Archive for May 6, 2012
The financial figures are as staggering as the human toll in our failed war on drugs. In 2003, a United Nations report said the global drug trade generated an estimated US$321.6 billion with a world GDP of US$36 trillion in the same year, the illegal drug trade may be estimated as slightly less than 1% (0.893%) of total global commerce. In its 1997 World Drugs Report the UNODC estimated the value of the market at US$400 billion, ranking drugs alongside arms and oil amongst the world’s largest traded goods.
“For every complex problem,” H.L. Mencken wrote, “there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.” That is especially true of drug abuse and addiction. Indeed, the problem is so complex that it has produced not just one clear, simple, wrong solution but two: the “drug war” (prohibition plus massive, undifferentiated enforcement) and proposals for wholesale drug legalization. Fortunately, these two bad ideas are not our only choices. We could instead take advantage of proven new approaches that can make us safer while greatly reducing the number of Americans behind bars for drug offenses.
Our current drug policies do far more harm than they need to do and far less good than they might, largely because they ignore some basic facts. Treating all “drug abusers” as a single group flies in the face of what is known as Pareto’s Law: that for any given activity, 20% of the participants typically account for 80% of the action. Most users of addictive drugs are not addicts, but a few consume very heavily, and they account for most of the traffic and revenue and most of the drug-related violence and other collateral social damage. If subjected to the right kinds of pressure, however, even most heavy users can and do stop using drugs.
Frustration with the drug-policy status quo—the horrific levels of trafficking-related violence in Mexico and Central America and the fiscal, personal and social costs of imprisoning half a million drug dealers in the U.S.—has led to calls for some form of legalization. Just last week, at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, President Barack Obama got an earful from his Latin American counterparts about the need to reverse current U.S. drug policy.
The appeal of legalization is clear. At a stroke, it would wipe out most problems of the black market by depriving gun-wielding thugs of their competitive advantage. But for it to work, it would have to include not just the possession of drugs but their production as well—and not just of marijuana but of substances that really are very dangerous: cocaine, crack, heroin and methamphetamine. Legalizing possession and production would eliminate many of the problems related to drug dealing, but it would certainly worsen the problem of drug abuse. We could abolish the illicit market in cocaine, as we abolished the illicit market in alcohol, but does anyone consider our current alcohol policies a success? In the U.S., alcohol kills more people than all of the illicit drugs combined (85,000 deaths versus 17,000 in 2000, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association). Alcohol also has far more addicted users.
Any form of legal availability that could actually displace the illicit markets in cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine would make those drugs far cheaper and more available. If these “hard” drugs were sold on more or less the same terms as alcohol, there is every reason to think that free enterprise would work its magic of expanding the customer base, and specifically the number of problem users, producing an alcohol-like toll in disease, accident and crime. Fortunately, there are things that we already know how to do that work demonstrably better than our current antidrug regime and avoid the predictably dire consequences of legalization. These practical measures can’t abolish drug abuse or the illicit markets, but they could shrink those problems to a manageable size.
Start with the biggest problem: alcohol. Inflation has eroded the federal alcohol tax down to about a fifth of its Korean War level in constant-dollar terms. Analysis by Philip Cook of Duke University suggests that tripling the tax—from about a dime to about 30 cents a drink—would prevent at least 1,000 homicides and 2,000 motor-vehicle fatalities a year, all without enriching any criminals, putting anyone behind bars or having a SWAT team crash through anyone’s door. Raising alcohol taxes would have a big effect on adolescents and heavy drinkers, but many problem users of alcohol would have enough money to keep guzzling. Some of them like to drink and drive, or drink and beat up other people. Telling them not to misbehave does not do much good, because being drunk makes them less responsive to the threat of criminal penalties. So we need to find ways of preventing drinking among the relatively small group of people who behave very badly when they drink.
Larry Long, a district court judge in South Dakota, developed one promising approach, called 24/7 Sobriety. Started in 2005, it requires people who commit alcohol-related crimes—originally just repeat offenders for drunken driving but now other offenders—to show up twice a day, every day, for a breathalyzer test as a condition of staying out of jail. If they fail to appear, or if the test shows they have been drinking, they go straight to jail for a day. More than 99% of the time, they show up as ordered, sober. They can go to alcohol treatment, or not, as they choose; what they can’t choose is to keep drinking. According to the state attorney general’s office, some 20,000 South Dakotans have participated in 24/7 Sobriety (a large number for state with just 825,000 residents), and the program has made a big dent in rearrests for DUI.
By distinguishing sharply between people who use alcohol badly and the larger population of non-problem users, 24/7 Sobriety moves past the simple dichotomy of either banning a drug entirely or making it legal in unlimited quantities for all adults. An alternative means to the same end would require everyone buying a drink to show identification. A state could then make someone convicted of drunken driving or drunken assault ineligible to buy a drink just by marking his driver’s license. That is a pretty minimal intrusion on the liberty of people convicted of crimes and on the privacy of those who don’t now get “carded.” The same principle of denying drugs to problem users could work for the currently forbidden drugs. Current laws already make it illegal to possess or use cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, but the risk of arrest is too low to be much of a deterrent. However, once someone has been convicted of a crime, the rules change. Abstinence can be required as a condition of pretrial release, probation or parole, and that condition can be enforced with chemical testing.
Drug testing is already widespread for probation and parole, but these systems lack any sort of swift, moderate penalty for detected drug use. Given the alternatives currently available—issuing a warning to the relapsed drug user or sending him back to serve out his full sentence—most judges and parole officers choose the warning. Probationers quickly learn that a warning is mostly a bluff, and they keep on using drugs and committing crimes. Steven Alm, a circuit judge in Honolulu, and Leighton Iles, the probation chief for Tarrant County, Texas (Fort Worth and Arlington), have demonstrated that swift and certain sanctions make all the difference. In a carefully studied yearlong trial involving hundreds of probationers, Judge Alm’s program, called HOPE, reduced drug use by more than 80% and days behind bars by more than 50%, according to figures from the National Institute of Justice. Offenders quickly learned that drug use was no longer something they could get away with, and even most long-term users were able to quit. The program freed them from the cycle of use, crime and incarceration.
Having to call in every day to find out whether it is your day to be tested turns out to be powerful help in staying clean. As one probationer told a researcher, “Knowing I had to make that phone call the next morning ruined the high.” Leighton Iles’s Swift program in Texas has recorded equally impressive results, and there are promising pilot efforts with parolees in Seattle and Sacramento. Substantial progress in suppressing the drug use of arrestees would be a great boon. It would deprive the illicit drug markets of their most valuable customers, which would, in turn, reduce violence in inner-city neighborhoods and take the pressure off Latin American countries now racked by drug dealing.
Since the war on drugs started in earnest three decades ago, the law has found it impossible to stop the flow of illegal drugs. Prices have dropped despite billions of dollars spent on catching drug dealers and locking them up. We are long overdue for refocusing antidrug efforts on the central task of protecting public safety and order. David Kennedy of John Jay College in New York City has pioneered two related programs designed to go after the most violent dealers and organizations and to shut down the most violent market areas. His Drug Market Intervention program, first used in High Point, N.C., in 2004 and replicated many times in places such as Hempstead, N.Y., and Memphis, Tenn., focuses on areas where crack houses and flagrant street-corner dealing generate crime and disorder.
The first step, once the police negotiate community support, is to identify all the dealers and make cases against them. Then comes the surprising part: Instead of being arrested, the nonviolent dealers are called in for a meeting. (The handful of violent ones go to jail.) They are presented with the evidence against them—perhaps video of them making a sale—and confronted by angry neighbors, clergy and relatives. Each one is then offered a choice: Stop dealing and get help to turn your life around, or tell it to the judge. The point is not to eliminate the drug supply but to force dealing into a less flagrant and socially damaging form: sales in bars or home delivery instead of street-corner transactions. The results have been spectacular, with long-established markets disappearing overnight.
Prof. Kennedy’s other innovation was the Boston Ceasefire program. In 1996, violent youth gangs engaged in drug dealing and other crimes were brought in by the authorities and given a simple message: “If anyone in your gang shoots somebody, we will come down on every member of the gang for all of his illegal activity.” Suddenly gang members had a strong reason to enforce nonviolence on one another, and pressure from peers turned out to be more effective than pressure from police officers. Youth homicides dropped from two a month before the program started to none in the following two years. This approach could be applied to violent individuals as well. Instead of trying to arrest all dealers indiscriminately, law enforcement could identify the most violent dealers, warn them that if they don’t stop right away they are headed to prison, and focus on putting away as many as possible of those who don’t quit. That wouldn’t shrink the supply of drugs, but it might reduce street violence.
The U.S. has reached a dead end in trying to fight drug use by treating every offender as a serious criminal. Blanket drug legalization has some superficial charm—it fits nicely into a sound-bite or tweet—but it can’t stand up to serious analysis. The real prospects for reform involve policies rather than slogans. It remains to be seen whether our political process—and the media circus that often shapes it—can tolerate the necessary complexity. This week, Mexican lawmakers passed a law that will recognize and compensate those affected by the drug war. The measure will establish a national registry to track kidnappings and forced disappearances. In addition, it will require the government to provide support and financial assistance to victims of violence, including abuses carried out by security forces. It’s a significant and important shift in Mexico. Some 50,000 people have died since President Felipe Calderondeclared a war against drug cartels and gangs in 2006.
The law is unlikely to quell critics of the war, including human rights groups and poet Javier Sicilia, which have denounced the mounting violence and abuses committed against Mexicans and migrants. Last year, Human Rights Watch issued a report that concluded Mexico’s security forces, including marines, were responsible for about 200 cases of serious abuses. Sicilia also has repeatedly spoken out against the government’s failure to respond to the relatives of those who are killed or go missing. In an open letter to the country’s leader, he summed up the feeling of many, saying: “We’re fed up.” Sicilia’s son was killed last year, though he had no connection to the drug gangs. Since then, Sicilia has advocated for victims and for rethinking drug policies on both sides of the border. He’s founded the Peace with Justice and Dignity movement in Mexico and led marches intended to focus on the violence and impunity there.
He’s expected to launch a similar march in August that will take him from the border in San Diego to Washington, D.C. Sicilia’s message is part of a growing call to rethink drug policies in Latin American and the United States. In recent months, Latin American leaders, including Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos, Guatemala President Otto Perez Molina and even Mexico’s Calderon have all said that it’s time to look beyond the military strategies that have left tens of thousands dead in Latin America while doing little to rein in drug consumption in the United States.
There is a push on (isn’t there always) to end prohibition of drugs. One idea floated is to go back to the way we did things prior to 1914. All drugs were legal for adults, and there were no social programs to rescue those who misused them. With no excuses and no enabling, people were forced to moderate their use. Prohibition causes the huge profits enriching crooked officials and violent criminals, and the government causes great harm when it puts millions of Americans in jail to protect them from themselves. Joeseph D. MacNamara, a retired police chief of San Jose and is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He suggests the authors are wrong in claiming that drug legalization is an all or nothing approach that necessitates legalizing crack and heroin along with more widely used marijuana. The Dutch policy of de facto marijuana legalization is premised on a separation of hard and soft drug markets.
The idea is that marijuana consumers won’t come into contact with sellers of addictive hard drugs. Though current politics threaten restrictions on marijuana sales to tourists in the Netherlands, the policy has been successful. The explosion in use that drug warriors claim will follow legalization never materialized. Lifetime use of marijuana in the Netherlands is half that of the U.S. But heroin use in the U.S. is 3.5 times higher than heroin use in the Netherlands, where the average age of addicts is going up. The Dutch have effectively closed the gateway to hard drugs by regulating the retail sale of marijuana. Some things are apparent. The current strategy is not working…at all.
The Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times contributed to this report. Dr. Kleiman is professor of public policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Dr. Caulkins is Stever Professor of Operations Research and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. Dr. Hawken is associate professor of public policy at Pepperdine University. They are co-authors of “Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know.”
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana — (DMN) – A 14-year old girl faces a preliminary murder charge in the death of her 4-year old cousin. Indianapolis police say a 14-year-old girl found covered in blood was arrested after being questioned by officers. She’s being held on a preliminary murder charge at the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center. Prosecutors will determine whether she’ll be formally charged in the death of Leon Thomas III.
Officers were called about 11 p.m. Saturday to an Indianapolis apartment, where they found the bleeding boy. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Police later found the 14-year-old girl, covered in blood and walking along a nearby street. Adams says the boy and his 11-year-old sister were at their grandparent’s apartment at the time of the attack. No additional details were released.
Police investigating body found at Churchill Downs: Police suspect foul play in the death of a Hispanic man whose body was found early Sunday morning in a barn at Churchill Downs.
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — (DMN) – Police in Louisville, Kentucky have identified a man whose body was found in a barn at Churchill Downs just hours after the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby. The man was identified as 48-year-old Adan Fabian Perez, a native of Guatemala. He was discovered in barn No. 8 by a track security officer shortly before 5 a.m., said Alicia Smiley, a Louisville Metro Police spokeswoman. Police believe the man was murdered but a cause and manner of death won’t be known until Monday at the earliest.
The news had become the top story on espn.com by mid-afternoon Sunday. Fox News’ website declared: “Death at the Derby.” Police said Perez’s death does not appear to be linked to the Derby. Churchill Downs spokesman John Asher said the sensational nature of some of the national news stories was driven by the timing of Perez’s death. “The timing would be unfortunate on any date on the calendar,” Asher said. Asher said track officials know little more than the details released by police, but no changes are planned to security on the backside. “We have no reason to believe it’s not an isolated thing at this point,” Asher said.
No arrests had been made as of Sunday afternoon. Jo-Ann Farmer, the chief Jefferson County deputy coroner, said Perez’s 19-year-old son, who also works at Churchill, identified his father. Marc A. Guilfoil, deputy executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, said Perez was a groom for trainer Cecil Borel. He lived on the backside and had been licensed by the commission since 2008, Guilfoil said. Borel could not confirm Guilfoil’s account. “I’ve got one groom who’s missing, but I don’t know exactly where he’s at,” Borel, brother of three-time Derby winning jockey Calvin Borel, said Sunday afternoon. Cecil Borel could not be reached after Perez was identified.
Guilfoil said the commission’s security director, Chris Clark, aided police Sunday morning by providing a database of workers licensed by the state. Police declined to describe any wounds or the overall condition of the body. Smiley said the man was not found in a horse stall, but she wouldn’t say any more about which part of the barn he was in. Rob O’Connor, who trains horses at Churchill, said in a brief telephone interview that the body was found in a barn he shares but declined to comment further because the investigation is ongoing. Louisville trainer Angel Montano Sr., who also occupies the barn, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Sunday.
While no Derby horses were in Barn No. 8, it is four away — about 150 yards — from where this year’s winner, I’ll Have Another, was stabled leading up to the race. The Churchill backside includes 48 barns and workers’ dormitories, and some employees of individual trainers live in tack rooms in the barns, Asher said. “It’s a little city, 24 hours a day there,” Asher said. To work on the backside, workers must be licensed by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, Asher said. The backside was quiet Sunday afternoon as workers washed horses, forked hay into piles and relaxed. With races resuming Thursday, trainers were scarce around the barns.
The death was the second on the Churchill backside in about a year. Shortly after last year’s Derby, 24-year-old jockey Michael Baze was found dead in his car after what was ruled an accidental drug overdose. The Rev. Ken Boehm, chaplain at Churchill, said he hadn’t spoken with any backside workers about Sunday’s death but expected it will be mentioned at a regularly scheduled Monday night worship service. “We’re praying for family and friends … .Certainly our thoughts and prayers are with them,” Boehm said.
WLKY-TV and the Courier-Journal contributed to this report.
Are we better off now than we were four years ago? No. Are we better off than we were 5 years ago? No. Who gets blamed for this economic nightmare? Does it really matter. The mess that clearly started while George W. Bush was in the White House has only shown, arguably, tepid improvement under Barack Obama. There remains enough concern over the economy that this single issue alone will likely propel either President Obama for former Governor Mitt Romney to a November win.
Obama and Romney are closer to the center of the American political spectrum than Democratic and Republican loyalists care for and maybe this is actually what we, the independents and moderates should focus on. Which of these two men offers the best chance for fixing our stagnant economy. Obama has made some headway but is it enough and can he continue to create jobs and control inflation? The questions are difficult and the answers won’t come easy because in a sense, looking at President Obama is the same as looking at Governor Romney.
He’s a smug, Harvard-trained elitist who doesn’t get how regular Americans are struggling these days. More extreme than he lets on, he’s keeping his true agenda hidden until after Election Day. He’s clueless about fixing the economy, over his head on foreign policy. Who is he? Your answer will help decide the next president. Is it Barack Obama, as seen by Mitt Romney? Or Romney, the way Obama depicts him? For all their liberal versus conservative differences, when the two presidential contenders describe each other, they sound like they’re ragging on the same flawed guy. Or mirror images of that guy.
Will voters prefer the man waving with his left hand or his right? Blame it on two cautious candidates with more traits in common than their disparate early biographies would suggest. No Drama Obama is panned as professorial and aloof. Romney is deemed boring when he’s not being awkward. Distrusted as too moderate within his own party, each is demonized as a radical by the other side. They don’t get specific about the tough stuff, like budget cuts or taxes, that would invite more precisely calibrated negative ads. Add a presidential contest buried beneath a single issue, the economy, and original lines of attack are scarce. The candidates take jabs anyway. “They’re trying to define each other. That’s what it’s all about,” said Ken Duberstein, chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan. “They’re throwing out different characterizations to see which one resonates.”
With quickie Internet videos and instant comebacks via Twitter, “the attack and counterattack is happening in real time,” said political communications expert Kathleen Hall Jamieson. “Campaigns are working to make sure nothing is missed.” Attacks big or small get batted back, even if the response amounts to “I know you are, what am I?” Democrats accuse Republicans of a “war on women,” Romney’s campaign notes rising female unemployment during the Obama years. The Obama camp jokes about Romney’s dog riding on the roof of the family car; Republicans respond that Obama ate dog meat as a boy in Indonesia.
Both candidates are slammed as:
“Out of touch” with ordinary Americans.
Obama: Cloistered in the White House. Hangs out with celebrities, acting “cool.” Doesn’t understand the real world because “he spent too much time at Harvard,” according to Romney, who earned two Harvard degrees himself.
Romney: Grew up wealthy, with a governor for a father. Worth $200 million or more. He’s the kind of guy who had a Swiss bank account and wants a car elevator for his beach house, the Democrats note.
Bad for the middle class.
Obama: Failed to deliver on his promises to help Americans “struggling to find good jobs and make ends meet,” the Romney camp says. Median household income is down, unemployment up since he took office.
Romney: Wants to reduce taxes on the wealthy while devastating Medicare and cutting education, health care and other programs the middle class need, Democrats charge. Obama says that amounts to “social Darwinism.”
Obama: Believing his microphone off, assured the Russian president he would have “more flexibility” after Election Day. Obama will reveal “his true positions only after the election is over,” Romney says. Republicans predict he would tack left on the environment, spending, gay rights and other issues.
Romney: Told campaign donors of plans to cut or eliminate the housing and education agencies as well as others — ideas he hasn’t disclosed publicly. “What’s Mitt hiding?” Democrats ask, demanding more about his personal tax returns and investments, too.
Obama: Hopes to create “a European-style social welfare state,” Romney says, and “put free enterprise on trial.” Endorsing Romney, Newt Gingrich called Obama “the most radical, leftist president in American history.”
Romney: Referred to himself as “severely conservative.” He’s “extreme on women’s issues,” Democrats contend. Obama places him to the right of Reagan and suggests he’s akin to Barry Goldwater.
Unable to fix the economy.
Obama: Can’t get the jobless rate below 8 percent. He “delayed the recovery and made it anemic,” according to Romney, who says Obama lacks the private sector experience necessary to understand the economy.
Romney: As a venture capitalist, laid off workers and shipped jobs to Mexico, the Obama campaign says. Also created Massachusetts jobs more slowly than other governors of the time, Democrats note.
Not up to foreign policy.
Obama: Too weak to stand up to China or Russia or to stop Iran from getting a nuclear bomb, and too eager to apologize for the United States, Romney charges.
Romney: Likely to stumble into another misguided war, according to Vice President Joe Biden. Wouldn’t have had the guts to send Navy SEALs into Pakistan to get Osama bin Laden, the Obama campaign suggests.
The Washington Post contributed to this piece.
ATHENS, Greece — (DMN) – Greece’s ruling coalition appeared headed for steep losses in Sunday’s parliamentary elections while parties on the far left and far right were poised to make significant gains amid anger over austerity measures, exit polls indicated. Right-leaning New Democracy, a member of the coalition, first in the polling with 19% to 20.5% of the vote — barely half its result from elections two years ago, according to early exit polling released by state broadcaster ERT shortly after polls closed Sunday. New Democracy’s coalition partner, left-leaning PASOK, was on track for a stunning reversal of fortune, going from 44% of the vote two years ago to between 13% and 14% on Sunday, according to the data, which is based on interviews with 10,000 voters.
Voters angry over the coalition’s harsh austerity program appeared to turn particularly towards the radical leftist coalition Syriza and the far-right Golden Dawn, both of which appeared to be performing better than pre-election opinion polling had suggested. Syriza was on track to gain 15.5% to 17% of the vote, according to the polling data, well over the 10% opinion polls had indicated it could pull. Pre-election polls had suggested Golden Dawn might gain 5 percent of the vote. ERT data polling data indicated it received 6.5% to 7.5% of the vote on Sunday. If the results hold, the party could pick up 15 to 21 seats in parliament.
Mark Lowen BBC News, Athens
As a long day of voting ended, the exit polls suggested what many expected – a huge move away from the two big pro-austerity parties that have long dominated Greek politics. It is possible that the poll does not reflect the final results. But if accurate, it would echo the views of many here. This could spell intense instability for Greece. New Democracy may be unable to form a government, there may be calls for a fresh election and possibly even anti-bailout parties from the left and right may attempt to form a coalition.
That could threaten Greece’s austerity path and raise fresh questions over its membership of the euro. Another deeply uncertain chapter in the Greek drama might now begin, sending shockwaves throughout the eurozone.
The Community Party, which wants Greece to leave the single-currency eurozone, also saw gains, with exit polls indicating it would win 8% to 9% of the vote. One young mother interviewed by CNN said her aim Sunday was to “punish” the pro-austerity politicians and “get rid of them for good.” Austerity is “the wrong path,” said the woman, who did not give her name. “Austerity measures just make people poorer and the situation does not get any better in the long term or in the short term either,” she said. But another voter at the same polling station said politicians had been doing the right thing. “We don’t have an alternative,” he said, saying he backed “whichever party actually understands that and wants to deal with it and wants to take these hard measures.” He also did not give his name.
The country’s national debt threatened to force it out of Europe’s common currency, the euro, prompting the European Central Bank and other lenders to swoop in with emergency funding last year. In exchange, they demanded that the government slash spending brutally. However the voting turns out, Greece is in for more rough times ahead, said Alexis Papahelas, executive editor of the newspaper Kathimerini. “Everybody understands that the markets dictate reforms, austerity and so on,” he said, even as voters want to “send a very strong message to the politicians.” The question that raises, he said, is: “Is this compatible with parliamentary democracy?”
If no party wins a majority on Sunday, as is expected, a coalition would again have to be formed. Politicians will have until May 17 to come up with a working coalition or set a date for another round of elections. Final offical results are not expected from the country’s 26,000 polling stations until late Sunday night. Campaigning came to a close on Friday. Evangelos Venizelos, leader of the left-leaning PASOK party, declared “everything is at stake Sunday,” as he addressed a final campaign rally in the capital’s central Syntagma Square, scene of many anti-austerity protests. Voters have a choice, he said, to “remain in the eurozone and follow a difficult yet safe path” that will help the country get through the austerity measures — or to follow “a dangerous path that can take us 20 years back, lead the country to bankruptcy and Greeks to massive poverty.”
Antonis Samaras, leader of the right-leaning New Democracy party, urged voters at a rally on Thursday in Athens to swing behind his party. He called for “a strong mandate to change everything … I don’t want to rule jointly with PASOK and it is not in the interest of the Greek people for such a joint governance to take place.” KKE leader Aleka Papariga told supporters Wednesday that the debate over whether Greece should stay in the eurozone was pointless. “Without a radical political change, a large section of the people will be fully bankrupted,” she said.
While the mainstream parties are still expected to win the bulk of the vote, the rise of fringe parties has affected campaigning. In a gesture to right-wing concerns, for example, New Democracy has promised, if elected, to be much tougher on illegal immigration. While his party backed the bailout deal, Samaras argues that the terms of the bailout deal are so restrictive they will stifle economic growth. He wants to push through further privatization and cuts to public-sector waste. The austerity measures have already led to cuts in jobs, wages, pensions and benefits, and have badly affected many people, especially pensioners and those needing state help.
Taxes have gone up and the national unemployment rate for January, the latest month for which figures were available, was just under 22%. Among 25- to 34-year-olds, it was nearly 29%, leading many young people to leave the country to seek work elsewhere. The country’s massive pile of debt has threatened the stability of the 17-country eurozone during a crisis that has dragged on for almost two years. Greece pushed through a huge debt swap in March to save it from disorderly default and clear the way to receive a second bailout from the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, worth €130 billion ($171.5 billion).
The debt restructuring deal gave some breathing space to the euro zone bloc, where fears that Greece might collapse had increased pressure on other debt-laden nations such as Spain and Italy. But the outcome of Sunday’s vote will be closely watched to see if Greece is able to stick with the painful path of austerity.
The BBC and CNN contributed to this report.
PARIS, France — (DMN/BBC) – Socialist Francois Hollande has been elected as France’s new president, early estimates say. He got about 52% of votes in Sunday’s run-off, according to projections based on partial results, against 48% for centre-right incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy. Mr Hollande would be the first French socialist president since 1995. Analysts say the vote has wide implications for the whole eurozone. Mr Hollande has vowed to rework a deal on government debt in member countries.
The estimates were carried by French media after all polling stations closed at 20:00 (18:00 GMT). Exuberant Hollande supporters have already converged on Place de la Bastille in Paris – a traditional rallying point of the Left – to celebrate. Mr Hollande capitalized on France’s economic woes and President Sarkozy’s unpopularity. The socialist candidate has promised to raise taxes on big corporations and people earning more than 1m euros a year. He also wants to raise the minimum wage, hire 60,000 more teachers and lower the retirement age from 62 to 60 for some workers.
Mr Sarkozy, who has been in office since 2007, urged his UMP party to remain united, but warned he would not lead it into June’s parliamentary elections, according to AFP news agency. It quotes him as telling party leaders, as he read a draft of his concession speech: “Stay together. We must win the battle of the legislatives. I will not lead that campaign.” It is only the second time an incumbent president has failed to win re-election since the start of France’s Fifth Republic in 1958. The last was Valery Giscard d’Estaing – he was beaten in 1981 by socialist Francois Mitterrand, who had two terms in office until 1995. The new president is expected to be inaugurated later this month.
Through hours of outbursts and objections in military court, Eddie Bracken said he had one image in his mind: that of a plane smashing into the World Trade Center tower where his sister worked. Anger surged inside him, Bracken told reporters Sunday, a day after he sat among a group of victim family members who watched the arraignment of accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. naval base where the men are being tried before a military court. “Just listening to that rhetoric, how they perceive themselves — it’s hurtful, because they have no remorse. I don’t think they even have any souls,” he said.
Bracken’s sister, Lucy Fishman, worked as a secretary on the 105th floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center. She was one of the nearly 3,000 people killed when the towers were brought down by hijacked jetliners on September 11, 2001. Outside the courtroom Sunday, Bracken read a statement he said was a message for Mohammed and the other men. “I came a long way to see you, eye to eye. … If you would have this in another country, it would be a different story. They would have given you your wish to meet your maker quicker than you would realize. But this is America, and you deserve a fair and just trial, according to our Constitution, not yours. That’s what separates us Americans from you and your ideology,” he said.
Family members of 9/11 victims attend a war court trial on the U.S. Navy Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to witness the hearing of alleged 9/11 accomplices. Bottom row, front left: Christina Russell and husband Clifford Russell, Tara Henwood-Butzbaugh, Susanne Sisolak, and Eddie Bracken. Top row: A woman who did not wish to be named, Mary Henwood-Klotz, Blake Allison, and man who did not wish to be named.
But still, he told reporters, hearing the defendants and their attorneys criticize the proceedings was difficult. “They’re complaining, and our families can’t complain no more. They took their lives. … I wouldn’t care if they were on a bed of nails. … But it’s our justice system, and they have rights,” he said. Earlier Sunday, an attorney representing one of the defendants said prolonged silence and occasional outbursts during their arraignment were signs of “peaceful resistance to an unjust system.” “These men have endured years of inhumane treatment and torture,” James Connell, who is representing defendant Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, told reporters at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. naval base where the men are being tried before a military court.
U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, the chief prosecutor in the case, declined to discuss the defendants’ behaviors but said the military trial process is just and impartial. “You all saw them. You saw their reactions. I saw a process that was moving forward methodically,” he told reporters Sunday. The attorneys’ comments came after a 13-hour court session on Saturday — the first appearance in a military courtroom for Mohammed and four others since charges were re-filed against them in connection with the September 11, 2001, terror attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
The hearing, which wrapped just before 10:30 p.m., offered a rare glimpse of the five men who have not been seen publicly since January 2009, when they were first charged by a military tribunal. Mohammed, Ali and the others — Walid Muhammad Salih, Mubarak bin ‘Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi — appeared to work together to defy the judge’s instructions, refusing to speak or cooperate with courtroom protocol. On Sunday, attorneys representing them told reporters that the proceedings had been unfair to their clients. They criticized restrictions that they said prevented them from discussing topics like torture. “We are hamstrung … before we ever start,” said David Nevin, who is representing Mohammed. “The system is a rigged game to prevent us from doing our jobs.”
Martins said he strongly disagreed with that assessment. “They can talk to their clients about anything,” he said. On Saturday, silence from the defendants — some of whom ignored the judge, while others appeared to be reading — slowed the proceedings to a crawl. Bin ‘Attash was wheeled into the courtroom in a restraining chair. It was unclear why he was the only defendant brought into court in that manner, though he was allowed out of restraints after he promised not to disrupt court proceedings. Toward the end of the day, he took off his shirt while his attorney was describing injuries she alleged he sustained while in custody. The judge told bin ‘Attash, “No!” and warned that he would be removed from the courtroom if he did not follow directions. At one point, bin ‘Attash made a paper airplane and placed it on top of a microphone. It was removed after a translator complained about the sound the paper made against the microphone.
Hours into Saturday’s proceeding, one of the defendants broke his silence with an outburst. Binalshibh shouted in heavily accented English: “You may not see us anymore,” he said. “They are going to kill us.” During recesses, the five men talked amongst each other and appeared relaxed. They passed around a copy of The Economist. Binalshibh appeared to lead the group twice in prayer in the courtroom, once delaying the resumption of the hearing. Mohammed, whose long beard appeared to be dyed red by henna, was much thinner than the last time he was seen publicly in a courtroom.
The judge, Col. James Pohl, needed the five to vocally confirm their desire to be represented by the attorneys who accompanied them to court. Because the defendants refused to cooperate, Pohl ruled the men would continue to be represented by their current military and civilian attorneys. All five men are charged with terrorism, hijacking aircraft, conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury and destruction of property in violation of the law of war. If convicted, they face the death penalty.
There were so many allegations behind the charges, it took more than two hours for officers of the court just to read into the record the details of the 9/11 hijackings. The reading of the charges “provided a stirring reminder of the importance of the case,” Martins said Sunday. “For so many people involved in this trial, the pursuit of justice is worth every moment spent,” he said. The next hearing is scheduled for June 12. It will likely be at least a year before the case goes to trial, Pohl said. The charges allege that the five are “responsible for the planning and execution of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., resulting in the killing of 2,976 people,” the Defense Department said.
Though Mohammed confessed to organizing the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, his confession could be called into question during a trial. A 2005 Justice Department memo — released by the Obama administration — revealed he had been waterboarded 183 times in March 2003. The technique, which simulates drowning, has been called torture by President Barack Obama and others. The military initially charged Mohammed in 2008, but Obama stopped the case as part of his effort to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay. Unable to close the center, Obama attempted to move the case to federal court in New York in 2009, only to run into a political firestorm. The plan was dropped after complaints about cost and security, and Attorney General Eric Holder announced in April 2011 that the five would face a military trial at Guantanamo Bay. The decision was met with some criticism, including from the American Civil Liberties Union. ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero said last month that the administration is making a “terrible mistake by prosecuting the most important terrorism trials of our time in a second-tier system of justice.” There is only one fitting punishment for those who orchestrated 9/11 and that is the death penalty. Those of you who follow me know my feelings on the death penalty. They are challenged continuously but there is no reason…at all…to not execute these criminals.
CNN contributed this report.
In Texas, the race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchinson has little to do with the “soul” of the Republican Party. Texas Republicans have been drinking the tea steadily since 2008. The G.O.P. primary here is not about experience or cooperation it’s about how horrible President Obama is and who has shady business deals with China. In a Thursday night forum in Houston among candidates vying to succeed U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz picked up where he left off after a Dallas debate last month, blistering Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the front-runner.
Asked about an ad the Dewhurst campaign released last week questioning Cruz’s connection as an attorney in a case involving Chinese copyright infringement, Cruz called Dewhurst a liar. “The reason that he’s lying,” he said, “is because conservatives all over this state are uniting behind our campaign.” Dewhurst did not respond directly to Cruz’s charge. The two-hour forum broadcast statewide from a KUHT (Channel 8) studio on the University of Houston campus included, for the first time, two Democratic candidates in the race, along with the four top Republicans.
Sponsored by Houston Public Media, the Greater Houston Partnership and the University of Houston, the event opened with 12-minute conversations with the candidates. The remaining time consisted of questions from the viewing audience via social media and from KUHF-FM news reporters Laurie Johnson and Dave Fehling. Dewhurst, as befits the front-runner, tried in his interview segment to keep his eye on Washington, basically ignoring his rivals. The 66-year-old touted “the Texas model” for the rest of the nation. “People aren’t investing,” he said. “People aren’t investing because every other week we’re getting new threats from this administration of a tax increase. We’ve seen an avalanche of job-killing regulations. … To create more jobs, we need, quite frankly, to send Barack Obama back to Chicago, get a good, conservative Republican in the White House that will follow a stable, predictable course.”
The fiery 40-year-old Cruz kept his focus on Dewhurst. “He doesn’t want to talk about his record increasing spending by $72 billion, so he’s spending millions of dollars trying to distract voters,” Cruz said. The other two Republicans, former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and former ESPN football analyst and businessman Craig James, touted their real-world experience. “For too long Washington has over-taxed, over-spent and over-regulated,” said Leppert, who was the chief executive officer of Turner Construction before being elected mayor. James, 51, called for a corporate tax rate of zero percent, which, in his view, would create jobs. All four of the Republicans called for drastically reducing the size of the federal government and drastically cutting back on regulation. James called for eliminating the Environmental Protection Agency, contending that Texas doesn’t need it. “We can take care of ourselves,” he said.
It’s hard to argue the Republican strategy in Texas where the question is not whether Hutchinson’s seat will go GOP again but just a matter of who is perceived as the mostconservative. Rick Perry won a third term as governor running against President Obama and Washington ignoring his opponent, former Houston Mayor Bill White. The two Democrats, former state Rep. Paul Sadler and Sean Hubbard, a 31-year-old small-business owner from Dallas, faced the dual task of introducing themselves to a broader audience and quickly offering a contrast to their GOP counterparts. Texans haven’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994.
Hubbard said he was older than Joe Biden, the vice president, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate from Delaware at 29. “I’m the only one in the race who isn’t a career politician or a super-wealthy person,” he said. Sadler, an acknowledged expert on public school finance when he served in the Texas Legislature from 1991 to 2003, used his interview time to talk about education. “You have to be concerned with what’s happening with funding in education in Texas, unless you’ve just been asleep,” the 56-year-old said. “We just cut $5.2 billion out of education. For the first time in the known history of our state, we’re not covering enrollment growth. lt’s very disheartening to me and it’s very concerning to me that we would have leadership in this state that would not fund our educational needs.” Both Democrats expressed support for abortion rights and for the Dream Act, which allows in-state tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants. The Republican candidates opposed both.
Burbank, California this morning.
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