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In what federal officials described as the largest human-trafficking case ever brought by the government, Mordechai Orian, president and chief operating officer of Global Horizons, was indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for "engaging in a conspiracy to commit forced labor and document servitude."

The alleged victims of the Los Angeles-based labor recruiter are some 400 Thai citizens who were brought to work on farms in the U.S. between May 2004 through September 2005. They were hired under H-2A visas which allow farm workers into the country for seasonal work.


In late 2006, after CorpWatch published an article and a cartoon about the recruitment and abuse of Thai farm workers, Orian sued the non-profit. Orian stated that our reporter, Kari Lydersen was "part of (a) campaign against the H-2A program and [was trying] to protect illegal immigrant and the legal groups who stand to profit from the representation of illegal aliens." CorpWatch refused to retract the article or the cartoon but the two parties came to an out-of-court settlement in April 2007 to correct a few disputed facts in the story. No money was paid by either side.

Orian, himself an immigrant from Israel, was formally charged on September 1st along with five others -- Pranee Tubchumpol, Shane Germann and Sam Wongsesanit of Global Horizons Manpower Inc. as well as Thai labor recruiters Ratawan Chunharutai and Podjanee Sinchai. Federal agents raided Orian's Malibu home at dawn the next day only to discover that he was in Texas.

On September 2nd, Orian "deceived and evaded federal FBI agents for approximately 24 hours by providing sporadic, misleading, and conflicting information concerning his location, willingness to surrender in Dallas, and failing to report," government lawyers stated in documents filed with the federal court. They further charged that Orian "flew to Hawaii on another flight to avoid contact with federal agents at the airport."

Today Orian is sitting in a Honolulu jail awaiting Judge Leslie Kobayashi's decision on a government request to deny Orian's release on $1 million bail secured on his exclusive West Moonshadows Drive home in Malibu. Susan Cushman, assistant U.S. Attorney for Hawaii, has filed documents stating that Orian is a flight risk, noting that he had used 26 different aliases and four different Social Security numbers in the past. "The Pretrial Services' report found the defendant posed a risk of danger to the community because of the nature of the offense and similar allegations in Israel and Canada," wrote Cushman.

Multiple Court Cases

Cushman's request to keep Orian locked up until trial also described numerous violations of the law, according to a filing delivered to the Honolulu court on September 9.

The documents show that in 2000, Orian attempted to enter the U.S. from Mexico even though his visa had been revoked "based on false representations the Defendant made about his employment in Israel and the United States."

Cushman provided the court with a copy of a 2003 report, "Migrant Workers in Israel -- A Contemporary Form of Slavery," published the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network and the International Federation for Human Rights. It states that Orian took $3,000 from each of 19 Chinese workers for the "privilege" of working in Israel for two years.

"By the end of February Mr. Orian owed each of the workers between 2-3 months wages," the report concluded. "Instead of paying the workers, he sent ten armed guards to surprise the workers in their sleep, beat them and drive them to the airport, where they were forcibly deported."

In another document filed by Cushman, U.S. Department of Labor Judge William Dorsey concluded on November 30, 2006, that Global Horizons Manpower, Inc. had "willfully and fraudulently represented it had contracts with Taft Farms" [in Bakersfield, California] to obtain visas for more than 200 workers between August 1, 2003 and April 30, 2004 under the H-2A program. The non-immigrant visas, granted to more than 50,000 temporary farm laborers in 2007, are a mainstay -- along with undocumented labor -- of the U.S. agricultural system.

Dorsey found that the company had neither a contract nor jobs for the 200 workers. Unable to find them paid employment, Global Horizons fired the workers "for poor performance, when in fact, they were terminated for lack of work," Dorsey wrote in his final decision. He ordered that Orian be barred for three years from bringing guest workers into the U.S.

On September 7, 2007, Philipda Modrakee, a U.S. Department of Labor investigator, filed a report on 156 Global Horizons workers employed at the Maui Pineapple Farm in Hawaii. Modrakee estimated that Global Horizons owed $459,256 in fines for failure to pay wages at the minimum rate and on time, for illegally deducting money from the workers' pay checks for housing, and for failing to provide them with transportation to their work sites.

Immigration attorney Melissa Vincenty of Honolulu, who is representing 80 clients with claims against Global Horizon, told the Maui News last week that the company had confiscated the workers' passports and visas. "It is called document servitude," Vincenty told the newspaper, noting that passports are required for travel between the islands that make up the state of Hawaii.

Orian bought a twin-engine aircraft for inter-island transport of the Thai workers, thereby avoiding the necessity of presenting identification/passport to government officials, according to the documents filed before the court. Cushman noted that the airplane was recently seized as evidence.

Orian has drawn legal scrutiny in other states and nations. On July 2, 2008, Judge James Hutton in the Eastern District Court, ordered Orian to appear before his court in Spokane, Washington to explain why Global Horizons had failed to pay multiple court fines running into thousands of dollars. At the hearing Orian testified that the company was insolvent, although the court found that seven employees, including Orian, were still being paid salaries.

On July 29, 2009, immigration judge Christine Bither ordered Orian, who is an Israeli citizen, deported from the U.S. for falsely claiming five times to be a U.S. citizen when signing documents to hire farm workers under the H-2A visa program.
Finally, Cushman provided the court with a March 26, 2010 ruling by Judge John Madden IV in Denver, Colorado, ordering Global Horizons to pay a Nepali man named Rajan Gurung $108,257 to settle a dispute over the hiring of 24 workers from Nepal. In 2008, Gurung said he paid Global Horizons Canada $72,000 to arrange work visas for the 24 people in Canada, but that the company was unable to produce any evidence that it had actually applied for the visas.

Instead, Orian appeared before the court and claimed that he had not applied for the visas because all the workers had the same last name, Gurung, which indicated a potential violation of Canadian immigration law that does not allow family members to be employed in temporary jobs. (Gurung is one of the most common family names in Nepal.) Madden found Orian's claim to be without merit and ordered him to repay Gurung with interest as well as pay his court costs.

Responding to the Government

It was against this history of questionable dealings that Orian's attorney Mark Werksman, asked for his client to be released on bail. Werksman's September 10 filing presented a series of arguments and documents to prove that his client was not a flight risk.

For example, Werksman says that the 2009 deportation order was being appealed and that his client, "a busy business owner" had inadvertently checked boxes claiming to be a citizen. Werksman also noted that since Orian was "vigorously" contesting the deportation order, he was not a flight risk. Rather, he had a "desperate yearning to remain in the United States."

The 26 alleged aliases (such as O'Ryan and Moty) were "insignificant misspellings or typographical errors," Werksman said,

"The government appears to be asking the court to detain Mr. Orian because it thinks he is a bad employer and a chronic lawbreaker and deserves to be punished," wrote Werksman. "There is no evidence of this outside of the government's cherry-picked examples of adverse administrative rulings." And the government's immigration and labor bureaucracies are bound to have "disagreements, legal snafus and paperwork hassles."

Orian never intended to deceive the FBI, but simply took a lower-priced flight to Hawaii Werksman says. "What Mr. Orian did not know, is that the FBI intended to make a high-profile arrest at the airport," he charges in the court documents.

This claim is backed up by Kara Lujan, a public relations executive who represents musicians including soul artist Kelly Price and the rhythm & blues band "Heads of State" who told CorpWatch that she negotiated Orian's "surrender with the FBI agent Tom Simon."

"He is not a flight risk, he is not a danger to society," Lujan told Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper. "He pleaded not guilty on Friday, denying the charges. He never threatened Thai workers, never took their passports, and there is no evidence of that."

Werksman also submitted documents from Orian's friends. Lisa Machenberg, who lists herself as a certified hypotherapist, says that her son went to the same pre-school as Orian's son Dillon, and that she believes that Orian is a "fair and good man."

Thai Workers Stand Up

But while Cushman and Werksman were filing competing documents in Honolulu, some of Orian's former employees were playing out a parallel drama in Los Angeles.

There, on September 8, in front of the Wat Thai Buddhist temple some 25 Thai farm workers lined up wearing sunglasses, baseball caps, and traditional Thai scarves to disguise themselves for fear of retaliation, they said. One-by-one they told media assembled at a press conference organized by the Thai Community Development Center about their treatment at the hands of Global Horizons.

One 42-year-old man told reporters that recruiters promised him a fulltime job for $1,000 a month -- ten times more than he made as a rice farmer. The recruiters told that him that Global Horizons could find him work picking apples in Washington and pineapples in Hawaii. Lee, a pseudonym, arrived in Seattle on July 4, 2004 to discover that he would have to pay $18,000 to the recruiters.

"I thought I would find freedom and jobs here," Lee said at the news conference. "I thought the United States was a civilized nation, the highest in the world. I never imagined this kind of thing could happen here."

Like the Thai workers that CorpWatch reported on in
our 2006 article who were housed in trailers and crowded motel rooms, Lee says he was housed in a wooden shack. Lee says he was also threatened with violence and deportation if he tried to escape or to speak to any outsiders. In September 2005, Lee says he escaped one night by running through pineapple fields.

Lee's story was confirmed by Chanchanit Martorell, Executive Director of the Thai Community Development Center. Martorell and her staff say they have interviewed more than 200 farmworkers and filed civil charges against Global Horizons. She noted that some of the farm workers were so badly treated that they had to survive on eating leaves from plants or fish they caught in a nearby river.

Damrong Kraikruan, the consul general of Thailand in Los Angeles, told the Los Angeles Times newspaper that Thailand had revoked Global Horizons' license to work there in 2005, and convicted one of the firm's Thai associates of operating a job procurement business without a license.

Jorge Guzman, of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also appeared at the Thai Community Development Center news conference to praise the organization for raising awareness about the problem. "Awareness is crucial to making this shameful practice a thing of the past," Guzman said, urging the public to report any suspicions about human trafficking.

The FBI says it is taking the Global Horizons case very seriously. "In the old days, they used to keep slaves in their place with whips and chains," FBI Special Agent Tom Simon told the Beverly Hills Courier. "Today, it is done with economic threats and intimidation."

* This article was produced in partnership with Inter Press Service News Agency. Pratap Chatterjee may be reached at “pchatterjee (at) igc.org.”

Source: corpwatch.org

 
By Admin (from 27/09/2010 @ 14:38:11, in en - Global Observatory, read 1229 times)

President Barack Obama's administration has invoked the state secret privilege to avoid a lawsuit on behalf of Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, whose father charges the US government of targeting him for assassination.

Nasser al-Awlaki last month asked two civil rights groups to sue the White House and the Central Intelligence Agency for placing his son on a list of people targeted for killing.

The younger Awlaki is considered a dangerous terrorist by the US government and is currently believed to be hiding in Yemen.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed the court action seeking to force the US government to say how it decides to target US citizens for murder far from any armed conflict without due process.

The lawsuit names Obama, CIA director Leon Panetta and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and seeks an order to "prohibit the government from carrying out targeted killings outside of armed conflict."

Panetta filed a declaration Friday before a federal court in Washington "to formally assert and claim the state secrets privilege... to protect intelligence sources, methods and activities" that may be implicated in the Awlaki case.

"It is my belief that... this case cannot be litigated without risking or requiring the disclosure of classified and privileged intelligence information that must not be disclosed," wrote Panetta.

The ACLU and CCR, in an email to AFP Saturday slammed Panetta's reasoning.

"The idea that courts should have no role whatsoever in determining the criteria by which the executive branch can kill its own citizens is unacceptable in a democracy.

"In matters of life and death, no executive should have a blank check."

Born in the southwestern US state of New Mexico, Awlaki, 39, rose to prominence last year after he was linked a US army major who shot dead 13 people in Fort Hood, Texas, and to a Nigerian student accused of trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight on December 25.

In April, a US official said the Obama administration had authorized the targeted killing of Awlaki, after American intelligence agencies concluded the Muslim cleric was directly involved in anti-US plots.

In July, the US government said Awlaki was a key leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, placing him on its list of terrorism supporters, freezing his financial assets and banning any transactions with him.

Source: michaelmoore.com

 

Romania’s Interior Minister resigned as protests over pay cuts for public employees test Prime Minister Emil Boc’s will to continue austerity measures in the face of efforts to topple his Cabinet.

As many as 10,000 state employees are expected to take to the streets tomorrow and all public worker unions are in talks over calling a general strike. The government reduced wages for civil servants by 25 percent to narrow the budget deficit and comply with terms of an International Monetary Fund-led bailout.

The opposition Social Democrats and Liberals say they will try to oust the government in the second half of October as the IMF forecasts the economy will shrink 1.9 percent this year, extending Romania’s worst recession since the end of communism. Boc’s coalition, with 258 seats in the 471-member parliament, survived a June no-confidence vote by eight votes.

“The current government is really close to losing its majority, and this is the beginning of the end,” said Adrian Moraru, an analyst at the Institute for Public Policies in Bucharest, in a phone interview. “It’s a difficult situation because it seems a new political crisis is emerging on top of the current economic crisis.”

Minister Resigns

Vasile Blaga quit today as Interior Minister after police officers who report to his ministry staged an illegal demonstration on Sept. 24 and will be replaced by Traian Igas, 42, a senator and head of the ruling Liberal Democrats’ group in the Senate. President Traian Basescu later signed off on the nomination.

Romania, which joined the European Union in 2007, is relying on 20 billion euros ($27 billion) of loans from the IMF, European Union and others to fuel an economic recovery.

To qualify for the loans, Boc’s government has cut state wages, increased the value-added tax by 5 points to 24 percent and boosted the retirement age for men and women to 65. The Cabinet has also announced plans to eliminate 74,000 jobs.

The police strike was condemned by Boc and Basescu, who both gave up their police security escorts for what they called an “unauthorized” protest.

‘Honor’ Resignation

“This is a resignation of honor,” Blaga said today at a news conference in Bucharest. “Police have the right to protest just like any other citizen, but they have to do it legally. They and all the other workers from the Interior Ministry have to understand that they are as important as doctors and teachers, so they can’t make an exception.”

Anger over the government’s program has boosted support for the opposition.

La instalarea lui Igaș, Băsescu l-a lăudat pe Blaga pentru „gest” și i-a certat pe polițiști: „N-aveți nicio scuză și nicio scăpare până nu-mi prezentați raportul în CSAT” Foto: Publimedia//Octav Ganea

La instalarea lui Igas, Bãsescu l-a lãudat pe Blaga pentru „gest” si i-a certat pe politisti: „N-aveti nicio scuzã si nicio scãpare pânã nu-mi prezentati raportul în CSAT” Foto: Publimedia//Octav Ganea

The Social Democrats were supported by 37.1 percent of voters, compared with 14.6 percent for Boc’s Liberal Democrats in a survey of 1,093 people conducted Sept. 9-13 by GSS 2000. The poll, commissioned by the opposition Liberals, had a margin of error of 3 percent.

“If the unions manage to get many people out into the streets this may create pressure on government lawmakers,” said Cristian Parvulescu, a political analyst at Asociatia Pro Democratia, a Bucharest-based group that promotes democracy. Boc’s Liberal Democrat party includes “former union leaders who may feel extra pressure to vote against the government.”

Raffaella Tenconi, an economist at Bank of America/Merrill Lynch in London, said she expects Boc’s government will survive the confidence vote, though further fiscal consolidation will be “very challenging” given the depth of the recession.

“We are not surprised to see growing popular discontent given the recently announced austerity measures,” she said. “We expect this trend to continue in coming months, accentuating the low popular support for the ruling party PDL.”

European Discontent

Workers across eastern Europe are taking to the streets to protest budget cuts after the global financial crisis slashed tax revenue and investment flows. The EU is demanding that all of its members bring their budget deficits in line with the bloc’s limit of 3 percent of GDP after Greece’s ballooning debt undermined confidence in the euro.

Tens of thousands Czech firemen, policemen and other state workers rallied Sept. 21 in Prague to protest planned wage cuts, while Slovak unions plan demonstrations against proposed tax increases. Slovenian civil servants went on strike today to protest plans to cut or freeze their salaries. Some 80,000 workers, or half the public workforce joined the strike, according to the Ljubljana-based newspaper Delo.

“It’s an experience from all over Europe that austerity measures, which very often include budget cuts, are leading to similar demonstrations,” Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas said at the rally against his government’s plans. The moves “are quite naturally unpopular.”

‘Delicate Situation’

The decline of Romania’s economy, which contracted a 7.1 percent last year, slowed in the second quarter as demand for goods such as cars, chemicals, steel and textiles increased in western Europe. GDP shrank 0.5 percent from a year earlier, after a 2.6 percent decline in the previous three months, according to the National Statistics Institute in Bucharest.

Parliament approved Boc’s government in December, ending a stalemate that had left Romania without leadership for more than two months and delayed payments from international lenders. Boc replaced six members of his Cabinet, including the finance and economy ministers, on Sept. 2 in an effort to shore up support for his program in the face of increasing protests.

Romania’s political squabbles have helped weaken the country’s currency. The leu has dropped 1 percent against the euro during the past 12 months, the second-worst performance among 25 emerging-market currencies tracked by Bloomberg. The Romanian leu weakened 0.1 percent to 4.2465 per euro as of 4:23 p.m. in Bucharest, while the Bucharest Stock Exchange’s benchmark BET index rose 1.3 percent to 5,279.64.

“Boc’s Cabinet is already facing an extremely delicate situation, and it will lead a hard life if it survives the planned confidence motion,” said Alexandru Cumpanasu, political analyst and deputy head of the Association for Implementing Democracy, in a phone interview. “If we see more protests on a bigger scale in October, then the pressure on lawmakers to vote for the motion will be huge.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Irina Savu in Bucharest at isavu at bloomberg.net; Andra Timu in Bucharest at atimu at bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez in Prague at jagomez at bloomberg.net

Source: bloomberg.com

 

More than half of Californians now say that they will vote ‘yes’ this November on Proposition 19, which would legalize the private adult use and cultivation of limited amounts of cannabis, and allow local governments the option of regulating its commercial production and retail distribution.

The latest poll of 2,004 likely voters throughout the state by the Public Policy Institute of California reports that 52 percent of Californians back Prop. 19, versus 41 percent opposed and seven percent undecided.

Of the statewide propositions polled, only Prop. 19 possessed majority support among California voters. In fact, the same poll reports that a greater percentage of voters now back Prop. 19 than support incumbent Democrat Senators Barbara Boxer (42%) and Dianne Feinstein (44%), Senate Republican challenger Carly Fiorina (35%), Gubernatorial Democrat candidate Jerry Brown (37%) or Gubernatorial Republican candidate Meg Whitman (38%).

Historically, ballot initiative campaigns lose support in the months prior to election day. But Prop. 19 is bucking this trend, as recent results from the Field Poll, Survey USA, and polltracker.com clearly show that marijuana legalization is maintaining, and in some cases gaining, voter support as we approach November 2, 2010.

Proposition 19 is endorsed by a broad coalition of divergent and powerful interest groups, including the California NAACP; the Latino Voters League; the Service Employees International Union (SEIU); the National Black Police Association; the United Food and Commercial Workers, (UFCW) Western States Council; the California Council of Churches IMPACT; Firedog Lake; the California Green Party; and the Republican Liberty Caucus. These organizations, along with millions of Californians, agree that it is time to end criminal marijuana prohibition in California.

If you live in California but are not registered to vote, you can do so by going here. Help make history on November 2!

Source: alternet.org ; Author: Paul Armentano

 
By Admin (from 06/10/2010 @ 14:15:07, in en - Global Observatory, read 1795 times)

- The following video was broadcast by Romanian television channel Antena 3 on September 18, 2010 and is an excerpt from the official recording of September 15, 2010 session of the Romanian Chamber of Deputies (posted on www.cdep.ro).

- It clearly shows that the ruling party -- the Democratic-Liberal Party (PD-L), member of the European Popular Party - committed a huge and blatant fraud while voting a new law of pension reform:

After the opposition parties left the room, in protest of how the voting was carried out, Mrs. Roberta Anastase, the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, continued the vote, although in the room there were 76 deputies, which is far from the required quorum to pass an organic law (168 votes in favor).

- Although the Rules of the Chamber clearly state that the main voting system is the electronic vote, the Speaker used the vote by raising hands, and after each vote she announced the results after less than two-three seconds, inventing numbers of votes in favor or against, i.e. between 158 to 170, while in the plenary room there were not even 80 deputies.
 
- The video clearly shows that the Secretary of the session (in this case, PD-L Deputy Sever Voinescu -- sitting next to the Speaker) did not perform his duty, which was to count the votes -- in fact no one did - but this did not prevent the Speaker to announce numbers of votes necessary to pass the law, without even looking at the deputies present in the room.

Source: youtube.com

 

California's ballot measure to legalize marijuana has a new friend: Facebook co-founder Sean Parker has given $100,000 to back the proposal.

Parker's donation was reported in Proposition 19 campaign finance filings this week.

And he's not the first big Proposition 19 donor with ties to the social networking site. Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz has made two donations totalling $70,000, including a $50,000 contribution last month.

Neither Parker nor Moskovitz are still with Palo Alto-based Facebook, but both still have ownership stakes. Recent estimates put the value of the privately held company as high as $33.7 billion.

"What's interesting here is that (Parker) is a member of the generation that really gets it," said Stephen Gutwillig, a spokesman for the Drug Policy Alliance, the main beneficiary of Parker's contribution. "We think he's pivotal to the future of drug policy reform in the country."

The 30-year-old served as Facebook's first president and helped transform the company from dorm-room project to big business. Parker and Moskovitz have become household names since the recent release of "The Social Network." The film chronicling the contentious origins of Facebook was No. 1 at the box office last week.

Pop musician and actor Justin Timberlake plays Parker in the movie, which portrays him as a hotshot who convinces Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to push out his friend from the burgeoning company.

In a recent Vanity Fair profile, the media-shy entrepreneur is described as a computer-programming prodigy with an uncanny knack for anticipating online trends and a penchant for designer clothes and partying.

At age 19, Parker helped develop Napster, the music-sharing software that turned the recording industry upside-down. He is now a partner at Founders Fund, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm.

Parker did not immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment.

About $1.5 million of the $2.4 million raised so far in support of Proposition 19 has come from the measure's main sponsor, Oakland medical marijuana entrepreneur Richard Lee. The only other six-figure donation not from Lee came from adult entertainment entrepreneur Phil Harvey, who gave $100,000.

Parker's donation came shortly after the Yes on 19 campaign committee reported having meager cash on hand heading into the final weeks before the election. The money from Parker and Harvey went to a separate committee to fund the Drug Policy Alliance's work on behalf of the measure.

Much of the money will go toward a get-out-the-vote campaign targeting young voters and voters of color, Gutwillig said.

Facebook recently came under fire from some marijuana advocates who claimed it was turning away advertising on the site in support of Proposition 19. Facebook said in a statement that company policy prohibits images of drugs, drug paraphernalia or tobacco in paid advertising but that ballot measure supporters were still free to advertise using different images.

Source: huffingtonpost.com; Author: Marcus Wohlsen

 

My son just started kindergarten. So naturally, I have been thinking a lot about the type of world and community in which I want him and our seven-year-old daughter to live. I am involved in a project to improve school lunches in our district to reinforce the nutrition lessons we teach in our home. I am a founding board member of a community group trying to improve our city’s parks. And I am working to help pass Proposition 19, the initiative to control and tax marijuana in California. It is important to me as a mother that my children grow up in a state—hopefully a country soon—that rejects the ineffective and damaging policy of marijuana prohibition. It may be counterintuitive, but legalizing marijuana will be better and safer for our children.

I would like to believe my kids won’t ever choose to use drugs. But whatever happens, it is certain that prohibition does not stop kids from using marijuana, and that my kids will be exposed to it along with other risky behaviors. After all, about a third of high school seniors have used marijuana within the last year, a figure that has been relatively stable over decades across the country and has not been affected by variations in laws and enforcement. Moreover, it has long been easier for kids to get marijuana than it is for them to get alcohol. The plain fact is drug dealers don’t require ID, and legitimate businesses do.  By taking marijuana out of the black market and placing it within the confines of safe, regulated, and licensed businesses that only sell to those 21 and over, Proposition 19 would actually reduce underage access to marijuana.

While we don’t want our kids to try marijuana, if they do later on it can lead to very harsh consequences if they are caught, even for actions that are not harmful to others. And this next part is really scary: when a person is convicted of a marijuana offense, he or she is precluded from receiving federal student loans, will forever have a drug record that diminishes job prospects, and is precluded from many other benefits, not to mention being arrested, possibly serving time, and other harsh and harrowing outcomes.  We don’t prevent even violent criminals from getting student loans. Or underage drinkers, for that matter. I don’t want people to have their lives derailed for a youthful indiscretion. Do you?

To truly serve public safety, we should control and tax marijuana, since under present policies, thousands of violent crimes go unsolved, while police spend valuable and scarce resources targeting thousands of non-violent adult marijuana users. Arrests for simple possession of marijuana have tripled over the last two decades. The $300 million California spends each year on marijuana enforcement would better serve our communities spent on solving and preventing violent crimes. Any new tax revenues would better serve our children if spent on drug education, drug rehabilitation, and of course shoring up our crumbling public education system.

We know our children are going to make decisions for themselves, probably at an age we think is too young. Laws are not going to be nearly as effective in guiding those choices as the messages we send to them as parents and in our public education efforts. We need to help kids navigate into adulthood with the judgment to moderate their intake of so many substances capable of abuse—from sugar to caffeine, alcohol, prescription drugs, and, yes, marijuana. Not to mention making good decisions about sex, Internet usage, driving, studying, and extracurricular activities. As a mother, thinking through the list, I am not most terrified by the choices they might make regarding marijuana. How about you? So let’s treat marijuana like alcohol, explain to our kids why they should avoid both, at least while they are young, and teach them how to be responsible about various choices in life.

This month, my five-year-old new kindergartner has taken up rollerblading. He goes fast, and has a lot of confidence. He has great balance so I resist the impulse to hover too much, even though I know a skinned knee is possible. I breathe a sigh of relief when he stops at driveways to ask if it’s OK to go ahead. And I hope that he will learn to internalize that check against his daredevil tendencies. I will do my part, and I don’t want the state hovering over my shoulder, reflexively criminalizing behaviors that happen to make mothers gasp. As parents, we know that education is often more effective than punishment, and in some cases punishment is not effective at all.

Women were instrumental in bringing about repeal of Prohibition in 1933, and we can be again when it comes to determining when marijuana prohibition is reversed. In my view, Proposition 19 is the right choice—not just for true law and order—but for our kids.

Author: Hanna Liebman Dershowitz - is mother of a seven-year-old and a five-year-old. She is an attorney in Culver City and co-chair of the Proposition 19 legal subcommittee.

 

The war on drugs will be on the ballot in California this November. The nation will watch the state decide whether to tax and regulate marijuana or continue to arrest adults for possession of this plant.

The vote on the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 will impact many of the most important issues in the country today. Californians will express how they want police resources used, if adults who consume marijuana should be criminalized, how best to deal with the tragic violence in Mexico, and what our priorities should be in tough economic times. It’s no wonder that seven months out, this issue has already generated thousands of news stories around the world.

Opposition to this reform has crystallized within the drug war establishment, and so has their spin. Here are their top five talking points and the truth beyond them:

Drug Warrior Spin #1: Why would we authorize another harmful substance in our society?

The reality is that marijuana is already widely available in our society. Like it or not, it’s a mainstream recreational drug consumed by millions, including one in ten Californians last year, according to federal data. The California ballot initiative simply acknowledges that marijuana is here and that it’s more sensible to regulate this massive market, like we do with even more harmful drugs like cigarettes and alcohol. Prohibition of highly popular substances never works and brings terrible collateral damage. Alcohol prohibition didn’t keep people from drinking, but it did give us Al Capone and gun battles in the streets. No one dies over sales of Budweiser today.

Drug Warrior Spin #2: Regulation will cause marijuana consumption to skyrocket with addiction rates to match.

The truth is rates of marijuana consumption aren’t determined by penalties against it. If they were, the U.S. – which arrests an astounding 750,000 people for marijuana possession every year – wouldn’t have double the consumption rate of The Netherlands, where marijuana sales have been tolerated for decades. That principle holds true across this country as some states that lowered penalties against marijuana possession years ago have among the lowest rates of use while some states that retained harsh marijuana laws have among the highest. As for addiction, the risk of becoming dependent on marijuana is mild compared to most other drugs including alcohol and tobacco. In fact, most people who enter treatment for marijuana addiction in this country today are referred by the criminal justice system, but 65% don’t even meet the standard criteria for dependence.

TO BE CONTINUED ...

 

... CONTINUES.

Drug Warrior Spin #3: Regulating marijuana will aid drug cartels.

It is practically Orwellian to claim that state regulation of marijuana would benefit criminal cartels. More than 20,000 Mexicans have died in the last three years thanks to prohibition. There is nothing inherent about the plant that has caused these brutal murders. Banning marijuana makes it worth more than gold, so valuable that people are willing to kill each other over the right to sell it. By regulating marijuana and beginning to bring its production and distribution under the rule of law, we would eliminate the cartels’ existing monopoly and dramatically siphon their profits. They would be the biggest losers in this reform.

Drug Warrior Spin #4: Regulating marijuana would cost society more than the taxes it generates.

Taxing marijuana like alcohol statewide would generate $1. 4 billion in California alone, according to the state Board of Equalization. Californians will also save hundreds of millions in scarce law enforcement dollars currently devoted to enforcing these futile laws. Yet opponents say that drugged driving, increased health care costs, and lost productivity will end up costing much more than taxes would generate. By that logic, alcohol, which causes nearly 100,000 American deaths annually, should be illegal and warrant life without parole. The bottom line is that marijuana is California’s largest agricultural commodity, freely consumed by millions with no regulations or protections, and with no financial benefit to the state. In this economic climate, this is a reality we literally can’t afford to ignore any longer. 

Drug Warrior Spin #5: What kind of message does regulating marijuana send to kids?

The irony is that failed marijuana prohibition does nothing to protect kids. Despite 30 years of “Just Say No,” half of high-school seniors admit to trying marijuana. Students are more likely to smoke marijuana than cigarettes and say it’s easier to buy marijuana than alcohol because drug dealers don’t ask for ID. Even more chilling, of the 78,000 Californians arrested for marijuana offenses in 2008, one in five was a child under 18 and half were under 30. Out of control access and mass arrests are prohibition’s true impact on our youth. State regulation will reduce that access, separate marijuana from harder drugs, and allow us to focus on effective youth drug education programs.

We will see these arguments play out repeatedly over the next six months. In the end, California will get to choose between two very different models of dealing with marijuana in our society.

Source: alternet.org

Tony Newman is communications director for the Drug Policy Alliance.
Stephen Gutwillig is the California state director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

 

Bernard Thibault, head of the CGT workers' confederation, made the statement as union leaders prepared to discuss plans to hold a seventh day of national protests across France.

Civil Protection unit members clean the streets and piled-up rubbish in Marseille on 20 October

Rubbish has been piling up on the streets of Marseille after nine days of strikes by collectors.

Meanwhile rolling strikes are continuing against government plans to raise the pension age from 60 to 62.

Blockades of refineries and fuel depots have led to fuel shortages.

President Sarkozy has called for an end to the disruption. "This disorder which is aimed at paralysing the country could have consequences for jobs by damaging the normal running of economic activity," he said on Wednesday.

Stepping up action.

Mr Thibault told RMC radio on Thursday: "The government remains intransigent. We need to continue with massive action as soon as next week... We will ask the unions for strong action that will allow people to stop work and go on to the streets."

In the southern port-city of Marseille, there is no public transport, trains have been delayed or cancelled and the ports blockaded, and the nine-day rubbish collectors' strike means several thousand tonnes of refuse is piling up on the city's streets.

The top central government official in the area, Michel Sappin, said: "There is a real danger to the safety and health of Marseille."

The unions' tactics are clear, says the BBC's Matthew Price in the southern port city - to cause discomfort, if not chaos, and to create uncertainty across the country.

They believe that keeps the pressure on the government to change its retirement plans but, adds our correspondent, it also risks alienating the public, who so far according to surveys still support the strikers.

The Senate is due later this week to vote on the pension reforms - aimed at raising the retirement age from 60 to 62 and the full state pension age from 65 to 67.

The lower house has already approved the bill.

Electricity imports.

Ahead of the vote, correspondents say unions are stepping up the pressure on a 10th day of refinery strikes, go-slows on motorways and work stoppages at regional airports.

The BBC's Christian Fraser in Paris says there is a precedent for such a move.

In 2006, student protests forced the government to retreat on the controversial youth labour scheme, even after then President Jacques Chirac had signed it into law.

Some unions want to continue the protests whatever happens in parliament but that will depend on public support and the resolve of their members, many of whom have gone without pay for days even weeks, our correspondent adds.

About a quarter of France's service stations had no fuel on Wednesday, and strikes also stopped work at two of France's three liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals.

On Wednesday, the country began importing electricity as the wave of protest action took hold of energy supplies.

At least 12 of France's 58 reactors were shut for maintenance but the unions say production has been cut at four others.

As well as the general strikes and protests, there have been six days of co-ordinated action in the past six weeks that have brought as many as three million people to the streets.

Are you taking part in the French strikes? Have you been affected by fuel shortages? Send us your comments using the form below.

Send your pictures and videos to yourpics@bbc.co.uk or text them to 61124 (UK) or 0044 7725 100 100 (International). If you have a large file you can upload here.

Read the terms and conditions:

At no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws. In most cases a selection of your comments will be published, displaying your name as you provide it and location unless you state otherwise. But your contact details will never be published.

Source: bbc.co.uk

 
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