Journalist arrested in the Philippines
Last Thursday, Feb. 14, Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, who runs the newsite Rappler, was released on bail after being jailed on Wednesday on charges of cyber-libel. Ressa co-founded Rappler in 2012 after spending much of her career at CNN. In 2018, she was named one of Time Magazine’s People of the Year for her work investigating the Philippines government. Rappler has attained a reputation as one of the few news outlets in the Philippines willing to criticize President Rodrigo Duterte, who has invoked international ire for his dictator-like approach in tackling issues facing the country. His drug policies, deemed by many to be inhumane, were the subject of the articles that led to Ressa’s charges.
Her arrest marks the most recent event in an ongoing saga between the press and Duterte. The statute that Ressa was accused of breaking is six years old and only became law four months after the article in question was published. The Philippines’ National Bureau of Investigation threw out the case in 2017, only to pick it back up again last year. Duterte has denied any political connection to the temporary jailing of Ressa but branded Rappler a “fake news outlet.”
US Charges former Air Force intel specialist for conspiring with Iran
A former United States counterintelligence specialist who defected to Iran has now been charged with revealing classified U.S. intel. The Justice Department claims that Monica Elfriede Witt, formerly of the Air Force, divulged info about a secret Pentagon program as well as the personal and professional details of her colleagues’ lives, which have been used to target them since. Though she had been on the FBI’s radar for some time, Witt assured officials that if she returned to Iran, she would not hand over any intelligence. Though the Justice Department gave few details about the information Witt gave to Iran, they did say that “she provided information that could cause serious damage to national security.” Officials in the U.S. believe the hackers that Witt aided are working on behalf of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which the United States has labeled a terrorist supporter.
WHO recommends rescheduling cannabis for the first time in history
In a historic move, the World Health Organization has recommended that cannabis and other related products be reevaluated in their schedule designation, a system that categorizes substances based on addiction potential in collaboration with medicinal uses. The current schedule of cannabis as a heavily regulated “Schedule I” substance is being reconsidered given the growing evidence showing that the drug could have legitimate merits in treating a number of health problems.
This marks a significant change in the WHO’s position, as the group has been the subject of oversight from nations that have been historically insistent against the medicinal qualities of the plant. Additionally, the committee also recommended that two psychoactive compounds in cannabis (dronabinol and tetrahydrocannabinol) should be removed from the 1971 U.N. Convention on Psychotropic Substances and placed in Schedule I of the 1961 Convention instead. The purpose of this proposal is to simplify the classification of THC and cannabis products. The proposed evaluations and potential rescheduling will go before the U.N.’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs as soon as March, where the member nations will have the opportunity to vote to either approve or reject them.