Greece backs Bolivian leader’s call for Venezuela dialogue
By DEREK GATOPOULOS
Friday, March 15
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece on Friday backed calls by Bolivia’s left-wing President Evo Morales for a negotiated settlement to the severe political and financial crisis in Venezuela, in what marks a different approach to that pursued by key European allies.
Many European Union countries are among 50 nations, including the United States, which are backing Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido against embattled President Nicolas Maduro. Those EU countries want a presidential election to resolve Venezuela’s problems.
But Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza party has friendly ties with left-wing parties in South America and has expressed support for Maduro.
Morales met with Tsipras in Athens on a rare trip to Europe, and called on the Greek prime minister to press the EU to push for talks between the Venezuelan government and opposition as a way out of the crisis.
“I have expressed by serious concern at the situation in Venezuela, with the deepening financial and humanitarian crisis,” Tsipras said. “The only option in the coming days is a dialogue involving all sides — from the government and the opposition — to sit at the same negotiating table and avoid an the escalation of the crisis and possibility a bloody civil conflict.”
A senior government official in Athens told The Associated Press that Greece did not have a “front seat” in international negotiations involving Venezuela but was pressing other EU countries to insist in trying to reach a negotiated settlement. The official, who spoke ahead of Morales’ visit, asked not to be named pending official statements.
Late Thursday, Morales accused Guaido of acting like a colonial-era “viceroy,” and criticized the support he has received from the U.S.
“We do not agree with this outside interference … solutions must be found inside the country,” he said Friday.
Referring to Tsipras as “brother Alexis,” Morales said he was seeking Greek support in often-troubled trade negotiations between the EU and South American countries and said his government would receive advice from experts in Athens to try and emulate Greece’s “tourism miracle.”
Last year, more than 30 million tourists visited Greece, a country with a population of 10.7 million.
Both Tsipras and Morales are seeking re-election this year and promised to work to broaden international cooperation between left-wing parties.
Iliana Mier in Athens and Costas Kantouris in Thessaloniki contributed. Follow Gatopoulos at http://www.twitter.com/dgatopoulos
Opinion: A Regulatory Framework for Cryptocurrencies Would Create a Land of Opportunities
By Harold Ford
Right around the time I entered politics, the U.S. government was figuring out how to embrace the growth of the internet. Investors were bullish, but skeptics warned about a disorganized platform where too many people had a voice and too few people added real value. In the decades since, the internet has developed into an indispensable tool that plays a fundamental role in almost every industry around the globe.
What many people fail to recognize from the internet’s success is that the United States, led by Congress and other key stakeholders, created a light regulatory framework in the early 1990s that fostered the web’s development and set a global standard for internet-based companies. Early on, with limited guardrails in place, young American tech companies, including Amazon, YouTube and Facebook — who are now rightly facing questions about size, reach and consumer privacy — were given a chance to develop, grow and ultimately entrench the United States as the globe’s most important tech innovator.
Since then, the world has become more globalized and increasingly more “flat” as Thomas Friedman labels it. Just like the internet, blockchain and crypto assets could improve financial markets and industries if the United States properly fosters its innovation. Not surprisingly, many people have a significant level of distrust over this new technology, immediately rolling their eyes when they hear about Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. Nevertheless, as we saw in the development of the internet, skeptics can be wrong. This is one of those cases.
Blockchain technology uses a public ledger that allows easy, transparent, permanent and instantaneous transactions to take place across its platform. With it, many entrepreneurs have developed crypto assets and businesses that allow for the purchase of goods, instantaneous cross-border payments and a transparent supply chain management. More important perhaps, it has improved the efficiency of services and has offered greater accessibility to financial services for lower- and middle-income people. With lower costs and more transparency, both consumers and companies will have a more active participation in activities that are currently out of their reach.
As a former elected official who always worked to bring people together, I believe that greater economic freedom, while harnessing American innovation, is an issue that both parties would support. To achieve this goal, it is essential for Congress, along with other stakeholders, to work together in developing a balanced and comprehensive framework for crypto tokens that will offer guidance for entrepreneurs and ensure consumer protection.
Without clear regulation, investors will be discouraged to finance crypto-related companies that can provide reliable, cheaper and more efficient services to low- and middle-income earners. Regulatory ambiguity will only stump growth and kill investment — possibly threatening America’s opportunity to once again become the front-runner of a new technology.
Policymakers should be proactive in searching for the right balance of regulatory requirements. That balance should reflect the interests of the Congress, the Security and Exchange Commission, industry experts, business and consumers alike. Because without the appropriate rules, the field has the potential to become the Wild West, which would jeopardize the ability of everyday consumers to leverage this technology to improve their quality of life.
Some states, such as Wyoming, Colorado, Ohio and California are already taking the initiative to understand and develop a framework for businesses that use blockchain and cryptocurrencies. California, for example, created a blockchain working group to evaluate the use of the technology in government and private businesses, while Ohio started accepting Bitcoin for tax payments.
Recognizing the potential of blockchain technology, these states are taking the lead by fostering innovation — through talks with key industry players and testing of new opportunities — and should serve as models for the federal government as it develops its own regulatory framework.
In the meantime, the SEC has been the most forward-leaning government agency to date in asserting that neither Bitcoin nor Ether are securities because they are decentralized coins. But even more clarity is needed to ensure creation of a smart, thoughtful and cohesive regulatory framework that will help foster more innovation in crypto assets, birth thousands of new American jobs and protect consumers.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Harold Ford Jr. is a former U.S. representative from Tennessee. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Politicians Are Finally Catching Up on Marijuana
Two-thirds of Americans — and nearly all Democratic presidential candidates — now agree that pot prohibition is more harmful than pot itself.
By Jill Richardson | March 13, 2019
Usually I don’t look to sitcoms for wisdom, but the new season of One Day at a Time has a real gem (or many, actually, but here is one). The family lives in California, where marijuana is legal, both recreationally and medicinally. The mother catches the teenage son vaping, and he complains that she’s being too harsh on him because it’s legal now.
Her response? So is alcohol and so are cigarettes, and none of them are legal for you. And all three are bad for a teenager’s developing brain.
Our longstanding national policy of criminalizing marijuana at a federal level and in many states is often justified by calling marijuana a “gateway drug.”
But the other two so-called gateway drugs — tobacco and alcohol — were already legal. And none were legal for minors. So why is marijuana so uniquely bad it must be criminalized for adults?
You should not drive a car while high, but you also should not drive while drunk. Somehow we’ve managed to allow alcohol while restricting people from using it in ways that endanger others.
That much was true before. Here’s what is new: The field of Democratic presidential candidates in the 2020 race virtually all agree on this point. Legalize pot.
It’s not a bold position to take. The majority of Americans — even the majority of Republicans — agree.
Several candidates support their views with justifications about criminal justice, noting that prohibition has filled America’s prisons with people often guilty of nothing worse than possession of cannabis.
Imagine spending time in prison for growing or owning a little bit of a plant. Other people are in there for murder, rape, and burglary, and you’re there for owning a few flower tops. That’s the reality for many in this country.
Think about the implications of that. We’re all paying to lock people up for a bit of weed. Their entire families suffer by having a loved one in prison. Children grow up without parents who are incarcerated because of pot. Meanwhile, we’ve actually enriched more dangerous drug cartels by providing a price support and eliminating competition.
It is a game changer to have almost the entire field of presidential candidates supporting legalizing marijuana.
Politicians are cowards. It’s now no longer brave or risky to advocate legalization. If you do, most of your voters will be on your side. And those who don’t? Well, who else are they going to vote for? Among Democratic primary voters virtually all of their choices are pro-legalization, so nobody will lose votes by taking this stance.
Even if Trump came around, it would be politically safe. He already knows his Democratic opponent will be for legalization, and the majority of Republicans are for it. What is there to lose?
It’s time to legalize marijuana. Americans have been far more harmed by arrests and imprisonments for pot than they ever have been by using pot itself.
Once it’s legal, we should look into next steps: conducting more research on medicinal uses of cannabis, expanding the industrial hemp industry, and commuting sentences of people who are behind bars for nothing more than non-violent marijuana possession.
OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is pursuing a PhD in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She lives in San Diego. Distributed by OtherWords.org.
Violence against women is overlooked in its role in opioid epidemic
March 20, 2019
Author: Nabila El-Bassel, Professor of Social Work, Director of Social Intervention Group, Columbia University
Disclosure statement: Nabila El-Bassel receives funding from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
One night, a woman I’ll call Tonya got a compliment from a guy when she was out with her boyfriend. Tonya’s boyfriend cursed her because another man had complimented her. He said: “You give it to everybody, I want it too.” In anticipation of his physical abuse, she reasoned, “I could go off to Wonder World.” She then injected heroin, to be “in her own world,” she later told me.
Tonya is only one of the hundreds of women I’ve interviewed for my research with similar stories in the span of my nearly 30-year career studying the links between intimate partner violence, sexual coercion, substance use disorders and HIV.
In the early 90s, I was among a few social scientists who identified intimate partner violence as a major risk factor for HIV risk behaviors and transmission and a barrier to treatment access, and engagement among women.
Over the years, I have designed, tested and promoted the use of gender-specific HIV and prevention interventions to address these issues simultaneously for women, men and couples who use drugs.
More recently, I have expanded my substance abuse research to include greater involvement in opioid overdose prevention among women and men. I have begun a cross-university collaboration to tackle the opioid crisis and issues such as partner violence, reproductive health and gender equity are included in the interventions that we will develop, in order improve access to services and treatment for individuals who use opiates.
While progress has been made to address intimate partner violence among women who use drugs, those with opioid use disorders who experience partner violence are still in dire need of help in navigating and engaging in substance use treatment programs and other services.
Our research found that many men with substance use disorders often undermined their female partners’ recovery. They can control their ability to engage in treatment, deny them potential sources of protection, and jeopardize the custody of their children to maintain control over them and, for some men, have women take care of them.
Medicating to mitigate trauma
Many women in controlling and violent relationships like Tonya’s “self-medicate” – or use drugs that are not prescribed to them to help with their medical condition – to mitigate the trauma of physical and sexual assault. As a result, their bodies crave an ever-increasing steady supply of substances to get high in order to feel “better.” Today, the drugs of choice are usually opioids.
Research has repeatedly indicated that drug use is associated with partner violence, specifically against women, who may be particularly susceptible to such violence when under the influence of opioids. Living with substance use disorders puts these women into a number of contexts that expose them to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases that jeopardize their survival in many ways.
In my research with men on partner violence and drug use and HIV, a man reported pushing his partner to the floor and forcing her to have sex. He did not consider this violent, since she reportedly gave him a “signal.”
In another study with women who use drugs, a woman said that her husband hit her and forced her to have sex: “I didn’t know I was raped because he was my husband.”
Treatment must address the need for escape that these women seek. As another woman said, “When I was sober I didn’t dare have sex with him. I had to be high to be able … to make love to him.”
A power imbalance
Many women who use drugs lack the power to negotiate safer sex and reduce drug risk behaviors, such as not sharing syringes with a partner or others, due to imbalanced power dynamics with their partners, and male controlling behaviors. Yet, most available HIV and substance use prevention strategies and treatment put the onus on women to insist on safe sex and drug risk reduction, increasing their risk of physical and sexual abuse.
This can be dangerous. Studies have shown that women are often physically or sexually abused when negotiating safe sex or refusing to engage in drug risk. Thus, a key person is missing from the conversation: her male partner.
My research has shown that counseling the couple may help. In a systematic review, colleagues and I found that couple-based interventions for women and male sex partners who use drugs help reduce sexual- and drug-risk behaviors and promote healthy relationship. Counseling couples allows partners to address gender differences in a safe environment, power imbalances and gender inequalities when sharing needles.
No easy fixes
The opioid epidemic is complex and requires many approaches. In April 2018, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a public health advisory emphasizing the necessity of safe prescribing of opioids, accessing evidence-based medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and distributing naloxone to reverse overdose. However, the advisory makes no mention of the need for gender-specific approaches and interventions.
A recent study found that women were nearly three times less likely to receive naloxone during emergency resuscitation efforts than men, which is likely due to their being devalued. Emergency responders and police officers as well as family members and peers must be trained to overcome this gendered barrier and recognize signs and symptoms of overdose.
Women who use drugs face multilayers of stigma and disbelief, preventing them from disclosing problems such as partner violence. Staying in treatment is difficult for women when services are designed and delivered by men who may not know how to create an environment of trust for women. These issues must be changed if we are serious on addressing the opioid epidemic among women.
Women who use drugs have told our research teams that they feel unsafe in the locations where they are forced to inject. In fact, they face greater risks than men in these locations where men – who may have abused them – share. A movement toward safe injection locations, similar to the site in Vancouver specifically for women, would ensure women can avoid violence and gain access to harm reduction services.
Women with active opioid use disorders and those in recovery need to be at the forefront of discussions of how to move forward effective policies and programs to curb gender disparities and partner violence. Only then can we observe better outcomes for women like Tonya.
Small Businesses Like Mine Need Paid Family and Medical Leave
Illnesses and injury shouldn’t bankrupt workers or their employers. Let’s pool resources to protect all of us.
By Sarah Piepenburg | March 20, 2019
Ten years ago, my husband and I opened a specialty oil and vinegar shop. Early on, we learned that our store would be only as good as the people who work in it. To invest in our employees is to invest in our business.
Now we employ five people. One of our most valued long-term employees, Linda, worked at the phone company for 27 years before coming to us. She left the phone company as a retiree but didn’t have enough money from her pension to retire.
When Linda fell and broke both of her arms last year, my husband and I told her to take the time she needed to recover. When payroll came around, I went to her apartment with her paycheck. She was sitting with the TV tray in front of her, deciding how to figure out rent with her leasing agent, what food to cut, and whether to sell her car.
I gave her a full check, including pay for the time she’d been out recovering. She was incredibly relieved, and my husband and I were honored to be able to cover her time, which we continued to do through her recovery.
But this took a toll on our family, our finances, and our business. I have three children and scrambled to pay for child care to cover my employee’s shifts. My husband and I missed a mortgage payment on our house, and we were late on a commercial rent payment.
Our business is thriving, but when it comes to paid family and medical leave, we just can’t do it alone. Many small business owners like me desperately want to offer leave but simply can’t afford it.
In February, I traveled to Washington, D.C. to share my experience with members of Congress at a special briefing on paid family and medical leave hosted by Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut.
I told them the same thing I’ve told lawmakers in my home state of Minnesota: To give small business a fighting chance, we need to level the playing field and adopt a strong paid family and medical leave program.
Whether we’re business owners or employees, we all should be able to take time away from work when a loved one is sick, or we have health problems of our own. In our current economic climate, that’s a real financial struggle for all of us, and it shouldn’t be.
Paid family and medical leave laws create a system where everyone pays in a little, spreading the costs so everyone can benefit. This is the kind of solution that small businesses are clamoring for.
A recent survey of 1,500 small businesses by Main Street Alliance found overwhelming support for national and state paid leave policies. Sixty-four percent of small business owners — including 76 percent of women and people of color — support paid leave.
Linda is now recuperating from hip replacement surgery now, and will also need knee replacement. We have another employee who will likely need time off to assist his mother, who has early onset dementia.
Meanwhile, we’re trying to open another store, which would provide needed jobs in a small town. Yet the dollars we need for the store are being diverted to paid leave.
Nearly every other country in the world has figured out that a low-cost, pooled insurance program is a sound investment in economic and family health.
I’m encouraged that our national lawmakers are willing to listen, but we don’t have time to waste. While Congress discusses paid leave, state lawmakers around the country, including my state of Minnesota, should lead on this issue. Let’s send a clear message to Washington that the time for paid family and medical leave is now.
Sarah Piepenburg, is the owner of Vinaigrette with locations in Excelsior and Minneapolis, Minnesota, and a member of Main Street Alliance, a national network of small businesses. Distributed by OtherWords.org.