In Latin America, Foes Aren't the Only Danger
WHEN the fighter pilot's fire ripped through a plane carrying an
American missionary family over Peru last week, the bullet holes
opened up ironic points of light into American foreign policy in
"Know your enemy and know yourself; in 100 battles you will never be
in peril," Sun Tzu wrote in "The Art of War." In Latin America,
though, it is its friends and allies that the United States does not
seem to want to know too well. Today, particularly where the drug war
rages, it finds itself, as it has so often in the past, in the
awkward position of an arm's-length embrace.
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Medical marijuana proponent Steve Kubby -- who won acquittal earlier
this year on charges that he grew 265 pot plants at his home for
personal profit -- was told Friday that he wouldn't be able to smoke
cannabis while serving a 120-day jail term on the two drug charges he
was convicted of.
Kubby produced expert witnesses during a lengthy pot-possession-for-sale
trial to back his contention that heavy marijuana smoking keeps a rare
form of cancer he suffers from at bay.
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Further evidence that the winds of war are changing directions was the
presence of several local judges at a luncheon where the speaker
lambasted our current drug laws and called for reform.
They had to know ahead of time that such would be the tenor of the
talk because the man at the rostrum was James Gray, author of a new
book, Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It, and
because the Thursday noontime event was produced by the Drug Policy
Forum of Texas, which promotes open discussion about options to our
current drug policies.
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What kind of vindictive social agenda could lead to a law that denies
financial aid to a student convicted of smoking a joint but not one
convicted of rape, murder, arson or armed robbery?
America's drug war insanity claimed fresh victims last week. The casualties
were rightly front-page news -- a child and her mother murdered in the
skies of Peru in the name of protecting our children from drugs. Receiving
a lot less attention were the tens of thousands of young people wounded by
the Bush administration's decision to strictly enforce a law that denies
financial aid to college students convicted of possessing illegal drugs.
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I n the case of John Tobin, a 24-year-old Fulbright Scholar suspected in
Russia of espionage and currently on trial there for marijuana possession,
one of two film scripts apply. Either it's "Midnight Express", the story of
a foolish young American who breaks the stringent drug laws of a
third-world country and consequently spends many years in a brutal prison.
Or it's "Gotcha!", the story of an innocent young American who gets caught
behind the Iron Curtain in a web of international intrigue. Whichever way,
what the case suggests about the current state of Russia is not encouraging.
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VORONEZH, Russia (AP) -- A Russian judge sentenced an American Fulbright
scholar on Friday to three years and one month in prison after convicting
him on charges of drug possession, purchase and distribution.
John Tobin, 24 years old, of Ridgefield, Conn., was found innocent of
another charge, persuading others to use narcotics.
Before the verdict was read, Mr. Tobin delivered his final statement to the
court from the metal cage where defendants are confined during Russian trials.
"Your Honor, respected participants in the trial, I consider myself not
guilty. I am a student. I came here to study," he said in Russian.
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- A U.S. delegation traveled to Peru over the weekend and
is expected to meet Monday with Peruvian officials for discussions about
the downing of an American missionary plane in an effort to find ways to
prevent similar incidents in the future.
Assistant Secretary of State Randy Beers, who heads the State Department's
counternarcotics bureau, leads the delegation, spokesman Philip Reeker said
Friday. Mr. Reeker said the talks will center on causes of the incident and
on measures to prevent a recurrence.
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I'm glad a full 41 percent of Alaskans voted hemp/marijuana legal in nearly
every way, shape and form. And rightly it should be legal. This I say
having had close acquaintance with this herb for over 30 years.
If Shakespeare or an African Pygmy had/has the liberty, why does our
government prohibit it? Any why governmental law but not the culture of the
people? Which is worse, unfounded fear of the masses or liberty of each to
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Robert Downey Jr. is in trouble again. Los Angeles police took him into
custody this week for public intoxication, the latest arrest in a long
series of legal problems dating back to 1996 when he was charged with
heroin, cocaine and weapons possession.
While sympathy for the actor may be wearing thin -- his "Ally McBeal"
producer is said to be "furious" -- there remains profound hand-wringing
over what to do now. Should he be treated for his addiction? Should he go
to jail? Do we hold him accountable? And if so, how?
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