Decriminalizing Drugs: When Treatment Replaces Prison – The New York Times

With those caveats, here’s what’s happened in Portugal:Overdose deaths — down by 72 percent.Drug-induced deaths dropped from 78 in 2001, to 22 in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available. In 2012 Portugal had three overdose deaths per million people ages 15 to 64, the second-lowest number in Europe after Romania, while the European average was 17.2 per million.   The United States, by contrast, had about 200 overdose deaths per million in 2013, and the number has risen since then.Spread of H.I.V. — down by 94 percent.In 2001, 1,016 new H.I.V. infections were reported in Portugal. In 2012, there were 56. This is one of the largest drops in Europe.Drug crime and imprisonment — down, by definition.In 2000, drug offenders comprised 43 percent (pdf, Vol 1 p 141) of those sentenced to prison. Now drug-related offenders are at 24 percent — and they are the ones you want in jail: dealers and traffickers, not users. Drug-related crime — offenses committed while high, or to get money for drugs — is also down.Drug use — mixedThe number of people who report having used any drug in the past year (overwhelmingly cannabis) rose slightly until 2007, according to a national survey (pdf, page 103) carried out in 2001, 2007 and 2012. Then use dropped — by a total of 27 percent from 2001 to 2012.   Heroin use followed a similar pattern — slightly up, and then sharply down. In this, Portugal is similar to other European countries. Past-year heroin use is now statistically close to zero.

Source: Decriminalizing Drugs: When Treatment Replaces Prison – The New York Times

Dear Donald Trump, Meet My Very Scary Muslim Friends | A Separate State of Mind | A Blog by Elie Fares

I honestly and from the deepest parts of my heart wish on you, Mr. Trump, never to be subjected to what these people had to go through: I hope you never know what it is to see your loved ones die in front of you. I hope you never know what it is to see your home destroyed as you drive away from it. I hope you never know what it is to be stuck in limbo, not knowing how to move on with your life or what to do. I hope you never have your worth as a human be valued by how much you can contribute to a society. I hope you never have to be labeled as a terrorist until proven otherwise when you are ALWAYS a perpetual victim. I hope you never have to deal with the likes of you.These are the more than a billion Muslim in the world, Mr. Trump, who live in hellish conditions, whose lives are always contingent upon powers higher up doing whatever they please with their homes simply because they exist on profitable lands, and whose worth as human beings is always dependent on the net price of the oil barrel.These are the more than a billion Muslim in the world who scare you but are incapable of doing any harm to you, while you get people to hate them, to draw weapons at them for simply existing, for believing that they are worthless.

Except you are not a hater of all Muslims, isn’t that right? Or is it that you only love those rich Muslims who build golf courses in your name and whose name you can use to say that you have “some Muslims who agree with you” akin to those people who have “gay friends” who agree with them that gay marriage is an abomination.

Isn’t that you with Hussain Sajwani, head of Dubai’s DAMAC group?

Entertain me for a moment, Mr. Trump, and answer this: How is it that you will screen for Muslims entering your beloved country on its path to greatness? Is there a Muslim gene you isolated? Will you get them to recite Quran verses? Where would that place me, a non-Muslim, who knows quite a few of Quran verses? Do you need me to recite them now or would that scare you?What you’re saying Donald Trump is not scary. Let me call it what it is, because most American journalists are somehow still shying away from using the word with you: it’s disgusting, revolting, bigoted, racist, Nazi-like and inhumane. Is your middle name Adolf? If not, I suggest you change it to that because the last time someone had such a message broadcast in such a way was post-WWI in Germany and we all know how that turned out to be.

Source: Dear Donald Trump, Meet My Very Scary Muslim Friends | A Separate State of Mind | A Blog by Elie Fares

Canada launches inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women

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Justin Trudeau promises ‘total renewal’ of relationship with aboriginal people with investigation of nearly 1,200 murders and disappearances in three decades

Canada’s government has launched a long-awaited national inquiry into the murder or disappearance of hundreds of indigenous women, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised a “total renewal” of the country’s relationship with its aboriginal population.

Speaking to an Assembly of First Nations (AFN) special chiefs gathering in Gatineau, Québec, the Liberal leader announced that his government had begun the process to create the inquiry into the nearly 1,200 indigenous women and girls who have been murdered or who have gone missing in Canada over the past three decades.

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US to ban soaps and other products containing microbeads

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New act would phase out the tiny pieces of plastic found in soap, toothpaste and body washes, which pollute waters and spread throughout the food chain

The US is set to ban personal care products that contain microbeads after the House of Representatives approved a bill that would phase out the environmentally-harmful items.

The bill, which had been backed by a bipartisan committee, will now go to the Senate for approval.

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Donald Trump shows hate speech is now out and proud in the mainstream | Comment is free | The Guardian

Those who saw him only as an entertainer kept waiting for his Republican audience to get the joke and move on to more plausible candidates. But on Monday, after he called for Muslims to be prevented from entering the US, his presence had become so toxic, even his most dismissive detractors could ignore him no more.To cheers from the faithful, Trump read out a statement referring to himself in the third person: “Donald J Trump is calling for a complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”Americans are used to such venom dripping from the lips of talk radio hosts and the occasional Fox News anchor. But to be uttered by the frontrunner for the nomination of one of the two main parties was more than many had bargained for. What once had been considered hate speech confined to the margins of political life is now out and proud in the mainstream. “Probably not politically correct,” Trump said afterwards. “But I don’t care”.

This is a large part of his appeal. He articulates the frustration and bewilderment of that section of uneducated, unskilled, low-paid white America, whose wages have stagnated and social mobility has stalled that is nostalgic for its local privileges and global status. In recent times, they have lost wars, jobs, houses and confidence.So when he brands Mexicans “rapists”, Chinese “cheats” and all Muslims potential threats he gives free rein to their insecurities about an increasingly cosmopolitan and less predictable world they feel they have been excluded from.To that extent, his base is not too different from that of the Front National, which just triumphed in the French regional elections, Ukip or any of the range of far-right parties currently making headway in Europe.

Source: Donald Trump shows hate speech is now out and proud in the mainstream | Comment is free | The Guardian

California water nuked – what about crops, as well as people?

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — In a trailer park tucked among irrigated orchards that help make California’s San Joaquin Valley the richest farm region in the world, 16-year-old Giselle Alvarez, one of the few English-speakers in the community of farmworkers, puzzles over the notices posted on front doors: There’s a danger in their drinking water.Uranium, the notices warn, tests at a level considered unsafe by federal and state standards. The law requires the park’s owners to post the warnings. But they are awkwardly worded and in English, a language few of the park’s dozens of Spanish-speaking families can read.”It says you can drink the water – but if you drink the water over a period of time, you can get cancer,” said Alvarez, whose working-class family has no choice but keep drinking and cooking with the tainted tap water daily, as they have since Alvarez was just learning to walk. “They really don’t explain.”Uranium, the stuff of nuclear fuel for power plants and atom bombs, increasingly is showing in drinking water systems in major farming regions of the U.S. West – a naturally occurring but unexpected byproduct of irrigation, of drought, and of the overpumping of natural underground water reserves.An Associated Press investigation in California’s central farm valleys – along with the U.S. Central Plains, among the areas most affected – found authorities are doing little to inform the public at large of the growing risk.That includes the one out of four families on private wells in this farm valley who, unknowingly, are drinking dangerous amounts of uranium, researchers determined this year and last. Government authorities say long-term exposure to uranium can damage kidneys and raise cancer risks, and scientists say it can have other harmful effects.In this swath of farmland, roughly 250 miles long and encompassing major cities, up to one in 10 public water systems have raw drinking water with uranium levels that exceed federal and state safety standards, the U.S. Geological Survey has found.More broadly, nearly 2 million people in California’s Central Valley and in the U.S. Midwest live within a half-mile of groundwater containing uranium over the safety standards, University of Nebraska researchers said in a study published in September.Everything from state agencies to tiny rural schools are scrambling to deal with hundreds of tainted public wells – more regulated than private wells under safe-drinking-water laws.That includes water wells at the Westport Elementary School, where 450 children from rural families study outside the Central California farm hub of Modesto.At Westport’s playground, schoolchildren take a break from tether ball to sip from fountains marked with Spanish and English placards: “SAFE TO DRINK.”The school, which draws on its own wells for its drinking fountains, sinks and cafeteria, is one of about 10 water systems in the farm region that have installed uranium removal facilities in recent years. Prices range from $65,000 for the smallest system to the millions of dollars.Just off Westport’s playground, a school maintenance chief jangles the keys to the school’s treatment operation, locked in a shed the size of a garage. Inside, a system of tubes, dials and canisters resembling large scuba tanks removes up to a pound a year of uranium from the school’s wells.The uranium gleaned from the school’s well water and other Central California water systems is handled like the nuclear material it is – taken away by workers in masks, gloves and other protective garments, said Ron Dollar, a vice president at Water Remediation Technology, a Colorado-based firm.It is then processed into nuclear fuel for power plants, Dollar said.

Source: News from The Associated Press

Venezuela election results

“The bad guys won, like the bad guys always do, through lies and fraud,” said Maduro. “Workers of the fatherland know that you have a president, a son of Chavez, who will protect you.”Hardliners in the notoriously fractious opposition seem similarly inflexible, preferring to talk about ending Maduro’s rule before his term ends in 2019 rather than resolving Venezuela’s triple-digit inflation, plunging currency and the widespread shortages expected to worsen in January as businesses close for the summer vacation.Moderates however are calling for dialogue to give Maduro a chance to roll back policies they blame for the unprecedented economic crisis. But with most Venezuelans bracing for more hardship as oil prices, the lifeblood of the economy, hover near a seven-year low, even they recognize the window for change is small and closing fast.

Source: News from The Associated Press

On Artificial Turf Issue, U.S. Women Dig In at Last – The New York Times

“We have become so accustomed to playing on whatever surface is put in front of us,” the team wrote in an open letter posted Monday on The Players’ Tribune. “But we need to realize that our protection — our safety — is priority No. 1.”Good for them. With their stock and their visibility as high as it has ever been, the players realized that there has never been a better time to find their voices.So goalkeeper Hope Solo shared a photo with her one million Twitter followers and forward Alex Morgan, who battled a leg injury for much of the past year, grumbled publicly about the “horrible” conditions. Morgan even told Fox Sports that she now encourages her teammates to speak their minds and ask “whether we should be playing on it if the men wouldn’t be playing on it.”And there’s the rub. The men’s national team does not play on artificial turf. Even when it schedules a game in a stadium that has it, sod is laid down for the game, no matter the cost. The women, however, were to play eight of the 10 games of their current World Cup victory tour on artificial turf.

Source: On Artificial Turf Issue, U.S. Women Dig In at Last – The New York Times