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UN Global War on Drugs a Failure?

The 10 year-old strategy of the United Nations to eradicate the world’s illegal drug market is “a spectacular failure of policy.”

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

New York, NY, United States (4E) – The 10 year-old strategy of the United Nations to eradicate the world’s illegal drug market is “a spectacular failure of policy.”

This stunning claim was levelled at the UN by the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) in its new report, “Taking stock: A decade of drug policy.” Based in London, IDPC is a network of 174 NGOs that promotes objective and open debate on drug policy at national, regional and international levels. IDPC supports evidence-based policies that are effective at reducing drug-related harm.

IDPC evaluated the UN Office of Drug and Crime’s 10-year plan. It concluded the UN plan “continues to generate a catastrophic impact on health, human rights, security and development, while not even remotely reducing the global supply of illegal drugs.”

The IDPC report said there had been a 145 percent jump in drug-related deaths over the last decade. These deaths reached a peak of around 450,000 deaths per year in 2015.

There was a 130 percent increase in the cultivation of opium poppies; a 34 percent rise in the coca bush production and no sign of a reduction in cannabis growing. The plan has a specific target to eliminate or reduce the “illicit cultivation of opium poppy, coca bush and cannabis plant.”

The report says its data “illustrates the carnage that the war on drugs has wreaked over the past decade”.

It noted the main drug used is cannabis or marijuana. The next most popular are opioids and amphetamines. Consumption of the latter jumped 136 percent over thelast decade.

“This report is another nail in the coffin for the war on drugs,” said Ann Fordham, IDPC executive director.

IDPC is urging the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs to consider a different approach to narcotics strategy for the next 10 years in advance of the March 2019 summit in Vienna, Austria.

The fact that governments and the UN do not see fit to properly evaluate the disastrous impact of the last 10 years of drug policy, is depressingly unsurprising.

“Governments will meet next March at the UN and will likely rubber-stamp more of the same for the next decade in drug policy. This would be a gross dereliction of duty, and a recipe for more blood spilled in the name of drug control,” rues the report.

The report also said punitive drug policies focusing on eradicating the illegal drug market has caused human rights violations along with threats to public health and order.

Mass incarceration, fuelled by the criminalization of those who use drugs, has left one in five prisoners incarcerated for drug offences. Most of those imprisoned were locked-up for possession for personal use.

At least 3,940 people were executed for a drug offence in 2017. The report also noted that over 27,000 people died in extrajudicial killings in drug crackdowns in the Philippines.

The report said drug-related deaths skyrocketed by 145% over the last decade, with more than 71,000 overdose deaths in the United States in 2017 alone.

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Politics

Take a Look at Your New Income Tax Brackets for 2019

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued revised income tax brackets for 2019 and adjusted them for inflation.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued revised income tax brackets for 2019 and adjusted them for inflation.

The standard deduction in 2019 will be $12,200 for singles and $24,400 for married couples that file jointly. Personal exemptions will remain at zero.

There will be no penalty for failure to maintain minimum essential health coverage in 2019. This penalty in 2018 was $695.

2018 was the first under the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in December 2017, an overhaul of the tax code that resulted in lower individual income tax rates; the elimination of personal exemptions and a doubled standard deduction.

Heads of household (which means filers who are single parents) are getting a $350 boost to their standard deduction. This deduction will be $18,350 in 2019.

Those that save money in a retirement plan can save a little bit more in 2019. The IRS boosted the employee contribution limit for 401(k), 403(b) and most 457 plans to $19,000 compared to the previous $18,500. Savers age 50 and older can save an additional $6,000.

Those with an IRA can put away $6,000 in annual contributions in 2019 compared to the previous $5,500. Catch-up contributions for savers age 50 and older remain at $1,000.

Filers should remember that in 2019, the IRS will abolish the individual mandate, or the fine that people pay for failing to maintain qualifying health insurance coverage. This penalty added up to $695 per adult and $347 per child under age 18 on a per-person basis.

Filer should also be aware that if they went without coverage in 2018, they’ll likely be subject to the fine when they file their taxes in April 2019.

There are a series of information forms you’ll need to complete your 2018 return and report your coverage status to the IRS: They are Form 1095-A (for coverage purchased in the marketplace), Form 1095-B (sent from insurers to covered individuals) and Form 1095-C (for health insurance offered at work).

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act nearly doubled the amount decedents could bequeath in death (or gift over their lifetime), and shield from federal estate and gift taxes that start at 40 percent.

Before the tax overhaul, this gift and estate tax exemption was $5.49 million per person. For 2019, the lifetime gift and estate tax exemption will be $11.4 million per individual versus $11.18 million in 2018.

The annual gift exclusion will remain at $15,000 per recipient for 2019. This item is the amount a filer can give to any other individual without having it count against his lifetime exemption.

2019 Individual Income Tax Rates — Single-Taxable Income — Married Filing Jointly – Taxable Income — Head of Household – Taxable Income

10 percent — 0 to $9,700 — 0 to $19,400 — 0 to $13,850

12 percent — $9,701 to $39,475 — $19,401 to $78,950 — $13,851 to $52,850

22 percent — $39,476 to $84,200 — $78,951 to $168,400 — $52,851 to $84,200

24 percent — $84,201 to $160,725 — $168,401 to $321,450 — $84,201 to $160,700

32 percent — $160,726 to $204,100 — $321,451 to $408,200 — $160,701 to $204,100

35 percent — $204,101 to $510,300 — $408,201 to $612,350 — $204,101 to $510,300

37 percent — $510,301 and up — $612,351 and up — $510,301 and up

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Florida Sues CVS, Walgreens Over Sale of Opioids

Florida is suing Walgreens Boots Alliance and CVS Health Corporation, the top two retail drug chains in the United States, for allegedly contributing to the state’s deadly opioid crisis, as well as the opioid crisis ravaging the country.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Tallahassee, FL, United States (4E) – Florida is suing Walgreens Boots Alliance and CVS Health Corporation, the top two retail drug chains in the United States, for allegedly contributing to the state’s deadly opioid crisis, as well as the opioid crisis ravaging the country.

Attorney General Pam Bondi over the weekend said the two chains were added to an existing case against Purdue Pharma LP, which makes OxyContin, and several other manufacturers. Purdue has been repeatedly sued for Oxycontin, an addiction-causing prescription drug among the drugs most commonly cited in connection with overdose deaths in the USA.

The Florida lawsuit alleges that CVS and Walgreens contributed to the opioid epidemic by overselling the painkiller. Both firms are also acused of not being diligent enough in stopping illegal sales.

“We will continue to pursue those companies that played a role in creating the opioid crisis,” said Bondi. “Thousands of Floridians have suffered as a result of the actions of the defendants.”

The lawsuit claims Walgreens dispensed billions of opioid dosages in Florida pharmacies since 2006. It also said CVS sold 700 million opioid dosages between 2006 and 2014.

CVS said the lawsuit is “without merit while Walgreens refused to comment on the suit.

CVS claims it’s committed to the highest standards of ethics and business practices, including complying with all federal and state laws governing the dispensing of controlled substance prescriptions.

“We also have stringent policies, procedures and tools to help ensure that our pharmacists properly exercise their professional responsibility to evaluate controlled substance prescriptions before filling them.”

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Trump Says He Has Finished Answers to Special Counsel’s Questions

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said he had completed his written answers for the federal investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016election, but had not yet submitted them to the U.S. Special Counsel’s Office.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said he wrote the answers to the questions himself, not his lawyers.

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Washington, DC, United States (VOA) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said he had completed his written answers for the federal investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016election, but had not yet submitted them to the U.S. Special Counsel’s Office.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said he wrote the answers to the questions himself, not his lawyers.

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