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How the War on Drugs Fails Black Communities

As recent events have demonstrated, more than 50 years after much-delayed civil rights legislation was passed by Congress and signed into law, very different views on the persistence of racism still exist in America. According to the Pew Research Center, 38 percent of whites believe that “our country has made the changes needed to give blacks equal rights with whites,” but just 8 percent of blacks agree.

Here’s something that all Americans should agree on: Many policies have a disproportionately negative effect on black families — and, by extension, on all of us. The most insidious of them all, however, may be the war on drugs.

Writing for the Cato Institute, John McWhorter noted: “It has become a norm for black children to grow up in single-parent homes, their fathers away in prison for long spells and barely knowing them. In poor and working-class black America, a man and a woman raising their children together is, of all things, an unusual sight.” The drug war plays an oversize role in this trend.

Keeping drugs illegal makes selling them more profitable than they would otherwise be. As such, the war on drugs creates incentives for young black men to seek employment in the drug business rather than seek lower-paying legal employment. This incentive structure unfortunately starts a vicious circle of incarceration followed by “a failure to build the job skills for legal employment that serve as a foundation for a productive existence in middle and later life,” McWhorter continued.

And for what? By all accounts, the decadeslong war on drugs has failed miserably. Despite our spending over $1 trillion to stop the stoner scourge, overall drug consumption has barely changed, and some drug prices are falling because of technology and increasing supply. Also, drug addiction has gone up while seeking treatment has become riskier.

In addition, incarceration rates for drug offenses have skyrocketed since the 1980s because of mandatory sentencing laws, which rigidly determine who goes to prison and for how long. Nonviolent drug offenders account for about one-fourth of inmates in the United States, up from less than 10 percent in 1980. It destroys families and leaves children to be raised in single-parent households. This is particularly true for low-income black families. Despite generally higher usage rates among white Americans, black Americans are three times likelier to be arrested for possession.

A byproduct of the war on drugs is civil asset forfeiture, which gives police officers the ability to seize private property that they claim is connected to illegal activity without actually charging the property owner with a crime, much less convicting him. The abuses that come with the practice have been widely documented. Studies also show that black and Hispanic Americans are disproportionately targeted. A recent analysis of high-dollar forfeiture cases by Oklahoma Watch found that officers, knowingly or not, use racial profiling when deciding whose vehicles they will search and whose money and assets they will seize.

The Libertarian presidential candidate, Gary Johnson, is talking about legalizing marijuana as a first step to ending the drug war, but neither the Republican (Donald Trump) nor the Democratic (Hillary Clinton) candidate is. The lack of interest in the issue is shocking for Clinton, who belongs to a party that claims to care about low-income Americans and receives an overwhelming majority of the black vote. Yet it would also serve Republicans well to oppose the drug war, because they claim to naturally oppose big-government policies that dictate what individuals can or cannot choose to consume — whether it be soda, salt or sativa.

The drug war isn’t the only policy that disproportionately hurts African-American families. Minimum wage laws keep low-income Americans from getting jobs, and Social Security redistributes money from minorities to white Americans. Both are also overlooked as a source of unfairness to the black community.

However, as McWhorter noted, “what will turn black America around for good is the elimination of a policy (the drug war) that prevents too many people from doing their best.” When that happens, with the help of time, we will make black lives better and, in turn, make America better.

Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. To find out more about Veronique de Rugy and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

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University of Texas Professors Sue Over Campus Carry

AUSTIN, Texas — Three professors at the University of Texas at Austin have sued the state over a new law that will allow the carrying of concealed handguns on campus starting Aug. 1.

Jennifer Lynn Glass, Mia Carter and Lisa Moore filed the lawsuit Monday in federal court. They’ve named Attorney General Ken Paxton, UT-Austin President Greg Fenves and the nine members of the UT System Board of Regents as defendants. They noted that the law takes effect on the 50th anniversary of the day Charles Whitman stood atop the school’s tower and shot dead 14 people.

The lawsuit was first reported by the Texas Tribune.

“In a cruel irony, the Texas Legislature has mandated that fifty years to the day after one of the worst gun-related massacres ever on a college campus … UT-Austin must begin allowing the concealed carrying of handguns on campus and in classrooms,” the professors’ attorneys wrote in their brief lawsuit filed Monday. “Worried about much more than cruel irony, the three plaintiff professors seek to at least retain the option of maintaining their academic classrooms as gun-free zones.”

None of the targets of the professors’ lawsuit responded to requests for comment late Wednesday.

Beginning next month, campus carry will allow anyone with a state-approved handgun license to carry a concealed weapon in most buildings at Texas’ public universities. They were previously only allowed in public spaces, like sidewalks and quads. But the law also allows schools to propose some carve-outs where guns will be banned.

UT-Austin is the only school in the state that has asked that professors be allowed to ban guns in their offices, but system regents have not yet approved that request. In fact, they delayed making a decision on how to implement the new law at all 14 of their campuses and health institutions because of the flagship’s more progressive proposals.

Glass, Carter and Moore say forcing them to allow guns in their classrooms violates their rights to free speech, due process and equal protection. They also argue that campus carry violates their Second Amendment rights “by compelling them as public employees to passively acquiesce in the presence of loaded weaponry in their place of public employment without the individual possession and use of such weaponry in public being well-regulated.”

Moore, who is openly gay and spoke at a November protest against the new gun law, said at the time that it reminded her of her struggle for the right to marry.

“We are armed with reason. We are armed with data. We are armed with passion. We are armed with longevity,” Moore said. “And we will make this change.”

The professors — part of an anti-campus carry group of instructors, staff and students called Gun Free UT — asked the court to stall implementation of the law so it’s not in effect when fall classes start next month, and for the court to then permanently block any law that would force them to allow or penalize them for banning handguns in their classrooms.

UT regents are set to discuss campus carry again soon.

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Jill Stein Says She’ll Step Aside If Bernie Wants to Run for President in Green Party

(ANTIMEDIA) Presumptive Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein has invited Bernie Sanders to run in her place, offering him the opportunity to continue in the running as an alternative to the much-reviled Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Sanders “political revolution” lost steam in recent months as the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party employed manipulative measures to flout the wishes of many voters, leaving swaths of his support base disillusioned with the Democratic Party.

In an interview with the Guardian published Friday, Stein went so far as to accuse the Democratic party establishment of “psychological warfare” against Sanders, claiming they “sabotaged” his chance at the nomination. In light of this, she said she had invited Sanders to join the Green Party:

I’ve invited Bernie to sit down explore collaboration – everything is on the table.

“If he saw that you can’t have a revolutionary campaign in a counter-revolutionary party, he’d be welcomed to the Green party. He could lead the ticket and build a political movement.”

Jill Stein issued a press release clarifying her invitation to Sanders, noting she had asked him to collaborate multiple times.

We have repeatedly asked to meet with Senator Sanders to discuss the possibilities for collaboration to continue to build a progressive revolution in the US,” she wrote, adding that her offer of the Green Party nomination was conditional and would be contingent on a “joint program moving forward”:

We have always been clear that the path to a progressive revolution does not go through the Democratic Party, a position that Senator Sanders had shared through most of his political career. And while we agree with Senator Sanders on many issues, including both analysis and solutions, there are also some significant differences that would have to be addressed. This starts with foreign policy and the role of the US military, but includes specific domestic issues including the abolition of student debt and the need to transition to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030.”

Stein told the Guardian she extended her offer to Sanders directly via email at the end of the primary season last month, but that she has yet to receive a response. Instead, he has increasingly signaled he will align behind Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party.

Though pro-Sanders factions on the Democratic draft platform committee fought (unsuccessfully) to secure opposition to the corporatist Trans-Pacific Partnership anti-“free trade” agreement, Sanders has faltered on other issues.

In an op-ed published in the Washington Post after he met with Clinton and President Obama last month, he addressed many pressing issues, from mass incarceration to oligarchic control of America’s government. However, other pertinent issues he stressed during his campaign were noticeably absent; unsurprisingly to some, he made no mention of military spending and intervention and conspicuously failed to discuss government surveillance — both issues he stressed during the campaign in contrast to Clinton’s warmongering, police state policies.

If he continues to declare his full faith in the Democratic party, it will leave many of his supporters very disappointed,” Jill Stein told the Guardian last week. “That political movement is going to go on – it isn’t going to bury itself in the graveyard alongside Hillary Clinton.

Indeed, nearly half of Sanders supporters recently said they would refuse to vote for Clinton — an increase from a poll conducted in March. Many of his supporters are now splintering off to third parties, including Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, and of course, Stein herself.

Jill Stein is currently polling at 4 percent to 6 percent nationally. With a platform centered around environmental issues, criticism of America’s military presence around the world, and opposition to mass surveillance, her perspectives have attracted voters disenchanted with the two-party system. Though she does not expect Sanders to accept her offer to take over the Green Party ticket, she remains optimistic.

I’m not holding my breath but I’m not ruling it out that we can bring out 43 million young people into this election,” she said. “It’s been a wild election; every rule in the playbook has been tossed out. Unfortunately, that has mainly been used to lift up hateful demagogues like Donald Trump, but it can also be done in a way that actually answers people’s needs.”

Stein has also been an unabashed critic of Hillary Clinton. “Trump says very scary things—deporting immigrants, massive militarism and ignoring the climate. Hillary, unfortunately, has a track record for doing all of those things,” she said last month.

Nevertheless, Sanders has gradually inched toward endorsing Clinton. He is expected to formally do so Tuesday at a rally in New Hampshire.


This article (Jill Stein Says She’ll Step Aside If Bernie Wants to Run for President in Green Party) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Carey Wedler andtheAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11 pm Eastern/8 pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, please email the error and name of the article at edits@theantimedia.org.

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US-Backed Syrian Rebels Accused of Abductions, Torture and Murder

(MEEArmed groups in rebel-held northern Syria including the al-Qaeda-aligned Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham have committed war crimes and imposed a strict version of Islamic law that in some cases of punishment amounts to torture, Amnesty International said in a report released on Tuesday.

The UK-based human rights group also named three other opposition factions – Nureddin Zinki, the Levant Front and Division 16 – in the report and said that five groups had carried out “a chilling wave of abductions, torture and summary killings” in the northern Aleppo and Idlib provinces and surrounding areas.

The groups have detained and tortured lawyers, journalists, and children – among others – for criticising them, committing acts seen as immoral, or being minorities, the report said.

“Many civilians live in constant fear of being abducted if they criticise the conduct of armed groups in power or fail to abide by the strict rules that some have imposed,” said Philip Luther, head of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa programme.

“In Aleppo and Idlib today, armed groups have free rein to commit war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law with impunity,” he added.

Amnesty said that some of the groups named were believed to have been supported by governments such as Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the US, and called on regional powers to stop supplying them with arms.

“States that are members of the International Syria Support Group including the USA, Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which are involved in negotiations over Syria, must press armed groups to end such abuses and comply with the laws of war. They must also cease any transfer of arms or other support to groups implicated in committing war crimes and other gross violations,” said Luther.

The report is based on 24 accounts of abduction by anti-government groups between 2012 and 2016 and another five cases of torture.

Halim, a humanitarian worker, was kidnapped and tortured by Nureddin Zinki rebels in Aleppo city until he confessed to a crime.

“When I refused to sign the confession paper the interrogator ordered the guard to torture me,” he told Amnesty, who used a pseudonym to protect his identity.

“He then started beating me with cables on the soles of my feet. I couldn’t bear the pain so I signed the paper,” Halim said.

Hardline Islamic groups operate their own religious courts which punish crimes such as apostasy or adultery with death, Amnesty said.

Both the Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham had established their own Sharia “justice systems” in areas they controlled, as well setting up unofficial prosecution offices, police forces and detention centres, it said.

They had also appointed judges, some of whom had no knowledge of Sharia, and applied a strict version of Islamic law that imposed punishments amounting to torture or ill-treatment.

Saleh, also a pseudonym, told Amnesty he was held by the Nusra Front in late 2014, and was told by his guard that five women accused of adultery would “only be forgiven by death”.

He said he later watched a video showing Nusra militants publicly killing one of the women in the style of an execution.

Amnesty said it documented violations in Idlib, where Nusra is present alongside other rebel groups, and Aleppo.

Syria’s conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests but has since broken down into all-out war, leaving more than 280,000 people dead.

The majority of the war’s victims have been killed by pro-government forces, which have conducted indiscriminate air strikes in rebel-held areas.

Amnesty said that it had documented war crimes and crimes against humanity on a mass scale by Syrian government forces, as well as by the Islamic State (IS) group.

Rebel groups in northern Syria have clashed with government forces, IS militants and Kurdish rebels in the course of the five-year war.

“While some civilians in areas controlled by armed opposition groups may at first have welcomed an escape from brutal Syrian government rule, hopes that these armed groups would respect rights have faded as they have increasingly taken the law into their own hands and committed serious abuses,” said Luther.

“It is critical that Russia and the USA, and the UN special envoy to Syria, prioritise detention by government forces and abduction by armed groups during their ongoing [peace] talks in Geneva. For its part the UN Security Council must impose targeted sanctions on leaders of armed groups who are responsible for war crimes.”


This article (US-Backed Syrian Rebels Accused of Abductions, Torture and Murder) by Simon Hooper originally appeared on MiddleEastEye.net and was used with permission. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email edits@theantimedia.org.

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Should Dallas PD Have Used the Robot to Kill the Shooting Suspect?

Dallas police officers used a bomb robot to kill the suspected perpetrator of a shooting that left five Dallas-area police officers dead and seven others wounded. Two citizens were also wounded in the shooting. While police have used robots to deliver chemical agents and pizza, it looks as if the deployment of the robot bomb last night was the first time American police officers have used a robot to kill someone.

Police reportedly used the robot after hours of negotiation with the suspect broke down.According to Dallas Police Chief David Brown, “We saw no other option but to use our bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate where the suspect was.” He went on to say, “Other options would have exposed our officers to grave danger.”

The death of the alledged shooter in Dallas should prompt us to think carefully about how new technologies will be used by police to deliver lethal force. Robots like the one use by Dallas police last night are used by police departments across the country as part of bomb squads. But it’s worth keeping in mind that these robots will continue to improve, making it easier for police to use them in situations like the standoff in Dallas.

Other tools such as drones could also potentially be used to kill suspects. In a McGeorge Law Review article examining police drones and use of force Eric Brumfield pointed out that while the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 does outline requirements for law enforcement agencies that wish to use drones, it does not explicitly prohibit or allow these drones to be armed. In addition, while a federal regulation does prohibit pilots from dropping objects from aircraft, this regulation applies to civil rather than public aircraft. In fact, North Dakota has legalized the use of armed drones in some circumstances, and Flordia law defines a police drone as one that can “carry a lethal or nonlethal payload.”

While new and improving police tools might pose interesting technological questions, it’s not clear that when it comes to lethal use of force that they ought to prompt a radical rethinking of law.

Seth Stoughton, a former police officer and assistant professor of law at the University of South Carolina, outlined this point to The Atlantic:

But while there are likely to be intense ethical debates about when and how police deploy robots in this manner, Stoughton said he doesn’t think Dallas’s decision is particularly novel from a legal perspective. Because there was an imminent threat to officers, the decision to use lethal force was likely reasonable, while the weapon used was immaterial.

“The circumstances that justify lethal force justify lethal force in essentially every form,” he said. “If someone is shooting at the police, the police are, generally speaking, going to be authorized to eliminate that threat by shooting them, or by stabbing them with a knife, or by running them over with a vehicle. Once lethal force is justified and appropriate, the method of delivery—I doubt it’s legally relevant.”

However, as technology improves using tools such as robots to kill dangerous suspects will become easier, and we shouldn’t be surprised if they proliferate. Amid such changes we should keep a careful eye on how and when police use remote devices, especially in cases not as clear cut as the recent standoff in Dallas seems to have been.

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If the Shooting of Dallas Police Surprises You, You Haven’t Been Paying Attention

(FEE Op-Ed) Five police officers were killed and six were injured in Dallas yesterday when snipers opened fire during a protest of the recent police killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. This mass shooting was a despicable act of murder.

It was also blowback.

“Blowback” is a term generally reserved for foreign policy. It refers to the reverberating ill effects of foreign interventions. Ron Paul famously and persuasively characterized the 9/11 attacks as blowback from decades of US warfare and imperialism in the Greater Middle East.

In the 1980s, American support for the anti-Soviet Mujahideen in Afghanistan helped lay the groundwork for what would become Osama bin Laden’s jihadist network, Al Qaeda. And in the 1990s, further US interventions in the Middle East spurred the jihadis to turn on their former sponsors and to wage a terrorist war on the west that culminated in the attacks on September 11, 2001.

The outrage elicited by those attacks provided cover for a massive US-led war for the Greater Middle East that rages to this day. That Long War has only served to plummet the entire region into chaos and carnage, which has caused the number of jihadis and would-be terrorists to grow exponentially. As a result, western civilians continue to suffer blowback in the form of terror attacks in San Bernardino, Orlando, Paris, Brussels, etc. These attacks are fueling Islamophobia and driving calls for further violence and repression against Muslims.

Collective Punishment

The motor of this spinning cycle of reciprocal bloodshed is collectivism. Seeing fellows attacked prompts fear and anger. Fear and anger focused by the lens of reason pinpoints individual offenders for the delivery of justice. But refracted through the lens of collectivism and primal reaction, fear and anger disperses into indiscriminate terror and hate, which scatters to cover whole populations who are ascribed collective guilt and prescribed collective punishment.

This collective punishment of innocents then prompts fear and anger among the targeted population. If they too are afflicted with collectivism, some of them will also succumb to terror and hate, which will be expressed in retaliatory indiscriminate violence: blowback. This collectivist retaliation begets further collectivist retaliation, and the cycle of violence spins out of control.

But this phenomenon is by no means restricted to international affairs. It can characterize civil unrest as well. Again, what we saw yesterday in Dallas was, if not something even more diabolical, blowback.

The American people feel under siege. Different populations feel besieged by different forces. Black Americans especially have suffered decades of persecution by the American “justice” system: police brutality and harassment, mass incarceration, being nickel-and-dimed by tickets and fines, etc. And especially since the summer of 2014, they have been seeing a litany of viral photos and videos of black Americans having been gunned down, throttled, and broken by the police.

This violence too is driven by collectivism. Law enforcement officers are granted an exceptional status in society: a special dispensation to mete out violence with impunity. This caste privilege has instilled deep tribalism in many police officers, which is amplified by training and police union propaganda. Cops are trained to be obsessed with “officer safety” and to effectively treat those outside the “blue tribe” (whom they ostensibly “protect and serve”) as an enemy population: as if every American they detain is a potential quick-draw gunman ready to shoot them down in a millisecond. This paranoia, combined with the impunity of the badge, is what makes an encounter with the police so potentially lethal: especially for black civilians.

Take the collectivism of “blue” tribalism explained above and add, for some individuals, the collectivism of racial terror (irrational, hateful prejudice that every black male is a potential super-predator), and you begin to understand the epidemic of police violence against American blacks.

Hate and Terror

This police violence has elicited thoroughly justified fear and anger. Virtually all of this emotional response has expressed itself in peaceful protest, led by the Black Lives Matter movement.

However, for some already-unstable individuals, it can boil over into terror, hate, and indiscriminate violence: blowback. Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley was filled with hate when he killed two off-duty NYPD officers in 2014 following the killing of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. So was whoever killed five police officers in Dallas yesterday following the killing of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling.

True justice is always individual and never collective. Badges do not grant extra rights, but neither do they negate the human rights of officers. Victims of police violence have a right to protect themselves from current attacks with proportional defensive force against actual perpetrators. They or their heirs also have a right to secure restitution from the specific individuals who violated their rights. But collectivist “retribution” is neither defense nor restitution.

Just as international terrorism is often blowback from international war and occupation, the sniper attack on cops in Dallas yesterday was blowback from American police acting as a domestic army of occupation. And just as the victims of terror attacks do not deserve to be killed for the crimes of war-making politicians, the victims of yesterday’s shootings did not deserve to be killed for the crimes of other cops.

Collectivist retaliatory violence is not justice. It is despicable warfare and murder. That does not change the fact that refraining from collectivist violence is not only the right thing to do, but is also the best way to avoid collectivist retaliatory violence: that is, to avoid blowback. We are not “blaming the victim” when we counsel a foreign policy of peace. It is not only right; it is also the best way to be safe from terrorism. Neither is it “blaming the victim” to counsel a domestic policy of justice. It is not only right; it is also the best way to be safe from civil unrest and domestic terrorism.


This article (If the Shooting of Dallas Police Surprises You, You Haven’t Been Paying Attention) by Dan Sanchez is an opinion editorial (OP-ED). The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of Anti-Media. It originally appeared on fee.org and is liscenced Creative Commons. The Anti-Media radio show airs Monday through Friday @ 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. Help us fix our typos: edits@theantimedia.org

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Senator Tom Cotton Wants To Keep Kids In Jail

It should get our attention when a lone senator stops a popular piece of bipartisan legislation, blocking passage and opposing the prevailing opinion even in his own party.

That’s what Republican Senator Tom Cotton, a rising star in the GOP, has done and in a few weeks he’ll have successfully killed the much needed and long overdue reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974. The law, which expired in 2007, banned states receiving federal money from jailing juveniles in correctional facilities where they would be in contact with adults convicted of criminal charges.

The law hasn’t been reauthorized since 2002, when George W. Bush was in the White House.

While many conservatives have joined with Democrats to embrace sentencing reform and other reform efforts to reduce a record high prison population, Cotton is on a different path. He rails against the “criminal leniency movement,” and says he has nothing but “contempt” for those who want more “empathy” for criminals. He quotes Hillary Clinton’s comment from the 90’s about “super predators,” for which she has apologized, saying she got it right.

“We’ve enjoyed 25 years of declining crime which has allowed people to indulge in their wooly headed theories,” he said in a recent speech at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank, where he pronounced criminal justice reform “dead” in this Congress.

His objection to the juvenile justice bill centers on its elimination of the Valid Court Order (VCO) that allows judges to lock up juveniles for “status offenses,” transgressions like running away from home, disobeying parents, underage tobacco use, or curfew violations, behaviors that would never land an adult in jail.

Greater knowledge about the science of the adolescent and teenage brain, together with data that shows incarceration doesn’t work, have led 24 states to phase out VCOs. Another 11 have it on the books, but don’t use it.

Cotton’s home state, Arkansas, has the fastest growing prison population in the country, and it is one of the most prolific users of VCOs, locking up children as young as eight for these status offenses. The state doesn’t separate juveniles according to their level of offense so kids detained for chronic truancy can be kept with someone charged with a serious crime.

“His state is among the top ten of the least safe juvenile centers in the country, with kids most likely to be assaulted,” says Naomi Smoot, a Senior Policy Associate with the Coalition for Juvenile Justice.

When the juvenile justice reform bill first passed in 1974, one of its core protections was that status offenders not be held in confinement. In 1980, as the tough on crime eighties and nineties got underway, the “VCO exception” was added to give judges the option of jailing kids who violated a direct order from the Court, such as running away from home or refusing to attend school regularly.

Now the judges that wanted the VCO are lobbying hard for its elimination. Texas Judge Darlene Byrne, president of the National Council for Juvenile and Family Court Justice (NCJFCJ), told the Daily Beast, “Brain science has evolved, and it would be silly to think justice shouldn’t keep up with science and brain development.”

The NCJFCJ joined with over a hundred advocacy organizations, including the National District Attorneys’ Association and the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, to push for the reauthorization of the reform bill in Congress, an outpouring of support that crosses party and political lines.

The bill also has the backing of 5000 law enforcement agencies across the country, including dozens in Arkansas, and would have passed the U.S. Senate by unanimous voice vote earlier this year if Cotton hadn’t stepped in with his “hold.”

Last week, the House “zeroed out” funds for juvenile justice, arguing that it made no sense to steer funds to a bill that has not been re-authorized since 2002.

“So he’s really hurting us,” says Marcy Mistrett, CEO of Campaign for Youth Justice. “This is a bill that has such extreme support, that I can’t believe it is being held up by one lone senator.”

Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley doesn’t hide his frustration with the lone objector, noting in a recent interview that the other 99 senators have voiced no objections to Senate passage, and that if the objection is not lifted, “It could end our bipartisan effort to reauthorize JJDPA in the 114th Congress.”

Until recently a strong supporter of the VCO, Grassley now champions its removal. He told the Juvenile Justice Update newsletter that the latest research persuaded him that “locking up these young people is costly and not especially effective in reducing recidivism.”

Cotton stands alone in his opposition in Washington and in Arkansas, where a legislative task force is hard at work on prison reform, backed by Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson, a former prosecutor and DEA head (Drug Enforcement Administration) in the Bush administration.

“This is not a soft on crime crowd,” says Bill Kopsky with the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation in Little Rock. “Senator Cotton is out of touch with the reality here in the state. If we continue at the same rate (of incarceration), we will need $1.3 billion more over the next ten years than we’re currently spending, and that would require massive tax increases or cuts in everything else.”

Cotton is on the fast track in Washington. Forty years old and highly credentialed with two Harvard degrees, a coveted seat on the Armed Services, Intelligence and Banking Committees, and multiple tours as an Army officer in Afghanistan and Iraq, “You don’t have to be a highly trained artillery officer to see a trajectory here,” enthused his introducer at the Hudson Institute last month.

The Coalition for Juvenile Justice spent two months meeting with Cotton’s staff searching for a compromise before recognizing it was hopeless.

“He’s not someone who can be persuaded,” says Naomi Smoot. “He’s looking to make a name for himself as a new law and order icon.”

With a presidential run likely in four or eight years, Cotton is betting that he can never go wrong with a hard line on crime. Juvenile Justice Reform advocates are left trying to steer around him legislatively to get a bill

 

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Black Lives Matter and So Do Their Gun Rights: Where’s the NRA on Philando Castile?

The Second Amendment exists, and it isn’t just for white Americans. In the wake of the Philando Castile shooting, the police need reminding of that.

But perhaps some gun rights advocates need reminding of that as well.

As reported at Reason and elsewhere, Castile was shot by a police officer near St. Paul, Minnesota, after he reached for his wallet in order to produce his concealed carry permit. Cops then detained his girlfriend and her young daughter—who were in the car at the time—as Castile bled to death. Other officers comforted the cop who shot Castile, but no one bothered to assist the dying man, or even check his pulse.

In Minnesota, citizens are allowed to carry firearms if they have a permit to do so. Castile was merely exercising his Second Amendment rights. His decision to inform the officer about his weapon was courteous, but not legally required. Permit holders in Minnesota do not need to tell cops that they are carrying firearms unless specifically asked.

It seems fairly clearly, then, that Castile is in some sense a Second Amendment martyr: He was killed by a police officer because he was exercising his rights. We know, of course, that these kinds of things are more likely to happen to black Americans, regardless of whether they were doing anything wrong.

I would think it would be the easiest thing in the world for gun rights advocates to condemn this senseless killing. And yet, as I write this, the most important gun rights organization in the country hasn’t said a word. The NRA’s Twitter feed makes no mention of the Castile shooting, even though it’s been a trending topic all day.

National Review’s Charles Cooke cautions against instinctively blaming the NRA whenever there’s a shooting, and of course he’s right. But I would expect the organization to at last express some outrage that an agent of the state killed a man, in no small part because the man was carrying a legal firearm. Cooke also observes:

In my view, too many conservatives react to these stories by presuming that the police must have got it right. I understand how irritating it is to hear the argument that “cop X was bad, therefore cops are generally bad,” but it is equally fallacious to contend that “cops are generally good, so cop X must have been good.” There is, I’m afraid, some truth in the charge that conservatives are skeptical of government up until the point that the police or the army are involved.

The Castile shooting—as horrible as it is—provides a perfect opportunity for civil liberties advocates on the right and left to come together and condemn government overreach that resulted in the death of a man who did nothing wrong. It’s a moment to reaffirm that Constitutional rights should be enjoyed by all people equally, regardless of race.

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Boycotts of Israel are a Protected Form of Free Speech

In recent months, a number of states have passed laws or taken other official actions to punish companies that participate in boycotts against Israel. California soon may do the same. But if it does, it will be making a mistake.

You don’t have to support the so-called Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement to be troubled when state governments in this country penalize American citizens for their political speech. As the Supreme Court has recognized, boycotts are a form of speech, protected under the Constitution.

The BDS movement has been the subject of much heated debate in recent years. It calls on people and companies to boycott Israel until that country ends its occupation of “all Arab lands,” ensures equal legal rights for its Arab citizens and accepts the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the former homes of their families in Israel. Some supporters of BDS accept the “two-state solution” in which Israel and an independent Palestine would exist side by side; others don’t.

One result has been a flurry of actions in state capitals, from a law in Illinois divesting state pension funds from companies refusing to do business in Israel or the Palestinian territories to an executive order by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo providing for the disinvestment by state agencies under his control from companies engaged in “boycott, divestment, or sanctions activity targeting Israel.” Most recently, the New Jersey Legislature passed a bill barring the investment of state pension and annuity funds in companies that boycott Israel or Israeli businesses.

Do such laws violate the 1st Amendment? Although the Supreme Court has held that government may engage in its own “speech” and express its own opinions, it also has held that government may not deny a benefit to a person (or a company) because he holds the “wrong” opinion. In our view, denying state business to an otherwise qualified contractor simply based on its views about Israel — and its participation in a legal boycott — goes beyond “government speech” and raises serious constitutional concerns.

In California, the situation has grown even more complicated. Opponents of BDS in the Legislature previously proposed a bill that would have forbidden state contracts with companies engaged in a boycott of Israel. But after legal objections, the legislation was radically reconfigured.

The latest version, approved by a state Senate committee last week, no longer seeks to penalize boycotts directly. Rather, it targets violations of existing anti-discrimination laws that take place under the pretext of a boycott or other “policy” aimed at “any sovereign nation or people recognized by the government of the United States, including, but not limited to, the nation and people of Israel.” The bill would require any person who seeks to contract with the state to certify, under penalty of perjury, that it hasn’t engaged in discrimination as part of such a policy.

This shift to an emphasis on individual rights may solve some of the 1st Amendment problems in earlier versions, but it also raises the question of why this proposed law is necessary at all. The state’s Public Contract Code already says that contractors may not discriminate “on the basis of age, sex, pregnancy, maternity leave status, marital status, race, nationality, country of origin, ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, or political opinion.” Why is it necessary to reiterate what already is the law — and to throw in a specific mention of boycotts and Israel?

The proponents of this bill are desperately eager to single out and punish companies that engage in boycotts against Israel. Realizing that their initial proposal ran contrary to the free speech protections guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, they have now come back with a convoluted, redundant and most likely ineffectual bill that allows them to say they’ve passed an anti-BDS bill.

In California, as elsewhere in this country, support for Israel is strong — which is why laws aimed at boycotts of the Jewish state are a solution in search of a problem.

Politicians are free to denounce BDS if they choose. But they must do so without infringing on the rights of their constituents

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Medical Marijuana Reduces Prescription Drug Use, Study Finds

Patients fill significantly fewer prescriptions for conditions like nausea and pain in states where medical marijuana is available, researchers reported Wednesday in one of the first studies to examine how medical cannabis might be affecting approved treatments.

Prescriptions for all drugs that treat pain combined, from cortisone to OxyContin, were nearly 6 percent lower in states with medical marijuana programs. Anxiety medication was 5 percent lower.

The result was a drop of more than $165 million in health care spending in states that had medical marijuana programs running in 2013, according to the analysis of national Medicare data. The savings would equal 0.5 percent of the entire Medicare program’s drug budget if medicinal cannabis was available in every state, the authors projected.

For years, lawmakers in state after state have approved medical marijuana programs after pleas from desperate patients. The debates centered largely on the limited evidence of benefit and concerns about harm and abuse. There was little discussion of how medicinal cannabis would change treatments that patients were already receiving.

The new study, published Wednesday in the journal Health Affairs, is one of the first to hint at that effect.

“When states turned on a medical marijuana law,” use of treatments approved by the Food and Drug Administration went down, said senior author David Bradford, a health economist at the University of Georgia, “suggesting that they were substituting something else — and the plausible thing that they would be substituting was marijuana.”

Although the relationship may seem obvious, he and others made clear that the associated trends do not prove cause and effect. Nor can they suggest whether substitution would be a good thing or a bad thing overall.

“Let’s say a patient comes to my office saying, ‘I’m using marijuana to sleep because your drugs didn’t work for me.’ He tells me he is using marijuana because it really helps him sleep and his antidepressant isn’t working — ‘and by the way, I’ve flunked out of school,'” said J. Michael Bostwick, a psychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

While there is some evidence that medical marijuana can be helpful for certain conditions, Bostwick said, “you may need to decide whether you want your degree or your drug, and that’s not addressed” by the new study, which he nevertheless called “ingenious.”

To measure the effect of medical marijuana programs, the researchers examined prescriptions filled in the Medicare Part D program in the 17 states plus the District of Columbia that had legalized medicinal cannibis through 2013, compared with those that had not. They analyzed prescriptions for hundreds of drugs that can be used to treat nine conditions for which there is some evidence of benefit from marijuana. More than one condition may be present in some diseases, like HIV.

For glaucoma and spasticity, the average number of daily doses prescribed by each physician was too small to determine a difference. But all the others were significantly lower in the states with medicinal cannabis: anxiety, depression, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizures, and sleep disorders.

By contrast, there was no difference for four classes of drugs that have no impact on conditions that may be treated by medical marijuana, such as blood-thinners and antibiotics.

The findings were no surprise to Peter Rosenfeld, 61, of Collingswood, N.J., who has struggled with a degenerative spine condition for decades. When New Jersey’s medicinal cannabis program began three years ago, he tried 10 different strains before settling on one, known as Ghost OG.

About an eighth of an ounce a month, administered a few times a week through a vaporizer, reduces the spasticity, pain and dizziness better than the prescription drugs that he used to take, said Rosenfeld, a retired aerospace researcher: “It is just a good balance of effectiveness and lack of side effects.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed the state’s new program into law in April but it will not be operational for more than a year. Until it is, Louann Speese has been getting three cannabinoids — CBD, THCA, and THC, each given orally in an oil — sent from different dispensaries in other states for her severely autistic 19-year-old daughter.

Diana Louann Stanley’s seizures now last no more than a minute, down from five to 20 minutes, her mother said. “Now she is more aware of her surroundings. She has eye contact, which she never had before,” said Speese.

Her daughter no longer needs two anti-epileptic medications, Banzel and Lamictal. And while the $150-a-month worth of cannabis has been provided largely by donations through her daughter’s Facebook page, the cost is “a lot cheaper than pharmaceuticals,” said Speese, who lives near Mechanicsburg.

The new study’s estimates of Medicare cost savings from medicinal cannabis programs did not take account of out-of-pocket spending for the marijuana, which is not covered by insurance and is unlikely to be for a long time. Although 24 states plus D.C. have passed programs, the substance remains illegal under federal law, with very limited availability for research.

Before it could be covered, classification as a narcotic would have to be changed, criminal penalties lifted and various formulations would have to go through the same rigorous clinical trials that the FDA requires of prescription drugs. The current lack of evidence for effectiveness is due at least in part to the absence of randomized controlled trials.

With limited research but approval by nearly half the states, “we have kind of a big, poorly controlled natural experiment,” said Brendan Saloner, an assistant professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

He called the new study “a good first step in establishing that substitution might be going on” but cautioned against using the findings to predict that medical marijuana was providing a net benefit. The Medicare prescription data by itself cannot indicate which patients were using medicinal cannabis and not using prescribed medication, Saloner said. It also does not show whether the patients were helped or harmed (or experiencing a placebo effect).

“It does, however, help us think about the intended medical consequences of medical marijuana laws,” Saloner said.

Marijuana, for example, is sometimes considered a “gateway” to harder drugs, but as a pain reliever it may also be a substitute for powerful opioids. Saloner’s own study, published two years ago in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that opioid overdose mortality rates were 25 percent lower in states with medical marijuana than in states without.