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Laura Restrepo: "Legalize Drugs"

Earlier this year, Colombian novelist Laura Restrepo won the prestigious Alfaguara Novel Prize for 2004 (the Alfaguara jury is headed by Portuguese Pulitzer prize winning novelist José Saramago) for her work, "Delirio." The prize included $175,000, which allowed her to leave her job in the culture department of Bogotá Mayor Lucho Garzón. Restrepo, 53, (who has the distinction of being one of the only people in the hemisphere to have successfully mediated a peace agreement between a guerrilla organization, M19, and the government), isn't sitting on her laurels though.

She appeared this week in an interview with the Argentine daily Página 12 to call for the legalization of drugs as the solution to her country of Colombia's long civil war. Página 12 reports:

The Colombian writer Laura Restrepo, winner of the Alfaguara Novel Prize of 2004 for her work "Delirio," said that the problem of drug trafficking in Colombia will end at the moment in which drugs are legalized, and the business will be destroyed. "Drugs in Colombia involve millions of dollars that serve like gasoline to inflame the war even more, which is why we must have legalization," said the author. Restrepo... added that the countries that have serious problems with drug consumption should think about preventative methods to combat them, "and that is how we will save ourselves from a war that is liquidating us as a nation."

Some of Restrepo's novels have been translated into English by Harper Collins.

The Ten Suggestions of Journalism

It is said that Moses had it backwards: he went up the mountain, away from the people, to find the Ten Commandments... And the rest of human history is a story of mass disobedience to all ten.

Had Moses come down from the mountain and held a Constituent Assembly, he probably would have come up with laws that would be adhered to more consistently.

(Plus, to say "thou shalt not lie," and "a burning bush told me that and gave me these stone tablets" does kind of give a mixed message, no?)

Thus, I present the following Ten Suggestions of Authentic Journalism as a draft document, to which I ask co-publishers to add your own suggestions... so that "your truth, together with my truth, can make a better truth..."

And hopefully by the time the Narco News J-School rolls around, 40 days and 40 nights from now, we'll have a working document of this kind.

Forero Caught Out, Again

In Friday's NYT Juan Forero, in the midst of railing against government bullying of the poor, helpless judiciary, said:

The report comes as opposition leaders and foreign diplomats have raised concerns about the efforts of government officials and the electoral council to limit the role of foreign observers from the O.A.S. and the Carter Center in the recall. Some officials have even called for the two organizations to be banned.

On the very day Forero's piece was run, alas, Reuters says President Chavez was having a meeting about the recall... with Jimmy Carter his own self.

Good try though, Juan! Maybe next time your little duplicities will survive contact with reality for a couple of days, at least.

Human Rights Botch: Vivanco & Venezuela

José Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch today launched a media-attention-seeking attack on the Venezuelan government for a new law providing a process for impeachment of Supreme Court justices in that country. He held a press conference in Caracas, barking highly charged words in a report titled Venezuela: Judicial Independence Under Siege.

Vivanco and Human Rights Watch are now on record opposing a U.S.-modeled impeachment process for Supreme Court justices in Venezuela. The timing - two months before the August 15 referendum in that country - is obviously a partisan attempt to meddle in electoral politics.

Perhaps Vivanco and his bureaucrats should have done a little bit of research on the United States Constitution and American History before demonstrating such ignorance about democratic principles.

Before this essay is done, we will hear from Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt - whose stated principles on the appointment and impeachment of Supreme Court justices HRW has now gone against with this maneuver - on this question. But first let's consult a more recent U.S. president who spoke on this issue… Gerald R. Ford…

Otto Reich is Outa There

According to Reuters, Otto Reich has resigned.  "For personal and financial reasons."  Which is more or less what they all say.  If things haven't been going so well for poor Otto, I wish him nothing but more of the same in his future endeavors.  

http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=poli ticsNews&storyID=5440997

Homeland Security wants us kept in the dark

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has adopted a draconian classification scheme that essentially imposes a blackout on the release of any information it deems sensitive.

Under the scheme, outlined in a directive issued last month, DHS is creating a new “For Official Use Only” (FOUO) classification process that encompasses a wide swath of information that the government bureaucracy deems “sensitive but unclassified.”  

The directive empowers DHS employees and contractors to classify information as FOUO if it falls within 11 general categories, and that information is to remain classified “until determined otherwise” by DHS.

In addition, DHS supervisors and managers are empowered to go beyond the 11 categories and designate “other information” as FOUO.

Coca tea defense OK for failed drug test

The Chicago Sun-Times carries a story today about the employee of a local law enforcement agency who was reinstated to her job after a failed drug test. She claimed the use of coca tea, which she first obtained during a trip to Peru, caused the positive test falsely.

But last week, the Illinois Court of Appeals ruled Garrido should not have lost her job in 2001 because the positive test result probably didn't come from cocaine, but instead from the tea she'd been drinking.

Garrido, the wife of a Chicago narcotics officer, said she drank "a significant amount" of the coca-tinged tea, which she got from Peru, just before her drug test.

Though the sheriff's merit board didn't buy it -- and fired her -- the judges ruled the small traces of cocaine metabolites in Garrido's system were more likely to have come from tea than drugs.

Anyone concerned about a future drug test, plenty of coca tea suppliers sell their wares on the internet. Just Google it, and be prepared to drink a "significant amount" (or at least say you did) when the time comes. And, it might not hurt to marry a narcotics officer.

Petroleum, Politics, and Populism

This is a history of Hugo Chavez and the Venezuelan People.  I don't feel it is as well written as my earlier work but I feel it has more relevancy in today's world.  Enjoy and please tell me what you think.

Return of the NarcoBanker

Again, interest-free loans to support the Narco News J-School are available.  If you don't have the money to give to the Fund for Authentic Journalism before the June 21 Tides matching grant deadline, I'll front it for you now.

"Free Pacho" Cry Goes Global

Last February, when Narco News came alive again, we launched a multi-part series from Bolivia and Colombia (what we call our "Narco News Swarm Coverage") to break the information blockade and publish the true facts about the bizarre and reckless prosecution of Colombian human rights leader Pacho Cortés, imprisoned, now, for 14 months in Bolivia, on flimsy accusations of "terrorism."

At the time, some of you, conscious of the authoritarian "laws" approved in recent years in the United States and elsewhere under the pretext of fighting "terrorism," wrote me, worried, concerned. In the words of one reader: "Aren't you afraid that they'll come after Narco News next, for supporting an accused terrorist?"

Forero / NYT have something nice to say about coca

Today's New York Times has a Juan Forero story in the business section that actually discusses the benefits of coca. The story extols an energy drink processed from coca leaves as a way to create a (from the viewpoint of the NYT) legitimate export market for coca farmers.

The question: Has Forero been learning about coca's upside from Narconews?

I'm probably missing some nuances here, but here's part of what Forero says:

In this Andean country, that pitch - that KDrink is natural and good for consumers - has the beverage flying off the shelves of some of Peru's biggest supermarket chains. Though priced at $1 a bottle, far more than what other beverages sell for, KDrink is selling about 50,000 bottles a month.

But it is the possibility that KDrink could be sold abroad that is seen as a tantalizing solution for poverty-stricken coca farmers who are periodically forced to eradicate their illicit crops in Washington-backed antidrug efforts.

The rest of the story is at http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/10/business/worldbu siness/10coca.html?ei=5007&en=5d8b5778042ed949 &ex=1402286400&partner=USERLAND&pagewa nted=print&position

Bilingual feds demand equal pay

A group of Hispanic Customs agents have filed a class-action lawsuit in a special federal court claiming that the government owes them money.

The special agents, who represent a class of more than 400 current and former bilingual Customs agents, contend the U.S. Customs Service -- and its successor agencies within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) -- have denied them adequate compensation for their second-language abilities.

The Customs agents, who are fluent in English and Spanish, contend that they have been shortchanged on second-language pay awards despite the fact that their fellow agents in the FBI and DEA are afforded fair reimbursement for their bilingual skills. In addition, the special agents charge that other bilingual Customs employees, such as inspectors and canine enforcement officers, are reimbursed fairly for their second-language skills, yet the government has chosen to create extraordinary barriers for similar compensation to be earned by bilingual special agents.

From the lawsuit:

To be eligible for a foreign language proficiency award, Customs Officers (Customs inspectors and canine enforcement officers) need only speak a foreign language at least 10 percent of his/her basic non-overtime, regularly scheduled duty. In contrast to these simple rules, the rules for awarding foreign language proficiency awards to special agents were unduly burdensome and restrictive.

Special agents were required to meticulously document their daily usage of a foreign language using investigative case numbers, confidential informant (“CI”) identification numbers, duties and narrative report.

 

Give now, or I will kick your ass.

It's a no-brainer, really, when you stop and think about it:

Donate - or have your ass kicked.

It's not that often that life offers us such clear-cut choices.  Do the right thing.  Donate.

Christopher Fee has very generously offered to match contributions up to $500, which will in turn be matched by the Tides Foundation.  Yes, right now, you give $1, the j-school gets $4.  Don't leave the man hangin', and don't leave your ass hangin' off the end of my Red Wing.  Need I say, donate?

An appeal, and a pledge for quadruple matching funds

Dear Narco News Readers,

I am writing this letter in the hope you will support The Fund for Authentic Journalism, a nonprofit corporation helping to support Narco News, a tri-lingual online newspaper, and its School of Authentic Journalism.

A Referendum in Venezuela? Maybe

Standing in front of a large painting of Jesus, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez began his Thursday night address to the nation by invoking the name of "Christ Redeemer" and adding some personal religious thoughts. By the end of his introductory remarks, had there been a live audience present with some Christians in attendance, one possibly would have heard "Amens" and "Alleluias."

Chavez was about to share his reflections on the announcement by the National Electoral Commission that sufficient signatures had been gathered to have a referendum regarding his presidency.  He wanted make his comments in the presence of his most important heroes.

After standing in front of Jesus, he moved to paintings of Simon Bolivar and Antonio Jose de Sucre.  Finally he ended his remarks next to a bust of Ezequiel Zamora.

It was with Zamora in mind that he projected himself into the future and announced the new battle of Santa Ines.  In 1859 Zamora gave the federal army the impression that his troops were retreating.  They succeeded in their movement, turned around and conquered their enemy...

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