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AAP (Australia); NZ HERALD, RADIO NEW ZEALAND, SCOOP (New Zealand)

Worldcrunch

WELLINGTON - Parliament on Tuesday approved a measure that would make New Zealand the first country to legalize synthetic drugs, otherwise known as party pills. If it gains final approval later this year, the Psychoactive Substances Bill would create a system to test and approval certain mind-altering drugs.

This bill, reports the Scoop Media website, would allow for the sale and consumption of synthetic drugs that have been proven to be safe and meet manufacturing requirements. Prison sentences of eight years will be imposed on those selling drugs that are not legally approved.

Radio New Zealand says this will apply to all products that contain psychoactive material -- excluding alcohol or tobacco -- or those covered in the country's Misuse of Drugs Act.

The application fee for the clinical trials for all companies seeking approval of their products will cost more than $150,000, and testing could run up to $1.7 million, says the NZ Herald.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said in March that most countries have tried prohibiting synthetic highs, but soon all faced the same problem of new variations quickly returning to the market, reports the AAP. "There is a game of cat and mouse where an irresponsible industry seeks to elude authorities and circumvent the law by bringing new chemicals to a lucrative market."

New Zealand Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell called for a ban on advertising, as well as requirements of “unsexy packaging.” He said that plain packaging should be introduced as part of the legislation to prevent legal battles with the industry in the future.

In order to prove that these drugs are safe, they must be tested. Dunne says whether it will be on animals or not was still to be decided, according to the Herald. He did, however, rule out “the controversial” lethal dose 50% (LD50) test, where increasing doses of a tested drug are given to a sample group of animals until half of them die.

A final vote on the legislation is slated for August.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

When Did Putin "Turn" Evil? That's Exactly The Wrong Question

Look back over the past two decades, and you'll see Vladimir Putin has always been the man revealed by the Ukraine invasion, an evil and sinister dictator. The Russian leader just managed to mask it, especially because so many chose to see him as a typically corrupt and greedy strongman who could be bribed or reasoned with.

Putin arrives for a ceremony to accept credentials from 24 foreign ambassadors at the Grand Kremlin Palace on Sept. 20.

Sergiy Gromenko*

-OpEd-

KYIV — The world knows that Vladimir Putin has power, money and mistresses. So why, ask some, wasn't that enough for him? Why did he have to go start another war?

At its heart, this is the wrong question to ask. For Putin, military expansion is not an adrenaline rush to feed into his existing life of luxury. On the contrary, the shedding of blood for the sake of holding power is his modus operandi, while the fruits of greed and corruption like the Putin Palace in Gelendzhik are more like a welcome bonus.

In the last year, we have kept hearing rhetorical questions like “why did Putin start this war at all, didn't he have enough of his own land?” or “he already has Gelendzhik to enjoy, why fight?” This line of thinking has resurfaced after missile strikes on Ukrainian power grids and dams, which was regarded by many as a simple demonstration of terrorism. Such acts are a manifestation of weakness, some ask, so is Putin ready to show himself weak?

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However, you will not arrive at the correct answer if the questions themselves are asked incorrectly. For decades, analysts in Russia, Ukraine, and the West have been under an illusion about the nature of the Russian president's personal dictatorship.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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