All posts by culturecenter

 MAJOR ALCOHOL INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION ANNOUNCES SUPPORT FOR RIGHT TO LEGALIZE CANNABIS

MAJOR ALCOHOL INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION ANNOUNCES SUPPORT FOR RIGHT TO LEGALIZE CANNABIS (Source wswa.org) Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) announced an official policy position in favor of a state’s right to establish a legal, well-regulated, adult-use cannabis marketplace; it is the first and only beverage alcohol association to do so. In states where cannabis is or will subsequently be legalized, the association calls on the federal government to respect the right of states to legalize cannabis if they adopt cannabis market regulations that meet a framework similar to that governing beverage alcohol. “Eight decades ago, Americans acknowledged that the Prohibition of alcohol was a failed policy. The state-based system of regulation, adopted after Prohibition, created a U.S. beverage alcohol market that is the safest, most competitive and best regulated in the world,” WSWA Acting Executive Vice President, External Affairs, Dawson Hobbs said. The legal cannabis market continues to expand in the United States, generating $7.2 billion in economic activity in 2016.

WSWA believes that, similar to alcohol, the federal government should give states the power to legalize cannabis, but should ensure they meet an appropriate regulatory threshold.

Legalization should include regulations that set age restrictions on buyers, as well as license and regulate the supply chain of cannabis, including growers, distributors, retailers and testing laboratories.

GET READY TO LEGALLY 3D-PRINT A GUN

GET READY TO LEGALLY 3D-PRINT A GUN (Source nextgov.com) If you own a 3D printer, soon you’ll be able to print something a little more dangerous than your average trinket. Defense Distributed recently won the right to publish blueprints of firearms online, which would allow anyone with access to a 3D printer to download, print and assemble a gun, according to a press release from the Second Amendment Foundation. This settlement follows a lengthy legal battle that Defense Distributed had with the State Department that began in 2013. Defense Distributed initially had to pull the files from their website DEFCAD, as they violated International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) protections. At that time, blueprints for the Liberator pistol, designed by Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson, had already been downloaded 100,000 times. The organization will relaunch August 1, at which point anyone who is interested can download schematics that will let them print out the parts of the pistol, and then assemble it themselves.

 

BBQ Becky, Permit Patty and why the Internet is shaming white people who police people ‘simply for being black’

BBQ Becky, Permit Patty and why the Internet is shaming white people who police people ‘simply for being black’ (Source usatoday.com) It’s now a weekly, if not daily, occurrence: A video is posted on Facebook or Twitter showing a white person calling police on black people for minor violations or nothing at all, a new form of social media shaming that’s exposed the everyday racism black Americans face and brought swift repercussions for the perpetrators. Tagged with nicknames like BBQ Becky and Permit Patty, white people who’ve reported black people for sitting in Starbucksshopping at CVSmowing lawnsplaying golfstaying at an Airbnb or napping on a couch in a college dorm are being publicly named, mocked and, in some cases, fired from their jobs.

White people have been policing black behavior for a long time. If they think someone black seems out of place, they know they can say something to the property manager, a store supervisor or the police, sociologists who study race say. Many black people in these situations don’t bother to complain publicly. They say they’re unlikely to be believed or their concerns will be dismissed. And they don’t want to escalate the situation and end up in jail or worse.

 

Tale of sex, deception emerges about suspected Russian agent

Tale of sex, deception emerges about suspected Russian agent (Source Associated Press)

A 29-year-old gun-rights activist suspected of being a covert Russian agent was likely in contact with Kremlin operatives while living in the United States, prosecutors said Wednesday, accusing her of using sex and deception to forge influential connections.

The woman, Maria Butina, was photographed by the FBI dining privately with a Russian diplomat suspected of being an intelligence operative in the weeks before the envoy’s departure from the U.S. last March, prosecutors said. She also had contact information for people who investigators believe were employees of Russia’s Federal Security Services, or FSB, the successor intelligence agency to the KGB. The allegations add to the portrait of a Russian woman who the Justice Department says worked covertly to establish back-channel lines of communication to the Kremlin and infiltrate U.S. political organizations, including the National Rifle Association, and gather intelligence for a senior Russian official to whom she reported.

Prosecutors also alleged she had a personal relationship with an American political operative and offered sex to another person in exchange for a position with a special interest organization. Court papers do not name the individuals or the special interest group. Butina awaits trial on charges of conspiracy and acting as an unregistered foreign agent for Russia. She pleaded not guilty Wednesday during a hearing in which U.S. Magistrate Deborah Robinson ordered her held in jail as the case moves forward, saying she was a flight risk. After the hearing, Butina’s attorney, Robert Driscoll, told reporters his client respected but strongly disagreed with the judge’s decision. “She’s been aware of a criminal investigation into her conduct for months and made no attempt to flee,” Driscoll said, saying Butina was not a Russian agent but rather a “young student seeking to make her way in America.” Citing her intelligence ties, the government had argued that Butina’s legal status in the U.S. was based on “deception,” saying her student visa and enrollment at American University were a cover for her covert work. They also argue she posed an “extreme” risk of fleeing the U.S. Butina was arrested over the weekend amid signs that she planned to leave the Washington area and possibly the country, prosecutors said.

 

Europe and America: They’ve Lost That Loving Feeling

Europe and America: They’ve Lost That Loving Feeling (Source thetrumpet.com)

On July 1, Europe and the United States will be at war with each other. Not a hot war, but a trade war. The U.S. has placed tariffs on European aluminum and steel, and Europe has threatened to retaliate with its own tariffs. Relations between Germany and America have not been worse since the end of World War II. This is more than just a lovers’ tiff.

The covers of Spiegel, Europe’s largest newsmagazine, have portrayed U.S. President Donald Trump as:

A middle finger to Europe

A terrorist beheading Lady Liberty

A subhuman ape

A baby riding a nuclear bomb

A meteor poised to destroy the planet

A tsunami destroying Washington, D.C.

A golfer striking a flaming planet Earth

On one Stern magazine cover, Mr. Trump is depicted as a Nazi. On the front of Berliner Kurier, the world is swearing at him. One study found that Germany’s public broadcaster, ard, covers the American president more negatively than any other news source.

In 2000, 80 percent of Germans said they felt “favorable” about the U.S. By 2015, the number had fallen to 50 percent. By spring 2017, it was only 35 percent. The same year, another poll found that more Germans trusted Russia than the United States. This is a remarkable shift. A 70-year romance is dying before our eyes.

Putin warns NATO against closer ties with Ukraine and Georgia

Putin warns NATO against closer ties with Ukraine and Georgia (Source Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday warned NATO against cultivating closer ties with Ukraine and Georgia, saying such a policy was irresponsible and would have unspecified consequences for the alliance.

The issue has been a source of anger for Russia — which shares a border with both countries and does not want to see them join what it regards as a hostile military bloc — since 2008 when NATO leaders promised Ukraine and Georgia they would one day join the alliance. Putin, speaking to Russian diplomats from around the world assembled in Moscow, said on Thursday there was a need to restore trust in Europe and spoke out against what he said was NATO’s attempts to deploy new bases and military infrastructure near Russia’s borders. “We will respond appropriately to such aggressive steps, which pose a direct threat to Russia,” said Putin.

“Our colleagues, who are trying to aggravate the situation, seeking to include, among others, Ukraine and Georgia in the orbit of the alliance, should think about the possible consequences of such an irresponsible policy.”

The Russian leader said he had discussed the matter with U.S. President Donald Trump at a summit in Helsinki on Monday. Trump has called for NATO members to spend more on defense, but has queried whether Montenegro, the alliance’s newest member, should be part of the bloc at all calling its people “aggressive.” Russian forces entered two breakaway Georgian regions in 2008 and annexed Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014 after which a pro-Russian separatist uprising erupted in eastern Ukraine. Swathes of both countries remain garrisoned by Russian troops, something Moscow says is in keeping with local people’s wishes, but which the West and the governments of the two countries call an illegal occupation. NATO leaders discussed ties with Ukraine and Georgia – both former Soviet republics once ruled from Moscow — at their summit in Brussels earlier this month.

Prominent politicians in both countries are keen to join the Western military alliance, but have seen their chances of joining hampered by Russian territorial incursions.

Under NATO rules, countries with territorial conflicts cannot join NATO.

Trump’s overtures to Putin stir opposition at home

Trump’s overtures to Putin stir opposition at home (Source AFP) US President Donald Trump stunned allies, gave ammunition to foes and ignited a domestic political firestorm following his meeting with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Here is a look at some of the fallout from the controversial summit. – What now for US-Russia relations? –

Going into Monday’s meeting in Helsinki, Trump said he wanted to improve relations with Russia, which he characterized as the worst they’ve ever been.

He had the opportunity to press Putin on any number of issues, including Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines jet over Ukraine and alleged meddling in the US election in 2016 to help Trump beat Hillary Clinton. After meeting privately for two hours, the two leaders agreed to revive bilateral corporation and touted an improved relationship — but they provided few specifics.

For some observers, that in itself was a source of relief.

They had feared Trump would agree to some sort of grand bargain on Crimea or a back-of-the-envelope deal on Syria.

Trump had vowed to seek closer ties with Russia during his election campaign, but his Helsinki appearance did little to quell suspicions of collusion between some on his election team and the Kremlin. Those alleged ties, which Trump has repeatedly denied, are the subject of a sprawling investigation that has overshadowed Trump’s time in the White House. Standing alongside Putin, Trump seemed to give more weight to the Russian president’s denials than conclusions from his own intelligence services that Russia did in fact interfere in the election — and Putin admitted he wanted Trump to win. The performance in Helsinki served only to deepen suspicions, Erwan Lagadec, a professor at George Washington University, told AFP, and as a result, Trump’s attempt to warm US-Russia ties might ultimately backfire. On Tuesday, Trump tried to quell the uproar at home by saying he had misspoken and does indeed accept US intelligence assessments that Russia meddled.

 

China pledges $20 billion in loans for Arab states

China pledges $20 billion in loans for Arab states (Source AFP) China will provide Arab states with $20 billion in loans for economic development, President Xi Jinping told top Arab officials Tuesday, as Beijing seeks to build its influence in the Middle East and Africa. The money will be earmarked for “projects that will produce good employment opportunities and positive social impact in Arab States that have reconstruction needs,” said Xi, without providing further details. It is part of a special Chinese programme for “economic reconstruction” and “industrial revitalisation,” Xi told participants at a China-Arab States forum in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. Beijing is also prepared to provide another one billion yuan to countries in the region to “build capacity for stability maintenance,” Xi said, using a term commonly associated with policing and surveillance.

Since taking office, Xi has overseen a concerted effort to expand Chinese influence in the Middle East and Africa, including the construction of the country’s first military base in Arab League state Djibouti.

 

 

Spy chiefs from Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan hold high-level meeting

Spy chiefs from Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan hold high-level meeting (Source intelnews.org)

Intelligence directors from Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan met on Tuesday to discuss regional cooperation with particular reference to combating the Islamic State in Afghanistan. Information about the high-level meeting was revealed yesterday by Sergei Ivanov, media spokesman for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). Ivanov told Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency that the meeting was held in Pakistan and included the participation of SVR director Sergei Naryshkin. TASS reported that the meeting was held under the auspices of Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate and was attended by “senior intelligence officials” from Pakistan, Russia, Iran and China.

Ivanov said that discussions during the meeting “focused on the dangers arising from a buildup of the Islamic State on the Afghan territory”. The Islamic State announced the formation of its Afghan province in January 2015, using the term “Khorasan Province”. By July 2016, two of its most prominent leaders had been killed in coordinated drone strikes by the United States, but the group continues to launch operations to this day. Its core is thought to be made up of nearly 100 fighters from the Islamic State’s former strongholds in Syria and Iraq. According to Russian reports, security officials in China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran are concerned that the Islamic State’s Afghan command is becoming stronger as fighters from the group are leaving the Middle East and moving to Afghanistan.

Tuesday’s high-level meeting in Islamabad follows an announcement last month by the Beijing-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) that it would adopt a more active stance on security issues in Afghanistan.

 

Merkel responds to Trump: ‘I have witnessed’ Germany under Soviet control

Merkel responds to Trump: ‘I have witnessed’ Germany under Soviet control (Source cnn.com)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to hit back at US President Donald Trump’s claim that “Germany is a captive of Russia” by drawing on her own upbringing in Soviet-controlled East Germany. “I wanted to say that, because of current events, I have witnessed this myself, that a part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union. And I am very happy that we are today unified in freedom as the Federal Republic of Germany,” she said in an arrival statement at the NATO Summit Wednesday, according to an English translation of her remarks.

Merkel, who was born in Hamburg in 1954, has spoken on numerous occasions about her upbringing under Soviet occupation. “The first political event from my childhood that I remember distinctly is the building of the Berlin Wall 50 years ago. I was 7 years old at the time. Seeing grown-ups, even my parents, so stunned that they broke out in tears, shook me to the core. My mother’s family, for example, was divided by the building of the Wall,” she said in remarks upon receiving the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

“I grew up in the part of Germany that was not free, the German Democratic Republic. For many years I dreamed of freedom, just as many others did — also of the freedom to travel to the United States,” she said then.

Although she did not mention the US President by name in her NATO statement, Merkel’s comments seemed to be a direct repudiation of Trump’s earlier remarks, in which he maligned Germany for getting natural gas from Russia.