Allan Badiner

The Healing Power of Marijuana Has Barely Been Tapped

There are now legal medical cannabis programs in 23 states plus Washington, DC, with pot fully legal for adults in two other states. Ironically, however, the actual healing power of the plant has barely been tapped. Smoking marijuana with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), or better, vaporizing it (using a device to bake the plant material and inhale the active ingredients), has an indisputably palliative effect and can be medically useful for pain relief, calming and appetite stimulation. It already has confirmed benefits against glaucoma, epilepsy and other specific diseases and disorders. It also gets people high. THC triggers cannabinoid receptors in the brain and this produces the sensation of being stoned. These receptors are found in the parts of the brain linked to pleasure, memory, concentration, and time perception.

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The Healing Power of Marijuana Has Barely Been Tapped

There are now legal medical cannabis programs in 18 states plus Washington, DC, with pot fully legal for adults in two other states. Ironically, however, the actual healing power of the plant has barely been tapped. Smoking marijuana with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), or better, vaporizing it (using a device to bake the plant material and inhale the active ingredients), has an indisputably palliative effect and can be medically useful for pain relief, calming and appetite stimulation. It already has confirmed benefits against glaucoma, epilepsy and other specific diseases and disorders. It also gets people high. THC triggers cannabinoid receptors in the brain and this produces the sensation of being stoned. These receptors are found in the parts of the brain linked to pleasure, memory, concentration, and time perception.

Keep reading... Show less

How Facebook Betrayed Users and Undermined Online Privacy

In just six years Facebook has crossed the threshold of 500 million users. In the past nine months it has doubled in size and is now the number one most visited Web site in the world, surpassing Google. Facebook’s motto is “Making the world open and connected,” where a lone voice can have a powerful impact, as evidenced this year by one activist’s post on Facebook that sparked a demonstration of 12 million people against the Revolutionary Forces of Columbia (FARC), which had been terrorizing Colombian citizens for years.

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Is Vancouver About to Become the Greenest City in the World?

Just as American television chokes with scare ads attacking Canada's health care system, it was time to check if Vancouver, British Columbia, once ranked by The Economist as first in quality of living, was still pointing the way to the future.

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Eight Ways Obama Can Make Change Immediately

"Yes We Can" was sung to victory particularly by millions of young people, single women and black and brown people of all ages. These are the soldiers in Barack Obama's great army -- poised to prove that the election was just the first battle in a war of many. Just as the campaign itself was a threat to the status quo and the powerful interests that profit from it, so will be much of Obama's new agenda, and it will be up to all of us to make ourselves heard again and again.

Obama's victory is clearly historic, but does it really change the world? Yes and no. A dark cloud has finally passed, and there is a bright opening for a future to be possible. But for the immediate future there will still be troops in Iraq, there will still be an economic crisis, there will still be famine and conflict in Africa, and there will still be terrorist elements all over the world aiming their anger at the United States and the rest of the developed world.

Obama asked for our patience. "We may not get there in one year or one term," said Obama in his victory speech, "but I have never been more hopeful that we will get there." He called for a government by "yes you can" and asked for people to continue their historic campaign for change. The fact that we will now have a president who is willing to listen to the people does not diminish the need for the people to speak up forcefully.

But can Obama make meaningful change immediately? The power of the presidency is often exaggerated, particularly in the first year, and those less familiar with Washington politics are often oblivious to the real political constraints and limitations on strategies that every new president faces. It's not difficult to predict that a lot of people will be very disappointed with how long it takes for some crucial things to change.

But this time the need for change is so great, the dereliction of duty and corruption of values at the top of government so extensive for so long, that a plan for less controversial and yet significant changes can be immediately possible. Furthermore, the rout of Republican losses in the House and Senate will make this immediate agenda legislatively viable.

A list of changes on the fast track:

1. Creation of a massive green jobs initiative, mobilizing the unemployed to transform our energy landscape toward sustainability, providing incentives to volunteerism, and mobilizing a national effort (in the style of a Manhattan Project) to green all of our cities. An investment of $150 billion over 10 years should be made to support renewable energy and get 1 million plug-in electric cars on the road by 2015. Starting with green government procurement policies, a new powerful push will be made in the right direction. Imagine all new government purchases: fuel, vehicles, construction materials, supplies, etc., all strictly environmentally correct. Strategic tax and federal funding policies can promote energy efficiency incentives along with disincentives to pollute.

2. Respect for science, and renewed use of expert and diverse presidential commissions to encourage more realistic assessments and innovative ideas for solutions.

3. Renewed respect for international law, and a new series of accords and alliances with other nations for mutual security, cooperation on global climate action, and the establishment of a clear timetable for eliminating all nuclear weapons. A national commitment to reduce America's carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050 and to play a strong positive role in negotiating a binding global treaty to replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol should be an immediate priority. If it isn't, it means Obama needs citizen action to help it along.

4. Priority on educational quality, incentives for creativity, and the end of test-driven instruction.

5. Investment in the NGO community, creating channels for NGOs to influence and inform the policy process, mandatory service for pre-college students and tax credits for community services.

6. Closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention center and developing a plan for a more educated, more ethical and better equipped military. Huge resources are spent on defense, some of those resources will be redirected to educate soldiers -- culturally, etc. -- and improve on the ways we try to win wars, i.e., feeding people rather than bombing them. De-politicizing military intelligence will help avoid repeating the kind of manipulation that led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

7. Launch a major diplomatic effort to stop the killings in Darfur. Open diplomatic talks with countries like Iran and Syria to pursue peaceful resolution of tensions. Only negotiate new trade agreements that contain labor and environmental protections.

8. Internet privacy, network neutrality and access to broadband for all.

Policy re-directions on the most critical and controversial issues will take some time, and the most crucial one is stopping the war in Iraq. In this case, Obama would undoubtedly welcome strong grassroots agitation for a faster schedule of bringing soldiers home, and not just shifting the war to Afghanistan. While it is clear that a military solution is not in the cards, the war economy has more power in the downturns, and much outdated thinking needs to be transformed. Obama will need all our help in order to keep his promise to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq within 16 months and keep no permanent bases in the country.

One would imagine that the melting financial system would necessitate large and sudden shifts in economic policy, but the resistance to regulation and to movement toward economic justice remains fierce. Fiscal discipline, more accountability, lower taxes on the middle class and higher taxes on the very rich will be a long-term project. Likewise, universal U.S. Senate-quality health care for all is going to take lengthy and intense negotiation with powerful interests. A fire needs to be kept at the feet of every representative in the halls of Congress and the White House for the right of Americans to have affordable, quality health care. And while the economic downturn may make it more difficult, the United States must accelerate the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in Africa and Asia.

It is likely that Obama will soon pick at least two new justices on the Supreme Court, and women's right to make choices about their bodies will be preserved. Rumors are ripe that Hillary Clinton will be tapped for the bench, but in any event, the court will probably still stay fairly close to its current political balance. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court only hears fewer than 100 cases a year, and the federal and appellate courts are busy creating precedents and deciding the direction of American case law. In this area, Bush has dealt us a harsh blow. Many young judges have been appointed, and we will live with their judicial right-wing agenda for years to come. In time, Obama will mitigate the impact of this, too.

One immediate boost to our psycho-political sense of well-being will be Obama's invitation to experts of all persuasions to advise and inform the halls of power. Not only will the country be inspired by Obama's offer to work with Republicans and Independents closely, it will be thrilled to see him talk to people like Andrew Weil on the need to move toward integrative medicine and Warren Buffet on a smart federal investment policy, and the way the Obama administration will bring the nation's citizens to the table through vastly increased transparency and communication via the Internet.

America, ever more focused on itself, will be surprised and gladdened by the global outpouring of cheer and endorsement of our new internationally and instantly loved leader. America has redeemed itself for re-electing Bush, and is loved yet again for making a clear shift away from the misguided polices of its immediate past.

Most of all, America is loved for restoring long-overdue dignity to the non-white peoples of the world (the majority of humanity), and expressing in a most powerful way the truth of equality. In this way, all human beings on Earth will be immediate winners in the Obama drama. This is America's new and benign shock and awe. And this is just the beginning. The rest is up to us. Can we do it?

Can Barack Obama Become President?

The man with an increasingly good chance of becoming America's first black president officially announced his candidacy on a cold Springfield morning just as newly deceased Anna Nicole Smith and newly shorn Brittney Spears inflicted serious competition for TV viewers.

Nevertheless Barack Obama, the 45-year-old son of Kenya and Kansas, has penetrated the media's foggy obsession with tabloid stars and has become, in short order, a celebrity himself. He has jump-started interest in the presidential race and zinged from something like 12 percent name recognition to being a close second for the Democratic nomination. With the campaign's starting gun only just fired, Obama is already perceived as a powerful threat to Hillary Clinton's well-funded political juggernaut and John Edwards' carefully planned strategies, and has emerged as the presumptive speaker for the conscience of the country in the 2008 presidential sweepstakes.

Many are excited just to be passionate again about a presidential campaign, even if it turns out be the classic brief dance of an underdog. But with lightning swiftness, an Obama nomination seems tantalizingly possible. Even sitting presidents can't always raise the $1.3 million taken in by the Obama campaign during a single fundraising event in Los Angeles on Feb. 20 sponsored by Hollywood moguls Steven Spielberg, Jeff Katzenberg and David Geffen.

The field reports on Obama are also impressive: He recently addressed the largest ever pre-presidential-primary crowds in New Hampshire, Iowa, Ohio and Texas and has been endorsed by Iowa's attorney general and state treasurer -- pragmatic characters practiced at backing obvious winners in their state. The Iowa caucuses early next year will be among the nation's first electoral tests of presidential candidates. Inside the offices of MoveOn.org, there is agreement that Obama is far and away the favorite among its members and has been for the past six months. Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle has endorsed him, saying that Obama "personifies the future of Democratic leadership."

What do we know about this first-term U.S. senator who wants to be our president? The Obama resume is formidable: Harvard Law School graduate and president of the Harvard Law Review, civil rights lawyer, constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago, author of two best-selling books, grass-roots organizer and Illinois senator for eight years, where his style has been described as methodical, inclusive and pragmatic. Factors such as his stalwart opposition to the Iraq war, a growing appreciation for his self-effacing charm and crossover appeal, and Americans' desire for fresh and future-focused leadership all seem to bode well for Obama's continuing momentum.

Race in the race

So now that Obama has burst on the scene as a real contender, the question becomes: Is America ready to elect a black man to its presidency?

For sure an Obama nomination would be a powerful update on the black condition in America and signal wide acceptance of the enormous diversity of its population. Yet, on the other hand there are pockets of resistance and reluctance in the African-American community to get on the Obama bandwagon. Some question Obama being the product of a mixed marriage -- his mother is white, his father from Kenya. Obama's origins were not the slave experience shared by many African-Americans, especially its senior political class. But that may not have as much impact in the rank and file, and among younger African-Americans.

Meanwhile Bill Clinton has been by far the most popular president among black voters, and Hillary Clinton has her share of their support. The initial reluctance among black voters should have been no surprise -- the Clintons have earned their close friendship with African-Americans. But as the viability of Obama's run becomes more apparent, a dramatic growth of his support in black America is to be expected.

Surely Obama's ideas and positions will play well in black communities: universal healthcare, technological improvements for poor and rural communities, reform for the political system, energy independence and ending the war in Iraq. The fact that racial minorities make up a disproportionate percentage of the dead in Iraq and Afghanistan is not lost on people of color in this country.

For many, Sen. Obama represents a modern and positive image of blackness. He is a worldly, well-educated man married to a well-educated professional black woman. Another way that the race issue may ultimately work in Obama's favor is that it helps force those who are loudly critical to base their stand on his record and positions and steer clear of personal attacks that could be construed as racist.

But what about the election? The voting booth provides ample coverage for secret racists. Yet a newly announced Gallup poll found that 94 percent of Americans would vote for their party's African-American nominee for president before their party's woman nominee. And it's safe to assume that the same people who would reject Obama on the basis of his skin color would probably reject his progressive views even if he were white.

The votes he may "lose" due to race alone are votes he would not have had anyway. With his early and impressive following among young people, some experts are predicting an unprecedented increase of eligible young voters coming to the polls to support Obama in 2008.

Other well-known figures have paved the way for Obama's run. The first black woman to be elected to Congress, Shirley Chisholm, ran for president in 1972 and established the importance of the black vote. In 1984 and 1988, Jesse Jackson was taken seriously as a possible presidential candidate and won more states in the 1988 primaries than anyone thought possible. Throughout the 1990s former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was riding a wave of success after the first Gulf War, was widely lauded as presidential material. Had he run in 1996, he may well have won. As with Obama, his racially mixed background was seen as a plus. Finally, in 2004 both Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton ran full-blown campaigns for president.

It is unlikely that there will be a moment during the nomination process when everyone suddenly decides that the time is right for a black president. If history is any guide, these cultural shifts take on a life of their own, and only after the fact does everyone agrees it was time.

The experience paradox

In 2008, given the disastrous state of political affairs in America and its standing in the world community, the candidates with the most Washington experience appear to be headed for trouble in some popularity surveys. Polling consistently shows that many Americans want a fresh approach, a leader who is not representative of the system that has brought us to the crisis point. "Most voters want something new," says Democratic consultant Donna Brazile, who managed Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000. "They want less D.C. experience and more good values."

Nevertheless, Obama does have significant experience under his belt -- eight years in the Illinois state Senate and a seat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his first two years in the Senate. Senator Obama has been notably productive in Washington -- he's the primary sponsor of 152 bills and resolutions, including three Senate resolutions, and 14 bills that he co-sponsored have become law. He introduced the Spent Nuclear Fuel Tracking and Accountability Act, which works to deter nuclear proliferation; the Drinking Water Security Act of 2005, which reduces pollutants in our water; and the Lane Evans Veterans Health and Benefits Improvement Act of 2006, which secures health benefits for our veterans.

Obama's perspective on the topic of experience is instructive: "Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld have an awful lot of experience, yet they have engineered what I think is one of the biggest foreign policy failures in our recent history. So I would say the most important things are judgment and vision ... and passion for the American people and what their hopes and dreams are." He is on record as believing that given a certain necessary level of experience, sound judgment is always more important than time on the job.

Can Hillary hold on?

Many Democrats agree that their '08 candidate should be a unifier, someone who can give voice to the issues Americans agree on and reach across independents and some Republicans for votes. Hillary Clinton, despite her high name recognition, acumen for raising money, political markers transferred from Bill and popularity among the Democratic elite, will have to prove that she is not the polarizing figure that many of rank-and-file Democrats worry about. Intelligent and articulate, she nevertheless lacks the ability to connect with people that made Bill so magnetic. To quote Bill Mahar, "She's the wrong Clinton."

Others fear that once Hillary is a candidate, Republicans will relentlessly dredge up vivid reminders of the more tawdry aspects of the Clinton presidency: the Monica Lewinsky revelations, Jennifer Flowers and the impeachment attempt. Many Americans were sympathetic to Hillary throughout that drama, but it is a fair guess that voters do not want to be reminded of it daily.

There is also a long history of Hillary being the prime target of reactionary talk show hosts throughout the American South and West, who railed on nightly about Hillary and invited listeners to call in and join in the demonization of the first lady when Bill was president. The right-wing conspiracy that Hillary decried did in fact exist, and she was their target. Although attacks on Hillary were essentially groundless, almost half of the American electorate go into this election season with a negative perception of Hillary Clinton.

Finally, Hillary's refusal to "admit she made a mistake" when voting on the Iraq war is regarded by many as a strategic blunder and stands in contrast to Obama's clarity about the need to end the occupation of Iraq quickly.

Obama on record

"I think one of the things about national politics that is so exhausting is this attempt to airbrush your life," Sen. Obama has said. "This is who I am, and this is where I've come from." Some critics have called Obama the Rorschach candidate, loved not so much for his positions but for his appealing persona. The instant rock-star status he enjoys, and the media frenzy he generates, have the downside of creating the impression that he is heavy on charm and light on ideas. Yet in his new book, "The Audacity of Hope," Obama spells out his platform in detail. His stands on the most complex and divisive issues of the day, from gay marriage to the Middle East to the death penalty, are fully explained in 384 well-written pages that the average reader can comprehend.

The book also recounts Obama's position on the Iraq war. In 2002, he strongly opposed the invasion of Iraq because he felt it was an ill-conceived venture that would "require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undermined cost with undetermined consequences." He warned that an invasion without strong international support could "drain our military, distract us from the war with Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and further destabilize the Middle East." Currently, Obama takes issue with those who feel the problem was one of strategy or implementation: "I have long believed it has also been a failure of conception, and that the rationale behind the war itself was misguided." In January 2007, Sen. Obama introduced legislation that would commence redeployment of troops no later than May 1 of the same year.

But with friends like democrats...

Universal healthcare, energy independence, action on global warming, more affordable education and a phased withdrawal from Iraq all will have a clear appeal to progressives. But one should never underestimate the ability of Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

A sizable percentage of the progressive sector may not be happy with any candidate who does not agree with them on every issue. They have already shown a surprising lack of concern for the political and practical consequences of their inflexibility. The following that Dennis Kucinich, and Ralph Nader enjoyed are cases in point. Intractable liberal voters are like window shoppers who feel most comfortable going home empty-handed and later whining that they couldn't find something they liked. They may have been as responsible for reelecting Bush as his hard-core conservative base.

Has America under George W. Bush dropped into an abyss of moral and economic bankruptcy? Sadly, this is what our nation now represents to the rest of the world. Perhaps the most groundbreaking aspect of an Obama presidency would be the message it sends globally: The post-Bush era of American governance has arrived.

If candidate Obama's challenges are daunting, his overcoming those challenges would be all the more significant for many around the globe. An Obama presidency could vault him and all of us into a new era, where sane and compassionate policies are championed by a more united and rational citizenry. Still, world popularity doesn't elect U.S. presidents. Will Americans be driven primarily by their fear or their hope? The possibility of a new president named Barack Hussein Obama hangs in the balance.

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