Category Archives: War On Drugs

The History Channel Is Finally Telling the Stunning Secret Story of the War on Drugs

Jon Schwarz reports for The Intercept:

WD_Ross_Rick_26-1497644731Chuck Grassley, a Republican senator from Iowa, is known on Twitter for expressing his yearning for the History Channel to finally show some history.

The good news for Grassley, and for everyone else, is that starting Sunday night and running through Wednesday the History Channel is showing a new four-part series called “America’s War on Drugs.” Not only is it an important contribution to recent American history, it’s also the first time U.S. television has ever told the core truth about one of the most important issues of the past 50 years.

That core truth is: The war on drugs has always been a pointless sham. For decades the federal government has engaged in a shifting series of alliances of convenience with some of the world’s largest drug cartels. So while the U.S. incarceration rate has quintupled since President Richard Nixon first declared the war on drugs in 1971, top narcotics dealers have simultaneously enjoyed protection at the highest levels of power in America.

On the one hand, this shouldn’t be surprising. The voluminous documentation of this fact in dozens of books has long been available to anyone with curiosity and a library card.

Yet somehow, despite the fact the U.S. has no formal system of censorship, this monumental scandal has never before been presented in a comprehensive way in the medium where most Americans get their information: TV.

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The Death of Manuel Noriega, and U.S Intervention in Latin America

David A. Graham writes for The Atlantic:

General Manuel Noriega speaks to Panamanian reporters in May 1989.Old soldiers do die, it turns out, but there’s something incongruous about watching ruthless, formerly swashbuckling military dictators end their lives quietly as frail old men in hospital beds.

It happened to Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean strongman, who returned home and died under house arrest in 2006, at 91. Fidel Castro slowly faded from view, becoming even less coherent, before dying at home in November, as his brother slowly rolled back their revolution. And now Manuel Noriega, the former Panamanian leader, has died at 83 following complications from surgery to remove a brain tumor. He had been imprisoned in his home country.

Like nearly every Latin American leader of the late 20thcentury, but more intensely than most of them, the three men had complicated histories with the United States, the dominant power in the hemisphere: Pinochet as American ally, Castro as nemesis, and Noriega, ultimately, as both. The tale of American involvement with Noriega, and what came afterward, suggests humbling lessons about U.S. ability to change the course of history in its southern neighbors.

For most of his career, Noriega was an exemplar of a certain kind of American intervention in Latin America: The lawless, vicious leader whom the U.S. cultivated and propped up despite clear and serious flaws. Noriega got involved with the U.S. at a young age, volunteering to inform on leftist students during the Eisenhower administration. He later attend the U.S Army School of the Americas, a training center in Panama that was run by the American military that produced an impressive dishonor roll of despots and murderers across Latin America, as part of a U.S. effort to train domestic resistance to leftist politics in the region. Noriega began receiving payments from the CIA in 1971.

A coup in 1968 brought the military to power in Panama, and Noriega rose to become intelligence chief under General Omar Torrijos, a fellow School of the Americas alumnus who signed the agreement conveying the Panama Canal Zone over from American to Panamanian control. In 1981, Torrijos died in a mysterious plane crash, which an estranged Noriega aide later claimed was Noriega’s doing. By 1983, Noriega effectively controlled Panama.

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Jeff Sessions Re-Escalates the Drug War By Ordering Prosecutors to Seek Maximum Sentences

C.J. Ciaramella reports for Reason:

Image result for Jeff Sessions Re-Escalates the Drug War By Ordering Prosecutors to Seek Maximum SentencesIn a memo to U.S. attorney’s offices released Friday morning, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to seek the toughest charges and maximum possible sentences available, reversing an Obama-era policy that sought to avoid mandatory minimum sentences for certain low-level drug crimes.

While the two-page directive leaves some discretion for prosecutors to avoid federal sentencing guidelines, the overall message is clear: Federal prosecutors have the green light to go hard after any and all drug offenses. “It is a core principle that prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense,” Sessions wrote in the memo.

“We are returning to the enforcement of the laws as passed by Congress, plain and simple,” Sessions said in a speech Friday. “If you are a drug trafficker, we will not look the other way, we will not be willfully blind to your misconduct.”

The shift marks the first significant return by the Trump administration to the drug war policies that the Obama administration tried to moderate. In 2013, former Attorney General Eric Holder ordered federal prosecutors to avoid charging certain low-level offenders with drug charges that triggered long mandatory sentences.

The federal prison population dropped for the first time in three decades in 2014, and has continued to fall since, although the Bureau of Prisons is still operating at over its rated capacity.

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Jeff Sessions’ Reefer Madness

Paul Jay speaks with Nina Turner, a former Democratic Senator for Ohio’s 25th district, to discuss the renewed war on drugs, including marijuana, planned by Trump’s Attorney General and Head of Homeland Security. (The Real News)

Jesse Ventura Challenges Alex Jones on His Support for Trump

Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura challenges Alex Jones on his support for Trump and the electoral college, as well as his views on marijuana legalisation and climate change. (Reich Wing Watch)

White House Defers to ‘States Rights’ on Transgender Protections — But Not on Legalizing Marijuana

Zaid Jilani reports for The Intercept:

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer cited “states’ rights” on Tuesday in defending the Trump administration’s decision to end the Obama administration’s federal protections for transgender students.

“The president has maintained for a long time that this is a states’ rights issue and not one for the federal government,” he said. “All you have to do is look at what the president’s view has been for a long time that this is not something that the federal government should be involved in. This is a states’ rights issue.”

But on Thursday, asked about federal marijuana enforcement, it was like the states had no rights at all. Arkansas-based reporter Roby Brock asked Spicer about the administration’s posture towards Arkansas’s new medical marijuana law.

Spicer suggested that the Trump administration would respect state laws related to medical marijuana — but not offer the same respect for recreational marijuana.

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Trump Administration to ‘Empower’ U.S. Police Forces

Al Jazeera reports:

Image result for US police forcesThe administration of the US president, Donald Trump, condemned what it called the “anti-police atmosphere” in the United States and called for more law enforcement and more effective policing in a statement on the White House website after the new president’s inauguration.

“The dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong. The Trump administration will end it,” said Friday’s statement on the White House’s official website after it was taken over by the new administration.

Trump was still committed to building a border wall to stop undocumented immigration, the statement said, adding: “Our country needs more law enforcement, more community engagement, and more effective policing.”

According to The Guardian’s The Counted database, US police forces killed at least 1,092 people in 2016.

Although African Americans make up roughly 12 percent of the US population, they represented nearly a quarter of those killed by police last year.

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California vs Trump: The Fight Begins

Alexander Nazaryan reports for Newsweek:

Image result for California v. TrumpIt began with a tweet, as so much does these days. The first shot in the coming war was fired in a 140-character burst by Shervin Pishevar, a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley. “If Trump wins I am announcing and funding a legitimate campaign for California to become its own nation,” said the first in a volley of tweets by the Iranian-American technology investor. “As 6th largest economy in world,” he said three tweets later, “economic engine of nation, provider of a large % of federal budget, California carries a lot of weight.”

This call to arms was retweeted thousands of times in those bewildering first hours of the Age of Trump. By the next morning, the movement for California to secede from the United States had made national headlines, with Pishevar anointed the movement’s leader. It even had a name, Calexit, an echo of the Brexit movement, which will eventually cleave Great Britain from the European Union. The nativist tone of Brexit foreshadowed the xenophobia of Donald Trump. Calexit is a kind of nativism too, except it’s fundamentally sunny in disposition—a Brexit for American liberals much more closely aligned with Western Europe than West Virginia.

Unrelated to Pishevar’s tweetstorm was a Sacramento rally held the day after the election (but planned long before) by Yes California, a secession group run by a young man from San Diego named Louis Marinelli. Marinelli, 29, wants to use California’s ballot measure process to have his fellow citizens vote for secession, much as they have voted to ban plastic bags and legalize recreational marijuana. Unlike Pishevar, whose secessionary tweets were plainly fired off in a fit of frustration, Marinelli has been long at work on this issue and will eagerly lay out his reasoning to anyone willing to listen. “America is a sinking ship, and the strongest position for California to take is one on its own lifeboat setting its own course forward,” he tells me. “A strong California holding its ground and attempting to influence the decisions of those in Washington at the helm of this sinking ship will find itself at the bottom of the ocean with them.”

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The Mass Murder in the Philippines Is Far Worse than Most Media Report

James Warren reports for Vanity Fair:

Taking Selfies With Duterte’s Chief Executioner The American press duly notes Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s barbarous crackdown on alleged drug dealers, addicts and enablers — perhaps 5,800 summary executions by both his cops and vigilantes since early summer.

And it’s far worse than most media report.

Outlets of very different sensibilities — Foreign Policy and Al Jazeera — now take audiences far deeper into this horror. They include looks at the killers, the self-justifying police and the substantial public support for what’s playing out.

For starters, Filipina journalist Ana Santos profiles Ronald dela Rosa, director general of the Philippine National Police (PNP), who is Duterte’s chief executioner and, yes, “treated more like a rock star than a policeman.”

“Women sometimes scream or cry tears of joy when they see him; crowds flock to him in public, forcing his own men to huddle around him to protect him from adoring hands. A trail of fans follows him around the country.”

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General John Kelly to Head Department of Homeland Security

Amy Goodman speaks to Baher Azmy of the Center for Constitutional Rights and  independent journalist Roberto Lovato, about Donald Trump nominating retired four-star Marine General John Kelly to be secretary of homeland security. (Democracy Now!)

Big Media’s Contra-Cocaine Cover-Up

Robert Parry writes for Consortium News:

Journalist Gary Webb holding a copy of his Contra-cocaine article in the San Jose Mercury-News.Amid the mainstream U.S. media’s current self-righteous frenzy against “fake news,” it’s worth recalling how the big newspapers destroyed Gary Webb, an honest journalist who exposed some hard truths about the Reagan administration’s collaboration with Nicaraguan Contra cocaine traffickers.

Webb’s reward for reviving that important scandal in 1996 – and getting the CIA’s inspector general to issue what amounted to an institutional confession in 1998 – was to have The New York Times, The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times lobby for, essentially, his banishment from journalism.

The major media pile-on was so intense and so effective that Webb lost his job at the San Jose Mercury-News and could never find regular work in his profession again. Betrayed by his journalistic colleagues, his money gone, his family broken and his life seemingly hopeless, Webb committed suicide on Dec. 9, 2004.

 

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35 States Set to Vote on 160+ Initiatives on Pot, Universal Healthcare, Minimum Wage, Death Penalty

As voters in the United States go to the polls, Amy Goodman is joined by Justine Sarver, executive director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, and Sarah Anderson, director of the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, for a look at some of the most important decisions they will make—not for president, governor, Senate or congressional races, but on more than 160 ballot initiatives in 35 states, more than in any election in the last decade. Marijuana legalization is on the ballot in nine states, and income inequality and economic insecurity are at the heart of many other measures, along with initiatives on guns, public education, the death penalty and Colorado’s Amendment 69, a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment which would finance universal healthcare. (Democracy Now!)

Philippines President Unloads On “Son Of A Bitch” Barack Obama

Zero Hedge reports:

What was an embarrassing weekend for president Barack Obama, whose arrival at the G-20 summit in China was a case study in diplomatic humiliation, just turned even worse when on Monday, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte warned the US president not to question him about extrajudicial killings, or “son of a bitch I will swear at you” when the two presidents meet at a summit in Laos in the coming days.

The topic of Duterte’s killing spree, supposedly involving mostly criminals and drug-traffickers, without due process has raised eyebrows most recently by the United Nations, which urged the Philippines to stop executing and killing people linked to drug business and threatened that “state actors” could be punished. As a result, two weeks ago Duterte lashed out at the UN and threatened that the country could leave the UN. “Maybe we’ll just have to decide to separate from the United Nations. If you’re that rude, son of a bitch, we’ll just leave you,” Duterte told reporters in Davao, quoted by Bloomberg. “I don’t give a shit about them,” he added. “They are the ones interfering. You do not just go out and give a shitting statement against a country.”

Fast forward to today when the outspoken president lobbed a preemptive warning at Obama, and before flying to Laos where the two heads of state are set to meet, said that he is a leader of a sovereign country and is answerable only to the Filipino people. He was answering a reporter’s question about how he intends to explain the extrajudicial killings to Obama. More than 2,000 suspected drug pushers and users have been killed since Duterte launched a war on drugs after taking office on June 30.

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Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte: ‘I Don’t Care About Human Rights’

Al Jazeera reports:

About 800 people have been killed since Duterte won in May, according to reports [EPA]Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has named several government officials, including judges, members of Congress and military officers accused of having links to the illegal drug trade, just hours after vowing to maintain his “shoot-to-kill” order against drug dealers.

In a televised national address early on Sunday morning, Duterte declared that the officials he accused would have their day in court, but quickly added while reading the list that “my mouth has no due process”.

He justified his reading of the list, saying he has a sworn duty to inform the public about the state of “narco-politics” in the country.

According to the news website Rappler, Duterte named a total of 158 officials, many of whom are police and military officers, but also include three members of Congress and seven judges.

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Soaring Prison Population Prompts Thailand to Re-Think ‘Lost’ Drug War

Amy Sawitta Lefevre reports for Reuters:

Somsak Sreesomsong was 18 when he was jailed for selling illegal drugs. Now, turning 30, he is not yet half way through his 33-year sentence at Bangkok’s high-security Klong Prem prison.

Somsak was “just a kid, not a big-time dealer”, his older brother Panit told Reuters after a visit to the jail. “We’re also serving time, waiting for him to get out so he can help the family.”

More than a decade after Thailand declared a “war on drugs”, the country is admitting defeat. As the prison population soars, Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya told Reuters he was looking at changes to the country’s draconian drug laws.

“I want to de-classify methamphetamine but Thailand is not ready yet,” said Paiboon, meaning downgrading the drug, popularly known as “meth”, from a Category 1 substance, which would reduce jail time for possession or dealing.

Use of methamphetamine is spiraling across Southeast Asia, and authorities are struggling to respond.

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Fear in the Philippines as Police Embark on State-Sanctioned ‘Killing Spree’

Adam Harvey reports for ABC Australia:

A crowd of "surrendered drug personalities" swearing the oath to give up drugs[…] One month into Mr Duterte’s six-year presidency, around 500 drug suspects have been executed. Police are responsible for many of the killings.

One of the very few Filipinos prepared to speak out about the extra-judicial killings is Catholic priest Father Amado Picardal.

“I think there is more to come, because the reign of terror has started. The police are on a killing spree, and so are the vigilante groups,” he said.

Father Picardal worked in Davao City, where human rights groups say about 1,300 criminal suspects were executed by police and death squads over 20 years.

Father Picardal said the killing of suspects was “murder encouraged by the President”.

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In hot Acapulco, too many bodies in morgue’s fridges

AFP reports:

Soldiers stand guard along a street during an operation to help increase security and prevent violence in Acapulco, Mexico, October 27, 2015. Morgue workers lift a dismembered male body dumped on the street of a poor Acapulco neighborhood in broad daylight, then pick up his severed leg and a bag containing his head.

Placing the body parts in the back of a van, they drive away to the Mexican Pacific resort’s only coroner’s office, overflowing with scores of unidentified and unclaimed corpses.

Back inside the morgue’s cold chambers, bodies lie in pairs side by side on shelves meant to hold just one — grim evidence of the drug cartel-related killings swamping the authorities in Mexico’s murder capital.

Officials granted AFP journalists a rare visit last week, when a worker opened a set of refrigerator doors to reveal the bodies inside.

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Decades of Money Laundering by HSBC Ignored by Holder at DOJ: Interview with Bill Black

Sharmini Peries speaks to former financial regulator Bill Black who says the Republicans could embarrass Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Loretta Lynch by demanding further investigation into the failure to prosecute HSBC for its world-historical money laundering operation. (The Real News)

90’s Legacy Fills U.S. Prisons Today

Timothy Williams reports for The New York Times:

Lenny Singleton is the first to admit that he deserved an extended stay behind bars. To fuel his crack habit back in 1995, he walked into 13 stores over eight days and either distracted a clerk or pretended to have a concealed gun before stealing from the cash register. One time, he was armed with a knife with a six-inch blade that he had brought from his kitchen.

Mr. Singleton, 28 at the time, was charged with robbery and accepted a plea deal, fully expecting to receive a long jail sentence. But a confluence of factors worked against him, including the particularly hard-nosed judge who sentenced him and the zero-tolerance ethos of the time against users of crack cocaine. His sentence was very long: two life sentences. And another 100 years. And no possibility for parole.

There is a growing consensus that the criminal justice system has incarcerated too many Americans for too many years, with liberals and conservatives alike denouncing the economic and social costs of holding 2.2 million people in the nation’s prisons and jails. And Congress is currently debating a criminal justice bill that, among other provisions, would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders.

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What Is Fentanyl? The Drug That Killed Prince Has Killed Thousands of Others

Alex Johnson reports for NBC News:

[…] Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid — its chemical name is the tongue-twisting N-phenyl-N-[1-(2 phenylethyl)-4-piperidinyl] monohydrochloride — that was first formulated during the 1950s as a safer and more effective alternative to the painkillers morphine and meperidine.

Its creators at the Belgian drug company Janssen Pharmaceutica got the “more effective” part right.

Fentanyl is the strongest opioid approved for medical use in the United States, rated as 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin, according to the National Institute for Drug Abuse.

It’s the go-to drug to dull the crippling, otherwise-untouchable pain experienced by many patients with advanced cancer.

The safety part of the equation is another matter.

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Mexican Military Runs Up Body Count in Drug War

Azam Ahmed and Eric Schmitt report for The New York Times:

In the history of modern war, fighters are much more likely to injure their enemies than kill them.

But in Mexico, the opposite is true.

According to the government’s own figures, Mexico’s armed forces are exceptionally efficient killers — stacking up bodies at extraordinary rates.

The Mexican authorities say the nation’s soldiers are simply better trained and more skilled than the cartels they battle.

But experts who study the issue say Mexico’s kill rate is practically unheard-of, arguing that the numbers reveal something more ominous.

“They are summary executions,” said Paul Chevigny, a retired New York University professor who pioneered the study of lethality among armed forces.

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Legalize It All: How to Win the War on Drugs

Dan Baum writes for Harpers:

In 1994, John Ehrlichman, the Watergate co-conspirator, unlocked for me one of the great mysteries of modern American history: How did the United States entangle itself in a policy of drug prohibition that has yielded so much misery and so few good results? Americans have been criminalizing psychoactive substances since San Francisco’s anti-opium law of 1875, but it was Ehrlichman’s boss, Richard Nixon, who declared the first “war on drugs” and set the country on the wildly punitive and counterproductive path it still pursues. I’d tracked Ehrlichman, who had been Nixon’s domestic-policy adviser, to an engineering firm in Atlanta, where he was working on minority recruitment. I barely recognized him. He was much heavier than he’d been at the time of the Watergate scandal two decades earlier, and he wore a mountain-man beard that extended to the middle of his chest.

At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. “You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

[…] Nixon’s invention of the war on drugs as a political tool was cynical, but every president since — Democrat and Republican alike — has found it equally useful for one reason or another. Meanwhile, the growing cost of the drug war is now impossible to ignore: billions of dollars wasted, bloodshed in Latin America and on the streets of our own cities, and millions of lives destroyed by draconian punishment that doesn’t end at the prison gate; one of every eight black men has been disenfranchised because of a felony conviction.

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Federal judge: Drinking tea, shopping at a gardening store is probable cause for a SWAT raid on your home

Radley Balko, author of Rise of the Warrior Cop, reports for The Washington Post:

In April 2012, a Kansas SWAT team raided the home of Robert and Addie Harte, their 7-year-old daughter and their 13-year-old son. The couple, both former CIA analysts, awoke to pounding at the door. When Robert Harte answered, SWAT agents flooded the home. He was told to lie on the floor. When Addie Harte came out to see what was going on, she saw her husband on his stomach as SWAT cop stood over him with a gun. The family was then held at gunpoint for more than two hours while the police searched their home. Though they claimed to be looking for evidence of a major marijuana growing operation, they later stated that they knew within about 20 minutes that they wouldn’t find any such operation. So they switched to search for evidence of “personal use.” They found no evidence of any criminal activity.

The investigation leading to the raid began at least seven months earlier, when Robert Harte and his son went to a gardening store to purchase supplies to grow hydroponic tomatoes for a school project. A state trooper had been positioned in the store parking lot to collect the license plate numbers of customers, compile them into a spreadsheet, then send the spreadsheets to local sheriff’s departments for further investigation. Yes, merely shopping at a gardening store could make you the target of a criminal drug investigation.

More than half a year later, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department began investigating the Hartes as part of “Operation Constant Gardener,” basically a PR stunt in which the agency conducts multiple pot raids on April 20, or “4/20.” On several occasions, the Sheriff’s Department sent deputies out to sort through the family’s garbage. (The police don’t need a warrant to sift through your trash.) The deputies repeatedly found “saturated plant material” that they thought could possibly be marijuana. On two occasions, a drug testing field kit inexplicably indicated the presence of THC, the active drug in marijuana. It was on the basis of those tests and Harte’s patronage of a gardening store that the police obtained the warrant for the SWAT raid.

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TRAILER – Freeway: Crack in the System

 

Directed by Marc Levin, Freeway: Crack in the System tells the true story of Freeway Rick Ross and the players that tell how crack cocaine destroyed neighborhoods and lives through the CIA Contra connection featuring exclusive interviews with journalist Gary Webb, Jesse Katz, source Coral Baca, former Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff Robert Juarez, drug trafficker Julio Zavala and many others. (Al Jazeera America)

Devils, Deals and the DEA

David Epstein reports for ProPublica:

[…] The arrest of Javier Arellano Félix, the head of the AFO drug cartel, would be hailed by officials in the States as a decisive victory in what may have been the longest active case in the DEA’s history — a rare triumph in the War on Drugs. “We feel like we’ve taken the head off the snake,” the agency’s chief of operations announced. I can’t believe it actually fucking worked, Herrod recalls thinking.

But did it? Dave Herrod is 50 years old now and nearing the end of his career with the DEA. In the time he spent hunting the Arellanos, his hair and goatee went from black to salt-and-pepper to finally just plain salt. He’s proud of the audacity and perseverance it took to bring down the cartel, and he knows he helped prevent murders and kidnappings. But when he looks back, he doesn’t see the clear-cut triumph portrayed in press releases. Instead, he and other agents who worked the case say the experience left them disillusioned. And far from stopping the flow of drugs, taking out the AFO only cleared territory for Joaquín Guzmán Loera — aka “El Chapo” — and his now nearly unstoppable Sinaloa cartel. Guzmán even lent the DEA a hand.

This is the story of the investigation as the agents saw it, including accounts of alleged crimes that were never adjudicated in court. “Drug enforcement as we know it,” Herrod told me, “is not working.”

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Study estimates sugary drinks more deadly than violent crime in Mexico

Allison Jackson reports for Global Post:

XXX WAS8734048 A HTH USA CAMexico is renowned for being one of the most dangerous countries in the world, so it might sound strange to hear that sugary drinks pose a bigger threat to life here than violent crime.

Sugar-sweetened beverages such as Coca-Cola,Gatorade and homemade drinks known as “agua fresca” kill far more people every year in Mexico than criminal gangs.

A study by the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts Universityestimates a staggering 24,000 Mexicans die each year from diabetes, cancer and heart disease that are linked to sugary drinks.

Compare that figure to the roughly 15,649 murders officially recorded in 2014 and it’s clear which is the biggest killer in the Latin American country.

Worldwide, the total sugary-drink death toll is estimated at 184,000, with more than 70% of deaths caused by diabetes. The researchers said this was the first detailed global report on the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages.’

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U.S. drug cops took a college kid’s life savings and now 13 police departments want a cut

Christopher Ingraham reports for The Washington Post:

In February 2014, Drug Enforcement Administration task force officers at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport seized $11,000 in cash from 24-year-old college student Charles Clarke. They didn’t find any guns, drugs or contraband on him. But, according to an affidavit filled out by one of the agents, the task force officers reasoned that the cash was the proceeds of drug trafficking, because Clarke was traveling on a recently-purchased one-way ticket, he was unable to provide documentation for where the money came from, and his checked baggage had an odor of marijuana.

Clarke’s cash was seized under civil asset forfeiture, where cops are able to take cash and property from people who are never convicted of — and in some cases, never even charged with — a crime. The DEA maintains that asset forfeiture is an important crime-fighting tool: “By attacking the financial infrastructure of drug trafficking organizations world-wide, DEA has disrupted and dismantled major drug trafficking organizations and their supply chains, thereby improving national security and increasing the quality of life for the American public.”

But the practice has become contentious, in part because agencies are generally allowed to keep a share of the cash and property they seize. In cases like Clarke’s, where local and federal agents cooperate on a seizure, federal agencies typically keep at least 20 percent of the assets, while local cops split the remainder among themselves. Critics argue that this creates a profit motive and leads to “policing for profit.”‘

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U.S. private prisons hold inmates longer but no reduction in crime seen, study finds

‘Financial incentives have been found as the main motivation for private prisons to maximize the lengths of inmate stays, but the results are not saving states very much money or reducing crime, according to research done by the University of Wisconsin. Anya Parampil speaks with Nazgol Ghandnoosh, a prison reform activist, about the study.’ (RT America)

Afghan Opium Trade: What a lot of poppycock

Afghan Opium Poppycock (PE1394)

The Silk Road: Who was the real Dread Pirate Roberts?