Blocking Science: How Congress and the DEA Have Thwarted Official Research on Pot for 40 Years

From Alternet:

By April M. Short
June 15, 2014

Ever wonder why, despite millions of personal anecdotes about pot’s healing effects, there is a stark lack of government-approved, clinical studies to back up that human experience? The research gap is no accident. Cannabis is the only illicit substance with an extra set of governmental requirements specifically intended to prevent independent study.

While medical marijuana patients in nearly half of the states swear by the herb’s medicinal properties, prohibitionists can conveniently point their fingers at that lack of scientific evidence whenever cornered by a pro-legalization argument. Stacks of research have affirmed the extraordinary potentials of the cannabis plant, but none received the official approval of the U.S. government.

Hiding behind these outdated prerequisites, the US Drug Enforcement Administration has effectively blocked government approval of all independent scientific studies on pot for four decades. Created in the ’70s as part of Richard Nixon’s Comprehensive Drug Abuse and Prevention Act of 1970, the DEA, a policing agency tasked with enforcing national drug laws, has the authority to decide how each drug is restricted under the law and whether/where it is produced. This has allowed the DEA to restrict the production of cannabis allowed for federal research to the point of near non-existence.

In a new report titled “ The DEA: Four Decades of Impeding and Rejecting Science,” the nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance teamed up with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) to point out the many ways in which the law enforcement agency stifles science.

“This concerns me greatly as someone who has studied marijuana and given thousands of doses of the drug,” said psychiatry professor Carl Hart during a June 11 teleconference about the DEA report.

Hart pointed out the existence of government-funded studies showing “some potential for marijuana” to help people with serious illnesses, for example HIV and AIDS. “The notion that the DEA is has not acknowledged this and thought about reconsidering the scheduling of marijuana just seems to be against the scientific evidence,” he said. “It seems to be against what we’re trying to do in terms of having a society that relies on empirical evidence to base our decisions.”

Continue reading at:

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Blocking Science: How Congress and the DEA Have Thwarted Official Research on Pot for 40 Years

Progress on Transgender Rights and Health

From The New York Times:

June 9, 2014

Progress on civil rights typically comes in incremental steps that discard old policies for new approaches advancing fair treatment. The Obama administration recently took such a step by reversing a 1981 policy that excluded gender reassignment surgery from coverage under Medicare.

A Health and Human Services Department’s appeals board concluded in May that the exclusion was “no longer reasonable” because the surgery is safe and effective for individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria — the medical term applied to those whose identities differ from their gender at birth — and can no longer be considered experimental. Since very few people choose to have the surgery, and even fewer after age 65, the budget consequences will be negligible. But the change will help relieve the anguish of individuals who need and want the procedure and otherwise could not afford it.

As The Times’s Roni Caryn Rabin has reported, a small but growing number of large companies and university health plans have started to cover gender transition services. The move by the health and human services board is expected to accelerate that trend because many health plans look to Medicare in setting coverage guidelines. The ruling is all the more gratifying because it coincides with other positive developments, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s stated willingness to review the military’s senseless ban on transgender service, the enactment of Maryland’s new law extending civil rights protections to transgender people, and the demise, for insufficient signatures, of a conservative drive to put repeal of Maryland’s new law on the ballot in November.

New York State provided further good news last week when it changed a state policy that required transgender people born in New York to provide proof of gender reassignment surgery in order to change the gender designation on their birth certificate. Going forward, a medical provider’s affidavit of “appropriate clinical treatment” will be sufficient. Birth certificates that do not conform with the holder’s gender identity and expression can result in harassment and humiliation and threaten eligibility for jobs. Regrettably, the change does not apply to New York City, which has its own system for issuing birth certificates, and which should quickly adopt the state’s enlightened reform.

Continue reading at:

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Progress on Transgender Rights and Health

Fossil Fuels’ ‘Easy Money’ and the Need for a New Economic System

From Common Dreams:

by David Suzuki

Energy giant Kinder Morgan was recently called insensitive for pointing out that “Pipeline spills can have both positive and negative effects on local and regional economies, both in the short- and long-term.” The company wants to triple its shipping capacity from the Alberta tar sands to Burnaby, in part by twinning its current pipeline. Its National Energy Board submission states, “Spill response and cleanup creates business and employment opportunities for affected communities, regions, and cleanup service providers.”

It may seem insensitive, but it’s true. And that’s the problem. Destroying the environment is bad for the planet and all the life it supports, including us. But it’s often good for business. The 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico added billions to the U.S. gross domestic product! Even if a spill never occurred (a big “if”, considering the records of Kinder Morgan and other pipeline companies), increasing capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels a day would go hand-in-hand with rapid tar sands expansion and more wasteful, destructive burning of fossil fuels—as would approval of Enbridge Northern Gateway and other pipeline projects, as well as increased oil shipments by rail.

The company will make money, the government will reap some tax and royalty benefits and a relatively small number of jobs will be created. But the massive costs of dealing with a pipeline or tanker spill and the resulting climate change consequences will far outweigh the benefits. Of course, under our current economic paradigm, even the costs of responding to global warming impacts show as positive growth in the GDP — the tool we use to measure what passes for progress in this strange worldview.

And so it’s full speed ahead and damn the consequences. Everything is measured in money. B.C.’s economy seems sluggish? Well, obviously, the solution is to get fracking and sell the gas to Asian markets. Never mind that a recent study, commissioned by the Canadian government, concludes we don’t know enough about the practice to say it’s safe, the federal government has virtually no regulations surrounding it and provincial rules “are not based on strong science and remain untested.” Never mind that the more infrastructure we build for polluting, climate-disrupting fossil fuels, the longer it will take us to move away from them. There’s easy money to be had—for someone.

We need to do more than just get off fossil fuels, although that’s a priority. We need to conserve, cut back and switch to cleaner energy sources. In Canada, we need a national energy strategy. And guess what? That will create lasting jobs! But we must also find better ways to run our societies than relying on rampant consumption, planned obsolescence, excessive and often-pointless work and an economic system that depends on damaging ways and an absurd measurement to convince us it somehow all amounts to progress.

Continue reading at:

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Fossil Fuels’ ‘Easy Money’ and the Need for a New Economic System

Solution to ‘Tranny’ Debate: Stop Using the Word

From South Florida Gay News:

John Becker
June 5, 2014

These days, one of the easiest and quickest ways to anger a room full of queers is to bring up the subject of legendary drag queen and television star RuPaul Charles.

RuPaul first came under fire earlier this year for using the word “she-male” in a challenge on his Logo TV show, “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” called “Female or She-Male.” In it, contestants were shown photographs and had to guess whether the subject was born biologically female or previously appeared on the show. Many transgender advocates objected, pointing out that “she-male” is a term that is frequently used to degrade and demean trans people. They also took issue with a recurring segment titled “You’ve Got She-Mail” for the same reason.

In response, Logo apologized, pulled the episode that contained the challenge, and removed the “You’ve Got She-Mail” segment.

But RuPaul himself didn’t apologize. Instead he doubled down, vigorously defending his use of another problematic word, “tranny.” In an interview with Marc Maron, RuPaul said:

“Does the word ‘tranny’ bother me? No. I love the word ‘tranny.’ … It’s not the transsexual community who’s saying that. These are fringe people who are looking for storylines to strengthen their identity as victims. That is what we are dealing with. It’s not the trans community. ‘Cause most people who are trans have been through hell and high water… But some people haven’t and they’ve used their victimhood to create a situation where, ‘No! You look at me! I want you to see me the way you’re supposed to see me!’ You know, if your idea of happiness has to do with someone else changing what they say, what they do, you are in for a fucking hard-ass road…

“I dance to the beat of a different drummer. I believe everybody — you can be whatever the hell you wanna be, I ain’t stopping you. But don’t you dare tell me what I can do or what I can’t — say or can’t do. It’s just words, like, ‘Yeah, you hurt me!’ Bitch, you need to get stronger. If you’re upset by something I said you have bigger problems than you think.”

In the controversy over RuPaul and language, especially as regards to the word “tranny,” the arguments essentially boil down to this: on one side you have many members of the trans community and their allies, who find the term highly offensive and abusive, especially because it’s frequently used in violent attacks on trans people.

On the other side is the drag community, which has a long history of satire and word reclamation, largely rejects the idea that the term “tranny” is inherently offensive, and bristles at what they perceive as language policing. Drag culture also has a long and important history within the gay community, which leads many gay men — and also many older trans women, who grew up in a world where drag culture was often one of their only safe spaces — to vociferously defend it.

Continue reading at:

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Solution to ‘Tranny’ Debate: Stop Using the Word

Mansplaining, explained: ‘Just ask an expert. Who is not a lady’

From The Guardian UK:

Author Rebecca Solnit admits that even penning a book titled ‘Men Explain Things to Me’ doesn’t stop some men, Friday 6 June 2014

Rebecca Solnit is a prolific author (she’s working now on her sixteenth and seventeenth books), historian, activist and a contributing editor to Harper’s. Her most recent book, Men Explain Things to Me, is a collection of Solnit’s essays, including the title piece that launched a million memes. Solnit, on the road in Seattle, took some time to explain “mansplaining”, writing and how the post-Isla Vista misogyny conversation is a little like climate denialism.

JESSICA VALENTI: How do you feel about being considered the creator of the concept of “mansplaining”? Your now-famous essay – which really gave women language to talk about the condescending interactions they’ve had with men – certainly gave birth to the term, but you write in the book that you didn’t actually make up the word.

REBECCA SOLNIT: A really smart young woman changed my mind about it. I used to be ambivalent, worrying primarily about typecasting men with the term. (I have spent most of my life tiptoeing around the delicate sensibilities of men, though of course the book Men Explain Things to Me is what happens when I set that exhausting, doomed project aside.) Then in March a PhD candidate said to me, No, you need to look at how much we needed this word, how this word let us describe an experience every woman has but we didn’t have language for.

And that’s something I’m really interested in: naming experience and how what has no name cannot be acknowledged or shared. Words are power. So if this word allowed us to talk about something that goes on all the time, then I’m really glad it exists and slightly amazed that not only have I contributed about a million published words to the conversation but maybe, indirectly, one new word.

Do men still explain things to you?

Do they ever! Social media are to mansplainers what dogs are to fleas, and this recent feminist conversation has brought them out in droves. I mean, guys explain ridiculous things to me like that the Louisiana Purchase gave the United States a Pacific Coast. But more than anything since I wrote Men Explain Things to Me, they’ve explained women’s experience to me and other women. With this explosive new conversation since the Isla Vista murders, there’s been a dramatic uptick in guys mansplaining feminism and women’s experience or just denying that we need feminism and we actually had those experiences.

If there were awards to be handed out, one might go to the man who told me and a woman friend that 1) women actually like all those catcalls 2) as a man who’s spent time in men’s-only locker rooms, he knows men don’t actually speak to women that way. So we like street harassment, but that doesn’t actually exist, because we’re just crazy that way, us subjective, imaginative, unreliable ladies. Just ask an expert. Who is not a lady.

Continue reading at:

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Mansplaining, explained: ‘Just ask an expert. Who is not a lady’