Marijuana is not a “gateway drug” for teens at all, says new study

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In a recently completed study, scientists at New York University Langone Medical Center’s department of population health have concluded that marijuana is not a gateway drug for teens.

Looking at high school seniors over the course of 11 years — seniors who had reported using marijuana in the past 12 months — the researchers found that although many teens did use other drugs, evidence showed that this was not due to using marijuana first.

“Most teens who use marijuana don’t progress to use of other drugs, and we believe this is evidenced in part by the fact that nearly two-thirds of these marijuana-using teens did not report use of any of the other illicit drugs we examined,” said lead author Joseph Palamar.

“The majority of adults in the U.S. have at least tried marijuana, and we know the majority has never gone on to use another drug, yet we tend to treat all drug use as pathological,” he added.

So what does cause teens to use drugs?

Two significant causes found by the study were boredom and a desire to expand consciousness.

Almost one-third of the teens in the study cited boredom as the reason they used drugs. This group was 43 percent more likely to use cocaine and 56 percent more likely to try a hallucinogen other than LSD.

Around one-fifth reported a desire to achieve insight or understanding. These teens were 51 percent more likely to try a hallucinogen other than LSD.

The drug-experimenter group actually had a decreased risk of using any of the other eight drugs asked about in the study.

But boredom and the quest for greater understanding don’t explain all drug users, the researchers stated, and Palamar stressed the importance of finding out the real reasons people use mind-altering substances.

Marcia Lee Taylor, president and CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, agreed. “No matter what drug we’re talking about, motivations are really important,” she said. “We need to understand what is motivating a teen to use if we want to know how to prevent it.”

“Science has consistently shown that environmental factors, such as ready access to other illicit substances, and personal traits, such as a propensity toward risk-seeking behavior, are associated with the decision to move from marijuana to other illicit substances,” commented Paul Armentano, deputy director of the pro-marijuana group NORML. “But marijuana’s drug chemistry likely does not play a significant role, if any role, in this decision.”

By Sid Douglas

Human rights complaints against former Chinese head of state rise to 35,000

falun gong
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Complaints against Jiang Zemin, the former leader of China’s Communist Party, rose from only a few thousand to around 35,000 over the previous month. The number of complainants is currently around 44,000.

They are practitioners and supporters of the Chinese religion Falun Gong, and they are urging China’s governing authorities to bring Jiang to justice for his administration’s persecution of the minority religion.

Similar to other mass movements currently taking place in China, the group action against Jiang is taking place on a website. Claimants are submitting complaints to Minghui. Between 1,700 and 2,700 complaints have been filed per day between the end of June and the beginning of July, mostly in China, but complaints have also come in from 19 other countries.

Read more: Why over 1.5 million people a month have been renouncing affiliation with Chinese Communist Party

The complaints include illegal detention, forced labor, torture, and murder.

Over the past 16 years, the Chinese government’s torture of Falun Gong adherents has resulted in 3,800 reported deaths. The actual number may be much higher, as matters such as executions, although extremely common in China relative to the rest of the world, are guarded as state secrets.

Read more: China Executed Three times More People Last Year Than Rest of the World Combined – Report

The movement continues to spread as Falun Gong practitioners and their families spread pamphlets and banners.

Expat adherents of the religion have also been attempting to raise awareness. Survivors held a rally outside the Chinese Consulate in New York City July 3, where many gave accounts of the torture they had experienced under Jiang.

By James Haleavy

19-year-old becomes 25-year sex offender after meeting 17-year… actually, 14-year-old internet contact

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19-year-old Zachery Anderson has been sentenced to jail and a 25-year record on the sex offender registry in a state where the minimum age of legal consent is 16. Anderson’s internet date, who he met on the app Hot or Not, claimed to be 17. It was not weeks after the two teens hooked up he learned her real age — 14.

The Indiana resident was sentenced to 90 days jail time in Michigan, the state where the crime was committed, addition to Michigan’s sex offender registry for 25 years, and will likely be added to the Indiana sex offender registry for life, which will require that he never live near schools, parks or other public places, and will allow police searches of his home every 90 days. Anderson’s probation also prohibits his using the internet, which he requires to study computer science, for five years.

After approving each other’s pictures on the popular app Hot or Not, the two teens communicated through messaging before meeting in person. On the app, the girl had not identified herself as age 13-17 — which age range is kept separate from users over 18 — but had identified herself as over 18, and while communicating through text messaging the girl told Anderson she was actually 17.

“I don’t want him to be a sex offender because he really is not.” – Mother of the girl

The two met when Anderson drove to Niles, Michigan, and they had sex that night.

Weeks later, Anderson learned from the girl that he was going to be in trouble and that she was actually 14. They did not communicate after the Skype call in which this information was conferred.

The girl’s parents had contacted the police to find out about her whereabouts, which led to the arrest of Anderson, who pled guilty to the charge of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.

During the trial, the girl and her mother both asked that the case be dropped, and asked for leniency.

“What do I say? I feel that nothing should happen to Zach,” said the girl at a hearing. “I, I mean I, I don’t know. I just … if you feel like something should, I feel like the lowest thing possible.”

The girl’s mother added, “I don’t want him to be a sex offender because he really is not and I know that there’s an age difference and I realize that [the girl] was inappropriate that night, we didn’t know. I’m very sorry and I hope you’ll really consider the fact of just dropping the case. I can’t say anything more than that. I hope you really will for all of our families.”

“I feel that nothing should happen to Zach. I feel like the lowest thing possible.” – The girl

The judge opted not to offer leniency under the state’s Holmes Youthful Training Act, but proceeded with sentencing on the grounds of what the judge said was an inappropriate way for people to meet:

“You went online, to use a fisherman’s expression, trolling for women, to meet and have sex with,” said judge Dennis M. Wiley of Berrien County District Court. “That seems to be part of our culture now. Meet, hook up, have sex, sayonara. Totally inappropriate behavior. There is no excuse for this whatsoever.”

Critics of the ruling, however, who are also also calling for reforms in sex offender legislation, have argued that there was no evidence of “trolling for women, to meet and have sex with” on the part of Anderson, and have also objected to Wiley’s characterization of American culture.

By Cheryl Bretton

Elkhart Truth

New York Times

600 churches in six states call for end of War on Drugs

War on Drugs
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Under the banner of the New England Annual Conference of United Methodist Churches, 600 Methodist churches in six states have issued a resolution passed Saturday calling for an end of the War on Drugs in the name of Christ.

The group urged “a new system of the care and restoration of victims” and the community as a whole, according to the resolution published on the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition website, whose mission the Conference resolved to support.

The group cited the failure of the “‘so-called’ War on Drugs” to make progress in eliminating “or even reducing” substance abuse, as well as the negative consequences that have resulted from “War on Drugs” policy, including a violent underground market and its associated loss of life, the high incidence of death due to overdose in the unregulated and sometimes adulterated market, and the harms associated with processing and punishing people as criminals for drug use.

“The ‘War on Drugs’ has arguably been the single most devastating, dysfunctional social policy since slavery” for people of color, the resolution noted, while costing millions of dollars per year to finance.

The group concluded that the issue was one of the poor and marginalized, and the consequence of the drug war was “mass incarceration, racial injustice, and the breakdown of families,” according to Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of LEAP.

The group made their call under the authority of “the love of Christ, who came to save those who are lost and vulnerable.”

By James Haleavy

Below-zero fluid viscosity achieved by “doping” bacteria

Below-zero fluid viscosity achieved by "doping" bacteria
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New rheological research has created fluid viscosity in which the viscous resistance to shear disappears. Researchers at University Paris-Sud in France employed swimming bacteria and organized them to push past the dissipative effects of viscous loss to create a “superfluidlike” suspension.

The collectively organized “pusher swimmers” may be harvested to power tiny mechanical devices such as microfluid pumps, the researchers believe.

Paris-Sud’s Hector Lopez and his team studied fluid-bacteria mixtures, measuring their viscosity within a container that applied shear stress with a rotating outer wall.

They found that the use of swimming E. coli bacteria reduced the viscosity for low to moderate stress values. But when the team energized the E. coli with extra nutrients — “doping” them, as the researchers referred to it — the E. coli’s heightened swimming activity created below-zero viscosity similar to the viscosity of superfluids like liquid helium.

The secret to this swimming success is in the organization of organisms that force fluid to flow out from their tails. When their efforts are aligned collectively, their bulk “push” contributes to the velocity gradient of their liquid environment.

The report, “Turning Bacteria Suspensions into Superfluids,” was completed by Dr. Héctor Matías López, Jérémie Gachelin, Carine Douarche, Harold Auradou, and Eric Clément and published in Physical Review Letters.

By Sid Douglas

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Mexican Day Of The Dead On Janitzio Island – Photo Document

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JANITZIO, Mexico — Hundreds of candles flickering, the smell of Cempasúchil flowers freshly collected and an ethereal mist fill the cemetery as Mexicans honor their deceased loved ones during the Day of the Dead on the small island of Janitzio.

The festival is one of Mexico’s most rooted traditions. It has been alive for over 4,000 years and is celebrated by millions throughout the country, attracting tourists from all over the world.

In Janitzio, in the state of Michoacan, a group of indigenous people called Purepechas exercise self rule over the island in the form of a cooperative, and each year they prepare themselves to honor their loved ones in the old-fashioned way. They receive thousands of tourists wanting to witness the folklore of the island. For the Purepecha people this represents a double-edged moral issue: On one hand the excessive flow of tourists prevents them from performing their rituals and honoring their deceased in peace, but on the other hand, tourists provide an important source of income to the local economy that cannot be ignored.

The celebration starts on October 31, when friends and family gather together to create a huge wreath of marigold flowers, fruits and sweets which will be taken to the cemetery on November 1. A feast in honor of the deceased is held in which the taste of traditional food delights the palate of those present; meanwhile, locals start preparations to receive the biggest flow of tourists the island will see all year — boats, life jackets, handcrafts, spectacles, everything must be ready for their arrival.

In the cemetery of Janitzio at 5 a.m. on the first of November, families of the deceased are carrying marigold flowers and offerings. This will be the only part of the day when they can enjoy their time with the dead in peace. A mass takes place at the cemetery and in the distance the first boatloads of tourists are slowly making their way to the island. A heavy mist can be seen from the cemetery, perhaps the announcement of the arrival of another kind of visitor — those who don’t belong to the living world.

Text and Images by David Córdova

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North Korean camp survivor Dong-Hyuk Shin tells true feelings about his book and campaign

North Korea prison camp escapee and human right activist, Dong-Hyuk Shin
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Dong-Hyuk Shin, the only North Korean prison camp escapee, revealed that the inaccurate details in his autobiography “Escape from Camp 14” were neither lies nor confusion about his memories following his traumatic experiences. He just wanted to keep some painful experiences to himself.

“First of all, let me tell about the controversial issues surrounding my book, as some people are still regarding me as a liar. For what and how would I make up those horrible memories? I just wanted to hide a part of my life in the book. Isn’t that a choice I am free to make?” Shin said.

Escape from Camp14
Escape From Camp 14

According to the book, Shin underwent torture in North Korea’s most notorious political prison camp, No.14, at the age of 13. He later corrected this claim, however, to say that it was actually in Camp 18, known to be less controlled, when he was 20 years old, after moving out of Camp 14 at age six. Shin was transferred back to Camp 14, again, so he escaped from No. 14 in the end.

He said that he also had to correct the inaccurate report about his confession from United States media. The author of his book, Blaine Harden added in a new forward of the e-book that, “Trauma experts see nothing unusual in this.”

Shin, however, strongly denied the loss of memories, as Harden explained. “I didn’t forget any of the memories of my life. In reality, I couldn’t forget them even if I tried.  Every time I tried to erase those terrifying moments, they remained in my head more clearly,” he said.

The prison camp survivor has undergone a tough time since the end of last year, when he arrived in South Korea. Last October, North Korean authorities produced a video called “Lie and Truth” to attack Shin, who had given evidence of North Korea’s human rights violations in front of the UN Commission of Inquiry. In the video, Shin’s father — whom he believed to be dead — contradicted his story.

“I found out that my father was still alive when I watched the video. I believed that he died in the prison camp where he was transferred. When I saw him in such a ridiculous video for the first time, I wasn’t happy at all, but I felt despair. I thought that he would’ve rather died than lived, because I can imagine how much he suffered and is still suffering tortures in the country because of me.”

“If I knew that my story would have gained this much fame at that time, I would’ve disclosed every single detail to the writer.”

The video and the presence of his father ultimately made him reveal what he did not explain in the book. Amid condemnation from many people, he could not stand the criticism of other North Korean defectors.

“I didn’t care about the South Korean media that only focused on the numbers, such as Camp 14 and 18 and my age, while ignoring the scars of prison camp torture on my body. But I was very sad and even enraged because of other defectors who had suffered in North Korea like me,” he continued.

“Some of them denounced me by showing the video produced by North Korean government. I felt miserable, as they didn’t know my true intention, which was to save the dying. I think that they might be jealous of my fame and money. But to be honest, I didn’t earn any money while working for human rights. And the fame had nothing to do with my life, since many North Koreans are still being killed. If I knew that my story would have gained this much fame at that time, I would’ve disclosed every single detail to the writer.”

He alluded to discontinuity in the campaign on his Facebook page this January, but a month later he restarted it.

The prison camp survivor has been involved in North Korean human right activity since 2007. But recently he has felt that everything that he has done was in vain, as nothing has changed yet compared to eight years ago.

“I started this campaign desperately to save tens of thousands of maltreated North Korean residents, because I was also one of them. I didn’t have time, as people were dying every second.”

He was particularly skeptical about the UN’s inquiry into the human rights situation in North Korea, launched in 2013.

“For what did the United Nations establish the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea? What did they do for North Korean residents? It took more than one year for the UN General Assembly’s Human Rights Committee to adopt the resolution. What is next, then?

“I gave all evidence to them in order to save my family and friends — not to lay flowers on their graves. I don’t think that the officials of the UN would understand how serious the real situation in North Korea is, because most of them have not lived that kind of a desperate life.”

The 33-year-old activist begged people to see the invisible reality: “When I told my story to the UN, at first they asked me whether I could prove it,” he said.

“Six million Jews died in the Holocaust over the course of about three years. Who imagined that many people were killed in that short a time? It is exactly same as 70 years ago. We can’t see what is happening in North Korea, but the fact is that people are being publicly executed at this very moment.”

“I felt miserable, as they didn’t know my true intention, which was to save the dying.”

Despite of his sense of futility over his human rights campaign, he said that he will never give it up.

Currently, Shin is planning two projects for the near future. “I’m thinking to publish a magazine about ordinary South Koreans’ lives and to send them into North Korea through the Chinese border with North Korea,” he said.

Similarly, South Korea’s activist groups, led by North Korean defectors, have sent anti-North propaganda leaflets, attached to large balloons, from near the border for several years. This activity, however, escalated tensions between the two Koreas, and North Korean authorities even threatened South Korea with military action.

“North Korea’s sensitive reaction indicates that these flyers are quite influential in society. I chose to produce a magazine to describe South Korea more specifically. I would like to feature photos of couples holding hands, drinking coffee in the cafe, and walking freely in central Seoul. And I wish North Koreans could realize that they also have a right to live like that.”

“I found out that my father was still alive when I watched the video. I believed that he died in the prison camp where he was transferred.”

He said that the second project is a bit more personal. “I’m aiming to make a video that rebuts every part of the video ‘Lie and Truth,’ before a conference at the United Nations in Geneva this September,” he said.

Through the video, he is hoping to send two messages to the North Korean government. “My ultimate goal is to enter North Korea with a delegation to the UN, and I want to visit Camp 14 where I was born and lived. If I can do that, no one will dispute my life, and finally I can prove the human rights violations,” he said.

The other message seems to be more important for In-Gun Shin — that was the original name of human rights activist Dong-Hyuk Shin.

“I’ll request the authorities let me meet my father either in North Korea or in a third country before he dies. And firstly, I’ll ask him why I was born in the prison camp. I then will say ‘I love you’ to my father for the first and last time.”

Photo and article by EJ Monica Kim

The Israeli Druze: soldiers and citizens

The Israeli Druze: soldiers and citizens
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In this in-depth guest post, Israeli soldier Josh Green, who has lived and worked side by side with the Israel’s Druze population, paints a picture of his experience and and familiarity with a group that accounts for a significant portion of the IDF. 

The Druze have a total population of around 1-2 million. The largest community lives in Syria. Approximately 130,000 Druze live in Israel, and have served among the front lines of the Israeli army since 1956. It is estimated that over 83 percent of eligible Israeli Druze enlist in the army–above even the Jewish enlistment rate of 75 percent. Druze, who according to research by Tel Aviv University, predominently and increasingly self-identify as “Druze-Isrelis,” also increasingly are joining elite units of the IDP rather than the official Druze batallion, Herev.

The Druze population of Israel (and the world at large) is a confusing and mysterious one. This is partially intentional on their part and partly due to lack of media attention and widespread familiarity. To understand who the Israeli Druze are, first we must explore what it is to be Druze. Unfortunately, this is not as easy as it sounds. The Druze culture and religion is heavily steeped in esotericism, therefore there are few hard facts that we can confirm relating to their religion. What we do know (and what I know personally from Druze friends that I proudly serve with) is The Israeli Druze: soldiers and citizensthat their religion is monotheistic, loosely based on the tenets of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, and comprised of levels. They have basically the same moral values as Christianity, Judaism and Islam, with minor changes. The Druze have a strong aversion to iconography and images of god and idols are forbidden; however, they do have certain symbols, such as the five colored star representing the limits of humanity and the difference between a human soul and an animal. The five-colored star also incorporates phi, the golden ratio, as a way to express the Druze ideal of a life of moderation and temperance. The Druze believe that some wisdom from their sages and holy books is too powerful for the uninitiated and those who are not learned enough, and so the elders hide it and reveal it only to those they deem worthy. Many young Druze have no idea why they perform certain rituals, and refuse to explain why they perform others. There is no conversion in the Druze religion whatsoever, meaning that someone born Druze stays that way regardless of whether they convert to another religion, as conversion is not recognized. There is also no way to become Druze for someone not born into it.

The Druze are very proud of their culture and heritage and take offense easily when criticized or questioned too much. Insults are taken very seriously in their culture, especially those relating to female members of the family. Probably the worst thing you can call a Druze person is Arab. The Israeli Druze soldiers and citizensThey are often mistaken for Arabs due to their appearance and language, but this is incredibly insulting to them. Insulting a Druze person is very dangerous and can be hazardous to your health and should therefore be avoided at all costs. Despite how protective many Druze are of the women in their families, the women have almost the same religious rights and and responsibilities, though they are less represented in the military than the men. The Druze are similar to the Sikhs in that they take pride in being warriors and defending their country, but it is more based on nationalism as opposed to glorification of battle. A very important part of Druze doctrine and culture relates to loyalty. They believe that loyalty to the nation comes before loyalty to other Druze (outside of the immediate family, as far as I understand it), and the Israeli Druze originally volunteered for the IDF shortly after the birth of the nation. Now they are drafted for compulsory military service just like Jews and other ethnic groups. Druze citizens of Israel are Israelis first and Druze second.

This was especially visible in the wars Israel fought with Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan, as they all have significant Druze minorities. In many of these wars there were prominent Druze on both sides, and both sides fought viciously to the end. The conflict is most pronounced in the somewhat disputed Golan Heights, where some 20,000 Druze live. Some of them are not sure whether they should be fighting as Syrians under occupation, or as Israelis. From what I am told, the dedication to country first is somehow religiously motivated, but the people I asked refused to elaborate. Regardless, those who live in the Golan and in Judea and Samaria, whose fate is uncertain, could go from being Israelis to being enemies of Israel because they live somewhere that got traded as part of some treaty or agreement. The Druze are unreservedly loyal, and many see the army as a path to advancement, which, of course, it is. In Israel, the first question any prospective employer will ask is about your army service. It serves as an indicator of a person’s talents, determination, physical ability, and leadership skills. For example, former officers are very desirable employees, as the IDF officers’ course is very competitive and many are rejected, and many of those accepted are dropped partway through. Being an officer shows leadership skills, intelligence, determination and talent. Other army positions like general combat soldiers, translators, medics, etc show prospective employers that the ex soldier can handle stressful situations, or has good command of multiple languages, or has medical knowledge and experience.

In the army, Druze are very valuable because of their language skills. Their first language is Arabic and they learn Hebrew in school, therefore they are theoretically bilingual. In practice of course, there are those who speak fluent Arabic, Hebrew and English, and those who speak mostly Arabic and can only get by in Hebrew. Despite the disparity, Druze are often elevated to high positions where their language skills will be of use The Israeli Druze soldiers and citizens (2)and are also often found in special forces units. This is partially due to their appearance (very close to Arabs) and language skills, allowing them to pass as Arab if needed, and partially due to their determination to succeed and to serve their country. I had a Druze officer in basic training and in my operational service, and he was an incredible officer, a perfect example of a good soldier and he took care of his men, as an officer should. Not only that, he is also around six and a half feet tall and 250 pounds, very little of it fat. Despite his height and bulk, he is unbelievably fast and silent, moving like moonlight on a waterfall, disarming a knife-wielding opponent with a quick burst of violence. He was intimidating in Krav Maga (IDF hand to hand combat) classes to say the least. One second we would square off, and then next I would be in pain, on my back, with no idea how I had arrived there. Even so, he was (and I assume he remains) a patient and effective teacher, and he was a tough commander, but was always there for his men when they needed him. When we were at checkpoints or dealing with terrorists we had arrested, he was always very rough with the Arabs, and it was almost as though he hated them. I asked him about it, and he said that not only are they hurting his country and his friends, but also have similar religious tenets and beliefs, and to see terrorists pervert Islam like that makes him angry. He said “there can be no good reason for hurting innocent people if it can be avoided at all, and targeting them on purpose is unforgiveable”. Many Druze share his point of view, and it is common knowledge in the army that Druze often hate the terrorists more than the other Israelis serving in the army do. Their unquestionable loyalty and dedication to Israel only amplifies their value and increases mainstream Israelis’ appreciation for them.

Despite all of these great qualities and the impact Druze soldiers have in the army, they are not so well known. Most Israelis know very little about the Druze outside of the basic common knowledge. Druze can often be seen in shuks (outdoor markets where haggling is the norm) and malls with stands selling their distinctive Druze laffa bread baked on an enormous inverted bowl, which is then liberally smeared with Labaneh (a type of cheese spread) and za’atar (a popular spice made with sesame seeds and other ingredients), or whatever the customer requests. The Druze at the kiosks are usually wearing traditional clothing and head coverings, as Druze custom and religion dictates modesty among men and women alike; however many younger Druze have more modern attitudes toward dress and dating. Druze can also often be seen guarding checkpoints as civilian contractors after the army, as well as guarding gates of Jewish villages and towns in the West Bank. The civilian contractors who facilitate high risk security jobs only take the best, and Druze are among the most desirable for these jobs due to their unflinching loyalty and natural suspicion (Druze have been persecuted by mainstream and radical Islam for centuries). The Druze are a perfect example of the diversity of Israel. Even though they are very different in language, appearance, religion, culture, and live in their own villages (by their own choice) somewhat separated from the rest of Israel, they are accepted and loved and considered an integral part of Israeli society. They serve as soldiers, guards, doctors, lawyers, interpreters, and scientists. It is a shame that they are not as well known or well represented, but maybe that is because there are only 130,000 or so in Israel. I am proud to serve next to the Druze soldiers of the IDF, and we as a whole are proud to have such dedicated and loyal citizens.

By Josh Green.

Josh Green is currently serving as a combat soldier in the IDF, and was active during the most recent war in Gaza.