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Colorado Funds Medical Marijuana Research, a First

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One of the major benefits of legalizing marijuana is that at last some serious pharmaceutical research can be done on the plant and its substances. Kristen Wyatt writes at TPM News:

“This is the first time we’ve had government money to look at the efficacy of marijuana, not the harms of marijuana,” said Dr. Suzanne Sisley, a Scottsdale, Arizona, psychiatrist who will help run a study on marijuana for veterans with PTSD. Sisley plans to do her research in private practice after previously working for the University of Arizona.

Federal approval to study marijuana’s medical potential requires permission of the Food and Drug Administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and either the National Institutes of Health or the Department of Health and Human Services. And there’s only one legal source of the weed, the Marijuana Research Project at the University of Mississippi.

Twenty-three states and Washington, D.C., allow marijuana use by people with various medical conditions. But under federal law, pot is considered a drug with no medical use and doctors cannot prescribe it.

Dr. Larry Wolk, Colorado’s Chief Medical Officer, says the lack of research on marijuana’s medical value leaves sick people guessing about how pot may help them and what doses to take.

“There’s nowhere else in medicine where we give a patient some seeds and say, ‘Go grow this and process it and then figure out how much you need,'” Wolk said.

“We need research dollars so we can answer more questions.”

Three of the eight research projects, including the veterans study, will still need federal clearance and access to the Ole Miss marijuana. The other five are “observational studies,” meaning the subjects will be providing their own weed.

Among the projects poised for approval Wednesday: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2014 at 3:19 pm

Posted in Drug laws, Media, Science

Interesting point: We seeing many interviews of the authors of the US torture program, but no interviews of their victims

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I wonder why that is. Some of them—including some of those who were absolutely innocent of any wrong-doing—have been destroyed by the experience, and so TV would shy away from that. But I think a panel discussion with (say) Dick Cheney and Khalid al Masri, the German citizen whom the CIA kidnapped and tortured for months, then discarded in a field in Macedonia. His life has been pretty much ruined. He has tried repeatedly to get some acknowledgement and apology from the US, but the US is the sort of nation that won’t do that—well, obviously, a nation that kidnaps innocent people and tortures them has a certain character revealed in what it does and what it refuses to do. The character of the US is plainly revealed in its actions.

Glenn Greenwald writes at The Intercept:

Ever since the torture report was released last week, U.S. television outlets have endlessly featured American torturers and torture proponents. But there was one group that was almost never heard from: the victims of their torture, not even the ones recognized by the U.S. Government itself as innocent, not even the family members of the ones they tortured to death. Whether by design (most likely) or effect, this inexcusable omission radically distorts coverage.

Whenever America is forced to confront its heinous acts, the central strategy is to disappear the victims, render them invisible. That’s what robs them of their humanity: it’s the process of dehumanization. That, in turns, is what enables American elites first to support atrocities, and then, when forced to reckon with them, tell themselves that – despite some isolated and well-intentioned bad acts – they are still really good, elevated, noble, admirable people. It’s hardly surprising, then, that a Washington Post/ABC News poll released this morning found that a large majority of Americans believe torture is justified even when you call it “torture.” Not having to think about actual human victims makes it easy to justify any sort of crime.

That’s the process by which the reliably repellent Tom Friedman seized on the torture report to celebrate America’s unique greatness. “We are a beacon of opportunity and freedom, and also [] these foreigners know in their bones that we do things differently from other big powers in history,” the beloved-by-DC columnist wrote after reading about forced rectal feeding and freezing detainees to death. For the opinion-making class, even America’s savage torture is proof of its superiority and inherent Goodness: “this act of self-examination is not only what keeps our society as a whole healthy, it’s what keeps us a model that others want to emulate, partner with and immigrate to.” Friedman, who himself unleashed one of the most (literally) psychotic defenses of the Iraq War, ended his torture discussion by approvingly quoting John McCain on America’s enduring moral superiority: “Even in the worst of times, ‘we are always Americans, and different, stronger, and better than those who would destroy us.’”

This self-glorifying ritual can be sustained only by completely suppressing America’s victims. If you don’t hear from the human beings who are tortured, it’s easy to pretend nothing truly terrible happened. That’s how the War on Terror generally has been “reported” for 13 years and counting: by completely silencing those whose lives are destroyed or ended by U.S. crimes. That’s how the illusion gets sustained.

Thus, we sometimes hear about drones (usually to celebrate the Great Kills) but almost never hear from their victims: the surviving family members of innocents whom the U.S. kills or those forced to live under the traumatizing regime of permanently circling death robots. We periodically hear about the vile regimes the U.S. props up for decades, but almost never from the dissidents and activists imprisoned, tortured and killed by those allied tyrants. Most Americans have heard the words “rendition” and “Guantanamo” but could not name a single person victimized by them, let alone recount what happened to them, because they almost never appear on American television.

It would be incredibly easy, and incredibly effective, for U.S. television outlets to interview America’s torture victims. There is certainly no shortage of them. Groups such as the ACLU, Center for Constitutional Rights, Reprieve, and CAGE UK represent many of them. Many are incredibly smart and eloquent, and have spent years contemplating what happened to them and navigating the aftermath on their lives.

I’ve written previously about the transformative experience of

meeting and hearing directly from the victims of the abuses by your own government. That human interaction converts an injustice from an abstraction into a deeply felt rage and disgust. That’s precisely why the U.S. media doesn’t air those stories directly from the victims themselves: because it would make it impossible to maintain the pleasing fairy tales about “who we really are.”

When I was in Canada in October, I met Maher Arar (pictured above) for the second time, went to his home, had breakfast with his wife (also pictured above) and two children. In 2002, Maher, a Canadian citizen of Syrian descent who worked as an engineer, was traveling back home to Ottawa when he was abducted by the U.S. Government at JFK Airport, heldincommunicado and interrogated for weeks, then “rendered” to Syria where the U.S. arranged to have him brutally tortured by Assad’s regime. He was kept in a coffin-like cell for 10 months and savagely tortured until even his Syrian captors were convinced that he was completely innocent. He was then uncermoniously released back to his life in Canada as though nothing had happened.

When he sued the U.S. government, subservient U.S. courts refused even to hear his case, accepting the Obama DOJ’s claim that it was too secret to safely adjudicate. The Canadian government released the findings of its investigation, publicly apologized for its role, and paid him $9 million. He used some of the money to start a political newspaper, which has since closed. He became an eloquent opponent of both the U.S. War on Terror and the Assad regime which tortured him as part of it.

But all you have to do is spend five minutes talking to him to see that he has never really recovered from being snatched from his own life and savagely tortured at the behest of the U.S. Government that still holds itself out as the Leader of the Free World. Part of him is still back in the torture chamber in Syria, and likely always will be.

Nobody could listen to Maher Arar speak and feel anything but disgust and outrage toward the U.S. Government – not just the Bush administration which kidnapped him and sent him to be tortured, but the Obama administration which protected them and blocked him from receiving justice, and the American media that turned a blind eye toward it, and the majority of the American public that supports this. But that’s exactly why we don’t hear from him: he isn’t on CNN or Meet the Press or Morning Joe to make clear what Michael Hayden and John Yoo really did and what the U.S. government under a Democratic president continues to shield. . .

Continue reading.

I think interviewing the victims of our torture program would be dynamite television—it certainly would bring a new dimension to Meet the Press. Indeed, given the competition for ratings, I’m surprised that TV interviews of victims has not happened already. Why not? <- good question. Why not?

Cheney himself cannot shed much light on the experience of being tortured, since he himself has never been tortured. Indeed, he took great pains even to avoid military service.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2014 at 12:01 pm

A very interesting view of Richard Pryor—book excerpt

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Very interesting, I thought. Scott Saul from his book Becoming Richard Pryor, via Salon:

Between 1973 and 1975, Richard Pryor managed the ambiguously impressive feat of sowing different forms of havoc across the three major TV networks. “In 1973, while working on Lily Tomlin’s two specials, he maddened CBS executive with his adlibbed obscenities, his arrival on set in cornrows, and his refusal to play scenes for laughs.” In March 1974 he riled ABC when, as emcee of a Redd Foxx roast that was to be televised, he was completely blotto— “so far out,” said comic Steve Allen, “as to be close to totally noncommunicative.”

Then, in February 1975, Richard completed his trifecta of TV mayhem when, as a guest on a Flip Wilson special for NBC, he precipitated a chaotic meltdown on set. The debacle began innocently enough: in a lull between taping, Richard performed an uncensored part of his stage act—as a gift, with no cameras rolling—for the studio audience. Fellow guest star McLean Stevenson did not take kindly to the gift; he fumed “I won’t be on the same stage as that man” and walked off the set. A street-fighting mood fell over Richard. When an NBC page refused to let him open a fire door—Richard had some family at the taping and wanted to let them through the door to where their car was parked—Richard swung at him, and pandemonium erupted on the set. Fellow guest star Cher fled to her dressing room and locked herself in. Richard was restrained in a bear hug, but not before causing enough harm, mental and physical, for the NBC page to win thousands of dollars in an ensuing legal settlement.

Remarkably, Richard’s track record did not scare off NBC executive Dick Ebersol and producer Lorne Michaels, who in early 1975 were putting together, for the fall, a new Saturday late-night program to replace reruns of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. A mere twenty-seven years old and in line to become the youngest vice president in NBC history, Ebersol wanted to target his new show—what became Saturday Night Live—at the under-thirty demographic, and thought Richard would give the show “credibility”; Michaels knew Richard from the Lily Tomlin specials and considered him “the funniest man on the planet.” Ebersol and Michaels needed to fight a battle on two fronts if they wanted to land Richard as a guest host for their program.

On one side, they would have to budge the NBC higher-ups who were vehemently against Richard hosting the show in its first months on air: even the late-night slot, the execs thought, was too early for such a radioactive performer. On the other side, they would have to soften Richard, who felt, along with his new manager, David Franklin, that network TV was no match for his talents as a comic.

As summer passed into fall, Lorne Michaels broke NBC’s resistance by playing hardball: he said, “I can’t do a contemporary comedy show without Richard Pryor” and resigned, only to be wooed back when NBC caved. With Richard, Michaels needed a gentler strategy. He flew out to Miami and visited Richard backstage at a jai alai fronton where he was performing. Richard laid out his conditions for committing to the show: Paul Mooney would come on as a writer; Richard’s friend Thalmus Rasulala would be hired as an actor; the soul-jazz griot Gil Scott-Heron would be the musical guest; Richard’s ex-wife Shelley, who had started to take the stage again, would be allowed to deliver a monologue; and he would be given a great number of tickets—so many that he would be in control of more than half the studio audience. Michaels agreed in the moment, though not without some queasiness. “He’d better be funny,” he said on the plane back to New York.

The negotiations stand as a parable for how, after “That Nigger’s Crazy,” Richard leveraged his growing stardom. From one angle, he was being “difficult.” But from another, he was exhibiting a greater mindfulness about the worlds he was now navigating and, even, doing his part to desegregate American culture. He knew that his success as a performer had been driven by a core audience of black fans, and so now he was forcibly integrating Saturday Night’s audience, under the reasonable assumption that it would skew white. He knew that he’d felt at home on The Mike Douglas Show because, as co-host, he had altered the complexion of the ensemble onstage until he was no longer a token presence, and he was committed to do the same with the actors on Saturday Night. Last, he knew that a writers’ room was the incubator of all sketch ideas, so he wanted Paul Mooney as an ally in it. The audience, the stage, the SNL writers’ room—all needed more than a little color if they were to swing away from the educated lunacy of National Lampoon and toward Richard’s sensibility. He would become, on December 13, 1975, the host of the show’s seventh, and unforgettable, episode. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 December 2014 at 2:13 pm

A strong indication of a sick society

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Absolute intolerance of undesired facts—we see that in the US as well. But not to this level.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2014 at 3:10 pm

Posted in Media, Politics

Israel approach to protesters: Like Ferguson, only in Israel they go ahead and fire on protestors

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Israel takes a hard-line approach to civil protests, shooting protestors down in the street. When other countries have done that, the US has reacted strongly, but Israel is our friend, so it’s okay for them to do it, apparently. From Informed Comment:

An Italian was critically injured along with 11 Palestinians on Friday afternoon after Israeli forces opened live fire on a protest march in the village of Kafr Qaddum west of Nablus.

Palestinian Minister of Health Jawad Awwad told Ma’an that Italian solidarity activist Patrick Corsi, 30, was injured after Israeli forces fired several bullets at him in the stomach and chest.

The minister said that Corsi was in “critical” condition as a result of the shooting, which took place during a protest march against the Israeli occupation.

Awwad said that “shooting live fire at the upper part of the bodies of protesters is directly targeting them and is a deliberate attempt at murder.”

“Israel does not differentiate between foreign solidarity activists, Palestinians, or even journalists,” he added. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2014 at 10:25 am

Posted in Media, Mideast Conflict

Governments finding a free press a hindrance, so are shutting it down

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Little by little, like Obama and Holder’s vicious persecution of the reporter James Risen—a clear warning to other reports—and their vindictive treatment of whistleblowers like Thomas Drake. Though the claim is always to protect our security, in fact it is obvious that what is being protected is government incompetence, overreaching, and malfeasance: governments that do bad things really hate a free press, and our government is joining that crowd.

Indeed, Australia and New Zealand are somewhat ahead of us, closing down their open society in favor of an authoritarian national-security state, a step on the way to totalitarianism. And totalitarian governments do happen, as we well know.

Raymond Bronner writes in the NY Times:

Australia and New Zealand are not among the usual suspects when it comes to state suppression of civil liberties. But both countries, stung by Edward J. Snowden’s revelations last year about their intelligence-gathering efforts, have been cracking down on the press: Australia has passed sweeping secrecy laws, while police officers in New Zealand recently raided the home of a reporter who had published information regarding a government scandal.

There has been little international outcry, and Washington is hardly likely to be upset: The two countries harbor the only major intelligence gathering facilities for the National Security Agency in the Southern Hemisphere, and, along with Britain, Canada and the United States, are members of the intelligence-sharing arrangement known as the “Five Eyes.”

In New Zealand, the journalist targeted in the raid is the country’s top investigative reporter, Nicky Hager, who has been working with Mr. Snowden and the journalist Glenn Greenwald. Mr. Hager has “long been a pain in the establishment’s neck,” a former prime minister of New Zealand, David Lange, once said, admiringly.

In 1996 Mr. Hager published his book “Secret Power,” which revealed the relationship between the N.S.A. and New Zealand. Mr. Lange said that he learned more about what the N.S.A. was doing in his country from reading Mr. Hager’s reporting than he did as prime minister.

Across the Tasman Sea, the Australian government recently amended the country’s national security laws so that journalists and whistle-blowers who publish details of “special intelligence operations” may be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

The measures are part of a groundswell of terrorism hysteria. September brought the largest counterterrorism raids in Australian history, in which some 800 state and federal police officers raided homes in several Sydney suburbs with large Muslim populations, acting on what officials said was an intercepted phone call about possible activity by allies of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

For all the forces deployed in the raids, only one person was arrested and charged with a terrorism-related crime; in a court appearance in mid-November, his lawyer said the telephone conversation had been mistranslated.

The press has added to the hysteria, spreading a story that Islamic State followers were plotting a public beheading in a square in downtown Sydney — a claim no public official has made, and a claim for which there is virtually no evidence.

A week after the raids, the ruling center-right Liberal Party proposed the national security amendments aimed at the press and leaks; the opposition Labor Party supported them, and the changes passed with little debate. . .

Continue reading.

And your privacy? It is to laugh. Read this Wall Street Journal story about how the US government is going to get around encryption so it can continue to be able to read all you digital history if it wants, including phone calls. From that story:

. . . Historically, prosecutors generally used search warrants to require companies to unlock phones. Apple displays required language for such warrants on its website and offers a fax number to more easily serve them. Sample search warrants directed at Google for Android-powered phones are easy to find online.

But Apple and Google complicated that process this fall by including new encryption schemes in their latest operating systems that the companies say they can’t unlock. If an iPhone user sets a password for the device, the data is encrypted when the phone is locked. The only way to decrypt it – even if police ship it to Apple – is to know the password, which Apple says it doesn’t record.

That technological shift prompted tense private meetings this fall between Apple and Justice Department lawyers, as detailed in a recent Page One story in The Wall Street Journal.

Amid that standoff, the government on Oct. 10 obtained a search warrant to examine the contents of the phone in the credit-card case. The phone was locked, so prosecutors asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein to order the manufacturer to unlock it. They cited the All Writs Act, originally part of a 1789 law that gives courts broad authority to carry out their duties.

Judge Gorenstein agreed. “It is appropriate to order the manufacturer here to attempt to unlock the cellphone so that the warrant may be executed as originally contemplated,” he wrote on Oct. 31. The judge gave the manufacturer, referred to only as “[XXX], Inc.,” five business days after receiving the order to protest.

Much remains unknown, including the maker of the phone, and what happened next. The language of the opinion suggests it could apply to a company like Apple. The order is directed at the “manufacturer of the cellphone,” and Apple is one of the few companies that produce both the phone itself and the software that would manage the encryption. . .

Read the whole thing.

Some encourage calm acceptance of the direction. They advise, “So long as you don’t anything that displeases someone in government, then you don’t have to worry about a thing.” The problem is that some bureaucrats are very easy to displease, so giving them loads of unchecked power is not a good idea.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 November 2014 at 10:48 am

Very interesting interview (audio and transcript) with journalist James Risen

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Glenn Greenwald interviews James Risen at The Intercept:

Jim Risen, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for exposing the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program, has long been one of the nation’s most aggressive and adversarial investigative journalists. Over the past several years, he has received at least as much attention for being threatened with prison by the Obama Justice Department (ostensibly) for refusing to reveal the source of one of his stories, a persecution that, in reality, is almost certainly the vindictive by-product of the U.S. Government’s anger over his NSA reporting.

He has published a new book on the War on Terror entitled “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War.” There have been lots of critiques of the War on Terror on its own terms, but Risen’s is one of the first to offer large amounts of original reporting on what is almost certainly the most overlooked aspect of this war: the role corporate profiteering plays in ensuring its endless continuation, and how the beneficiaries use rank fear-mongering to sustain it.


That alone makes the book very worth reading, but what independently interests me about Risen is how he seems to have become entirely radicalized by what he’s discovered in the last decade of reporting, as well as by the years-long battle he has had to wage with the U.S. Government to stay out of prison. He now so often eschews the modulated, safe, uncontroversial tones of the standard establishment reporter (such as when he called Obama “the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation” andsaid about the administration’s press freedom attacks: “Nice to see the US government is becoming more like the Iranian government”). He at times even channels radical thinkers, sounding almost Chomsky-esque when he delivered a multiple-tweet denunciation – taken from a speech he delivered at Colby College – of how establishment journalists cling to mandated orthodoxies out of fear, arguing:

It is difficult to recognize the limits a society places on accepted thought at the time it is doing it. When everyone accepts basic assumptions, there don’t seem to be constraints on ideas. That truth often only reveals itself in hindsight. Today, the basic prerequisite to being taken seriously in American politics is to accept the legitimacy of the new national security state. The new basic American assumption is that there really is a need for a global war on terror. Anyone who doesn’t accept that basic assumption is considered dangerous and maybe even a traitor. The crackdown on leaks by the Obama administration has been designed to suppress the truth about the war on terror. Stay on the interstate highway of conventional wisdom with your journalism, and you will have no problems. Try to get off and challenge basic assumptions, and you will face punishment.

I spent roughly 30 minutes talking to Risen about the book, what he’s endured in his legal case, attacks on press freedoms, and what is and is not new about the War on Terror’s corporate profiteering. The discussion can be heard on the player below, and a transcript is provided. As Risen put it: “I wrote ‘Pay Any Price’ as my answer to the government’s campaign against me.” . . .

Continue reading for the interview and transcript.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 November 2014 at 4:36 pm


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