Could Iran Be the Next Country to Legalise Cannabis and Opium?

Marihuana Grafitti. Image: Benzene Aseel/Flickr

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 22 October, 2015.

After Uruguay courageously legalised the use of cannabis under a new drug policy, could Iran be the next country to make it legal? From the outside, the image of Iran as retrograde and inherently conservative hardly fits with the reality of a more dynamic domestic political debate within. But drug policy is one of the areas of debate in which the Islamic Republic has produced some interesting, yet paradoxical, policies.

Iran has a conspicuous drug addiction problem – which officially accounts for more than 2m addicts (though unofficial figures put this as high as 5-6m). Drug traffickers risk harsh punishments that include the death penalty. Yet Iran also has very progressive policies towards drug addiction, which include distribution of clean needles to injecting drug users, methadone substitution programmes (also in prisons) and a vast system of addiction treatment. » More

Polio Wars: Conspiracy and Democracy in Pakistan

A doctor in Pakistan checking children for Polio vaccination. Image: CDC Global/Flickr

This article was originally published by OpenDemocracy on 18 September, 2015.

Between December 2012 and early 2015, 78 people were murdered and dozens of others injured because they tried to administer a polio vaccine to children.  They were killed because of a claim that the vaccines in their coolboxes were actually chemical devices in a western plot to sterilise Muslims.

These killings all took place in Pakistan, the archetypal ‘failed state’. What better evidence can there be that the country is a nest of terrorists than that it cannot stop the murder of medics trying to wipe out a deadly, crippling disease – all because of a conspiracy theory? » More

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China’s Cities Need More Babies, But One Child Policy Still Rules the Provinces

Painted image of chinese children on a space rocket. Image: wackystuff/Flickr

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 6 February, 2015.

After 35 years of consistently strict government control over family size, China’s so-called “one child policy” seems to be winding down – at least for some. Recent headlines quote the authorities in Shanghai going so far as to plead with their residents to “have more children”.

To the policy’s many critics, this is long overdue: China faces an ageing population, epitomised by the four grandparent, two parent, one child family, and couples all over the country are simultaneously looking after their child and two sets of elderly parents. » More

What Role for UN Peacekeepers in Tackling Ebola?

Image: NIAID/Flickr

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 8 September, 2014.

The spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa is “racing ahead” of efforts to control it, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). On Friday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued an “ international rescue call” for a surge in assistance, including doctors, beds, supplies, and vehicles needed to halt the spread of the outbreak in West Africa. Of all the countries affected by the virus, Liberia is one of the hardest hit, with 1,698 reported cases and 871 deaths as of  August 31. » More

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Health or Defense

Obama signs health care act

Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the White House. Photo: Pete Souza/Wikimedia Commons.

Obamacare, now in its awkward early stages of implementation, is the American military’s ticket home. The completion of the last element in America’s welfare state –the last strand of the social safety net—is likely to end the security welfare system America provides for its allies.

There are four basic components to the welfare state: workman’s compensation (which covers job caused disability), unemployment insurance, old age insurance, and health care insurance.  Workman’s compensation in the US was accomplished early in the 20th Century by the states. Retirement (known as Social Security in the US) and unemployment insurance were enacted in the 1930s as part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal reforms. Opposition from the American Medical Association, the physicians’ lobby, prevented President Roosevelt from including health care in his reform package, and its enactment became an enduring Democrat Party quest. » More

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