Category Archives: War On Drugs

How for-profit prisons have become the biggest lobby no one is talking about

Michael Cohen reports for The Washington Post:

Several industries have become notorious for the millions they spend on influencing legislation and getting friendly candidates into office: Big Oil, Big Pharma and the gun lobby among them. But one has managed to quickly build influence with comparatively little scrutiny: Private prisons. The two largest for-profit prison companies in the United States – GEO and Corrections Corporation of America – and their associates have funneled more than $10 million to candidates since 1989 and have spent nearly $25 million on lobbying efforts. Meanwhile, these private companies have seen their revenue and market share soar. They now rake in a combined $3.3 billion in annual revenue and the private federal prison population more than doubled between 2000 and 2010, according to a report by the Justice Policy Institute. Private companies house nearly half of the nation’s immigrant detainees, compared to about 25 percent a decade ago, a Huffington Post report found. In total, there are now about 130 private prisons in the country with about 157,000 beds.

Marco Rubio is one of the best examples of the private prison industry’s growing political influence, a connection that deserves far more attention now that he’s officially launched a presidential bid. The U.S. senator has a history of close ties to the nation’s second-largest for-profit prison company, GEO Group, stretching back to his days as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. While Rubio was leading the House, GEO was awarded a state government contract for a $110 million prison soon after Rubio hired an economic consultant who had been a trustee for a GEO real estate trust. Over his career, Rubio has received nearly $40,000 in campaign donations from GEO, making him the Senate’s top career recipient of contributions from the company. (Rubio’s office did not respond to requests for comment.)’

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The United States Considers Itself a Human Rights Champion. The World Begs to Differ.

Jamil Dakwar writes for the American Civil Liberties Union:

UN Building; Photo Source: Jamil DakwarStarting Monday, the United States’ human rights record will be subject to international scrutiny by the U.N. Human Rights Council. It may just be the perfect catalyst for the Obama administration to make good on past and present wrongs that should never be associated with a liberal democracy predicated on respect for human rights.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is part of a regular examination of the human rights records of all 193 U.N. member countries and will be the second review of its kind for the U.S. since 2010.  The review comes at a critical time when the U.S. human rights record has been criticized for falling short of meeting international human rights standards. From racially biased policing and excessive use of force by law enforcement to the expansion of migrant family detention and from the lack of accountability for the CIA torture program to the use of armed drones abroad, the U.S. has a lot to answer for.’

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New Investigation Unravels Mexican Gov’t Account of How 43 Students Disappeared: Interview with Ryan Devereaux

‘An explosive new investigation published today by The Intercept reveals the untold story of how 43 students disappeared in Mexico on the night of September 26, 2014. It is based on more than two dozen interviews with survivors of the attacks and family members of the disappeared, as well as Mexican historians, human rights activists and journalists. The Intercept also reviewed official Mexican state and federal records including communication logs by security forces and sealed testimony from municipal police officers and gang members. The evidence shows repeated inconsistencies and omissions in the government’s account of what happened when the students went missing. We speak with Ryan Devereaux, staff reporter at The Intercept and author of the two-part investigation, “Ghosts of Iguala.”‘ (Democracy Now!)

Relatives of 43 Missing Students: US-Backed Drug War Fights Organized People, Not Organized Crime

‘As protesters in Baltimore set fire to buildings and vehicles last Monday to protest the death of Freddie Gray, protesters in the Mexican state of Guerrero drove a burning truck into the congressional building in the capital Chilpancingo. The protesters were marking seven months since the disappearance of 43 students. Relatives have continued to question the Mexican government’s claim the students were attacked by local police and turned over to members of a drug gang, who killed and incinerated them. We speak with three relatives of the missing students: María de Jesús Tlatempa Bello, mother of José Eduardo Bartolo Tlatempa; Clemente Rodríguez Moreno, father of Christian Alfonso Rodríguez Telumbre; and Cruz Bautista Salbador, uncle of Benjamín Ascencio Bautista. The relatives have criticized U.S. support for the drug war, saying Mexico is using the aid to kill innocent people. “If they were really fighting organized crime, as the United States government says, then the crime rates would have gone down,” Bautista Salbador says. “Apparently they are not fighting organized crime; they are fighting organized people.”‘ (Democracy Now!)

How the Pentagon is hiding the dead

Nafeez Ahmed writes:

In the name of ‘counting every casualty,’ the Pentagon is systematically undercounting deaths from the ‘war on terror’ and the ‘war on drugs,’ in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Latin America. Complicit in this great deception are some of the world’s most respected anti-war activists.

In this exclusive investigation, Insurge Intelligence reveals that a leading anti-war monitoring group, Iraq Body Count (IBC), is deeply embedded in the Western foreign policy establishment. IBC’s key advisers and researchers have received direct and indirect funding from US government propaganda agencies and Pentagon contractors. It is no surprise, then, that IBC-affiliated scholars promote narratives of conflict that serve violent US client-regimes and promote NATO counter-insurgency doctrines.

IBC has not only systematically underrepresented the Iraqi death toll, it has done so on the basis of demonstrably fraudulent attacks on standard scientific procedures. IBC affiliated scholars are actively applying sophisticated techniques of statistical manipulation to whitewash US complicity in violence in Afghanistan and Colombia.

Through dubious ideological alliances with US and British defense agencies, they are making misleading pseudoscience academically acceptable. Even leading medical journals are now proudly publishing their dubious statistical analyses that lend legitimacy to US militarism abroad.

This subordination of academic conflict research to the interests of the Pentagon sets a dangerous precedent: it permits the US government to control who counts the dead across conflicts involving US interests — all in the name of science and peace.’

READ MORE @ MEDIUM…

U.S. secretly tracked billions of calls for decades

Brad Heath reports for USA Today:

The U.S. government started keeping secret records of Americans’ international telephone calls nearly a decade before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, harvesting billions of calls in a program that provided a blueprint for the far broader National Security Agency surveillance that followed.

For more than two decades, the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed logs of virtually all telephone calls from the USA to as many as 116 countries linked to drug trafficking, current and former officials involved with the operation said. The targeted countries changed over time but included Canada, Mexico and most of Central and South America.

Federal investigators used the call records to track drug cartels’ distribution networks in the USA, allowing agents to detect previously unknown trafficking rings and money handlers. They also used the records to help rule out foreign ties to the bombing in 1995 of a federal building in Oklahoma City and to identify U.S. suspects in a wide range of other investigations.’

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Mercenary firm formerly known as Blackwater gets rich as Afghan drug production hits record high

Spencer Ackerman reports for The Guardian:

An Afghan farmer harvests in an opium poppy field in Jalalabad, Afghanistan on 27 March 2015. Afghanistan is listed as world’s largest opium producer.In a war full of failures, the US counternarcotics mission in Afghanistan stands out: opiate production has climbed steadily over recent years to reach record-high levels last year.

Yet there is a clear winner in the anti-drug effort – not the Afghan people, but the infamous mercenary company formerly known as Blackwater.

Statistics released on Tuesday reveal that the rebranded private security firm, known since 2011 as Academi, reaped over half a billion dollars from the futile Defense Department push to eradicate Afghan narcotics, some 32% of the $1.8bn in contracting money the Pentagon has devoted to the job since 2002.’

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DoJ Watchdog Report: DEA agents had “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by drug cartels

Sari Horwitz and Carol D. Leonnig report for The Washington Post:

Drug Enforcement Administration agents allegedly had “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by local drug cartels overseas over a period of several years, according to a report released Thursday by the Justice Department’s watchdog.

The report did not specify the country where the parties occurred, but a law enforcement official familiar with the matter identified it as Colombia.

Seven of the 10 DEA agents alleged to have participated in the gatherings — most of which took place at an agent’s “quarters” leased by the U.S. government — admitted to having attended the parties, the report found. The agents, some of whom had top-secret security clearances, received suspensions of two to 10 days.’

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Judge to U.S. Government: ‘National Security’ Isn’t a ‘Magic Word’ That Allows Constitutional Rights Violations

Lindsay Nash writes for the American Civil Liberties Union:

‘[…] In the past, DHS generally did not detain families who arrived in the United States seeking asylum. Most eligible individuals were released if they could show that they were not a flight risk or a danger to the community. However, beginning in the summer of 2014, DHS started detaining families in large numbers as part of an “aggressive deterrence strategy” intended to send a message to other Central Americans that if they sought refuge in the United States, they would be similarly punished. Under this policy, even if families demonstrated that they had a credible fear of persecution and were neither flight risks nor dangerous, DHS refused to consider them for release and kept them locked up.

Sound cruel? It is. It’s also unnecessary and illegal.’

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Death, Drugs, and HSBC: How fraudulent blood money makes the world go round

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Medium:

‘Recent reporting on illegal tax evasion by the world’s second largest bank, HSBC, opens a window onto the pivotal role of Western banks in facilitating organised crime, drug-trafficking and Islamist terrorism. Governments know this, but they are powerless to act, not just because they’ve been bought by the banks: but because criminal and terror financing is integral to global capitalism. Now one whistleblower who uncovered an estimated billion pounds worth of HSBC fraud in Britain, suppressed by the British media, is preparing a prosecution that could blow wide open the true scale of criminal corruption in the world’s finance capital.’

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Drug Addiction In Iran

Bill Clinton Apologizes To Mexico For War On Drugs

Ryan Grim and Matt Ferner report for The Huffington Post:

Apology: In a speech at the Laureate Summit on Youth and Productivity in Mexico Clinton told the audience that the war had backfired and has led to an escalation in violence which is crippling the countryFormer President Bill Clinton apologized to Mexico during a speech there last week for a backfired U.S. war on drugs that has fueled spiraling violence. “I wish you had no narco-trafficking, but it’s not really your fault,” Clinton told an audience of students and business leaders at the recent Laureate Summit on Youth and Productivity. “Basically, we did too good of a job of taking the transportation out of the air and water, and so we ran it over land. “I apologize for that,” Clinton said.

Clinton was referring to U.S. drug enforcement policy that began under his predecessors, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, who invested heavily in shutting down the Caribbean Sea as the favored trafficking route between the U.S. and South America and Central America. That effort pushed smuggling west, over land in Mexico.’

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Why Animals Eat Psychoactive Plants

Johann Hari, author of Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, recently published an excerpt from his book at Boing Boing:

‘The United Nations says the drug war’s rationale is to build “a drug-free world — we can do it!” U.S. government officials agree, stressing that “there is no such thing as recreational drug use.” So this isn’t a war to stop addiction, like that in my family, or teenage drug use. It is a war to stop drug use among all humans, everywhere. All these prohibited chemicals need to be rounded up and removed from the earth. That is what we are fighting for.

I began to see this goal differently after I learned the story of the drunk elephants, the stoned water buffalo, and the grieving mongoose. They were all taught to me by a remarkable scientist in Los Angeles named Professor Ronald K. Siegel.’

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German Football: The Bundesliga’s Crystal Meth Problem

Kit Holden reports for The Independent:

Dr Petri has revealed that although alchohol is the main problem, crystal meth is regularly being takenChristian Seifert’s job is easy these days. On Thursday, for example, the chief executive of the German football league (DFL) gave a speech in which he rattled off the successes of the Bundesliga with its record revenues and ticket sales.

German football is booming. The TV deals are ever more lucrative, Die Nationalmannschaft have won the World Cup, and the few young players who do leave almost invariably end up being sold at astronomical prices to the best European clubs.

As its primary publicist, Seifert can just ride the wave. When the clubs return from the winter break next weekend, fans will arrive from all over the world, Britain included. In Germany, they will find wonderful atmospheres, old-fashioned terraces, cheap beer and maybe even the odd line of crystal meth.’

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More States, Native American Tribes Mimic Colorado Pot Laws

‘This past November, Oregon and Alaska voted to legalize the possession and sale of recreational marijuana, and the Department of Justice last month said it would allow Native American tribes to make their own decisions on the sale of pot. Each follows Colorado’s footsteps in the new process of marijuana legalization. NewsHour’s Rick Karr reports.’ (PBS News Hour)

Highs And Lows: Colorado’s First Year Of Legal Pot

Breaking The Set’s Top 5 Most Positive Stories of 2014

Afghanistan: The Making of a Narco State

Matthieu Aikins writes for Rolling Stone:

Poppy‘Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan is named for the wide river that runs through its provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, a low-slung city of shrubby roundabouts and glass-fronted market blocks. When I visited in April, there was an expectant atmosphere, like that of a whaling town waiting for the big ships to come in. In the bazaars, the shops were filled with dry goods, farming machinery and motorcycles. The teahouses, where a man could spend the night on the carpet for the price of his dinner, were packed with migrant laborers, or nishtgar, drawn from across the southern provinces, some coming from as far afield as Iran and Pakistan. The schools were empty; in war-torn districts, police and Taliban alike had put aside their arms. It was harvest time.

Across the province, hundreds of thousands of people were taking part in the largest opium harvest in Afghanistan’s history. With a record 224,000 hectares under cultivation this year, the country produced an estimated 6,400 tons of opium, or around 90 percent of the world’s supply. The drug is entwined with the highest levels of the Afghan government and the economy in a way that makes the cocaine business in Escobar-era Colombia look like a sideshow. The share of cocaine trafficking and production in Colombia’s GDP peaked at six percent in the late 1980s; in Afghanistan today, according to U.N. estimates, the opium industry accounts for 15 percent of the economy, a figure that is set to rise as the West withdraws. “Whatever the term narco state means, if there is a country to which it applies, it is Afghanistan,” says Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies illicit economies in conflict zones. “It is unprecedented in history.”

Even more shocking is the fact that the Afghan narcotics trade has gotten undeniably worse since the U.S.-led invasion: The country produces twice as much opium as it did in 2000. How did all those poppy fields flower under the nose of one of the biggest international military and development missions of our time? The answer lies partly in the deeply cynical bargains struck by former Afghan President Hamid Karzai in his bid to consolidate power, and partly in the way the U.S. military ignored the corruption of its allies in taking on the Taliban. It’s the story of how, in pursuit of the War on Terror, we lost the War on Drugs in Afghanistan by allying with many of the same people who turned the country into the world’s biggest source of heroin.’

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How Every Part of American Life Became a Police Matter

Chase Madar writes for Tom Dispatch:

‘If all you’ve got is a hammer, then everything starts to look like a nail. And if police and prosecutors are your only tool, sooner or later everything and everyone will be treated as criminal. This is increasingly the American way of life, a path that involves “solving” social problems (and even some non-problems) by throwing cops at them, with generally disastrous results. Wall-to-wall criminal law encroaches ever more on everyday life as police power is applied in ways that would have been unthinkable just a generation ago.

By now, the militarization of the police has advanced to the point where “the War on Crime” and “the War on Drugs” are no longer metaphors but bland understatements. There is the proliferation of heavily armed SWAT teams, even in small towns; the use of shock-and-awe tactics to bust small-time bookies; the no-knock raids to recover trace amounts of drugs that often result in the killing of family dogs, if not family members; and in communities where drug treatment programs once were key, the waging of a drug version of counterinsurgency war. (All of this is ably reported on journalist Radley Balko’s blog and in his book, The Rise of the Warrior Cop.) But American over-policing involves far more than the widely reported up-armoring of your local precinct. It’s also the way police power has entered the DNA of social policy, turning just about every sphere of American life into a police matter.’

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Are Mexico’s Missing Students the Victims of US-Backed Drug War? Interview with John Gibler and Laura Carlsen

‘Amidst outrage in Mexico over the disappearance of 43 students, we look at the U.S. role in the country’s violence. According to the Center for International Policy, the United States has spent approximately $3 billion to fund the so-called war on drugs in Mexico. Since the war on drugs began under President Felipe Calderón in 2006, more than 100,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence. That includes $2.4 billion in taxpayer funds through the Merida Initiative, launched as a three-year aid program for Mexican security forces under the administration of George W. Bush. The Obama administration has extended the Merida Initiative “indefinitely.” We are joined by Laura Carlsen, director of the Mexico City-based Americas Policy Program of the Center for International Policy, and journalist John Gibler.’ (Democracy Now!)

Direct Democracy: U.S. voters decide on legal marijuana, fracking, GMO labeling

Federal Agencies Just Doing Whatever They Want Now

Lucy Steigerwald writes for Antiwar:

‘[…] As great as Edward Snowden’s leaks were for shedding light on the abuses of power within the NSA – and for actually getting them into the damn media for months at a time! – the problem of intelligence and federal law enforcement agencies doing whatever the hell they want dates back to the dawn of law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

This week, Techdirt pointed to a shiny new book by Michael Glennon which details the extent to which unelected bureaucrats are more in charge than the officials we elect every four or six years. The book is called National Security and Double Government, which is not an encouraging title at all. Glennon, who has plenty of non-tinfoil-hat-chops, is echoing comments by folks like John Kerry who say some of these spy apparatuses are “on autopilot.” Obama, too, may be purely Captain Renault shocked – shocked! – about the gambling going on, but a more frightening proposition than that is if the NSA really is handling its own accountability without even presidential oversight.’

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White people are more likely to deal drugs, but black people are more likely to get arrested for it

Christopher Ingraham reports for The Washington Post:

30_war_on_drugs_fig‘Here’s a pretty astonishing chart on the skyrocketing number of arrests of black Americans for nonviolent drug crimes. Brookings’ Jonathan Rothwell lays it out:

Arrest data show a striking trend: arrests of blacks have fallen for violent and property crimes, but soared for drug related crimes. As of 2011, drug crimes comprised 14 percent of all arrests and a miscellaneous category that includes “drug paraphernalia” possession comprised an additional 31 percent of all arrests. Just 6 percent and 14 percent of arrests were for violent and property crimes, respectively.

Even more surprising is what gets left out of the chart: Blacks are far more likely to be arrested for selling or possessing drugs than whites, even though whites use drugs at the same rate. And whites are actually morelikely to sell drugs,’

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Surprise: U.S. Drug War In Afghanistan Not Going Well

Ryan Devereaux writes for The Intercept:

‘A new report has found the war on drugs in Afghanistan remains colossally expensive, largely ineffective and likely to get worse. This is particularly true in the case of opium production, says the U.S. Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

In a damning report released Tuesday, the special inspector general, Justin F. Sopko, writes that “despite spending over $7 billion to combat opium poppy cultivation and to develop the Afghan government’s counternarcotics capacity, opium poppy cultivation levels in Afghanistan hit an all-time high in 2013,” hitting 209,000 hectares, surpassing the prior, 2007 peak of 193,000 hectares. Sopko adds that the number should continue to rise thanks to deteriorating security in rural Afghanistan and weak eradication efforts.’

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Citing Failed War on Drugs, World Leaders Call for Widespread Decriminalization

Deirdre Fulton reported last month for Common Dreams:

‘In the face of a failed War on Drugs, a global commission composed mostly of former world leaders recommended that governments decriminalize and regulate the use of currently illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and psychedelics.

“The international drug regime is broken,” reads the report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy, whose members include former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan; former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz; former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and former high commissioner for human rights at the UN Louise Arbour; and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, as well as the former presidents of Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Portugal.  “[O]verwhelming evidence points to not just the failure of the regime to attain its stated goals but also the horrific unintended consequences of punitive and prohibitionist laws and policies.”

Punitive drug law enforcement has done nothing to decrease global drug use, the Commission says in “Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work” (pdf). Instead, such policies have fueled crime, maximized health risks, undermined human rights, and fostered discrimination — all while wasting tens of billions of dollars.’

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Mexico’s Drug War is Killing Children

Laura Carlsen writes for The Guardian:

‘Many countries prohibit deploying their military for domestic law enforcement: it’s a recipe for violent authoritarian abuse.

But the Obama administration’s prohibitionist drug war is funding and encouraging abuse and brutal, corrupt, mass-grave-level murders throughout Mexico and Central America – enough that even drug-war apologists admit that the appalling increase in human-rights abuses are a result of sending the military and police into communities in the name of anti-trafficking.

In just nine years, the drug war waged by the US and Mexico has created a climate of violence that has claimed more than 100,000 lives throughout the country, many young people – including two horrific massacres and a mass disappearance in the last six months connected to law enforcement nominally tasked with battling the spread of drugs.’

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“Kill the Messenger” Resurrects Gary Webb, Journalist Maligned for Exposing CIA Ties to Crack Trade

‘The new Hollywood film “Kill The Messenger” tells the story of Gary Webb, one of the most maligned figures in investigative journalism. Webb’s explosive 1996 investigative series “Dark Alliance” for the San Jose Mercury News revealed ties between the CIA, Nicaraguan contras and the crack cocaine trade ravaging African-American communities. The exposé provoked protests and congressional hearings, as well as a fierce reaction from the media establishment, which went to great lengths to discredit Webb’s reporting. We revisit Webb’s story with an extended clip from the documentary “Shadows of Liberty,” and speak with Robert Parry, a veteran investigative journalist who advised Webb before he published the series.’ (Democracy Now!)

Managing a Nightmare: The CIA Reveals How It Watched Over the Destruction of Gary Webb

Ryan Devereaux writes for The Intercept:

dark_alliance_540‘Eighteen years after it was published, “Dark Alliance,” the San Jose Mercury News’s bombshell investigation into links between the cocaine trade, Nicaragua’s Contra rebels, and African American neighborhoods in California, remains one of the most explosive and controversial exposés in American journalism.

The 20,000-word series enraged black communities, prompted Congressional hearings, and became one of the first major national security stories in history to blow up online. It also sparked an aggressive backlash from the nation’s most powerful media outlets, which devoted considerable resources to discredit author Gary Webb’s reporting. Their efforts succeeded, costing Webb his career. On December 10, 2004, the journalist was found dead in his apartment, having ended his eight-year downfall with two .38-caliber bullets to the head.

These days, Webb is being cast in a more sympathetic light. He’s portrayed heroically in a major motion picture set to premiere nationwide next month. And documents newly released by the CIA provide fresh context to the “Dark Alliance” saga — information that paints an ugly portrait of the mainstream media at the time.

On September 18, the agency released a trove of documents spanning three decades of secret government operations. Culled from the agency’s in-house journal, Studies in Intelligence, the materials include a previously unreleased six-page article titled “Managing a Nightmare: CIA Public Affairs and the Drug Conspiracy Story.” Looking back on the weeks immediately following the publication of “Dark Alliance,” the document offers a unique window into the CIA’s internal reaction to what it called “a genuine public relations crisis” while revealing just how little the agency ultimately had to do to swiftly extinguish the public outcry. Thanks in part to what author Nicholas Dujmovic, a CIA Directorate of Intelligence staffer at the time of publication, describes as “a ground base of already productive relations with journalists,” the CIA’s Public Affairs officers watched with relief as the largest newspapers in the country rescued the agency from disaster, and, in the process, destroyed the reputation of an aggressive, award-winning reporter.’

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New BBC chief sued over claims HSBC laundered terrorists and drug cartels’ money

Alasdair Glennie reports for The Daily Mail:

‘The BBC’s chairman-elect is being sued over her involvement in the HSBC money-laundering scandal, it was revealed yesterday. Rona Fairhead, who is set to become the first woman to lead the corporation, had her appointment approved by MPs yesterday.

But hours after the Commons hearing it emerged the 53-year-old is facing a class action lawsuit by HSBC shareholders over allegations the bank allowed terrorists and Mexican drug cartels to launder money.

Mrs Fairhead chaired the bank’s ‘risk committee’ in 2012, when it was fined £1.2billion by US authorities to settle allegations that it allowed drug traffickers to launder millions of pounds. The bank was also accused of breaching sanctions against Cuba, Iran, Libya, Burma and Zimbabwe.’

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Immigrant America: Murder and Migration in Honduras

‘Last summer, Americans were stunned by images of children and families from Central America turning themselves in at the US-Mexico border. More migrants are now coming from the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula and surrounding areas than anywhere else in Central America. The society there has yet to recover from a 2009 coup that crippled the economy and unleashed extreme levels of violence and inequality… VICE News traveled to San Pedro Sula — the most violent and second largest city in Honduras — to find out why so many families and young people are risking it all to migrate illegally to the US.’ (VICE News)