Police Officers Find That Dissent on Drug Laws May Come With a Price

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Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Law Enforcers Say Ending Prohibition Improve Public Safety

Police Officers Find That Dissent on Drug Laws May Come With a Price

Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

United States Customs and Border Protection agents waiting to inspect cars at Nogales, Ariz., an area where marijuana smuggling has been active.

By 

PHOENIX — Border Patrol agents pursue smugglers one moment and sit around in boredom the next. It was during one of the lulls that Bryan Gonzalez, a young agent, made some comments to a colleague that cost him his career.

Stationed in Deming, N.M., Mr. Gonzalez was in his green-and-white Border Patrol vehicle just a few feet from the international boundary when he pulled up next to a fellow agent to chat about the frustrations of the job. If marijuana were legalized, Mr. Gonzalez acknowledges saying, the drug-related violence across the border in Mexico would cease. He then brought up an organization called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition that favors ending the war on drugs.

Those remarks, along with others expressing sympathy for illegal immigrants from Mexico, were passed along to the Border Patrol headquarters in Washington. After an investigation, a termination letter arrived that said Mr. Gonzalez held “personal views that were contrary to core characteristics of Border Patrol Agents, which are patriotism, dedication and esprit de corps.”

After his dismissal, Mr. Gonzalez joined a group even more exclusive than the Border Patrol: law enforcement officials who have lost their jobs for questioning the war on drugs and are fighting back in the courts.

In Arizona, Joe Miller, a probation officer in Mohave County, near the California border, filed suit last month in Federal District Court after he was dismissed for adding his name to a letter by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which is based in Medford, Mass., and known as LEAP, expressing support for the decriminalization of marijuana.

“More and more members of the law enforcement community are speaking out against failed drug policies, and they don’t give up their right to share their insight and engage in this important debate simply because they receive government paychecks,” said Daniel Pochoda, the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, which is handling the Miller case.

Mr. Miller was one of 32 members of LEAP who signed the letter, which expressed support for a California ballot measure that failed last year that would have permitted recreational marijuana use. Most of the signers were retired members of law enforcement agencies, who can speak their minds without fear of action by their bosses. But Mr. Miller and a handful of others who were still on the job — including the district attorney for Humboldt County in California and the Oakland city attorney — signed, too.

LEAP has seen its membership increase significantly from the time it was founded in 2002 by five disillusioned officers. It now has an e-mail list of 48,000, and its members include 145 judges, prosecutors, police officers, prison guards and other law enforcement officials, most of them retired, who speak on the group’s behalf.

“No one wants to be fired and have to fight for their job in court,” said Neill Franklin, a retired police officer who is LEAP’s executive director. “So most officers are reluctant to sign on board. But we do have some brave souls.”

Mr. Miller was accused of not making clear that he was speaking for himself and not the probation department while advocating the decriminalization of cannabis. His lawsuit, though, points out that the letter he signed said at the bottom, “All agency affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.”

He was also accused of dishonesty for denying that he had given approval for his name to appear on the LEAP letter. In the lawsuit, Mr. Miller said that his wife had given approval without his knowledge, using his e-mail address, but that he had later supported her.

Kip Anderson, the court administrator for the Superior Court in Mohave County, said there was no desire to limit Mr. Miller’s political views.

“This isn’t about legalization,” Mr. Anderson said. “We’re not taking a stand on that. We just didn’t want people to think he was speaking on behalf of the probation department.”

Mr. Miller, who is also a retired police officer and Marine, lost an appeal of his dismissal before a hearing officer. But when his application for unemployment benefits was turned down, he appealed that and won. An administrative law judge found that Mr. Miller had not been dishonest with his bosses and that the disclaimer on the letter was sufficient.

In the case of Mr. Gonzalez, the fired Border Patrol agent, he had not joined LEAP but had expressed sympathy with the group’s cause. “It didn’t make sense to me why marijuana is illegal,” he said. “To see that thousands of people are dying, some of whom I know, makes you want to look for a change.”

Plan Colombia–T-27 shooting down drug dealers aircraft

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UN Hmn. Rghts. Council Reasserts Its Double-Standards–(Always America’s Poodle)

“The council, in a 37-4 vote, passed a resolution Friday that “strongly condemns the continued widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the authorities, such as arbitrary executions, excessive use of force and the killing and persecution of protesters, human rights defenders and journalists, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment, including against children.” 

[Is this resolution against Syria or Bahrain?]

Syria: U.N. resolution ‘unjust’

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) — Syria on Saturday slammed the U.N. Human Rights Council’s stinging condemnation of its security crackdown, calling its resolution “unjust and blatantly politicized.”

“It has become clear to the people of Syria and the countries that realize the reality of the conspiracy against it that the interest of the Syrian people is the last thing on the mind of the countries sponsoring such sessions and their impotent resolutions, and that their true goal is inciting the continuation of terrorism against citizens,” according to an official source quoted by the government-run Syrian Arab News Agency.

Russia, Kyrgyzstan start fulfilling their promises

Russia, Kyrgyzstan start fulfilling their promises

Kommersant

A Gazprom-controlled joint venture has started supplying jet fuel to the U.S. airbase at Bishkek airport. This fulfills a promise made by Almazbek Atambayev, who won the October presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan with Russian assistance. Other agreements stipulate a $30-million loan from Russia and a $256-million loan from the EurAsEC’s anti-crisis fund. In exchange, Russia expects to be given the go ahead for a military base in Kyrgyzstan, to gain control over Kyrgyzstan’s state gas company, Kyrgyzgaz, as well as the Dastan torpedo plant, and most importantly, to squeeze the U.S. air force base out of Kyrgyzstan. This would make Kyrgyzstan Russia’s closest ally in the post-Soviet space.

Gazpromneft–Aero Kyrgyzstan will supply 20% of the U.S. airbase’s fuel requirements (360,000 tons annually) in the next three months and could increase supplies to 50% in February 2012. In March 2011, Prime Minister Atambayev promised Vladimir Putin that the joint venture would supply at least half of the U.S. base’s fuel requirements.

A Kommersant source in the Russian government said Atambayev started fulfilling his promises after he won the October 30 election. “Russia helped Atambayev win and bilateral relations should improve now,” he said. “Bishkek will do everything President Kurmanbek Bakiyev promised.” A Russian Foreign Ministry source described relations with the new Kyrgyz authorities as a honeymoon.

Kyrgyzstan, weakened by last year’s revolution and ethnic riots in Osh, expects new loans from Russia, although growing gold prices ensured an 8.7% growth in the Kyrgyz GDP for January-September 2011 compared to a 1.2% decrease in the same period for 2010. Russian government sources said a $30 million loan could be granted after a new Kyrgyz government is formed and bilateral talks are completed.

Sergei Shatalov, deputy board chairman of the Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) and managing director of EurAsEC’s anti-crisis fund, said Kyrgyzstan filed a request for a EurAsEC loan a year ago. If approved, the $255 million loan could be granted at a fixed rate of 1%-3%, with a five-year grace period and a 20-year maturity date.

To be eligible for that loan, Kyrgyzstan repaid its debt to Russia and signed and ratified an agreement on the conditions of EDB operations in Kyrgyzstan. Local sources close to the talks say the EDB may issue the loan in early 2012.

In response, Kyrgyzstan is supposed to set up a joint military base with Russia. Moscow has proposed that its five current military facilities in Kyrgyzstan be merged into a single base to be deployed on gratis terms for 49 years with the possibility of a 25 year extension. Russia promised to write off Kyrgyzstan’s $180-million debt in exchange for 49% of the Dastan plant, which manufactures the Shkval torpedo, and ownership of the Russian trade mission building in Bishkek. Also, Gazprom wants 75% of Kyrgyzgaz, while Inter RAO and RusHydro insist on hydroelectric power plant construction contracts. However, Russia’s biggest demand is the closure of the Transit Center at Manas International Airport, the last large USAF base in Central Asia.

Voters’ rights group inciting “Orange Revolution”?

Voters’ rights group inciting “Orange Revolution”?

Moskovskiye Novosti

Some election observers believe there is reason to investigate the Golos Association, a whistle-blowing NGO that also monitors elections. Golos has denied any impropriety.

Dmitry Orlov, head of the public organization, Honest Choice, who is also a Russian Popular Front activist, believes that Golos has been taking funds from foreign countries in order to destabilize Russian society as the elections approach. Golos, with the support of some opposition movements, is trying to stage an “Orange Revolution,” Orlov told reporters.

The closer the vote, the harder Golos is being criticized by other observer groups that are more loyal to the Kremlin. Civil Control, an association co-chaired by former Kremlin officer Yaroslav Ternovsky, devoted an entire news conference to Golos. The association’s chief executive, Georgy Fyodorov, said Golos, along with ODIHR OSCE and PACE, is trying to plant doubt and suspicion in people’s minds about the legitimacy of the upcoming election.

“They have a clear destabilizing tactic,” Fyodorov said. They are carefully conditioning the public to hear some “breaking” news of election fraud. The media will have a field day taping the ensuing clashes between pro-Kremlin and nationalist youth being dispersed by special police. This kind of footage would dilute any remaining trust in Russian elections. “It’s too cold to camp out in December,” he said alluding to the tent cities erected during the 2004 revolution in Ukraine. “But it’ll be warmer in March.”

Both Fyodorov and Orlov were especially critical of Golos’s interactive online map of election fraud, a joint project with Gazeta.ru, which has already received about 2,000 complaints. Civil Control collected only 135 fraud reports, with only 14 of them confirmed.

Orlov does not believe that Golos has the resources to actually stage a revolution. However, he pointed out that Golos, which receives grants from foreign organizations including USAID, also uses observers from two major political opposition movements, Solidarity and Parnas. “Doesn’t it look like Golos is channeling foreign financing into Russian political organizations, which is illegal?” he asked. “It would be useful to trace this financial chain linking Golos and Parnas.”

Golos head Lilia Shibanova dismissed the accusation as “ungrounded.” “Our operation is audited quarterly,” she said. “Ninety percent of our correspondents are university students, sociologists, political scientists and lawyers. The grants we receive are spent on offices, telephones, Internet and transportation.” She said they are usually reluctant to use Solidarity observers because they are “easily provoked and have problems with the police.”

Honest Choice’s allegations raised eyebrows in opposition movements. “Suggesting that we receive foreign financing is simply their paranoia,” said Parnas co-chairman Boris Nemtsov. “The authorities inspect us as often as they can. Anything like this would have landed us all behind bars in an instant.”

Solidarity leaders admitted getting paid for working as observers, but not by Golos.

When asked if they have complained to the authorities, Orlov said there are “enough grounds” for the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Foreign Ministry to initiate an investigation.

A Russia Color Revolution?

A Russia Color Revolution?

Posted by Daniel McAdams

Reaction in the Western press to reports that Russian authorities have investigated the activities of the Russian NGO “Golos, the Regional Civic Organization in Defense of Democratic Rights and Liberties”, were predictable: Putin was “trying to gag election monitors” and, as expected, we read that the “US condemns Russia’s ‘harassment’ of monitor group”.

 

The Russian electoral authorities found that Golos had violated Russia’s election laws by publishing polls in the “quiet period” immediately preceding parliamentary elections and fined the organization just under $1,000 for the violation. Russian lawmakers have also accused Golos and several other political opposition friendly NGOs of receiving funding from foreign sources for their political activities, which would be against Russian law (as foreign funding of US elections would be against US law).

The organization, we read, was “the country’s main non-government election watchdog,” so of course it having been “gagged” on the eve of parliamentary elections was ominous and troubling to the Western press. US-regime friendly (and George Soros-funded) Human Rights Watch complained that Golos was the “victim of a smear campaign.”

Major Western media outlets once again trotted out the old “Russia just cannot help its authoritarian tendencies” reporting on the event, with the Reuters report adding that “The complaint echoed Vladimir Putin’s speech on Sunday at his United Russia party congress, where he accused foreigners of funding his political opponents in what reminded some of the anti-Western rhetoric that marked his 2000-08 presidency.”

But what of the claims by politicians and voters’ rights groups that foreign funded NGOs were inciting another “Orange Revolution” in Russia?

A perusal of Golos’s own website (Google’s translation features helps non-Russian speakers) lists its foreign partners being the US “regime change” specialists National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and National Democratic Institute (NDI), two of the major US sponsors of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the Rose Revolution in Georgia, among other adventures.

USAID is also listed as a “partner” organization to Golos, with whom it “works to decrease the number of violations, especially administrative abuses, in election campaigns.” Apparently violations committed by the organizations it funds are OK, however. To make an omelet, NGOs must break a few eggs.

The National Endowment for Democracy’s own website advertises openly that it provided “independent” NGO Golos with a generous grant in the 2010-2011 cycle to:

“…carry out a detailed analysis of the autumn 2010 and spring 2011 election cycles in Russia, which will include press monitoring, monitoring of political agita­tion, activity of electoral commissions, and other aspects of the application of elec­toral legislation in the long-term run-up to the elections. GOLOS will hold local and national press conferences and publish reports on its findings, as well as pro­vide detailed methodological advice to its monitors and other monitoring agencies.”

Not to be outdone, the US government funded National Democratic Institute proudly admits that “since 2000, NDI has worked with GOLOS…[to] provide…ongoing consultation and training for the organization’s regional partners.”

Are Russians “paranoid” to be wary of US government funding of domestic Russian NGOs through its most notorious “regime change” and “color revolution” specialists? Would Americans be similarly “paranoid” if they found out that a Russian- or Chinese-government funded “NGO” with a track record of internal subversion and fomenting revolutions was funding political organizations in the United States? Why is it OK if the US does it to others, but outrageous and threatening if it is done to us? I wouldn’t want a foreign government paying a foreign NGO to fiddle around in our elections! Perhaps these organizations only want to help overseas as they claim and nothing more. With our economy in tatters should we be paying for this?

Destroying the concept of national sovereignty in the rest of the world will come back to haunt the United States. Interventionism is virus that we cannot hope to spread worldwide yet quarantine just outside our own shores. It is patriotic and pro-America to be concerned about such matters!

Fear of ‘farce’ looms over Bonn conference

Fear of ‘farce’ looms over Bonn conference

BERLIN: A major international conference Monday will seek to chart a course for Afghanistan after NATO troops pull out in 2014 but a boycott by Pakistan has dealt a stinging blow to hopes for a roadmap.

The meeting will bring 100 national delegations to the western German city of Bonn. However a deadly NATO bombing raid prompted Pakistan to scratch its name from the list, jeopardising already modest expectations.

“If they stick with their decision to cancel it would be a setback,” the conference’s host, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, admitted after Islamabad pulled out in the wake of Saturday’s air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani troops.

A senior Western diplomat went further, calling it a “pretty huge blow”.

Commentators said the meticulously planned meeting, 10 years after Germany staged another international huddle on political transition following the fall of the radical Taliban, risked becoming a “farce”.

“The entire future engagement of the international community is based on the hope that the peace process between the Afghan government and the Taliban will progress, and Pakistan is the key to this process,” Die Welt newspaper noted.

“The Bonn conference is turning into a farce,” wrote the Financial Times Deutschland. “If Pakistan’s cancellation is maintained, then the conference will be virtually pointless on many issues.”

“Bonn risks becoming just another of those conferences that have brought little benefit to Afghans,” the daily Berliner Zeitung added, also speaking of a potential “farce”.

German officials expressed hope that Islamabad would still be represented at some level, if not by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

Pakistan is seen as vital to any prospect of stability in the war-ravaged country a decade after US-led forces ousted the Taliban.

An analyst at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Christian Wagner, noted that the West and Pakistan had “differing perspectives on the political future of Afghanistan.”

He said that while Pakistan saw the Taliban as a potential “bulwark” against Indian influence and Pashtun nationalism in Afghanistan, “the international community is holding on to the prospect of a democratic order.”

The transition to Afghan sovereignty, stalled efforts to reconcile with the Taliban and international engagement after 2014 make up the main points of the conference’s agenda.

The guest list includes Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

NATO-led combat troops are to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, when the Afghan government is set to take full responsibility for security.

There are 140,000 international troops in the country, most from the United States, followed by Britain and Germany.

The obstacles to peace and development are seen as enormous.

The UN says civilian casualties were up 15 percent in the first half of 2011 to 1,462 while the local military, which has cost over $11 billion this year alone, still faces major problems including illiteracy and human rights concerns.

Meanwhile Karzai’s central government is viewed as weak and corrupt and the perilous security situation, including a rampant drug trade, has undermined efforts to exploit the country’s vast mineral wealth and free itself from foreign aid.

German officials say the conference will aim to allay fears that the international community will turn its back on Afghanistan as it grapples with a global economic downturn.

Participants are to hammer out a final document outlining principles for international commitment to the country, while civil society representatives will present an appeal on behalf of the Afghan people.

But protesters have pledged to rally outside and say the NATO attack only underlined “what a disaster the Western militaries have created in the region in the last 10 years,” said Manfred Stenner of the Peace Cooperative Network. afp

Pakistan Railways Special Report: A journey of neglect, incompetence and corruption

Pakistan Railways Special Report: A journey of neglect, incompetence and corruption

The first of a three-part series examines the effect of reduced engines on families and customers. DESIGN-ANAM HALEEM

LAHORE: “We have been warning officers for the last three years that the railway system will collapse but our supervisors ignore our recommendations,” says Sagheer Cheema, a mechanic who has been with the organisation for 25 years, speaking on the current disarray that engulfs Pakistan Railways (PR).

“They keep saying they have no funds but it’s not like our in-house replacement stores are empty. We have lots of spare parts, but all the wrong ones,” he adds, alleging that senior officers who are qualified engineers at the public sector organisation have been siphoning off commissions from deals for needless machinery. Railways security has also confirmed that much machinery has stood idle in the in-house replacement stores for years now.

PR officials say that at present around 90 engines are on the tracks – out of a total fleet strength of 500. Thus less than 20% of engines are in working condition. Due to the lack of engines, goods transportation, which was the revenue-generating sector for the organisation, has become almost non-existent.

Additionally, most short-distance trains have been suspended, affecting thousands of passengers who used inner-city rail travel to get to work.  “I went home to a village nearby every day when the inner-city train was in operation,” says Mohammad Sarwar, a frequent passenger at Lahore railway station. Thirty-two-year-old Sarwar works in the city while his family resides in a village in Punjab.

“I have very young children and I wish I could be home with them. Even when I do manage to leave for the city by train, there is no guarantee I will be back home in time to spend some quality time with my family,” Sarwar adds.

Routes to and from major cities suffer a different predicament, as trains are not suspended but are often several hours late, with some journeys delayed for up to hours.

Goods transport comes to a standstill

The dry port in Lahore which manages freight business shows even grimmer prospects as hundreds of bogeys are parked with no engine to pull them.

However, those providing transport services outside the port have found plenty of business. Goods are now being transported through road networks instead. Some experts argue that the continuation of transport through roads would be detrimental not only to the financial health of PR but also the environment of the country as it would result in traffic congestion and damaged roads.

But as business continues to boom for transporters outside the rail network, commuters have begun to complain about the economic feasibility of the system compared to travelling by train. Commuters argue that using alternatives for transport also leads to increased costs, hiking up inflation in the country and adding to the woes of an already ailing Pakistani economy.

“There is almost a two-month delay in the delivery of goods but what can we do? We have no engines,” says Abdul Jabbar Ali, a railway officer handling the freight business. PR officials have also been given strict instructions to continue public trains, no matter what, as senior officials want to avoid protests by the public.

Published in The Express Tribune

What the Nato strikes mean for TTP’s jihad

What the Nato strikes mean for TTP’s jihad

Protestors chant slogans in front of the Presidency during a demonstration in Islamabad on December 1 , 2011. PHOTO: AFP

The tragic killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers at the hands of US-led NATO troops on 26 November 2011 gave yet another opportunity to the local and international Jihadis to ridicule Pakistan’s so-called alliance with the ‘crusaders’.

The first statement by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) coming on the heels of the incident reiterated its anti-Western mantra and reminded the government that the US can never be a friend of Pakistan. Manipulating the tragedy to further humiliate the Pakistan government, the TTP spokesman declared that his organization is not holding any talks with the government of Pakistan because “it is futile to negotiate with a slave country”.  In another interview, Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, TTP’s deputy head, advised the government to disengage from the war on terror and dedicate its resources, especially atomic power, for the defense of Muslims.

Calls for Jihad against the US and her allies echoed wild and free in mainland Pakistan as well. Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the mother organization of Lashkar-e-Taiba, held countrywide demonstrations and rallies. The organization vowed to convert Pakistan into a Taliban state and to train young people to wage jihad against America and India. One of the JuD leaders was daring enough to threaten to kill 100 Americans for every Muslim killed. He said:

“Thousands of fighters are ready and waiting for a call from our leader Hafiz Saeed.”

Having suffered extensively at the hands of religiously-motivated individuals and organizations for more than a decade Pakistan has been battling hard to combat extremist ideologies and organizations. Efforts on military and ideological front have yielded desirable outcomes as large chunks of territories previously controlled by the Pakistani Taliban have been cleared and life has returned to normalcy in these areas. On the ideological front, the state, with the help of civil society, have put the Jihadis on the defensive as the support for these organizations dropped sharply during the last few years.

It takes years of constant and conscious efforts to change the mindsets.  But strategic blunders such as the un-provoked attack on Pakistani check posts in Mohmand reverse the gains made in decades. These incidents not only harm already strained inter-state relations but also reinforce the Jihadi narrative of “America being the biggest enemy of Islam and Muslims”. Ultimately, anti-Americanism rises to unprecedented levels and becomes the rallying point for anti-Pakistan, anti-US and anti-India Jihadis to gather popular support to pursue their goals.

Various studies show that anti-Americanism is one of the primary factors behind the rise of violent and non-violent forms of radicalization in Pakistani society. Besides other socio-political factors anti-Americanism motivates militants to resort to violence against the Pakistani government that is regarded as a key US ally. For instance, at the organizational level, most suicide attacks in Pakistan have been claimed by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, Jamiatal-Furqan and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which have been vocal in calling the Pakistani government “an American puppet”. In July 2007, a group calling itself the Mujahideen-i-Islam published a pamphlet threatening more suicide attacks against Pakistani security forces if they did not stop “doing the bidding of the United States.” The pamphlet entitled “Until Islam lives in Islamabad” urged Pakistani soldiers to:

“go to your homes and earn halal (pure) income for your families… instead of serving the Americans.”

These terrorist outfits prevail on widespread anti-Americanism in Pakistani society, which also helps them justify their actions against an unpopular government that is perceived to be pro-US and also to draw more recruits from a society which holds the US responsible for all ills, both in Pakistan and the world.

During the first decade of the War on Terror, Pakistan’s public posture as a major non-NATO ally of the US has done more harm to the country than good.  The state’s decision to side with the US without addressing widespread anti-Americanism on the societal level led to the emergence of a new generation of Jihadis, which is more lethal, internationalized and antagonistic towards the Pakistani state and society. This new breed of holy fighters that can be best described as the Neo-Taliban does not only pose an existential threat to the country but also aspires to go global.

What needs to be done

If the government of Pakistan opts to soften its stance over the issue without seeking an unconditional apology and assurance from the US-led ISAF forces in Afghanistan to take action against those responsible for the attack, it might strengthen the popular support base of Jihadis in Pakistan and the state’s credibility will further diminish. Extremist and violent outfits are likely to fill the vacuum if the government fails to represent public rage over the issue. In a “business as usual scenario” the military establishment must also not disregard the demoralizing effects on the troops and officer core.

To summarize, in the wake of a deadly US attack on a Pakistani border post, it is in the best interest of Pakistan to take effective measures to appear less pro-American. The US must realize the predicament being faced by the Pakistani government.

International powers with stakes in regional peace must ensure that a major non-NATO ally is not forced to opt for the devil but the deep blue sea.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.