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oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of September 11th 2011

We lead this week with an article by Damon Barrett, who argues that drugs and the drug trade are presented in international treaty law at the UN as an existential threat to us - through our children; but goes on to expose the true reality of the war on drugs - that so often it is our children who fall victim to, and are not saved by, this failed strategy ~ MW
Mark Weiss
11 September 2011

Children of the Drug War

One of the greatest myths of drug prohibition is that it protects children. Launching the US war on drugs in 1971 President Nixon talked about addiction coming quietly into homes and destroying children. Mexican authorities continue to justify a costly military assault on drug cartels in the name of children. International agreements on drugs that entrench the prohibitionist regime and provide it with the gravitas of the United Nations refer to children as our future, 'our most precious asset.' Drugs and the drug trade are posited in these documents and speeches as an existential threat to us, through our children.

Let's be clear - drugs and the drug trade now pose significant threats to children. And protecting them from these threats should be our goal. But whether the policies of the past few decades have in fact achieved that goal, have the potential to do so, or are making matters steadily worse, are entirely different questions.

In 2009, I was part of a delegation visiting Colombia's Guaviare province to better understand the effects of aerial fumigation of coca. We visited a home run by a priest who provides shelter to children displaced by fumigation and drug-fuelled conflict. Removed from their families, many had witnessed appalling violence, or had hidden in fear of military gunships escorting airplanes spraying unknown chemicals on their villages, or had watched their parents weep for their destroyed livelihoods. 

These were the children of the drug war. Or at least some of them. Like most, however, their stories have rarely come to the fore, remaining hidden behind top line statistics about kilos seized, hectares eradicated, prosecutions secured, and how many people aged 15-65 have used a drug in the last year. To a considerable extent the situation in Mexico has changed that, as the short brutality of the lives many children are now facing becomes clearer, as the death toll of parents and children racks up, and as schools become targets of violence and intimidation. This cannot escape public attention.

But the stories of many of the children affected by drug policies in myriad ways continue to go untold.

Take Mario, for example. At twenty he is the eldest son and supported his family income by driving a motorcycle taxi in Jakarta, Indonesia. Following his arrest for possessing a small amount of drugs he was imprisoned for eighteen months. He is in a grossly overcrowded prison, far from home. His parents struggle to get by as they spend almost their entire household income visiting and protecting him.

Or Michael, eight years old, from Kisumu in Kenya. He was orphaned by AIDS and lives with his elderly aunt. He has sickle cell anaemia, a life-limiting blood disorder characterised by episodes of severe pain. Michael is suffering because access to morphine in Kenya is so poor. There are many factors contributing to this, but one of them is an international drug control system and national laws, including in Kenya, that prioritise fighting drugs over providing essential medicines. As one palliative care expert told me "We need to set our priorities straight".

What about the girls, bartered to drug lords in Afghanistan to pay opium debts? Their families are already poor, surviving hand to mouth on small opium farms. They are at the mercy of drought, isolation and credit. When their crops are eradicated in an effort to control heroin production, their choices are stark - sell a child or the family starves.

And then there is LaCoste - a white, rich, teenage drug dealer in a US college campus. Someone for whom the drug war is of no consequence, but a child of the drug war nonetheless. His is a case of the privileges of race and class and speaks volumes to the criminalisation of America's black and Latino youth. The fact is that most of us are children of the drug war. Certainly for those of us born in the last fifty years, we have grown up in the midst of a political and increasingly punitive and militarised enterprise. But our experiences of it, and those of today's young people, are hardly uniform.

In this midst of this there are those children and young people who use drugs and are falling victim to health harms - those things from which they were supposed to have been protected. In many countries, where we have data, their numbers are increasing.

There is a book called Exterminate All the Brutes by Sven Lindqvist which begins and ends with the same plea - "You already know enough. So do I. It is not knowledge we lack. What is missing is the courage to understand what we know and to draw conclusions" If drug policies are to be justified with reference to children and young people, then those policies must be interrogated with reference to them. We know enough to do this. Evaluation is a standard process. But which politicians have the moral courage to call for it?

Source: Huffington Post

Count the Costs Campaign Events in European Capitals

Video reports of the Count the Costs campaign events organized by the European Drug Policy Initiative in 5 European cities Anniversaries are always good to catalyize drug policy reform activities – and 2011 is very special anniversary. It is the 50th anniversary of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the first international treaty prohibiting (some) drugs. NGOs launched an international campaign to show the world that the war on drugs creates massive costs, resulting from the enforcement-led approach that puts organised crime in control of the trade.

We call governments to evaluate the international drug control system. The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) is one of the leading organizations of this campaign. After creating the fictional Drug Lords International (DLI) in March to represent those criminals who benefit from the war on drugs, in June we mobilized our partners in the European Drug Policy Initiative (EDPI) to organize coordinated actions in five European cities - Sofia, Bucharest, Warsaw, Oslo, Porto - to raise public awareness on the costs of the war on drugs. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Drug Reporter

New Count the Costs briefing on the human rights costs of the war on drugs 

 Today sees the publication of the Count the Costs Human Rights Briefing, which has been produced in collaboration with various Count the Costs project supporters, including TransformEHRNHarm Reduction International and Release. 

The 18-page briefing is available online in PDF, and in print in English and in Spanish. It covers the wide range of human rights issues impacted by the war on drugs, including sections on: Drug use and criminalisation; The right to a fair trial and due process standards; Torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; The death penalty and extrajudicial killings; Over-incarceration and arbitrary detention; The right to health; The right to social security and an adequate standard of living; Rights of the child; Cultural and indigenous rights. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Count the Costs

WikiLeaks Drug War Cables: Burn poppies, burn’

Titles from some of the latest WikiLeaks cables on the "war on drugs" read like cheeky tabloid headlines rather than polished prose from international diplomats. "Coke, tokes and inept folks: Can Sierra Leone stay tough on drugs?" reads a secret 2008 cable from the US embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone's capital. Diplomats in the West African country of Guinea-Bissau wrote: "No confidence in government, [but] high confidence in drugs."

In a cable title that could have come from Hunter S Thompson's, diplomats in Mexico expressed fear and loathing for "Drugs and downturn on the border". "Preval on thugs, drugs and his health,” opened a dispatch from Haiti, in words that would impress murdered rap star Notorious B.I.G. Diplomats in Afghanistan entitled a cable “Burn poppy, burn”.

The title of a cable written by the US consulate in Guadalajara, Mexico, even riffed on a classic Disney film. Entitled "Beauty and the Beasts", the cable described the arrest of several drug traffickers along with Laura Zuniga Huizar, crowned Miss Hispanic America in 2008.A 2008 cable described a Russian Orthodox Church [ROC] sponsored youth camp in which a priest referred to alcohol and drugs as "diseases that continue to harm us". The cable's title? "Sex, thugs, and the ROC on a roll".

The cables portray a different “war on drugs” than what the US State Department describes to the public in its annual reports. "These cables reveal what is actually happening [with the war on drugs] apart from the political line," says Sanho Tree, drug policy project coordinator at the Institute for Policy Studies and a former diplomatic historian. "They give you some interesting and hilarious data sets." To learn more please follow this link

Source: Al Jazeera

'Living Room' drugs and alcohol centre opens in Cardiff

A new drugs charity is opening in Cardiff, offering rehabilitation based on "empowerment" of addicts. The Living Room centre, set up by the Welsh Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs, offers support to anyone dependent on drugs or alcohol.

Chief executive Wynford Elis Owen said the recovery centre would offer a range of interventions. "It builds on their strengths and assets, rather than focusing on weaknesses and deficits," he said.

He added it was vital to provide ongoing after-care support following treatment."Without this essential element, people are prone to relapse," he said. To learn more please follow this link

Source: BBC News

Recovery orientated drug treatment - an interim report

The NTA - on behalf of the Department of Health - asked Professor John Strang to chair a group to provide guidance to the drug treatment field "on the proper use of medications to aid recovery and on how the care for those in need of effective and evidence based drug treatment is more fully orientated to optimise recovery". There is acknowledgement in the document that the drive for the guidance was a political one, following the election of the coalition government and subsequent review of the Drug Strategy in 2010. The interim report highlights the initial findings and the direction of travel of the expert group.

The report recognises the strong body of evidence for opioid substitute treatment (OST), but cautions against medical interventions becoming "detached and isolated" from other interventions including care planning, psychosocial interventions, and mutual aid/peer support. The group acknowledges that most of the interventions they felt were necessary for effective treatment were already described in existing guidance, and that they see their role as building upon, rather than dramatically changing, existing service provision. To learn more please follow this link

Source: SMMGP

Commissioning is damaging the voluntary sector, says NCIA founder

Andy Benson of the National Coalition for Independent Action tells NCVO conference the commissioning of public services is threatening the independence of the sector. Benson told delegates at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ Research Conference in London yesterday that "commissioning is damaging to the principles and practices of voluntary action".

He said the process was threatening the independence of the sector because, even if organisations did not agree with government cuts or the commissioning of services, they were unlikely to speak out for fear of ruining their relationships with funders. "The culture of fear among many voluntary organisations is now apparent and evident," he said.

Benson said he had come across "extraordinary incompetence" among commissioners and that commissioning did not allow for innovation and flexibility in delivering services. Rachael McGill, coordinator at the NCIA, told the session that government spending cuts were being made for ideological rather than economic reasons. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Third Sector

Ennis demands HSE methadone clinic as heroin addiction rises

A CLARE town is stepping up demands for the HSE to establish a methadone clinic. Ennis mayor Michael Guilfoyle supported a call by Cllr Paul O’Shea for the town council to press the HSE for the service. This comes after a reported fivefold rise in people requiring treatment for heroin addiction in Ennis. 

At the council’s September meeting, Mr O’Shea said: "The figures show there is a need for a methadone clinic." He said it was alarming to note a 400% increase in one year in people seeking help for heroin addiction in Ennis. The Labour Party councillor said that, along with a clinic for heroin and cocaine users, Ennis and Clare requires a detox nurse and increased day services for addicts. 

He further requested that county coroner Isobel O’Dea submit a report to the council on the numbers who have died recently from drugs and alcohol. He said: "I’m sure everyone here would be absolutely shocked to hear of the numbers who have passed away through drink and drugs. The professionals involved in drug treatment need to sit down and look at the figures and come up with a pro-active response to this. This is very, very serious." To learn more please follow this link

Source: Irish Examiner

MAPPING HIV-RELATED BEHAVIOURAL SURVEILLANCE AMONG INJECTING DRUG USERS IN EUROPE, 2008

Injecting drug users (IDUs) are vulnerable to a wide range of viral and bacterial infections through poor injection hygiene [1-3]. These infections, which include HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B, result in considerable levels of morbidity and mortality. With an estimated 750,000 to 1 million active IDUs in the European Union (EU) [4], these infections have the potential to place a considerable burden on European healthcare systems, as well as adversely impacting on the well-being of those who inject drugs.

Interventions have been adopted throughout Europe that aim to reduce risk of these infections [5]; these interventions include opiate substitution therapy (OST) and needle and syringe exchange programmes (NSPs), both of which have been shown to effective in preventing infections. They aim to reduce infections by changing the behaviours that place individuals at risk of infection, such as through reducing the sharing and reuse of injecting equipment and by decreasing the frequency of drug injection.

Monitoring the levels of these behaviours is thus important for assessing the impact of intervention programmes. The systematic collection of information on risk and protective behaviours is therefore an important part of second-generation HIV surveillance systems. Behavioural surveillance focused on IDUs often looks at behaviours related to a range of viral infections of the blood, not just HIV, due to the similarities in the routes of transmission.

We examine here the extent of behavioural surveillance among IDUs in the EU Member States and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries is examined, focusing on the methods employed and the indicators used. The EU/EFTA countries are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Eurosurveillance

HIV-1 OUTBREAK AMONG INJECTING DRUG USERS IN GREECE, 2011: A PRELIMINARY REPORT

During the first months of 2011, an unprecedented upward shift in the number of newly diagnosed cases of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection among injecting drug users (IDUs) in Greece was noticed. In order to verify the epicentre of the outbreak and to identify unusual patterns of viral transmission, enhanced surveillance and a molecular epidemiology study among IDUs were conducted. This is a brief overview of surveillance data up to 31 July 2011 and of the preliminary results of the molecular epidemiology analysis. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Eurosurveillance

Nurses oppose needle exchange plans

Nurses who work at Canberra's jail have joined a growing chorus of opposition to a proposed needle exchange program for prisoners. The Public Health Association issued a report in July on options for an exchange program at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) at the request of the ACT Government.

It proposed several models including a contained needle exchange program within the jail's health centre, which could be run by ACT Health and nursing staff. The Australian Nursing Federation has today released its formal response, and union representative Jenny Miragaya says the jail's nursing staff are worried about the proposals.

"At this stage they are unable to support any of the recommendations," Ms Miragaya said. The union's submission says nurses see the value in some of the proposed needle exchange models but they have also raised several key issues. Nurses are concerned about the lack of staff, where the program could be located inside the prison and the personal safety risk from needles.

Source: ABC News

Illicit Drug Use among Older Adults

Illicit drug use generally declines as individuals move through young adulthood into middle adulthood and maturity, but research has shown that the baby-boom generation (persons born between 1946 and 1964) has relatively higher drug use rates than previous generations. It has been predicted that, as the baby boom generation ages, past year marijuana use will almost triple between 1999/2001 and 2020 among persons aged 50 or older. Nonmedical use of prescription-type drugs also has been identified as a concern for this population.

Although use of illicit drugs is problematic for individuals of all ages, it may be of particular concern for older adults because they experience physiological, psychological, and social changes that place them at greater risk of harm from illicit drug use. The increasing prevalence and effects of illicit drug use among older adults suggest the need both to better understand illicit drug use among this population and to plan for and develop age-appropriate prevention and treatment services.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) asks persons aged 12 or older to report their use of illicit drugs in the past year. NSDUH defines illicit drugs to include marijuana/hashish, cocaine (including crack), inhalants, hallucinogens, heroin, or prescription-type drugs used nonmedically. This issue of The NSDUH Reportpresents estimates of past year use of illicit drugs among persons aged 50 or older. Findings in the report are annual averages based on combined 2007 to 2009 NSDUH data. To learn more please follow this link

Source: SAMHSA

Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings

This report presents the first information from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an annual survey sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The survey is the primary source of information on the use of illicit drugs, alcohol, and tobacco in the civilian, noninstitutionalized population of the United States aged 12 years old or older.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) obtains information on nine categories of illicit drug use: use of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, and inhalants, as well as the nonmedical use of prescription-type pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives. In these categories, hashish is included with marijuana, and crack is considered a form of cocaine. Several drugs are grouped under the hallucinogens category, including LSD, PCP, peyote, mescaline, psilocybin mushrooms, and "Ecstasy" (MDMA). Inhalants include a variety of substances, such as nitrous oxide, amyl nitrite, cleaning fluids, gasoline, spray paint, other aerosol sprays, and glue. Respondents are asked to report use of inhalants to get high but not to report times when they accidentally inhaled a substance.

The four categories of prescription-type drugs (pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives) cover numerous medications that currently are or have been available by prescription. They also include drugs within these groupings that originally were prescription medications but currently may be manufactured and distributed illegally, such as methamphetamine, which is included under stimulants. Respondents are asked to report only "nonmedical" use of these drugs, defined as use without a prescription of the individual's own or simply for the experience or feeling the drugs caused. Use of over-the-counter drugs and legitimate use of prescription drugs are not included. NSDUH reports combine the four prescription-type drug groups into a category referred to as "psychotherapeutics." To learn more please follow this link

Source: SAMHSA

Markets meltdown leads to surge in City addictions

Drug and alcohol problems are rising at an alarming rate in London's financial district, according to the founder of what claims to be the only specialist addiction counselling service based in the Square Mile. Richard Kingdon, 42, says the climate of markets going into meltdown and banks implementing mass job cuts has prompted record numbers of City workers to seek treatment for addiction. He says his service, City Beacon, has worked with nearly 100 clients over the past two years.

"I'm seeing increasing numbers of people who've been taking a variety of substances to deal with the stress of their lives." One of Kingdon's recovering clients is Daniel (not his real name), now in his mid-40s, who started drinking heavily at 25. He moved on to cocaine and found it impossible to stop his habit of "shoving my six figure bonuses up my nose", although he has not had a drink or taken drugsfor two years.

"It is absolutely rife in the City," Daniel says. "The cocaine dealers have not gone out of business because I've stopped. I could take you five minutes from here to 15 or 20 bars where you would be guaranteed to be able to buy cocaine." To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Guardian

Psychedelic therapy and the war on drugs

Peter Aziz was jailed for providing consenting adults with a physiologically harmless substance which they took under close supervision for healing purposes ('Healer' jailed for providing drug potion, 3 September).

I am an NHS doctor campaigning to see a re-emergence of psychedelic therapy in the UK. Drugs such as LSD, psilocybin (magic mushrooms), MDMA (ecstasy) and DMT (ayahuasca, as prescribed by Peter Aziz) can all be used safely with adequate preparation and under clinical conditions to improve people's lives and treat unremitting mental disorders.

There is a growing wealth of scientific evidence and increasing medical support for this form of therapy. How sad therefore that another innocent bystander has been caught in the crossfire of the war on drugs. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Guardian

The Opium War by Julia Lovell – review

In July 1840 a fleet of British warships approached the southern coast of China, intent on avenging a series of insults and injuries inflicted on British subjects over the preceding months. The first battle lasted nine minutes. Thus began the first opium war, a series of unequal military encounters lasting until 1842. A second opium war culminated in 1860 with the looting and burning of the imperial pleasure grounds, the Yuan Ming Yuan, in the northwest suburbs of Beijing by British and French troops.

At the time, as Julia Lovell explains lucidly and compellingly, these events were perceived largely as a border skirmish. The Qing emperor was preoccupied with a series of internal rebellions, and his officials were so nervous of passing on the letters the British handed in that he had little idea of what the trouble was about. When hostilities began, repeated accounts of glorious Chinese victories over the barbarians left the emperor in the dark about the real outcome.

It was an inglorious episode on both sides, with its roots in an expanding imperial power being rebuffed in its efforts to trade: there was nothing, the Chinese loftily replied to the British emissaries, that China needed or wanted from the west – not their goods, not their ideas and certainly not their company. There was plenty that the British wanted to buy from China, though, and by the 1780s, the British appetite for tea and Chinese indifference to British goods had produced a trade deficit that the East India Company began to fill by supplying opium grown in British Bengal. It was a trade that greatly benefited the British exchequer, the merchants who traded it, the officials who grafted on it, the Chinese wholesalers who bought it and the foreign missionaries who travelled with it. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Guardian

Amy Winehouse had 'prescribed drug' in system when she died

At a recording for the new American talk show, Anderson, hosted by the CNN journalist Anderson Cooper, Mitch Winehouse repeated past statements that his daughter had no illegal drugs in her system. “What happened to Amy wasn’t anything to do with drugs,” he said. But Mitch Winehouse did say that a small amount of the drug Librium, which is used to help people overcome alcohol detoxification, was found.

A section of the interview has been posted on celebrity website TMZ.com. The 27-year-old soul singer scored hits with such songs as Rehab andBack to Black, which was the title track of her smash hit 2006 album. But even as Winehouse rose to stardom, she battled drug and alcohol addiction.

When she died on July 23, it was widely assumed that substance abuse was the root cause. However, toxicology results from an autopsy released by the family late last month showed that no illegal substances were present, though there was evidence of some alcohol, although whether it contributed to her death was not made clear. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Telegraph

Drugs mule dies in New Zealand after cocaine packages burst inside her

Sorlinda Arirtizabal Vega was taken to hospital after getting off a flight at Auckland airport from Buenos Aires, Argentina, with other family members on Tuesday morning. Police said a post-mortem showed she had swallowed at least 26 bags of cocaine and one of those had burst.

The bags each weighed 20 grams and added up to more than half a kilogram of the drug, with a street value of NZ$175,000 (£91,000). Detective Inspector Scott Beard said: "There are always serious risks to health when smuggling drugs internally, and this woman has paid with her life.

He said police are looking to establish whether there are any links between the woman and organised crime in New Zealand. The death has been referred to the coroner to decide whether an inquest will be held. Drug running is becoming an increasing problem in the South Pacific, with couriers from Europe, Asia and South America attempting to supply illegal markets in Australia and New Zealand. Smugglers resort to whatever innovative methods they believe will succeed in avoiding detection by customs officials. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Telegraph


Vicente Zambada, Mexican Drug Cartel Lieutenant, Has No Immunity Deal: Federal Prosecutors

CHICAGO — U.S. prosecutors on Friday asked a judge not to throw out drug trafficking conspiracy charges against a top lieutenant in one of Mexico's largest cartels, saying federal agents absolutely did not have an immunity agreement with him.

Vicente Zambada is being held in a Chicago jail awaiting trial. His attorneys contend he and other Sinaloa cartel leaders were granted immunity by U.S. agents – and carte blanche to smuggle cocaine over the border – in exchange for intelligence about rival cartels engaged in bloody turf wars in Mexico. In a response filed electronically with the U.S. District Court in Chicago late Friday, prosecutors flatly denied such an agreement exists.

"Distilled, defendant's argument is that if one member of a criminal organization is indicted and cooperates, every member of that organization whether it is a drug trafficking cartel, a Mafia organization, or a street gang is immune from prosecution for all of their organization's criminal acts," prosecutors wrote "That is not the law, and defendant's motion fails because of it." To learn more please follow this link

Source: Huffington Post

Top Honduras security official resigns

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — A top leader of Honduras' battle against rampant drug violence has resigned, saying he lacked economic support for his efforts and had been stepping on the toes of powerful interests.

Security Minister Oscar Alvarez's departure was the biggest surprise announced late Saturday by the government of Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, who also accepted the resignation of Foreign Minister Mario Canahuati. The moves marked the biggest shake-ups so far in Lobo's nearly two-year administration.

Alvarez had been outspoken against growing drug trafficking in the small, impoverished Central American country and was considered both the most powerful Cabinet member and the one closest to Lobo. 

Alvarez was also emerging as a presidential candidate for the ruling National Party in 2013. He said in a press conference Saturday that he was unable to reach his goal of cleaning up Honduras' police force and that his work had been affecting powerful interest groups. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Huffington Post

Nikki Haley Wants To Drug Test Applicants for Unemployment Benefits

Gov. Nikki Haley said Thursday she wants to institute drug testing for people who apply for state unemployment benefits. "I so want drug testing," Haley told a receptive, hometown gathering of Rotarians at a breakfast reception held at the Country Club of Lexington. "It's something I've been wanting since the first day I walked into office."  To learn more please follow this link

Source: Huffington Post

U.S. Embassy Official Expresses Solidarity with Mexico At 9/11 Memorial

MEXICO CITY -- A U.S. Embassy official used a memorial ceremony for the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attack to express solidarity with Mexicans over the drug cartel violence afflicting their country. Charge d'Affaires John Feeley noted the Aug. 25 casino fire in the northern city of Monterrey that killed 52 people and a recent gunbattle outside a soccer stadium in Torreon that sent fans fleeing in panic to escape the bullets.

"Although my personal analysis is that there are no terrorist groups in Mexico ... it's no consolation for Mexicans when criminals use terrorist tactics to sow fear," Feeley said Friday. "You don't fight alone. We march with you bearing the scars and grief of our own battles against evil." The ceremony at the capital's Museum of Memory and Tolerance also commemorated the terrorist attacks that struck Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005.

Officials from the British and Spanish embassies attended the ceremony, where survivors and officials remembered the nearly 3,000 people who died in the 9/11 attack. Among the dead were an estimated 16 Mexicans, U.S. officials said. The crowd of 200 gave a standing ovation to members of the Mexican rescue team "Los Topos Aztecas" who helped New York authorities locate victims at ground zero in 2001. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Huffington Post

U.S. accuses Venezuela officials of drug ties

CARACAS (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday accused four Venezuelan officials of helping to provide arms to drug-running Colombian guerrillas, a charge Venezuela's left-wing government dismissed as "abusive." The flap is the latest in a long series between OPEC-member Venezuela and its main oil client, the United States.

The U.S. Treasury Department issued a statement in Washington saying American citizens were prohibited from doing business with the four close allies of President Hugo Chavez. They are Amilcar Figueroa, a prominent member of the ruling Socialist Party; Army General Cliver Alcala; congressman Freddy Bernal; and intelligence officer Ramon Madriz, who was accused of providing security for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

"Today's action exposes four Venezuelan government officials as key facilitators of arms, security, training and other assistance in support of the FARC's operations in Venezuela," the statement said. The Treasury Department "will continue to aggressively target the FARC's support structures in Venezuela and throughout the region." To learn more please follow this link

Source: Huffington Post

Forced Labor in Vietnam Drug Rehabilitation Centers: Rights Group

HANOI, Vietnam -- An international human rights group urged Vietnam to shut down drug rehabilitation centers that it said subject inmates to abuse and forced labor. It also called Wednesday on international donors to check the programs they fund inside the centers for possible ties to human rights violations.

New York-based Human Rights Watch accused Vietnam of imprisoning hundreds of thousands of drug addicts over the past decade without due process and forcing them to work long hours for little pay. It also alleged that the U.S. and Australian governments, the United Nations, the World Bank and other international donors may "indirectly facilitate human rights abuses" by providing drug dependency or HIV treatment and prevention services to addicts inside some of the centers.

About 309,000 drug users nationwide passed through the centers from 2000 to 2010, with the number of facilities more than doubling – from 56 to 123_ and the maximum length of detention rising from one to four years, the report said, citing government figures. The report called drug treatment at the centers "ineffective and abusive," claiming donor support for health services inside such facilities allows Vietnam to "maximize profits" by detaining drug addicts for longer periods and forcing them to do manual labor. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Huffington Post

Caracas Cables: Drug Trafficking Venezuelan Airline? Senator Dodd's Meeting With Chávez; Wild West Border Region

For the past year or so, I've been writing steadily about WikiLeaks and U.S. diplomatic correspondence between various American embassies in Latin America and the State Department in Washington, D.C. For a full inventory of these pieces, you may head to my website, which complements and further contextualizes my two books, Revolution: South America and the Rise of the New Left, and Hugo Chávez: Oil, Politics and the Challenge to the U.S..

It's a bit difficult for one person to stay on top of all the communication back and forth, and WikiLeaks' recent decision to place all of the remaining cables online has made the researchers' work even more of an uphill climb. In an effort to stay afloat, I decided to sift through many of these cables, taking note of intriguing, incendiary or just plain odd documents which may be worthy of further investigation.

In coming weeks, I'll be publishing my own guide to the "Caracas cables" which may aid journalists, researchers or activists. In the interest of saving time, I've opted not to insert too much of my own commentary or analysis but have added in links to the original documents where useful. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Huffington Post

National Drug Report Shows Increase In Marijuana Use, Decrease In Meth (STATISTICS)

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released its annual report on illicit drug usage today, showing a sharp decline in methamphetamine use, but an upturn in marijuana consumption. The report, which analyzes survey data collected last year, showed an uptick in the percentage of marijuana users. In fact, the percentage of Americans who admitted to regular illicit drug use increased for most age groups from 2009 (see graph below).

According to USA Today, marijuana is also the most widely used illicit drug, with 6.9 percent of the population admitting to regular use. The reason for its increased prevalence may also be attributed to the increasing number of states that have approved its consumption for medical purposes. Meth, on the other hand, has taken a sharp downturn in usage. You can read the full report for yourself here, via SAMHSA.

Source: Huffington Post

New York's Heroin Factories: Drug 'Mills' Feed City's Ravenous Demand

NEW YORK -- In many ways, the reputed drug dealers on Grandview Place were good neighbours. Their two-story, red-brick home in the New York City suburb of Fort Lee, N.J., looked perfectly ordinary with its white trim, gable porch and manicured shrubbery.

Neither noise nor sketchy visitors were an issue, authorities say. The only sign that something was amiss was the rented van that would disappear into a lower-level garage each day. The driver's job: To deliver immigrant workers from the inner city to package heroin in thousands-upon-thousands of glassine envelopes stamped with catchy logos like "LeBron James" and "Roger Dat."

The Fort Lee operation represented the new, more serene face of the ever-thriving heroin trade in the New York City area, the drug's national epicenter, according to the Manhattan-based narcotics investigators who shut it down. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Huffington Post

ACLU Challenging Florida Law Requiring Welfare Recipients To Pass A Drug Test

MIAMI — The American Civil Liberties Union is suing to block Florida's new law requiring new welfare recipients to pass a drug test, filing the lawsuit on behalf of a Navy veteran who was denied assistance to help care for his 4-year-old son because he refused to take the test.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in federal court. "The law assumes that everyone who needs a little help has a drug problem," said Luis Lebron, 35, who had applied for the state money to help care for his son while he finishes college. "It's wrong and it's unfair. It judges a whole group of people based on their temporary economic situation."

The ACLU, which is also challenging a mandate by Gov. Rick Scott requiring drug testing for state employees, says the law is unconstitutional – an argument that federal judges have agreed with before – because it constitutes an unreasonable search or seizure. Lawmakers in more than two-dozen states have proposed drug-testing recipients of welfare or other government assistance, but the ACLU said Florida is the first to enact the law. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Huffington Post

The Rehab Archipeligo: Forced Labor and Other Abuses in Drug Detention Centres in Southern Vietnam

The 121-page report documents the experiences of people confined to 14 detention centers under the authority of the Ho Chi Minh City government. Refusing to work, or violating center rules, results in punishment that in some cases is torture. Quynh Luu, a former detainee who was caught trying to escape from one center, described his punishment: "First they beat my legs so that I couldn't run off again... [Then] they shocked me with an electric baton [and] kept me in the punishment room for a month." READ THE PRESS RELEASE; READ THE REPORT

Source: Human Rights Watch

Que Malo, Narcos! Mexico Attacks Cartels With Comics

The besieged Mexican government has a new tool in the info war against drug cartels: animated, online propaganda comics set to electronic beats.

The 10-episode comic series, posted over the summer in two- to three-minute episodes to the blog of President Felipe Calderon, is the latest weapon in a “cultural struggle” against drug cartels. The comics are said to be “a new space for communication” that will “help us better understand the phenomenon of organized crime,” said federal security spokesman Alejandro Poire. That is, government propaganda with a pop art twist.

“We cannot allow, as a government and society, impunity for criminals to invade cultural spheres to normalize their crimes, weaken our values and impede the construction of a culture of legality that we all need to achieve genuine security,” Poire said. He added, “We should not be indifferent to these ‘narco-corridos.’ We already were for too long.” To learn more please follow this link

Source: WIRED

Emerging Drug Trends in Lancashire: Focusing on young adults’ alcohol and drug use. Phase Two Report

This report presents findings from Phase two of a two year rolling programme of research (October 2010 to October 2012) on Emerging Drug Trends (hereafter EDT) in Lancashire funded by Lancashire Drug and Alcohol Action Team (hereafter LDAAT) and undertaken by Dr Fiona Measham, Dr Karenza Moore and Dr Jeanette Østergaard at Lancaster University, and for Phase Two also Dr Claire Fitzpatrick and Bina Bhardwa.

In Phase One, we conducted surveys in the night time economy (hereafter NTE) in four town and city centres in Lancashire (Measham et al, 2011a). The purpose of this first phase was to produce predominately quantitative (statistical) data on prevalence and patterns of drug use, both in terms of established legal and controlled drugs such as alcohol, cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy, and also in terms of assessing the extent of the emergence of novel psychoactive substances or so-called ‘legal highs’ in the north west of England (EMCDDA 2010; Measham et al 2010, Measham et al 2011b).

In Phase Two we turn our attention to young adults’ attitudes towards, and experiences of, alcohol and illicit drug use. In order to explore young adults’ attitudes and experiences within the broader context of emerging drug trends we undertook nine separate focus groups with a total of 55 young adults aged between 16 and 27 years of age. In addition to discussing their attitudes and experiences of alcohol and illicit drugs, focus group participants were asked to complete a short survey consisting of similar questions to those asked of participants in the LDAAT EDT NTE surveys (Measham et al, 2011a). This enabled a comparison of our focus group participants’ alcohol and drug use patterns with young adults surveyed in the Lancashire NTE in 2010. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Lancashire Drug and Alcohol Action Team

Drug War Madness

In 1936, a church group commissioned a film "to strike fear in the hearts of young people tempted to smoke marijuana." But it was not until the 1970s that Reefer Madness — billed as “the original classic that was not afraid to make up the truth” due to its grotesque portrayal of the supposed dangers of marijuana — obtained cult status. After the scare tactics of the 1930s, U.S. marijuana policy varied depending on the political climate, even as scientific research consistently debunked extreme claims that the plant caused uncontrollable violent behavior, physical addiction, and insanity.

Then on June 17, 1971, President Richard Nixon launched his signature “war on drugs.” The new crackdown on illegal drug use shifted the issue from a local health and public safety problem to a series of federal agencies under the direct control of the president. President Ronald Reagan later doubled down on the drug war, ushering in an age of mass incarceration.

Like the film before it, the drug war model not only criminalized but also demonized illegal drug dealing and use — and the individuals involved — in moralistic and military terms. In many states, selling marijuana carried longer sentences than murder. Although the abuse of legal drugs now kills more people than illegal drugs, the architects of  the drug war continues to promote the view that it is some inherent evil of the substance, rather than the way individuals and groups use it, that determines whether a drug is a threat to society or an accepted social custom.

The Drug Policy Alliance has revealed that U.S. authorities arrest some 800,000 people a year for marijuana use. Two-thirds of those incarcerated in state prisons for drug offenses are black or Hispanic, even though consumption rates for whites are equal. Largely because of drug laws and draconian enforcement, the United States has become the world champion in imprisoning its own people, often destroying the hopes and futures of its youth. The United States spends more than $51 billion a year on the domestic war on drugs alone.  To learn more please follow this link

Source: Foreign Policy in Focus

DEA Issues Emergency Ban on "Bath Salts" Drugs

The DEA announced Wednesday that it was using its emergency scheduling powers to impose a ban on three synthetic stimulants widely marketed as "bath salts." The three drugs are mephedrone, methylone, and 3,4 methyleneoxypyrovalerone (MDPV).

But the ban on bath salts drugs comes as a rising chorus has begun to criticize the prohibitionist approach to new drugs, with European researchers noting that new synthetics have been emerging at a rate of one a week in the past 18 months. The ban does not go into effect for at least 30 days, after which DEA will publish in the Federal Register a Final Order to ban them for a year, with a possible six-month extension.

The emergency ban makes it illegal to possess or sell the three substances while the DEA and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) conduct further studies to determine whether the substances should be permanently controlled. In the meantime, the emergency order will designate the bath salts drugs as Schedule I controlled substances. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Drug War Chronicle

Announcement: The 2011 International Drug Policy Reform Conference, Los Angeles

StoptheDrugWar.org (DRCNet) is pleased to be a partner in the upcoming 2011 International Drug Policy Reform Conference, this November 2-5 at the Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles.

The Reform Conference, sponsored by our friends at the Drug Policy Alliance, is the major biennial gathering of drug policy reformers of all kinds. The last one, held in Albuquerque in 2009, brought together over 1,000 attendees representing 30 different countries.

This year attendees will have the opportunity to spend three days interacting with people committed to finding alternatives to the war on drugs while participating in sessions given by leading experts from around the world. Click here to register -- early bird rates are available through September 16, and discounts are available for students. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Drug War Chronicle

Positive Changes for Andean Drug Policy

The following is adapted from two articles on recent developments in Peru and Colombia I wrote for Insight Crime, a web-based resource on organized crime in the Americas that receives support from the Open Society Latin America Program.  It highlights the work of two Open Society Foundations grantees, the Washington Office of Latin Americaand the Transnational Institute, and notes the recent appointment of Ricardo Soberon, former Open Society Foundations grantee, as Peru's drug czar.

Recent developments in Peru and Colombia are promising indicators that progressive drug policy reform is advancing in the Andean region. Peru's suspension of  U.S.-funded coca eradication efforts may have lasted no longer than a week, but it was the first real indication that President Ollanta Humala is more than willing to make bold changes to the country's drug policy. Coca eradication is widely understood as an ineffective means to control world cocaine supply.

Source: open Society

Top Honduras security official resigns in Cabinet shake-up

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — A top leader of Honduras’ battle against rampant drug violence has resigned, saying he lacked economic support for his efforts and had been stepping on the toes of powerful interests.

Security Minister Oscar Alvarez’s departure was the biggest surprise announced late Saturday by the government of Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, who also accepted the resignation of Foreign Minister Mario Canahuati.

The moves marked the biggest shake-ups so far in Lobo’s nearly two-year administration. Alvarez had been outspoken against growing drug trafficking in the small, impoverished Central American country and was considered both the most powerful Cabinet member and the one closest to Lobo. Alvarez was also emerging as a presidential candidate for the ruling National Party in 2013.  To learn more please follow this link

Source: Washington Post

Guatemalans head to polls

MEXICO CITY — Guatemalans frustrated by soaring crime go the polls Sunday as the front-running candidates promise to aggressively confront the mafias that have turned the poor Central American state into a killing field.

The No. 1 issue is violence, according to opinion polls. Armed gangs, bolstered by the incursion of Mexican drug cartels, have taken over towns; more than 90 percent of the cocaine entering the United States crosses the Guatemala border. Martial law has been declared in the provinces.

“Insecurity has reached alarming levels. For the vast majority of citizens, there are only two issues: employment and security,” said Fernando Giron Soto, a security analyst at the Myrna Mack Foundation in Guatemala City. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Washington Post

Prosecutors deny immunity agreement with drug lord’s son, ask judge not to toss drug charges

CHICAGO — U.S. prosecutors on Friday asked a judge not to throw out drug trafficking conspiracy charges against a top lieutenant in one of Mexico’s largest cartels, saying federal agents absolutely did not have an immunity agreement with him.

Vicente Zambada is being held in a Chicago jail awaiting trial. His attorneys contend he and other Sinaloa cartel leaders were granted immunity by U.S. agents — and carte blanche to smuggle cocaine over the border — in exchange for intelligence about rival cartels engaged in bloody turf wars in Mexico.

In a response filed electronically with the U.S. District Court in Chicago late Friday, prosecutors flatly denied such an agreement exists. “Distilled, defendant’s argument is that if one member of a criminal organization is indicted and cooperates, every member of that organization whether it is a drug trafficking cartel, a Mafia organization, or a street gang is immune from prosecution for all of their organization’s criminal acts,” prosecutors wrote “That is not the law, and defendant’s motion fails because of it.” To learn more please follow this link

Source: Washington Post

Ex-Chicago police officer who stole money from suspected drug dealers sentenced to 12 years

CHICAGO — A former Chicago police officer who authorities say was the ringleader in a band of rogue police who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from suspected drug dealers and ordered a hit on a fellow officer to keep him from revealing the scheme was sentenced Thursday to 12 years in federal prison.

Standing in an orange jump suit, with shackles around his ankles, Jerome Finnigan stood impassively as U.S. District Judge Blanche Manning who said he once had been a good officer who tried to “rid the community of the scourge of drugs ... (who) became a scourge yourself.” She paid special attention to the charge that Finnigan plotted to have an officer killed to keep him from testifying against him, saying, “This act is unfathomable.” To learn more please follow this link

Source: Washington Post

NTA: Fall in Opiate and Crack use in England - Independent Research Published

The number of people in England who use heroin and crack has fallen, according to independent research published by the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) today. Experts from the Centre for Drug Misuse Research at the University of Glasgow estimated there were 306,150 users of heroin and/ or crack in 2009-10, a statistically significant decrease from the 2008-9 estimate of 321,229.

The research suggests there are now about 25,000 fewer heroin and/ or crack addicts in the population than the 2005-7 estimate of 330,000. An NTA summary of the research also highlights an estimate of 103,185 injecting drug users, a fall of 12% from the previous count.

The findings update a three-year research programme commissioned by the Home Office to supplement data in the British Crime Survey and give a clearer picture of the extent of use of the most harmful drugs. Heroin and crack are the most problematic illicit substances, because of their potential for entrenching dependency in individuals and their social impact in fuelling drug-related crime, worklessness and welfare dependency.  To learn more please follow this link

Source: National Treatment Agency

Guatemala’s presidential election: The return of the iron fist - A former general promises a crackdown on violence

FROM hoardings plastered all over Guatemala, the stern face of Otto Pérez Molina stares out beside the clenched-fist logo of his Patriot Party. General Pérez, as he was known until hanging up his rifle in 2000, was once the Guatemalan army’s intelligence director. After coming second in the 2007 presidential race, he is the front-runner in this year’s election on September 11th. Should he win, he will be the first military man to become president since army rule ended in 1986. He promises to crush crime with a mano dura, or iron fist, by extending sentences, hiring 10,000 police, expanding video surveillance and lowering the age of criminal responsibility.

Polls show that many voters cannot wait for Mr Pérez to attack criminals. With a murder rate of over 40 per 100,000 people, Guatemala is among the world’s most dangerous countries. Mexican drug mafias use the wild north as a base for storing merchandise and training hitmen. Youth gangs terrorise many areas of the capital. Prosecutions are rare; when they do happen, the villain is often a policeman.

But the return to power of a former general raises the spectre of a nightmare far worse than today’s violence: the mass murders of Guatemala’s 1960-96 civil war, in which an estimated 200,000 people died. Anyone who served in the army then “cannot be innocent of the atrocities that happened,” says Fernando Girón of the Myrna Mack Foundation, a human-rights group named for one of the conflict’s victims. Memories of the horrors are still fresh. Last month four former soldiers were each sentenced to 6,060 years in jail for massacring over 200 villagers in 1982. Many were killed with sledgehammers and then thrown down a well. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Economist

Prisoner's calls monitored to uncover drug trafficking

Prisoners' telephone calls were monitored during a three-month operation to uncover drug trafficking within a Young Offenders Centre (YOC). The Court of Appeal heard on Tuesday how intelligence was used to stop temporary home leave for suspected suppliers at Hydebank Wood.

A convicted robber and hijacker was believed to be drug dealing. The decision to cancel James Davidson's release period led to him launching a legal challenge. He claimed he had a right to know the reasons.

Senior judges, however, dismissed his appeal against being refused a judicial review on Tuesday and ruled that there was no procedural unfairness involved. Davidson, whose address and age were undisclosed, was sentenced to four years in the YOC for offences which also included theft and possession of an offensive weapon. To learn more please follow this link

Source: BBC News

 

Expose the ‘dark money’ bankrolling our politics

US Christian ‘fundamentalists’, some linked to Donald Trump and Steve Bannon, have poured at least $50m of ‘dark money’ into Europe over the past decade – boosting the far right.

That's just the tip of the iceberg: we've got many more leads to chase down. Find out more and support our work here.

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