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The Radicals Were Always Right: Now Is the Time to Decriminalize All Drugs

Marijuana legalization advocates and members of community groups attend a rally in front of One Police Plaza on June 13, 2012 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

Marijuana legalization advocates and members of community groups attend a rally in front of One Police Plaza on June 13, 2012, in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

Treating drug users as whole people with human rights rather than as criminals used to be considered a radical act but that is changing. Mass incarceration and a far-reaching opioid crisis are forcing even former anti-drug crusaders to consider tackling addition as a health issue rather than a criminal one.

Marijuana legalization advocates and members of community groups attend a rally in front of One Police Plaza on June 13, 2012 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt / Getty Images)Marijuana legalization advocates and members of community groups attend a rally in front of One Police Plaza on June 13, 2012, in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

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The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids recently startled me with a blog post titled, “Why You Shouldn’t Use the Word Addict.” Drug addiction is a disease, the blog explains. People shouldn’t be defined by having an illness, so it’s better to use first-person language and say “someone with diabetes” rather than “diabetic.” The same should go for the word “addict.”

In other words, the ad was saying, we shouldn’t stigmatize people living with addiction by identifying them based on one condition with which they struggle. I was startled by the blog because stigmatizing drugs and drug users is exactly what the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids …read more

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Rallying Cry: Youth Must Stand Up to Defend Democracy

A young activist speaks at a rally protesting recent school closings in Chicago, Illinois, May 30, 2013. (Photo: Sarah Ji)

The social contract is shrinking: war has become normalized, environmental protections are being dismantled, fear has become the new national anthem, and more and more people, especially young people, are being written out of democracy’s script. Yet around world, the spirit of resistance on the part of young people is coming alive once again as they reject growing racism, Islamaphobia, militarism and authoritarianism.

A young activist speaks at a rally protesting school closings in Chicago, Illinois, May 30, 2013. (Photo: Sarah Ji)

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According to famed anthropologist Arjun Appadurai, the central question of our times is whether we’re witnessing the worldwide rejection of liberal democracy and its replacement by some sort of populist authoritarianism.

There’s no doubt that democracy is under siege in several countries, including the United States, Turkey, the Philippines, India and Russia. Yet what’s often overlooked in analyses of the state of global democracy is the importance of education. Education is necessary to respond to the formative and often poisonous cultures that have given rise to the right-wing populism that’s feeding authoritarian ideologies across the globe.

Henry A. Giroux delivered this commencement speech upon receiving an honorary doctorate at the University of West Scotland in early July.

Under neo-liberal capitalism, education and the way that we teach our youth has become central to politics. Our current system has encouraged a culture of self-absorption, consumerism, privatization and commodification. Civic culture has been badly undermined while any viable notion of shared citizenship has been replaced by commodified and commercial relations. What this suggests is that important …read more

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Big Tobacco and Right-Wing US Billionaires Funding Anti-Regulation Hardliners in the EU

Since the start of this year, two curious new groups have set up shop in Brussels: the Consumer Choice Center and an EU branch of the Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (Forest EU).

They claim to represent consumers, but a closer look shows no links to those they allege to speak for. At the same time, they seem to be exclusively funded by corporations like Japan Tobacco International and right-wing billionaires such as controversial US plutocrats the Koch Brothers. Both groups add their voices to a network of corporate-funded organisations aggressively pushing for de-regulation in the EU.

This does make it look like the Consumer Choice Center and Forest EU represent their funders’ rather than consumer interests.

Here we take a look at the groups in more detail to see if they are indeed lobby outfits pushing a corporate agenda.

“Consumer Choice” Organization Speaking Up for Industry?

In March 2017, a new consumer rights organisation announced, with much fanfare, that it was setting up shop in Brussels. The Consumer Choice Center (CCC) was first featured in Politico’s publication for EU insiders, Brussels Influence, which presented them as “a grassroots-led movement” aiming to “mobilize millennials against what its founders argue is the overburdensome regulation that limits choice.”

An intriguing message, especially coming from a completely unknown organisation. So, what is the CCC? The group’s website states that it “represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe” and that it monitors regulatory trends in Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other “hotspots of regulation.” Its professed mission is to “inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice.” But details about what this entails are sparse.

Still, the CCC’s entry in the EU’s lobby register does provide some further information. As it registered as a not-for-profit organisation, the …read more

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Republicans Are Right: Going to College Hurts

Going to college is a good thing, right? That’s at least what I was told as a kid, and what led me to get a college degree. I was the first one in my family to do so.

Yet new public opinion polling shows most Republicans think colleges have a negative impact on the country. Unfortunately, they might be right — but not for the reasons you might expect them to give.

Attending college has been proven to unlock opportunities. A report by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities found that college graduates are 24 percent more likely to be employed than high school graduates — and earn $1 million more over a lifetime.

Those with college degrees are also more than twice as likely to volunteer, and over three times more likely to give back to charity.

College educations also affect the way people vote. Three-quarters of bachelor’s degree holders vote in presidential elections, compared to just over half of high school graduates.

So why might some view college negatively? Well, there’s a lot of reasons — 1.3 trillion, to be precise. That’s how much debt students, current and former, are carrying in this country: $1.3 trillion worth, and rising.

Who’s hit worst by this skyrocketing debt? Women, who owe two-thirds of that amount — and especially black and Latina women.

A recent report from the American Association of University Women found that the average woman who graduated from a four-year university between in 2012 carried $21,000 in college debt. That’s about $1,500 more than the average man. Black women are even more negatively impacted, averaging over $29,000 in student loans.

Worse still, women are paid about 80 cents to every dollar a man …read more

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In Chicago and Beyond, Bail Reformers Win Big in Fight to End Money Bail

Chicago is poised to stop incarcerating people just because they can't pay their way out. (Photo: Marilyn Nieves / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Cook County, which includes Chicago, is poised to become the largest jurisdiction in the country to stop incarcerating people pretrial just because they cannot pay bail. The victory is the result of a sustained campaign by activists to end the incarceration of people for poverty. This movement is making its way across the nation.

Chicago is poised to stop incarcerating people just because they can’t pay their way out. (Photo: Marilyn Nieves / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

As of July 17, 2017, Cook County, which includes Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, is poised to become the largest jurisdiction in the country to stop incarcerating people pretrial, solely because they cannot post money bail. Thanks in large part to a sustained push by activists over the past several years, the Cook County Circuit Court’s Chief Judge has announced a new order that instructs judges making bail decisions to impose monetary bail only in amounts that people can pay. If judges follow the order, it could lead to the end of money bail in Cook County, setting a historic precedent on an issue that impacts hundreds of thousands of people around the country.

Right now, more than 4,000 people are incarcerated in Chicago’s Cook County Jail because they cannot post monetary bail. They have been granted release by a judge, but remain in cages because they cannot pay a certain amount of money to secure their freedom. This is the pretrial justice system wrought by money bail, and it is mirrored across the country: 443,000 people are incarcerated before trial in the US, 90 percent of them because they cannot afford to post a monetary bail. In fact, there are more people in US jails pretrial than there are …read more

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What Is Behind the Renegotiation of NAFTA? Trumpism and the New Global Economy

 President Donald Trump leaves the stage following a rally on June 21, 2017 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Photo: Scott Olson / Getty Images)

President Trump leaves the stage following a rally on June 21, 2017, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Photo: Scott Olson / Getty Images)

Contrary to Trump’s public statements, the likely reason behind his push for a new NAFTA is to expand globalization by breaking down national barriers to digital trade, which did not exist in 1994 but is now at the cutting-edge of the global economy. Labor regulations, intellectual property rights and regulatory practices would all be up for renegotiation under a new NAFTA.

 President Donald Trump leaves the stage following a rally on June 21, 2017 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Photo: Scott Olson / Getty Images) President Trump leaves the stage following a rally on June 21, 2017, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Photo: Scott Olson / Getty Images)

The Trump administration’s decision to renegotiate with Mexico the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been interpreted by most observers as the opening salvos of a new wave of US protectionism. But Trump’s public discourse should not be confused with the essence of his government’s economic program and likely trade policies. A better explanation for the renegotiation, which may begin as early as mid-August, is to be sought in the transformation of the US and the global economy in the years since NAFTA went into effect in 1994.

The North American economic region is part of a globally integrated production and financial system. Even if they were so motivated, US political and economic elites could not, without utterly disrupting and destabilizing the country, disentangle the United States (or the North American region) from the vast network of chains of subcontracting and outsourcing that characterize the global economy. Trump and his …read more

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Ohio Politician Pushes “Let Them Die” Proposal in Response to Opioid Overdoses

Let them die.

That’s Middletown, Ohio, City Council member Dan Picard’s barbaric “solution” for the opioid epidemic ravaging his town and much of the rest of the country.

In June, Picard floated the idea of a “three strikes” policy for those suffering from overdoses. Paramedics would be authorized to use naloxone — the generic version of the brand-name drug Narcan, and the main drug used in overdose emergencies — in the first two cases of overdose. But if a person suffers a third overdose, they would be denied treatment — and left to die.

The reason? Picard cited a report saying that the cost of paramedics responding to each overdose and administering naloxone is $1,104.

Middletown is one of the communities, especially located in the Midwestern “Rust Belt,” in the midst of an opioid crisis that is resulting in a spike of overdoses and deaths. According to a Washington Post report in late June:

So far in 2017, Middletown paramedics have made 598 overdose runs, a 300 percent increase from this point last year. The city has spent more than $2 million responding to overdoses, nearly 10 percent of what it collects annually in tax revenue, said Picard, who has been a council member for nearly eight years but won’t be running for election when his term ends this year.

“It’s not a proposal to solve the drug problem,” Picard later tried to explain to the Post. “My proposal is in regard to the financial survivability of our city. If we’re spending $2 million this year and $4 million next year and $6 million after that, we’re in trouble. We’re going to have to start laying off. We’re going to have to raise taxes.”

Apparently, keeping taxes down comes before the saving lives of the residents who pay them.

There’s no doubt that the …read more

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It’s Time to Talk (Again) About Sewage Sludge on Farmland

The “land application” of sewage sludge has been promoted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) since 1993 as the preferred method for the disposal of this by-product of municipal wastewater treatment. Millions of tons of hazardous sewage sludge have subsequently been spread on farmland and public parks in the United States. Sometimes it is bagged and sold as “organic” fertilizer and compost in garden supply stores. No matter how it is processed or how slick it is marketed as a fertilizer or soil amendment, putting sewage sludge on land is a health and environmental disaster.

Has sewage sludge caused any farm damage? Once the sludge leaves the wastewater treatment plant, it is not tracked; there’s no national system for reporting sludge-related health or environmental problems; and farmers are not known for having deep pockets, which is what it would take to bring the issue of damages to US courts.

Nevertheless, in February 2008, the McElmurrays, dairy farmers from Georgia, received an order and judgment issued by Federal Judge Anthony Alaimo of the 11th Circuit Court. The order addresses and confirms that there have been decades of deceit by the EPA and finds against the USDA and the EPA. The court acknowledges that the sludge applications on the McElmurrays’ farm were responsible for killing hundreds of dairy cattle and contaminating the milk supplies in several states. This case allowed subsidies previously only awarded for crop failures due to bad weather or natural disasters to include the injurious affects of land applied sewage sludge. In his ruling, Judge Alaimo said, “senior EPA officials took extraordinary steps to quash scientific dissent and any questioning of EPA’s biosolids program.” (United States District Court Southern District of Georgia, McElmurray v. US Department of Agriculture, Case 1:05-cv-00159-AAA-WLB Document 67, …read more

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The Biotech Industry Is Taking Over the Regulation of GMOs From the Inside

The British non-profit GMWatch recently revealed the agribusiness takeover of Conabia, the National Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology of Argentina. Conabia is the GMO assessment body of Argentina. According to GMWatch, 26 of 34 its members were either agribusiness company employees or had major conflicts of interest.*

Packing a regulatory agency with conflicted individuals is one way to ensure speedy GMO approvals and Conabia has certainly delivered that. A much more subtle, but ultimately more powerful, way is to bake approval into the structure of the GMO assessment process itself. It is easier than you might think.

I recently attended the latest international conference of GMO regulators, called ISBGMO14, held in Guadalajara, Mexico (June 4-8, 2017). ISBGMO is run by the International Society for Biosafety Research (ISBR). When I first went to this biennial series of conferences, in 2007, just one presentation in the whole four days was by a company. ISBR had some aspirations towards scientific independence from agribusiness.

I went for a second time in 2011, to the ISBGMO held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Company researchers and executives were frequent speakers and the conference had become an opportunity for agribusiness to present talking points and regulatory initiatives as if they had the blessing of science. This year, in Guadalajara, companies were now on the conference organising committee and even conferring conference travel scholarships from the podium. A former conference organiser and ISBR board member told me that the previous ISBGMO (St. Louis, USA, in 2015) had been almost entirely paid for by Monsanto.

Spreading the Industry Message

In Guadalajara, industry speakers were clearly working from a scripted list. That list translates as the key regulatory objectives of the biotech industry.

Prominent on that list was “data transportability.” Data transportability is the idea that regulators …read more

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