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A Shining Example

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I don’t often quote China as a shining example, but…

China bans stars who have used drugs from national media

Jaycee Chan, the son of Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan, was among celebrities caught using drugs this year

China’s media watchdog says that stars who have used drugs or visited prostitutes will be banned from state television and other media outlets.

The ban is meant to keep the industry healthy, reported China Daily.

The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television said recent cases had set a bad example for the country’s youth.

Source: BBCNews Read more

Sea Gypsies

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Moken nomads leave behind their ‘sea gypsy’ life for a modern existence

Brought to the world’s attention by the 2004 tsunami, the seafaring tribe is struggling to reconcile tradition and modernity


The video didn’t embed, click on the image for video link

 

Ngui takes one last breath and disappears with a tiny splash. Tunnelling through the turquoise waves, he dives past brightly coloured fish and coral, until he reaches the sandy bottom of the seabed, 20 metres deep, where he begins scouring for tonight’s dinner.

He wears no mask, no fins, and no diving tank. He prefers sarongs and button-down shirts decorated with seashell and starfish motifs but the most startling thing about him underwater is his eyes. They are wide open.

Ngui, 30, belongs to the Moken, a nomadic, seafaring tribe of hunter-gatherers who live in the southern seas of Burma and Thailand. Little is known about their origins, but it is believed they descended from migrant Austronesians who set sail from southern China around 4,000 years ago. Spending eight months of the year at sea, the Moken roam in small flotillas of kabang – boats fashioned from a single tree and shared by a nuclear family – and return to land only to barter fish and shells for essentials such as rice and petrol, or to wait out the monsoon season in temporary shacks. It is a way of life that has existed, unchanged, for centuries – but one that may not last for much longer.

The 2004 tsunami greatly depleted the source of the Moken’s only livelihood: the ocean’s once-abundant array of seafood. International fishing boats are now wiping out the little that’s left. Those Moken who have moved ashore are often forced to take dangerous jobs for menial pay. Those who stay at sea are sometimes arrested for lacking papers or permits. Others return to land after months afloat only to find their huts destroyed and luxury tourist resorts built in their place.

“The sea has changed and life has changed,” explains Ngui’s father, Jao. “Things we used to do we can’t do any more. Places we used to go we can’t go any more. Life isn’t fun any more.”

It would be difficult to find a family that represents the changes wrought on the Moken as well as Jao’s. He was born on a boat and spent his childhood at sea. He married at 16 and nearly pursued a traditional, aquatic lifestyle – until he and his wife decided to settle on land.

“Life was hard being illiterate,” says Jao in the cramped house in Kuraburi they now share with a 13-member extended family. “I wanted my children to go to school and have options.”

Education is still a relatively new concept to the roughly 2,000 Moken who live in the waters around Burma and Thailand, most of whom are stateless. A recent push by various charities and the Thai government to issue Thai identity cards has granted some access to state-run schools and healthcare, but claiming full-blown citizenship – by proving that they, or a parent, were born in Thailand – is a complex issue for a nomadic people who hardly use numbers and mark the date according to the tide, not the Gregorian calendar.

Even getting children to school can prove trying, said Sumana Sirimangkala, headteacher at the only school on Koh Lao, an island of 50 Moken families on the Thai-Burmese border. “Moken lack supplies like clothes, food, stationery, textbooks, shoes, raincoats, lifejackets, umbrellas – all the things that are necessary for children to come to school,” she says.

“Moken can’t afford any of these things, so the school has to provide it all – otherwise they don’t want to come.”

Moken children regularly drop out to help their parents earn money, students say. Some boys as young as eight are sent to work in construction, while others help their mothers dig for shells – backbreaking labour in the hot sun.

Nearly all the men on the island are hired by Thai fishing boats to plant explosives on the seabed, or to dive for expensive and exotic rarities such as sea cucumber. Sometimes they are sent down with air run through thin plastic tubes hooked up to a spluttery, diesel-run compressor; other times they dive without any air at all. Many succumb to decompression sickness (the bends) from ascending too quickly; some don’t return at all.

“I’m afraid of being killed, it’s so risky,” admits a 30-year-old Moken who has just returned from a fish-bombing expedition. “We wire together four to five dynamite sticks, connect another explosive wire that hooks up to the boat, and then I dive down to the bottom of the sea. When I come back up, the sticks are ignited with a battery.”

Sitdit, a Moken elder whose son died from decompression sickness during a job in the Nicobar Islands, says risks such as these are increasingly part and parcel of a new way of life.

“We are running out of resources, so our skills have to be adapted to the new challenges,” he says simply. “Sometimes the big boats get caught by the Burmese military and Moken are arrested. I had four relatives arrested by the Burmese military and they all died in jail.”

Apart from a handful of researchers who had studied their language and customs – notably the French father-son anthropologist duo Pierre and Jacques Ivanoff – the Moken were a relatively unknown lot until the tsunami, when headlines described the mysterious “sea gypsies [who] saw signs in the waves“. Charities and religious groups poured in with free supplies – food, petrol, boats and building materials – at such a velocity that some communities were left bewildered by the handouts.

“We had to become Christian to qualify for a boat, so I became a Christian – I even became a church leader!” explains Sitdit, his charity-built, two-room stilt house facing the “church”, an empty wooden structure with a simple roof. “All we had to do was follow the gospel and sing songs. But then the church [group] cheated us, and now nobody goes to church any more.”

Today, a different kind of communion is going on, one where Moken women in sarongs while away the afternoon heat with card games and whisky so strong it makes the eyes burn. When the men return from their jobs at sea, they too take to drinking and gambling.

“There’s an issue with their drinking a lot of alcohol – it’s everywhere,” says Jitlada Rattanapan of Plan Thailand, a charity working to support Moken children.

At Baan Tung Wah, a Moken village of around 70 families in the mainland resort town of Khao Lak, children with snotty noses and dirty T-shirts beg for sweets while elders take shots of strong drink. Most of the parents are away doing menial day jobs – working in construction, spraying insecticides, or scavenging for recyclables along the beaches and streets – leaving the children to play among puppies and chickens in the rubbish-filled streets.

“Everyone in this village drinks – they hit their kids, too,” says a shopkeeper, Kong Kwan, 35, who spends all day selling sweets and crisps to Moken children and petrol and whisky to Moken elders. “Sometimes the police come, but they can’t be bothered to deal with it.”

The community’s 20-year-old youth leader, Big, says that life in the village can be stifling, forcing many youths to look for a way out.

“We’re restricted to living in this area only – about five acres [2 hectares] – and because of the influx of hotels and resorts around here, the sea has been polluted,” he says. “That makes it difficult to go fishing. So a lot of young people just choose easier jobs, like working in hotels or at 7-Eleven.”

Big adds that the Moken youth have pretty much “assimilated seamlessly” into Thai society, so much so that “whatever ‘bad Thais’ do, Moken do now too”, he notes. “Drugs, stealing, marijuana, glue-sniffing. We never saw this before, and it’s getting serious.”

The village is trying to counter such behaviour by offering classes in Moken language and customs to the children, many of whom are unaware of their traditions. Other classes, directed at teens, offer training as tour guides.

The community leader, Hong, who heads the classes and created the village’s Moken museum, hopes that turning Baan Tung Wah into an ecotourism destination may help get people back on track.

“Moken are supposed to travel, to be nomadic, to travel freely. So if we cannot travel freely, we are dead, culturally at least,” he says. “Moken children use mobile phones, study English and choose to be educated. We’ve abandoned our old traditions so much we risk losing them entirely.”

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Oh how we ruin the innocent?

The Great Marijuana Debate

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First of all, we need to look at why cannabis is illegal.

“Many people assume that marijuana was made illegal through some kind of process involving scientific, medical, and government hearings; that it was to protect the citizens from what was determined to be a dangerous drug.

The actual story shows a much different picture. Those who voted on the legal fate of this plant never had the facts, but were dependent on information supplied by those who had a specific agenda to deceive lawmakers. You’ll see below that the very first federal vote to prohibit marijuana was based entirely on a documented lie on the floor of the Senate.

You’ll also see that the history of marijuana’s criminalization is filled with:

  • Racism
  • Fear
  • Protection of Corporate Profits
  • Yellow Journalism
  • Ignorant, Incompetent, and/or Corrupt Legislators
  • Personal Career Advancement and Greed

These are the actual reasons marijuana is illegal.

A picture named leaf.gif
Background

For most of human history, marijuana has been completely legal. It’s not a recently discovered plant, nor is it a long-standing law. Marijuana has been illegal for less than 1% of the time that it’s been in use. Its known uses go back further than 7,000 B.C. and it was legal as recently as when Ronald Reagan was a boy.

The marijuana (hemp) plant, of course, has an incredible number of uses. The earliest known woven fabric was apparently of hemp, and over the centuries the plant was used for food, incense, cloth, rope, and much more. This adds to some of the confusion over its introduction in the United States, as the plant was well known from the early 1600′s, but did not reach public awareness as a recreational drug until the early 1900′s.”DrugWarRant.com

Most Americans have no idea why cannabis (marijuana) is illegal.

The truth is that the move was politically motivated, and not beyond corporate interference.

Check this:

Is a major reason that cannabis is illegal today.

“DuPont’s involvment in the anti-hemp campaign can also be explained with great ease. At this time, DuPont was patenting a new sulfuric acid process for producing wood-pulp paper. “According to the company’s own records, wood-pulp products ultimately accounted for more than 80% of all DuPont’s railroad car loadings for the next 50 years” (ibid). Indeed it should be noted that “two years before the prohibitive hemp tax in 1937, DuPont developed a new synthetic fiber, nylon, which was an ideal substitute for hemp rope” (Hartsell). The year after the tax was passed DuPont came out with rayon, which would have been unable to compete with the strength of hemp fiber or its economical process of manufacturing. “DuPont’s point man was none other than Harry Anslinger…who was appointed to the FBN by Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, who was also chairman of the Mellon Bank, DuPont’s chief financial backer. Anslinger’s relationship to Mellon wasn’t just political, he was also married to Mellon’s niece” (Hartsell). It doesn’t take much to draw a connection between DuPont, Anslinger, and Mellon, and it’s obvious that all of these groups, including Hearst, had strong motivation to prevent the growth of the hemp industry.”The Vaults of Erowid

Cannabis was made illegal at the behest of a corporate giant.

Nothing to do with being a drug, nothing to do with madness nor jazz music. Everything to do with corporate profits.

Of course the USA pushed the world into the same thinking, dragging the rest of the world into its own cesspool.

Now other countries are starting to think for themselves, and the American government doesn’t like it.

Uruguay, Guatemala, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and now Chile are beginning to question the logic and search for better ways to manage the issue. Places like Holland, Belgium and Portugal have already made inroads into the issue.

Chilean senator’s confession heats debate on legalising marijuana

Marijuana remains an illegal substance in Chile, but there are a growing number of shops in the country which sell cannabis products.

A recent admission by Senator Fulvio Rossi that he occasionally smokes the drug has heated the debate over whether the drug should be legalised.

Check the BBC video clip.

Summit of the Americas agree war on drugs a failure

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This weekend’s Summit of the Americas did not produce a joint communiqué charting the future of the hemisphere, but the 31 leaders agreed on one thing: The U.S.-led war on drugs has been a dismal failure.

The summit pledged to create a panel of experts through the Organization of American States to consider drug policy reforms, and new approaches to stem the violence and power of the drug cartels.

Even Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has created mandatory-minimum prison terms at home for minor drug offences, seems to have moved beyond the rhetoric of a Reagan-era counter-narcotics crusade: “Everyone believes… that the current approach [to the war on drugs] is not working, but it is not clear what we should do.”

The onus is on the hemisphere’s leaders, including Mr. Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama, to consider innovative, evidence-based policies. The decriminalization of marijuana – which comprises between 25 and 40 per cent of the drug cartels’ revenues – is one option. In the Netherlands, where licensed coffee shops can sell small amounts of marijuana, the rate of cannabis use is just 5 per cent, versus 14 per cent in the U.S. The policy of tolerance helps the government regulate cannabis sellers, and also distinguishes between soft drugs and cocaine and heroin.

In Portugal, where all drugs were decriminalized in 2001, there has been a decrease in serious drug use and drug-related deaths, and a savings to the criminal-justice system. “The aim shouldn’t be to totally decriminalize the whole enterprise, but to set some reasonable standards so that people don’t become criminals for minor drug use and clandestine organizations don’t make obscene amounts of money,” said Allert Brown-Gort, a Latin American expert at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

The problem with the current war-on-drugs policy is that it is unwinnable – and leads to weakened states, staggering levels of violence and continued drug consumption in Canada and the U.S. The U.S. spent $8-billion to help Colombia eradicate coca fields, only to have coca production shift to Peru and Ecuador and cartels set up new smuggling routes in weaker states. Guatemala and El Salvador now have the highest homicide rates in the world, while 50,000 people have been killed in Mexico since 2006.

In the words of Guatemalan President Otto Perez, a champion of drug liberalization, it is time to “stop being dumb witnesses to a global deceit” and consider treatment, harm reduction and decriminalization as viable alternatives.

Source: The Globe and Mail

Opinion:

Oh, they’ve just figured that out…

It has been evident for 20 years to everybody else!

As usual, the USA doesn’t agree, idiots!

 

100 years of the war on drugs

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The first international drug treaty was signed a century ago this week. So what was the war on drugs like in 1912?

Today it is taken for granted that governments will co-operate in the fight against the heroin and cocaine trade.

But 100 years ago, narcotics passed from country to country with minimal interference from the authorities. That all changed with the 1912 International Opium Convention, which committed countries to stopping the trade in opium, morphine and cocaine.

Then, as now, the US stood in the vanguard against narcotics. While the UK’s position is unequivocal today, a century ago it was an unenthusiastic signatory, says Mike Jay, author of Emperors of Dreams: Drugs in the Nineteenth Century.

The real concern a century ago was over alcohol, he argues. “There was a big debate over intoxication as there was concern about the heavy, heavy drinking culture of the 19th Century.”

Ambivalence towards opium was understandable. Britain had fought two wars in favour of the opium trade in the 19th Century, crushing Chinese efforts to restrict its importation.

And opium use was viewed in the mid-19th Century in a very different way to modern beliefs about drug use. It was possible to walk into a chemist and buy not only opium and cocaine, but even arsenic.

If you had been in a major British port in the 18th or 19th Century, you would have seen opium arriving alongside ordinary cargo. In February 1785 The Times listed opium from Smyrna (now Izmir) between oil from Leghorn (Livorno) and peas from Dantzic (Gdansk) in its roundup of goods unloaded at the port of London.

In the early 19th Century, travellers to Norfolk were warned to treat their pint in the pub with caution. Beer could be laced with opium to ward off the malaria that flourished in the Fens.

Opium, the dried residue of poppies, was usually consumed for its anaesthetic properties.

Queen Victoria’s coterie ordered opium from the royal apothecary. She is also believed to have taken cocaine gum with a young Winston Churchill. Prime Minister William Gladstone is said to have taken opium in tea or coffee before making important speeches.

In 1868 the Pharmacy Act brought in restrictions. In theory, it became tougher to get hold of opium – with the user having to provide a name and address and other details to the chemist. But it made little difference.

There was another side to the opium story. It was also smoked as a recreational drug – brought in by Chinese sailors who settled in the East End area of Limehouse. Opium dens became a much mythologised world, where aristocrats could stumble in and discover a cornucopia of vice.

“There were opium dens where one could buy oblivion, dens of horror where the memory of old sins could be destroyed by the madness of sins that were new,” wrote Oscar Wilde in The Picture of Dorian Gray.

But the fashion in drugs was changing from the “downer” of opium to the “upper” of cocaine – hence Arthur Conan Doyle making Sherlock Holmes a cocaine injector.

Marek Kohn, author of Dope Girls: The Birth of the British Drug Underground, argues that Holmes was typical of a view at the time that cocaine was for “brainy, highly-strung” people who needed constant stimulation. It was a “personal shortcoming” but not a sign of the depravity that drugs would later be associated with.

But in the US, cocaine came to be associated with street gangs, alongside racist propaganda that the drug sent black men insane and put white women at risk.

So these domestic concerns helped drive the international agreement in the form of the 1912 treaty. But while it tackled the trade, in the UK at least, the authorities were slow to crack down on individual users.

When World War I broke out, opium and cocaine were still legal drugs in Britain.

The turning point had come more than a year into the war, says Kohn. There was a fear that the drinking culture was harming the war effort. In 1915 the licensing laws were tightened.

The unintended consequence was to create the conditions for the first underground drug scene in Britain, says Kohn. It criminalised a small number of people in London’s theatre district and a scene developed in which opium, cocaine, sex and prostitution overlapped. With so many soldiers passing through London, it was little surprise that emergency regulation to ban drugs soon followed.

The fact that opium and cocaine dealing were closely identified with the Chinese merely fanned the flames in a wartime atmosphere of general xenophobia, Kohn says.

“There was intense paranoia about foreign subversion, ostensibly the Germans,” says Kohn. “And in the middle of this you have a drug panic in which the ‘outsider’ is central.”

In the years after the war, concern crystallised, driven by a media hungry for scandal. The stories would seem familiar to any modern reader.

Illustration of crying baby with bottle labelled "opium" by its bedside The Poor Child’s Nurse, from an 1849 Punch cartoon (right)

A young actress dies from an overdose of cocaine. The inquest whips up a storm of intrigue and exposes the widespread use of drugs among her social circle.

This was the death of Billie Carleton in 1918. The actress had attended an overnight opium party the night before her death and a coroner’s inquest found she had died of a cocaine overdose.

Her friend Reginald De Veulle was charged with manslaughter and conspiracy to supply a prohibited drug. He had bought the drug from a Scottish woman Ada and her Chinese husband Lau Ping You, in Limehouse.

De Veulle was acquitted of manslaughter but found guilty of supplying her with cocaine and sentenced to eight months in prison, Ada was sentenced to five months hard labour while Ping You was fined £10.

The emergency legislation brought in during WWI was made permanent in the Dangerous Drugs Act 1920.

Source: BBC News Read more

Short-Sighted Kiwis

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Leader’s cannabis stance opens rift

ACT leader Don Brash has opened up a rift in his party over the decriminalisation of cannabis.

Epsom candidate John Banks – the party’s ticket into parliament – yesterday expressed surprise at Dr Brash’s call.

And the former police minister said he could not support a relaxation of marijuana laws. “I’ve always been opposed to drugs and I always will be opposed to drugs,” he said.

ACT’s president Chris Simmons said decriminalising the class C drug was “a step too far” and was not likely to become policy.

But Dr Brash received a surprise backer in former Federated Farmers boss Don Nicolson, the party’s agriculture spokesman.

“Don Brash … is saying that the cost is prohibitive and we are not winning the battle.

Source: Chch Press, Read more

Opinion:

For a moment there, I thought New Zealand was finally going to pull its head out of hthe sand.

Then I saw John Banks name, stupid bastard. His views are so prehistoric, that indicates he should have gone the way of the dinosaurs.

When is the world going to wake up like some (all too few) countries. The Holland, Belguim and Portugal experience shows that the fears of decriminalising drugs are not the ogre they think. How many times does this have to be demonstrated?

Just for the record, I don’t have a vested interest in this argument; while I have had the opportunity, I have never been tempted.

The decriminalising of drugs can only reduce the usage. Consider Prohibition in the USA; it showed that once alcohol was prohibited, usage rose only to be reduced with the end of Prohibition. The evidence of the countries that have decriminalised cannabis have supported that theory. The problems that have been encountered in these countries have been created by the influx of users from neighbouring countries whose laws don’t allow cannabis.

Possible Uses

The result of deciminalising frees up overworked police, reduces prison populations, creates employment, generates taxes and reduces a criminal activity (takes cannabis out of  ‘mafia’ style hands). There are a host of products that cannabis can be used for.

It’s not just the drug.

New Zealand people need to have the debate, a referendum. Bugger the prehistoric politicians who, as usual, are laughably out of touch with reality.

New Zealand has a chance to lead the world. Don’t blow it Godzone… remember, he created the stuff.

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