Who Would Jesus Jail?
This week, Colin Powell gives his blessing for over $30 million in aid to the Colombian armed forces, despite allegations of widespread human rights abuses; the Bush Administration increases its efforts to enlist religious organizations in anti-drug programs; while Bush & Co. press the Supreme Court to strip doctors' licenses for recommending marijuana to patients; and DEA head nominee Karen Tandy promises to continue raids on medical marijuana co-ops.
July 9 -- The Miami Herald reports: Citing Colombia's efforts to sever its ties with paramilitary forces and curtail human rights abuses, Secretary of State Colin Powell Tuesday paved the way for Colombia's armed forces to receive $31.6 million in aid for its ongoing battle against drug trafficking.
Powell's certification that Colombia has met standards set by Congress - -- part of an annual process required by law to release funds to the massive U.S. assistance program, Plan Colombia - -- drew immediate criticism from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
Although the amount certified Tuesday represents only a small portion of overall U.S. assistance to that nation, the implicit endorsement of Colombia's human rights efforts sparked a barrage of criticism from the rights groups, which have long complained of blatant abuses in a country where thousands die each year as a result of politically motivated attacks.
Much of the violence is blamed on armed rebel forces. But some of the deaths and other human rights violations have involved paramilitary organizations that have allegedly worked with the Colombian military.
''When the U.S. perceives that the human rights of U.S. military personnel is at stake, they will cut off funds, but not when the human rights of Colombians are at stake,'' said Eric Olson of Amnesty International.
July 11 -- Utah's Daily Herald reports: The Bush administration's latest effort to expand the role of religious organizations in government services enlists church-based youth groups in anti-drug programs.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy is offering guides, brochures and a Web site to provide information for leaders of religious youth groups to use in teaching -- or preaching -- a message against using marijuana and other drugs.
"Religious institutions are an enormously powerful influence on young people," said John P. Walters, director of the office, in announcing the program Thursday.
A priority of the Bush administration is to break long-standing barriers to federal funds for religious groups. But it has been unsuccessful in urging Congress to pass sweeping legislation to open government programs to such organizations.
Bush issued an executive order in December allowing religious groups that receive federal grants, contracts or other funds to hire and fire workers based on religion.
July 11 -- The Boston Globe reports: The Bush administration wants the Supreme Court's permission to strip prescription licenses from doctors who recommend marijuana to sick patients.
The administration, which has taken a hard stand against state medical marijuana laws, asked the high court to strike down an appeals court ruling that blocked the punishment or investigation of physicians who tell patients they may be helped by the drug.
July 11 -- The Fort Worth Star Telegram reports: Texan Karen Tandy was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday to head the Drug Enforcement Administration but ran into some last-minute opposition from two Democratic senators who complained about her hard line on medicinal marijuana.
Tandy, 49, a Justice Department lawyer, is still expected to be easily confirmed by the Senate but may encounter some vocal criticism of her position supporting enforcement of marijuana laws.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who had submitted written questions to Tandy after her confirmation hearing June 25, complained about her answers and questioned whether the DEA should "continue to focus its limited resources on the question of medical marijuana."
Tandy "didn't back off an inch" in supporting the continued DEA raids that have caused controversy in nine states that do not press charges against medical-marijuana patients and providers, Durbin said.
Tandy, a native of Hurst, said in her written answers that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the active ingredient in marijuana, has medicinal value when processed into Marinol. "Marijuana itself, however, has not been shown to have medical benefits," she wrote.
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