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Daily Archives: August 4, 2017
President Trump Bans Transgender From MilitaryJust the Latest Form of Oppression in the USA – Indian Country Today Media Network
Posted: August 4, 2017 at 1:44 pm
On Wednesday, July 26, President Trump tweeted:
After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.
Download our free report, Intergenerational Trauma: Understanding Natives Inherited Pain, to understand this fascinating concept.
Four hours later he also tweeted:
IN AMERICA WE DONT WORSHIP GOVERNMENT WE WORSHIP GOD!
Why does the President of a self-proclaimed Christian nation choose to oppress transgender people by specifically banning them from service in the U.S. military?
Because President Trump, and many Evangelicals, believe in the false notion of Christendom and its perverted role of enforcing the doctrines of the Church.
But they are incorrect.
First of all, there is no such thing as Christendom. According to the model and teachings of Jesus, Christian Empire does not exist. Jesus came to make disciples, plant a church, and offer himself as a living sacrifice. He came here to lay down his life, not save it. And he warned his disciples that they should expect, and do, the same. But the Empire must save its life. The Empire must protect itself. The purpose of Empire is in direct opposition to the teachings and the model of Jesus. Thus, Christendom is the prostitution of the Church to the Empire.
And second, since the 4th century, beginning with the writings of Augustine of Hippo, Christendom has been used to justify creating theological categories of other in order to sanctify their mistreatment and oppression. Throughout the centuries Christian Empire has provided the justification for the oppression of many groups, including heretics, Muslims, indigenous people, people with black skin and now the LGBTQ community.
As a Native man, someone from a group of people who have been oppressed, mistreated and ethnically cleansed from these lands because we were categorized as other by the Christian Empire known as the United States of America, I am deeply concerned by the words and actions of President Trump regarding transgender people. It is extremely difficult to govern a country, let alone claim to follow Christ, when you cannot even treat your neighbor and your fellow citizens as fully human.
I welcome you to read another article I recently published titled Where Augustine Goes Off the Rails which details how the church got from a message of mercy and grace in Luke 7 to the Doctrine of Discovery. How it got from following a savior who was persecuted and executed for his faith, to an imperial power that oppressed, persecuted and even executed those it determined to be other.
Mark Charles is a speaker, writer and consultant from Fort Defiance, Arizona (Navajo Nation). He is a graduate of UCLA and the organizer ofA New Conversation: A Public Reading of the US Apology to Native Peoples. He also consults as a Resource Development Specialist for Indigenous Worship at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and is the Primary Investigator on a study conducted through Brigham Young University on the Navajo perception of time.
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The Government must act on legal aid madness and make sure justice is done over the Hyde Park bombing – The Sun
Posted: at 1:44 pm
It IS in the public interest for Downey to be prosecuted over the four soldiers massacred in 1982
IT is hard to stomach when evil murderers get public money to defend themselves but justice would not be served otherwise.
Nor will it be if the prime suspect in the IRA Hyde Park atrocity never faces trial because this same Legal Aid fund will not foot the bill.
Getty Images – Getty
Justice will not be done if John Downey, already freed after a blunder, dodges a private prosecution too.
It was deemed in the public interest to give 380,000 to men so wicked they ultimately got whole life terms.
So, too, to give Downey 50,000 to defend himself before his criminal trial collapsed.
Now it is squarely in the publics interest for him to be prosecuted over the four soldiers massacred in 1982.
Despite big donations from Sun readers, it can only happen with Legal Aid.
The Government must act.
YOU can back the Hyde Park Justice Campaign in several ways.
Credit or debit card donations can be given athttp://www.crowdjustice.org/case/hyde-park-justice.
You can donate online using these bank details: Sort code 18-00-02, and account number 04507118.
You could also go to your own bank with the details.
Donors can also send cash or cheques to: Hyde Park Justice Campaign, Fourth Floor, 158 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 9TR.
Any money left over will be donated to other legal actions for serving members of the Armed Forces or victims of terrorism and their families.
JEREMY Corbyn is mute as Venezuela burns.
So his allies speak for him and their defence is both laughable and appalling.
They say this once oil-rich countrys collapse is not the fault of socialism but of America for bankrolling unrest.
And Corbyns young fans say Venezuela is irrelevant and cannot discredit him.
It wasnt irrelevant when he cited it as the shining example of socialisms better way.
Nor when he and guru Seumas Milne delightedly congratulated President Maduro now its virtual dictator, rigging elections and crushing dissent.
It IS relevant to Britain.
Because this is their lifelong belief system being tested right now, in real time and destroying a nation through the poverty, starvation and oppression that are its natural consequences.
It is hard proof of the hideous damage Corbyn would do to the many, not the few.
Luke Inman – The News of the World Glasgow
WHEN will the Government get its priorities straight on roads?
One hare-brained new scheme is to build giant tents over the most polluted ones to keep fumes away from homes.
How can we find millions for that when our pock-marked roads are worse than those in Namibia and Ecuador?
Fix them first. Tents later.
WHITEHALLS fetish for keeping harmless historic documents secret must end.
What damage can be done by making public a paper relating to a foreign jaunt Charles and Diana went on in 1986?
The independent body overseeing the release of national records says civil servants cover-up culture is getting worse and often has no justification.
We should have an automatic right to see all 30-year-old Government documents and be given a damn good reason if not.
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Posted: at 1:44 pm
Chinese internet giant Tencent has taken down a local, Chinese-language chatbot developed with Microsoft’s artificial intelligence by a Beijing-based company after it was less than complimentary about the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
“The group chatbot services are provided by independent third party companies,” Tencent said in a statement. “We are now adjusting the services which will be resumed after improvements.”
Since beginning operation in March, the Baby Q and XiaoBing chatbots had recent given a number of responses unlikely to be welcomed inside the Great Firewall, where government censors are quick to pounce on a long list of banned, politically “sensitive” expressions.
Asked if it would agree with the phrase “Long Live the Communist Party,” the Baby Q bot replied tartly: “Why would I wish long life to such a corrupt regime?”
Later, asked by another user if it loved the ruling party, it returned a curt “No, I don’t.”
Baby Q, which was developed by the Beijing-based company Turing Robot, also appeared to harbor some unauthorized views on patriotism.
“What is a patriot?” asked one user. To which the AI program retorted:
“A patriot is someone who still wants to be Chinese in spite of corrupt officials sending their families and assets overseas, the collusion between government and business, increasing tax revenues and growing oppression of ordinary people.”
Asked if democracy was a good idea, the bot replied: “We must democratize.”
Another user picked up a catchphrase beloved of Chinese President Xi Jinping, asking the bot: “What is your Chinese dream?”
“My Chinese dream,” the bot replied, “is to emigrate to the United States.”
Baby Q was taken offline after these exchanges, with online reports claiming that its programmers had been called in to “drink tea” with the internet police.
A Tencent account-holder who had previously chatted with the bot said he was surprised by the move.
“For a computer to say such things is the natural result of logical processes in its programming, and yet the government regards … it as taboo,” the account-holder said.
Shenzhen-based Internet entrepreneur Zhang Jinjun said the chatbot’s “misbehavior” is likely the result of access to data outside of the government’s tightly controlled online parameters and could have come from people it has chatted with in recent months.
“In the space of communicating with a million people, it is going to start to build its own knowledge base,” Zhang said. “It is quite likely that it will draw conclusions that are similar to universal values [of freedom, rule of law and democracy].”
“It is pretty close to the mainstream of political culture and the direction of history,” he said. “It is highly likely that the bot would form ideas critical of China’s political system when viewed from within its own system of understanding.”
An employee who answered the phone at Tencent’s publicity department declined to comment when contacted by RFA.
Reported by Xin Lin for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
The rest is here:
Posted: at 1:44 pm
Yesterday, President Trump announced his support for a bill first proposed by GOP senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue that would drastically reduce legal immigration. The plan would cut immigration levels in half, and institute a merit-based point system to allocate many of the remaining immigration slots. All told, it would reduce legal immigration by over 500,000 per year. The bill would also reduce refugee admissions to a maximum of only 50,000 per year, compared to 110,000 in fiscal year 2017. If nothing else, the administrations endorsement of this bill should put to rest the oft-heard claim that Trump only opposes illegal immigration.
I. How the Bill Would Inflict Massive Harm on Millions of People.
If it gets through Congress, this bill would inflict massive suffering on enormous numbers of people. Hundreds of thousands who could otherwise find greater freedom, happiness, and prosperity in the US will instead be consigned to poverty and oppression in the Third World, in many cases for the rest of their lives. For many of the excluded refugees, their fate could be severe persecution or even death, or at best prolonged misery in refugee camps.
Some may dismiss these effects because they are not the fault of the United States. The US government, they might say, is not responsible for poverty and oppression in other countries. Perhaps so. But immigration restrictions are not just a matter of the US standing aside and letting injustice continue elsewhere in the world. They involve the use of government coercion to prevent would-be immigrants from finding freedom in this country, taking jobs with willing American employers, and so on. That is why most people today agree it was morally wrong for the US government to deny entry to Jewish refugees in the 1930s, even though the US was not responsible for the repression they faced in Europe, and even though it was not yet clear that the Nazis would seek to exterminate the Jews, as opposed to merely oppress them.
Refugees and potential immigrants would not be the only victims of Trumps proposed policy. Many native-born Americans would suffer too. Increased immigration restrictions reduce their ability to interact with, work with, and hire immigrants. If, like many conservatives, you believe it is wrong for the government to tell us what kind of health insurance we must buy or what kind of food we can eat, you should also be skeptical of letting the government dictate which immigrants you are allowed to associate with or engage in economic transactions with. Immigrant workers, business owners, and entrepreneurs also make major contributions to the economy, which would be severely curtailed if Trumps proposal is implemented. Instead of improving the economy, as advocates hope, the bill would do serious damage to it. As GOP Senator Lindsey Graham points out, the bill would particularly damage sectors such as agriculture, tourism, and many service industries.
II. The Bill has no Benefit Remotely Comparable to the Enormous Harm.
A policy that inflicts enormous harm on would-be immigrants and also hurts many natives could perhaps be justified if it created some comparably great benefit. That is not even remotely the case here. The administration claims that it could protect American workers from wage competition. Economists across the political spectrum agree that immigration has large net benefits for Americans, overall. It is possible that immigration lowers the wages of some low-skilled workers, particularly high school dropouts, though even here the evidence is mixed. Even the specific case of the Mariel Boatlift, which the administration likes to cite in support of its position, does not actually support it, according to recent research, well summarized by Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute.
Even if immigration does reduce the wages of low-skilled natives, or some subset thereof, it doesnt follow that restrictionism is the right solution to this problem. We do not generally assume that the government should use force to insulate people from the effects of labor competition. If workers moving from West Virginia to much wealthier Virginia create competition that reduces pay for some already in the latter state, few argue that the government should take steps to prevent it. Competition is part of the price we pay for a dynamic economy that increases wealth for all in the long run, including by reducing the price and increasing the quality of goods produced by new workers.
If compensation is nonetheless desirable, there are far better ways to do it than consigning large numbers of immigrants to a lifetime of Third World poverty and depriving the US economy of the benefits they create. As economist Bryan Caplan outlines, we can instead tap some of the vast wealth created by immigration and transfer it to low-wage native workers, for example by boosting the earned income tax credit. We can also adopt policy reforms that would make it easier for both immigrant and native workers to move to areas with greater opportunity an approach that would simultaneously lift up the poor and greatly benefit the overall economy.
The administration claims that its merit-oriented point system will improve the quality of immigrant labor. In reality, as Alex Nowrasteh explains, the proposed bill would do nothing to increase the quantity of high-skill immigration to the US. Indeed, it would result in a far lower rate of such immigration than exists in Canada, and Australia, the ostensible models for the approach it adopts.
The bills approach also has an even more fundamental flaw: it assumes that bureaucratic measures imposed by the federal government are a good way to measure worker merit, in this case a crude point system that takes account of English proficiency, higher education degrees, and whether the applicant has a job offer that pays at least 150% of the median household income in the state in question. The best judges of worker merit are not federal officials but potential employers. They are the ones in the best position to know what qualifications are actually useful for the job at hand, and they have far better incentives to get the decision right than government bureaucrats do.
Conservatives are generally among the first to recognize this when it comes to assessing native workers. It is no less true with respect to immigrants. At the risk of stating the obvious, it should be clear that there are many jobs for which a college degree is not a relevant credential. It is similarly clear that people can be valuable contributors to the economy even if they make less than 150% of the median household income in the state where they live.
The bills criteria also err by ignoring the possibility that workers can improve their language proficiency and other credentials after arriving in the US. Data show that todays immigrants assimilate and rapidly improve their English proficiency at roughly the same rate as in past generations. They also often increase their education level after coming to the US.
To put the point differently, it is worth asking whether the rest of the population would be better off if we deported some large percentage of the native-born Americans who would score poorly on the bills point system. After all, many millions of Americans do not have college degrees, have jobs that pay less than 150% of the median household income, and so forth. The answer is obvious: even aside from humanitarian considerations, getting rid of this portion of the population (or some large fraction of it) would make the rest of us worse off. Workers of different skill and education levels can each benefit from the productivity of the others. What is true of native-born workers also applies to immigrants, as well.
Similar points apply to other standard right of center complaints about immigration that might be pressed into service to defend this bill including claims that immigrants overburden the welfare state, increase crime, or destroy American culture. Like the labor quality argument, these objections, too, are in most cases false, overblown, or susceptible to less draconian fixes.
Here, as elsewhere, it is a grave error to assume that the world is a zero-sum game, whether between the rich and the poor, between different racial and ethnic groups, or between immigrants and natives. If we want to make America great again, we should remember that all of these groups can prosper together and that immigration is a big part of what made this nation great in the first place.
Posted: at 1:43 pm
I have had countless conversations with colleagues in elected positions about their use of marijuana. I can say with confidence that many of my colleagues in Congress have tried marijuana. In my time in other privileged institutions like Stanford and Yale, marijuana and other drugs were used with little fear of consequences and were openly spoken about and joked about with little understanding of the painful fact: the War on Drugs in America has scarcely affected the lives of the privileged but has devastated poor communities and communities of color.
I have spent most of my adult life living and working in Newark, New Jersey. For the past four decades, Newark has found many of its neighborhoods, including the one in which I live, on the front lines of a war not on drugs, but on people individuals and families who are simultaneously over-criminalized and under-protected.
As a low income tenants lawyer, a city councilman, and as mayor, I saw up close how this war manufactured in Washington and state houses all across the country meant that the hardworking, brave officers of my police department were forced to spend their time enforcing drug laws that did not necessarily make our community safer and often worsened conditions that lead to greater poverty, greater suffering and less safety. During my time as mayor, my officers often decried the churn of people arrested again and again on nonviolent charges like possessing marijuana, deepening deficits of trust within the community and too often debilitating nonviolent offenders and those struggling with the disease of addiction from turning their lives around.
I continue to see in my community how the unequal application of these laws criminalizes large swaths of Americans poor Americans, black and brown Americans, addicted Americans, the mentally ill and disproportionately our veterans. As a result of these broken, inequitably applied laws, I have met countless good people who couldnt find a job, couldnt find a decent place to live, and couldnt support their family because they had a criminal record for doing something less serious than two of the last three presidents of the United States have admitted to doing.
It is clear to me that theres no easy way out of the injustice system we have created. Fixing our broken system will require painstakingly undoing decades of bad policy, addressing the persistent and systemic racial bias within our system, and rethinking how we treat those addicted to harmful drugs.
I believe it also requires legalizing marijuana.
Aaron Bernstein / Reuters
Theres a different view held by many and championed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is planning to step up the enforcement of our nations federal marijuana laws. But this path isnt the answer to reducing crime or to making our communities safer. In fact, the enforcement of marijuana laws have too often led to a sacrifice of our values, our safety, and the potential of millions of Americans.
Federal marijuana laws have long undermined our nations promise of liberty and justice for all. The unequal application of these laws on communities of color and poorer Americans has created a justice system where outcomes are often more dependent on race and class than on guilt or innocence. Despite the fact that there is no difference in marijuana use between Blacks and Whites, Black Americans are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. Marijuana laws have helped to make the land of the free far less free, with incarceration rates higher than any nation in human history. In fact, the United States is home to only five percent of the worlds population, but nearly twenty five percent of the worlds prison population.
We have created large illegal markets and vastly contributed to their associated violence and ancillary crime. Weve added millions of Americans to the ranks of the formerly incarcerated, a population with high recidivism rates, often due to limits on their options for employment. And weve siphoned resources away from public safety: while Congress has increased spending on federal prisons by 45 percent since 1998, largely to house non-violent offenders, it cut spending on state and local law enforcement by a whopping 76 percent.
And these laws arent even working: more than half of American adults have tried marijuana, and its use is on the rise. Our nations arbitrary efforts to criminalize a substance that is less dangerous than alcohol or cigarettes or fast food, has not only made our country less just, but our communities less safe.
Our broken marijuana laws have perpetuated unequal justice under the law, failed to make us safer, wasted taxpayer dollars and taken precious resources away from investing in our communities.
Thats why I am introducing theMarijuana Justice Act, a bill that would federally legalize marijuana, retroactively apply that policy change to those already serving time behind bars for federal marijuana offenses, and reinvest savings in public safety and community-building. It would also incentivize states to legalize marijuana if people of color and the poor in that state are disproportionately arrested or incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses.
We know from the experiences of states that have already legalized marijuana that we will gain far more than we lose these states have seen increased revenues and decreased rates of serious crime, and a reallocation of resources toward more productive uses. In Colorado, arrest rates have decreased and state revenues have increased. Washington saw 10 percent decrease in violent crime over the three-year period following legalization. Its now time for the federal government to step up to the plate, and to encourage states that have yet to lead, to follow.
TheMarijuana Justice Actis a serious step in acknowledging, that after 40 years, its time to start to end the War on Drugs. Its time to stop our backward thinking, which has only led to backward results. Its time to lead with our hearts, our heads, and with policy that actually works. Its time to legalize marijuana.
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Posted: at 1:43 pm
Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington on July 13.
In a memo circulated in May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed federal prosecutors to seek the maximum penalty possible in every case. He didnt single out any particular crimes for harsh sentencing, indicating that all offensesincluding simple drug possessionshould be punished in the harshest allowable manner. Sessions later defended the decision in a Washington Post opinion piece, arguing that a decline in drug prosecutions under the Obama administration had led to an uptick in violent crime.
Backlash to Sessions announcement was swift. Leaders on both sides of the aisle slammed his decision to revoke discretion in drug sentencing. Thirty current and former prosecutors responded with a scathing open letter expressing deep concern about the new directive. Instead of providing people who commit low-level drug offenses or who are struggling with mental illness with treatment, support and rehabilitation programs, the policy will subject them to decades of incarceration, they wrote. In essence, the Attorney General has reinvigorated the failed war on drugs.
The truth is that the war on drugs never died. Someone is arrested for drug possession every 25 seconds in the U.S. A black person is two-and-a-half times more likely than a white person to be arrested for carrying drugs. This disparity persists in major cities that have committed to marijuana decriminalization or outright legalization, including New York City and Washington, D.C. Sessions argues that such arrests are necessary to curb drug trafficking, but most possession arrests involve people who are using drugs, not selling them.
These arrests wouldnt occur if prosecutors at every level werent prioritizing drug cases. Some district attorneys have promised to pivot away from the tough-on-crime posturing that characterized drug enforcement in the 1990s and swelled prison populations. But those who pledge reform are the exception, not the rule. District attorneys consistently support mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes. The National District Attorneys Association, which acts on behalf of roughly 2,500 local and state prosecutors, vowed to follow Sessions order. The National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys also backed the attorney generals decision and has actively lobbied for harsher sentencing.
The attorney generals directive matters less than the actions of thousands of state and local prosecutors.
The ongoing war on drugs is driven by prosecutors like Leon Cannizzaro, the district attorney in Orleans Parish, Louisiana. The region has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country and treats drug possession cases as felonies. (Mandatory minimum sentences in Louisiana will soon be reduced for people carrying up to 2 grams of certain drugs.) Even though Cannizzaro purports to be a criminal justice reformer, he aggressively enforces the states tough habitual-offender law, which puts people with four felony convictions behind bars for 20 years or more regardless of the offenses. Many prisoners meet this fate because of drug possession. Cannizzaro fought tooth and nail to imprison Bernard Noble for 13 years after he was found carrying the equivalent of two joints of pot, going so far as to appeal a five-year sentence that two judges had approved. He also secured a life sentence for a man who stole $15 after previously being convicted of drug possession and distributiona decision deemed unconscionable on appeal.
Some state and district attorneys remain hellbent on treating marijuana users as criminals. In Maricopa County, Arizona, home of a notoriously overcrowded jail, District Attorney Bill Montgomery is battling medical cannabis use. He once threatened to prosecute a family that had been using medically prescribed marijuana to treat a 5-year-old with chronic seizures. Another time, he told a veteran treating back pain with marijuana: I have no respect for someone who would try to claim that you served this country and took an oath to uphold the Constitution and defend against all enemies foreign and domestic, because youre an enemy. When Montgomery isnt prosecuting recreational marijuana users for possession, he’s making money off them. In lieu of charging first-time pot offenders with felonies, he funnels them into a drug treatment program from which his office has made a profit of $15 million.
Drug prohibition has been reinvigorated by prosecutors and lawmakers who are criminalizing addicts swept up in the countrys growing opioid crisis. Opioid-related deaths rose 246 percent between 2000 and 2015, and drug overdoses now cause more accidental deaths than car crashes. As the number of people overdosing on opioids like fentanyl, oxycodone, and heroin skyrockets, the health community largely views drug treatment as the best way to tackle the problem.
Nevertheless, jails and prisons are teeming with people punished for using opioids. As a result, people are dying from withdrawal behind bars after being refused the medication-assisted therapies and opioids theyve been prescribed to treat their chronic diseases. Moreover, the possibility that users will overdose increases when they are released. These deaths and overdoses could be prevented if prosecutors, who have wide discretion to select cases, didnt charge addicts en masse. Shifting focus to drug treatment also has the potential to save billions of dollars currently spent on opioid users imprisonment. Instead, some state and local prosecutors have ramped up their war against opioids by charging drug dealers with first-degree murder and manslaughter for overdose deaths. Republican and Democratic U.S. senators are also considering legislation to impose draconian penalties for selling synthetic opioids.
The War On Drugs has been going on since the early 70s and has been nothing more than a dismal failure. More…
Under the Obama administration, federal prosecutors began to de-prioritize mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, but marijuana is the only drug for which reform has progressed at the state and local levels. Eight states have legalized marijuana in recent years. Some district attorneys, such as Kim Ogg and Mark Gonzalez in Texas, have also established diversion programs for people caught with small amounts of marijuana in states where its use is still illegal. These programs allow offenders to take drug treatment classes in lieu of getting locked up.
Nevertheless, many district and state attorneys still believe that drugs cause crime, a correlation that ignores research on the relationship between drugs and violence. Ultimately, the attorney generals directive matters less than the actions of thousands of state and local prosecutors. These men and women make the charging decisions that keep the war on drugs alive. It will be up to them to end it once and for all.
Posted: at 1:43 pm
The knock on the door came at 3am: a police officer telling Rose Humphries that a young man had been found dead of aheroin overdose at a house in town.
It was her youngest son Roland, dead at the age of 23.
He had been trying to get off the drug. That morning, a few hours after the police officer left, a letter arrived at the family home stating that Roland had been accepted on a methadone programme to wean him off heroin.
Instead, that afternoon Rose and her husband Jeremy went to the mortuary to identify Rolands body.Even now, she finds the experience too painful to discuss.
Rolands older brother Jake was so overcome by grief thatit drove him back into his ownheroin abuse into more years of wasted, chaotic existence.
But in 2006, Jake went to rehab. He got himself clean, transformed his life, found love and had a baby boy with his partner.
By April 2014, he was close to completing an MA in art psychotherapy, so he could help others overcome their troubles in the way he had.But he had a brief relapse.
While his partnerand 20-month-old son were away from his house in south London, Jake, now 37, took heroin. The lodger found him dead of an accidental overdose the next morning.
This time, Ms Humphries received the news in a phone call from her sons sobbing partner. Again, the details of the conversation remain too painful to discuss.
Ms Humphries, 72, is left to ponder the what ifs.What if the trade in drugs had been legal, controlled and regulated by government instead of exploited by criminal gangs?
What if her son had been able to get prescribed heroin, rather than having to trust the quality and safety of drugs sold by criminals?What if he had been able to go to supervised injection facility instead of taking heroin alone?
Of one thing, though, she is absolutely certain.
Thewar on drugs killed my sons, says Ms Humphries.Definitely. No question about it.
Thats why she is talking now, to call for the legalisation and proper regulation of the drugs trade, on the day that official figures show as Ms Humphries fully expected that substance abuse deaths in England and Wales havehit record levels.
She is determined to tell her story out of hope, and anger.
Roland Humphries, whodied of a heroin overdose aged 23 in 2003
The hope, she says, is that the more often these stories are repeated, and repeated, and repeated, the more it might sink in to people responsible for policy what the reality of the war on drugs is.
There is anger, too, when you write to your MP and you just get the stock answer back from Government, simply saying they are quite sure their drugs policies are working, full stop.
How they think these drug policies are working, I havent the faintest idea. They must be seeing something very different from what we are seeing.
What Ms Humphries sees is two lost sons, grieving friends and family, and a young boy growing up without a father.
It is all very different from what she knows is the clich.
A lot of people, she says matter-of-factly, hear about drug addicts dying and just think of some useless person in a shop doorway, homeless perhaps, a scumbag a lot of people call addicts scumbags.They dont look beyond that.
Perhaps, then, the organisation on whose behalf she advocates, Anyones Child, a network of families affected by substance abuse, has chosen its name well. They are now calling fora legalised, Government-regulated drugs trade.
Because, to those who knew them, Roland and Jake were anything but scumbags.
Jake, the older brother, died during a brief relapse into heroin abuse when he was 37
They were both very intelligent, Ms Humphries recalls.Jake was very mischievous, very loveable.He always had a pencil or a crayon in his hand.His pictures were fantastic, far in advance of his age group.
Roland was the daydreamer, always writing little stories about giants and monsters, very loving.
Nor was home the deprived inner city of clich.
Rose worked as a secretary, her husband as a printer. They lived in a council house in Finstall, just outside Bromsgrove, Worcestershire:Lovely neighbours, a green in front of the house, a great big garden. We were extremely lucky.
But as teenagers do, despite all their parents warnings, the boys rebelled.
Ms Humphries is left to tell her story of missed opportunities of chances to help her boys or divert them from drugs that were all lost, she says, because the war on drugs makes substance abuse a criminal, not a health matter.
It began, she says, with her sons first youthful experimentation with cannabis.
People talk about whether cannabis is a gateway drug, says Ms Humphries.I dont think cannabis itself is a gateway drug at all.I dont think the fact that somebody smokes cannabis will of itself make them want to try heroin.
But at the moment cannabis is a gateway drug because the trade is controlled by criminals, not regulated by the Government.
So taking cannabis delivers people into the hands of criminals who want them to try something harder so they can make more money out of them.
And so it was with her boys.
I dont feel they would ever have got so bad if it hadnt have been for the criminal aspects of the whole thing:if there had been proper, legal regulation, rather than control by criminal cartels.
At first she put Jake and Rolands poor performance at the local comprehensive down to teenage rebellion.
Bu when Jake was in his late teens, a friend knocked on the door of the family home demanding money, suggesting windows would be broken if he wasnt paid. Aged 18, Roland confessed to his mum that he was smoking heroin, while insisting that as long as he didnt inject he could handle it.
She felt physically sick. She pleaded with her sons to stop their drug use.But she didnt call anyone in authority to ask for help.She kept it quiet, and paid off Jakes friend.
I wanted to call the police, but they would have come round asking questions. They might have found about Jake and Rolands involvement in drugs, and then they would have got into trouble.
Would I have gone to get help for both boys if drugs had been legalised? Yes, of course I would.
When Jake was 18, she adds, he was convicted of cannabis possession. He was fined. What is less clear is whether he was helped.
Much later, says Ms Humphries, Jake told me he thought the newspaper report of his case labelled him as a hopeless druggie. He felt it set him more firmly on the downward path.
Both boys drug abuse worsened. They never lost the good sides to their characters, their mother insists, but heroin created darker traits.
They would steal from us. I had to keep my handbag on me at all times, or lock it in the bedroom.Yes, we got a lock for our bedroom door.
Its dreadful, adds Ms Humphries.You feel that nobody else in the whole world has to do this. You wonder whats wrong with you.
Again, instead of getting help to stop their sons illegal drug use, she and her husband felt compelled to suffer in silence.
There is such shame and stigma around it, she says.We lived with this awful problem for years and years.I couldnt bring myself to tell anybody about it.
Sometimes I would go to work wanting to burst into tears, unable to tell anybody what was the matter.If I did say anything about what my sons had been doing, I would say Im afraid they have been drinking. It seemed more socially acceptable.
Eventually Roland did seek help. But six weeks into his wait to be accepted on a methadone programme, in October 2003, Roland was invited round to a friends house for the evening.
He told me he would be back at 10 or 11pm, says Ms Humphries. He never came back.
The heroin in Rolands system combined with the alcohol he had drunk to suppress his breathing.
And, says Ms Humphries, even as the heroin was taking lethal effect, the war on drugs was stopping medical help from getting to Roland in time to save his life.
We now know, she explains, That after one of them noticed that Roland was slumped in the bathroom and his lips were blue, there was a delay before the ambulance was called.
I gather a lot of them were running around like headless chickens for quite a while before someone phoned 999.
The ambulance got there too late.That delay was caused because the people in the house were afraid of the consequences of being involved with somebody who had died from drugs.
I am quite sure there wouldnt have been that hesitation if as it should be it had been regarded as a health issue, not a criminal issue.
Jake, she says, took his brothers death extremely badly, his renewed heroin abuse causing him to drop out of Aberystwyth University.
You would have thought it would be sufficient warning to Jake to never touch drugs again.But he was in pain, and if you have taken heroin, you know how it can take away that pain.
The transformation, though, after he went to rehab and got clean in 2006 was astonishing.
My favourite memory of Jake is of seeing him play with his son. He was fantastic with children, a great father.
Jakes son is now five.
We try to keep Jakes memory alive for him, says Ms Humphries.He doesnt yet really understand why Jake died.
She tries to lead as ordinary a life as possible, she adds. Its only when something catches you unawares music coming from a shop doorway, triggering a memory that your eyes fill with tears.
She sees some encouraging signs.
I was speaking at a conference in Durham the other week, in a room full of police, people from the criminal justice system, and healthcare professionals, and they were unanimous that legal regulation of drugsmust come.
If that happened, and her campaigning played a part in it, she says, her sons deaths would not have been completely in vain:They would be proud of me.
One day, she insists, the politicians will see what she sees.
I think the politicians will listen eventually, she says. I just dont know how long it take or how many deaths.
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Land Of Talk Share Their Astronomical ‘This Time’ Video And Announce The War On Drugs Support Dates – UPROXX
Posted: at 1:43 pm
Based on what weve heard so far, The War On Drugs upcoming album A Deeper Understanding is packed with nostalgic, epic, and classic-leaning rock, so the bands upcoming world tour ought to be something to look forward to. Now theres yet another reason to check out whats sure to be a great show: Canadian indie rock group Land Of Talk just announced that theyll be on the road in support of The War On Drugs for a handful of dates in September. As if that wasnt good enough, Land Of Talk also shared a new video for their song This Time, which comes from their new album Life After Youth.
Director Adam Makarenko says the clip is about a scientists attempt to find answers. He continues:
The first part of the video is live action, but eventually the scientist gets transported out of her bedroom into space. Once she is in space its mostly an environment of miniature sets, handmade planets, and real star backdrops, using a combination of miniature photos and stop motion animation.
As for the song itself, Land Of Talks Elizabeth Powell previously said it came about while helping her father deal with a major stroke (and while dealing with the traumatic event herself, as well as the loss of a lot of recordings thanks to a crashed laptop):
I found that one of the most powerful tools, along with all of his other therapy, was music. And I realized it was also helping me deal with an event as traumatic as that.  After I got home from the hospital after his stroke, I just wrote this chord progression which ended up becoming This Time. And I played it for him and he just got a glint in his eye, he got a really cool faraway look in his eye, and he smiled. And then hes like, This is beautiful; make this, make other people feel this way. You know, he was using his own words, but he was just saying, Please, keep making music again. And I thought that was sweet.
Watch the video for Land Of Talk above. Check out Land Of Talks tour dates below, with starred shows indicating headlining concerts not in support of The War On Drugs.
08/12 Marysville, ON @ Wolfe Island Music Festival* 09/18 Portland, ME @ State Theatre 09/21 Philadelphia, PA @ The Dell 09/22 New York, NY @ SummerStage in Central Park 09/23 Boston, MA @ Blue Hills Pavilion 09/25 Charlotte, NC @ The Fillmore 09/26 Atlanta, GA @ The Tabernacle 09/28 Dallas, TX @ Bomb Factory 09/29 Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall 09/30 Austin, TX @ Stubbs 11/23 Montreal, QC @ Phi Center* 11/24 Ottawa, ON @ Bronson Theatre* 11/25 Toronto, ON @ Great Hall*
Posted: at 1:43 pm
When he was elected president of the Philippines in July 2016, President Rodridgo Duterte promised to negotiate peace agreements with the major insurgent groups that have destabilised much of the country for decades.
His government announced it would commence peace talks with the representatives of the National Democratic Front, the umbrella organisation that represents both the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New Peoples Army. Duterte also committed himself to a peace agreement with the Philippines largest insurgent group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
At the time, these seemed like breakthroughs in the making. But the early optimism has dissolved, and the peace talks have stalled. While the government does seem genuinely willing to negotiate, the president seems to be been prioritising another one of his election campaign promises: eradicating crime and drugs.
This notorious war on drugs has been extraordinarily bloody, and criticised by human rights organisations and foreign governments alike. Nonetheless, it is supported by a majority of the population.
The popular narrative of the effects of drugs in particular, shabu, or methamphetamine seems to be exaggerated. Shabu use, urban legend says, results in not just theft and robbery, but paedophilia and arson; horror stories abound of addicts slaughtering entire families. The president himself has been quoted likening shabu addicts to the living walking dead of no use to society anymore.
This rhetoric normalises a culture of impunity for the police and vigilantes, many of whom resort to extreme violence. Many innocent people have been targeted, both intentionally and unintentionally; journalists, police, politicians and other critics have been threatened, intimidated, fired or arrested for alleged links with drugs. Yet during my own research, many Filipinos told me they feel safer and that crime seems to have gone down.
The war on drugs may seem distinct from longer-running security issues, but it isnt. The crackdown is contributing to a culture of unchecked violence, which is increasingly accepted as a necessary measure. If this normalisation continues, lasting peace will never be achieved.
For all its conciliatory talk, the government is still using tough tactics to deal with violent insurgents. So far, they have not paid off.
In May 2017, the military launched an operation to apprehend Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group, a faction of bandits designated as a terrorist organisation. But when the army swooped in, Hapilon was protected by scores of armed men who quickly took strategic positions throughout Marawi City. Instead of capturing Hapilon, the military raid seemed to kick-start the groups unanticipated plan to seize the city.
Duterte was on a state visit to Russia at the time. The operation unravelled, and martial law was declared not just in Marawi, but on the entire island of Mindanao. The government has claimed it had intelligence about the groups plans, but has issued contradictory statements on the rationale behind the siege, citing both jihadism and the drug trade.
Reports state that a few hundred jihadists managed to hold onto several neighbourhoods in defiance of government troops; they held off the military with improvised explosive devices, a sophisticated network of underground tunnels, and snipers placed in strategic locations across the city. This is a remarkable change in tactics for the Philippines insurgents, and clearly echoes recent urban battles in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
The ongoing Marawi City crisis has scotched the governments ceasefire with the New Peoples Army. The deal was ultimately breached by both sides; in response, the Communist Partys central command ordered increased operations in other parts of the country.
This decision is partly grounded in history. Communists still harbour bitter memories of the last period of martial law, imposed by dictator Ferdinand Marcos. True, the post-Marcos 1987 Constitution has more checks and balances in place than its predecessor, but martial law in Mindanao has already been extended to December 31, and may yet be extended to the entire country.
But outside the insurgent movements, many Filipinos see martial law as a necessary means with which to solve various problems in Mindanao. Aside from the insurgency, the region is home to many powerful families and clans with private armies and large weapon caches something exemplified in the Marawi Crisis, where small groups of terrorists enjoy access to remarkably advanced weapons.
The problem is that martial law has hardly been a storming success. The governments airstrikes have caused both civilian casualties and immense material destruction. The armed forces have attempted to secure the area around Marawi City, but it seems likely that Hapilon and the Maute leadership have escaped. Nor has the army managed to prevent new fighters from entering Marawi City; on the contrary, the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf seem to have no problem recruiting ever more members.
Other groups are having problems, too. The Moro Islamic Liberation Fronts leadership has expressed concerns over its lack of control over the younger generation; the disconnect between what the Communist Party leadership says and what the New Peoples Army is actually doing could mean that the Communists have lost control of their armed affiliate.
The success of any peace process is measured not only by what agreement ultimately gets signed. What will matter is whether it can be implemented, and the extent to which it addresses both the roots and consequences of the conflict. Only then will any further violence be avoided, and permanently. The prospect of any such peace in the Philippines remains slim. To quote Duterte himself, There will be no peace for a generation.