Bill Weinberg's blog

Fortune magazine ranks top five global cartels

Posted on September 17th, 2014 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , , , .

Shadow WatchWell, this is really cute. With refreshing honesty, Fortune magazine on Sept. 14 issued a list of the "Fortune 5"—the biggest organized crime groups in the world, ranked by their annual revenue estimates. No sources are given, but the Fortune editors presumably relied on international law enforcement intelligence. The results are slightly surprising for those of us who grew up in the era of the Sicilian Mafia and Medellín Cartel. Brave new crime machines have long since eclipsed these entities from the global stage, and far outstripped their earnings from human trafficking, extortion, credit card fraud, prostitution and (above all) drug smuggling. In the number one slot, by a mile, is Yamaguchi Gumi, a wing of Japan's Yakuza, with revenue estimated at $80 billion. A distant second is Russian mafia group Solntsevskaya Bratva, with revenue at $8.5 billion. Three and four are two Italian outfits that have long superceded Sicily's Cosa Nostra: the Camorra, based in Naples, with revenues of $4.9 billion; and the 'Ndrangheta, based in Calabria, with revenues of $4.5 billion. Number five is Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel, with revenues of $3 billion.

ISIS to attack US through Mexico —not!

Posted on September 14th, 2014 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , .

ISISHere we go again. Francis X. Taylor, under-secretary for intelligence and analysis at the Department of Homeland Security, testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security on Sept. 10 that operatives of the extremist jihadi movement variously known as ISIS, ISIL or the Islamic State have discussed infiltrating the United States through the Mexican border. "There have been Twitter and social-media exchanges among ISIL adherents across the globe speaking about that as a possibility," Taylor said in response to a question from Sen. John McCain, who wanted to know if any ISIS chatter had been intercepted that "would urge infiltration into the United States across our Southwestern border." But Taylor said he was "satisfied that we have the intelligence and the capability at our border that would prevent that activity." And when pressed further, he admitted: "At present, DHS is unaware of any specific, credible threat to the US homeland from ISIL." This weasily flipping gives the media the opportunity to play it however they want. So the liberal Huffington Post headline reads "DHS Doesn't Think ISIS Is Plotting Attack Through US-Mexico Border," while the establishmentarian Bloomberg goes with "Islamic State Talked of Entering US Through Mexico."

Peru: record coke bust points to Mexican cartel penetration

Posted on September 10th, 2014 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , .

PeruA record-breaking cocaine bust on Peru's Pacific coast points not only to the country's booming production, but also the increasing role of the Mexican cartels in the Andean narco economy. Peru's Interior Ministry announced the haul in a Sept. 1 statement, saying National Police and DEA agents had uncovered an unprecedented 7.6 metric tons of coke hidden in a shipment of coal at a warehouse in the northern fishing port of  Huanchaco, Trujillo region. "This is the largest drug seizure ever in Peru," said Interior Minister Daniel Urresti, speaking at a Lima press conference below a banner reading "Historic Blow to Illegal Drug Trafficking" at the hanger where the shipment had been flown for incineration. "It's historic."

Mexico: a new Pax Mafiosa?

Posted on September 6th, 2014 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , .

MexicoAmid growing concern about horrific human rights abuses by Mexico's security forces, Amnesty International on Sept. 4 issued a report, aptly entitled "Out of Control," harshly criticizing the Mexican government for its failure to adequately investigate allegations of torture and other "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" at the hands of the military and police. The report finds that such practices are condoned, tolerated or ignored by superior officers, prosecutors, judges and even official human rights bodies. The report calls on Mexico to enforce its own human rights laws—echoing similar demands made by Amnesty last year, urging the Mexican Senate to adopt legislation to protect against rights violations by the military. (Jurist, Sept. 5) 

Youth cannabis use drops in Colorado —surprise!

Posted on August 9th, 2014 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , .

ColoradoWell, here's some telling news. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, cannabis use among Colorado teens has actually dropped slightly since the state legalized recreational use in 2012. Predictably, the bureaucrats did not emphasize these results. The department's Aug. 7 press release stressed another finding from the survey, that showed Colorado teens view cannabis as less risky than they did a few years ago. The release says preliminary results from the 2013 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey show that 54% of teens in the state consider the stuff risky, down from 58% in 2011. "If we want Colorado to be the healthiest state in the nation, then we need to make sure our youngest citizens understand the risks of using potentially harmful substances," said the department's executive director Larry Wolk. It was left to the Washington Examiner to tout the department's other findings—that even if kids view pot as less risky, they are also smoking it less. Kayvan Khalatbari, co-foundet the Denver Relief dispensary, is quoted venturing a plausible explanation: "Cannabis, now that it's legal, kind of is an old person's drug. It's something that kids are seeing adults use all over the place. It just doesn't seem as cool to kids anymore."

Catalan authorities to rein in Barcelona cannabis clubs

Posted on August 5th, 2014 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

SpainIn the past few years, Spain's freewheeling Mediterranean port city of Barcelona has come to rival Amsterdam as Europe's premier cannabis scene, with a proliferation of clubs where merry-makers openly light up. Now the Public Health Agency of the Generalitat de Catalunya has proposed tight new measures to regulate the clubs, and discourage the burgeoning cannabis economy.  The Generalitat, the regional government of Catalonia, has broad powers under Spain's decentralized system, although it cannot override Spanish national law. And Spanish law allows private cannabis use—or for users to unite in non-profit associations to smoke together. As Amsterdam has imposed restrictions on cannabis cafés, the number of clubs in Spain has surged from some 40 in 2010 to more than 700 today—more than half in Barcelona, the Catalan capital. But emergence of Spain as the "Holland of the South" has been viewed with dismay by Catalonia's straight-laced business elite.

Guerilla grow ops on Indian rez spark tribal anger —again

Posted on July 30th, 2014 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

CaliforniaAmid mounting concern about the ecological impacts of outdoor cannabis grows in California's Emerald Triangle comes news of last week's massive raid on the Yurok Indian Resolution in Humboldt Country. The California National Guard on July 21 joined more than a dozen other agencies to help Yurok tribal authorities uproot the grows, the LA Times reported. Tribal leaders say that grow ops have threatened the reservation's water supply, harmed its salmon, and interfered with cultural ceremonies. At the request of Yurok officials, officers served search warrants at several properties in and near the reservation along the Klamath River. Participating agencies in "Operation Yurok" included the Sheriff's Drug Enforcement Unit, the North State Marijuana Investigation Team, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Land Management, as well as Yurok tribal police.  Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas O'Rourke joined officers at their staging area at a hillside fire station, where he complained bitterly of the growers.  "They're stealing millions and millions of gallons of water and and it's impacting our ecosystem," O'Rourke said. "We can't no longer make it into our dance places, our women and children can't leave the road to gather. We can't hunt. We can't live the life we've lived for thousands of years." And while growers once "brought their fertilizer in in batches in the dark," O'Rourke said dump trucks now enter the reservation with impunity in broad daylight, using heavy equipment to carve roads through tribal land. Yurok authorities said tens of thousands of plants would likely be eradicated in the operation, chipped on-site.   

Cannabis linked to depression? Don't let it get you down...

Posted on July 16th, 2014 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , .

THCThe media (Time, Daily Mail) are touting a new study published July 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that is said to link cannabis use to anxiety and depression. The researchers studied the brains of 24 marijuana "abusers"—defined as those who smoke multiple times a day—and how they reacted to methylphenidate (more commonly known as Ritalin), a stimulant used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. Using personality tests and brain imaging, the researchers found the cannabis users had "blunted" (no pun intended, we hope) behavioral, cardiovascular and brain responses to methylphenidate compared with control participants. The "abusers" also scored higher on negative emotional reactions. The researchers conclude that cannabis interferes with the brain's reaction to dopamine, the chemical responsible for feelings of reward and pleasure.

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