Analysis Thu, 18 Dec 2014 02:18:50 -0600 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-us President Obama Charts a New Course on Cuba: 5 Things to Know

President Obama delivers a statement on Cuba and the release of American Alan Gross

President Barack Obama delivers a statement on Cuba and the release of American Alan Gross, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Dec. 17, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

"Change is hard -- in our own lives, and in the lives of nations. And change is even harder when we carry the heavy weight of history on our shoulders. But today we are making these changes because it is the right thing to do. Today, American chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past so as to reach for a better future -- for the Cuban people, for the American people, for our entire hemisphere, and for the world." -- President Obama, December 17, 2014

Washington, DC--(ENEWSPF)--December 17, 2014.  We are separated by no more than 90 miles of water.

And yet, for more than 50 years, an ideological and economic barrier hardened between our two countries.

Today, President Obama took historic steps to tear down that ideological wall and end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests. Fulfilling a promise he made when he came into office in 2009, President Obama will begin to normalize relations between our two countries. 

In case you missed it, here are five takeaways from today's announcement: 

1. The U.S. will re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba that have been severed since January of 1961. 

Going forward, the U.S. will re-establish an Embassy in Havana, and high-ranking officials will visit Cuba. We will work together to advance our interests on issues including health, migration, counter-terrorism, drug trafficking, and disaster response. 

Indeed, we’ve seen the benefits of cooperation between our countries before. It was a Cuban, Carlos Finlay, who discovered that mosquitoes carry yellow fever; his work helped Walter Reed fight it. Cuba has sent hundreds of health care workers to Africa to fight Ebola, and I believe American and Cuban health care workers should work side by side to stop the spread of this deadly disease.

Now, where we disagree, we will raise those differences directly -– as we will continue to do on issues related to democracy and human rights in Cuba. But I believe that we can do more to support the Cuban people and promote our values through engagement. After all, these 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked. It’s time for a new approach.

2. The U.S. will review Cuba's designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. 

This review, conducted by the State Department, will be guided by the facts and the law.

At a time when we are focused on threats from al Qaeda to ISIL, a nation that meets our conditions and renounces the use of terrorism should not face this sanction.

3. The U.S. will take steps to increase travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba. 

This is fundamentally about freedom and openness, and also expresses my belief in the power of people-to-people engagement. With the changes I’m announcing today, it will be easier for Americans to travel to Cuba, and Americans will be able to use American credit and debit cards on the island. Nobody represents America’s values better than the American people, and I believe this contact will ultimately do more to empower the Cuban people.

4. The return of Alan Gross and other Americans detained in Cuba cleared the way for this progress in relations. 

While the President has been prepared to take additional steps for some time, a major obstacle stood in the way: the wrongful imprisonment, in Cuba, of U.S. citizen and USAID sub-contractor Alan Gross for five years. Over many months, the Administration has held discussions with the Cuban government about Alan’s case, and other aspects of our relationship. Today, Alan returned home and was reunited with his family at long last.  

President Obama also secured the release of one of the most important intelligence agents that the U.S. has ever had in Cuba. Imprisoned for nearly two decades, he is now home on U.S. soil. 

Cuba also released a substantial number of prisoners whose cases were directly raised with the Cuban government by the President's team. 

5. Pope Francis helped facilitate the release of Alan Gross and thawing of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. 

His Holiness Pope Francis issued a personal appeal to President Obama and to Cuba's President Raul Castro, urging them to resolve the obstacles that prevented the countries from moving forward in restoring diplomatic relations. 

I want to thank His Holiness Pope Francis, whose moral example shows us the importance of pursuing the world as it should be, rather than simply settling for the world as it is.

Canada and a bipartisan group of Congress members were also instrumental in securing the release of prisoners and in advancing our interests and values in Cuba. 

Take a deep-dive into the President's historic actions here:

White House Blog by: Tanya Somanader


]]> (Press Release) Analysis Wed, 17 Dec 2014 23:08:27 -0600
White House Fact Sheet: The President’s Immigration Accountability Executive Actions & Their Impact on Asian American Immigrant Communities

Washington, DC--(ENEWSPF)--December 16, 2014. From DREAMers to high-skilled workers to those seeking to reunite with their family members, Asian Americans are one of the most rapidly growing populations in the United States. According to the U.S. Census, the Asian American population in the United States grew 46% from 2000 to 2010, faster than any other major race group nationwide. There are now over 17.3 million Asian Americans living in the United States—almost triple the number in 1990—and this rapid growth is largely driven by immigration. Asian Americans are impacted by every facet of our immigration system. They are undocumented immigrants, family members, temporary workers, refugees, asylum-seekers, lawful permanent residents (LPRs), and naturalized U.S. citizens. And like many other immigrant communities, Asian Americans are impacted by every layer of our broken immigration system.

President Obama believes in fixing our Nation’s broken immigration system by working with Congress to pass comprehensive, commonsense immigration reform. It’s been over 500 days since the Senate passed a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration bill to fix our system, but House Republicans have refused to bring it up for a vote. In the absence of legislative action, on November 20, 2014, President Obama issued his Immigration Accountability Executive Actions to fix as much of our broken immigration system as possible within the scope of his existing legal authority.

According to a 2014 survey, 65% of Asian American voters strongly supported the President’s taking executive action on immigration. Asian American communities and many other immigrant communities stand to benefit from the President’s actions, which increase accountability, focus our immigration enforcement, and streamline legal immigration to boost our economy and promote naturalization.

Providing deferred action for parents of lawful permanent residents (LPRs) and U.S. citizens, and for additional DREAMers. Approximately 1.3 million Asian Americansare undocumented immigrants, making up 12% of the total undocumented population, with the highest numbers coming from India, China, the Philippines, and Korea. Under the President’s plan, parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents who have lived in the United States for at least five years, pass background checks, and are not priorities for removal will be eligible to seek deferred action on a case-by-case basis. Additionally, eligibility to apply for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will be expanded to include individuals who entered the United States by January 1, 2010 and before they turned 16 (regardless of their age today).  Relief from deportation through these programs will be granted in three-year increments. South Korea, the Philippines, India, and Pakistan are among the top twenty countries from which DACA requestswere submitted in fiscal year 2013.

Reducing family separation for those awaiting their green cards. Many Asian Americans are unable to access immigration options available through the family-based legal immigration system because of barriers in the existing system, including for individuals who are currently undocumented in the United States. DHS will expand an existing program that allows certain family members of LPRs and U.S. citizens to apply for a provisional waiver of certain restrictions before they depart the United States to attend visa interviews at U.S. consulates abroad.

Providing portable work authorization for high-skilled workers awaiting green cards and their spouses. A significant number of Asian Americans come to the United States through our employment-based system, particularly as temporary workers through high-skill visa programs. In fact, individuals from India, China, the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Pakistan, and Nepal made up over 75% of all H-1B visa beneficiaries in 2012. Similarly, in 2013, India, Japan, China, and South Korea were in the top ten countries of origin for L-1B beneficiaries. Many individuals who come to the United States through the employment-based system are later sponsored by their employers for a green card. In 2013, nearly 102,000 Asian immigrants obtained green cards through employment-based immigrant visa petitions. Unfortunately, individuals might have to wait several years before they can adjust status, even after their application has been approved, because they must wait for an immigrant visa to become available.  During this time, they are limited in their ability to change jobs or accept a promotion. Their spouses also have limited options to apply for work authorization. Under President Obama’s actions, these workers will gain greater work flexibility. Spouses of H-1Bs will also be able to receive work authorization if the H-1B holder is on the pathway to obtain a green card. 

Enhancing options for foreign entrepreneurs. China, India, and Korea are among the top ten countries from which immigrant entrepreneurs come to the United States. Under the President’s plan, DHS will expand options for entrepreneurs who will provide a significant public benefit by creating jobs, attracting investment, and generating revenue in the United States.

Strengthening and extending on-the-job training for STEM graduates of U.S. universities. Many Asian Americans come to the United States to pursue their education and acquire the skills they need to advance their careers. A great majority of foreign students in the United States are Asian with the highest numbers coming from China, India, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Approximately 79% of Indians on F and M student visas pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and 37% of Chinese students in the United States pursue STEM degrees. DHS will propose changes to expand and strengthen the existing Optional Practical Training (OPT) program in order to allow students to receive the skills they need to further their education.

But these executive actions are just one step towards fixing our broken system.  We still need Congress to make these reforms permanent and to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The Senate’s bipartisan bill includes many pieces to improve the system for Asian American communities, including:

Providing a lengthy but fair path to earned citizenship, bringing undocumented members of the Asian American communities out of the shadows and creating an expedited path for DREAMers.

There are an estimated 1.3 million undocumented immigrants from Asia in the United States, and six percent of potential DREAMers are of Asian origin.

The Senate bill would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status if they entered the United States by December 31, 2011 and met a rigorous set of eligibility requirements, including registering; paying fees, fines, and taxes; learning English; and passing extensive background checks. RPIs would be allowed to work, travel outside of the United States, and apply for RPI status for their spouse and children living in the country.

It would provide an expedited five-year path to earned citizenship for DREAMers, making them eligible for citizenship immediately after applying for green card status if they held RPI status for at least 5 years, were younger than 16 when they initially entered the United States, earned a high school diploma or a GED certificate in the U.S, and completed at least 2 years or college, earned a bachelor’s degree or served in the military for at least 4 years with an honorable discharge.

Reuniting families by eliminating the backlog of family-based visas. Current family immigrant visa backlogs can separate family members for years and even decades.

Family-based immigration is the most common pathway to the United States for Asian immigrants. In 2013, nearly 221,000 Asian immigrants became green card holders through petitions filed by their U.S. citizen or permanent resident family members.

As of November 1, 2014, there were approximately 1.8 million Asian family-based immigrant visa applicants waiting to join their families. Immigrant visa applicants born in mainland China and India must wait up to 12 years depending on their visa category. Immigrant visa applicants born in the Philippines must wait up to 23 years depending on their visa category. Some 54% of Asian Americans surveyedin 2012 said that visa backlogs presented a significant problem for their families.

The Senate bill would eliminate the visa backlog, in part by exempting spouses and unmarried children of LPRs from annual limitations on family-sponsored green cards, treating them like spouses and children of U.S. citizens.

By adopting backlog reduction measures and increasing the limit on the number of immigrants allowed each year from individual countries, the Senate bill would eliminate current family visa backlogs in seven years and reducing future wait times for nations with the highest rates of immigration to the United States.

Streamlining legal immigration by cutting red tape for employers and providing expanded opportunities for STEM students

In 2013, nearly 102,000 individuals born in Asia obtained green cards through employment-based immigrant visa petitions. But immigrants from India can wait 11 years for some employment-based immigrant visas. Over 78,000 individuals waiting in the employment-based immigrant backlog as of November 1, 2014 are from Asian countries with the top five countries of individuals including individuals from India, China, and South Korea.

The Senate bill would eliminate the existing backlogs for employment-based green cards, exempt certain employment-based categories from the annual cap, and remove annual country limitations altogether.

The overwhelming majority of those who enter as students are Asian with those from China, India, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Vietnam ranking among the highest. Approximately 79% of Indians on F and M student visas pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and 37% of Chinese students pursue STEM degrees in the United States.

The Senate bill would exempt STEM PhD and Master’s graduates from the annual cap of 140,000 visas. This provision would effectively “staple” a green card to the diplomas of advanced STEM graduates from U.S. universities.

The Senate bill would also exempt certain physicians from the overall visa cap. In 2009, 58% of all immigrant doctors, and 52% of immigrant nurses were from Asian countries.

Creating pathways for entrepreneurs and making key improvements to the H-1B program.

China, India, and Korea are in the top ten sending countries of immigrant entrepreneurs. The Senate bill would create a new visa program for foreign entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses in the United States.

The new INVEST visa (“Investing in New Venture, Entrepreneurial Startups, and Technologies”) would allow entrepreneurs who attract a threshold level of financing from U.S. investors or revenue from U.S. customers to start and grow their businesses in the United States, and to remain here permanently if their companies grow further and create jobs for American workers.

The Senate bill would also improve the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, and increase the number of available green cards for immigrant investors from approximately 10,000 annually to approximately 14,000 annually. 

Petitioners from India (64%) and China (7.6%) continue to be the largest users of the H-1B program. The Senate bill would increase the number of available H-1B visas by raising the baseline cap from 65,000 visas to 115,000 visas per year.

Improvements to the H-1B program would allow spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in the United States and increase worker mobility by establishing a 60-day transition period for H-1B workers to change jobs.


]]> (Press Release) Analysis Tue, 16 Dec 2014 23:15:01 -0600
Teen Marijuana Use Declines As Country Moves Toward Marijuana Legalization

National Institute on Drug Abuse’s 2014 ‘Monitoring the Future’ Survey Also Finds E-Cigarette Use Now Greater than Cigarette Use Among Teens

Washington, DC—(ENEWSPF)—December 16, 2014. The federal government’s National Institute on Drug Abuse released its annual Monitoring the Future survey today. Monitoring the Future is now in its 40th year and is considered the ‘gold standard’ of teen drug use surveys. It surveys 40,000 to 50,000 students in 8th, 10th and 12th grade in schools nationwide about their use of alcohol, legal and illegal drugs and cigarettes.

Marijuana use in the past year by students in all three grades declined slightly, from 26% in 2013 to 24% in 2014. The survey also found that students in 8th and 10th grades reported that marijuana is less available than it once was. Also, daily marijuana use among 12th graders is down, from 6.5% in 2013 to 5.8% in 2014.

These declines in marijuana use among teens follow the implementation of the nation’s first marijuana legalization laws in Colorado and Washington. Those laws were adopted in 2012, and retail sales of marijuana in those states began earlier this year. Each of the marijuana legalization laws clearly specify that legalization applies to adults 21 and over, and contain built-in safeguards that restrict sales to minors. Last month, voters in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C. also decisively passed initiatives to legalize marijuana in those jurisdictions.

“The results from the Monitoring the Future survey showing a decline in teen marijuana use – even as legalization initiatives have passed – is very encouraging, though not surprising,” said Marsha Rosenbaum, PhD, of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Now that the national conversation about marijuana is ‘above ground,’ parents and teachers are able have honest conversations with teens based on sound science, health, and safety. The declines in use revealed in MTF may well indicate that teens are listening, and choosing to make wise decisions.”

Rosenbaum is the author of the influential publication Safety First: A Reality-Based Approach to Teens and Drugs. Earlier this month, DPA released a revised edition of Safety First with new sections addressing marijuana legalization and adolescent brain development.

Over half of teens (56%) say they would not try marijuana, even it were legal for adults. Some opponents of marijuana legalization have speculated that use will increase with the expansion of legally regulated marijuana. Rather, the findings from Monitoring the Future echo the results of other studies on marijuana laws and underage use.

Numerous researchers have looked at the extent of teen marijuana use in states where medical marijuana is legal. Their findings, published in prestigious journals such as the American Journal of Public Health and the Journal of Adolescent Health , generally show no association between changes in marijuana laws and rates of teenage marijuana use. A 2012 study published in the Annals of Epidemiology found that medical marijuana laws actually “decreased past-month use among adolescents…and had no discernible effect on the perceived riskiness of monthly use.” Preliminary data from the 2013 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, released by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) in August of 2014, found that high school marijuana use in the past month slightly decreased from 22 percent in 2011to 20 percent in 2013.

“States are legalizing marijuana, Congress is debating and enacting drug policy reform, and teen drug use rates are declining – this is not a coincidence,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Young people respond well to frank, honest conversations about drugs and drug use. The less taboo talking about drugs becomes the more successful prevention efforts will be.”

Cigarette and alcohol use also continued their long-term decline, reaching their lowest point since the survey began polling teenagers in 1975.  Notably, this was the first year that the survey asked about use of e-cigarettes, and it found that more teens used e-cigarettes than traditional tobacco cigarettes or any other tobacco product.

“It’s great news that teen tobacco use is continuing to decrease,” said Jerry Otero, youth policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Let’s remember, we have been able to drive down teen smoking rates from a peak of 28% in 1997 to just 8% in 2014. And we did this without criminalizing tobacco use or arresting and locking up people who smoke. We need to continue doing what works by giving young people honest and credible information about tobacco—the best choice for teens is not to use tobacco, but e-cigarettes pose less a risk to health than smoking.”


]]> (Press Release) Analysis Tue, 16 Dec 2014 23:01:19 -0600
BRIEF: Fourth Amendment Protections Should Apply When Data is Seized

NEW YORK—(ENEWSPF)—December 16, 2014. The Brennan Center for Justice, The Constitution Project, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the American Civil Liberties Union jointly filed a brief in this digital privacy case. O'Melveny & Myers LLP served as pro bono counsel.

The Fourth Amendment protects digital data the moment it is copied and seized by law enforcement, not just when it is searched, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and others argued in an amicus brief filed this week.

In the “Microsoft Ireland” case, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals will decide whether the U.S.-based Microsoft Corporation must comply with a government warrant to turn over the digital records of an individual stored on servers outside the United States. The government contends that the Fourth Amendment does not apply to copying data, only to searching it. In its brief, the Brennan Center and its partners hold that copying data constitutes “seizure” and warrants Fourth Amendment protection.

“This case could have far-reaching consequences for the future of digital privacy, including tech companies’ ability to protect the privacy of their customers’ personal information,” said Michael Price, counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. “If the court accepts the government’s argument that Fourth Amendment protections only apply when data is searched rather than when it is physically collected, police would be allowed to copy every single file on every single American’s computer without a warrant.”

“As we develop new rules for the digital world, we must remain true to the principles reflected in the Constitution,” said Faiza Patel, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “The personal information stored in our e-mail accounts is not a Microsoft business record that the government can get with a subpoena — they need a warrant.”

The brief also argues against the government’s position that a domestic warrant can be used to search and seize email because it is similar to a subpoena. While a subpoena can be used to obtain certain business records, it is not sufficient to obtain the e-mails, photos, and chat messages that are stored on the cloud.   

To learn more about this case, visit the Brennan Center’s case page here.


]]> (Press Release) Analysis Tue, 16 Dec 2014 18:01:45 -0600
Physicians for Human Rights Releases Expert Analysis of CIA Torture Report, Calls for Federal Commission to Hold Health Professionals Accountable

Doctors and Psychologists Played Central Role in Torture, More Than Previously Known

New York, NY –(ENEWSPF)—December 16, 2014. Health professionals played an essential role at every stage of the CIA’s torture program, committing at least eight violations of ethics and law, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) said today in an analysis of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report summary on CIA torture. A group of medical doctors, psychologists, and ethicists with expertise documenting torture and working with torture survivors conducted the analysis, which calls for a federal commission to investigate the full extent of health professionals’ participation in the torture program.

The analysis, "Doing Harm: Health Professionals’ Central Role in the CIA Torture Program," can be found here.

"Doctors and psychologists working for the U.S. government engaged in the brutal and systematic torture of detainees," said Dr. Vincent Iacopino, PHR’s senior medical advisor and an author of the analysis. "Health professionals who participated in these crimes betrayed the most fundamental duty of the healing professions – to do no harm. They must be held accountable in order to restore trust in our professions and ensure this never happens again."

The summary that the committee released is just a fraction of the full report, and contains potential evidence of health professionals’ engagement in unethical human subjects research or experimentation. If confirmed, this unlawful practice could amount to crimes against humanity, which is prohibited by the Nuremberg Code, a set of principles adopted after the revelation of such practices under the Nazi regime.

The categories of potential violations committed by doctors, psychologists, and physician assistants include:

Designing, directing, and profiting from the torture program

Intentionally inflicting harm on detainees

Enabling U. S. Department of Justice lawyers to create a fiction of "safe, legal and effective" interrogation practices

Engaging in potential human subjects research to provide legal cover for torture

Monitoring torture and calibrating the level of pain

Evaluating and treating detainees for the purposes of torture

Conditioning medical care on cooperation with interrogators

Failing to document physical and/or psychological evidence of torture

The analysis details how health professionals acted in violation of medical and psychological ethics, domestic and international law, and federal research guidelines.

PHR is calling on President Obama to work with the incoming Congress to authorize a federal commission of inquiry into the role of health professionals in designing, monitoring, and attempting to provide legal justification for the CIA’s torture program. Such a commission should have subpoena powers and the ability to refer individuals for criminal investigation and prosecution to the U.S. Department of Justice.

"The profound betrayal of medical ethics uncovered by the Senate’s investigation is reprehensible and demands nothing less than full accountability," said Donna McKay, PHR’s executive director. "The fact that U.S. taxpayers paid $81 million to the two psychologists’ private firm to carry out the CIA’s torture program should shock the moral conscience of all Americans. A federal commission must examine how health professionals committed, concealed, and attempted to help justify these crimes, and must include criminal prosecution where warranted."

PHR has extensively documented the systematic use of psychological and physical torture by U.S. military and medical personnel against detainees in its reports, including Break Them Down, Leave No Marks, Broken Laws, Broken Lives, Aiding Torture, and Experiments in Torture. In recent days, PHR has released a fact sheet on rectal hydration and rectal feeding, a statement about why this is an unnecessary medical procedure, and a statement about the need to hold health professionals involved in CIA’s torture program accountable.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.


]]> (Press Release) Analysis Tue, 16 Dec 2014 17:50:17 -0600
Final Year-End Federal Spending Bill Prohibits Justice Department from Undermining State Medical Marijuana and Hemp Laws

Spending Bill Allows Legalization of Marijuana Possession in Washington, D.C. to Move Forward, but Prevents Taxing and Regulating Marijuana like Alcohol; Momentum Builds Nationally to End the Failed War on Drugs

WASHINGTON, D.C. –(ENEWSPF)—December 15, 2014. The final “cromnibus” federal spending bill that Congress passed over the weekend contains historic language prohibiting the U.S. Justice Department from spending any money to undermine state medical marijuana laws.

The spending bill also includes a bipartisan amendment that prohibits the DEA from blocking implementation of a federal law passed last year by Congress that allows hemp cultivation for academic and agricultural research purposes in states that allow it. It also contains an amendment allowing Washington, D.C.’s voter-approved initiative legalizing marijuana possession and home cultivation for personal use to move forward, but prohibits D.C. policymakers from using any local or federal 2015 funding to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol.

“For the first time, Congress is letting states set their own medical marijuana and hemp policies, a huge step forward for sensible drug policy," said Bill Piper, director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s office of national affairs. “States will continue to reform their marijuana laws and Congress will be forced to accommodate them. It’s not a question of if, but when, federal marijuana prohibition will be repealed."

Earlier this year, 219 members of the U.S. House voted for a bipartisan amendment that was sponsored by Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Democrat Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA) and ten other members of Congress prohibiting the DEA from undermining medical marijuana laws in nearly two dozen states, as well as eleven additional states that regulate CBD oils. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced a similar amendment in the Senate but a vote by the Senate on the amendment was never held.

The House amendment made it into the final appropriations bill, marking the first time Congress has ever cut off funding to marijuana enforcement. Another House amendment sponsored by Republican Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Democrat Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) prohibiting the DEA from undermining a federal law that allows industrial hemp research under certain circumstances also made it into the final appropriations bill.

The spending bill also contains a provision affecting legalization efforts in D.C. In November 70 percent of D.C. voters approved Initiative 71, a ballot measure that legalizes small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Members of Congress have offered differing opinions on whether the language in the spending bill stops Initiative 71 or just prohibits D.C. from going further.

To the Democrats who fought to protect the right of D.C. to set its own policies and negotiated compromise language with Republicans, it is clear that the final rider protects Initiative 71. So says Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC); Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY), the ranking member on the appropriations subcommittee that funds D.C.; and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the Ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) also spoke on the Senate floor last week in defense of D.C.’s right to reform its marijuana laws.

The rider that passed the Appropriations Committee earlier this year prohibited D.C. from spending money to “enact or carry out” any law or regulation lowering or eliminating penalties for marijuana or other Schedule I drugs. Democrats opposed that language in final negotiations over the “cromnibus" though.

The compromise amendment that Republicans were forced to accept eliminated the words “or carry out”, meaning any D.C. law that has ready been enacted is protected. Under the D.C. Home Rule Act, a ballot measure becomes “an act of the council” when the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethic certifies that voters approved it. Initiative 71 was officially enacted on December 3rd when the Board certified that 70 percent of D.C. voters approved it.

The Drug Policy Alliance urges the D.C. Council to side with D.C. voters and transmit the initiative to Congress in January.

“D.C. voters passed Initiative 71 because they want to see an end to racially unjust marijuana arrests,” said Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance.  “It is now the Council’s turn to honor the will of the people and move forward with legalization, even if doing so means standing up to Congress on the issue.”

The campaign to pass Initiative 71 was driven by public demands to end racially-biased enforcement of marijuana laws and was seen as the first step at taking marijuana out of the illicit market. A broad base of community support from multiple civil rights organizations, faith leaders and community advocacy groups supported Initiative 71, viewing it as an opportunity to restore the communities most harmed by the war on drugs.

Two independent studies of marijuana arrest trends in the District of Columbia documented enormous racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests.  Despite the fact that African American and white residents of the District of Columbia use marijuana at roughly similar rates, ninety-one percent of all arrests for simple possession of marijuana are of African Americans and are eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites.

Whatever the fate of D.C.’s legalization effort, the national medical marijuana victory in Congress will further solidify drug policy reform’s relevance as a mainstream political issue and build upon victories by drug policy reform advocates at the state level. Dozens of states have legalized marijuana for medical use in recent years.

Voters in Colorado and Washington State voted in 2012 to legalize and regulate marijuana like alcohol. In November, voters in Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C. also approved legalization, while voters in California and New Jersey passed groundbreaking criminal justice reforms.

 Polls over the past few years have consistently found that a clear majority of Americans support marijuana legalization and other drug policy reforms.

“The war on drugs is unraveling at both the state and federal levels,” said Piper. “It’s taken a lot of work by a lot people working hard across the country for decades but from marijuana reform to sentencing reform punitive drug policies are finally coming to an end. The American people want change and policymakers are giving it to them."


]]> (Press Release) Analysis Mon, 15 Dec 2014 18:18:44 -0600
The Complicity of Psychologists in CIA Torture

WASHINGTON – (ENEWSPF)—December 12, 2014.

Roy Eidelson is a clinical psychologist and the president of Eidelson Consulting, where he studies, writes about, and consults on the role of psychological issues in political, organizational, and group conflict settings. He is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, associate director of the Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict at Bryn Mawr College, and a member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology.  (ROY EIDELSON,

Trudy Bond is a counseling psychologist in independent practice in Toledo, Ohio. She is a member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology and on the steering committee of Psychologists for Social Responsibility.  (TRUDY BOND,

They just wrote the piece "The Complicity of Psychologists in CIA Torture," which states: "Earlier this week the Senate Intelligence Committee released the long-awaited executive summary of its 6,000-page classified report on the CIA’s brutal post-9/11 detention and interrogation program. The report provides gruesome details of the abuse that took place in several 'black site' prisons -- waterboarding, confinement in a coffin-sized box, threatened harm to family members, forced nudity, freezing temperatures, 'rectal feeding' without medical need, stress positions, diapering, days of sleep deprivation, and more.

"Two names appear dozens of times in the committee’s summary: Grayson Swigert and Hammond Dunbar. These are the pseudonyms that were given to James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. It has been known for several years that these two contract psychologists played central roles in designing and implementing the CIA’s torture program. Now we also know how lucrative that work was for Mitchell and Jessen: their company was paid over $80 million by the CIA. ...

"Responding to the new Senate report, the American Psychological Association (APA) was quick to issue a press release distancing itself from Mitchell and Jessen. The statement emphasized that the two psychologists are not APA members – although Mitchell was a member until 2006 -- and that they are therefore 'outside the reach of the association’s ethics adjudication process.' But there is much more to this story. After years of stonewalling and denials, last month the APA Board appointed an investigator to examine allegations that the APA colluded with the CIA and Pentagon in supporting the Bush Administration’s abusive 'war on terror' detention and interrogation practices.

"The latest evidence of that collusion comes from the publication earlier this fall of James Risen’s Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War. With access to hundreds of previously undisclosed emails involving senior APA staff, the Pulitzer-prize winning reporter concludes that the APA 'worked assiduously to protect the psychologists…involved in the torture program.' The book also provides several new details pointing to the likelihood that Mitchell and Jessen were not so far removed from the APA after all.

"Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, APA member and CIA head of behavioral research Kirk Hubbard first introduced Mitchell and Jessen to the CIA as 'potential assets.' A few months later, in mid-2002, Hubbard arranged for former APA president Martin Seligman to present a lecture on his theories of 'learned helplessness' to a group that included Mitchell and Jessen at the Navy SERE School in San Diego. And in 2003 Hubbard worked closely with APA senior staff in developing an invitation-only workshop – co-sponsored by the APA and the CIA – on the science of deception and other interrogation-related topics. Mitchell and Jessen were both participants (having returned from overseas where they were involved in the waterboarding of detainees Abu Zabaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed). ..."


A nationwide consortium, the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA) represents an unprecedented effort to bring other voices to the mass-media table often dominated by a few major think tanks. IPA works to broaden public discourse in mainstream media, while building communication with alternative media outlets and grassroots activists.


]]> (Press Release) Analysis Fri, 12 Dec 2014 23:48:55 -0600
Hunger, Homelessness on the Rise in Cities Nationwide: Report

'[D]espite all efforts, the problems remain, as do our concerns about the future,' said Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider.

Washington, DC--(ENEWSPF)--December 12, 2014.
Low wages, high costs of living, and unemployment are the leading factors of hunger and homelessness in 25 cities around the country. (Photo: Richard Masoner/flickr/cc)

Food insecurity and homelessness in cities around the country spiked in the past year, a new report released Thursday has found.

According to the United States Conference of Mayors' annual Hunger and Homelessness Survey (pdf), 71 percent of the 25 cities surveyed saw an increase in requests for emergency food assistance—a majority of those coming from families. Low wages were the biggest cause of hunger among those cities, followed by poverty, unemployment, and high living costs.

"Again this year, despite the economic progress the nation as a whole is making, we anticipated that problems related to joblessness and other lingering effects of the recession would be reflected in the reports coming in from the survey cities—and they were," said Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider. "We have seen some extraordinary efforts by cities, private agencies, foundations, charities, and volunteers to cope with hunger and homelessness. But despite all efforts, the problems remain, as do our concerns about the future."

The report comes as low-pay workers around the country continue to call for an increase in minimum wage, marching through their cities and staging strikes and protests in front of fast food restaurants and retail stores. Among those who reported needing food assistance in Thursday's report, 38 percent were employed.

In a troubling dynamic highlighted in the report, the increased need for public services has arrived alongside a decrease in the capacity to meet them. More than 80 percent of emergency kitchens had to slash the amount of food an individual could take in one visit or per meal. Of the 25 cities surveyed, 21 said they expected food needs to increase in the next year.

Homelessness also grew among both families and individuals, a trend that was primarily caused by the lack of affordable housing, the report found. Unemployment was also one of the leading factors, followed by poverty and the lack of needed services for those struggling with mental illness or substance abuse.

"It’s been more than three decades, and every report on these problems that we have published has reiterated a need for more services and more capacity to help growing numbers of families and individuals in need," said Conference CEO Tom Cochran. "This year is no different... [there's] no question that the slow pace of the recovery in past years has made it difficult—and, for many of our cities, impossible—to respond to the growing needs of hungry and homeless Americans."

The survey says it is not meant to be a representative sample of trends throughout the country, but its findings are corroborated by other recent reports. A USDA study published in September reported that 50 million Americans continued to struggle with food insecurity, despite the so-called economic recovery, and the National Coalition for the Homeless found that homelessness among children is higher now than at any point in U.S. history.

Schneider called on increased federal action and protection for those in need of emergency services. "We are very concerned about what could happen to our emergency food and shelter programs next year, and in the years beyond, if federal budgeting makes it harder, not easier, to meet our re sponsibilities to all of our people," she said. "But until our economy improves for all Americans, programs to combat poverty, hunger, and homelessness need to be protected—not compromised, not sacrificed—by our Congress."


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License




]]> (Press Release) Analysis Fri, 12 Dec 2014 23:42:16 -0600
NHTSA Report: Evidence Fails To Support Proposed DUI Impairment Levels For Cannabis

NHTSA Report: Evidence Fails To Support Proposed DUI Impairment Levels For CannabisWashington, DC--(ENEWSPF)--December 11, 2014.  Available science fails to support the imposition of driving under the influence (DUI) impairment thresholds for cannabis in a manner that is analogous to the per se limits already in place for alcohol, according to the conclusions of a November 2014 publication published by the United States Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Per se traffic safety laws criminalize those who operate a vehicle with trace or specific levels of a controlled substance in their bodily fluids, even in the absence of any further evidence indicating that the subject was behaviorally impaired.

States the paper's authors, "Every state has enacted a law defining drivers who are at or above .08 grams per deciliter BAC as 'legally impaired,' but there are no similar, commonly accepted impairment levels for other drugs." Nonetheless, despite this lack of consensus, authors acknowledge that "some state laws have established levels for some drugs at which it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle" - a position which they concede is not evidence based.

"The alcohol laws are based on evidence concerning the decreased ability of drivers across the population to function safely at these BACs," they write. "Such evidence is not currently available for concentrations of other drugs."

Eleven states presently impose a zero tolerant per se DUI limit for THC and, in some cases, the presence of its inert metabolite carboxy THC. Five additional states impose per se limits for the presence of either THC or carboxy THC.

NHTSA's recent acknowledgement is far from the first time that the federal traffic safety agency has opined against the imposition of per se limits for THC. In an online factsheet, entitled Drug and Human Performance: Cannabis/Marijuana, the agency concludes: "It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person's THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects. ... It is inadvisable to try and predict effects based on blood THC concentrations alone, and currently impossible to predict specific effects based on THC-COOH [carboxy THC metabolite] concentrations."

Full text of the NHTSA report, "Understanding the Limitations of Drug Test Information, Reporting, and Testing Practices in Fatal Crashes," appears online at: Additional information on cannabis and psychomotor performance is available from the NORML library here:


]]> (Press Release) Analysis Fri, 12 Dec 2014 00:49:14 -0600
Poll: 60 Percent Of Americans Say States, Not Feds, Ought To Decide Marijuana Question
Poll: 60 Percent Of Americans Say States, Not Feds, Ought To Decide Marijuana Question

Washington, DC--(ENEWSPF)--December 11, 2014. Six out of ten voters believe that states, not the federal government, should authorize and enforce marijuana policy, according to national polling data reported this week by the Washington, DC think-tank Third Way.

When presented with the option, 60 percent of respondents said that state officials ought to possess the authority to "control and decide whether to legalize marijuana." Only 34 percent of those polled said that the federal government ought to enforce marijuana laws.

Similarly, a supermajority of voters (67 percent) agreed, "Congress should pass a bill giving states that have legalized marijuana a safe haven from federal marijuana laws, so long as they have a strong regulatory system."

Overall, 50 percent of voters said that they support legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes while 47 percent opposed the notion. However, among those opposed to legalization, 21 percent endorsed the idea of Congress providing a "safe haven" from federal prohibition in those states that have chosen to legalize the plant's use and sale.

"The fact that state legalization of marijuana violates federal law and creates an untenable policy situation was clear - and the voters we polled responded not with ideological proclamations but by supporting a middle-ground, pragmatic policy which would ease that conflict as the legal landscape continues to quickly shift," representatives for the think-tank stated in a media release. "This means marijuana is not an issue of absolutes for many Americans - rather, it requires a nuanced balancing of values and interests."

Nationwide, voter support for cannabis legalization was highest among Democrats (64 percent), Millennials (61 percent), and non-white/Hispanic voters (61 percent). A majority of women voters and Republicans opposed legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes. By contrast, majority support (78 percent) for the legalization of cannabis for medicinal purposes extended throughout all demographics.

Fifty-four percent of respondents expressed a favorable view of those who used cannabis therapeutically, while only 36 percent said that they possessed a favorable view of social consumers.

When it came to the issue of how to most effectively influence voters' opinions on marijuana law reform, authors reported that neither negative nor positive messaging "moved voters substantially in either direction." Specifically, authors' reported that many respondents who did not already possess strong opinions on the issue failed to sympathize with the idea that the drug war was overly punitive or that the federal government might once again begin cracking down on state-compliant cannabis consumers and providers.

Authors concluded, "As opponents lean heavily into values-based arguments regarding teenage marijuana use and highway safety, more research still needs to be done to identify a compelling value for legalizing recreational marijuana - the way that compassion underlies support for medical marijuana."

Researchers collected opinion data over the course of several months in two separate waves - first with a late summer focus group and then with an October poll of 856 registered voters, conducted online.

Full text of the Third Way report is online at:


]]> (Press Release) Analysis Fri, 12 Dec 2014 00:47:31 -0600