Coexistence In The Middle-East (And Every Where else On Earth): Or Self Inflected Armageddon?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY  ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Opinion

Coexistence Is the Last Chance to Avoid the Precipice

Last week, Egypt’s Coptic Christians cancelled Easter celebrations in mourning for those who were killed in two separate terrorist explosions targeting churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria.

In Iraq too, new maps are being drawn by sectarianism, while minorities shrink and ethno-religious fabric change under the violence perpetrated by Iran on one side and ISIS on another.

Likewise, we openly witness how shredded Syria has become, and under the eyes of the international community, it is well on the road of partition and population exchange– finally, the less said the better it is when the subject matter is ongoing events in occupied Palestinian territories.

Given this painful regional climate, the ongoing arguments about Lebanon’s future electoral system become a travesty, not much different from the ‘crowded’ field of Iran’s presidential elections where neither votes nor abundance of candidates mean a thing against what the Supreme Leader utters and the elitist Revolutionary Gaurd the (IRGC) dictates.

In Lebanon, the Middle East’s ‘democratic’ soft belly, the Lebanese’ daily bread and butter is endless and absurd arguments and counter-arguments about what the most appropriate electoral system should look like in upcoming parliamentary elections. This is not actually new. Moreover, true intentions behind what is going on have nothing to do with what is being said, whether the intention is escalation or hypocrisy.

The real problem is that the Lebanese are acutely divided on several basic issues regarding conditions of coexistence, political representation and even the meaning of democracy.

For a start, one must ask oneself whether the next elections – regardless of what system is adopted – are going to produce any change in the status quo? Is there any common Lebanese vision as to what the country’s identity is among the ostensible ‘allies’, let alone political adversaries and those dependent on foreign backing and sectarian hegemony?

Then, one may also ask – given defective mechanisms of governance – would ‘state institutions’ still be relevant and meaningful? Would any electoral law be effective in the light of accelerating disproportionate sectarian demographics, and the fact that one large religious sect enjoys a monopoly of military might outside the state’s umbrella, while still sharing what is underneath that umbrella?

The other day in his Easter sermon the Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Ra’i said “the (Lebanese) Christians are nobody’s bullied weaklings, but are rather indispensable (!)…”. This is tough talk indeed, but it too is not new.

From what is widely known about Cardinal Ra’i, even before assuming the Patriarchate, is that he is highly interested in politics, and that political views are as candid as they are decisive. On Syria, in particular, he has been among the first to warn the West against and dissuade its leaders from supporting the Syrian uprising; when he claimed during his visits – beginning with France – that any regime that may replace Bashar Al-Assad’s may be worse, and thus it would better to keep him in power.

The same path has been followed by current Lebanese president Michel Aoun, who was strongly backed by Hezbollah, to the extent that the latter forced a political vacuum on Lebanon lasting for over two years.

Of course, Hezbollah, in the meantime, had been imposing its hegemony over Lebanon, fighting for Al-Assad in Syria, and training the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen as part of Iran’s project of regional dominance. In promoting this ‘project’ globally, but particularly in the West, Iran has given it the themes of ‘fighting terrorism’ – meaning ‘Sunni Muslim terrorism’- and ‘protection of minorities’ within the framework of a tactical ‘coalition of the minorities’.

A few days ago Aoun said during an interview that “the aim behind what is taking place in the Orient is to empty it of Christians and partition the region into several states”. Again, this is not something new, as it used to be said on the murder and kidnapping road blocks during the dark days of the Lebanese War between 1975 and 1990. Those days the fears of uprooting were common and widespread; reaching the climax within the Christian community with rumors that the mission of American diplomat Dean Brown was to evacuate Lebanon’s Christians to Canada, and within the Druze community during ‘the Mountain War’ (1983-1984) that they would be expelled to southern Syria.

However, Aoun, as it seems, has not been quite aware of who was applying the final touches on population exchange, and drawing the map for the ‘future’ states he has been warning against. He has simply ignored the full picture, turning instead, to repeat old talk in order to justify temporary interests that are harmful if not fatal to minorities, rather than being beneficial and protective.

In this context, come the ‘try-to-be-smart’ attempts to impose a new electoral law in Lebanon as a means of blackmail, as if the country’s sectarian ‘tribal chieftains’ are naïve or debutants in the arena of sectarian politics. The latest has come from Gebran Bassil, the foreign minister and President Aoun’s son-in-law, when he expressed his “willingness to entertain the idea of a Senate, on the condition that it is headed by a Christian!”. This pre-condition was quickly rejected by the Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri on the basis that the presidency of a Senate, as approved in “Taif Agreement” – which is now part of Lebanon’s Constitution – was allocated to the Druze; and thus, what Bassil had suggested was unconstitutional.

It is worth mentioning here that all suggestions regarding the future electoral law have ignored the issue of a Senate. It was has also been obvious that another item in the “Taif Agreement” was being intentionally ignored too, which is adopting ‘Administrative De-Centralization’.

However, if some Lebanese parties feel uncomfortable with the idea of ‘De-Centralization’, more so as both Iraq and Syria seem to be on their way to actual partition, it is not possible anymore to separate Lebanon’s politics from its demographics.

The latter are now being affected by radical and everlasting demographic changes occurring across the country’s disintegrating eastern borders with Syria. These include what is being reported – without being refuted – about widespread settlement and naturalization activities in Damascus and its countryside. Furthermore, once the population exchange between Shi’ite ‘pockets’ of northern Syria and the Sunni majority population of the Barada River valley is completed, the new sectarian and demographic fabric of Damascus and its countryside would gain a strategic depth and merge with a similar fabric in eastern Lebanon.

This is a danger that Lebanese Christians, indeed, all Lebanese, Syrians, Iraqis and all Arabs, must be aware of and sincere about. The cost of ignoring facts on the ground is tragic, as blood begets blood, exclusion justifies exclusion, and marginalization undermines coexistence.

Nation-building is impossible in the absence of a free will to live together. It is impossible in a climate of lies, while those who think they are smart gamble on shifting regional and global balances of power.

Eyad Abu Shakra

Eyad Abu Shakra

Eyad Abu Shakra is the managing editor of Asharq Al-Awsat. He has been with the newspaper since 1978.

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Sessions: We’ll fund the wall ‘one way or the other’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Sessions: We’ll fund the wall ‘one way or the other’

Story highlights

  • Sessions said they can get the money for the wall
  • Trump promised Mexico would pay for it

Washington (CNN) Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Sunday he does not expect the Mexican government to outright pay for President Donald Trump’s border wall, but there are a number of ways to extract the billions of dollars needed to build it.

Sessions made his comments in an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” where he was attempting to square Trump’s promise that Mexico would pay for the border wall with Mexico’s firm position to the contrary.
“We’re going to get it paid for one way or the other,” Sessions said.
Trump took to Twitter on Sunday morning to say the wall would stop drugs and the gang MS-13. He also said that Mexico would pay for the wall “in some form.”
Trump promised during the campaign that within his first 100 days as president he would get Congress to pass legislation fully funding the wall and establishing mandatory minimum prison sentences for people illegally entering the US after already being deported. That promise, one of many in his “Contract with the American Voter,” said Mexico would reimburse the US for the cost of the wall.
Trump has also threatened to target remittances, or cash transfers from people within the US to people in Mexico.
Sessions referenced a Treasury Department watchdog report during the Obama administration that said excess payments of about $4 billion a year were going to people that shouldn’t get them, and he said reining in the problem could lead to savings over time that could pay for the wall.
“These are mostly Mexicans,” Sessions said. “And those kind of things add up. Four billion a year for 10 years is 40 billion.”
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration issued a report in 2011 saying people who were not authorized to work in the US were paid $4.2 billion in refundable tax credits in one year.
The Justice Department did not respond Sunday to a question asking if the report is the one Sessions referenced. The Treasury inspector general also did not return a request for information on whether any actions were taken following the release of the report and if more up-to-date figures exist.
An internal estimate from Customs and Border Protection put the cost of the wall at $21.6 billion, while an estimate from Democrats on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said the wall could cost as much as $66.9 billion.
Sessions implied other actions at the border and in trade could pay for the wall, although he said he did not expect the Mexican government itself to foot the bill.
“I don’t expect the Mexican government to appropriate money for it,” Sessions said. “But there are ways that we can deal with our trade situation to create the revenue to pay for it. No doubt about it.”
The Trump administration has requested a $1 billion “down payment” from Congress to begin construction of the wall. Administration officials in televised interviews on Sunday said funding for the wall is a priority in budget negotiations ahead of a potential government shutdown Friday, but stopped short of saying Trump would not accept a bill that didn’t include the funding

Russia hacked Danish defense for two years, minister tells newspaper

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Russia hacked Danish defense for two years, minister tells newspaper

Russia has hacked the Danish defense and gained access to employees’ emails in 2015 and 2016, NATO member Denmark’s defense minister told newspaper Berlingske on Sunday.

The report comes at a time when several Western governments, including the United States, France and Britain, have accused Russia of resorting to hacking to influence elections — allegations Moscow has repeatedly dismissed as baseless.

A report from the Danish Defense Intelligence Service’s unit for cyber security said “a foreign player” had spied against Danish authorities and gained access to non-classified documents.

It did not name the country behind the espionage, but Foreign Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen told Berlingske it was Russia.

“It is linked to the intelligence services or central elements in the Russian government, and it is a constant battle to keep them away,” Frederiksen told the newspaper.

A spokeswoman from the Danish Defense Ministry confirmed that the minister had been quoted correctly but said he would give no further comments for the time being.

Spokespeople at the Kremlin were not available to comment on Sunday.

Frederiksen told Berlingske the hacking had been possible due to insufficient security around emails with non-classified material, something that has since been improved.

The group behind the attack went under the name APT28 or Fancy Bear and was one of two groups which allegedly gained illegal access to U.S. democrats’ emails last year, according to Berlingske.

Frederiksen said in January that Denmark plans to increase military spending in response to Russian missile deployments in the Baltic region that it perceives as a threat.

(Reporting by Teis Jensen, additional reporting by Maria Kiselyova; editing by Clelia Oziel)

In an era of profound cultural transformation, elections and referendums have very real consequences

 

THE WEEKEND ROUNDUP 

In an era of profound cultural transformation, elections and referendums have very real consequences ― such as the repeal of environmental regulations or crackdowns on press freedom. But as much as they reveal how markedly divided societies are at this historical moment, they settle little. For those who are nostalgic for an ideal past, the challenges of a complex future wrought by globalization, digital disruption and increasing cultural diversity remain unresolved. For those looking ahead, there is no going back. The present political reaction is only the first act, not the last. It is the beginning, not the end, of the story of societies in fluid transition.

The recent Turkish referendum, like Brexit and U.S. President Donald Trump’s election, fits a pattern of a territorial divide. Residents in large cities and coastal zones linked to global integration and cosmopolitan culture represented just under half of the vote; rural, small-town and Rust Belt regions linked more to the traditions and economic structures of the past were just over half. But there is also a major difference. The populist, nationalist narrative that won the day in Great Britain and the United States championed the “left behind” and splintered the unresponsive mainstream political parties. In Turkey, the day was won by a conservative, pious and upwardly mobile constituency already empowered by some 15 years of rule by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party. The cultural duel there, backed up by neo-Islamist and nationalist statism, will thus be more intense than elsewhere.

In an interview following the historic vote in her country, novelist Elif Shafak says, “The referendum has not solved anything. If anything, it deepened the existing cultural and ideological divisions.” She also laments the decline of Turkey’s long experiment as a majority-Muslim country attempting to balance culture, secularism and Western democracy. “This is the most significant turning point in Turkey’s modern political history,” she declares. “It is a shift backwards; the end of parliamentary democracy. It is also a dangerous discontinuation of decades of Westernization, secularism and modernization; the discontinuation of Atatürk’s modern Turkey.”

Writing from Istanbul, Behlül Özkan explains the details of the constitutional referendum, how the playing field was tilted in Erdoğan’s favor and how it will have massive implications for Turkey’s future. He also emphasizes the historic importance of Turkey’s reverse. Özkan cites the political theorist Samuel Huntington who, in an essay decades ago on transitions from authoritarian rule, once defined Turkey as a clear example of a one-party system becoming more open and competitive under the constitution put in place by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. It is rare in history to move in the other direction, as Erdoğan has now accomplished.

Also writing from Istanbul, Alev Scott believes Turkey is in for “a decade of paranoia under a modern-day Sultan” who was unnerved by the slim margin of his victory. Noting a widely circulated photograph of the president at his moment of triumph, she saw a man not “celebrating victory” but “a man alarmed by near-defeat.”

Even as critics within Turkey and others abroad expressed concern over the extinguishing of democracy, Trump again showed his affinity for strongman politics by calling to congratulate Erdoğan on his victory. Yet, as with other countries from India to Argentina, there is likely another element as well to this potentially budding bromance. Sam Stein and Igor Bobic report on ethical issues raised by Trump’s business ties with Turkey. In 2012, Erdoğan joined Trump and his family to mark the opening of Trump Towers Istanbul.

China’s Government Renames 6 Cities In Norther India: They Say They Have The Right

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

China hits back, says it has ‘lawful right’ to standardise names in Arunachal

INDIA Updated: Apr 21, 2017 16:55 IST

Arunachal Pradesh

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang at a news conference in Beijing in October 2015. Beijing says Arunachal Pradesh is part of South Tibet with close Buddhist links, and its official map show the state as part of South Tibet. (Reuters File Photo)

China on Friday asserted that it was its “lawful right” to standardise official names for six places in Arunachal Pradesh, while its state-run media warned that India will pay “dearly” if it continues to play the Dalai Lama card.“China’s position on the eastern section of the India- China boundary is clear and consistent,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a media briefing here while reacting to India’s assertion that Arunachal Pradesh is its integral part.

“Relevant names have been used by ethnic Momba and Tibetan Chinese who have lived here for generations. So it is a fact that cannot be changed. To standardise these names and publicise them is a legitimate measure based on our lawful right,” he said.

Lu also countered India’s charge that China was inventing names to make its territorial claims over the area legal.

Read more

India on Thursday hit out at China for giving Chinese names to six places in Arunachal Pradesh, saying assigning invented names to towns of the neighbour does not make illegal territorial claims legal.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay in New Delhi had also asserted that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India.

Earlier, the Global Times, in an op-ed article, said India will pay “dearly” if it continues the “petty game” of playing the Dalai Lama card and dismissed as “absurd” New Delhi’s reaction to China’s renaming of six places in Arunachal Pradesh.

“It is time for India to do some serious thinking over why China announced the standardised names in South Tibet at this time,” said the article titled ‘India playing Dalai card worsens territorial spats with China’.

The daily said “playing the Dalai Lama card” was never a wise choice for New Delhi.

“If India wants to continue this petty game, it will only end up in playing dearly for it,” the daily warned.

“South Tibet (Arunachal Pradesh) is historically part of China and name of the places there is part of the local ethnic culture. It is legitimate for the Chinese government to standardise the names of the places,” it said.

China claims Arunachal Pradesh as ‘South Tibet’.

Read more

China on Wednesday had announced that it has “standardised” official names for six places in the northeastern state and termed the provocative move as a “legitimate action”.

The Chinese move came days after Beijing lodged strong protests with India over the Dalai Lama’s visit to the frontier state.

Lu had earlier said that the Chinese government was conducting the second nationwide survey on geographical names, “an important task to standardise the geographical names in the languages of ethnic minority groups.”

He had also said that more standardised names will be announced later.

Highlighting China’s stand on the border dispute, the Global Times said, “China has been making efforts to solve the territorial disputes with India, but over the past decades, India has not only increased migration to the disputed area and boosted its military construction there, but it also named Arunachal Pradesh, China’s South Tibet, as a formal state of India in 1987.”

The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488 km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC). While China claims Arunachal Pradesh as South Tibet, India asserts that the dispute covers the Aksai Chin area which was occupied by China during the 1962 war.

South Korea and Japan Feel Betrayed By “The Clown” (Trump)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SOUTH KOREAN NEWS AGENCY TPM)

Let’s stop for a moment and note that President Trump and his skeletal foreign policy team have accomplished the fairly difficult feat of deeply alienating South Koreans (and seemingly many Japanese as well) while notionally protecting them from the threat of a militaristic and aggressive North Korea.

As the AP noted here yesterday, countries in the region are looking at Trump as, to quote the AP, “Unpredictable. Unhinged. Dangerous.” Consider that this is in a confrontation with Kim Jong-un. North Korea under the Kim dynasty has specialized in extremely provocative, high risk gambits. Thirty four years ago, they blew up several members of the South Korean cabinet in a bomb attack in Rangoon. Kim Jong-un apparently just had his half brother killed in a poison attack in Kuala Lumpur. Trump has strong competition in the unpredictable and unhinged and dangerous department.

But what’s really driving anxiety and anger is this issue with the confusion over the whereabouts of the Carl Vinson and its carrier strike group. As I argued yesterday (and as I think is consensus opinion), the false impression seems to have been more a matter of internal confusion than intentional deception. But the South Korean press and public seems to see it very differently. Headlines in South Korea are saying that Trump lied and as this article in the Times put it, “South Koreans feel cheated after U.S. Carrier Miscue.”

Of all Trump goofs and scandals, this seems to be one of the more innocent ones in terms of intent. Maybe we’ll learn otherwise but I don’t think this was intentional. But when you’re talking tough and getting into stand offs over nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and a major global city vulnerable to overwhelming artillery fire, you’ve got to have your shit together. You need clarity about what you’re doing and you need to be know what you’re doing and appear to know what you’re doing. Deception is an inherent part of military affairs. Strategic ambiguity is too. But if you’re going to be bluff or deceive, you need to make sure people think you were doing it on purpose. Small errors and confusions can have very, very big consequences. We can parse different quotes from the White House and Pentagon and see how the confusion arose. But step back. When you find out that the global hegemon ‘said’ its ships were in one place when they were actually thousands of miles away, that seems either weirdly duplicitous or stupid in a way that invites mockery or fear.

Here’s text from the Times about one South Korean paper’s coverage …

On Wednesday, after it was revealed that the carrier strike group was actually thousands of miles away and had been heading in the opposite direction, toward the Indian Ocean, South Koreans felt bewildered, cheated and manipulated by the United States, their country’s most important ally.

“Trump’s lie over the Carl Vinson,” read a headline on the website of the newspaper JoongAng Ilbo on Wednesday. “Xi Jinping and Putin must have had a good jeer over this one.”

“Like North Korea, which is often accused of displaying fake missiles during military parades, is the United States, too, now employing ‘bluffing’ as its North Korea policy?” the article asked.

Then there’s this from the political front …

“The 50 million South Koreans, as well as many common-sensical people around the world, cannot help but feel embarrassed and shocked,” said Youn Kwan-suk, spokesman of the main opposition Democratic Party, which is leading in voter surveys before the May 9 presidential election.

The quote from the Democratic Party spokesman centers not just on the Carl Vinson goof but a statement from President Trump claiming that Korea “used to be part of China.” The quote actually comes from the full quote version of his description of that ‘nobody could have known how complicated Korea could be’ exchange he had with President Xi of China at Mar a Lago. Quoting the President from his interview with the Wall Street Journal …

He then went into the history of China and Korea. Not North Korea, Korea. And you know, you’re talking about thousands of years …and many wars. And Korea actually used to be a part of China. And after listening for 10 minutes I realized that not — it’s not so easy. You know I felt pretty strongly that they have — that they had a tremendous power over China. I actually do think they do have an economic power, and they have certainly a border power to an extent, but they also — a lot of goods come in. But it’s not what you would think. It’s not what you would think.

To the extent we can collapse thousands of years of history into simple yeses and nos, Korea was never part of China. It’s a complicated question if you want to dig into it because the two countries’ histories are deeply intertwined. But again, short version: Korea was never part of China. And Koreans, with a strong sense of national identity, certainly don’t think that Korea was ever part of China. It must be even more bewildering and jarring to see that the President thinks this on the basis of a ten minute conversation with the President of China.

To get the full picture of what happened here, it’s important to understand that the reports of the carrier group returning to Korean waters stirred pretty intense anxiety in the first place. That doesn’t mean it was a good or bad idea. Stand-offs provoke tension even when they’re necessary and well-thought-out. But people in the region seemed to be more afraid of precipitous action from President Trump than North Korea – already a bad sign. Finding out that the US either lied or miscommunicated internally about where its ships even were just adds more fuel to the fire.

At the moment, there seems to be an active debate in the region about whether the deception was intentional and whether the US’s two key regional allies were in on it.

As one Japanese expert quoted in the Times puts it, “When it comes to matters that concern Japan, the two militaries communicate essentially in real time.” Given the depth of the US-Japan security relationship, it would be hard to believe this isn’t the case. (Hard for me to believe it’s not the same in the US-ROK (South Korea) military to military relationship.) This same expert argued that by letting the misconception persist, the Japanese were in essence cooperating with the US deception aimed at overawing the North Koreans – one that in a narrow sense may actually have worked. But this means or seems to mean that the Japanese and South Koreans were tacitly furthering a US deception or misdirection – not realizing that it wasn’t so much a deception on the US part as simply a confusion within the US government. As another Japan expert, Narushige Michishita at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo puts it with some understatement: “Whatever the case, whether it was deliberate misinformation or a miscommunication between the Pentagon and the White House, it’s quite serious. It undermines the credibility of U.S. leadership.”

Just as a point of perspective, here’s the online front page of The Korea Times, an English language Korean news publication, that I just grabbed as I was writing.

International misunderstandings happen. It is always surprising to see, even in the gravest historical crises, how much of a role chance and accident play in outcomes, sometimes tragic outcomes. That said, this is the kind of stuff that happens when you have a clown serving as President, large numbers of top position at the key departments unfilled and a climate of back-stabbing and organizational chaos.

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Colorado State Congress Votes To Allow Marijuana Use To Help People With PTSD

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE DENVER GAZETTE)

As marijuana enthusiasts gathered in Denver’s Civic Center on Thursday, praying for rain to hold off during 420 festivities, lawmakers across the park rejected an effort to ban cannabis use in churches.

The Legislature on Thursday also approved adding post-traumatic stress disorder as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana.

Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, pushed a last-minute amendment as a bill that addressed open and public consumption was being considered for a final time in the House. Some lawmakers suggested that Pabon had hijacked the broader bill for an unrelated issue.

“This bill is about open and public. I’m confused about what we’re doing here because we’re talking about a place of worship …” said Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton. “Allow people to do what they want in a church.”

Pabon pushed the amendment in response to the International Church of Cannabis, which opened in Denver as lawmakers were debating the legislation. Pabon was careful to offer an exemption for religious purposes, but it wasn’t enough to persuade colleagues.

“We have a particular group of individuals who are seeking to take advantage of our consumption laws because a church would be considered private … and using that as a shroud to essentially allow consumption in a place where it should not be allowed,” Pabon said “A place of religious worship should not be authorized as a place for marijuana consumption.”

The International Church of Cannabis made national headlines after it boasted “Elevationism,” what the church refers to as religion for marijuana consumers. Followers believe cannabis should be used as a sacrament.

The effort by Pabon saw criticism from both sides of the aisle. It failed on a procedural motion and never came up for a vote.

Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, said he “thoroughly and utterly” disagreed with the proposal.

“This is the archetypal nanny state right here,” Salazar said. “This amendment is saying to people we don’t like the way you worship.”

The attempt highlighted the continually evolving Senate Bill 184, which started as a measure that would have authorized local governments to allow private marijuana clubs. But that provision was stripped from the bill over health concerns and opposition expressed by Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat.

Instead, the measure only defines what open and public consumption of marijuana is, a thorny issue that has perplexed lawmakers since rules and regulations were first crafted in 2013.

Public places – where marijuana use is prohibited – would be defined as highways, transportation facilities, parks, playgrounds, and the common areas of public buildings, to name a few places.

The stripped-down bill was approved by the House on a vote of 35-30. It now heads back to the Senate for consideration of House amendments before it can go to the governor for his signature.

Also on Thursday, the House gave initial approval to a bill that would add post-traumatic stress disorder as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana. The Legislature has been debating the issue for years, but this is the first year that offers a glimmer of hope for pushing the legislation through.

“On this auspicious day, we have a serious bill,” said Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, a sponsor of the bill, who pointed to the 420 celebrations.

“We know that there is no medical cure for post-traumatic stress disorder. Therapy, medication, exercise, diet, there’s no silver bullet. … This bill opens that door, it opens that door for our veterans to ensure that they are not sacrificing their future the way they decided to sacrifice their own health, and in some cases their own mental health for our country.”

The legislation saw some controversy over whether children should be allowed to use medical marijuana for PTSD. A successful amendment was offered Thursday that adds strict guidelines for recommending marijuana for children, including requiring that a pediatrician, board-certified family physician or board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist, make the recommendation.

Senate Bill 17 must still receive a final vote by the House before heading back to the Senate to approve amendments.

Jeff Sessions: If a Judge In Hawaii Shouldn’t Count Should A Idiotic Former Federal Judges Opinion From Deep South Alabama Mean Anything?

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said this week he was amazed that a judge in Hawaii could block President Donald Trump’s executive order halting immigration from several majority Muslim countries.

Sessions made the comments in an interview with “The Mark Levin Show” Tuesday evening that was put online Wednesday.
“We’ve got cases moving in the very, very liberal Ninth Circuit, who, they’ve been hostile to the order,” Sessions said. “We won a case in Virginia recently that was a nicely-written order that just demolished, I thought, all the arguments that some of the other people have been making. We are confident that the President will prevail on appeal and particularly in the Supreme Court, if not the Ninth Circuit. So this is a huge matter. I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the President of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and Constitutional power.”
Last month, a federal judge in Hawaii, Judge Derrick Watson, issued an order that blocked Trump’s ban on travelers from several Muslim-majority countries. The Department of Justice is currently appealing the decision.
In tweets on Thursday, both Senators from Hawaii responded to Sessions’ comments.
Justice Department spokesperson Ian D. Prior clarified Sessions’ remarks in a statement on Thursday.
“Hawaii is, in fact, an island in the Pacific — a beautiful one where the Attorney General’s granddaughter was born,” he said. “The point, however, is that there is a problem when a flawed opinion by a single judge can block the President’s lawful exercise of authority to keep the entire country safe.”
In the interview on Tuesday, Sessions also added that judges shouldn’t “psychoanalyze” Trump when he was asked about potential judges Trump would appoint.
“I think our President, having seen some of these really weird interpretations of the executive orders that he’s put out, I think he’s more understanding now that we need judges who follow the law, not make law,” Sessions said.
“The judges don’t get to psychoanalyze the President to see if the order he issues is lawful. It’s either lawful or it’s not. I think that it will be real important for America to have judges in the model of Judge (Neil) Gorsuch and (the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin) Scalia, people who serve under the law, under the Constitution, not above it, and they are faithful to the law. They honor it and don’t try to remake it as they’d like it to be.”
Tal Kopan contributed reporting to this story.

(IS JEFF SESSIONS THE BIGGEST IDIOT IN AMERICA OR IS IT ALL THE MONEY HE HAS EXCEPTED FROM THE BIG PHARMACEUTICALS AND THE ALCOHOL INDUSTRY THAT CLOUDS HIS MIND?)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

(IS JEFF SESSIONS THE BIGGEST IDIOT IN AMERICA OR IS IT ALL THE MONEY HE HAS EXCEPTED FROM THE BIG PHARMACEUTICALS AND THE ALCOHOL INDUSTRY THAT CLOUDS HIS MIND?)

Pot Advocates Worry Marijuana Protections Are Burning Down Under Trump

Marijuana advocates worried that President Donald Trump’s administration will crack down on state weed laws used the unofficial holiday celebrating the drug to call for a “joint session” of Congress — pun intended.

The pro-cannabis rights group DCMJ used April 20th — or 4/20 — to organize a free joint giveaway just steps from the Capitol in an effort to encourage Congress to reauthorize an expiring provision preventing the federal government from meddling in medicinal marijuana programs.

Even as approval ratings for legalized marijuana reach new highs, the new administration is pushing for pro-pot policies to go up in smoke.

Play
Marijuana Legalization Has Record-High Support in New Poll

A CBS News poll released Thursday found 61 percent of Americans support legal marijuana use, up five points from one year ago. More than 70 percent of Americans said they do not think the federal government should block marijuana sales in states that have legalized the drug.

Eighty-eight percent of Americans favor medical marijuana, the poll found.

Weed legalization has been a tricky subject for members of both parties as states continue to approve recreational use of the drug. Justice Department guidance under President Barack Obama called for prosecutors to enforce federal statutes outlawing the drug in a limited set of cases.

But Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime foe of marijuana, is reviewing the nation’s weed laws.

“I don’t think America will be a better place when more people, especially young people, smoke pot,” he said in February.

“It remains a violation of federal law,” he added.

Play
Sessions: ‘We Don’t Need To Be Legalizing Marijuana’

Homeland Secretary John Kelly as recently as Sunday on “Meet The Press” said, “Marijuana is not a factor in the drug war.” But he changed his tune in a speech just days later, vowing to uphold federal laws barring weed.

“Its use and possession is against federal law and until the law is changed by the United States Congress, we in DHS, along with the rest of the federal government, are sworn to uphold all the laws that are on the books,” he said.

Many states, however, have legalized some form of marijuana use. And its acceptance has increasingly become a bipartisan issue.

Pot giveaway @DCMJ2014 of 2joints to credentialed feds &cong staffers. Ron of DC is retired USArmy

Four members of the House of Representatives, two Democrats and two Republicans, announced the formation of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus in February to help integrate federal and state laws governing weed.

Oregon Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a co-founder of the caucus, said in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” on Thursday said he has issued clear warnings to the White House not to impede on what Oregon and other states have done to legalize the drug.

“We’ve pointed out repeatedly in the press and with advocate groups that marijuana got more votes than Donald Trump last November and that the American people are on our side,” Blumenauer wrote.

Support has come from even the opposite side of the political spectrum, like longtime Trump ally Roger Stone. “Don’t let Jeff Sessions’ draconian views on 420 run roughshod over states,” he tweeted to Trump Thursday.

Though recreational marijuana use is legal in the nation’s capital, it is not legal to consume it in public or to possess more than two ounces. And under federal law it is illegal to possess pot. Capitol Police said they arrested seven volunteers with DCMJ on Thursday, four for possession and two for possession with intent to distribute.

More arrests are expected on Monday when another demonstration is planned on the Capitol.

“Possession of cannabis on the Capitol grounds is not legal. Consuming cannabis anywhere in DC outside of a home is not legal either,” organizers warned in a statement announcing the protest. “But sitting quietly while the Trump administration rolls back our freedoms is not something we plan to do. We need to be loud and proud!”

Iraqi Forces Kill Baghdadi’s Top Aide

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Middle East

Iraqi Forces Kill Baghdadi’s Aide

Mosul – Iraqi security forces killed a number of ISIS’ top commanders including Abu Baker al-Baghdadi’s aide, whereas six citizens were injured during an ISIS attack on the Algerian neighborhood, in east Mosul’s center.

Chief of the Iraqi Federal Police Lieutenant General Raed Shaker Jawdat said that the troops bombed several ISIS sites in west Mosul killing Abu Abdul Rahman, Baghdadi’s first aide.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the troops bombed ISIS site in al-Zanjili neighborhood. Whereas in the Old City, near al-Awsad Mosque, they killed ISIS’ commander Abul Walid al-Tunisi and four of his bodyguards, while another commander, Russian Abo Maria, was killed during the attack on Ras al-Jadah.

Civilians continue to escape areas of heavy clashes towards the demarcation with security forces while carrying white flags. Despite the constant attempts, security forces are not able to establish safe corridors for the civilians especially in the Old City, given that ISIS snipers are preventing the civilians from reaching safety. The snipers even bomb the citizens with mortars killing and injuring dozens of them.

Civilians’ presence in areas under ISIS control, especially the Old City, hinders the progress of the Iraqi troops given that these areas are highly populated. In addition, Iraqi troops are unable to use warplanes or heavy armors against militants who take advantage of the narrow alleyways where armored vehicles and tanks can’t enter.

In west Mosul, the infrastructure of the city has been destroyed because of the war which is much worse than in the east of the city. ISIS militants tend to bomb areas they are escaping leaving behind their belongings and dead bodies which begin to stench especially now that the temperatures are rising.

As the Iraqi troops headed towards liberating the remaining of the neighborhoods in the west of the city, ISIS bombed the liberated east side.

Media officer of the Mosul branch of Kurdish Democratic Party Saeed Mamuzini told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that two citizens were killed and four others injured on Wednesday during the mortar shelling on the Algerian neighborhood.

He added that the terrorist organization launched the attack from neighborhoods under his control in the west side.

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