel Israeli government … – Mondoweiss

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Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Protest at Lincoln Center, New York City, April 2017. (Photo: Bud Korotzer/BDS Movement)

Ina letter made public today, over 60theater artists have called on Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, a leading U.S. arts institution located in Manhattan, to cancel Israeli government-sponsored performances by two Israeli theater companies scheduled for July 2427. The signers of the letter have won numerous awards for their work in theater, including four Pulitzer Prizes, three Tony Awards, and nine Obie Awards. The letter signed by the artists asserts that the performances by Israels Habima National Theatre and the Cameri Theater of Tel Aviv will help the Israeli government to implement its systematicBrand Israelstrategy of employing arts and culture to divert attention from the states decades of violent colonization, brutal military occupation and denial of basic rights to the Palestinian people.

Lincoln Center isadvertising the performancesby the Israeli theater companies as presented With support of Israels Office of Cultural Affairs in North America.The artists lettersays that the performances are part of the Israeli governments Brand Israel public relations strategy which,according to an Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs official, sends well-known novelists and writers overseas, theater companies, exhibitsThis way you show Israels prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.The artists also criticize Habima and Cameri theaters because, despitepast opposition from artists, they have repeatedlyperformed inand legitimized Israels illegal settlements built on Israeli-occupied Palestinian land. The letter calls on Lincoln Center to respect the Palestinian civil society callfor a boycottof those Israeli cultural institutions that are complicit in the denial of Palestinian rights. A second Israeli play set to be performed at the same Lincoln Center festival, but without Israeli government sponsorship, was not raised as a concern in the letter signed by artists.The letter was initiated by the New York City Palestinian rights group Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel. It was also signed by eighteen other organizations, including thirteen Palestinian theater and arts groups, thePalestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel(PACBI), and theJewish Voice for PeaceArtists Council.

In a June 27emailed response to the letter,Lincoln Center President Debora Spardefended the performances, writing that, we seek to bring a wide range of ideas and voices to our stages each year, and that we do not make political statements and hope that the art we present can stand on its own.

Noelle Ghoussaini, playwright, from the Between the Seas Festival site.

In response,director and playwright Noelle Ghoussainicommented, I believe it is essential that we (audiences, institutions, and artists) seek to understand the political and social context of the art we engage with.By partnering with the apartheid government of Israel,Lincoln Center is making a political statement insupport Israels occupation and systematic denial of Palestinian rights. By signing onto this letter, I urge Lincoln Center to take a stand for equality and human rights by adhering to the cultural boycott.

Mustafa Sheta, General Secretary of the Freedom Theatrein Jenin explained, By hosting Israeli government supported performances by Israels Habima and Cameri theatres, not only is the Lincoln Center opening its prestigious doors to institutions deeply complicit in the oppression of Palestinians, including theatre workers, artists, musicians and cultural organizations. It is also making a clear political choice to play a supporting role in Israels cynical use of the arts to cover up decades of denying Palestinian rights. Lincoln Center should reject that role and instead join theatre artists supporting the Palestinian call to boycott Israeli cultural institutions complicit in our oppression, until we are free to write our own future.

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Annie Baker, a signatory to the letter, commented, I think the phrase cultural boycottscares people, and its important to remember that a) its not a boycott against individual artists or nationalities, and b) it has historical precedent as an extremely effective way to call attention to apartheid (yes, Israel is an apartheid state) and influence policy.

MJ Kaufman, a member of Jewish Voices for Peaces Artists Council, added that, As a Jewish American playwright I do not condone the use of theater to cover up Israels human rights abuses.Our work should expose and call attention to violence and inequality, not obscure it.I am disturbed by the Israeli government using theater to justify occupation and colonization. Out of solidarity with the Palestinian and Israeli artists who have called for Habima and Cameri to stop performing in Israels illegal settlements and on the Israeli government to stop using art and theater to justify occupation, I call on Lincoln Center to cancel these performances.

The Palestinian civil society movement forboycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS)calls for an economic, cultural, and academic boycott of companies and institutions that are complicit in Israels denial of Palestinian rights until Israel respects the rights of Palestinians, whether living under Israeli military occupation, as unequal citizens of Israel, or as refugees who are denied their right to return to their homeland. The Palestinian BDS is modeled on the global boycott movement that helped to bring an end to apartheid in South Africa.

PEN America recentlydropped Israeli government sponsorshipfor its annual World Voices literary festival following an appealsigned by over 240 well-known writers, poets, and publishers.

Click to view the letter signed by artists and sent to Lincoln Center.

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Khamenei urges formation of policy on oppression of Muslims in Kashmir – Kashmir Reader

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TEHRAN: Irans Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has urged his countrys judiciary to extend support to oppressed Muslims in Kashmir, news agency IRNA reported. Khamenei called on the Iranian judiciary to firmly declare support or opposition to legal and humanitarian issues, such as sanctions, terrorism and oppressed people in the world, in order to reflect its stance on them throughout the world. Khamenei had met with government heads and officials belonging to the judicial system. The Iranian leader also called on the judiciary to support Sheikh Zakzaky, a Nigerian Shia scholar who had been detained by the government. Earlier, Khamenei had, during an Eid-ul-Fitr sermon, called upon the Muslim world to support the oppressed people of Bahrain, Yemen and Kashmir, in what is believed to be the first time he publicly called for support for Kashmir in seven years. The last time he spoke about Kashmir, the Indian government had formally lodged a protest with Tehran. Khamenei in 2010 had said: The major duties of the elite of the Islamic Ummah is to provide help to the Palestinian nation and the besieged people of Gaza, to sympathise and provide assistance to the nations of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Kashmir, to engage in struggle and resistance against the aggressions of the United States and the Zionist regime. Agencies

Kashmir conflict, Kashmir Dispute, Kashmir issue

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Turkish female cartoonists get political tackling oppression with humor – WUNC

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Ezgi Aksoy cant remember when she first knew she wanted to be a writer forLeman, one of Turkeys most popular satire magazines. But that feeling, she says, grew throughout her high school years.

I remember that Leman was something very cool to read, very intellectual, and very special back then, the 35-year-old Istanbul native says.

That dream came true for Aksoy in 2008, when she started writing forYeni Harman, a monthly magazine focused on politics and culture that is one of many magazines under theLemanumbrella. The self-described alternative and left-leaning writer has since published two books, but her greatest claim to fame came in 2011 when she co-founded of a popular satire magazine,Bayan Yan, which is createdalmost exclusively by women.

In 2011, lifeas a woman in Turkey was getting worse. Increasing rates of murder of women and growing pressure to live a certain way by then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyp Erdoan led Aksoy and two female caricaturists working forLemanto take action.

They decided to create a special issue focused solely on women, and they called itBayan Yan, referencing the practice of Turkish private buses refusing to seat together women and men who dont know one another. What Aksoy and the other founders didnt expect was how much their publication wouldresonatewith women from all over Turkey.

The one-off special edition, coinciding with International Womens Day, became its own monthly magazine that is still printed today.

A typical issue ofBayan Yanhas a meditative article by Aksoy on a controversial topic in Turkish society regarding women (one of her latest is on hair and reactions to her decision to stop dyeing her own)and a mix of caricatures satirizing news in Turkey or Turkish society. In the May issue, a cartoon touts research that polarization occurs because people think they know which party people belongto according to their appearance, with two village women judging a new neighbor based only on her looks.

The magazine has an avowed feminist slant recurring themes include child brides in Turkey and the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault though its readers include women as well as men across the country, the founders say.

Caricaturistpekzssl, 32, a Mersin native who moved to Istanbul for college and has lived there since, has been with the magazine since its founding. The outspoken caricaturist is known for her urban characters with spidery eyelashes and wild hair.

She says that the magazine has such a strong following among both genders because of its nonsexist language.

For most of the media, satire magazines predominantly use male language,and this wearies men as well as women, which is why they both love us,zsslsays. Other satire magazines frequently feel like a boys locker room, with cursing andcrude bathroom humor. WhileBayan Yan often pokes fun at female stereotypes, it does so to break stereotypes, rather than reinforce them.

Another feature ofBayan Yanis that it regularly criticizes Erdoans government, particularly for itsnonsensicalstatements about women.Erdoan has infamously called birth controltreason,has regularly told Turkish women to have at least three and, at times, up to fivechildren.

In 2014 he stated,”You cannot make men and women equal. That is against creation. Their natures are different. Their dispositions are different.”

Those are the kinds of statementsBayan Yandirectly addresses, drawing both Erdoan and his ministers, despite the coup attempt in July 2016 making the staff second-guess their work. More than 47,000 Turkish citizens have been imprisoned in the coup’s aftermath, according to Amnesty International. Included in that number are more than 120 journalists and 2,500 media workers, including cartoonists and satirists.

Bayan Yanitself has not faced direct pressure from the government, but its parent satire magazine,Leman, has been charged more than 20 times by Erdoans Justice and Development Party(AKP)since 2002,according to Leman’s editor, Zafer Aknar. Aksoy says after the coup attempt, an unidentified group attacked Lemans office with gasoline, though none of the staff was present. At other times,police raids have preventedLemanfrom being distributed. Putting together the magazine today requires courage.Aksoy saysshe has no illusions about the dangers of her work.

Theres no use for fear, zssl adds. We do double-check our work, but we are afraid.

Aksoy says any negative reactions against the magazine have come from women. The magazine published a cover in which a burkini-clad woman points at a woman in a bikini and says,Look at that cellulite! Afew women emailed to say they were offended andsaidMuslim women didnt act that way.

Its not about Islam, she says she wrote back. Its a joke. This isself-taught conservatism. These kinds of rules are not written anywhere, but women apply them to themselves and to other women. They think that they must live in a certain kind of way, one that isnt written anywhere.

Bayan Yanhas the distinction of being one of the few remaining satire magazines in Turkey, which is no small feat when popular magazines likePenguenstopped printing in April, citing financial infeasibility.Another popular magazine,Grgr,was shut down by the governmentin February over a cartoon featuring Moses.

Like most satire magazines,Bayan Yanis distributed at newsstands and bookstores, but it does hope to reach a wider audience digitally on Turkcell Newsstand, a magazine app for subscribers using the countrys major telecommunications company. As of May,Bayan Yanhas been the fifth-most read magazine on the app for two months in a row,according toHrriyetnewspaperand the magazines owner, Tuncay Akgn.

Bayan Yans popularity shows no signs of letting up, and it seems for now that it will continue to be a cultural feminist bulwark in an unceasingly hostile environment.

From PRI’s The World 2017 PRI

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Koch Industries: "You are never going to win the war on drugs" – Colorado Springs Independent

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Marijuana advocates might not expect to find much in common with the political network funded by Charles and David Koch an influential force on the right that bankrolls Republican candidates to turn right-wing ideology into public policy. But every once in a while “the enemy of your enemy is your friend” logic plays out.

Late last month, the Koch network held a three-day retreat at The Broadmoor for big donors to discuss policy and politics. At one point, reports The Denver Post, general counsel for Koch Industries, Mark Holden, declared, “You are never going to win the war on drugs. Drugs won.”

The statement was made in reference to the Trump administration’s backward stance on federal drug policy. Recall from past reporting in CannaBiz that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is itching for a crackdown on medical marijuana (now legal in more states than not) and to reinstitute mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenders (“Sessions pinned on medical marijuana before slipping through Senate hearing,” June 14).

The Post reports Holden criticized Sessions for taking a “failed big government top-down approach … based on fear and emotion. “The Kochs’ political machine, Americans for Prosperity, isn’t supporting legalizing drugs, he said, “but I don’t think we should criminalize those types of things and we should let the states decide.”

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War on drugs: Normative viewpoints – The Herald

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illegal drugs

Sharon Hofisi Legal Letters In asking whether or not drug trafficking can be curbed the world over, we must also come to grips with the questions as to what kind of drugs are being trafficked? Where are they trafficked to? Why is there a proliferation of drugs in both the less developed and more developed countries?

Unless we decide on the above questions, we cannot execute a good analysis. If it is a war without strategy, that is one thing. If it is a global war, steeped in behaviour change and transformative models that is quite a milestone.

The normative framework at a global level was established by Resolution 42/112 of December 7 1987, when the General Assembly decided to observe June 26 as the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking as an expression of its determination to strengthen action and cooperation to achieve the goal of an international society free of drug abuse.

Further, it has to be stated at the very outset that the study on the need to combat drug trafficking or abuse holds great fascination for users and activists. For Zimbabwe, most people are aware of the existence of a basic domestic structure of laws on dangerous drugs, but use drugs for reasons that are medically, traditionally, religiously and personally explained.

It is little wonder, then, that the normative framework laid out by the United Nations, must attract an intense interest and concern of a great variety of people in Zimbabwe. Although the legal framework, as informed by the Dangerous Drugs Act, has not been aligned with the Constitution of Zimbabwe, 2013, Zimbabwe can take a big leaf from the UNs normative framework.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime describes drug trafficking as (i) a global illicit trade involving the (ii) cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of substances which are subject to (iii) drug prohibition laws.

It also indicates that the organisation is continuously monitoring and researching global illicit drug markets in order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of their dynamics. What is clear from the above is this: Dealing with drug problems involves two general approaches.

First of all, there is the definitional approach. This approach makes the problem trade related. The countries of the world are guilty of being involved in illicit drug trade. There are those who cultivate or have drug traffickers who cultivate prohibited drugs.

Embedded in this is the need to deal with the myth and realities attached to certain drugs. In an abstract on his work, Hemp and Marijuana David West observed the following myth and realities relating to cannabis. He describes cannabis as the only plant genus that contains the unique class of molecular compounds called cannabinoids. Many cannabinoids have been identified, but two preponderate:

While THC is the psychoactive ingredient of cannabis, CBD is an anti-psychoactive ingredient. One type of cannabis is high in the psychoactive cannabinoid, THC, and low in the anti-psychoactive cannabinoid, CBD. This type is popularly known as marijuana. Another type is high in CBD and low in THC. Variants of this type are called industrial hemp.

Two myths and realities that he brought to the fore are also interesting. The first myth relates to whether the United States law has always treated hemp and marijuana the same. The reality, historically answered, is that federal drug laws clearly show that at one time the US government understood and accepted the distinction between hemp and marijuana.

The other myth is that smoking industrial hemp gets a person high. The reality is that the THC levels in industrial hemp are so low that no one could get high from smoking it. Moreover, hemp contains a relatively high percentage of another cannabinoid, CBD, that actually blocks the marijuana high. Hemp, it turns out, is not only marijuana; it could be called anti-marijuana.

When we talk about the prohibition of mbanje in Zimbabwe, we may locate it under human rights theories that seek to deliberate on rights or to locate religion as part of the givens from the deities. In some circles, mbanje is also known as Nigerian grass or dhobho in street lingo.

Belief abounds as to its use: religious beliefs such as working as a medium of communication with the Deity and traditional practices such as scaring away spooks, and healing mental ailments. Added to this are constitutional freedoms such as religious freedom.

Those who are adherents of religions that have hemp or marijuana as part of their religious arsenal, and believe the prohibition of such drugs is unconstitutional, may have to institute test cases in light of the national laws which prohibit drugs.

Apart from the Constitution, Zimbabwe has a Dangerous Drugs Act, as is also the case with countries such as Jamaica and Mauritius. The Act prohibits the use or misuse of certain drugs, places restrictions on imports and exports of drugs such as prepared opium and Indian hemp.

The Zimbabwean framework deals with the importation, exportation, production, possession, sale, distribution and use of dangerous drug and fits well into the UN framework alluded to above.

The Global Drug Policy Observatory provides us with some vital information to supplement the UN normative framework. It describes Zimbabwe as still witnessing an increase in problematic drug use among its domestic population along with the related public health issues that accompany certain types drug use.

The substances that are most commonly used in Zimbabwe include alcohol, cannabis, heroin, glue and cough mixtures such as Histalix and Bron Clear (Bronco). The later unotomwa, with the mouth agape, because believably, all the teeth will disappear immediately. Imagine the health effects!

Cannabis (mbanje) remains the most popular illicit drug mainly because it is grown locally or smuggled in from neighbouring countries like Malawi and Mozambique. In some societies along the Zambezi Valley, mbanje is grown and consumed in large quantities as a way of life.

Zimbabwe is also a conduit for the trafficking of drugs on their way to other countries in the region such as South Africa. Local Zimbabweans are often used to transport these drugs and rather than being paid in cash, they are usually paid in drugs which then enter the local market. When you become a transit country, you are immediately also a consumption country.

The debilitating effects of glue cannot be ignored, unokurungwa fungwa. In a research by Rudatsikiri et al (2009), cited in the Observatory, the use of cannabis and glue amongst school pupils (largely aged between 13 and 15) in Harare, it was found that overall 9,1 percent of pupils had used the drugs (13,4 percent of males and 4,9 percent of females). Add this to other effects such as unsafe sexual behavior, increased risks of STIs including HIV/AIDS.

To end this problem, Zimbabwe has to have an effective engagement strategy with countries that manufacture the drugs that are consumed in Zimbabwe or sold to South Africa. Zimbabwe is also supposed to craft drug polices that deal with drugs like musombodhiya or nipa (also known as kachasu).

Musombodhiya is descriptive of street language that is used to refer to an illicit alcohol brew composed of diluted ethanol or methanol. The drug (because it contains high alcohol content) is alleged to contain 95 percent alcohol, is consumed in very small quantities and gives the consumer hours of drunkenness.

This still leaves the unanswered question as to whether or not the consumers are aware of the impacts of alcohol. Apart from having no blood in their alcohol, the consumers often a time stick, describing a situation where they will not be able to move their body parts.

This brings us to the second aspect in dealing with the drug problem, effective institutional responses. Musombodhiya comes from ethanol which is reportedly smuggled from ethanol plants and is then diluted with water, sold for about US$1 for the 100ml or US$7 for the 750ml bottle.

Add musobhodhiya to Bronco, kachasu, chikwakubidiri (one-day brewed beer) and the need for effective institutional responses becomes apparent. The family head, village or community leader, the Zimbabwe Republic Police and civil society organisations (CSOs) such as Civil Liberties and Drug Network come into play.

These institutions have different strategies in that the ZRP, for instance, has to control crimes related to drugs; the community has to help cultivate a sense of responsible citizenry and CSOs assist in reforming drug survivors. They are alike, however, in having a strong emphasis upon the need to curb the use of drugs.

Sentencing policies in our criminal courts must also take cognisance of international trends. It must not end with retributive punishment. The offender must be the focal point. Sentencing guidelines are needed in this regard. Those guidelines must give due regard to the Constitution, particularly religious freedom.

The Dangerous Drugs Act and the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act must also be urgently aligned with the Constitution. While the laws contain certainly good sentencing guidelines, there is no indication of the approaches to constitutional freedoms.

It is the Constitution which must form the basis of sentencing, but the Constitution nonetheless used in the sense that it is the supreme law whose content is provided by subsidiary laws such as the Dangerous Drugs Act.

Against these indications of the problematic nature of drugs, there is need to have an integrated approach to the regulation of the distribution and sale of drugs. This approach must involve the ordinary citizen, health regulatory bodies, pharmacies and ministries such as Home Affairs, Health and Justice, and Information.

More to the point is the endeavour of those citizens who are willing to share their lived realities on social platforms on how they benefited from the CSOs, health institutions, or lenient sentences that were imposed on them by the courts as well as the correctional approaches that they received when they were incarcerated.

The argumentation in this endeavour is that these approaches lead us to deal with the issues to drug trafficking in a holistic manner. Those who misuse or use dangerous drugs are also empowered to speak out without fear of being prosecuted.

This in no way indicates the need to condone the use or misuse of such drugs. It is much the same fallacy as to say the youths are the ones who consume the lions share of drugs because they engage in high risk behaviour. The same obtains where one religious movement is identified as the leading consumer of drugs such as marijuana. There is no logical or legal basis for assertions of this kind when the only basis are court cases where those who are accused of possessing dangerous drugs yell their story.

An examination of some criminal cases will also show that there was no evidentiary sufficiency but many factors led to the conviction of the accused person. He was unrepresented, failed to proffer some exceptional circumstances relating to the possession or the plausibility of his defence was not properly weighed together with the evidence. There is also absence in distinguishing Indian hemp from other types of mbanje.

Those who brew illicit beer in their backyards are usually spared the wrath of the law. Again the fact that their brews are unspoken does not mean that there was no illicit beer that was brewed but the perpetrators were neither arrested nor prosecuted.

It takes, from the foregoing, something more than the definition of dangerous drugs to enable a nation to effectively deal with drug trafficking. The UN approaches have to be legitimately applied. In other words, while there is a general legal framework on drugs, it is not a normative which might lead to an integrated approach to solving drug-related issues.

Excerpt from:

War on drugs: Normative viewpoints – The Herald

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