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 31 
 on: May 23, 2016, 06:00 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
U.S Elections and the manipulation by the Corporate Media

One Chart Shows Why All The Trump Leading Clinton Polls Are Completely Worthless

By Jason Easley on Sun, May 22nd, 2016 at 1:39 pm
PoliticusUSA

What the media isn't saying about their national polls showing Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton is that they are worthless. A look at the past two election presidential cycles shows that the polls aren't measuring what the media thinks they are measuring.

One Chart Shows Why All The Trump Leading Clinton Polls Are Completely Worthless

What the media isn’t saying about their national polls showing Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton is that they are worthless. A look at the past two election presidential cycles shows that the polls aren’t measuring what the media thinks they are measuring.

On a nearly daily basis, national polls are being released showing the presidential race as a tie or with Trump having a small lead over Hillary Clinton. The media are passing off these polls as the current state of the presidential race, but, in reality, what they are measuring is a small bump for Donald Trump that is coming from Republicans rallying around their nominee.

Here is a chart of a Gallup poll from 2008 showing John McCain leading Barack Obama, after he had clinched the Republican nomination while Obama and Clinton were in the final stages of the Democratic primary.

    Also in May 2008, McCain took a lead on Obama when Clinton was still in the primary contest. pic.twitter.com/sYWusl7eDS

    — Gideon Resnick (@GideonResnick) May 22, 2016

Like McCain, Trump has gotten a bump from winning his party’s nominee, while his likely general election opponent is still finishing up their primary.

After Rick Santorum had dropped out of the Republican race in April 2012, Mitt Romney led President Obama, 47%-45%. Romney got a second smaller bounce after officially clinching the Republican nomination in late May of 2012.

What is going to happen next is that Hillary Clinton will get a bounce of her own once she clinches the Democratic nomination. Clinton will likely get a second bounce when Bernie Sanders ends his campaign and endorses her.

A problem with media organizations doing and reporting on their own polling is that it creates a conflict between making news and reporting the news. Networks do polls because they provide news content that they can shape into a dramatic storyline.

The current national polls mean nothing. Once Clinton is the official Democratic nominee, the state of the race will begin to take shape. However, the polling that really matters won’t be happening until the fall in the battleground states that will determine who the next president will be.

For now, do yourself a favor and ignore the head to head matchup national polls.

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Reality Slaps Republicans As One Number Shows Why Trump Is Likely To Lose

By Jason Easley on Sun, May 22nd, 2016 at 3:52 pm
PoliticusUSA

The average of polls contains a wake-up call for Republicans that shows why Donald Trump remains likely to lose in November.

The May national polls have no value when predicting the results of the likely head to head general election contest, but there is a statistic in the Real Clear Politics average of polls that should encourage Democrats while frightening Republicans.

Here is the latest RCP average: first image below

What you will notice is that Donald Trump never climbs above 43%. Hillary Clinton has the potential to get into the 50s, but Trump has been stuck at 43% or below since July of 2015.

John McCain got 45.6% in the vote in 2008. Mitt Romney got 47.1% of the popular vote in 2012. Donald Trump is on pace to perform 3-4 points worse than Romney and McCain each did in 2008 and 2012. Trump is also currently enjoying a post presumptive nominee bump in the polls, which is likely to evaporate once the Democratic primary ends.

The average of polls shows that Trump has never led Clinton with a majority of the electorate. Donald Trump’s ceiling may be closer to 45% than 51%. Trump is a low upside nominee because of his high name recognition and the saturation media coverage that he has received. There is no way for Trump to introduce himself to voters or redefine himself with the electorate.

Hillary Clinton doesn’t have the whole Democratic Party behind her yet, and Trump still can’t break 43%. This one fact is the biggest reason why Donald Trump is likely to lose in November. Trump could be peaking now, and things may get much uglier for Republicans by the time voters are ready to go to the polls in November

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CNN Busts The Media For Creating And Pushing Bogus Divided Democrats Narrative

By Jason Easley on Sun, May 22nd, 2016 at 3:07 pm
PoliticusUSA

CNN’s Reliable Sources busted the media for inventing the narrative that Democrats are divided.

Transcript via CNN’s Reliable Sources:

STELTER: Boy, it is a convenient narrative, but is it maybe a little too convenient?

Let’s bring back our all-star panel. CNN political commentator Carl Bernstein, the author of “A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton”, in Washington, American University media professor Jane Hall, and here in New York, “Daily Beast” editor-in-chief John Avlon.

Carl, we need a reality check here. Are political reporters and TV producers exaggerating this Dem civil war?

BERNSTEIN: Yes. We’re hardly up to 1968 and Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies and blood in the streets of Chicago. I think there’s abundant evidence that the Democrats will coalesce around their nominee, presumably Hillary Clinton, maybe Bernie Sanders….This is hardly a huge schism the way it’s being played on the air.

STELTER: Yes, we heard from Obama aides in 2008 saying it was more intense than Obama and Clinton than it is now. But, Jane, maybe one of the differences is there’s much more social media. There’s actually pro-Bernie media that exists out there that is encouraging people to buy into this belief that what happened in Nevada was chaotic and that the system is rigged against him.

Do you think that that is a detriment here, that there are many more partisan options for people?

HALL: Well, you know, I think that the media narrative is reflecting a genuine concern on the part of the Clinton people. She needs to win the passion and the votes of young people, in particular, and he has created, I think, a movement that perhaps has even surprised him….There is a genuine fight going on. I don’t think the media are overplaying this. This could have very bad impacts for Hillary Clinton at the convention.

STELTER: I hear you, John. Go ahead, John.

AVLON: I’m just not buying this.

STELTER: No?

AVLON: No. I do think it’s too convenient, the media narrative. There are deep, deep divides beneath the Republican Party, which is essentially in warlord status right now.

The Democrats do have increasing divisions on an increasingly activist left, which is insurgent, which Bernie Sanders represents, righteous anger about a rigged system. You see it in the rise of Elizabeth Warren and Bill de Blasio, and other folks in the progressive populist left..

But the party will rally around Hillary Clinton. This poll today — the poll we’re talking about today about high negatives exists with a party that’s still conducting a pretty contentious primary. And more importantly, you know, hating Hillary Clinton has been an industry on the far right for a quarter century.

That baggage exists. It is real. But whatever enthusiasm gap exists in Hillary Clinton among the Democratic Party will be erased when they focus on the real possibility of President Trump.

It is rare to see fellow members of the media speak honestly about how the press shapes storylines and narratives that they use to fuel ongoing coverage. The media had to switch gears after the Republican resistance to Trump fell apart, so they quickly came up with the Democratic division narrative. The truth is that the presidential contest has entered the traditional May limbo phase. The Clinton and Trump campaigns will clinch the number of delegates that they need in a couple of weeks. The cable networks have a lot of airtime to fill, and very little drama to discuss.

The media needed something to talk about. The rowdiness of Nevada Democratic convention happened at a perfect time to fill the gap. Democrats are not divided. Polling trends suggest that Hillary Clinton will get a big bump after the primary ends. When Clinton officially becomes the Democratic nominee, Democrats will come home and focus on wiping the floor with Donald Trump.

The Democratic division talk coming out the media is empty noise. As Rachel Maddow pointed out, the Democratic primary is behaving in a very normal way. There is nothing unusual happening on the Democratic side.

The bored media has created a storyline, and it was nice to see CNN’s Reliable Sources giving the media’s role in making the news a public airing.

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Hillary Clinton Just Put A Stake Through The Heart Of Trump’s Presidential Campaign

By Jason Easley on Sun, May 22nd, 2016 at 11:34 am
PoliticusUSA

Hillary Clinton went straight for the heart of the myth of Donald Trump by calling the presumptive Republican nominee “pretend successful” while on NBC’s Meet The Press.

After calling Trump hollow and focused on only making himself look great, Clinton was asked about Mark Cuban as a potential VP and used the question to call Trump pretend successful.

Clinton was talking about her VP search when she said, “I am absolutely intending to look far and wide, and I think that is the best way to find somebody who can really capture what’s needed in the country, and business people, especially successful business people who are really successful as opposed to pretend successful I think I have a lot to offer.”

Chuck Todd asked Clinton if she thinks Trump has done anything that deserves praise. She answered, “I think he needs to release his tax returns. The only two we have show that he hasn’t paid a penny in income taxes, and yet he goes around talking about make America great. You know, that means paying for our military. That means paying for our roads. That means paying for the VA. That means a lot of things, and if you’ve got someone running for president whose afraid to release his tax returns because it will expose the fact that he pays no federal income tax. I think that’s a big problem.”

Hillary Clinton took a dig at Donald Trump that is certain to drive him up the wall and converted it into a legitimate question about why he won’t release his tax returns. Clinton is defining the reason why Trump won’t release his tax returns, and Trump can do nothing about it, but release the returns.

The whole basis of Trump’s campaign is the idea that he is a successful businessman who can bring that success to the presidency. If Hillary Clinton exposes Trump as a fake business success, the whole mythology that his presidential campaign is built on will come tumbling down.

The way to beat Trump is to assume that nothing he says is true, and the big lie that everything Trump-related revolves around is his “business success.” What we are witnessing are the first steps in the demolition of Donald Trump as a credible presidential candidate.

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Bernie Sanders Drops His Biggest Hint Yet That He Is Open To Being Hillary Clinton’s VP

By Jason Easley on Sun, May 22nd, 2016 at 10:28 am
PoliticusUSA

Bernie Sanders dropped a strong hint that he was open to being Hillary Clinton's running mate during an interview on ABC's This Week.

Bernie Sanders dropped a strong hint that he was open to being Hillary Clinton’s running mate during an interview on ABC’s This Week.

Transcript via ABC’s This Week:

    STEPHANOPOULOS: If you don’t, sir, and this is my final question, you open to being considered as Secretary Clinton’s running mate?

    SANDERS: It’s a little bit early to talk about that. Right now, our function is to do everything I can, George — and you’re going to see me running all over California, we’re in New Mexico now — we’re going to everything that we can to get every vote and every delegate that we can and go into that convention with as much momentum as is possible.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: Didn’t hear a no. Senator, we’ll be talking to you soon. Take care.

Stephanopoulos was correct. There was not a no in his answer. Sen. Sanders wants to influence and shape the future of the Democratic Party. One of his replies in the This Week interview laid out the important issues that he felt needed to be discussed within the Democratic platform. Sanders is still fighting for the Democratic nomination because he wants to be a leader within the party.

Bernie Sanders has never given any indication that his differences with Hillary Clinton are personal, or he would turn down the VP slot if offered to him. The strength of the argument for Bernie Sanders as Clinton’s running mate depends on whether or not one believes in the depth of the division within the Democratic Party.

One thing is clear. Bernie Sanders would bring Independents and lock down younger voters for Hillary Clinton. Sanders also attacks Donald Trump with a zeal and conviction that would throw the Republican off of his game for the entire fall. The downsides to Sanders are his age, and he does have some policy differences with Clinton.

Bernie Sanders would be an outside of the box, out the mainstream choice for a running mate, which might be exactly what the conventional Clinton campaign needs for November. Hillary Clinton could do a whole lot worse for herself than putting Bernie Sanders on the ticket.

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McDonald’s CEO Admits Obama’s Economy and Higher Wages Is A Rousing Success

By Rmuse on Sun, May 22nd, 2016 at 8:59 pm
PoliticusUSA

The CEO of McDonald’s fast food chain, Steve Easterbrook, was pleased to announce that driven by the President’s push for higher wages and a growing economy, McDonald’s profits are up, employee turnover is lower, and customer satisfaction scores are higher. So much for the GOP’s lies that higher wages and employee benefits are business killers.

*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*

For the past seven years President Barack Obama has worked tirelessly to address income inequality plaguing far too many Americans, including issuing non-stop calls for a minimum wage hike, As is usually the case, Republicans opposed any plan to help lift Americans earning poverty wages out of their financial distress, and complained loudly and bitterly that raising wages is certain to break businesses.

However, that is not the case by any means. In fact, the CEO of McDonald’s fast food chain, Steve Easterbrook, was pleased to announce that driven by the President’s push for higher wages and a growing economy, McDonald’s profits are up, employee turnover is lower, and customer satisfaction scores are higher. So much for the GOP’s lies that higher wages and employee benefits are business killers.

Last year McDonald’s raised wages for over 90,000 of its employees and provided more incentives and benefit packages. The results are in and according to Mr. Easterbrook; “I am pleased with the progress we’ve made in the 13 months since I became CEO. We are making improvements that our customers are noticing to serve hotter, fresher food with improved overall service experience. We are returning many of our critical markets to growth in terms of sales, guest counts, and market share. And we’re increasing profitability both for the company and our franchisees, whose cash flow’s approaching all-time highs in many of our major markets.”

Fortune magazine reported that, “U.S. comparable sales rose 5.4 percent, their third straight increase after what had been two years of declines.” Although this increased sales growth is related to offering new menu deals, it is beyond refute that the higher profits and undeniably welcomed customer satisfaction is due to happier employees; also a factor in that increased growth in profits.

Across Europe, McDonald’s franchisees typically outperform their American counterparts because their employees are happier earning a minimum wage of $12 to $21 an hour and are provided respectable benefit packages; with a nominally small increase in retail costs of food items. Coupled with European McDonald’s success, the announcement by Easterbrook just drove a stake through the heart of the right wing talking point that “increasing wages and providing more benefits hurts businesses;” at least for corporate giants like McDonald’s, Target, and Walmart it has not.

The McDonald’s CEO also reported that besides a significant growth in profits, there is an overall 6 percent uptick in customer satisfaction. It is something Mr. Easterbrook attributes to better compensation and incentive packages for McDonald’s employees. Besides higher wages and vacation pay, McDonald’s offers tuition assistance to eligible employees; a benefit he says has led to lower employee turnover.

As announced by the company less than a year ago, McDonald’s immediate employee pay increase “lifted the average hourly rate for its U.S. restaurant employees to $1 above the mandated minimum wage.” The company expects average wages to rise to over $10 an hour by the end of 2016.

The hamburger chain also announced it plans to dole out vacation benefits to employees of the stores it operates, according to a company press release. To sweeten the deal even more, the company announced that its employees who choose not take the time off will be paid for the value of that time. The company also made an important offer of tuition assistance to its employees under a program called “Archways To Opportunity.”

Labor advocates say the store could still go farther and affect more McDonald’s employees. Currently, McDonald’s does not offer all these benefits to individual franchisee’s employees who make up about 90 percent of McDonald’s labor force. According to the research director at Jobs With Justice, Erin Johansson, “It’s great news, however we would definitely like to see them extend the wage increases not just to their direct employees, but to their franchisees as well.”

It is true, of course, that McDonald’s demanding that each franchise owner provide their employees with the same wage hikes and benefit packages would reduce employee turnover and have exactly the same effect on profits and customer satisfaction. As a value-added benefit to American taxpayers, paying higher wages and offering benefits would certainly reduce the unfair tax burden on Americans who pay out a little over $1.2 billion annually in taxes to cover public assistance programs for underpaid McDonald’s employees.

It is noteworthy that none of this would have transpired without the economy, or call for higher wages, created under President Obama. As the data show, all it takes is one or two companies to raise their minimum wages and offer employee benefits to encourage wage competition at other companies. In fact, companies that have raised wages, like Walmart, McDonald’s, Target, and TJ Maxx have all remained profitable putting every dirty Republican lie about higher wages killing business to rest.

In the case of McDonald’s, the corporation is likely learning that it is just “smart business sense to provide livable wages and benefits to their employees;” even though $10 or $15 dollars an hour is not really considered a “living wage.” With higher profits, lower employee turnover and higher customer satisfaction, one might think Republicans would abandon their opposition to raising the federal minimum wage to aid businesses large and small to experience the growing success of a corporate giant like McDonald’s. However, Republicans have to answer to their libertarian masters the Koch brothers, and until Charles and David Koch give the “all clear,” congressional Republicans will stay the course and keep as many Americans earning slave wages as humanly possible.

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Trump Suggests Only Those Who Give Him Money Will Have White House Access

By Jason Easley on Sun, May 22nd, 2016 at 1:01 pm
PoliticusUSA

Trump suggested during a Sunday morning interview that only those Republicans who donate to his presidential campaign will have access to his White House.

Trump suggested during a Sunday morning interview that only those Republicans who donate to his presidential campaign will have access to his White House.

When asked about a list of Republican mega donors who are refusing to give him money, Trump said, “These are people that won’t have access to the White House, and they understand that like they do every other candidate. They endorse people like Jeb Bush. They would have had total control over Jeb. They would have had total control over many of the other people.”

Trump’s answer was an admission that his White House would be a pay to play operation.

Trump isn’t self-funding his campaign in the fall. He claimed during the Fox and Friends interview that he would be putting “a lot of money in” for the fall, but the truth is that Trump hasn’t donated a dime to his presidential campaign. The presumptive nominee has been loaning his campaign money, which he will get back from the donations of his supporters.

Not since the days of Richard Nixon has the United States witnessed a candidate who has been so blatant about his corruption. Donald Trump is a corrupt candidate who is under the delusion that government is like a business. Trump thinks that he can bring all of his shady business practices to the White House, and it will make America great.

What Trump said to the mega-donors on Fox News was a shakedown. Trump told the big money Republicans to pay up or get shut out if he wins the White House. Contrary to his boasts, Donald Trump doesn’t have an extra billion dollars lying around. Trump can’t afford to fund his own general election campaign.

Trump is making it very clear to Republicans that only his friends are going to have White House access, and the best way to become a Trump friend is to write a check.

 32 
 on: May 23, 2016, 05:46 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
'No Muslims allowed': how nationalism is rising in Aung San Suu Kyi's Myanmar

Concerns grow that Buddhist extremism may flourish unless country’s new democratic leaders counter discrimination against minorities

Poppy McPherson
AFP
Monday 23 May 2016 03.11 BST

At the entrance to Thaungtan village there’s a brand new sign, bright yellow, and bearing a message: “No Muslims allowed to stay overnight. No Muslims allowed to rent houses. No marriage with Muslims.”

The post was erected in late March by Buddhist residents of the village in Myanmar’s lush Irrawaddy Delta region who signed, or were strong-armed into signing, a document asserting that they wanted to live separately.

Since then a couple of other villages across the country have followed suit. Small but viciously insular, these “Buddhist-only” outposts serve as microcosms of the festering religious tensions that threaten Myanmar’s nascent experiment with democracy.

After decades of military rule, Myanmar has entered a new era. As state counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi is in charge, though key institutions remain under the army’s control.

Recent weeks, however, have brought a surge in nationalist activity. Scores rallied outside the US embassy in Yangon last month to demand diplomats stop using the word Rohingya to describe millions of Muslims confined to internal displacement camps and villages in western Myanmar. Nationalists insist the group are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

The few public comments Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy has given on the issue have not been encouraging.

Suu Kyi reportedly instructed the new US ambassador not to use the term Rohingya. The new minister for religion, former general Thura Aung Ko, recently called Muslims and Hindus “associate citizens”.

The fact that nationalist rhetoric has gone unchallenged, and has in some cases been echoed, by the new government has left some wondering what place the country’s minorities have in its future.

Thaungtan is a small village of about 700 people, mostly farmers. At the end of a long dirt road flanked by tall grass and banana trees, it is extremely isolated.

Recently, residents formed the Patriotic Youth Network, a nationalist group dedicated to developing the village and keeping it out of foreign hands.

At the local monastery, a young monk with piercing black eyes named Ma Ni Ta sits unsmiling as villagers clamour to explain the new sign.

“The village has talked and seen that the NLD didn’t do anything on the religious matter,” he says.

It has fallen to the village to handle the mission to “protect religion” themselves.

In early 2015 a stranger of south Asian origin moved to Thaungtan.

According to the villagers’ version of events he initially got along well with his neighbours. He said he was Hindu. Then he started buying land. That’s when they jumped to the conclusion that he must be Muslim.

“It’s like ghosts. We have never seen a ghost but we’re afraid,” says one villager, with a rueful laugh. He was part of a small minority who opposed the sign, he says, asking not to be named for fear of reprisals.

Members of the Patriotic Youth Network found the new arrival and his family did not all have identity cards. “They might have sneaked in from Bangladesh,” says Ma Ni Ta.

“If we live together, we might have some problems with donations and religious ceremonies,” he says.

Kyaw San Win was the stranger who came under suspicion. A stocky 28-year-old with large, long-lashed eyes, he stands in his cousin’s drinks shop in Yangon, three hours drive from Thaungtan.

He points at a small Buddha statue on a shelf and explains how his family followed both Buddhist and Hindu traditions.

Kyaw San Win says he was living in Yangon when his elderly father decided to retire to the countryside. Kyaw San Win’s cousin suggested his wife’s village: Thaungtan. They bought and renovated an old wooden house.

The monks and villagers were immediately unfriendly, he says.

After they bought another piece of land, planning to open a teashop, he and his wife got an urgent call from his father.

“Please, my son,” he said. “Please come back to the village because the villagers and the monks, they don’t really want us to live here.”

At the monastery, they were told that residents didn’t want “kalar”, an offensive term for Muslims, in their village.

“I ate pork in front of them,” Kyaw San Win recalls with an exasperated laugh. “They said I was just pretending so I could do some mission, like jihad.”

Later he says members of the Patriotic Youth Network warned him: “Someone may come and burn your house down.”

Then groups of young men took to walking and running around the house at all hours. They revved motorbikes outside.

According to Kyaw San Win, the village administrator said he couldn’t guarantee their security. So they left the village, eventually selling the home last month. Around the same time, pictures on Facebook showed members of the Youth Patriotic Network standing beside their new sign.

“Every religion, every person, should be able to live in every part of the country,” says San Htay, Kyaw San Win’s cousin. “Every person should be under the same law … The nationalist guys want to rule the village.”

“We’re really lucky we are Buddhist,” adds Kyaw San Win. “If we were Muslim there would be a conflict in that village.”

Recently it has seemed to some as though Myanmar could again be teetering on the verge of religious violence. After the disappointment of last November’s election, nationalist groups, who backed the losing military-backed Union and Solidarity Party, are again making noises.

“Now that the post-election dust has settled, it’s business as usual for religious extremists throughout the country,” says Matthew Smith, executive director of the nonprofit Fortify Rights. “Without a stronger counter-movement, this brand of religious discrimination will continue to flourish. Violence is inevitable.”

The Youth Patriotic Network in Thaungtan denies links to extremist nationalist organization Ma Ba Tha, which has waged an anti-Muslim campaign of hate in recent years.

The firebrand monk Ashin Wirathu has been accused of inciting deadly riots through his Facebook page, where he posts unsubstantiated rumours about Muslims.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Religious Affairs says he hasn’t heard about the “no-Muslim” villages. “Basically [complaints] should come from the regional level,” he said. He could not be reached to answer further questions.

The NLD is in a precarious position. Hatred of the Rohingya penetrates all levels of society. Recently, local magazine the Irrawaddy, which is run by human rights activists, published a cartoon that featured a dark-skinned half-naked man holding a sign that said “boat people”.

When students from the Yangon School of Political Science held a small peace march across the city, a few dozen men, women and children carried banners saying: “Accept Diversity. Promote Tolerance.” Police said they planned to charge the activists with unauthorised protest.

Nanda Kyaw, a Muslim taxi driver who was beaten outside Shwedagon Pagoda, from which Islamic vendors were evicted a few weeks earlier, says he is still getting headaches.

“I have to drive every day for my survival,” says the slight 31-year-old.

At least once a day, he says, a passenger waves him on when they see his goatee. But the attack in April came as a surprise.

A group of young people wound down their windows and shouted racially charged insults. Then, he said, they swerved in front of his car and beat him with iron rods. They left him bleeding from his mouth and head.

“Some people stopped their cars and watched a little bit. It’s because it was a problem between a Muslim guy and a Buddhist guy, they are afraid.”

He declines to have his picture taken, for fear of inflaming tensions.

Kyaw San Win feels the same. It’s the reason his family haven’t pursued charges against the people who hounded them from the village. Besides, he says, they wouldn’t want to move back now.

“The people, they are very narrow-minded, we don’t want to live with them,” his cousin says.

Additional reporting by Cape Diamond and Aung Naing Soe

 33 
 on: May 23, 2016, 05:43 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Sexual health gets little attention in a crisis, with devastating results

Women are 14 times more likely to die than men in a crisis. We are calling on the world humanitarian summit to prioritise reproductive healthcare

Tewodros Melesse
The author is director general of ​the International Planned Parenthood Federation
AFP
Sunday 22 May 2016 09.00 BST   

About 125 million people are affected by crises. A quarter of those people are female and of reproductive age – and women are 14 times more likely than men to die in a crisis.

On Monday global thinkers, activists and politicians will come together for the world humanitarian summit in Istanbul to tackle some of these issues. It’s time for them and us to act as the world faces the largest refugee crisis since the second world war.

One thing often overlooked when a conflict, natural disaster, or crisis strikes is a comprehensive and responsive approach to health. Sexual and reproductive health often gets little attention, with devastating consequences. That’s why we will be pushing these issues during a special session at the summit.

Reproductive health issues are compounded during a crisis. About 60% of preventable maternal deaths take place in crises and fragile settings.

We know that, when a woman in need of care and protection has travelled for days to reach a shelter or camp, she will often arrive to find no doctor or sterile equipment. We also know that in times of crisis, girls are more likely to be married off at a young age, and women and girls are at increased risk of trafficking and rape.

The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) focuses on these issues. We make sure that the “dignity kits” we give women and girls in our care contain not only the essentials, such as underwear and sanitary towels, but also items like a sarong, so they can cover themselves while changing in the camp – crucial if they have no tent. Small things like this can protect women and girls from violence.

Longer-term, we work with women and girls to build their resilience and help them take part in decision-making processes in refugee settings. We see tackling gender norms as a vital part of the services we offer.

From experience, we know that the demand for sexual and reproductive healthcare is much higher than normal in crisis situations. These are essential services and must form part of any humanitarian response.

There is already a life-saving package for delivering sexual and reproductive health, recognised by the UN and other agencies.

We need to ensure that there is a coordinated response to provide sexual and reproductive healthcare on the ground, one which has the same status as other humanitarian responses such as those surrounding food, shelter, water and sanitation.

We urge governments to include reproductive health in their own humanitarian response delivery. Donor governments need to ensure that services are more equitably distributed between conflict zones and natural disasters.

We will continue to hold the banner for sexual and reproductive rights to be given the status they deserve to ensure that the rights of women and girls, boys and men are protected.

A comprehensive response that includes sexual and reproductive health will help people to rebuild their lives after their worlds are turned upside down.

• Tewodros Melesse is director general of the International Planned Parenthood Federation

 34 
 on: May 23, 2016, 05:41 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
World humanitarian summit starts amid hope, hype and fear of empty words

World leaders convene in Istanbul with official optimism offset by concerns that summit may prove ‘expensive talking shop’ rather than catalyst for change

Patrick Kingsley in Istanbul
AFP
Monday 23 May 2016 07.00 BST

Hundreds of world leaders and politicians will descend on Istanbul on Monday in a nominal attempt to reform the global humanitarian system, despite criticism that their summit is a photo-opportunity that will achieve little.

Representatives of 175 countries, including 57 heads of states or governments, will attend the world humanitarian summit, as the outgoing UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, attempts to restructure the way the world responds to humanitarian crises.

Angela Merkel is the highest-profile western leader due to attend, while Britain will be represented by development secretary Justine Greening. About 6,000 senior aid workers will also participate in debates and panels at the two-day event.

With more people – about 125 million – in need of humanitarian assistance than ever, aid groups increasingly under-resourced, and international law under growing threat, Ban wants the international community to agree to new global humanitarian standards.

The key commitments to which he hopes leaders will agree include better structuring of aid; more funding for local groups; greater respect for the rules of war; better planning for disaster situations and climate change; and wider sharing of refugee populations.

Hailing the prospects of the summit, Herve Verhoosel, the summit’s spokesman, said: “It’s the first time in 70 years of UN history that a summit has been organised to talk about humanitarian issues. Today we’re living in the worst humanitarian situation since world war two – we have 125 million people in need of humanitarian support in the world. Can we cope with that situation working the same way we do today, or do we need to change it? That’s why the secretary general has called this conference.”

There is nevertheless mounting criticism of the summit from aid and rights workers, with Médecins Sans Frontières calling it a “fig-leaf” for international failures, and Oxfam describing it as an “expensive talking shop”. A columnist in Foreign Policy, an American magazine, wondered if it “could do more harm than good”.

MSF has even pulled out of the conference, saying it no longer believes that the assembled leaders have any genuine desire to make binding commitments. Speaking to the Guardian, MSF’s UK director, Vickie Hawkins, said it was unlikely that the same countries who are currently shirking their obligations to refugees would turn over a new leaf next week.

“The contradiction became too much for us,” said Hawkins. “We didn’t have any confidence that anything different will come out of the conference. There’s a lot of good intentions, but also empty rhetoric. And we felt we needed more than that, given the current disregard for international law.”

Hawkins also warned that the summit’s goals had become too grand, and also too political for independent aid groups like hers to agree to. “For us, the word ‘humanitarian’ has dropped out of the humanitarian summit,” Hawkins said. “It has become a summit about a much broader and longer-term political agenda, rather than being about core humanitarian assistance.”

Oxfam GB’s chief executive, Mark Goldring, said: “This summit needs to be more than an expensive talking shop by tackling the repeated failure of governments to resolve conflicts and end the culture of impunity in which civilians are killed without consequence.

Goldring added: “Rich nations cannot wash their hands of the suffering for which they are partly responsible and [must] do more to take in their fair share of the world’s most vulnerable people. Recent moves such as the EU-Turkey deal and the plans to outsource EU border controls to African countries with dubious human rights records set a dangerous precedent, horse trading the rights of refugees in order to keep them from our doorstep and shirking responsibility for their welfare.

“Last week, the Kenyan government pointed to the example of European countries turning away Syrian refugees when it announced the closure of the Dadaab refugee camp.”

Verhoosel said he was disappointed by the criticism, arguing that the UN and its members had to start somewhere, and that this week’s gathering could be that starting point.

“We need to try to do what we can during the summit,” said Verhoosel, questioning how critics could pre-empt the outcome of an event that has not yet happened. “Maybe they have a crystal ball?”

 35 
 on: May 23, 2016, 05:37 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
How southern Africa is coping with worst global food crisis for 25 years

From Angola to Zimbabwe, food prices are soaring and malnutrition is on the rise as the latest El Niño weather event takes a brutal toll

John Vidal
AFP
Sunday 22 May 2016 10.00 BST

Angola

Drought is affecting 1.4 million people across seven of Angola’s 18 provinces. Food prices have rocketed and acute malnutrition rates have doubled, with more than 95,000 children affected. Food insecurity is expected to worsen from July to the end of the year.

Botswana

Three years of drought have hit the country’s livestock and arable farming sectors hard. At least 50,000 people are in danger of severe malnutrition.

Mozambique

A “red alert” has been announced for southern and central provinces. Some rain fell in April in southern Mozambique, but most of this year’s harvest has been lost. Nearly 500,000 people are being given food aid.

Malawi

Up to 8 million people, or half the country, will need food aid after a second year of drought and disastrous floods in 2015. More than 1m tonnes of food are needed. The situation is worst in the south and central regions.

Namibia

About 500,000 Namibians are dependent on government food aid after crops failed for a third year running. Businesses in Windhoek, the capital, have been ordered by city authorities to cut water consumption by 30%.

South Africa

Seven provinces have declared a drought crisis. Maize production is down 40%. South Africa, which normally exports about 1m tonnes of food a year, will have to import about 3.5m tonnes of corn.
Swaziland

Food prices have escalated and the country’s staple food, maize, has been subject to a 66% price hike since January. The UN has provided $3m (£207m) for food and emergency relief for 95,000 affected people.

Tanzania

Tanzania has an electricity crisis after it had to shut its hydropower plants because drought is causing low water levels in its dams. Food prices have soared. Local farmers and pastoralists have clashed over dwindling pasture and water supplies and Kenyan and Ugandan farmers have invaded national parks with their cattle.

Zambia

Zambia has been rationing electricity because of a lack of water in dams, but the maize harvest has been the most successful in the region.

A state of disaster has been declared. Half the country’s rural population of 10 million people will need food assistance by Christmas. The government has appealed for $1.5bn but only $200m has been pledged.
South Sudan

Up to 5.3 million people face severe food shortages, especially in the non-conflict affected states of Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Eastern Equatoria. From January to March, 2.8 million people were classed as being in “crisis” or “emergency” food situations. The UN humanitarian plan for South Sudan has received only 27% of the $1.29bn needed.
Ethiopia

After one of its worst droughts in decades, Ethiopia is now being lashed by heavy rains and flash floods. The government and international donors have pledged more than $700m in emergency aid but experts say the country still needs $600m more.

 36 
 on: May 23, 2016, 05:33 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Biodegradable plastic 'false solution' for ocean waste problem

UN’s top environmental scientist warns bottles and bags do not break down easily and sink, as report highlights the ubiquity of plastic debris in oceans

Adam Vaughan in Nairobi
AFP
Monday 23 May 2016 11.47 BST 

Biodegradable plastic water bottles and shopping bags are a false solution to the ubiquitous problem of litter in the oceans, the UN’s top environmental scientist has warned.

Most plastic is extremely durable, leading to large plastic debris and “microplastics” to spread via currents to oceans from the Arctic to the Antarctic, a UN report published on Monday found.

Greener plastics that breakdown in the environment have been marketed as a sustainable alternative that could reduce the vast amount of plastic waste that ends up in the sea after being dumped. But Jacqueline McGlade, chief scientist at the UN Environment Programme, told the Guardian that these biodegradable plastics were not a simple solution.

“It’s well-intentioned but wrong. A lot of plastics labelled biodegradable, like shopping bags, will only break down in temperatures of 50C and that is not the ocean. They are also not buoyant, so they’re going to sink, so they’re not going to be exposed to UV and break down,” she said.

Speaking at the the UN environment assembly in Nairobi, where 170 countries are meeting and expected to pass a resolution on microplastics later this week, she added: “We have detected plastics in places as far away as the Chagos Islands [in the Indian Ocean]. Even if you are remote, you are not safe from it.”

More than 300m tonnes of plastic were produced in 2014 and that is expected to swell to nearly 2,000m tonnes by 2050 on current trends, the UN report said. While the exact amount that reaches the oceans is not known, the report concluded: “plastic debris, or litter, in the ocean is now ubiquitous.”

The spread of everything from large plastic debris such as fishing gear which dolphins can become entangled with, to fragments smaller than 5mm in diameter known as microplastics, has ecological, social and economics costs.

Jellyfish, for example, are using plastic as a habitat and to hitch a ride, allowing them to extend their range. The spread of jellyfish is considered bad news by experts because of the amount of plankton they eat, taking away food from fish and other marine life.

“There is a moral argument that we should not allow the ocean to become further polluted with plastic waste, and that marine littering should be considered a ‘common concern of humankind’,” the report’s authors wrote.

The main solution to plastics in the ocean is better waste collection and recycling, particularly in the developing world, the UN said. But McGlade said that some of the biodegradable additives in plastic to allow it to break down made it harder to recycle, and potentially harmful in the natural environment.

“When you start adding all of that [additives], when it becomes waste, they [the additives] become the enemy of the environment. As consumers we need to think of the use of plastic,” she said.

The UN report said that it was only in the past decade that plastics in the ocean had been taken seriously. “Warnings of what was happening were reported in the scientific literature in the early 1970s, with little reaction from much of the scientific community.”   

 37 
 on: May 23, 2016, 05:31 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Club owned by Shell tries to block local hydropower scheme

Private club owned by oil giant appealing against judicial review defeat in favour of co-operative renewable energy scheme at Teddington Lock

Damian Carrington
AFP
Sunday 22 May 2016 23.09 BST

Shell is involved in blocking the development of a renewable energy project in a legal battle between a private club owned by the company and a community hydropower scheme on the river Thames.

The scheme at Teddington lock and weirs has won planning permission and defeated a judicial review from the Lensbury club, but the club is now seeking to appeal against the judicial review decision.

The latest legal moves came just as Shell created a separate division, New Energies, to invest in renewable and low-carbon power. Despite Lensbury’s objection, its environment policy states: “We are looking into sustainable methods to produce a large proportion of our electricity.”

The Teddington and Ham hydro project is run by a co-operative of local volunteers who have raised £700,000 so far from local residents. It would have three reverse Archimedes screws and generate enough electricity to power 600 houses.

The site is by the bank of the Lensbury, which was formerly a staff club for Shell employees and is now a hotel and private leisure club. The Lensbury is wholly owned by Shell and its five named directors are all “oil company executives” according to filings to Companies House, including Mike Napier, executive vice-president of external communications at Shell.

“Shell needs to think very hard about what this is doing to its reputation,” said Stephen Knight, Lib Dem councillor for Teddington ward and a member of the London assembly. “An international oil company is using its financial muscle to try to block a community hydropower scheme. This sends all the wrong messages about big oil companies trying to block the development of renewable power.”

Jono Adams, one of the volunteer directors of the hydro project, said: “It is extremely frustrating that the planning process is being dragged out. There is a local and national will to get this sort of scheme up and running.” The scheme must start operating by March 2018 to receive the green energy subsidy payments it has been awarded by the government.

Adams said the scheme, which was granted planning permission by Richmond borough council in September, had addressed local concerns about noise, visual impact and flood risk.

“It’s a beautiful part of the world and people were very concerned that there would be something like an industrial generator on the site and it would be very noisy,” he said. “But actually the noise created will be completely drowned out by the [existing] noise of the water.”

He said the scheme would be no larger than the existing weirs and would actually lower flood risk, because unlike the weirs, the hydro screws could be lifted entirely out of the waters when the Thames was running high.

The Lensbury’s corporate and social responsibility policy states: “The Lensbury is committed to reducing its carbon footprint in all areas of our operation.” Adams pointed out that the hydro scheme could be used to power the club, saying: “If we did get a private wire into the Lensbury, it would get a great deal on energy and it would be supporting a local renewable energy scheme, so it would be great PR.”

Lacy Curtis-Ward, chief executive of the Lensbury, said: “It may be all too easy to paint the Lensbury as environmentally unfriendly Luddites [but] this could not be further from the truth.” She said the Lensbury supported the development of a hydro scheme design that would “work for all stakeholders”.

“It is expected the development [approved by Richmond council] will impact the hotel and conference business, as well as member numbers,” said Curtis-Ward. She said the noise assessments accepted by the council were “incorrect”.

Curtis-Ward said she would consider the offer of a private electricity line: “Yes, of course, if and when the developers come up with a plan for a hydro scheme that will not damage our business.”

A spokesman for Shell said: “Lensbury Ltd is a subsidiary of Shell Petroleum Company Limited, but its directors carry out their duties independently from Shell and act only in the interests of Lensbury Ltd.”

Knight said the legal costs being incurred by Richmond council in contesting the judicial review were also an issue. “This legal battle with is costing local taxpayers’ money. This is because Shell is using rules designed to help communities challenge governments over environmental matters to limit its obligation to pay the council’s legal costs in this battle. This is shameful.”

Curtis-Ward said the Lensbury’s use of a “protective cost order” was “what any commercial company would do”.

 38 
 on: May 23, 2016, 05:28 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Bayer bids $62bn for Monsanto

Deal would be the biggest takeover by a German company, and create a company making birth control bills, pesticides and seeds

Sean Farrell
AFP
Monday 23 May 2016 11.40 BST

Bayer, the German drugs and chemicals group, has offered to buy Monsanto, the GM seed pioneer, for $62bn (£43bn) to create the world’s biggest agricultural supplier.

The $122 a share cash offer - the largest all-cash deal in history - values the US Monsanto group at 37% more than its closing share price on 9 May, before rumours of a bid emerged.

The deal, which includes Monsanto’s $9bn net debt, would be the biggest takeover by a German company. Bayer, which invented aspirin in the 19th century, would fund the purchase with a mixture of debt and equity, including raising about $15bn from existing shareholders.

The proposed deal has unnerved Bayer’s shareholders who fear the company is stretching its finances to build an industry giant. Bayer shares have fallen by about 13% since 9 May.

The acquisition would create a business making drugs including Yasmin birth control pills and pesticides and seeds for GM crops such as soybeans.

Monsanto, based in St Louis, Missouri, was one of the first companies to develop genetically engineered seeds in the 90s. GM crops have remained controversial because of their potential impact on the environment and placing ownership rights in the hands of big corporations.

Monsanto confirmed Bayer’s interest last week when it revealed it had received an unsolicited bid. The US company has said it will review the offer. Bayer’s chief executive, Werner Baumann, has only been in the job a month.

Baumann said: “We have long respected Monsanto’s business and share their vision to create an integrated business that we believe is capable of generating substantial value for both companies’ shareholders.”

Agricultural producers are battling for position amid an industry shakeup. Monsanto missed out on buying Syngenta of Switzerland when China National Chemical swooped on the pesticide maker in February. That deal followed Dow Chemical’s merger with DuPont to form a $100bn company last year.

Professor John Colley of Warwick Business School said Bayer’s giant bid was designed to force Monsanto’s board into accepting a takeover but that such deals rarely worked out well.

“This is an enormous offer in a number of ways. German businesses have generally avoided megabids, opting instead for lower risk but slower organic growth. Bayer has dispensed with that approach.

“It is a classic transfer of value from the bidders shareholders to those of the target. Few megabids go well and research shows more than half destroy value, and only around a quarter deliver on their promises.”

US competition regulators are likely to scrutinise Bayer’s bid for Monsanto because there is overlap between their businesses in soybeans, cotton and canola. Monsanto’s GM capability also arguably makes it an important national asset for the US.

 39 
 on: May 23, 2016, 05:26 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Australia’s worst invasive plant species available for import on Amazon and eBay

Internet trading sites host ads for prohibited weeds, with Invasive Species Council warning postal system a ‘big gap’ in quarantine system

Karl Mathiesen
AFP
Monday 23 May 2016 03.28 BST

Amazon and eBay have been exposed as weak points in Australia’s quarantine system, with the internet trading sites hosting dozens of offers to import the nation’s most dangerous weeds.

Any Australian with a credit card can order home delivery of thousands of seeds of gorse, blackberry or cactus. Also available is the Mimosa pigra tree, which the Northern Territory government spends $500,000 each year trying to eradicate from Kakadu national park.

Each of these species is listed as a weed of national significance, among the country’s 32 most economically and environmentally damaging plant species. Nine such species were recently advertised by sellers, mostly from Europe and North America.

Both the buyer and supplier could be subject to investigation and criminal prosecution, the agriculture department said.

Neither eBay nor Amazon would release sales data and therefore it could not be established that illegal sales had occurred. However, one eBay seller told the Guardian he suspected he had sold seeds of parkinsonia (Parkinsonia aculeata), another weed on the list, to Australia.

Both companies’ guidelines place the onus on their users to operate within the law. Amazon declined to comment on the revelations or take down risky listings. EBay said it would review advertisements highlighted by the Guardian and signalled the company’s willingness to engage on the issue.

“We have filters in place that should restrict the vast majority of these listings from ever making it to site,” a spokeswoman for eBay said. She said sellers who listed suspect plants received a pop-up message directing them to eBay’s plants and seeds policy.

But a seller from the US who offered seeds of mesquite (Prosopis cineraria) and parkinsonia trees – both listed because of damaging infestations on grazing lands – told the Guardian he had sold plants to Australia regularly without triggered eBay’s alerts.

“I am pretty sure that I have sent parkinsonia to Australia at some point in the past, but I am just guessing. I do know that eBay has never stepped in with any species,” he said.

He said it was a buyer’s responsibility to know and follow the rules of their country. “I try to not sell weed species to areas where they are known to be a problem, but of course I do not know every plant that can be a problem in every individual location,” the seller said.

The department said sellers were also liable under the law and could be prosecuted: “The rules apply to all people equally, regardless of location or point of sale.”

Cactus infestations have a particular place in Australian agricultural infamy. In the 1920s, infestations in Queensland became so bad that farmers simply walked off the land. Even today, eradication has proved impossible once cacti take hold.

On Darren Rowtcliff’s Tarmoola cattle station, 250km north of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, coral cactus (Cylindropuntia fulgida var mamillata) has taken over more than 80 hectares.

“It’s a horrible thing,” Rowtcliff said, speaking from an infested paddock close to his homestead. “As I’m walking through it now it’s sticking to my jeans and sticking into my boots.”

Coral cactus reproduces by breaking itself apart. Chunks of the plant stick to passing animals, vehicles and people, spreading rapidly across the landscape. It also floats downstream whenever the rains arrive. Neighbouring station owners have reported satellite infestations across an area of 16,000 acres.

“I can’t contain it any more,” Rowtcliff said. “I’m at a point where financially, I can’t run a station and try to control this cactus.” In response, the Western Australian government has spent $100,000 on containment, including fencing off part of Rowtcliff’s farm.

“I lose the land,” he said. “One paddock, that’s 100 acres [40 hectares], I can’t do a thing with it.”

His infestation began when a previous station owner threw a few unwanted garden plants on to the nearby rubbish dump. He said cacti bought as ornamental plants posed a huge risk to agriculture across Australia.

“It’s mostly these muppets who are buying them on eBay and thinking ‘ah, that’s cute’. They put it in a little pot. Then maybe they move out of home and their mum throws it out and next thing there she goes,” he said.

Rowtcliff was surprised to learn that cuttings of the plant that have devastated his farm were readily available for sale from its native California to anywhere in Australia.

“It’s staggering to think that anybody can order these plants to bring them into the country when we are spending so much money now trying to combat it. How does it get through? Is customs not doing their job? Somebody’s not doing their job,” he said.

An estimated 150m international online purchases enter Australia by mail every year. In 2014, Andrew Cox, the chief executive of the Invasive Species Council, demonstrated how easy it was to import plants. He bought hundreds of thousands of restricted seeds on eBay and had them sent to his home.

“The postal system is wide open,” Cox told the Guardian. “They’re hardly checking anything. It’s a big gap in our biosecurity system.”

The council and the agriculture department said that since Cox’s stunt, eBay had engaged in constructive dialogue about risky advertisements and had blocked some of the biggest importers. The government recently presented eBay with a biosecurity award for its efforts.

The Guardian discovered dozens of advertisements for some of the nation’s most dangerous invasive species sold by vendors from across the world. Click on the points to explore the listings.

But eBay and Amazon remain open doors. In a search that was far from exhaustive the Guardian discovered 36 advertisements (28 on eBay, eight on Amazon) for nine listed species, all prohibited for trade to Australia.

Australia’s biosecurity laws prohibit the sale of any live plant, including seeds, unless the species has been specifically approved. This means there are thousands of species, not just those on the designated list, that are disqualified from import. The invasive species council maintains a sporadic watch on eBay for prohibited listings, but it relies on volunteers to sift through long lists of controlled plants.

A recent check, which encompassed only species beginning with the letter A, discovered 94 advertisements for 44 banned species. This suggested that thousands of such advertisements existed, said Carol Booth, the Invasive Species Council’s policy officer. She said sellers who had previously taken advertisements down at the behest of eBay and the council could be found months later with renewed listings for the same species.

More than 70% of Australia’s weed species were originally imported by gardeners or agriculturalists. Many species on the list are well established in certain parts of Australia – which does not make their entrance to new areas any less of a concern. But there are other high-risk categories of plant. Since it was first identified as a pest in 1992, Kochia scoparia grass has been almost eradicated across Australia at a cost of $200,000 and is on a government watch list of 28 of the most threatening plants not yet established in Australia. The Guardian found numerous sellers offering to send the plant to Australian buyers.

The Guardian has revealed eBay and Amazon were also facilitating import of pests into the UK and US. In the UK, legal experts said the sites appeared to be breaking laws that prohibited the advertisement of pest species. No such laws exist in Australia.

There are many other specialist sites that trade in plants and animals across the world. In February, the UN convention on biological diversity said there was an “urgent need” to tackle the online trade in invasive species.

 40 
 on: May 23, 2016, 05:23 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Pets on pot: is medical marijuana giving sick animals a necessary dose of relief?

As owners tout benefits and usage in compassionate care, the battle for legalization mirrors humans’ own medical marijuana fight in 1990s California

Josiah Hesse in Denver
AFP
Monday 23 May 2016 12.00 BST

Bernie, a 130-pound Swiss mountain dog, began having grand mal seizures when he was six months old. About once a week he would violently convulse, foam at the mouth, and urinate on himself for several minutes before recovering an or so hour later. The medication he was given seriously disoriented him, was harmful to his liver and for the most part didn’t work.

At the end of their rope, Bernie’s parents decided to put him on a pet supplement derived from cannabis. Gradually, his seizures became less severe and less frequent, before disappearing altogether.

Despite a large amount of promising anecdotal evidence like Bernie’s story, and a growing industry of cannabis-based pet products, many people have a hard time taking medical marijuana for pets seriously.

“It sounds ridiculous, until you experience it yourself,” said Bernie’s owner, Anthony Georgiadis, who says his dog hasn’t had a seizure in four months.

Living in Florida, where medical marijuana is illegal, Georgiadis orders Bernie’s supplement online from a California company called Treatibles. He is allowed to do this because Treatibles products are derived from legal hemp and contain little to no THC (the intoxicating ingredient in marijuana).

Many pet products are not made from hemp, though, but rather straight marijuana containing trace amounts of THC. So anyone wanting these products for their animal’s chronic pain, anxiety, inflammation, appetite stimulation, or epilepsy have to live in a state where medical marijuana is legal – and even then, they need to have a prescription for themselves just to enter a dispensary.

Last year, Tick Segerblom, a Nevada state senator, introduced a bill to create a medical marijuana registry for pets.

“They thought it was a joke,” Segerblom said of his senate colleagues. “It was the talk of the country for a while.”

“Look at this moron!” Dennis Miller screamed on the O’Reilly Factor, deriding the senator’s bill, calling it “the end of culture as we know it”.

“I have fish at home that want medical marijuana,” O’Reilly joked. “I’m not exactly sure how to deliver that to them, because if you put the cigarette in there it all gets wet.”

Despite the public ridicule, Segerblom said, he had been looking forward to the issue being debated in a hearing, but that hearing never happened. In the end, he said, “it went to a committee headed by a person who hates marijuana, and he made sure that it died”.

Amanda Reiman, manager of marijuana law at the Drug Policy Alliance, said that today’s battle over animal medical marijuana mirrors the clash over human medical marijuana in 1990s California.

“When we first started talking about the idea of using marijuana as a medicine, people laughed about it,” she said. “But they’ve come around, because when you know someone who was helped by cannabis it’s not funny anymore.”

In 2013, Reiman’s cat, Monkey, was diagnosed with terminal intestinal cancer. The chemotherapy and medication caused Monkey to lose her appetite, not sleep and become lethargic. The situation reminded Reiman of the countless scenarios she’d encountered with humans after a decade of working in medical marijuana, so she decided to mix a very small amount of cannabis oil in Monkey’s food.

“It brought her energy back, she was eating and playing – she was actually acting healthier than she had been before she was diagnosed with cancer,” Reiman said. “I knew it wasn’t a cure for her, and in the end she passed away several months later. But I really do feel it gave her a quality of life at the end; instead of just fading away, she stayed strong right up until the end.”

Veterinarians caution against pet owners taking matters into their own hands, because finding the correct dose can be tricky. While many pet medicines are just human drugs in different doses, the weight ratios between humans and animals can make it easy to accidentally give your pet an overdose. And pets overdosing on cannabis is already a serious problem in states where marijuana is legal.

    It gave her a quality of life at the end; instead of just fading away, she stayed strong right up until the end.
    Amanda Reiman

As with children, it’s common for pets to stumble upon a high potency marijuana edible, eat it, and become incredibly ill and intoxicated.

“We’ve seen some serious poisonings of animals [from marijuana] and even a couple of deaths,” says the medical director at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, Dr Tina Wismer.

When it comes to pet meds, Wismer says it’s not uncommon for a human medication to be applied to animals purely on the basis of anecdotal evidence. She believes more studies need to be done on the therapeutic use of cannabis on animals to find the right dose.

Dr Sarah Brandon, a veterinarian and cofounder of Canna Companion, a hemp-based pet supplement company, says that over the last 18 years, she has administered cannabis to more than 4,000 animals, and is currently analyzing data before offering it to the medical community.

“Right now, veterinarians have no guidance on this,” she says. “There’s a lot of fear out there, and they are scared to come out and recommend [cannabis]. A veterinarian can recommend a hemp-based product as a supplement, but they cannot encourage them to use marijuana.”

Dan Goldfarb, owner of Seattle-based Canna-Pet, describes the differences between hemp and marijuana: “It’s like dog breeds: you can have a chihuahua or a great dane, both of which are dogs but are bred to exude very different characteristics.”

Canna-Pet, Treatibles and Canna Companion are all strictly hemp-based, so they are allowed to sell their products outside of marijuana dispensaries – even online to states where marijuana is illegal – without the need of a prescription. This also affords them deniability when people like Dennis Miller say they just want to get their pet stoned. But there are a handful of companies who use straight marijuana in their pet products, who say that hemp is too limited.

“We’ve seen better results with a little THC,” says Alison Ettel, founder of Treat Well, who has been using cannabis on a variety of animals for ten years and was recently invited to treat seals at the Marine Animal Center in Sausalito, California. She says that hemp works for some ailments like anxiety, but doesn’t contain a number of medicinal properties that marijuana does, like appetite stimulation, and that hemp can be harmful to an animal with a compromised immune system. “We believe hemp can have more negative effects than positive.”

Ettel adds that while her products contain psychoactive properties, if used in the right dosage in proportion to the animal’s size, there is no reason they should ever become intoxicated by it.

Brian Walker’s California company, Making You Better Brands, offers a marijuana based doggie shampoo for pain relief (along with similar products for horses). Walker says that the marijuana is never activated with heat, a process necessary for making the plant psychoactive.

But his company is still regulated like any other in the cannabis industry, meaning pet owners can only buy it in a dispensary with a (human) prescription, and can’t take it out of state. Walker said the lack of information available about the differences between hemp, active cannabis and inactive cannabis has prevented acceptance among veterinarians of medical marijuana.

“They picture a dog eating a brownie and being high for two days,” he said. “But with non-active cannabis they’re not going to get high – they’re going to get well.”

****************

Utah hears of danger of dope-crazed rabbits if marijuana legalised

DEA agent tells state senate of ‘rabbits that had cultivated a taste for marijuana’ and warns of problems of pesticides, deforestation and erosion

Alan Yuhas in Washington
AFP
Monday 2 March 2015 23.19 GMT  

Legalising medical marijuana in Utah could lead to absent-minded rabbits and other animals who don’t feel their natural instincts, a special agent for the DEA has warned the state.

In testimony last week before the Utah state senate, and first spotted by the Washington Post, special agent Matt Fairbanks expressed “some severe concerns” about marijuana as a cash crop. “Now I deal in facts. I deal in science,” he said, citing his experience ranging Utah’s mountains as a member of the state’s “marijuana eradication” team to bolster his concerns.

“Deforestation has left marijuana grows with even rabbits that had cultivated a taste for the marijuana,” Fairbanks declared, suggesting that hares were yet one more of an unknown number of species to have succumbed to a cannabis addiction.

Leporine marijuana abuse was so severe, Fairbanks said, that “one of them refused to leave us, and we took all the marijuana around him, but his natural instincts to run were somehow gone.”

“Personally, I have seen entire mountainsides subjected to pesticides, harmful chemicals, deforestation and erosion,” he added. “The ramifications to the flora, the animal life, the contaminated water are still unknown.”

Fairbanks did not say why marijuana cash crops would be any more destructive than the corn and wheat crops that grow in Utah and have similarly destructive consequences, also by way of the pesticides, deforestation and erosion that farmers inflict on the environment. Nor did Fairbanks present science from environmental researchers or biologists, despite his assertion that “I come to represent the actual science. I want the science studied and looked at and specifically gone over.”

The bill would legalize medical marijuana for people with severe conditions but would not go so far as Colorado’s legalization of the drug, and carries provisions that would ban “back-country” grows of the kind that Fairbanks warned against.

Jeremy Roberts, president of the company Medical Cannabis Payment Solutions testified to that point, beginning: “I was kind of shocked to find out the killer rabbit of Caerbannog from Monty Python and the Holy Grail is actually in the Utah mountains.”

The bill would require medical marijuana be grown indoors, Roberts said, “so the concerns of our mountains being overrun with cannabis are a little bit of a hyperbole”.

“In terms of the environmental impact we’re talking about water and electricity,” he said. Although pesticides and herbicides are “an absolutely valid concern”, he added, the bill would require a laboratory to test for potency, inorganics, pesticides, fungus and mould – and would make Utah only the second state to necessitate lab tests. Roberts argued that such testing and licensing would end the mystery of what chemicals are in the marijuana currently bought from illicit vendors.

“Evidently we hear that it makes rabbits go crazy if it’s grown in Utah, in the mountains, so one of the things we want to do is make sure we don’t have any crazed rabbits any more in Utah, and actually bring that into control into the Department of Professional Licensing.”

Utah’s senate also heard passionate, emotional pleas in support of the bill. Forrest Shaw, a 42-year-old man, spoke about suffering from terminal prostate cancer and his experience with marijuana. “I wanted to be able to relieve some of my suffering,” he said, “I’m horrified of being taken away from my family and having my home taken away from me because I just want to seek out a little bit of peace.”

Another man, Aaron Campbell, spoke of how three of his children have been diagnosed with a terminal neurological disorder, two of whom suffered failed bone marrow transplants. “It’s the stupidest thing ever for lawmakers to tell me what me and my doctors cannot do,” he said, before adding, his voice breaking, “I have full intentions of bringing cannabis into Utah and treating my daughter.”

“We are Utah, we can do this, we are not Colorado,” he said.

Time to take the high road and legalize marijuana – at the federal level

State senator Mark Mardsen also said that seeing children denied pain relief last year had helped move him to sponsor the bill. “I was frankly angry that public policy would have kept these kids for years from receiving something that was tremendous benefit to them and may well have saved lives.”

Those who testified in opposition to the bill largely called for patience, saying the state should not “short-circuit the FDA process” and should wait for more research. Physicians remain divided about the health effects of marijuana, vouching for its analgesic effects but calling for more research into its consequences and potential for abuse, especially among young people.

For most mammals – from squirrels to monkeys to dogs and deer – drugs have the same consequences as they do for humans; for that reason pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies had until recently tested substances on beagles and chimpanzees for decades. Monkeys have shown symptoms of alcohol addiction and heroin withdrawal, and edibles lying around a home can easily intoxicate cats and dogs.

But unlike the fermented fruits and coca leaves that animals might take a shine to in the wild, drugs such as the alcohol and the marijuana products consumed by humans sometimes contain chemicals that uniquely harm them (eg chocolate for dogs) in addition to their usual negative effects. And while rabbits and other wild creatures can suffer the effects of chemical inebriation, they remain unable to communicate with humans even on their sober days, and incapable of expressing even to experienced DEA agents exactly the degree of their high.

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