This Week in History

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August 23, 1839: The United Kingdom captured Hong Kong as a base as it prepared for war with Qing China. The ensuing three-year conflict was later known as the First Opium War.

August 18, 1989: Luis Carlos Galan, a Colombian presidential candidate who spoke in favor of extradition, is assassinated at a campaign rally near Bogota. That evening, President Virgilio Barco Vargas issues an emergency decree reestablishing the policy of extradition. In response, the "Extraditables" declare all-out war against the Colombian government and begin a bombing/murder campaign that lasts until January 1991.

August 20, 1990: The US House of Representatives Committee on Government Operations releases a report on the results of Operation Snowcap, the Reagan-Bush administration program aimed at stopping the flow of drugs into the United States at their source. Snowcap's goal had been to eliminate coca crops, cocaine processing laboratories, clandestine landing strips, and other trafficking operations in the coca producing countries of South America. The report found that less than one percent of the region's cocaine had been destroyed by this campaign and that authorities in Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia were deeply involved in narcotics trafficking.

August 20, 1994: The Guardian reports that Raymond Kendall, secretary general of Interpol, said, "The prosecution of thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens every year is both hypocritical and an affront to individual, civil, and human rights... Drug use should no longer be a criminal offense."

August 18, 1996: In San Francisco, a city church distributes marijuana to patients who possess a doctor's recommendation in wake of the temporary injunction closing the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers' Club. "I believe the moral stance [in this instance] is to break the law to make this marijuana available," said Rev. Jim Mitulski of the Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco. "Our church's spiritual vitality has always come from a willingness to act where people have been reluctant to act. This is not a bystander church."

August 19, 1999: Confronting questions about possible past drug use, Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush told reporters he had not used illegal drugs in 25 years, and added that if voters insisted on knowing more, "they can go find somebody else to vote for."

August 22, 2003: David Borden, Executive Director of StoptheDrugWar.org, writes an open letter to the Chief Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Rufus G. King III, stating his refusal to serve jury duty. "... I have determined that unjust drug laws, and the corrosion wrought by the drug war on the criminal justice system as a whole, compel me to conscientiously refuse jury service," says Borden. Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/openletter to read the full letter.

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