Tuesday, February 14, 2012

News and Events - 30 Jan 2012

rss@dailykos.com (Meteor Blades)
30.01.2012 22:09:58

In a bunch of state legislatures, Republicans—mostly Republicans, anyway—have
decided that drug-testing welfare recipients and perhaps unemployment benefits is a great idea. Never mind constitutional provisions regarding illegal search and seizure. These folks are collecting checks courtesy of the taxpayer teat, goes the twisted reasoning, so they have to give up their rights. More than 30 states have passed or considered passing such legislation.

What the purveyors of such nonsense don't much care for is facing the prospect of peeing in a cup themselves. So, as Arthur Delaney has taken note, when Republicans have introduced drug-testing legislation, some smart(-ass) Democratic legislators have put a spoke in their wheels by adding amendments that would require legislators themselves to undergo drug tests.

That's what
happened in Indiana Friday:

"There was an amendment offered today that required drug testing for legislators as well and it passed, which led me to have to then withdraw the bill," said Rep. Jud McMillin (R-Brookville), sponsor of the original welfare drug testing bill.

Huzzah to Indiana Democrat Rep. Ryan Dvorak for introducing that amendment. The precedent seems to have been set by Democratic Georgia State Rep. Scott Holcomb when he
introduced a similar bill in December after Republicans introduced a bill requiring welfare recipients to be tested as a precondition of getting their checks:

“It strikes me if the legislature is going to focus its attention on an issue like this, then we should lead by example,” Holcomb said. “If we’re going to require drug testing before Georgians can receive benefits, we shouldn’t expect others to live by standards that we don’t uphold ourselves.”

Leading by example is something not many Republicans have agreed to do in this matter. A spokesman for Florida Gov. Rick Scott
told Delaney in September that the governor would be willing to submit to a drug test himself. But when Comedy Central reporter Aasif Mandvi
crashed a press conference in December and presented a cup for the governor to pee in, explaining that the gathered reporters could all face away, Scott declined.

Democratic legislators in Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee and now Indiana have found their Republican colleagues eager to test the pee of welfare and unemployment benefits recipients also decline when offered the chance to prove they themselves aren't on drugs, despite behavior that would indicate substance abuse of some kind.

But calling out hypocrisy has its limits. Indiana's McMillin plans to reintroduce a reworded version of the drug-test bill that he expects will pass constitutional muster and force some of his state's most vulnerable citizens to prove themselves worthy of getting a pittance to keep them afloat in the still-dicey aftermath of the worst economic downturn since the 1930s. Perhaps, the Democrats should start offering amendments requiring lobbyists and state contractors to be drug tested.

01.02.2012 17:39:23

Kader Arif, the lead Acta negotiator in the European Parliament, says Acta potentially cuts access to lifesaving generic drugs and restricts online freedom

The French MEP who resigned his position in charge of negotiating the international Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta) has said it "goes too far" by potentially cutting access to lifesaving generic drugs and restricting internet freedom.

In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, Kader Arif – a member of the European parliament's international trade group, who was the lead negotiator over Acta – said that despite talks over the agreement having begun in 2007, "the European parliament, which represents the rights of the people, had no access to this mandate, neither had it information of the position defended by the commission or the demands of the other parties to the agreement".

Arif resigned in protest on 26 January as the EU signed the treaty, saying that he wished to "denounce in the strongest manner the process that led to the signing of this agreement: no association of civil society [and] lack of transparency from the beginning".

He said that it now threatens online freedom, access to the use of generic versions of drugs for treating illnesses, and could potentially mean that someone crossing a border who has a single song or film on their computer could face criminal charges.

Asked what he thought European citizens should do, Mr Arif said: "Showing that there is interest and concern about this agreement is the best way of creating a real public debate, which was never possible until now because of the lack of transparency on this dossier. Especially if the timeframe is short, raising awareness of members of parliament will be crucial. And because Acta is a mixed agreement, it will have to be ratified both by the European parliament and by every member state of the union, so there is also an opportunity to organise debates at the national level."

He says that it is now impossible to renegotiate the agreement because the 11 key parties to it concluded their discussions on 1 October 2011: "the European commission negotiated it on behalf of the EU, on the basis of a mandate given by the member states in 2007."

That means, he says, that "at this stage one can only accept or reject the agreement – no change of the text is possible. If the right wing of the European parliament had not imposed such a tight calendar, the members of the European parliament could have drafted an interim report, which would have put conditionalities to the ratification of the agreement, by giving recommendations to the commission and member states on how to implement it. But this is no longer a feasible option."

"The title of this agreement is misleading, because it's not only about counterfeiting, it's about the violation of intellectual property rights," he told the Guardian. "There is a major difference between these two concepts."

has triggered public protests in a number of European and other countries, as well as online attacks by the hacking collective Anonymous. The US, EU member states, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan and a number of other countries have signed it, although none has yet ratified it in national legislation.

The agreement would create an international framework and set of standards for a voluntary legal regime to enforce intellectual property rights across national boundaries.

Arif said one example illustrates this difference particularly well – the case of generic medicines. "Generic medicines are not counterfeited medicines; they are not the fake version of a drug; they are a generic version of a drug, produced either because the patent on the original drug has expired, or because a country has to put in place public health policies," he said.

A number of countries such as India and African nations have sought to use generic versions of drugs for infections such as HIV, which has often been resisted by pharmaceutical companies. Under Acta, Arif fears such countries would not have the same freedom to determine their own actions.

"There are international agreements,
such as the Trips agreement, which foresees this last possibility," he said. "They're particularly important for developing countries which cannot afford to pay for patented HIV drugs, for example.

"The problem with Acta is that, by focusing on the fight against violation of intellectual property rights in general, it treats a generic drug just as a counterfeited drug. This means the patent holder can stop the shipping of the drugs to a developing country, seize the cargo and even order the destruction of the drugs as a preventive measure."

He thinks that is a key flaw: "Acta also limits the flexibilities listed in the Trips agreements to support developing countries in need of generic drugs. When the question of finding the right equilibrium between protection of intellectual property rights and protection of final users is so crucial, Acta appears to be very unbalanced in favour of patent holders. This is one of the major problems with the agreement."

Internet freedoms could also be under threat if Acta is ratified in its present form, he says. "The chapter on internet is particularly worrying as some experts consider it reintroduces the concept of liability of internet providers, which is clearly excluded in the European legislation." That could make ISPs, who provide internet access, liable for users' illicit file-sharing.

Arif also expressed concern that there could be more intrusive checks at borders to fight counterfeiting.

"I see a great risk concerning checks at borders, and the agreement foresees criminal sanctions against people using counterfeited products as a commercial activity," he said.

"This is relevant for the trade of fake shoes or bags for example, but what about data downloaded from the internet? If a customs officer considers that you may set up a commercial activity just by having one movie or one song on your computer, which is true in theory, you could face criminal sanctions.

"I don't want people to have their laptops or MP3 players searched at borders, there needs to be a clearer distinction between normal citizens and counterfeiters which trade fake products as a commercial activity. Acta goes too far."

text of the finalised treaty (PDF) has now been made public, and the European commission has begun to try to explain how Acta would work. It has also published a document called
10 Myths about Acta, asserting that the public was informed "since the launch of the negotiations"; that it is drafted "in very flexible terms" and that "safeguards and exceptions under EU law or under the Trips agreement remain fully preserved".

It also insists that "Acta is about tackling large-scale illegal activity … there is a provision on Acta specifically exempting travellers from checks if the infringing goods are of a non-commercial nature and not part of large-scale trafficking".

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01.02.2012 20:01:33


Finalists to Participate in National Geographic’s Photo Camp on Cape Eleuthera

The United States Embassy in partnership with the Bahamas National Drug Council (BNDC) is pleased to announce the launch of the first “Youth Express” Essay, Rap and Poetry Competition. The purpose of the contest is to encourage students throughout The Bahamas to consider the harmful impact of illegal drugs and to reflect on how they can resist negative peer pressure and act as leaders against drugs in their community.  This exciting program is part of a continuing partnership between the US Embassy, the Bahamas National Drug Council and the National Anti-Drug Secretariat to reduce the demand for illegal drugs and foster ...

31.01.2012 1:33:26

There seems to be the almost universal belief among North American parents (I'm sure this is a phenomena found elsewhere as well, but I'm just talking about what I've personally seen) that their kids, whether these are theoretical future children or actual kids, and whether they have yet to reach their teen years or not, will hate or at the very least dislike them. Teenagers hate their parents: everyone knows that.

My mother has told me that when my sister and I were small, she used to say to my father that he had to take over primary parental duties once we hit our teen years. She's told me that she loved being a parent, and loved spending time with us, right from the get-go, but being surrounded by warnings of "wait until they become teenagers!" she always thought that would change when we got older.

Out for a Fall walk in 2008. We so obviously hate each other.
Out for a Fall walk in 2008. We so obviously hate each other.

I suppose it's actually a very reasonable belief that your teens will dislike you: after all, most teens I know and have known do dislike their parents!

What isn't true, though, is that that dislike is inevitable.

The dreaded teenage years came in my family, and likely to my parents surprise, nothing horrible happened. I mean, problems came up in day to day life, for sure, but looking back, I actually think that in terms of parent-child relationships and issues over "discipline" type stuff the teen years were (and are, as my sister is still a teen) smoother than when we were younger. I attribute this to the fact that it was a constant progress over the years from more traditional parenting to more respectful parenting (which mirrored our transition from relaxed homeschoolers to unschoolers).

Though there are definitely unschooling parents/teens who don't have very good relationships with their teens/parents, it seems that the majority of unschoolers really and truly do. Which to me, is a wonderful thing to see.

I believe the reason for that is actually pretty simple.

When the subject of "teenage rebellion" comes up now, my mother is fond of saying "why would you rebel, since there wasn't really anything to rebel against?"

Now, I think there is an important distinction to be made here: some parents proudly brag about how their teens aren't "rebellious," and what they really mean is that their children are obedient to their parents wishes (or, possibly more likely, are simply very good at hiding the aspects of their life that their parents would disapprove of). When I say that most unschoolers I know, myself included, don't or didn't "rebel" against our parents in our teen years, I don't mean it's because we fit the perfect-child model of some narrow-minded authoritarian-parenting suburbanite.

While I've never been very big into alcohol or drugs, I definitely drank long before the legal drinking age (though admittedly the whole culture in my home province of Quebec is very different from the rest of North America, in that virtually everyone drinks at least some amount from the time they hit their teens, with the parents knowledge). My sister, who turns 18 (legal drinking age in Quebec) this summer, has been going to bars since she was 15 or 16, with my parents knowledge (again, very common practice in Montreal). Both my sister and I have been openly anti-state, anti-hierarchy, and anti-authority for years. I've dyed my hair unusual colours, shaved the sides of my head, and worn clothes throughout my teen years that plenty of parents I know would have disapproved of. Sometimes we stay out late into the night. We've been known to participate in Pagan religious rituals. We swear frequently. We hang out with people who are big into drugs. If all those things were listed entirely out of context, it would probably sound like we were the people that many parents warn their kids about (then again, for all I know, parents have warned their kids about us...)!

So why do we get along so well with our parents? It's pretty simple: control.

Or, more accurately, the lack of control.

Think of the things that most commonly cause friction between teens and their parents: breaking curfew, bad marks in school, skipping school, using drugs, subscribing to different religious and political views than their parents, disobeying parents...

Compare this to a respectful unschooling parent: no school, no marks, no curfews, no orders, and a belief that teens are entitled to their own beliefs.

I want to make it clear that being a respectful parent doesn't mean agreeing with or approving of everything your teen does: it just means accepting and not attempting to control what they do. Thus, a parent that's strongly anti-drugs of all types might share all their opinions on the issue with their teens, give them information on why they believe what they do, etc. Yet despite that, they wouldn't ground, punish, or shame their teen if they came home high. In a mutually respectful relationship, teens are far more likely to genuinely take their parents opinions into account when deciding what they want to do, but teens are still their own complete and autonomous people, and will make the choices they deem best for themselves in the end.

Parents in general, from the most to least mainstream out there, all seem to frequently express a wish that their children communicate with them and be honest with them. Yet what the more authoritarian and punitive parents seem oblivious too is that no one is going to be honest with someone else if they know that by being honest, they're opening themselves up to be yelled at, punished, shamed, or treated with anything less than respect. Those parents also don't seem to realize that good

has to work both ways: parents can't expect their children to spill all the secrets of their lives, all their important thoughts and deeds, to someone who thinks their own personal life is none of their kids business.

I also want to make it clear that I don't, and didn't when I was still in my teens (having just turned 20 a couple of months ago, I still have trouble remembering I'm no longer a teen!), tell my parents everything. I'm my own person, with my own life, and some things stay private. Sometimes because it's something very personal, or a secret not mine to share, and sometimes it's because I know it would worry or upset them to know something. Yes, occasionally I keep things (and have kept things in the past) I know my parents would disapprove of away from them, not because of any fear that I would "get in trouble" or anything like that, but simply because I don't want them upset or worried about things they ultimately have no control over.

My (and my sister's) relationship with my parents is really good. We talk to each other about everything from how we've been feeling, what we've been doing, interesting links online or news stories, what our friends are up to. We don't stray away from subjects such as drug use and other illegal activity. I'll cheerfully announce that a friend is taking up graffiti, and Emi will call to say she's headed out to a bar after band practice, so expect her home late. I've never worried about coming home smelling like weed. And because of the relationship we have, my sister and I have never hesitated to get our parents help when we're worried about a friend doing hard drugs, and we'd never hesitate to call instead of driving home with someone who's drunk.

I'm incredibly grateful for the relationship I have with my parents, and that my parents are the people that they are.

So in conclusion, here are my very inexpert opinions on what makes a good parent-teen bond: respect, honesty, communication, and a lack of coercion and control.

Basically? Treating each other like full and complete human beings, with different desires, beliefs, aspirations, and experiences.

It's such a simple concept: don't be your teen's enforcer, be their

. And if more parents acted this way? Well, then I think we'd start seeing a hell of a lot less of this "teen rebellion" thing!

Originally published at


30.01.2012 12:58:50
How mega sporting events bring the logic of war to host-city governance. The example of the football World Cup in South Africa highlights how security for mega-events has become a self-reinforcing feedback loop between state and corporate sector, taking the analogy between Sport and War another step closer

The overlap between the security measures for major sporting events and contemporary war zones are a striking and increasingly globalised phenomenon. Lest we forget that the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup are ostensibly about sport and not security, London 2012 chairman Lord Coe was recently moved to offer his 
assurance that the British capital will not be a “siege city” come August. However the presence of warships, surface to air missiles, 
thousands of military personal and 
pre-emptive bans on protest suggests otherwise. In Rio, the state has used the paramilitary BOPE to “pacify” favelas (shantytowns) ahead of the unparalleled consecutive hosting of the World Cup and Olympics in 2014 and 2016 respectively. As noted in a US State Department cable the efforts to “purge” these often violent areas effectively controlled by drug gangs shares an overt resemblance to the 
counter-insurgency strategy used by the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the same time, ever spiralling security costs have provided scope for extra-legal entrepreneurialism as witnessed by the current fraud charges facing 
Luiz Fernando Correa, director of security for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The security governance of mega-events is situated in a strange interzone between dream and nightmare. On the one hand the wide scale deployment of military and police would seem appropriate for an invasion or an internal state of emergency. Indeed, hosting authorities actively promote their capacity to enforce counter-measures for a number of ghoulish scenarios: stampedes in stadiums, suicide bombers disguised as fans and mass evacuations as a result of nuclear or chemical attacks. But rather than being mobilised around crises, security measures are utilized to govern sporting festivals and to ensure the images of nationalistic prowess and social cohesion. For urban authorities mega-events offer a platform to show host cities at their most modern and attractive. As a result policing measures are constrained by ‘proportionality’ as planners aim to keep the festival of sport in the headlights with security as a looming assurance (or threat) in the background.  
The invocations of patriotic pride which accompany the official boosterism around mega-events entails a further overlap with warfare. Ahead of the 2010 World Cup, one South African parliamentarian claimed that:


Now, however, comes the biggest spectacle and biggest opportunity to achieve a common national identity. As South Africans, we are destined to achieve great things and that togetherness must be forged in the burning excitement which is the World Cup. Never mind the costs that we will have to carry, we as South Africans can use sport to achieve what other nations have done through war.


Such sentiment served as a built-in legitimation for spiralling security costs, which in the case of South Africa, went from an initial projection of 94 million Rand in 2003 to the 1,3 Billion Rand “war chest” 
deployed in 2010. This largesse was certainly appreciated by the foreign security firms which won contracts for the South African Police Service (SAPS) procurement drive. As proudly noted in an in-house police journal this included surveillance helicopters linked to mobile command vehicles, water cannons, body armour and bomb disposal Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs) “used extensively by US forces in Iraq.”  
The government saturated the domestic media with claims that this expenditure would leave a security legacy as part of state efforts to reduce high national rates of violent crime. But notably in a country where widespread and intense public protest, often accompanied by police repression, is a continual feature of political life, most of the security systems acquired are designed with riot control in mind. Government officials claimed that South African citizens needed to put ‘internal disputes’ aside so as to present a unified front for the duration of the World Cup. This was accompanied by a de facto 
ban on political marches and the installation of ten kilometre cordons around stadiums to prevent strike action and other forms of “domestic extremism”.  
Despite the official rhetoric of the World Cup as a “proudly South African” event, the actual structure of security governance was largely defined by FIFA, the official owner of the World Cup brand. Under the comprehensive government guarantees which were signed as a condition of bidding for, let alone winning, hosting rights, the state was obliged to manage and cross subsidise all ‘necessary’ arrangements for FIFA’s World Cup. According to the conditions agreed to in the 2003 Bid Book, the security services were responsible for funding and administering security measures at all designated venues along with providing continuous close 
protection services for the FIFA “family”. FIFA was granted legal indemnity from any legal cases arising as a result of the 2010 World Cup, as well as exemption from taxation. FIFA was also allowed to import and export foreign currency without restriction.Moreover, the SAPS was signed up to enforce the marketing rights of FIFA and its corporate sponsors. This lead to the establishment of special police units under the direction of FIFA officials who during the World Cup patrolled “commercial exclusion zones” around stadiums for evidence of ambush marketing. In practise, this meant that national security and commercialisation became progressively indistinguishable. For example, according to one internal planning document, restricted flying zones around host cites were necessary countermeasures against “the possibility of the utilisation of aircraft for ambush marketing and terrorist attacks.”
While the temporary security edifices which spring up around mega-events have been described as a 
“mobile” variant of the infamous Baghdad ‘greenzone’, FIFA’s hosting preconditions have another resonance with that occupation. During its post-war rule, the US lead Coalition Provisional Authority issued a series of sweeping orders which allowed Western companies to move profit out of the country without restriction and granted foreign contractors 
legal immunity in Iraqi courts. But while the plunder of Iraq’s resources was accompanied by invasion and the gun sights of F-16’s, South Africa’s government voluntarily bid to establish an overarching legislative greenzone for FIFA. The results speak for themselves: before the tournament had ended FIFA had publicly declared profits of $3bn in tax free revenue while the national government only managed to 
break even on its R 33bn of tournament related spending. Functioning in a legal and taxation bubble, FIFA was able to pursue its stated mission of 
"ensuring maximum return on investment for the sponsors.”
Publically funded security measures were a central pivot in the maintenance of this skewed accumulative geography. As the World Cup progressed the relationship, FIFA dependency on the state became increasingly parasitic. Under the initial security agreements crowd control duties within stadiums were to be privately funded by the FIFA directed Local Organising Committee. However, after the LOC refused to pay acceptable wages to Stallion Security during the preparatory 2009 Confederations Cup, the police were enrolled to 
perform stadium duties. Farcically, almost exactly the same scenario, and with the same company, played out during the World Cup itself where extra millions were added to the security bill when police reservists had to 
replace striking private security guards. The Minster of Police Nathi Mthethwa has subsequently claimed that he would pursue remuneration from the LOC. This may prove difficult as, under hosting agreements, the LOC has no permanent legal status while Mthethwa was himself on the board of directors for the
expired committee.  
However, the management of the SAPS skilfully succeeded in spinning the issue of stadium guarding and 
presented it as an example of the capacity to deliver ‘world class security’ at short notice rather than an avoidable case of LOC mismanagement. Indeed, security measures were used as a PR opportunity for an organisation which has faced much domestic criticism for perceived ineptitude and brutality to present itself as a 
modernised, elite force. Although the predetermined governance structure of the World Cup ring-fenced direct profits for FIFA, the preparations occurred across such a range of scales and institutions that it provided spaces for the security services to replenish budgets and arsenals. These augmentations were assisted by fighter jets and naval frigates which were purchased as a result of South Africa’s controversial 1999 arms deal. Ironically, the World Cup security measures were in part operationalised as a by-product of an unfolding political scandal which has 
implicated a number of South African politicians, including President Zuma and a number of major arms manufacturers.  
For Daniel Bernhard and Aaron K Martin, the seeming irrationality of economic arrangements is linked into the symbolic value of mega-events for 
domestic political elites. Hallmark events allow host governments to roll out spectacular and sophisticated security measures which affirm their full authenticity in an elite club of nation states capable of funding such assemblages. Forgoing upwards profits may be the price of access which political elites are prepared to pay for symbolic opportunities. 
As the South African example highlights, mega-event securitisation has become a self-reinforcing feedback loop between state and corporate sector. A shared discourse of ‘exceptionalism’, and no holds barred spending, provided scope for projects that may be impossible under normal conditions. For FIFA security means the establishment of a state blanket which shields its brands and protects the interests of its corporate partners. In turn, South Africa’s security forces used the opportunity to recalibrate their international standing.  
Huge public expenditures and substantial restrictions on civil liberties are litigated with tactical deployment of a rhetoric of security legacies. But notably in the year since the tournament, police management seems to have downplayed the significance of the World Cup. Indeed, the SAPS had conceded that this visible policing strategy was only probably a factor in reducing some aspects of the national crime rate which amounts to a far more limited policing legacy than the one 
promoted ahead of the World Cup. This ambivalent conclusion contrasts sharply with the bombastic ”mission accomplished” rhetoric seen in post-tournament official statements. And like the ever-shifting justifications for the Iraq war, it appears that the concept of legacies is used throughout the world as a tool to bombard publics with pretexts for increasingly expensive and intensive security measures.

Country or region: 
South Africa
Democracy and government

31.01.2012 20:57:00

It isn't often that a prescription product repurposed on the street then returns to the clinic. But that's just what's happening with ketamine, sold as a generic and by Pfizer (
$PFE) under the brand names Ketalar and Ketaject (and illegally as Special K). Studies testing the injectable against depression are yielding some dramatic results, described by patients in language familiar to recreational users.

Researchers from the National Institute for Mental Health and from Houston's Ben Taub General Hospital have administered ketamine to severely depressed patients with almost instantaneous results, NPR reports. Yale scientists have pinpointed a potential explanation: Ketamine appears to affect glutamate in the brain, triggering new connections among brain cells.

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"I feel that something's lifted or feel that I've never been depressed in my life," was how NIMH researcher Carlos Zarate described his ketamine patients' reactions. "And it was a different experience from feeling high. This was feeling that something has been removed." One Ben Taub study patient, who believes she got ketamine, not placebo, said she went home feeling "no more fogginess, no more heaviness." Both of them reactions that
LA Weekly
deemed obvious. "Any raver could have told you this," the paper said.

Ketamine has serious potential side effects, including hallucinations during its infusion--and, not insignificantly, addiction. But unlike drugs already approved as antidepressants, the injectable appears to work quickly, a big advantage for patients in crisis. Further study is on the way; the Ben Taub researchers say that if their trial shows that ketamine outperforms a placebo, they plan to conduct a longer-term study to determine whether its effects could be long-lasting.

- see the blog
post at NPR
- get
more, also from NPR
- see the
LA Weekly


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01.02.2012 21:16:23

Efforts to legalize marijuana for recreational use are gaining momentum in Washington state and Colorado, despite fierce opposition from the federal government and a decades-long cultural battle over America's most commonly used illicit drug.

Officials in Washington state on Friday said an initiative to legalize pot has enough signatures to qualify for the ballot in November. In Colorado, officials are likely this week to make a similar determination about an initiative there.

read more


31.01.2012 19:17:00
?The Spokane City Council unanimously agreed on Monday that marijuana should be federally legal to possess by people who have a legitimate medical need for the drug.State voters passed a medical marijuana law 14 years ago, back in 1998, but the city council is concerned about federal raids continuing in Spokane and elsewhere in Washington and other states that have legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes.The council approved a nonbinding resolution endorsing a letter that Gov. Chris Gregoire and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee sent to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in November requesting that marijuana be reclassified from being a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act, reports Jonathan Brunt at The Spokesman.
Continue reading "Spokane City Council Calls For Rescheduling Of Medical Marijuana" >

31.01.2012 10:07:49
A federal jury has convicted a Boston-area nurse of illegally distributing prescription drugs and international money laundering for her role in running a Massachusetts pharmacy that fulfilled orders for a crooked internet pharmacy based in the Dominican Republic, federal prosecutors announced Monday. Gladys Ihenacho, 46, and her husband, Baldwin Ihenacho, 58, both of who are Nigerian nationals, co-owned and operated Meetinghouse Community Pharmacy in Dorchester. Baldwin Ihenacho, a registered pharmacist, previously pleaded guilty to similar charges. According to court documents filed in federal court in Boston, the Ihenachos were paid to illegally fulfill orders for the Golden Island Investment, the online pharmacy that did not require legitimate prescriptions from customers, between October 2007 and October 2008. During the scheme, the conspirators sold 3.5 million pills for weight loss, anxiety, insomnia and panic disorders, mailing the drugs to the customers. "For their dispensing

01.02.2012 6:27:04

Cannabis female flowers. Photo: Acdx (CC)

Cannabis female flowers. Photo: Acdx (CC)

I have a right to ingest/smoke whatever I want and to explore the contents of “my own mind” in the process, so long as I am not hurting anyone
, even if it kills
. This is a human right, albeit one that few people think of.

Imagine if you had the right to have a shed in your backyard but you didn’t have a right to explore the contents of that shed. That would be a little insulting, wouldn’t it?

Those who want to limit our mental exploration are to be held highly suspect. Those same people, for instance, often advocate that perfectly normal and healthy individuals go on 7 psychotropic pharmaceuticals at the same time. Limiting access to information is usually a form of domination.

We don’t truly have access to our own minds right now. Some of us do, but there is a huge effort…


01.02.2012 0:56:41

WITH regard to the Operation Fast and Furious scandal, Americans fall into two camps: those who haven't really been following it, and those who having been following it and are baffled that people aren't more upset about it. If any readers are in the former camp, I refer you to
this story from the print edition earlier this month:

The operation, outlined in two congressional reports last summer, began in 2009 in the Phoenix, Arizona, field office of the ATF, which is under the Department of Justice. The department was trying to be more active in Mexico’s fight against its drug gangs, and decided that agents would allow known “straw purchasers” to buy guns from American shops. The straw buyers, the ATF reasoned, would bring the guns to the gangs. When the guns turned up again, the agents might be able to use them as evidence to build bigger cases.

In other words, federal law enforcement agents in Arizona encouraged and even pressured gun dealers to sell weapons to known straw buyers. That some 2,000 guns were thereby lost was actually
the purpose
of the operation, rather than an unintended consequence. The idea was that when the agents recovered the guns, they might be able to connect them to bigger crimes, like murder or conspiracy, rather than the relatively minor crime of straw purchasing. The logic is vaguely reminiscent of the Drug Enforcement Administration's
recent efforts to infiltrate trafficking organisations by facilitating shipments of money and drugs, with one key difference being that money is not, in itself, a weapon. Even if you're of the "guns don't kill people, people kill people" school of thought, Operation Fast and Furious clearly helped some of the people in question get the guns that they use. It came to national attention in December 2010, after Brian Terry, a Border Patrol agent, was killed in a firefight near the border. Two of the guns recovered at the scene were traced to Operation Fast and Furious.

The operation itself can be considered phase one of the scandal, and it has since ended. There is a phase two, however, which is that the Department of Justice has been less than forthcoming about the whole sordid episode, in a way that erodes confidence in the department and the attorney-general, Eric Holder. From the print edition again:

Last February the department issued a letter denying the allegations that the ATF had allowed gunwalking. In March Barack Obama told Univision that neither he nor Mr Holder had authorised the operation. Six weeks later, in May, Mr Holder told the House Judiciary Committee that he had “probably” first heard of Operation Fast and Furious “over the past few weeks”.

Last month the department withdrew its February letter, saying it was not correct. Testifying again a few days later, Mr Holder was sanguine when asked to clarify the difference between lying to Congress and misleading it: “Well, if you want to have this legal conversation, it all has to do with your state of mind.” He added that the department would not be turning over any materials related to the operation from later than February.

The most recent developments are that on January 25th, after being subpoenaed by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, a federal prosecutor in Arizona announced that he
would invoke his fifth amendment right—that is, the right to remain silent so you don't incriminate yourself. And on January 27th—Friday evening—the Justice Department released a lot of additional documents, including nine pages of emails (
available here in PDF) dating to the days after Mr Terry's death, including several from Monty Wilkinson, the then-deputy chief of staff to Mr Holder. "Tragic", wrote Mr Wilkinson on December 15th, 2010, in response to the news of Mr Terry's death. "I've alerted the AG, the acting DAG, Lisa, etc." Later that day Dennis Burke, the then-US attorney in Phoenix, wrote another note to Mr Wilkinson: "The guns found in the desert near the murder BP officer connect back to the investigation we were going to talk about—they were AK-47s purchased at a Phoenix gun store." 

While this doesn't necessarily falsify the claim Mr Holder made in May, that he only heard about Operation Fast and Furious "over the past few weeks", it does prove that his deputy chief of staff had heard about it in December—five months earlier. Many people therefore suspect that Mr Holder is not being fully candid; even if he hadn't heard anything about this until the spring of last year, you have to wonder why his staff didn't bother apprising him of the operation. It may be that Mr Holder is being reticent for a reason: Partisan polarisation is running so high that if he had been more forthright, Republicans would have used the frank talk as a weapon against him, his department, and perhaps the Obama administration more generally. That would be a sad and sobering thought for the American people—things have gotten so bad that well-meaning officials are afraid to tell the truth for fear of outsized punishment.

For Mr Holder, however, that would be at best an explanation, rather than an excuse. It's true that most of the criticism of Mr Holder has come from Congressional Republicans. In this case, however, the critics have a point, even if they are partisans. The ATF is a branch of the Justice Department, which is led by Mr Holder. No one is suggesting that he dreamed up this operation, only that he has a responsibility to address it squarely and honestly, which is entirely fair. Instead his response has been to 
spin it as a political witch hunt.

Mr Holder is scheduled to testify again on Thursday. Let's hope he is willing to be more forthcoming. At this point, the pressing threat to the department's reputation—and to that of the Obama administration—isn't coming from congressional Republicans. It's coming from the attorney-general's own stonewalling.

(Photo credit: AFP)


31.01.2012 18:52:00

His attorneys argued in a motion filed last week that the arrangement protects him from criminal prosecution in Maryland because Brigham administered drugs that killed the fetuses while the patients were in New Jersey

tr1014brigham 1 KURDZUK.JPG

Dr. Steven Chase Brigham speaks with one of his attorneys in this 2010 file photo. Brigham of Voorhees, faces charges of performing illegal abortions at an abortion clinic on East High Street in Elkton, Md.

WASHINGTON — Lawyers for an abortion doctor charged with murder in Maryland for the deaths of five fetuses have asked a judge to dismiss the charges, arguing that prosecutors lack jurisdiction because the deaths occurred in New Jersey.

Dr. Steven Brigham, 55, of Voorhees, N.J., lost his New Jersey medical license in 2010 after regulators discovered an arrangement under which he would begin second- and third-trimester abortions in New Jersey, and then have the patients drive themselves to Maryland the next day to complete the procedures.

His attorneys argued in a motion filed last week that the arrangement protects him from criminal prosecution in Maryland because Brigham administered drugs that killed the fetuses while the patients were in New Jersey. He then extracted the fetuses at his clinic in Elkton, Md., a small town in the northeast corner of the state.

Brigham's lawyers also argue that he is immune from prosecution under Maryland's fetal homicide law, which was intended to apply to people who kill or do physical harm to pregnant women, causing fetal death. The law includes exemptions for physicians administering lawful medical care, and Brigham's attorneys say using it against an abortion doctor interferes with a woman's constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.

"By bringing these charges, the state has placed a chilling effect on doctors who perform abortions and thus will inhibit women from finding doctors who perform abortions even if the procedure is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman," attorneys Nancy Forster and C. Thomas Brown argue in their motion.

Cecil County State's Attorney Ellis Rollins declined to comment Monday.

Prosecutors have made few public statements about their rationale for the charges, although Rollins has acknowledged they are in uncharted territory. Experts on both sides of the abortion debate say it is highly unusual, if not unprecedented, to charge an abortion doctor with murder under a fetal homicide law. Thirty-eight states have such statutes.

At a bail review hearing earlier this month in Cecil County Circuit Court for Brigham's co-defendant, Dr. Nicola Riley, Deputy State's Attorney Kerwin Miller suggested that prosecutors believe any death of a viable fetus to be homicide, regardless of the circumstances.

"The law is clear that it is unlawful, as a matter of fact it is homicide, when you kill a viable fetus," Miller said, according to a transcript of the proceeding. "So an abortion on a viable fetus is not a lawful procedure, is not lawful medical care."

In their motion, Brigham's attorneys also take issue with prosecutors' characterization of the fetuses as viable, arguing that the state has no right to interfere with a doctor's judgment about the need for an abortion.

Maryland's fetal homicide law, the attorneys argue, "leaves the determination of viability to the 'best medical judgment of the attending physician.' If a doctor determines that the fetus is not viable, for whatever reason, and the state disagrees with that determination, under their theory, the doctor can be charged with fetal homicide."

Doctors generally consider fetuses to be viable outside the womb starting around 23 weeks. Prosecutors have not detailed how they determined the viability of the five fetuses Brigham is accused of killing. One of them was known to have been aborted at 21 weeks.

Riley, Brigham's former colleague, also has been charged with murder in the death of that 21-week-old fetus. Her attorneys also have argued that she is immune from prosecution under the fetal homicide law. Both Brigham and Riley, of Salt Lake City, Utah, are free on bond.

In the case that led to charges against both Brigham and Riley, the patient suffered serious injuries, and Riley drove her to a nearby hospital rather than call 911. That case alerted medical regulators to Brigham's unusual arrangement, which authorities described as an effort to take advantage of Maryland's more permissive abortion laws. Brigham was not licensed to perform abortions after the first trimester in New Jersey.

In Maryland, licensed physicians can perform abortions before the fetus is deemed capable of surviving outside the womb, and abortions of viable fetuses are permitted to protect the life or health of the mother or if the fetus has serious genetic abnormalities.

30.01.2012 8:09:00

The following letter to the president of Brown University requests that she writes to the editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry supporting our request for retraction of a journal article that misrepresented the efficacy and safety of paroxetine for depressed adolescents. The letter was written by Healthy Skepticism members Jon Jureidini and Leemon McHenry and signed by additional Healthy Skepticism members and others. Jon and Leemon's campaign for retraction of the misleading article has been endorsed as a Healthy Skepticism campaign by the Healthy Skepticism international management group.


4 October 2011

President Ruth J. Simmons
Office of the President
Brown University
1 Prospect Street
Campus Box 1860
Providence, Rhode Island 02912

Dear President Simmons,

Study 329: A multi-center, double blind, placebo controlled study of paroxetine and imipramine in adolescents with unipolar major depression

We write to you about our ongoing concerns regarding a journal article that originated at the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, under the leadership of Dr. Martin Keller.

Between 1993 and 1998, SmithKline Beecham (subsequently GlaxoSmithKline) provided $800,000 to Brown University for its participation in the above study.
[1] The results were published in 2001 by Keller et al. in a journal article, 'Efficacy of paroxetine in the treatment of adolescent major depression: a randomized, controlled trial',
[2] in the
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

The article was ghostwritten by agents of the manufacturer, and seriously misrepresented both the effectiveness and the safety of paroxetine in treating adolescent depression.

While problems with study 329 and the Keller et al paper have been thoroughly exposed in legal actions,
[3] the bioethical and medical literature,
[4] a book,
[5] and a BBC Panorama documentary
[6], the paper continues to be cited uncritically in the medical literature as evidence of the efficacy of paroxetine for treatment of adolescent depression.
[8] Our main concern is that adolescents are being harmed because well-intentioned physicians have been misled.

Moreover, the misrepresentation has been compounded by the following:
1) The
was asked by two of the undersigned, Drs. Jureidini and McHenry, to retract the article, but has refused to do so.
2) In a letter of May 13, 2008, from Pamela D. Ring to Dr. David Egilman, Brown University refused to release information about its internal investigation into Dr. Keller's conflicts of interest and scientific misconduct.

Study 329 reveals the pervasive influence of GlaxoSmithKline's marketing objectives on the preparation and publication of a 'scientific' manuscript and peer-reviewed journal article. GlaxoSmithKline's own internal documents disclosed in litigation show that company staff were aware that the study 329 did not support a claim of efficacy but decided that it would be "unacceptable commercially" to reveal that.

The data were therefore selectively reported in Keller
et al
.'s article, in order to "effectively manage the dissemination of these data in order to minimise any potential negative commercial impact".9 As it turns out, the Keller
et al
. article was used by GlaxoSmithKline's to ward off potential damage to the profile of paroxetine and it was used to promote off-label prescriptions of Paxil® and Seroxat® to children and adolescents, some of whom became suicidal and self-harmed as a result.

The unretracted article is a stain on Brown University's reputation for academic excellence. The University cannot claim to be a leader in scientific research and moral integrity while failing to act to redress this article that negligently misrepresents scientific findings.  

In its accreditation document for the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), Brown University claims in relation to 'Standard Eleven: Integrity' that 'The institution manages its academic, research and service programs, administrative operations, responsibilities for students and interactions with prospective students with honesty and integrity', that it 'expects that members of its community, including the board, administration, faculty, staff, and students, will act responsibly and with integrity', and that 'Truthfulness, clarity, and fairness characterize the institution's relations with all internal and external constituencies'.
[11] The University's inaction in relation to study 329 casts doubt on the validity of these claims.

We ask that you write to the editor, Dr. Andres Martin,
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
supporting our request for retraction of the journal article.

We are making this letter available to interested parties and it will be posted on the Healthy Skepticism website (

Yours sincerely


Jon Jureidini
Child Psychiatrist
Clinical Professor, University of Adelaide

Leemon McHenry
Department of Philosophy, California State University, Northridge

Jerome Biollaz
Professor Emeritus of Medicine, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois, Lausanne

Alain Braillon

Stephen Bezruchka
Senior Lecturer, School of Public Health, University of Washington

Ruud Coolen van Brakel, director
Sandra van Nuland, consultant
Martine van Eijk, MD PhD
Instituut voor Verantwoord Medicijngebruik (
Dutch Institute for Rational Use of Medicine)

Marc-Andre Gagnon,
Research Fellow, Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University

Ken Harvey
Adjunct Senior Lecturer, School of Public Health, La Trobe University, Melbourne

David Healy
Professor in Psychological Medicine, Cardiff University School of Medicine

Andrew Herxheimer,
Emeritus Fellow, UK Cochrane Centre, Oxford

Jerome Hoffman
Professor of Emergency Medicine, University of Southern California

Joel Lexchin
Professor, School of Health Policy and Management, York University, Toronto, Canada

Melissa Raven
Adjunct Lecturer, Discipline of Public Health, Flinders University, Australia

Dee Mangin
Associate Professor, Director Primary Care Research Unit, Christchurch School of Medicine

Peter Mansfield
Director, Healthy Skepticism

Dan Mayer
Professor of Emergency Medicine, Albany Medical College, New York

David Menkes
Associate Professor of Psychiatry, University of Auckland

Robert Purssey
Senior Lecturer, University of Queensland

Nicholas Rosenlicht
Clinical Professor of Health Sciences, University of California, San Francisco

Jorg Schaaber
President, International Society of Drug Bulletins (ISDB)

Arthur Schafer
Director, Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics, University of Manitoba

Michael Wilkes
Professor of Medicine, University of California, Davis

Jim Wright
Co-Managing Director, Therapeutics Initiative

Liliya E. Ziganshina
Head, Professor,  Department of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology, Kazan Federal University, Russian Federation

[1] Keller M. (2011). Martin B. Keller, MD. Providence, RI: Brown University; 2011.

[2] Keller MB, Ryan ND, Strober M, Klein RG, Kutcher SP, Birmaher B, Hagino OR, Koplewicz H, Carlson GA, Clarke GN, Emslie GJ, Feinberg D, Geller B, Kusumakar V, Papatheodorou G, Sack WH, Sweeney M, Wagner KD, Weller EB, Winters NC, Oakes R, McCafferty JP. Efficacy of paroxetine in the treatment of adolescent major depression: a randomized, controlled trial.
J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry
. 2001 Jul;40(7):762-72.

The People of the State of New York vs. SmithKline Beecham

(Case No. 04-CV-5304 MGC),
Beverly Smith vs. SmithKline Beecham Corp.
(Case No. 04 CC 00590),
Engh vs. SmithKline Beecham

. (Case No. PI 04-012879),
Teri Hoormann vs. SmithKline Beecham

(Case No. 04-L-715) and
Julie Goldenberg and

Universal Care vs. SmithKline Beecham Corp.
(Case No. 04 CC 00653)

[4] Jureidini JN, McHenry LB, Mansfield PR. Clinical trials and drug promotion: selective reporting of study 329.
Int J Risk Saf Med

[5] Bass A. Side effects: A prosecutor, a whistleblower, and a bestselling antidepressant on trial. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books; 2008.

[6] BBC. Seroxat – Secrets of the Drugs Trials. Panorama. BBC one; 2007 Jan 29.


[8] Jureidini J, McHenry L. Conflicted medical journals and the failure of trust. Accountability in Research 18:45-54.

[9] SmithKline Beecham, Seroxat/Paxil adolescent depression position piece on the Phase III clinical studies, October 1998, PAR003019178;

[10] Hammad TA, Laughren T, Racoosin J. Suicidality in pediatric patients treated with antidepressant drugs. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2006 Mar;63(3):332-9

[11] Brown University. Standard Eleven: Integrity. NEASC Accreditation; 2008.

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01.02.2011 21:55:00



For Better Results, Wealthy Donors Need to Meddle Less and Collaborate More

Enlarge Image
michael j fox photo

Michael J. Fox, featured in an advertisement for Parkinson's Progression Markers Campaign.

When it comes to philanthropy, ambition is not in short supply. Great fortunes come from entrepreneurs, investors, and celebrities who have taken risks in their careers and enjoyed odds-beating success. And a growing number expect nothing less dramatic from their personal philanthropy: to end poverty or reverse climate change or cure cancer.

Philanthropists will always support their favorite causes with a portion of their wealth, but simply writing checks to organizations that do great work won’t create these ambitious changes.

Donations from foundations and the ultra-wealthy account for only 6 percent of the total revenue that America’s nonprofits receive in a year. So ambitious philanthropists need an approach that creates many dollars’ worth of results for each dollar invested. Yet all too often, they limit themselves by focusing almost exclusively on the results they hope to see in solving a problem or focusing on a cause.

What’s the missing link?

Donors tend to fall in love with a “program model”—an idea (say, charter schools) that they believe will deliver results. They don’t pay nearly enough attention to defining their “investment model”—what it takes to create change.

That means thinking about what that will take (such as expanding the reach of high-performing nonprofits or designing effective social-media campaigns). It also means thinking about how they as philanthropists can best support those efforts (through the roles they play, the resources they assemble, and the relationships they develop).

Even sophisticated donors can fall into this trap. Many donors meddle excessively in the design of programs. They don’t know how to help grantees deal with tough organizational challenges, or they pressure nonprofits to develop programs that don’t have much to do with their missions.

It’s a scenario as hopeless as a venture-capital firm working to create a compound with a biotech company that lacks the skills to help navigate approval from the Food and Drug Administration, hire a sales force, raise the next round of funds, or negotiate with a pharmaceutical business to manufacture and distribute a new drug.

As a result, these donors often add little value to their grantees and, sometimes they even impose a high cost on nonprofits as the organizations try to fulfill the donors’ unrealistic expectations. What should philanthropists do?

Effective philanthropists merge smart program ideas with the pragmatic techniques it takes to make change happen—and learn to identify and support grantees in both dimensions.

First, philanthropists need to find a suitable way to accomplish their goals. The four most common methods of change:

Building great nonprofit organizations. Some problems require strong nonprofits that can effectively deliver services to large numbers of people.

In supporting fledgling social entrepreneurs, the Draper Richards Foundation, in San Francisco, offers a powerful illustration of how to do this well.

Draper Richards identifies nonprofit leaders with the greatest potential to create large-scale change, regardless of what type of cause—improving health, protecting the environment, or promoting culture—or what approach. Then it focuses on organizational needs like building boards, identifying key people to hire, devising ways to measure results, and attracting additional support.

Over three years, the average Draper Richards grantee grows from a budget of $160,000 per year to $1.6-million per year. The foundation’s portfolio has included highly regarded organizations such as Education Pioneers, Global Citizen Year, Kiva, and Room to Read.

Changing public will and government. Some problems require changing public beliefs or government policies.

The conservative businessman John M. Olin exemplified this ambition. Alarmed by the political events of the 1960s, and convinced that the very existence of America’s free-enterprise system was at stake, Olin supported the creation of legal associations and law schools specifically to promote his conservative philosophy and financed conservative think tanks engaged in scholarly and legal advocacy.

As a result, the Olin Foundation—with only a handful of staff members and an endowment that never exceeded $118-million—is widely recognized as a key player in institutionalizing the conservative movement in the United States over the past 30 years. This, five years after it formally shut its doors.

Establishing new “intermediary” organizations. Some problems require influencing the actions of many institutions in a system. In such cases, a donor may establish an organization to build coalitions to work toward a shared goal.

As an example, ConnectEd, created by the James Irvine Foundation, seeks to improve education in California by leading pilot projects; promoting collaboration among education, labor, and industry; advising policy makers; and calling attention to important concerns through research and advocacy. Over time, ConnectEd has built a coalition of more than 60 organizations to promote its approach to improving education.

Researching and developing solutions. Sometimes an innovation is needed. The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research invests nearly $50-million per year but knows these resources are vastly insufficient to cure Parkinson’s disease. So it focuses on influencing researchers around the world to improve their performance, which not only helps scientists get closer to discovering a cure but also lowers the investment risk for others interested in developing Parkinson’s drugs.

It has assembled a blue-chip scientific advisory panel, a team of in-house scientists with the technical savvy to vet ideas and ask tough investment questions, a patient council that represents the voice of the beneficiaries in the priority-setting process, and an executive team with deep strategic planning expertise.

The National Institutes of Health and venture capitalists, among others, now consult with the foundation as they assess proposals and allocate research dollars—a powerful testament to the foundation’s value.

Second, after philanthropists get clear about the appropriate methods of change, they need to organize their approach accordingly. Three particularly important elements:

Defining the right role. The best role is the one that matches the philanthropist’s capabilities with the grantee’s needs. Money is the most obvious need, but other roles can draw on the philanthropist’s time and influence.

In the case of the Michael J. Fox Foundation, the founder brought not only money but also a unique public persona that attracted supporters.

Assembling the right resources. Some philanthropists worry that they can’t carve out a distinct role because they are not big enough. And it’s true that some philanthropists “build” their own staffs. But it doesn’t take a foundation with 100 staff members or a billion-dollar endowment to create results. Smart philanthropists flexibly “buy” capacity by investing in their grantees and “borrow” expertise from contractors.

Forging the right relationships. The inherent power dynamic between donors and grantees makes it hard to get honest feedback about what adds value and creates costs. And while it’s exciting for donors to dream big with nonprofit leaders, philanthropists must understand the cost of capital they are imposing.

Focusing on what it takes to deliver change can increase the odds of honest conversations about grantees’ real concerns and ensure that expectations of donor and nonprofit match. The key is keeping the cost of capital proportionate to the value of the benefits created, for the grantee and for society.

Most traditional foundations don’t hire employees or finance projects with an eye on what it takes to bring about real change.

But every philanthropist can do a better job of reaching his or her goals by understanding what is needed beyond a great program or idea. Paying attention to that issue does not have to be complicated or expensive, just deliberate—and it necessarily evolves as philanthropists learn from their investment experiences and get better over time.

No external force will make philanthropists forge the missing link, only their own relentless drive for results.


31.01.2012 21:47:00

These great documentary films have a simple lesson: effective political protest needs good organisation and smart messaging

late last year, I said
to some controversy here – that the violent crackdown against the Occupy movement in the United States represented the first salvos of a civil war initiated by political and allied economic elites against protesters in a nascent movement whose still-not-fully articulated agenda would represent a threat to their unmediated and untransparent hold on profits. And a civil war it has indeed turned out to be.

Over the weekend, 2,000 citizens marched in support of Occupy Oakland – and were met by flash grenades and,
some witnesses assert, rubber bullets. The
Los Angeles Police Department is engaging in training exercises with the US military. At a parallel march in support,
in New York City, a new apparition – large groups of masked men – joined the protesters, which is, globally, a sign that provocateurs intent on violence have joined the scene; and
journalist Tim Pool was assaulted.

And reports continue to surface around the nation, most recently from Atlanta, of
heightened local law enforcement investment in military-style hardware to use against domestic dissent. Predictably enough, after the
NDAA created a clause allowing for the indefinite detention of domestic terrorists, Oakland council member referred to the Occupy protesters as
"domestic terrorists".

In the midst of this escalation, some important lessons have emerged – from, of all places, the glittery and snowy
Sundance film festival in Park City, Utah. I was there to appear on a panel titled "Loving the Masses", and in the course of my visit, had the chance to see some of the riveting and important documentaries about grassroots protest movements that distinguished this year's offerings: these included the powerful
Never Sorry, about the Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei, directed by novice 27-year-old filmmaker Alison Klayman;
Half Revolution, presenting edge-of-your-seat reportage from the front lines of Cairo's revolution, by young Palestinian-Danish director Omar Shargawi and Egyptian-American director Karim el-Hakim; David France's compelling
How to Survive a Plague, about Act Up's rise and fall; the historically significant
A Fierce Green Fire, detailing 30 years of the environmental movement, by Mark Kitchell; and the truly infuriating doc about how US corporations cycle their profits out of the country, hiding them routinely in offshore accounts or in their Irish subsidiaries, so as to avoid paying any US taxes whatsoever – and doing so in collusion with their hired hands in Congress –
We're Not Broke, by Karin Hayes and Victoria Bruce. The news is bittersweet and the lessons are timely.

One thing that emerges from watching these documentaries, in aggregate, is that this narrative is global. As the power of global corporations transcends the political power of nation states, global corporations are simply rewriting legislation in advanced democracies behind closed doors, and leaving the people – of Greece or the UK, America or Italy – out of the decision-making process altogether; then presenting the need for cutbacks as a fait accompli. It is this lack of financial transparency and accountability that Occupy's movement threatens, and there are truly billions of dollars – in untaxed US profits alone – at stake if they become successful.

Also apparent from these films is that the crackdowns against dissent are now globally coordinated:
Acta, which allows corporations to block access to certain sites online, was signed recently by a series of governments. In Half a Revolution, Cairenes hold up bullets and tear gas canisters marked "Made in America". As Twitter and Facebook became global routes for "revolutionary" sentiment used by dissidents such as Ai Weiwei – who documented, via Twitter, footage of his being beaten by secret police in a hotel room, as well as tweeting his brain scan images that showed proof of the damage done by the beating – and as Facebook drove the protests in Tahrir Square, both social media have both recently announced policies that limit their usefulness as tools for organizing, that weaken privacy protections, and that can help to put in jeopardy dissidents who run afoul of local censors.

On the organizing side, the lessons are profound from these documentaries, as well. It was heartbreaking to sit on the panel watching clips from A Fierce Green Fire and How to Survive a Plague and see that most of the forms of effective peaceful protest used by these successful movements are now illegal, or else extremely dangerous. Lois Gibbs, a citizen leader in the Love Canal pollution scandal, spoke of holding government officials hostage until the groups' demands were met. Well, these days, that would get you ID'ed as a "domestic terrorist" and shipped to abusive detention.

Act Up successfully put a condom around Senator Jesse Helms' house, blocked access to the FDA, and showed up to disrupt meetings about drug trials that had been held in secret. Especially affecting to me was how long they were given to make their points before being silenced – and how they faced brief arrest processes, at most, but no violence. Act up was, of course, successful and their activism on fast-tracking Aids drugs has saved millions of lives.

Important lessons also emerged, especially from Act Up. Occupy – a movement I love and respect, and which represents our last best hope – also fills me with distress because of how difficult it is for a movement committed to "no spokespeople" to get their message out. Act Up, which was founded by a group that included people who worked in the media and in advertising, were not so self-hobbled: they created a memorable "brand" (the pink triangle) and coined a powerful soundbite ("silence equals death"); and activists accepted media training from a member who was also a news anchor. They were "on message" – labeling the Catholic Church, for instance, "murderers" when it opposed condom use. And it was effective, so the word "murderer" was repeated in dozens of voices and entered the news stream. The Church lost that round; the soundbite won the day.

Also clear was that Act Up did not get bogged down in consensus decision-making – which has derailed every single group I have ever studied that has committed to it – and went with a clear agenda voted on by majority rule. (They also appeared, from footage of meetings, to have been following
Robert's Rules of Order.) Most importantly, they worked what every successful grassroots movement needs to create: an outside, disruptive pressure strategy, and a talk-to-and-negotiate-with-the-decision-makers-under-pressure "inside" arm, creating a pincer movement. So Act Up protesters would disrupt drug trials outside the FDA or a private drug company building, or occupy St Vincent's Hospital. Then, after the disruption had smoked out the leadership of the institution under fire, a few designated Act Up representatives would make themselves available to present their clear demands to those in power in those institutions and negotiate outcomes, with more protest and disruption implied if demands were not met.

Again and again, How to Survive a Plague shows that this tactic is effective. Right now, though, the Occupy movement has an ideological reluctance to creating both arms of the pincer. Many see it as "contaminating", in the words of one young activist, to even talk to the decision-makers they are protesting against, or to deal with the mainstream media. I would argue – as I did at Sundance – that the house is burning and we do not have time for this preciousness. The evidence from the French documentary, as well as from the Tahrir Square footage, is that the images in the news media let the world be a witness and, to some extent, protect protesters. But without journalists present, Syria is free to mow down citizens without intereference. That shows that disorganization and a policy of shunning media communication equals political death

Media exposure, a clear message, smart soundbites, clearly stated demands, and, most importantly, tasked, empowered negotiators working on the inside in concert with mass disrupters applying pressure from without – this equals political life.

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31.01.2012 3:02:47

The US is fast becoming one massive open air prison camp. Few realize that one by one their natural rights are being stripped by the fascist “criminal” law system.
As we’ve noted in the past, more than 30% of those under 23 have been arrested as the fascist US Government works to ensnare as many as possible into permanent indentured servitude through a criminal record. From the
New Yorker

Over all, there are now more people under “correctional supervision” in America—more than six million—than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height. That city of the confined and the controlled, Lockuptown, is now the second largest in the United States.

Once you have that special status the doors quickly close for you, and you will never be able to legally escape from the US. Your travel will be restricted and you will not be eligible to apply for a foreign passport.

Seemingly not content with having the largest prison population in the world, the US leviathan continues to expand its web to ensnare more into “the system”. 


Original Drawing of a Panopticon Prison

In the late eighteenth century. English philosopher and social theorist 
Jeremy Bentham came up with the concept of the panopticon. The purpose of the design is to allow the observation of (
) all (
) inmates of an institution without them being able to tell whether or not they are being watched.

Although Bentham considered the use of such a structure for all manner of institutions, prisons were the first place where the concept was implemented.

The corporatist state is doing its best to create the ultimate Panopticon within the borders of the US. We noted one recent development with the deployment of the “Peacemaker” to the streets of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

The "Peacemaker"

You can find out all you need to know about the
“Peacemaker” here.

The costumed enforcer sums it up with one line: “the bad guys know – hey we’re watching you”. Forgoing for the moment the question of who really is the bad guys here (hint: the government and police), he fails to mention that the “peacemaker” isn’t just watching “the bad guys”.  It is watching
who happens to pass by its hulking form.

Sadly people have been brainwashed since birth into thinking that the State is good and it protects them, and that without the State the world would be very dangerous. This in turn causes them support these continued attacks on their own liberties. Ayn Rand termed this the
"sanction of the victim"

One of the brainwashed in the video thinks that those who complain about the Orwellian vehicle should be paid special attention. I would suggest to the slave that he takes it one step further – if he has nothing to hide, why not place a set of cameras within his own home? Hey, he is already funding them with his tax dollars, why bother using a private security firm? You think that sounds unreasonable? Well guess what – the Brits have already put that into practice.

Wired in 2009

£400 million ($668 million) will be spent on installing and monitoring CCTV cameras in the homes of private citizens. Why? To make sure the kids are doing their homework, going to bed early and eating their vegetables. The scheme has, astonishingly, already been running in 2,000 family homes. The government’s “children’s secretary” Ed Balls is behind the plan, which is aimed at problem, antisocial families. The idea is that, if a child has a more stable home life, he or she will be less likely to stray into crime and drugs.

It gets worse. The government is also maintaining a private army, incredibly 
 called “Thought Police”, which will “be sent round to carry out home checks,” according to the Sunday Express. And in a scheme which firmly cements the nation’s reputation as a “nanny state”, the kids and their families will be forced to sign “behavior contracts” which will “set out parents’ duties to ensure children behave and do their homework.

All “for the children” you see.


Now you might say that the “Peacemaker” isn’t quite the definition of the surveillance state – I mean you can see the thing! But don’t worry, your overlords have been working quietly to ensure they cover every square foot of their empire.

All for your own good.

Janet Napolitano, director of the Department of Homeland Security
now appears in every Walmart in the country, hoping to enlist the good consumers in the fight against “threats”. Every eye of every citizen is a potential tool of the “Homeland”. Of course, the ones who should really be watched are the watchers.


Predictably, the tools of the global war on terror have now been turned into tools of oppression for the jack booted thugs in the USSA. The Predator Drone, a mainstay of the CIA’s assassination campaigns is now being utilized for "interior law enforcement support"

General Atomics MQ-1 Predator

Local police say they have used two unarmed Predators based at Grand Forks Air Force Base to fly at least two dozen surveillance flights since June. The FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration have used Predators for other domestic investigations, officials said.

"We don't use [drones] on every call out," said Bill Macki, head of the police SWAT team in Grand Forks. "If we have something in town like an apartment complex, we don't call them."

The drones belong to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which operates eight Predators on the country's northern and southwestern borders to search for illegal immigrants and smugglers. The previously unreported use of its drones to assist local, state and federal law enforcement has occurred without any public acknowledgment or debate.

Equipped with “high-resolution cameras, heat sensors and sophisticated radar”, these machines are just the thing needed to ensure the tax slaves are KEPT IN.

And while you are kept as a blood bag for the vampire state, you will have to deal with an ever-increasing network of internal travel controls. Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams are expanding across the USA, targeting bus terminals, rail stations, and highway travel. “Border” police are also getting into the act, setting up shop miles from the actual borders of the USSA.


A letter from one TDV reader, Warren W., confirms the dire reality of the situation, he writes:

Just back from driving I10 from Fla. to AZ. At about 100 miles either side of El Paso, US Customs & "Border Patrol" (in quotes because they aren't at the border where they could do some real patrolling) have set up permanent shop on I10.

The eastbound roadblock is east of El Paso and the westbound one is west of El Paso. They are huge, drive-through type buildings straddling the interstate, kind of like what California used to have for checking to see if we had any fruit. The buildings have offices also.

When I passed the eastbound roadblock, the westbound lanes I was in were lined with a gauntlet of at least a dozen cameras we had to drive past. I don't think it paranoid to imagine facial recognition and license plate scanning was occurring.

After seeing that, I was quite sure there would be a roadblock for westbound travelers but had no idea where it would be. It turned out to be in New Mexico.

Anticipating "my" roadblock, I told myself that, although it would ruin my day and involve risk of tasering, beating and/or incineration, I would have to insist on a search warrant if my car was singled out for a search. And what a search it would be -- $2,500 cash, a Ruger LCP in my back pocket, a Glock in the glove box, and Ron Paul stickers on front and rear bumpers. Can you say

As it turned out, there was only one guy at "my" roadblock telling each vehicle's operator to keep going. So I wasn't searched. But on the way in the building I
filmed again by a similar camera gauntlet that I had previously experienced.

There were probably half a dozen "Border Patrol" SUVs parked at the office which meant that the other tax eaters, instead of opening up new lanes so we did not have to waste time in a single file lane, were enjoying the comfort of their office instead.

As a side note, every car I saw pulled over by state troopers on I10 in New Mexico (about 3) had the trooper ransacking the trunk.

Bentham’s dream of the Panopticon is close to becoming a reality. It is time for you to consider your options and consider getting your gold and yourself out of dodge.


  1. Make plans to get out of countries like the US and the UK as soon as possible before they trap you into an arrest which will limit your travel movements severely.
  2. Apply for a foreign passport (
    the best we know of is in the Dominican Republic).
  3. Once you have a foreign passport, consider renouncing your US/UK or other western police state passport. Wait lists to renounce US passports have recently increased from 6 months to over 2 years as a flood of US citizens look to get out while they still can.
  4. Get your assets outside of the control of your own government. Transport and store your gold and silver around the world (TDV will be releasing a full Special Report called “Getting Your Gold Out of Dodge” in the next month with lots of information on how to do this).

There are plenty of countries where the Government is not a giant all-seeing machine but is more of a nuisance.  Some people state that they’d rather live inside the police state of the US than in some “corrupt” foreign country.  That is your choice.  But we’d rather give some policeman 200 pesos and get on with our day than to live inside the panopticon in the US and become ensnared into the criminal caste system in the US where escape is nearly impossible.

Subscribe to The Dollar Vigilante today to get information and insights into the best ways to escape from the West and where and how to go elsewhere.

30.01.2012 8:01:00
Currently, there's no quick fix for severe depression. Antidepressants usually take weeks to work, if they work at all. But patients who received experimental doses of ketamine — long used as an anesthetic, and an illegal club drug — report an astounding relief from their symptoms in less than a day.

30.01.2012 15:00:00

Brian J. Malkin

Thumbnail image for FDA logo.jpg
On January 26, FDA's Acting Chief Counsel, Elizabeth H. Dickinson, Esq., and FDA's Deputy Center Director for Policy, Center for Devices and Radiological Health ("CDRH"), Nancy K. Stade, Esq., spoke at the Annual Meeting of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Law Section of the New York State Bar Association. Dickinson provided an overview of the year's hot legal issues and Stade offered her views on FDA's efforts for improving its medical review process and plans for the future.

Stade spoke first in a spirited debate between former FDA and current consultant Philip J. Phillips, Esq., President, Phillips Consulting Group, LLC, Professor Ralph F. Hall, Professor of Practice, University of Minnesota Law School, and Partner, Lauren R. Silvis, Esq., Sidley Austin LLP. Section 513 of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act ("FD&C Act") mandates that, prior to marketing, FDA must classify all medical devices into one of three classes depending on the intended use, indications for use, and level of control necessary to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the device. Class I requires the least control, followed by class II, and class III requires the most control. Section 513(i) of the FD&C Act essentially states that if a new device is substantially equivalent to an already-marketed device or "predicate" device, the new device is given the same classification as the device already in the market and may be submitted as a "510(k)" submission, which is based on section 510(k) of the FD&C Act. If the new device is not substantially equivalent to any such device, the new device is placed in class III and requires a premarket approval application ("PMA") under Section 515 of the FD&C Act.

Over the years, the 510(k) process has become the most common and controversial pathway for bringing medical devices to market. FDA's definition of medical device includes products ranging from simple tongue depressors to pacemakers to laser surgical devices. Under the current 510(k) process, device manufacturers must notify FDA of their intent to market a medical device at least 90 days prior to launch. If FDA determines that the device is substantially equivalent to an existing 510(k) cleared device or other device that was on the market when the Medical Device Amendments were enacted in 1976, then it may proceed to market. If not, it must undergo pre-market approval as a premarket approval application ("PMA").

Continue Reading

31.01.2012 9:00:00

An Argentine court has fined drug monolith GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) a piddling $90,000 for conducting illegal vaccine trials on third-world babies between 2007 and 2008 that resulted in 14 of those babies being killed. GSK's shocking and utterly horrific crimes against...

01.02.2012 6:19:36
The Food and Drug Administration secretly monitored the private emails of staff doctors and scientists who alleged the agency was approving medical devices that posed a danger to patients, according to federal court documents. In a lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Washington, six current and former FDA employees also claim the agency sought to repress warnings about potential corruption in device reviews by retaliating against whistleblowers who passed information to Congress and the news media. FDA spokeswoman Erica Jefferson said the agency does not comment on ongoing or pending litigation. FDA computers warn users, when they log on, that no one on the system has a reasonable expectation of privacy and that the government may intercept any data at any time for any lawful government purpose, the Washington Post reported on Monday. After FDA employees aired their concerns to the incoming Obama administration in January 2009, the agency began intercepting the emails they sent to congressional staff via government computers, using private Google and Yahoo email accounts, the documents allege. The FDA also used spyware to capture electronic snapshots of staff computer screens, which the lawsuit says allowed the agency to obtain privately stored whistleblower reports and identify others involved in whistleblower activities. The doctors and scientists maintain that own their actions were legal but that the FDA surveillance violated their constitutional rights to privacy and had a chilling effect on whistleblowing activities. The alleged surveillance lasted for two years.

01.02.2012 16:36:34

WINSLOW TWP. — A township man has been charged with possession and distribution of marijuana after police said he was selling the illegal substance to a Cherry Hill Township woman. Timothy Smith, 26, of Meadowrue Lane was arrested about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in front of his home in the township’s Sicklerville section, police said. Jessica DiMatteo, 27, of Sheffield...

WINSLOW TWP. — A township man has been charged with possession and distribution of marijuana after police said he was selling the illegal substance to a Cherry Hill Township woman.

Timothy Smith, 26, of Meadowrue Lane was arrested about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in front of his home in the township’s Sicklerville section, police said.

Jessica DiMatteo, 27, of Sheffield Road, Cherry Hill, was charged with loitering in order to commit a drug offense.

31.01.2012 0:01:38
MONDAY, Jan. 30 -- A new study finds U.S. Christians on both sides of the ideological divide believe Jesus is more compassionate than they are when it comes to the issues of helping the poor and providing services to illegal immigrants. But there's...

2012-01-31 14:15:18
According to documents recently released by federal courts, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allegedly spied on its own employees. The organization is charged with secretly accessing the private e-mail accounts of staff researchers who criticized the agency for approving medical equipment that posed a potential safety risk to patients. A group of six doctors and scientists, all either current or former employees of the federal health agency, filed a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court in D.C. last week alleging that the organization attempted to prevent its own experts from releasing potentially incriminating reports about corrupt practices in the agency’s review process for new medical equipment. All of the plaintiffs were part of an FDA division in charge of reviewing applications for new medical technology. According to the recently released documents, FDA chiefs started intercepting the e-mails sent by the whistleblowers to members of Congress after they had initially made their concerns known to the Obama administration in early 2009. Although using government computers to communicate with congressional staff members, the dissenting researchers reportedly used their own private e-mail accounts with Google and Yahoo. Moreover, the FDA allegedly used spyware software in order to obtain snapshot images of the whistleblower’s computer screens which were in turn used to make illicit copies of their private communications and identify other staff members who were assisting them. In an article published Monday in the Washington Post, the newspaper noted that FDA computers warn all users when they log in that they have “no reasonable expectation of privacy.” The researchers filing the charges, however, have stated that the FDA’s surveillance tactics violated their constitutionally guaranteed privacy rights and that they were intended to obstruct legitimate whistleblowing activity. “Who would have thought that they would have the nerve to be monitoring my communications to Congress?” one of the plaintiffs in the suit Robert C. Smith told the Washington Post. “How dare they?” added the indignant former radiology professor at Yale and Cornell universities. Smith was employed by the FDA until the agency decided not to renew his contract in July 2010. FDA spokeswoman Erica Jefferson has stated only that the agency does not comment on ongoing litigation. In addition to approving medical equipment that researchers had flagged as dangerous, the plaintiffs also say that the FDA attempted to retaliate against them by refusing to renew their employment contracts—as was the case with Jefferson—as well as by accusing them of criminal malfeasance. After airing their complaints about agency’s dubious approval practices to the New York Times in March2010, the FDA attempted to launch a criminal investigation against the whistleblowers, claiming that they had unlawfully released confidential business information. The FDA’s allegations were shot down by independent federal investigators who noted that the reported activity was legal and that the charges lacked evidence. As the investigation grows into a public scandal, legislators have belated begun registering their disapproval. In an official statement made last week, Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa said: “The FDA has a huge responsibility to protect public health and safety [and] it’s hard to see how managers apparently thought it was a good use of time to shadow agency scientists and monitor their e-mail accounts for legally protected communications with Congress.” --- On the Net:

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