Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Turning Schoolchildren Into Street junkies

Ritalin is an amphetamine. In street lingo, it's called "speed." Selling speed to children is a felony, but feeding speed to children with a prescription is called "treatment." The practice of dosing children with powerful, mind-altering drugs is, in fact, a form of chemical abuse, yet it is tolerated today because it is framed in the language of medicine. Parents and teachers all too easily agree to the mass drugging of schoolchildren because it makes symptoms of ADHD seemingly go away. This drugging practice is, ultimately, pursued for the convenience of the children's caretakers and the profits of powerful drug companies, not out of any real concern for the health of the children.
Nutritional research has shown that the symptoms of ADHD can be completely reversed in 80 percent of children in just two weeks by eliminating
processed foods and chemical food additives from their diets. The so-called "disease" of ADHD is really just an expression of behavior caused by extreme dietary imbalances. The entire theory of ADHD can also be completely shot down by simply handing an ADHD child an X-Box or Wii gaming system, after which the child will sit down and engage in extremely focused, attentive and mentally demanding gaming activities for as long as six hours without a single break, and without distraction. If there really were such as disease as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, such behavior would not be possible.
The truth is that ADHD kids aren't diseased at all: Most schools are simply boring beyond belief, and children don't learn well by being forced to sit still at their desks and listen to teachers ramble their way through meaningless memorization exercises dubbed "history" or "science" or whatever the topic may be. Children learn by doing things, and all that extra hyperactive energy has a useful function if it's channeled into experiential learning exercises.

Does Ritalin cause permanent health damage?

This new research about Ritalin stunting the growth of children does not answer the question of whether children ever regain their normal height and body weight, or whether Ritalin causes a permanent stunting of growth that cannot be reversed. It does make us wonder, however, whether a drug that stunts physical growth might also stunt the growth of brain cells and the nervous system, leading to intellectually stunted children at the same time that it produces physically stunted children.
In previous years, psychiatrists tried to argue that it wasn't Ritalin that caused the stunting of growth -- it was the ADHD disease itself, they claimed with a straight face! And thus, treatment with Ritalin was the only way to return children to "normal" growth.
This kind of twisted, circular logic typifies modern
psychiatric medicine, which spontaneously invokes the existence of numerous psychiatric "disorders" at the exact coincidental moment that profitable pharmaceuticals become available to treat them. The logic of psychiatry goes like this: ADHD is a real disease because it's in the DSIM-IV manual (the bible of fictitious psychiatric disorders). ADHD is listed in the DSIM-IV because it's a real disease according to a group of Big Pharma-funded psychiatrists who made it up. Thus, ADHD is real because psychiatrists say is it!


Monday, September 29, 2008

'SWAT' Raids Often Target Innocent People

Back in January  i posted this dreadful story from Scott Morgan at Stopthedrugwar.org :-

'It has become a nauseating chore just to report on all the innocent people that get killed in the drug war. But until our public servants stop killing us to protect us from drugs, the reporting must continue:

Tarika Wilson, 26, was shot and her 1-year-old son was wounded when Lima police conducted a drug raid on their home Friday night, prompting members of the black community to organize a candlelight vigil and demand answers from police.

"They shot my daughter and her baby," Ms. Jennings said through tears while being consoled by other family members. "The police have to pay for what they did. They went in that home shooting and killed her." [Toledo Blade]

Tarika Wilson's boyfriend was arrested for marijuana and crack, but police haven’t reported how much they found. Something tells me this is because the amount is very small. Too small to justify shooting a baby. Similarly, they haven’t said a word about why Ms. Wilson was shot. If they had a good answer, we'd know by now what it is.

Here's the thing: when you hear about police shooting a baby and killing an innocent mother of six, you just know the drug war had something to do with it. Overwhelmingly, it is the drug war that sends adrenalin-charged cops into private homes with their fingers on the trigger of a machine gun. In a post-drug war world, babies and grandmas won't get shot in their houses by police. I can't wait.'

It would have been nice to report how things have improved in the 8 or 9 months since this tragedy, would have been but :-

In addition to killing an unarmed mother of six and shooting a baby, it turns out that the SWAT team in Lima, OH has been raiding innocent people quite regularly:

LIMA - More than a quarter of the 198 raids by the Lima Police Department SWAT team in the last seven years came up empty-handed without finding drugs, weapons, paraphernalia or money.

And nearly a third of the time, police do not find drugs or a weapon. Drugs alone were found in nearly two-thirds of the raids and a weapon, by itself, was found one-third of the time. [LimaOhio.com]

That’s a lot of innocent doors getting kicked in and a lot of innocent people having guns held to their head. Yet, the Lima PD actually thinks it’s something to be proud of:

"That means 68 percent of the time, we're getting guns or drugs off the street," said Maj. Kevin Martin, who called the numbers a success???.

Nothing could more perfectly illustrate the complete detachment that underscores a policy of routinely terrorizing innocent citizens. Think about this: the Lima officer who shot Tarika Wilson claimed that he killed her because he was startled by the sound of gunfire caused by his fellow officers shooting dogs elsewhere in the house. That is sort of thing that can happen during these raids, and they know it.

Thus, Maj. Martin’s statement reveals that Lima PD has learned nothing after killing Wilson and shooting her baby’s finger off. They are proud that 2/3 of the people whose lives they endanger in these raids turn out to be actual criminals. The rest just don’t factor into the equation. Not even little babies.

Botched Paramilitary Police Raids ("SWAT")

DEAD Tanika Williams and Sincere Wilson – Lima, Ohio January, 2008
A SWAT team Burst into the home of Tanika Williams, her one year old son, and her boyfriend, and immediately opened fire. Tanika was killed, her son wounded, and even one of the family dogs was killed. While the SWAT team executed the raid at the proper address, their wanton use of excessive force cannot be justified by the undisclosed amount of marijuana and crack they purportedly found in the possession of the boyfriend.

Norma Saunders – Philadelphia, September 2007
Norma Saunders returned home from a family reunion to find her home trashed, her front door broken in, and her burglary alarm torn from the wall. Police officers had raided the house looking for drugs and weapons. The house they intended to hit was several houses away.

Virginia Herrick – Durango, Colorado, June 2007
77-year-old Virginia Herrick was surprised by a police task force in gas masks when they barged into her mobile home and threw her to the ground. Her home was ransacked and she was separated from the oxygen tank she needs to help her breath. Police later realized that they had the wrong house and apologized.

SERIOUS INJURY Kari Bailey, 23, and her 5-year-old daughter, Hayley – Stockton, California, May 2007
An eight-member code enforcement team investigating a complaint about drug use shot the Bailey's dog in the paw, and shrapnel from the bullet injured the Baileys. It was a wrong address.

Davis Family – Jacksonville, Florida, March 2007
Masked police officers burst into the Davis family home and ordered everyone to the ground while they ransacked the house looking for evidence of a drug crime. Willie Davis, grandfather of murdered DreShawna Davis, and his mentally disabled son were forced to the ground and watched helplessly as police tore apart the memorabilia from DreShawna's funeral. This show of paramilitary force was in response to the alleged sale of two crack rocks, an amount worth roughly $60.

DEAD Daniel Castillo Jr. – Wharton, Texas, February 2007
Police raided the home of Daniel Castillo Jr., age 17, in search of weapons and drugs. Daniel was awakened by his sister crying "don't shoot." When he entered the room to investigate, police officer Don Falks shot him in the face, killing him. Daniel had no criminal record, and no drugs or weapons were found.

DEAD Isaac Singletary – Jacksonville, Florida, January 2007
As the victim of a botched sting operation, Isaac Singletary was shot to death after reacting to two undercover officers posing as drug dealers. Believing that he was being confronted by armed criminals, Singletary brandished a gun, prompting police to open fire. Singletary was announced "completely innocent" by the Jacksonville sheriff.

DEAD Corporal James Dean – Leonardtown, Maryland, December 2006
Cpl. James Dean, an Army reservist, was killed by a Maryland State Police sharpshooter during a standoff that began when police intervened in Dean's apparent suicide attempt. Dean did fire some shots, so the case is complicated, but had not threatened anyone other than himself until the SWAT team arrived.

Salvador Celaya – Gilbert, Arizona, December 2006
Police raided the house of Salvador Celaya by mistake, causing a standoff with Celaya, who was 73 years old and suffers from Alzheimer's. Believing his home was under attack by criminals, Mr. Celaya fired on the police. He was eventually driven from his home by the fire which had started from a flashbang grenade thrown into his house by police. While no one was injured, the house did burn to the ground.

DEAD Kathryn Johnston – Atlanta, Georgia, November 2006
92-year-old Kathryn Johnston was killed by police during a raid conducted at the wrong house. Ms. Johnston fired at the police officers as they were breaking in through her living room window. Three officers were injured, but Ms. Johnston was struck 39 times and died at the scene.

DEAD Derek Hale – Wilmington, Delaware, November 2006
Retired marine Derek Hale was targeted by police due to his association with a motorcycle club. When a team of SWAT officers poured out of the black vans they had arrived in, Hale was told to raise his hands, but was tasered before being able to comply, then was tasered two more times and shot three times point blank in front of his friend and her two children. Police claimed he resisted arrest, however, all witnesses testified that he had been attempting to comply with the police but was unable to because of the three taser attacks. He had no criminal record and had served two tours in Iraq.

Durrell Jones – Sarasota, Florida November 2006
Police raided the home of Durrell Jones where he lived with his brother and four year old son. Police barged in both front and back doors with guns pointed. The family was forced to the ground and the house was searched before one of the officers realized they had raided on the wrong house.

DEAD Otto Zehm – Spokane, Washington, March 2006
Zehm, a 36-year-old mentally disabled janitor, stopped breathing and lapsed into a coma after being beaten, shocked with a taser weapon and placed on his stomach for an extended period of time while hogtied by a force of no less than seven police officers. He never regained consciousness and died two days later.

Margot Allen – Sugar Land, Texas, October 2006
A police SWAT team burst into the Allen home, set off a flash grenade, shot the family dog and arrested Allen's son and boyfriend. In their subsequent search of the house police were only able to find one small marijuana cigarette.

Anita Woodyear – Brownsville, Texas, September 2006
A police SWAT team burst into the home of Anita Woodyear, handcuffed her 11- and 12-year old and shot the family dog. Police justified the bust by evidence of the sale of a mere $60 worth of marijuana.

DEAD Cheryl Lynn Noel – Chicago, Illinois, January 2005
A police SWAT team raided the Noel family home after finding marijuana seeds in the trash outside their house. They broke into the house at 4:30am in full riot gear after setting off a flashbang grenade. Upon entering the bedroom and finding Mrs. Noel holding her legally licensed pistol, the officer fired three times, killing her in her bed.

Flexton Young – Bronx, New York, August 2006
Flexton Young, his wife and their four children were asleep when police broke down the door of their apartment on the fourth floor of 974 Anderson Ave at 6:00am. They ripped through the front door, tore off the closet door, and ripped both of the childrens' rooms to pieces. The search turned up one mostly smoked marijuana cigarette in an ashtray.

ASSAULTED Arlita Hines – Dale City, Virginia, July 2006
Police burst into the home of Arlita Hines, where she lives with her sister and nephews. They threw the family members to the ground and handcuffed them, tossed the house looking for drugs, but found none. Police later acknowledged they had raided the wrong house.

SHOT Guillermo Urquiza – McKinney, Texas, June 2006
Police claim Guillermo Urquiza solicited a hit man to kill a police officer, and raided Urquiza's home looking for evidence. Urquiza says he thought he was being invaded, so he grabbed a gun to defend himself. He didn't get off a shot, but the raiding SWAT team shot him multiple times. He was never indicted for hiring a hit man, but he was charged with shooting at the police. He was convicted of assault, and sentenced to five years in prison.

Steven Blackman – Fort Worth, Texas, June 2006
The raid on Steven Blackman's house began when police fired several rounds of tear gas into the house, and the SWAT team officers rushed in and broke down the back door. While they had the right address, they did not know that the man they were pursuing had not lived there for three years. The person they were looking for was suspected of mere possession.

SHOT Kenneth Jamar – Huntsville, Alabama, June 2006
51-year-old Kenneth Jamar, a semi-invalid with severe gout and a pacemaker, was shot several times and nearly killed in a SWAT raid on his home last June. Jamar was holding a gun when the SWAT team kicked down his bedroom door. Police were apparently looking for Jamar's nephew. Despite the fact that the address on the search warrant was incorrect (the address listed was that of the suspect's father), police insisted that the raid on Jamar's home was legal and that his home was the home they'd intended to raid all along.

Joy White – Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 2006
The home of Joy White and Bob Lazar was raided by a police SWAT team because they ran an online business specializing in the sale of chemicals for scientific activities. They count the Department of Homeland Security and several police and fire departments among their clients. Police handcuffed the couple and held them on suspicion of selling illegal fireworks. Police confiscated all materials and computers from the business, but could not tie White or Lazar to any illegal activity.

SERIOUS INJURY Elderly Couple – Horn Lake, Mississippi, March 2006
A man and a woman – both in their 80s – were injured as TACT team members secured their house although no drugs were found. The woman received a dislocated shoulder and the man received bruised ribs. Both were taken to Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto. Police later admitted to hitting the wrong house.

DEAD Salvatore Culosi – Fairfax County, Virginia, January 24 2006
Dr. Salvatore J. Culosi was shot and killed by a member of the county police SWAT Team while being served with what should have been a routine documents search warrant. The officer involved was not disciplined and the county is refusing to reveal the information leading to the killing.

Chidester Family – Springville, Utah, January 2006
The County SWAT team manhandled a family when it erroneously raided their home. Lawrence Chidester was tackled and his face shoved into the ground and rocks although he was standing with his hands in the air repeatedly saying "I am not resisting." The Chidesters allege SWAT members threw him to the ground and pointed a gun at his head. Upon realizing their mistake the police left without apology.

ASSAULTED H. Victor Buerosse – Pewaukeep, Wisconsin, January 2006
68-year-old retired lawyer H. Victor Buerosse was the victim of a botched raid when a SWAT team burst into the wrong apartment. His continued pleas that the officers had the wrong place were answered by violence. In one instance, Mr. Buerosse was struck on the head with a police shield; he was also thrown into a closet door. This show of force was marshaled in response to a tip that small amounts of marijuana might be in the intended residence.

ASSAULTED Edwin and Catherine Bernhardt – Hallandale, Florida, February 2006
The police broke down the Bernhardt's door in a late-night raid, then threw the two of them to the floor and held them at gunpoint while the officers searched the house. Edwin had been nude, so the police made him wear a pair of his wife's panties. The couple was then taken to jail, and sat there for several hours until the police realized they had the wrong address.

Michelle Clancy and Robert DeCree – Paterson, New Jersey, December 2005
Police mistakenly burst into the home of Robert DeCree and his girlfriend Michelle Clancy instead of the intended target next door. Before acknowledging the mistake or relenting in their assault, they forced Clancy, her 65-year-old father and 13-year-old daughter to stand in the cold entryway for 20 minutes while they searched the house, and threatened to shoot DeCree and his barking dog.

David Scheper – Baltimore, Maryland, August 2005
Thinking his home was being invaded by criminals, David Scheper armed himself with a Czechoslovakian pistol from his collection of firearm relics. The gun discharged accidentally into the ground before Scheper was seized by the police who had stormed the house. While the police found no evidence of illegal activity and acknowledged having made a mistake in entering Scheper's home, they nonetheless charged him for the weapons discharge. The charge was defeated in court.

DEAD Anthony Diotaiuto – Sunrise, Florida, August 2005
Sunrise police claimed that Diotaiuto had sold some marijuana, and because they knew he had a legal gun, decided to use SWAT. Neighbors claim that the police did not identify themselves. Police first claimed that Anthony pointed his gun at them, and later changed their story. Regardless, Anthony was dead with 10 bullets in him, and the police found a mere two ounces.

John Simpson – Nampa, Idaho, June 2005
Police threw a flashbang grenade through the window of John Simpson's home, stunning him and his wife. The intended target for the raid was the duplex next door. No one was injured in the raid but the Simpsons are currently seeking counseling for the trauma. The intended culprit was found with four ounces of marijuana next door.

ASSAULTED Sharon and William McCulley – Omao, Kauai, March 2005
Police officers entered the home of the McCulleys -- grandparents -- whom they suspected of marijuana dealing. One officer grabbed Sharon McCulley and threw her to the ground, handcuffed her and pressed his gun into her head, leaving a mark, while her grandchild was forced to lie near her. William McCulley, who walks with the aid of a walker, was also thrown to the floor, after which he began to flop on the floor due to shocks from an electronic device implanted in his spine to alleviate pain. Police searched the house and found no trace of illegal activity. The McCulleys sued the officers involved in federal court.

Enough is Enough: Petition to Stop the Reckless Drug Raids Poll: 66% Oppose Routine Use of SWAT Teams

Stop the Deadly "No-Knock" Raids

Following are detailed recommendations from StoptheDrugWar.org (DRCNet) on policy reforms believed to be necessary to stem the epidemic of reckless police raids in America. For those who want to learn more about this issue, please see the 2006 report Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America, by former Cato Institute analyst and current Reason Foundation writer Radley Balko. Also, click here for an archive of relevant coverage; and view complete results from the recent Zogby poll question that Stopthedrugwar.org commissioned here -- preview: 66% of likely American voters want it stopped.

Aggressive tactics include, but are not limited to:

  • unannounced "no-knock" entries;
  • entries that are announced in name only (e.g. do not allow a reasonable amount of time for a resident to answer the door);
  • use of battering rams;
  • use of flash-bang grenades;
  • unnecessary brandishing of weapons;
  • carrying unnecessarily heavy weaponry (e.g. assault rifles);
  • unnecessary shouting;
  • wearing of ninja-like, all-black uniforms, masks, or hoods;
  • unnecessarily scheduling raids very early in the morning or very late at night when residents are most likely to be startled or terrified;
  • unnecessary restraining or use of force against people or animals.

All of these should be prohibited for use in most non-emergency situations. Steps to restore the necessary arms-length relationship between police and the military should at a minimum include:

  • termination of direct military/police cooperation in drug enforcement;
  • termination of the provision of retired military surplus equipment to police forces, with at most rare and carefully-considered exceptions; and
  • recommitment to the separation of our military from our police forces that held for more than a century of our nation's history, and to that end the repeal or rescinding of Acts of Congress and Executive Orders that have diluted it.

The following criminal justice reforms, at a minimum, are needed to address the dilution of ethical standards that plagues today's criminal justice system:

  • requiring that officers conducting knock-and-announce warrants wait a reasonably sufficient time for a person inside to answer the door before executing a forced entry;
  • termination of per-arrest funding schemes for drug enforcement or per prisoner incarcerated, instead allocating enforcement resources based on academically-sound measures of overall public safety need;
  • abolition of federally-funded and multi-agency drug task forces, which have an extensive record of corruption and racial bias, and which undermine standards of accountability;
  • improving evidentiary standards to require corroborating evidence beyond the unsupported word of police officers or informants before any charges are brought or convictions obtained, or before a no-knock warrant may be issued except in very rare circumstances (but also recognizing that no-knock warrants should only be carried out in very rare circumstances);
  • requiring statutorily that evidence obtained through illegal searches be inadmissible in court;
  • requiring that presenting officers sign a sworn statement attesting that the warrant has not been brought before a judge before and declined, or if it has then providing documentation from the previous judge or judges as to why;
  • reforming asset forfeiture law to protect individuals who have not been convicted of the crime in question, and accruing all forfeiture proceeds to the general treasury of the state or federal government rather than the law enforcement agency or local government;
  • require that federal law enforcement agencies adhere to the ethical and procedural requirements that states and localities have put in place for their own agencies, in addition to federal requirements;
  • forbidding state or local police agencies from using federal or other multi-agency partnerships to circumvent the will of the legislatures that govern them;
  • limiting the immunity from civil damages that police agencies may enjoy in police raid cases;
  • for the sake of basic justice, establishing that persons who reasonably believe they or their families may be under deadly attack by criminals, and who take actions to defend themselves, are not considered to be guilty of crimes; and reviewing cases such as those of Edwin Delamora, Cory Maye and Eugene Barrett, who are currently incarcerated because of such circumstances; and
  • for victims of wrongful, mistaken or inappropriately conducted police raids to be entitled to financial compensation commensurate with their loss and suffering.

So that official bodies charged with overseeing our police agencies can effectively do their job, and for the sake of openness in the policy debate on these important issues, we call for:

  • the establishment of publicly-accessible databases of detailed information relating to search warrants and their manner of execution, omitting only the names of confidential informants;
  • for all law enforcement agencies to annually report key statistics related to search warrants (especially when they result in police killings) to state and federal justice agencies, which shall annually publish them;
  • for the jurisdiction of citizen police review boards to include the total circumstances of incidents, not only police officer misconduct;
  • for full information on incidents to be provided to review boards; and
  • for persons targeted by raids that resulted in injury, or of which the propriety has been questioned, and public advocates to have the right to unseal relevant warrants.

                                         -- END --


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Please send this message :- SWAT-Style Drug Raids Do More Harm Than Good


Dear [Decision maker]   Please personalize your message.

Imagine returning home after work to take a shower before an evening meeting. Suddenly, your door is broken down, your two Labrador retrievers are shot, and you are interrogated for hours while handcuffed in your boxer shorts as you watch your beloved dogs bleed to death before your eyes. It sounds like the twisted plot of a horror movie about a home invasion, but these events actually happened in Prince George's County, Maryland, outside Washington, D.C. on July 29, 2008, to Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo and his family. If our cities' mayors cannot count themselves safe from the random violence associated with reckless drug raids based on bogus "tips" and rushed investigations, then no one in this country is safe. Obscene drug war tactics erode the people's trust and confidence in our own police departments -- ostensibly there for our service and protection. It's time to take a hard look at policing tactics. The U.S. Conference of Mayors has already taken a strong stance on related issues with its 2007 resolution calling for a "New Bottom Line" in U.S. drug policy, and this is one more piece of that puzzle. I urge you to condemn brutal, dangerous SWAT-style raids against people suspected of nonviolent drug law violations. The funds now used to pay for paramilitary weaponry would be better spent on expanding access to high quality drug treatment programs and other reforms outlined in the U.S. Conference of Mayors' New Bottom Line resolution.


[Your name]

[Your address]

[City State Zip] Please feel free to go to The Drug Policy Alliance Network to fill a ready made form

Rachel Hoffman - A Cautionary Tale

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Despite having nearly a million heroin addicts, with HIV spreading rapidly through that population, Russia's government has very tragically said no to methadone maintenance. According to a short video posted by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU), 80% of all new HIV cases in Russia are due to needle sharing by injection drug users.

Mexicans' Drug Trade Fears Grow

Mexicans are increasingly concerned about the impact the country's drugs trade is having on their lives, a BBC World Service poll suggests.

Morelia, western Mexico

Few regions in Mexico are free of drug-related violence

Some 42% of the 1,266 Mexicans polled in seven cities said they felt less safe than they did a year ago. Fewer than 10% felt safer, while the rest felt about the same.

Other results from the survey point to growing anxiety about drugs trafficking in their country, which is the main transit point between Colombia - the world's largest supplier of cocaine - and the world's biggest market, the US.

  • Thirty-seven per cent of those surveyed said the influence of the drugs cartels had made them think of leaving Mexico
  • Drug trafficking was considered the second most important concern in their lives after corruption
  • Drugs came above worries about the economy, general crime, education and social inequality.

There has been a sharp rise in drugs-related violence since President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006.

He has deployed more than 40,000 soldiers in several parts of the country in an attempt to curb the power of the cartels, which trade mostly in cocaine, but also in marijuana and heroin.

He says the violence is proof that his crackdown is working.

Survey graph

According to the survey results, an apparently contradictory picture emerges of whether Mexicans agree with the government's policy on fighting the drugs war.

  • More than half of those surveyed (53%) thought the government was doing better than last year
  • A strong majority (68%) agreed with the policy of involving the military in the fight against drug trafficking
  • More than half (58%) thought the war on drugs could be won.

However, an overwhelming majority (80%) thought the government should consider seeking other alternatives to end the problem. The respondents were also divided on whether the legalisation of drugs should be considered - 44% said yes, and 46% said no.

Violence worsening

Official figures for the violence show a major escalation since 2007.

So far this year there have already been around 3,000 deaths from drugs-related violence, compared to 2,700 in the whole of last year. Most of the deaths are caused by fighting between rival gangs or clashes with the security forces.

The northern state of Chihuahua, which includes the city of Ciudad Juarez on the Mexican-US border, has been the worst hit.


Other states badly affected are Sinaloa, Baja California, Guerrero and Michoacan.

The northern city of Culiacan in Sinaloa has been the scene of frequent violence, which is usually put down to infighting between the Sinaloa drug cartel and one of its main rivals, the Gulf Cartel.

On one notorious day in July, a group of heavily armed men shot dead 12 people in three separate shoot-outs within a period of eight minutes.

Those polled in Culiacan said they had been badly affected by the drugs violence.

Nearly three in four said they felt less safe than a year ago; about one in every two said they had been affected indirectly and about one in four said they knew someone who had been tempted by the world of drugs trafficking.

There are few regions of Mexico which have not been affected.

  • On 16 September, seven civilians were killed and 100 injured as a result of a grenade attack during Independence City celebrations in the western city of Morelia in Michoacan. The state governor blamed drug traffickers
  • On 12 September, more than 20 bodies were found dumped about 30 miles (48km) from Mexico City, apparently as a result of a battle between rival drugs gangs
  • On 29 August the decapitated bodies of 11 men were found in the state of Yucatan, which had until then largely avoided the violence.

According to figures from the government's public security office, there were a record 443 drug-related murders across the country in July alone.

High levels of drugs-related violence in Latin America are more commonly associated with Colombia than with Mexico.

But analysts say that with the demise of Colombia's Cali and Medellin cartels in the 1990s, it is now Mexican cartels which control, and fight over, the main cocaine routes.

Some observers even say the death rates in parts of Mexico are comparable to those in a war zone.

In Iraq, for example, there were 669 civilian deaths in June according to an NGO, Iraq Body Count. In Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch estimates there were 540 civilian deaths in the first seven months of 2008.

The survey suggests significant numbers of Mexicans across the country have personal experience of the violence.

Of those surveyed, 9% had been directly affected by drugs-related violence, and 32% indirectly affected. Another 16% knew someone who had been tempted to join drugs gangs in order to increase their personal income.

Many of the respondents (42%) attributed the boom in the drug cartels to unemployment and the poor state of the economy.

In total 1,266 Mexicans aged 18-64 from socio-economic group D and above were surveyed by telephone between 28 July and 20 August 2008. The poll was conducted in seven cities: Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Hermosillo, Merida, Queretaro and Culiacan. The polling firm Synovate carried out the interviews for the BBC's Spanish American website, bbcmundo.com.

FBI Releases 2007 Crime in the United States Report.

Record Number of Marijuana Arrests, 775,000 for Nothing More than Possession
DPA Statement: Throwing Good Money (and Lives) After Bad
For Immediate Release: Monday, September 22, 2008. Contact: Tony Newman (646)335-5384

According to the FBI’s 2007 Crime in the United States Report, released today, the police made more than 1.8 million drug arrests last year, more than three times the number of arrests for violent crime during the same period. 82.5 percent of drug arrests were for simple possession of an illegal drug. Only 17.5 percent were for sales or manufacturing. Almost 775,000 arrests were for nothing more than possession of marijuana for personal use, a 5 percent increase over 2006. Those arrested are separated from their loved ones, branded criminals, denied jobs, and in many cases prohibited from accessing public assistance for life.

The Following is a statement from Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance.

“For more than 30 years the U.S. has treated drug use and misuse as a criminal justice matter instead of a public health issue.  Yet, despite hundreds of billions of dollars spent and millions of Americans incarcerated, illegal drugs remain cheap, potent and widely available in every community; and the harms associated with them -- addiction, overdose, and the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis -- continue to mount. Meanwhile, the war on drugs has created new problems of its own, including rampant racial disparities in the criminal justice system, broken families, increased poverty, unchecked federal power, and eroded civil liberties. Continuing the failed war on drugs year after year is throwing good money and lives after bad.

“It's time for a new bottom line for U.S. drug policy -- one that focuses on reducing the cumulative death, disease, crime and suffering associated with both drug misuse and drug prohibition. A good start would be enacting short- and long-term national goals for reducing the problems associated with both drugs and the war on drugs. Such goals should include reducing social problems like drug addiction, overdose deaths, the spread of HIV/AIDS from injection drug use, racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and the enormous number of nonviolent offenders behind bars. Federal drug agencies should be judged -- and funded -- according to their ability to meet these goals.

“Policymakers should especially stop wasting money arresting and incarcerating people for nothing more than possession of marijuana for personal use. There’s no need to be afraid of what voters might think; the American people are already there. Substantial majorities favor legalizing marijuana for medical use (70 percent to 80 percent) and fining recreational marijuana users instead of arresting and jailing them (61 percent to 72 percent). Twelve states have legalized marijuana for medical use and 12 states have decriminalized recreational marijuana use (six states have done both).”

View the full text for the FBI’s 2007 Crime in the United States Report here.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Afghan Opium Production Declines Slightly From Record Levels...........

With the West's occupation of Afghanistan now nearing the seven-year mark and plagued by an increasingly powerful and deadly insurgency revitalized by massive profits from the opium trade, Western officials gained some small solace this week when the United Nations announced that opium production there had declined slightly from last year's record level. But the small decline comes as the Taliban and related insurgents are strengthening their grip on precisely those areas where opium cultivation is highest, and the light at the end of the tunnel is, at best, only a distant glimmer.


Afghan opium farmer

According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Afghanistan Opium Survey 2008, released Tuesday, total Afghan opium production this year will be 7,500 metric tons, down 6% from last year's all-time record of 8,200 tons. Also, according to the survey, the amount of land devoted to opium production declined 19%. The UN said the total crop had decreased by a smaller number than the amount of land because farmers in key opium-producing provinces were producing bumper crops.


Afghanistan opium survey 2008

The UN attributed the decline in production to drought conditions and the efforts of a small number of Afghan governors and tribal and religious leaders to persuade farmers to give up the illicit crop. It also crowed that the number of opium-free provinces in the country had risen from 13 to 18, although it failed to mention that farmers in those provinces had, in many cases, merely switched from growing poppies to growing cannabis.

This year, almost all opium cultivation -- about 98% -- is now concentrated in seven provinces in south-west Afghanistan that house permanent Taliban settlements and are home to related trafficking groups that pay taxes to various Taliban factions on their opium transactions. The Taliban is making between $200 and $400 million a year off taxing poppy farmers and traders, Costa said earlier this year. In the report, Costa referred to Helmand province, one of the most Taliban-dominated in the country. "The most glaring example is Helmand province, where 103,000 hectares of opium were cultivated this year -- two thirds of all opium in Afghanistan," Costa wrote. "If Helmand were a country, it would once again be the world's biggest producer of illicit drugs."

The UN said that manual eradication played almost no role in the decline, affecting only about 3% of the crop. What manual eradication did accomplish was the deaths of some 77 anti-drug workers and police at the hands of insurgents and angry farmers. On Wednesday, Costa told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that he should abandon manual eradication as useless and even counter-productive.

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Poppy seed capsule is 'lanced' to allow opium to ooze out.

While Afghan poppy production is down slightly, it still surpasses global demand for its illicit end products. And after several years of crops greater than global demand, it is likely that Afghan traders are sitting on huge stockpiles of opium, so even if production were to be slashed substantially, it would cause no significant disruption in the global markets for opium and heroin.

Still, with the war news from Afghanistan seemingly growing worse by the day, UN and Western officials were eager to jump on any good news they could find. "The opium flood waters in Afghanistan have started to recede," Antonio Maria Costa, the executive director of the Vienna-based UNODC, wrote in the report. "This year, the historic high-water mark of 193,000 hectares of opium cultivated in 2007 has dropped by 19 percent to 157,000 hectares."

The Bush administration welcomed the report, saying it provided vindication for its much-criticized anti-drug policies in the country. But a State Department spokesman told the Washington Post, "the drug threat in Afghanistan remains unacceptably high. We are particularly concerned by the deterioration in security conditions in the south, where the insurgency dominates."


Raw opium is gathered by farmers

The US Agency for International Development (USAID), in charge of efforts to provide alternative development for farmers as part of the broader US counter-drug and counter-insurgency strategy, also looked for the silver lining in the storm clouds over Afghanistan. Its efforts are "paying off for Afghanistan in the war against poppy production," it said in a press release Tuesday.

The British foreign office also joined the chorus, with FCO Minister Lord Malloch-Brown releasing a statement welcoming the report's findings. "This shows that the Afghan government's Drug Control Strategy is starting to pay dividends," he said.

Still, Malloch-Brown warned there is a long way to go. "However, there is no room for complacency," he said. "Afghanistan is still the world's biggest supplier of heroin. High cultivation levels are concentrated in the unstable south, where we are working with the government of Afghanistan, local governors, and international partners to build security and governance."

Other, non-governmental observers were much less sanguine about what the slight decline in opium production signified. "I don't think there has been any real progress made at all," said Raheem Yaseer, assistant director of the University of Nebraska-Omaha Center for Afghanistan Studies. "But there has been so much money and pressure invested that they feel they have to justify their efforts. It's true that cultivation has ended in some provinces, but other areas are compensating for that."

A large part of the problem is that too many important players are involved and profiting from the trade, said Yaseer. "There are lots of strong, powerful people involved -- influential people in the Afghan government, governors, parliamentarians, provincial police commanders -- and unless they are suppressed, nothing will change. There is lots of concern expressed, but the business is hot and everyone is making money," he said.

Yaseer also pointed to the increasing ability of insurgents to wreak havoc. "Security is horrible, it's getting worse and worse precisely in those growing areas, and where the security gets worse, there are more opportunities for the drug business," he said. "Everyone takes advantage of the lack of security and the chaos."

The UNODC reports provides only "false hope," said the Senlis Council, the Paris-based drugs and security nonprofit that has long proposed buying up illicit poppy crops and diverting them into the licit medicinal market as a means of getting a handle on illicit production and the support for political violence it provides.

"Opium is the cancer destroying the south of Afghanistan," said Emmanuel Reinert, the group's executive director in a Wednesday statement. "Current counter-narcotics policies are failing to address the loss of the southern provinces to the dual scourges of poppy production and terrorism."

The decrease in poppy cultivation will have a minimal effect on the drugs trade, given the exponential growth in opium production since 2002. "This decrease is no more than a ripple in the ocean," Reinert added. "Without an urgent change of direction in the country's counter-narcotics policies, the international community will be unable to prevent the consolidation of opium production in the south of the country, and the consolidation of the Taliban which is financed by the illegal drugs trade."


As this chart shows, opium production has doubled in 4 years since this chart was published

Instead of pushing farmers into the waiting arms of the Taliban and related insurgent groups by pursuing crop eradication, the West and the Afghan government should revisit the Senlis proposal, which was rejected out of hand when introduced in 2005, said Senlis policy analyst Gabrielle Archer. "It is clear that a long-term, sustainable solution is required to solve Afghanistan's opium crisis -- and prevent the insurgency's funding by illegal cultivation," she said. "Poppy for Medicine would allow farmers to diversify their crops, and give Afghanistan an opportunity to be part of a legal pharmaceutical industry. We need the Afghan people on our side if we are to be successful there, and this initiative could go a long way to winning back much-needed hearts and minds, which would be highly beneficial for our troops fighting there."

The hearts and minds of the Afghan population are turning increasingly against the West and the country's occupation by foreign troops, warned Yaseer, ticking off a seemingly endless series of incidents where Afghan civilians have been killed by coalition forces, the most recent being the reported deaths of 90 civilians -- 60 of them children -- in a NATO bombing raid last week. That raid prompted Afghan President Hamid Karzai to call this week for a reevaluation of the foreign military presence in his country.


Afghans burning U.S flag.

"Everyday there are new uproars in parliament and local councils," said Yaseer. "They say there is no difference between the Soviets and the coalition forces. They bombard whole villages in the middle of the night because they hear four or five Taliban are there. These killings keep happening all the time, and people are fed up with it. This is all developing very rapidly now. 'Why did you bring this war to Afghanistan?' the people ask. The gap between the people and the government is growing larger every day," Yaseer said.

With coalition military casualties on the rise, the Taliban grown fat off opium profits and ever more aggressive, and growing hostility to the West in the Afghan population, a minor down-turn in opium production doesn't look so impressive.

There is a very simple way to take Afghanistan and any of the other opium producing countries out of the picture, saving untold soldiers lives and countless $$$ millions, WE could grow, sell and ultimately control all production of the stuff ourselves, this would cut off every cent now going to fund the Taliban and other terrorist org's, but that would be common sense and we don't do that!, we will piss around in the Himalayas just long enough for an even closer country to develop the necessary skills to take over the opium/heroin market, someone like Mexico perhaps?