Sixth-grader arrested in Florida after refusal to participate in Pledge of Allegiance led to confrontation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

Sixth-grader arrested in Florida after refusal to participate in Pledge of Allegiance led to confrontation

He was charged with disrupting a school function and resisting an officer without violence.
By Tim Stelloh

A sixth-grader in Florida was arrested after his refusal to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance escalated into a confrontation with police and school officials, authorities said.

The unnamed boy was charged with disrupting a school function and resisting an officer without violence on Feb. 4, the Lakeland Police Department said in a news release.

A local news outlet, Bay News 9, reported that the confrontation began after the student at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, near Tampa, called the flag racist and described the national anthem as offensive.

Citing a statement provided to the Polk School District by the boy’s substitute teacher, the station reported that the teacher asked him, “why if it was so bad here he did not go to another place to live.”

“They brought me here,” the boy replied, according to the statement.

After the teacher told him he could “always go back,” she called the school’s office “because I did not want to continue dealing with him,” the station reported.

The district did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday, but a school spokesman told the Ledger, a local newspaper, that students are not required to participate in the pledge.

The spokesman, Kyle Kennedy, told the newspaper that the teacher, Ana Alvarez, wasn’t aware of that policy and would no longer work with the district.

The boy’s mother, Dhakira Talbot, disputed the school’s claims, telling NBC News that her son “is not a disrespectful kid.”

“What I do know is when she asked my son about it, he responded to her enlightening her on his reasonings,” Talbot said. “It wasn’t just that the flag is racist. I don’t teach my children that the flag is racist.”

After the confrontation began, the school’s dean of students tried unsuccessfully to calm the student down, asking him to leave the class 20 times, police said.

“The school resource officer then intervened and asked the student to exit the classroom and he refused,” the department said. “The student left the classroom and created another disturbance and made threats while he was escorted to the office.”

The Lakeland Police Department said in a statement that the boy was not arrested for refusing to stand for or recite the Pledge of Allegiance. “This arrest was based on the student’s choice to disrupt the classroom, make threats and resisting the officer’s efforts to leave the classroom.”

Talbot denied that her son made any threats and said the school “didn’t handle it the way they should have handled it.”

She told NBC News her son was overwhelmed with the situation, and she transferred him to another school.

“I want my son to know, I don’t care what any other parent say or any other parents do, that I’m going to stand up for him,” Talbot said.

7 Year Old Jazmine Murder Solved? Police Have Arrested Two

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CBS NEWS)

 

A 20-year-old man in Texas was arrested Saturday and charged in the death of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes, who was shot and killed while riding in a car with her family in Houston. Another man is being held in connection with the shooting but has not yet been charged, a lawyer for the girl’s family said.

Eric Black Jr., 20, was charged with capital murder and appeared in court early Sunday morning, wearing handcuffs and an orange jumpsuit. He was ordered held without bail. A prosecutor said Black admitted to driving the car when his passenger opened fire.

Lee Merritt, an attorney for the Barnes family, told CBS News another suspect had also been arrested.

The shooting occured in Houston on Dec. 30 when a car pulled alongside the vehicle carrying Barnes and her family at a stoplight and a gunman opened fire. Jazmine died of a gunshot wound to the head, and her mother was hit in the arm.

LaPorsha Washington, Jazmine’s mother, said in the days following the shooting that she believed it was racially motivated. Her 15-year-old daughter, who was also in the car, initially said the shooter was a white man in a red truck, and police released an artist’s sketch Thursday showing a thin, white man with a 5 o’clock shadow. Black, the alleged driver, is African American. The full name of the alleged gunman is not yet known, but Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said Sunday the individual is also African American.

In a press conference Sunday afternoon, Gonzalez said there was indeed a red truck at the stoplight when shots rang out, but said investigators now believe the person or people in the truck were nothing more than witnesses. He urged the unidentified driver of the truck to come forward.

Gonzalez said investigators don’t believe “in any way” that family members were involved in anything “nefarious.” He added that investigators believe two people were involved in the shooting, but would not comment further since Black is the only individual who has been charged.

“We feel that they were truthful. This just went down very quickly when the gunfire erupted,” Gonzalez said. “You’re talking about small children — they witnessed something very traumatic. And it is possible that the last thing they did see was indeed that red truck and that driver that was in that truck, and that’s what they remembered last.”

jazmine-ssvo-frame-0.jpg
Jazmine Barnes.HARRIS COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE

Earlier Sunday, a prosecutor presented details of the case against Black at a hearing at Probable Cause Court in downtown Houston. Appearing by video conference, the prosecutor said Gonzalez had received an anonymous tip passed along by journalist and activist Shaun King. The source implicated two men identified as “LW” and “EB” in the shooting after authorities asked the public for help identifying the assailants.

The source for the tip said the suspects thought the vehicle carrying Jazmine was another vehicle they had seen earlier in the day, the prosecutor said, and didn’t realize they had hit the wrong vehicle until seeing the news later that day.

The source provided the sheriff with the name of an Instagram account used by one of the suspects, which investigators determined belonged to Black, the prosecutor said.

On Saturday, police stopped Black in a grey Kia for failing to signal when changing lanes, and held him for suspected marijuana possession after a deputy said he saw a plastic bag with what appeared to be marijuana in his glove box when Black opened it to find his insurance card. The officer searched Black’s car, found more marijuana and detained him, the prosecutor said.

eric-black-jr1.png
Eric Black Jr. appears in court for a probable cause hearing on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019.ONSCENE.TV

Homicide detectives interviewed Black on Saturday, and the prosecutor said Black admitted to driving the vehicle involved in the shooting. Black told investigators “LW” — identified in court only as “Larry” — was seated in the front passenger seat of a rental car and fired at the vehicle carrying Jazmine. Black returned that rental car after the shooting and picked up the car he was driving when he was pulled over Saturday.

The prosecutor said in Sunday’s hearing that Black then agreed to a search of his residence, where police found a 9 mm pistol consistent with shell casings found at the site of the shooting.

Gonzales, the sheriff, said Sunday that police had received more than 1,000 tips in the case. A reward of $100,000 had been offered for information leading to an arrest. At a rally in Houston on Saturday, more than 500 people honored Jazmine and helped raise money for the family.

Zachary Hudak contributed reporting.

Money from marijuana legalization could fix MTA: report

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK POST)

 

Money from marijuana legalization could fix MTA: report

An NYU think tank is high on fixing the cash-strapped Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

A new report out Wednesday by the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management urges the statewide legalization of recreational marijuana — in order to get more green into mass transit.

“No new revenue source can match a tax on weed, ” Mitchell Moss, director of the Rudin Center, asserted to The Post. “New Yorkers deserve a subway system that is as productive as they are. It is time for New York to legalize and tax cannabis — and to designate the revenues for mass transit.”

A potential tax imposed on marijuana — if pot becomes legalized in New York — “would provide a way for the MTA to address many of their operating and capital requirements,” the center said.

Marijuana is currently legal for adult recreational use in 10 states, plus Washington, DC.

The report, citing BDS Analytics — a leading source for cannabis industry data — says the legal pot industry in North America reached $9.2 billion in 2017 and “is projected to generate $47.3 billion over the next decade.”

“This report argues that the subways need a dedicated revenue source with the potential for growth in future decades — one that does not divert funds from other public services, and that has yet to be tapped by the state and local government,” the paper reads.

Several states, including Colorado, Washington and Oregon, have already reported “higher-than-expected tax revenues” from the legalization of marijuana, the report notes

The state Health Department has already backed the legalization of recreational cannabis.

In July, the department released a report saying that legal marijuana sales could generate between $248.1 million and $677.7 million in revenue for the state in the first year alone.

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If Mueller Is Fired What Can/Could/Should He Do

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HILL NEWS)

 

Let’s assume a worst-case scenario: Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker straight-up fires special counsel Robert Mueller — no half-measures of refusing to allow Mueller to take certain investigative steps, or drastically cutting Mueller’s budget to starve his Russia investigation of resources, but a flat out “You’re fired!”

If that were to happen before Democrats take control of the House in 2019, no congressional committee is likely to subpoena Mueller to testify to his findings or the evidence he has obtained. Until January, the Republican majority will continue to stand behind President Trump. So what could Mueller do to disclose his investigation in the absence of receiving a congressional subpoena to testify or hand over his findings? And what would he choose to do — assuming he believed the president has committed wrongdoing the public should know about?

Taking the second question first, Mueller may choose to do absolutely nothing. We know that Mueller is a military man; he follows orders. And his marching orders as special counsel, pursuant to the governing regulations, are to conduct relevant investigations, bring appropriate charges, and write a confidential report for the Department of Justice (DOJ). So, once the job is done, by firing or otherwise, it wouldn’t be out of character for Mueller to simply go quietly off into the sunset. To date, he has kept an extremely low profile. He doesn’t even show up in court when his cases are brought, and the leak-proof nature of the ship he captains is the stuff of legend.

But let’s assume for a moment that Mueller instead goes the way of former FBI Director James Comey and is more than willing, upon an unceremonious firing, to present his side of the story to the public in any way he’s asked to do so. Or that (perhaps more likely) Mueller reluctantly concludes, upon his firing, that we have reached a point of constitutional crisis requiring the immediate publicizing of the president’s misdeeds because the DOJ under Whitaker is not acting in the best interests of the country. What would Mueller’s options be for disclosing currently non-public evidence and conclusions of his investigation without a subpoena from Congress?

The special counsel regulation, 28 CFR 600 et seq., requires the special counsel to write a report at the conclusion of his work, explaining his prosecution and declination decisions. It also states that the attorney general can publicly release the report, if that is in the public interest, to the extent that release complies with applicable legal restrictions. And there’s the rub — Whitaker would be hard-pressed to explain how Mueller’s report being released is not a matter of massive public interest, but he could fall back on secrecy rules of the grand jury to argue that grand jury materials disclosed in the report should not be released, resulting in the continued secrecy of most or all of the report.

Federal grand jury rules, which apply to Mueller as special counsel, are strict. Generally speaking, pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e), a government lawyer cannot disclose proceedings before, or evidence gathered by, the authority of the grand jury, even after the lawyer leaves government service. Exceptions are limited. One exception states that a government lawyer can disclose material or testimony gained under a grand jury subpoena  to local or state lawyers, for the purpose of assisting in the prosecution of a federal criminal law violation.

Prosecutors use this provision to share information when conducting an investigation in conjunction with a district attorney’s office, or a state attorney general’s office, for example.  Without question, Mueller has been in communications with the New York State Attorney General’s Office, and could share information with them under this exception of Rule 6(e), although this would not be a public disclosure on Mueller’s part. It is also possible that additional pieces of the Mueller investigation could make their way to the Southern District of New York or another U.S. attorney’s office and, ultimately, could come to light through charges that way.

Of course, much evidence is not subject to Rule 6(e). Witness statements, for example, given to agents or prosecutors do not fall under the rule’s protections. Documents provided voluntarily to the special counsel’s office, instead of being provided pursuant to subpoena, likewise can be discussed publicly. And, of course, anything disclosed publicly through the criminal processes that have played out in cases the special counsel has charged, is fair game.

Finally, Mueller’s conclusions about crimes committed, as opposed to descriptions of the underlying evidence itself, aren’t prohibited from disclosure under Rule 6(e), although he would have to be careful about violating DOJ guidelines for discussing criminal subjects and proceedings, even with a subpoena.

In short, if Mueller were fired tomorrow, he would be very limited in what he could say about his investigation — and that indeed may be the impetus for the president’s action in firing Jeff Sessions and replacing him with a man who appears, by most accounts, to be a Trump loyalist.  We would all have to wait for what certainly would be the world’s most anticipated congressional subpoena.

Joel Cohen, a former state and federal prosecutor, practices criminal defense law at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP in New York. Cohen is an adjunct professor at Fordham Law School. He regularly lectures and writes on law, ethics and social policy for the New York Law Journal and other publications, and is the author of “Broken Scales: Reflections on Injustice.”

Jennifer Rodgers is a lecturer in law at Columbia Law School. Until mid-2018, she was executive director of the Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity at Columbia Law School and now serves on its advisory board.

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Congress Next To Legalize Marijuana?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘MOTHER JONES’)

 

Three States Passed Marijuana Legalization Measures Tuesday. Congress Might Finally Be Next.

Say goodbye to weed’s biggest opponent on the Hill.

bubaone/Getty

During a House Rules Committee debate in January, the chairman, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), was blunt. “I, as probably everybody in this rooms knows, have a strong opinion on drugs, illegal drugs, alcohol,” Sessions said while members argued over an amendment that would protect states with legal cannabis from federal interference. “Marijuana is an addictive product, and the merchants of addiction make it that way. They make it for addiction. They make it to where our people, our young people, become addicted to marijuana and keep going.”

While mostly false—marijuana has been shown to be mildly addictive, but many patients rely on it as a medicine to treat chronic pain and other ailments—it was a pretty typical statement from the congressman. Having served more than two decades in the House, Sessions had become a powerful, if not the most influential, opponent of marijuana on the Hill, halting dozens of measures related to legalization. But on Tuesday, he lost, and lost pretty big—by more than 6 points—to his Democratic challenger, civil rights attorney Colin Allred, to represent Texas’ 32nd District.

In addition to losing Pete Sessions, Washington rid itself of the other Sessions last week—now-former Attorney General Jeff Sessions (no relation)—and with that, two of the biggest roadblocks to legalizing marijuana are finally gone, boosted by a blue wave that took the House and, in turn, created a more friendly environment for marijuana. Now, advocates are planning their attack.

With Democrats in control of the House, “the debate we’re going to have is not should we legalize, but how we’ll legalize marijuana,” an optimistic Michael Collins, interim director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, tells Mother Jones. “We’re closer than we’ve ever been.”

Already, 33 states have medical marijuana laws on the books, 10 allow adult recreational cannabis use, and 66 percent of the country supports legalizing marijuana, according to an October Gallup poll, including more than half of Republicans.

“Marijuana law reform is not a ‘red’ or ‘blue’ issue, it is a nonpartisan position favored by most Americans, including those residing in the heartland of America,” says Paul Armentano, deputy director of marijuana advocacy group NORML, tells Mother Jones.

Even still, Congress has failed to pass any meaningful marijuana legislation in the past few years, and in the House, that was in large part due to Rep. Sessions. In a blog post on Election Day, NORML political director Justin Strekal called Sessions the “single greatest impediment” in the chamber to the passage of “common-sense, voter-supported marijuana law reform measures.” According to analysis by Tom Angell at Marijuana Moment, a cannabis news site, the House Rules Committee has blocked marijuana law reform proposals in at least 34 instances just in this congressional session, which began January 2017. During his career as rules committee chair, beginning in 2013, Sessions thwarted amendments that would have expanded research on medical marijuana, allowed Native American tribes to participate in the cannabis industry, and enabled the federal government to tax marijuana sales, among other proposals, according to Angell.

“[Sessions] made it clear from day one of his House tenure that no marijuana amendments would be heard on the House floor,” Armentano says. “He kept that promise.”

Another key marijuana opponent, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), is also retiringin January. As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Goodlatte controlled the fate of bills relating to criminal justice. He blocked severalpieces of cannabis legislation during his tenure, including the 2018 STATES Act, which would have officially protected states with marijuana laws from federal punishment, and was supported by President Donald Trump. (The president has actually voiced support for states’ right to regulate cannabis independently.)

Replacing this old guard will be more than two dozen cannabis-friendly candidates who won their races, including Allred. “I support the use of medical marijuana as an alternative to the habit-forming opioids that have become a national crisis,” Allred told Politico in March. “This common-sense approach to alternative treatments has been opposed by Pete Sessions, and is something I will fight to expand.” In Virginia’s 6th District, Goodlatte will be succeeded by Republican Ben Cline, who has sponsored and passed progressive marijuana legislation in the Virginia House of Delegates.

Advocates say they are eager to work with these members to pass any and all legislation they can. Some of their biggest goals include securing access to marijuana for veterans, allowing banks to accept money from state-legal cannabis businesses, and de-scheduling weed from its Schedule 1 status (the same category as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy), Armentano says.

“We’ve taken out a big opponent of marijuana and the House has flipped,” Collins adds. “There’s a world of possibilities out there for marijuana reform.”

And with Attorney General Sessions out, advocates are hopeful Trump’s new appointee will recognize where the public stands on marijuana and be open to the possibility of reform. “Sessions, no doubt about it, was a disaster on drug policy,” says Collins. “[He had] very regressive positions on marijuana legalization, sentencing, and the opioid epidemic, and we’re glad to see the back of him.”

Boosting advocates’ hopes even further, Election Day saw plenty of other victories for marijuana. Michigan approved recreational cannabis, while Missouri and Utah—both red states—passed ballot measures that will legalize medical marijuana. (Though, as I recently wrote, Utah lawmakers and backers of the ballot measure, under rather unique circumstances, agreed to pass a “compromise” bill ahead of the election no matter the outcome of the vote.) And in Florida, voters passed Amendment 4, restoring voting rights to up to 1.4 million disenfranchised felons in the state, including tens of thousands convicted of marijuana-related offenses, according to NORML.

Of course, there are still plenty hurdles left to jump—the Senate and White House are still under Republican control, and there’s nothing to indicate a new attorney general will actually be more friendly to legalization—but advocates again emphasize that cannabis legalization isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a partisan issue, especially because Trump has supported states making their own decisions about weed.

But either way, advocates are doing their best to ensure that opposing legalization isn’t a winning strategy. “Opposition on this issue—you’re on the wrong side of history,” Collins says. “There’s a train coming in your direction, and it’s best to get on board.”

“This year, it really, really is the most important contest in decades,”writes David Corn. Nothing less than American democracy is on the ballot. See the full list of our election stories here.

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Republicans Are Only For White Males: Democrats For Everyone Except White Males?

Republicans Are Only For White Males: Democrats For Everyone Except White Males?

 

For those who are reading this article and are unaware of it, I am a 62-year-old white man who lives in the state of Kentucky, I also am a registered Independent when it comes to politics. So, this article to you today is simply my opinion, nothing more, nothing less. A person comes to their opinions mostly through life’s experiences and I am simply giving you mine at this time. In my life I have voted for several Republicans and for several Democrats as well as for people from various Independent movements. I like some of the things that each of the two main Parties stand for, at least on paper, and I am against several things that each of those Parties stand behind.

 

During my years I have come across racism from several people. I have been hated on sight because I am a white man and I absolutely have no doubt about that statement, yet I have also had people of many races stand up for me and against people of their own race because of me. Being one skin color of another should have nothing to do with how you act or are viewed, yet often, it does. I have to admit that I have been a bit surprised by the amount of racism some White folks who have shown since the Electoral College elected Donald Trump as our President, and it does sadden me. I try to be a devout Christian everyday of my life (though I fail often) but I am sure that G-d The Father and G-d The Son are not racists. I am 100% sure that if a person hates another because of their skin color, they are not a Christian, they are nothing but “luke warm water,” at best.

 

When former President Obama was the President from 2009-2017 I used to often hear about the “angry White Males.” Honestly I did not know just how many and how deep this hatred is and it greatly saddens me as a person and as a Christian.  Often I heard this philosophy and when I did it always seemed to generate from GOP affiliated mouth pieces. I know that there is racism all over the world it is not something that is exclusive to North America Americans, nor only to some Republicans. Obviously about 50% of white folks are women and it is my belief that many White Women who voted for Mr. Trump will either not vote in the midterm election next Tuesday, or they will vote against the GOP because they have seen the hate coming out of the mouth of Mr. Trump and many other GOP Politicians since they took total power in January of 2017.

 

Unfortunately it appears that many people and Politicians who are Democrats and Democratic mouth pieces have seemed to be hating the White Males for many years. Too me, it has seemed that the leadership of the Democratic Party has for many years been working hard at becoming the party of ‘only’ the minorities. Too me, it has felt that the Democratic Leadership has worked hard to be inclusive to all people, except White People, especially the men. Our Nation, or any Nation, cannot survive if its core is poisoned and all racism is poison. I have heard this quote several times during my years and it is true that “great Nations are not usually conquered from the outside, they are conquered from the inside” and I do believe that is true of America also.

 

There are two main reasons that I have ever voted for a Republican and against a Democrat and neither have anything to do with race, nationality, or someone’s religion. These two issues are Abortion and Gun laws, as a Christian I cannot and will not condone what I believe to be blatant murder of babies. Regarding guns, I am for a 3-5 day waiting period when purchasing a firearm and I do believe that the loophole of Gun Shows needs to be closed. But I do believe in everyone has the right to defend themselves and their families by any means necessary. Here in Kentucky almost all people can open carry without a special permit and folks like myself who have taken weapons classes can conceal carry. When I do go into a business with a weapon in a gun belt no one has ever freaked out, not other customers or the workers, not even the workers at the cash registers. I know that these people look at this issue the same as I do, if anything, I am extra free security for the business I am in. Folks something that the Democratic Party does not seem to understand or even care about is why almost all people should be allowed to have firearms if they so choose and that is defense, not offense. People need to notice that gunmen go to places to shoot people where they know there will be no guns to shoot back at them, these people are cowards. When was the last time you saw a Police Station or a Donut Shop shot up? Folks, the times are coming where the people have to be able to defend themselves from crooked government officials and crooked policing agencies. The time is coming where the people need to be able to defend themselves from invasions from other Nations and the time is very close where we all need to be able to defend ourselves from terrorists, homegrown and otherwise. Well, that is all for now friends, I hope that you are able to enjoy your weekend, stay warm, stay safe, G-d’s blessings I wish to all of you.

Ethiopia Swears In First Woman Supreme Court Chief

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

Ethiopia Swears In First Woman Supreme Court Chief

Meaza Ashenafi is Ethiopia’s first female Supreme Court chief, and one of several women appointed to senior government positions by its new reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Ethiopia swore in its first female Supreme Court chief on Thursday, part of a wave of appointments of women to top government positions backed by Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The new chief, Meaza Ashenafi , a champion of women’s rights, was a judge on Ethiopia’s High Court from 1989 to 1992 and adviser for the UN Economic Commission for Africa. She founded the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association and started the country’s first women’s bank.

Meaza also tried a case that resulted in an end to the tradition of kidnapping girls and forcing them to marry. The case sparked debate over the issue throughout the country and became the subject of the 2014 film “Difret,” executive produced by Angelina Jolie. Underage marriage remains common in rural Ethiopia, where most of the population lives.

Abiy Ahmed, 42, Africa’s youngest head of government, was elected prime minister in April, and has promoted a series of measures to improve gender parity in the country. After a cabinet reshuffling, women now make up half of Ethiopia’s ministerial positions.

Abiy said he nominated Meaza “with the firm belief that she has the capacity required, with her vast international experience in mind,” according to Reuters. The parliament approved the nomination unanimously.

Fitsum Arega, Abiy’s chief of staff, tweeted congratulations to Meaza following her swearing in.

“Ethiopia’s march towards gender parity in key leadership positions continues unabatedly,” Fitsum wrote.

Abiy has also invited exiled opposition leaders back to Ethiopia and released thousands of political prisoners, including journalists and bloggers. He made peace with Ethiopia’s neighbor, Eritrea, after a border war and 20 years of bitter relations, and has begun opening up the country’s state-run economy.

Mexico just took a big step toward marijuana legalization

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF VOX NEWS)

 

Mexico just took a big step toward marijuana legalization

Mexico’s Supreme Court deemed the country’s marijuana prohibition law unconstitutional.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Mexico’s Supreme Court on Wednesday deemed the country’s marijuana prohibition law unconstitutional, bringing America’s neighbor one step closer to marijuana legalization.

It was not the first time the court made such a ruling, but it was the fifth time — a crucial threshold in Mexico. Under the country’s legal system, once the Supreme Court reaches a similar decision in five separate cases, the standard set by the rulings applies to the country’s entire court system.

As the Associated Press explained, “The rulings technically do not legalize recreational use, however. They establish that courts must allow it, but it is still up to each individual to press his or her case in the judicial system.” The rulings apply to possession, use, and growing — not commercialization or sales.

The Supreme Court “found that adults have a fundamental right to personal development which lets them decide their recreational activities without interference from the state,” the AP reported. The right is not absolute, and it does not apply to all substances — but it does mean that total marijuana prohibition is unconstitutional.

Suprema Corte

@SCJN

Primera Sala reiteró inconstitucionalidad de la prohibición absoluta del consumo recreativo de marihuana. Lo que permitió integrar jurisprudencia sobre el tema.

Mexican lawmakers could react to the ruling by adjusting the law to regulate marijuana under the new legal framework set by the Supreme Court. Officials in President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s government have indicated that they may legalize marijuana, Reuters reported.

If Mexico’s government follows through, the country could become the third in the world to legalize pot for recreational purposes — after Uruguay and Canada.

Although nine states in the US have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, pot is still illegal under federal law in America.

Supporters of legalization argue that it eliminates the harms of marijuana prohibition: the arrests over a relatively harmless drug (and the racial disparities involved in America), and the billions of dollars that flow from the black market for marijuana to drug cartels that then use the money for violent operations around the world. All of this, legalization advocates say, will outweigh any of the potential downsides — like increased cannabis use — that might come with legalization.

Opponents, meanwhile, claim that legalization will enable a huge marijuana industry that will market the drug irresponsibly. They point to countries’ experiences with the alcohol and tobacco industries, which have built their financial empires in large part on some of the heaviest consumers of their products. This could result in far more people using pot, even if it leads to negative health consequences.

At least in Mexico, the supporters won a big victory this week.

For more on marijuana legalization, read Vox’s explainer.

Trump claims he can defy Constitution and end birthright citizenship

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Trump claims he can defy Constitution and end birthright citizenship

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump offered a dramatic, if legally dubious, promise in a new interview to unilaterally end birthright citizenship, ratcheting up his hard-line immigration rhetoric with a week to go before critical midterm elections.

Trump’s vow to end the right to citizenship for the children of non-citizens and unauthorized immigrants born on US soil came in an interview with Axios released Tuesday. Such a step would be regarded as an affront to the US Constitution, which was amended 150 years ago to include the words: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.”
Trump did not say when he would sign the order, and some of his past promises to use executive action have gone unfulfilled. But whether the President follows through on his threat or not, the issue joins a string of actions intended to thrust the matter of immigration into the front of voters’ minds as they head to polls next week.
A day earlier, the President vowed in an interview on Fox News to construct tent cities to house migrants traveling through Mexico to the US southern border. His administration announced the deployment of 5,200 troops to protect the frontier as the “caravan” continues to advance. And the President has warned of an “invasion” of undocumented immigrants if the border isn’t sealed with a wall.
Still, the threat of ending birthright citizenship amounts to another escalation in Trump’s hard-line approach to immigration, which has become his signature issue.
“We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in, has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years with all of those benefits,” Trump said in an interview for “Axios on HBO.”
Several other countries, including Canada, have a policy of birthright citizenship, according to an analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for reducing immigration.
“It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end,” he continued.
The step would immediately be challenged in court. Some of Trump’s previous immigration executive orders, including an attempt to bar entry to citizens from some Muslim-majority countries, came under legal scrutiny after a chaotic drafting process. At the same time, the President has derided his predecessor Barack Obama for taking executive actions to block some young undocumented immigrants from deportation, a step Trump said was a presidential overstep.
The American Civil Liberties Union slammed Trump’s proposal Tuesday morning.
“The president cannot erase the Constitution with an executive order, and the 14th Amendment’s citizenship guarantee is clear,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “This is a transparent and blatantly unconstitutional attempt to sow division and fan the flames of anti-immigrant hatred in the days ahead of the midterms.”
The White House did not provide additional details of the planned executive order on Tuesday morning.
“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t,” he said, adding that he has run it by his counsel. “You can definitely do it with an act of Congress. But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order,” Trump said.
The President didn’t provide any details of his plan, but said that “it’s in the process. It’ll happen.”
The interview is a part of “Axios on HBO,” a new four-part documentary series debuting on HBO this Sunday, according to the news site.

As Trump cozies up to Saudi Arabia, the rule of law collapses further

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN NEWS)

 

From the moment he laid his stubby hands on that glowing orb in Riyadh, Donald Trump signaled to the world what kind of leader he aspired to be. Bathed in a spectral light, standing alongside the Saudi King Salman and the Egyptian dictator, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the man formerly known as the leader of the free world smiled with self-satisfaction that he had arrived at his chosen destination.

Despite the object’s likeness to the orb of Saruman, this was no secret society of evil wizards. Instead, it was a brazenly open society of corrupt old men with a clear disregard for the rule of law, if not a cruel desire to brutalize their opponents.

The fact that they were standing in the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology was either an exercise in paper-thin deception or some kind of sick joke. It’s hard to express your disgust at Isis beheadings, as Trump has done, but feel nothing about the Saudi beheadings of 48 people in just four months this year.

Then again, we’re talking about Donald Trump’s feelings and his limitless capacity to lie. Of course it’s possible to condemn the “bloodthirsty killers”of Isis at the UN, and praise the “unbelievable job” of the death squads of President Duterte in the Philippines. He’s Donald Trump, a bear of very little brain who convinced himself that someone in China thinks he has a “very, very large brain”.

As a self-certified genius, Trump now finds himself in something of a Saudi pickle. The supposedly reformist crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was supposed to help him clean up the world by taking on Tehran. But Saudi Arabia can’t even clean up an Istanbul consulate after their own goons are alleged to have hacked to death a single troublesome journalist.

First Trump promised “severe punishment” for those responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s death, albeit punishment that didn’t harm any arms contracts the Saudis were interested in. No matter that the Saudis can’t easily substitute another country’s weapons after spending gazillions of dollars on US ones. This commander-in-chief obviously knows his arms from his elbows.

Then Trump spoke to the crown prince, who pinky-promised he had nothing to do with the 15 men identified by the Turkish media as belonging to a grisly hit-squad, which reportedly included an autopsy specialist carrying his own bone saw. So the 45th president of the United States gullibly and dutifully bleated something about “rogue killers” and “very, very strong” denials. In what is surely a remarkable coincidence, Saudi sources leaked word that they were preparing to admit the killing, but insisted it was an interrogation that went wrong.

Interrogations tend to go wrong when they include someone armed with a bone saw.

To clear up this most unfortunate dismemberment, Trump sent his trusted former CIA chief, now the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, on a fact-finding mission to Riyadh and Ankara. Pompeo’s approach to the facts was hardly inspiring. “I don’t want to talk about any of the facts,” he said. “They didn’t want to either, in that they want to have the opportunity to complete this investigation in a thorough way.”

 ‘I don’t want to talk about any of the facts’: Mike Pompeo on Jamal Khashoggi case – video

That would be an investigation by the crown prince into his own security detail inside his own consulate. Naturally, these things can take time. People are busy. Consulates are hard to find. Word from the palace takes time to write down on parchment scrolls.

Oh yes, and there’s this other thing we need to remember, Pompeo explained: money.

“I do think it’s important that everyone keeps in mind that we have a lot of important relationships – financial relationships between US and Saudi companies, governmental relationships – things we work on together all across the world. The efforts to reduce the risk to the United States of America from the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, Iran.”

If you’re thinking Trump himself is compromised by Saudi money, why, that’s no more true than the notion that he’s compromised by Russian money. But don’t take my word for it, take his.

“For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia (or Russia, for that matter),” he tweeted, dismissing anything to the contrary as so much fake news. This is a touch embarrassing for the Donald Trump who told an Alabama rally in 2015 that he loved doing business with the Saudis. “They buy apartments from me,” he said. “They spend $40m, $50m. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much!”

Of course, you’re only supposed to dislike the ones carrying the bone saws.

The Trump administration is not the first to bow and scrape to the Saudi power of oil and cash. But it is the first to surrender all pretense of upholding democracy and human rights – commonly known as American values – while making pathetic excuses for what is widely accepted to have been a barbaric murder. What is the moral difference between Iran sponsoring Hezbollah and the humanitarian disaster triggered by the Saudi attacks and blockade in Yemen?

They deserve one another, the house of Saud and the house of Trump. One is hotheaded enough to bomb Yemen into oblivion and blockade Qatar. The other is hotheaded enough to blow up historic alliances and international trade. Both have managed to look weaker by straining to look stronger.

Their incompetence is only matched their greed; their grand visions of global leadership look as genuine as Jared Kushner’s Middle East peace plan, or the official Saudi investigation into what happened to Khashoggi.

Like all pathological liars, they now find themselves caught in their own web of deceit and delusion. The crown prince was never a reformist, just as the reality TV star was never going to drain the swamp.

No number of expensive Saudi lobbying contracts will wash away the bloodstains. And no amount of Trump’s crazy-sounding tweets – about porn stars or Pocahontas – will distract from his disastrous undermining of American values. Like the catchphrases of an old standup comedian, Donald Trump’s stage act is losing its power to shock and awe.

After a couple of days of pesky questions about whether his friends decapitated a journalist, Trump had reached the limit of his very, very large brain. “Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent,” he told the Associated Press. “I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.”

If you’re still looking for an illustration of how the rule of law collapses, here’s one straight from the horses mouth. The bone-saw-wielding Saudis are as innocent as our own supreme court justice. At this point, a good lawyer might rest her case because this sucker just can’t stop talking.

Himanaya

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