Swaziland: The Disaster That Is Because Of The Greed And Arrogance Of The King

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

Swaziland

Introduction Autonomy for the Swazis of southern Africa was guaranteed by the British in the late 19th century; independence was granted in 1968. Student and labor unrest during the 1990s pressured King MSWATI III, the world’s last absolute monarch, to grudgingly allow political reform and greater democracy, although he has backslid on these promises in recent years. A constitution came into effect in 2006, but political parties remain banned. The African United Democratic Party tried unsuccessfully to register as an official political party in mid 2006. Talks over the constitution broke down between the government and progressive groups in 2007. Swaziland recently surpassed Botswana as the country with the world’s highest known HIV/AIDS prevalence rate.
History Artifacts indicating human activity dating back to the early Stone Age 200,000 years ago have been found in the kingdom of Swaziland. Prehistoric rock art paintings date from ca. 25,000 B.C. and continue up to the 19th century.

The earliest inhabitants of the area were Khoisan hunter-gatherers. They were largely replaced by the Bantu tribes during Bantu migrations. Evidence of agriculture and iron use dates from about the 4th century, and people speaking languages ancestral to current Sotho and Nguni languages began settling no later than the 11th century.

The ruling Dlamini lineage had chiefships in the region in the 18th century. An enlarged Swazi (occasionally also written as Suozi[citation needed]) kingdom was established by King Sobhuza I in the early 19th century. Soon thereafter the first whites started to settle in the area. In the 1890s the South African Republic in the Transvaal claimed sovereignty over Swaziland but never fully established power. After the Second Boer War of 1899–1902, Swaziland became a British protectorate. The country was granted independence within the Commonwealth of Nations on 6 September 1968. Since then, Swaziland has seen a struggle between pro-democracy activists and the monarchy.

Swaziland has been under a State of Emergency since 1973.

Geography Location: Southern Africa, between Mozambique and South Africa
Geographic coordinates: 26 30 S, 31 30 E
Map references: Africa
Area: total: 17,363 sq km
land: 17,203 sq km
water: 160 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than New Jersey
Land boundaries: total: 535 km
border countries: Mozambique 105 km, South Africa 430 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: varies from tropical to near temperate
Terrain: mostly mountains and hills; some moderately sloping plains
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Great Usutu River 21 m
highest point: Emlembe 1,862 m
Natural resources: asbestos, coal, clay, cassiterite, hydropower, forests, small gold and diamond deposits, quarry stone, and talc
Land use: arable land: 10.25%
permanent crops: 0.81%
other: 88.94% (2005)
Irrigated land: 500 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 4.5 cu km (1987)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 1.04 cu km/yr (2%/1%/97%)
per capita: 1,010 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: drought
Environment – current issues: limited supplies of potable water; wildlife populations being depleted because of excessive hunting; overgrazing; soil degradation; soil erosion
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography – note: landlocked; almost completely surrounded by South Africa
Politics The head of state is the king or Ngwenyama (lit. Lion), currently King Mswati III, who ascended to the throne in 1986 after the death of his father King Sobhuza II in 1982 and a period of regency. By tradition, the king reigns along with his mother or a ritual substitute, the Ndlovukati (lit. She-Elephant). The former was viewed as the administrative head of state and the latter as a spiritual and national head of state, with real power counter-balancing that of the king, but during the long reign of Sobhuza II the role of the Ndlovukati became more symbolic. As the monarch, the king not only appoints the prime minister — the head of government — but also appoints a small number of representatives for both chambers of the Libandla (parliament). The Senate consists of 30 members, while the House of Assembly has 82 seats, 55 of which are occupied by elected representatives, (elections are held every five years in November).

In 1968, Swaziland adopted a Westminster-style constitution, but in 1973 King Sobhuza suspended it under a royal decree backed by the royalist majority of parliament: in effect a coup by the government against its own constitution. The State of Emergency has since been lifted, or so the government claims even though political activities, especially by pro-democracy movements, are suppressed. In 2001 King Mswati III appointed a committee to draft a new constitution. Drafts were released for comment in May 2003 and November 2004. These were strongly criticized by civil society organizations in Swaziland and human rights organizations elsewhere. In 2005, the constitution was put into effect, though there is still much debate in the country about the constitutional reforms. From the early seventies, there was active resistance to the royal hegemony.

Despite calls for international solidarity against the oppressive royal regime, Swaziland’s human rights record remains largely ignored by the international community. The South African trade union COSATU has been the most vocal supporters of the rights of the Swazi people to govern themselves by democratic means, in line with the Freedom Charter adopted by democratic parties on the country.

In 2007 a film entitled Without the King about the political climate of Swaziland was released.

People Population: 1,128,814
note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 39.9% (male 226,947/female 222,922)
15-64 years: 56.5% (male 306,560/female 331,406)
65 years and over: 3.6% (male 15,594/female 25,385) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 18.7 years
male: 18 years
female: 19.4 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: -0.41% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 26.6 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 30.7 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.92 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.61 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 69.59 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 72.87 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 66.2 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 31.99 years
male: 31.69 years
female: 32.3 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 3.34 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 38.8% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 220,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: 17,000 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne disease: malaria
water contact disease: schistosomiasis (2008)
Nationality: noun: Swazi(s)
adjective: Swazi
Ethnic groups: African 97%, European 3%
Religions: Zionist 40% (a blend of Christianity and indigenous ancestral worship), Roman Catholic 20%, Muslim 10%, other (includes Anglican, Bahai, Methodist, Mormon, Jewish) 30%
Languages: English (official, government business conducted in English), siSwati (official)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 81.6%
male: 82.6%
female: 80.8% (2003 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 10 years
male: 10 years
female: 10 years (2005)
Education expenditures: 7% of GDP (2005)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Kingdom of Swaziland
conventional short form: Swaziland
local long form: Umbuso weSwatini
local short form: eSwatini
Government type: monarchy
Capital: name: Mbabane
geographic coordinates: 26 18 S, 31 06 E
time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
note: Lobamba (royal and legislative capital)
Administrative divisions: 4 districts; Hhohho, Lubombo, Manzini, Shiselweni
Independence: 6 September 1968 (from UK)
National holiday: Independence Day, 6 September (1968)
Constitution: signed by the King in July 2005 went into effect on 8 February 2006
Legal system: based on South African Roman-Dutch law in statutory courts and Swazi traditional law and custom in traditional courts; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations
Suffrage: 18 years of age
Executive branch: chief of state: King MSWATI III (since 25 April 1986)
head of government: Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso DLAMINI (since 16 October 2008)
cabinet: Cabinet recommended by the prime minister and confirmed by the monarch
elections: the monarch is hereditary; prime minister appointed by the monarch from among the elected members of the House of Assembly
Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament or Libandla consists of the Senate (30 seats; 10 members appointed by the House of Assembly and 20 appointed by the monarch; to serve five-year terms) and the House of Assembly (65 seats; 10 members appointed by the monarch and 55 elected by popular vote; to serve five-year terms)
elections: House of Assembly – last held 19 September 2008 (next to be held in 2013)
election results: House of Assembly – balloting is done on a nonparty basis; candidates for election are nominated by the local council of each constituency and for each constituency the three candidates with the most votes in the first round of voting are narrowed to a single winner by a second round
Judicial branch: High Court; Supreme Court; judges for both courts are appointed by the monarch
Political parties and leaders: the status of political parties, previously banned, is unclear under the new (2006) Constitution and currently being debated – the following are considered political associations; African United Democratic Party or AUDP [Stanley MAUNDZISA, president]; Imbokodvo National Movement or INM; Ngwane National Liberatory Congress or NNLC [Obed DLAMINI, president]; People’s United Democratic Movement or PUDEMO [Mario MASUKU, president]
Political pressure groups and leaders: Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions; Swaziland and Solidarity Network or SSN
International organization participation: ACP, AfDB, AU, C, COMESA, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Interpol, IOC, ISO (correspondent), ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, NAM, OPCW, PCA, SACU, SADC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Ephraim Mandla HLOPHE
chancery: 1712 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009
telephone: [1] (202) 234-5002
FAX: [1] (202) 234-8254
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Maurice S. PARKER
embassy: Central Bank Building, Mahlokahla Street, Mbabane
mailing address: P. O. Box 199, Mbabane
telephone: [268] 404-6441 through 404-6445
FAX: [268] 404-5959
Flag description: three horizontal bands of blue (top), red (triple width), and blue; the red band is edged in yellow; centered in the red band is a large black and white shield covering two spears and a staff decorated with feather tassels, all placed horizontally
Culture The African nation of Swaziland, located in between South Africa and Mozambique, is an ancient land dominated by the Swazi people and ethnic Swazi music. They are known for a variety of folk music, as well as modern rock, pop and hip hop.

The two biggest ceremonies in Swaziland are Incwala, which takes place in December, and Umhlanga, which takes place in August. Umhlanga features a dance unique to Swazi women, who cut reeds as part of the five-day ceremony. There is also music for harvesting, marriages and other events. Traditional instruments include the kudu horn, calabash, rattles and reed flute.

Beginning in the 1990s, Swaziland became host to a burgeoning hip hop scene, led by bands like Vamoose. Neighboring South Africa has provided some of the impetus, since various kinds of hip hop are very popular there.

Economy Economy – overview: In this small, landlocked economy, subsistence agriculture occupies approximately 70% of the population. The manufacturing sector has diversified since the mid-1980s. Sugar and wood pulp remain important foreign exchange earners. In 2007, the sugar industry increased efficiency and diversification efforts, in response to a 17% decline in EU sugar prices. Mining has declined in importance in recent years with only coal and quarry stone mines remaining active. Surrounded by South Africa, except for a short border with Mozambique, Swaziland is heavily dependent on South Africa from which it receives more than nine-tenths of its imports and to which it sends 60% of its exports. Swaziland’s currency is pegged to the South African rand, subsuming Swaziland’s monetary policy to South Africa. Customs duties from the Southern African Customs Union, which may equal as much as 70% of government revenue this year, and worker remittances from South Africa substantially supplement domestically earned income. Swaziland is not poor enough to merit an IMF program; however, the country is struggling to reduce the size of the civil service and control costs at public enterprises. The government is trying to improve the atmosphere for foreign investment. With an estimated 40% unemployment rate, Swaziland’s need to increase the number and size of small and medium enterprises and attract foreign direct investment is acute. Overgrazing, soil depletion, drought, and sometimes floods persist as problems for the future. More than one-fourth of the population needed emergency food aid in 2006-07 because of drought, and nearly two-fifths of the adult population has been infected by HIV/AIDS.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $5.364 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $2.936 billion (2007 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: 2.3% (2007 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP): $4,700 (2007 est.)
GDP – composition by sector: agriculture: 11.8%
industry: 45.7%
services: 42.5% (2007 est.)
Labor force: 300,000 (2006)
Labor force – by occupation: agriculture: NA%
industry: NA%
services: NA%
Unemployment rate: 40% (2006 est.)
Population below poverty line: 69% (2006)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 1.6%
highest 10%: 40.7% (2001)
Distribution of family income – Gini index: 50.4 (2001)
Investment (gross fixed): 18.6% of GDP (2007 est.)
Budget: revenues: $1.13 billion
expenditures: $1.143 billion (2007 est.)
Fiscal year: 1 April – 31 March
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 8.1% (2007 est.)
Central bank discount rate: 11% (31 December 2007)
Commercial bank prime lending rate: 13.17% (31 December 2007)
Stock of money: $244.8 million (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money: $529.4 million (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit: $204.1 million (31 December 2007)
Agriculture – products: sugarcane, cotton, corn, tobacco, rice, citrus, pineapples, sorghum, peanuts; cattle, goats, sheep
Industries: coal, wood pulp, sugar, soft drink concentrates, textiles and apparel
Industrial production growth rate: 1.1% (2007 est.)
Electricity – production: 460 million kWh (2007)
Electricity – consumption: 1.2 billion kWh (2007)
Electricity – exports: 0 kWh (2007)
Electricity – imports: 872 million kWh; note – electricity supplied by South Africa (2007)
Electricity – production by source: fossil fuel: 58%
hydro: 42%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Oil – production: 0 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil – consumption: 3,500 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil – exports: 0 bbl/day (2004)
Oil – imports: 3,530 bbl/day (2004)
Oil – proved reserves: 0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas – production: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas – consumption: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas – exports: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas – imports: 0 cu m (2005)
Natural gas – proved reserves: 0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance: -$24 million (2007 est.)
Exports: $1.926 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Exports – commodities: soft drink concentrates, sugar, wood pulp, cotton yarn, refrigerators, citrus and canned fruit
Exports – partners: South Africa 59.7%, EU 8.8%, US 8.8%, Mozambique 6.2% (2006)
Imports: $1.914 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Imports – commodities: motor vehicles, machinery, transport equipment, foodstuffs, petroleum products, chemicals
Imports – partners: South Africa 95.6%, EU 0.9%, Japan 0.9% (2006)
Economic aid – recipient: $46.03 million (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $762.7 million (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt – external: $524 million (31 December 2007 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment – at home: $NA
Stock of direct foreign investment – abroad: $NA
Market value of publicly traded shares: $196.8 million (2005)
Currency (code): lilangeni (SZL)
Currency code: SZL
Exchange rates: lilangenis (SZL) per US dollar – 7.4 (2007), 6.85 (2006), 6.3593 (2005), 6.4597 (2004), 7.5648 (2003)

 

How Cows Are Helping the Fight Against HIV

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM NEWS)

 

How Cows Are Helping the Fight Against HIV

Jul 20, 2017
TIME Health
For more, visit TIME Health.

In an unexpected turn of events, cows are helping scientists better understand how to prevent HIV infections.

One of the biggest questions facing researchers developing a vaccine against HIV is why people who are infected do not efficiently make antibodies against the virus. Scientists estimate that only about 20% of people who are infected with HIV produce what are called broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs): naturally occurring antibodies that can defend a cell against the virus. Even among people who do produce them, that production typically starts around two years after infection.

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“We are faced with a dilemma,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) , whose agency is supporting the new research. “People infected do not seem to make really good antibodies in terms of potency and breadth.”

So far, scientists have been unable to successfully induce the creation of bNAbs in humans through an HIV vaccine. This is where the cows come in.

In a new study published Thursday in the journal Nature, researchers at the Scripps Research Institute, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and Texas A&M University showed that they were able to induce potent antibodies against HIV in cows. Though cows do not get HIV, their immune systems produce unique antibodies against infections.

MORE: Why You Still Can’t Get a Vaccine for HIV

The researchers injected four calves with HIV immunogens, which are proteins designed to elicit an immune response to the virus. They discovered that the cows very rapidly developed bNAbs to HIV in their blood.

“I was shocked,” says study author Devin Sok, the director of antibody discovery and development at IAVI . “It was really crazy and very exciting. The responses developed very quickly — between one to two months — which is well beyond what we anticipated.”

The researchers were able to isolate antibodies from the calves and took a closer look. An antibody called NC-Cow 1 was revealed to be especially powerful when it came to attacking HIV.

“The kind of insight we get from studying this is an understanding of the mechanisms whereby the cows’ immune system is capable of creat ing these antibodies,” says Fauci.

Understanding how an immune system effectively develops antibodies against HIV, even if it belongs to a cow, is valuable information for scientists hoping to develop an HIV vaccine, especially if they can find a way to get the human body to mimic the creation of these antibodies. The new research also provides insight into how to develop new therapies or treatments for viruses that evade the human immune system.

“As a scientist, this is really exciting,” says Sok. “To put it into perspective, the first broadly neutralizing antibodies were discovered in the 1990s. Since then, we’ve been trying to elicit these antibodies through immunization, and we’ve never been able to do it until now. Until we have immunized a cow. This has given some information for how to do it so that hopefully we can apply that to humans.”

Trump Has Made It Very Clear That He Cares Nothing About People Living With HIV Or AIDS

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE)

The first hints of an uncertain future for the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS came last year, when Donald Trump’s presidential campaign refused to meet with advocates for people living with HIV, said Scott Schoettes, a member of the council since 2014.

That unease was magnified on Inauguration Day in January, when an official White House website for the Office of National AIDS Policy vanished, Schoettes said.

“I started to think, was it going to be useful or wise or would it be possible to work with this administration?” Schoettes told The Washington Post. “Still, I made a decision to stick it out and see what we could do.”

Less than six months later, Schoettes said those initial reservations had given way to full-blown frustration over a lack of dialogue with or caring from Trump administration officials about issues relating to HIV or AIDS.

Last Tuesday, he and five others announced they were quitting Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, also known as PACHA. According to Schoettes, the last straw – or “more like a two-by-four than a straw” – had come in May, after the Republican-dominated House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act, which he said would have “devastating” effects on those living with HIV.

“The Trump Administration has no strategy to address the on-going HIV/AIDS epidemic, seeks zero input from experts to formulate HIV policy, and – most concerning – pushes legislation that will harm people living with HIV and halt or reverse important gains made in the fight against this disease,” Schoettes wrote in a blistering guest column for Newsweek announcing the resignations.

The column also pointed out that Trump has still not appointed anyone to head the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, which former president Barack Obama had done 36 days after his own inauguration.

“Within 18 months, that new director and his staff crafted the first comprehensive U.S. HIV/AIDS strategy. By contrast, President Trump appears to have no plan at all,” Schoettes wrote. “Public health is not a partisan issue … If the President is not going to engage on the subject of HIV/AIDS, he should at least continue policies that support people living with and at higher risk for HIV and have begun to curtail the epidemic.”

The column was co-signed by the five other members of the council who had resigned, including Lucy Bradley-Springer, Gina Brown, Ulysses W. Burley III, Grissel Granados and Michelle Ogle. As of Monday morning, their bios remained on PACHA’s government website.

1st Malaria Vaccine To Be Tested In 3 African Countries

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

The World Health Organization announced on Monday that Ghana, Kenya and Malawi have been chosen to test the first malaria vaccine, which will be administered to hundreds of thousands of young children next year.

The vaccine, which has partial effectiveness, has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives if used with existing measures, the WHO regional director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said in a statement.

The challenge is whether impoverished countries can deliver the required four doses of the vaccine for each child.

The injectable vaccine, called RTS,S or Mosquirix, was developed by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline to protect children from the most deadly form of malaria in Africa. The $49 million for the first phase of the pilot is being funded by the global vaccine alliance GAVI, UNITAID and Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

It will be tested on children five to 17 months old to see whether its protective effects shown so far in clinical trials can hold up under real-life conditions. At least 120,000 children in each of the three countries will receive the vaccine, which has taken decades of work and hundreds of millions of dollars to develop.

Kenya, Ghana and Malawi were chosen for the vaccine pilot because all have strong prevention and vaccination programs, but continue to have high numbers of malaria cases, WHO said. The countries will deliver the vaccine through their existing vaccination programs.

Malaria remains one of the world’s most stubborn health challenges, infecting more than 200 million people every year and killing about half a million, most of them children in Africa. Bed netting and insecticides are the chief protection.

Sub-Saharan Africa is hardest hit by the disease, with about 90 percent of the world’s cases in 2015. Malaria spreads when a mosquito bites someone already infected, sucks up blood and parasites, and then bites another person.

A global effort to counter malaria has led to a 62 percent cut in deaths between 2000 and 2015, WHO said. But the UN agency has said in the past that such estimates are based mostly on modeling and that data is so bad for 31 countries in Africa — including those believed to have the worst outbreaks — that it couldn’t tell if cases have been rising or falling in the last 15 years.

WHO is hoping to wipe out malaria by 2040 despite increasing resistance problems to both drugs and insecticides used to kill mosquitoes.

“The slow progress in this field is astonishing, given that malaria has been around for millennia and has been a major force for human evolutionary selection, shaping the genetic profiles of African populations,” Kathryn Maitland, professor of tropical pediatric infectious diseases at Imperial College London, wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine in December. “Contrast this pace of change with our progress in the treatment of HIV, a disease a little more than three decades old.”

Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Middle East also have malaria cases.

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Where Marijuana Is Legal: Opioid Deaths And Alcohol Sales Are Way Down

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF HIGH TIMES MAGAZINE)

For many years, the biggest threat to marijuana legalization and fledgling legal cannabis businesses was the police.

Fears of DEA agents breaking down the front door at dawn, prosecutions in federal court with its accompanying mandatory minimums or warrantless visits from helicopter-riding police who merely cut down plant and leave—such things happen and are legal—was what kept people involved in cannabis up at night.

But now, with legalization sweeping the country and a vast majority of Americans in support of medical marijuana, the real enemy is revealing itself.

And as recent events in Arizona demonstrated, it’s Big Pharma.

In 2015, U.S.-based companies made up 40 percent of the global pharmaceutical trade, a market share worth $413 billion. These companies are well aware that cannabis is becoming an accepted treatment for chronic pain and many of the other lifelong afflictions now treated by highly profitable trademarked drugs—and some have proven willing and able to take steps to make sure marijuana stays out of the hands of law-abiding Americans in order to protect that enormous bottom line.

“Pharmaceuticals are going to run me down,” Dr. Gina Berman, medical director of the Giving Tree Wellness Center, a Phoenix, Arizona-based cannabis dispensary, told the Guardian. “We have a small business, and we can’t afford to fight Big Pharma.”

The most egregious case to date is Insys Therapeutics. Insys, is an Arizona-based drug manufacturer of pain drugs that contain fentanyl, the powerful synthetic opioid that’s been fingered in many fatal opiate overdoses (including the death of Prince).

Arizona was the lone state where a marijuana legalization initiative failed at the ballot in November—and one of the leading donors to the anti-legalization campaign, with a $500,000 check, was Insys. (Another was Trump-supporting casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. Here are the Vegas nightlife spots to boycott, forever.)

As the Intercept reported this fall, Insys executives openly recognized the threat to its market posed by marijuana. And in a devious twist, Insys identified marijuana as an existential threat and moved to keep it illegal, while developing a new drug based on synthetic THC.

On March 23, the DEA ruled that Insys’s new drug, called “Syndros,” could be marketed and sold as a Schedule II drug—meaning it could be prescribed to patients as soon as this fall.

So far, the FDA has approved Syndros for AIDS-related weight loss and vomiting and nausea associated with chemotherapy—two of the original applications for medical marijuana.

“It’s pretty absurd that federal law considers marijuana to have no medical value, but allows for the development of synthetic versions of the same substance,” Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, which sponsored Arizona’s legalization measure, told the Guardian.

But what about Insys Therapeutics? It’s a company straight out of a Superman comic. 

In December, Justice Department prosecutors took the “unusual” step of charging six former Insys executives, including former CEO Michael L. Babich, with racketeering for its “aggressive” marketing of a fentanyl-based pain drug called Subsys, the New York Times reported. Prosecutors alleged that in order to sell more Subsys, the company arranged lavish dinners and other events for doctors who prescribed “lots of” the drug, and when that didn’t work, the company resorted to kickbacks. 

One Connecticut nurse pleaded guilty in 2015 to accepting $83,000 in kickbacks from the company. Families of dead patients, prescribed Subsys despite prescriptions for other drugs that are fatal when combined, and despite no cancer diagnosis—the drug is only FDA-approved from cancer-related pain—have also sued the company.

In a statement, Carmen Ortiz, the-then U.S. attorney for Massachusetts (before she and many others were summarily fired by Trump administration officials earlier this year), pinned part of the blame for the country’s opiate epidemic squarely on “corporate greed.”

In January, Insys founder John Kapoor stepped down as chairman, a role he took over from the indicted Babich in late 2015. Kapoor’s exit came after Insys’s sales plummeted 40 percent, as Forbes reported. (Wonder if the alleged kickbacks had anything to do with the inflated numbers?)

It’s all very ominous, but in a real way, marijuana activists should let Insys try—and then fail, spectacularly, as they are primed to do.

Insys’s proposed product, called Syndros, is a solution of “oral dronabinol.” Dronabinol is the generic name for another synthetic version of THC that’s been on the market for quite some time, called Marinol—and if you know anyone who has used Marinol, you know what they think of it. Namely, it kind of sucks.

For many patients, fake weed simply doesn’t work. As one patient prescribed Marinol told CBS News, “It might as well have been M&M’s.”

This is almost certainly because as synthetic THC only, Marinol and Syndros both lack cannabidiol, or CBD, as well as dozens of others cannabinoids. And as per the “entourage effect” theory, proffered by luminaries like CNN’s Sanjay Gupta and many more, your body and brain need all of cannabis’s component parts in order for its medical “magic” to work.

But let’s say Insys strikes out with Subsys. It won’t end there.

This is a company accused, with enough evidence to indict in a federal court, of being willing to see people die in order to sell more drugs. And it won’t end with this company.

Big Pharma is scared of weed—terrified—and as any animal scientist will tell you, a cornered and frightened animal is the most dangerous. And that applies to humans.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.

China, U.N., Plans to End Poverty World Wide By 2030

(This article is courtesy of the Shanghai Daily News)

China’s blueprint to end poverty

CHINA’S national plan for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was released at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on Monday when Premier Li Keqiang chaired a roundtable on sustainable development goals (SDGs).

The plan consists of five parts, including China’s achievements and experience in implementing the Millennium Development Goals, and the challenges and opportunities, guiding principles, roadmap and detailed plans of implementing SDGs.

As the first national plan that specifies various domains and goal-oriented concrete measures, the plan expounds China’s development policy and its efforts to help other developing countries implement the goals.

The 2030 Agenda, endorsed and launched at the UN Summit for Sustainable Development last year, is a blueprint for eradicating poverty across the world in the years leading up to 2030.

Implementation of the agenda, including its 17 SDGs and 169 targets, is high on the agenda of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly, which opened last week.

Leaders attending the G20 summit, in east China’s Hangzhou earlier this month, also pledged to actively implement the 2030 Agenda.

Pursuing sustainable development is the fundamental solution to all kinds of global problems, said Li, adding that accelerating implementation of the agenda is of great significance for now and in the long-term amid a weak global economic recovery and increasing difficulties and risks.

While deeming eradicating poverty and hunger as the top priority, he called for more efforts to promote robust, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth.

In the past 15 years, China had made remarkable achievements in poverty reduction, health service and education, he said.

Over the period, China had lifted over 400 million people out of poverty, reducing the mortality of children under 5 by two-thirds and that of pregnant women by three-quarters.

As a responsible developing country, China is willing to participate in relevant international cooperation, continuously increase investment in South-South cooperation, and share development experience and opportunities, Li said.

In order to support a bigger UN role in the implementation of the agenda, China is pledging an additional US$100 million in annual aid to UN development agencies by 2020 on top of the amount in 2015, Li said.

He also announced that China’s donation to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will reach US$18 million in the next three years.

The round table, hosted by the Chinese government, was attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson and the heads of 16 international organizations.

They highlighted the important role China has played in carrying forward the 2030 Agenda within the G20 framework.

The international organizations present at the round table expressed their willingness to strengthen cooperation with China, popularize China’s development experience, and jointly address challenges so as to push forward the sustainable development of China and the rest of the world.

China’s First Lady Peng, G-20 First Ladies Bring Attention To HIV/AIDS Prevention

(This article is courtesy of the Shanghai Daily News)

Peace and harmony with Peng

PENG Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, invited the wives of leaders attending the G20 summit to visit the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou yesterday. She invited her guests to write the Chinese character “he,” meaning peace or harmony.

Peng also invited the wives to an anti-AIDS advocacy tour at Zhejiang University in the tourist city.

Peng, a World Health Organization goodwill ambassador for tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, said such activities had been carried out in many Chinese universities to good effect and that the foreign guests’ attendance would have a positive influence.

Peng called on countries to work together in improving the level of HIV/AIDS prevention and the search for a cure.